Review: Strictly Proms at the Royal Albert Hall

***** Strictly Proms

BBC Television’s two most successful franchises, The Proms and Strictly Come Dancing, brought 5,000 lucky enthusiasts to their feet at the Hall last Thursday.

Katie Derham, the Voice of the Proms and a semi-finalist in last year’s Strictly, compered a show to gladden the heart of any music or dance enthusiast.

Gavin Sutherland conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra in a history-making celebration of dance music from Irving Berlin to Peter Tchaikovsky that the public has taken to its heart.

To dance maker Jason Gilkinson’s steps, the Strictly Six, led by Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec apparently burst through the floor and swept us off our feet on one of the most enjoyable evenings I have ever spent at the Proms.

Many people may dismiss this sort of programme planning as distasteful crowd pleasing, but I bet Erik Satie (Gymnopedie No 1) and Aram Khachaturian (Masquerade) – not to mention Tchaikovsky – would have loved every minute of it.

The show opened with Jule Styne’s Gypsy overture followed by Richard Rogers’ The Carousel Waltz – music we have all grown up with but thanks to Sutherland  and the wholehearted gusto of his orchestra’s musicians, it was like hearing it for the first time.

Who needs earphones when lush, deeply-loved melodies reach into every nook and cranny of the Hall’s crimson and gold elegance? Kevin “From Grimsby” Clifton received the biggest cheer as he entered with wife Karen.

Then, in a favourite Ballroom Waltz to Erik Satie’s tender Gymnopodie,  Joanne Clifton and Giovanni Pernice reminded us what it’s all about – that life-changing aspect of the male/female union, often called love. Brave Katie Derham picked up that thread – though she appeared to have no difficulty in the process, with Skorjanic in a Viennese Waltz.

After the interval I have rarely heard such screams of approval in the Hall as Skorjanic threw Derham about a lot in Harry Warren’s 42nd Street and then, of course came the Argentinian Tango, energetically stamped out by Joanna Clifton and Giovanni Pernice. Then we had the Rhumba, the Samba and Let’s Face the Music and Dance. And there’s no answer to that.

The famous bust of Henry Wood, the Proms founder, oversaw the proceedings on his plinth by the organ and I swear the smile never left his face. And the cheeks of an ex-dancer of a certain age were severely exercised, too.

STRICTLY PROMS at the Royal Albert Hall,  London  SW7 (One night only; Proms tickets 0207 589 8212/

Source: Express


Review: Strictly Prom – “As dazzling as the dancing was, it didn’t outshine the orchestra”

Yes, there is a glitterball hanging from the ceiling of the Royal Albert Hall.

The traditionalists who squawked with outrage when they first heard of the Strictly Prom — or Prom 8 (b minor) as they’d prefer to call it — will be spitting marabou feathers at the thought.

But if you want to widen the opportunities for people to engage with the Proms — as new Proms director David Pickard wishes —  it can’t all be modernist music in concrete car parks in Peckham (see Proms at… Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park). You have to embrace the populist. And what could be more popular than BBC1’s Saturday night ratings-winner Strictly Come Dancing?

Giovanni Pernice, Janette Manrara, Kevin Clifton, Aljaz Skorjanec and Joanne Clifton dance at the Strictly Prom

Does this mean that the BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor Gavin Sutherland were slathered in fake tan and clothed in sequins? Not quite. The Prom may use the Strictly brand but it’s no shiny-floor show. Yes, there is dancing, from Strictly professionals Joanne Clifton, Giovanni Pernice, Janette Manrara, Aljaz Skorjanec, Karen Clifton and Kevin Clifton, alongside host and 2015 finalist Katie Derham — yet it does not take precedence over the music.

If you were expecting two hours of hot footwork, you were always going to be disappointed. The point of the concert is to illustrate how classical music has been inspired by dance music, and how dance can bend different forms to its own devices. So while you’d expect to hear the music of the Strauss family in connection with the waltz, and Johann II’s Fledermaus overture does feature, it’s more unexpected music that accompanies the dancing of two waltzes.

Erik Satie’s lyrically melancholy Gymnopédie No 1 was the backing for a beautiful slow waltz by Joanne Clifton and Giovanni Pernice, while Katie Derham and Aljaz’s spectacular Viennese was accompanied by an arrangement of Elvis Presley’s closing number from his 68 Comeback Special, If I Can Dream. It was quite a varied programme.

There were huge, crowd-pleasing moments, from the opening when the rousing overture to Jule Styne’s musical Gypsy saw the dancers take to what looked like a rather small stage space in front of the orchestra from all around the auditorium, to a celebratory finale that saw all the dancers on stage performing to a medley from Irving Berlin’s Top Hat and an explosion of confetti raining down from the ceiling.

The biggest audience reaction, and the closest the night came to fulfilling Katie Derham’s hope that there would be dancing in the aisles, was when Karen and Kevin Clifton performed a scintillating samba to Ary Barroso’s irresistibly catchy Aquarela do Brasil. You may not recognise the name, but you’ll recognise the tune – think of a samba tune and Aquarela is what’s in your head.

Perhaps there wasn’t dancing among the audience because this crowd of prommers seemed transfixed by the music. Which must surely prove the worth of the concert. Yes, people turned out because of the Strictly brand, and Katie Derham kept reminding us of the link with amusing anecdotes from her time on the show, but ultimately it was for the music they stayed.

As dazzling as the dancing was, it didn’t outshine the playing of the orchestra — not even the glitterball could do that.

While it may not have been the most complex or demanding of programmes, you can only say to those audience members for whom this was an introduction to the world’s greatest festival of classical music, “Keeeeep Promming!”

Source: Radio Times

Article: Friday’s TV pick: The Strictly Prom

It’s the glitziest, most exciting Prom ever at the BBC Proms 2016: Strictly Prom.

We’ve got our dancing shoes on as we join Katie Derham and a whole host of our fave Strictly Come Dancing stars as they celebrate the music of dance.

We’ll be whisked from Vienna to Latin America and back by the BBC Concert Orchestra and English National Ballet Music Director Gavin Sutherland.

From the English Waltz to the Viennese Waltz, the Charleston to the Tango, join Joanne Clifton, Karen Clifton, Kevin Clifton, Janette Manrara, Giovanni Pernice, and Aljaž Škorjanec as they move around the floor Strictly style.

BBC Proms 2016: Strictly Prom, BBC Four, 7.30pm

Source: Reveal

Article: Glitter, fabulous dancing and LOTS of fake tan: Yes, it’s time for first ever Strictly Come Dancing PROM

  • The first ever Strictly Come Dancing Prom airs tonight from London
  • Held in the Royal Albert Hall, organisers are hoping for perfect tens
  • Last year’s Strictly finalist Katie Derham takes to the dance floor again

Expect dazzling dresses, glitter and the glorious deep glow of fake tan. In fact all that will be missing will be the dance post-mortems, the sobbing and the bitchy judgements of Craig Revel Horwood. 

The first ever Strictly Prom from London’s Royal Albert Hall is screened tonight and organisers hope it will win perfect tens all round.

Last year’s Strictly finalist Katie Derham takes to the dance floor again for one night and plays host from the stage, rather than presenting from a box high up in the hall for BBC TV as she does the rest of the summer at the world’s biggest classical music festival.

She is joined by six of the Strictly professionals, as well as the mighty force of the BBC Concert Orchestra.

‘I’m slightly terrified as it will be the first time I’ve properly danced since the Strictly final in December,’ she says. ‘But I’m so excited – talk about two wonderful worlds colliding!’

The Proms, in its 122nd season, has included themed concerts before, some with pretty tenuous links to classical music – including three Doctor Who Proms, plus Horrible Histories and Sherlock evenings and a Sports Prom in 2014. 

Musical purists have openly attacked these, and the Strictly evening has provoked one critic to go even further and accuse the Proms of ‘scavenging after cheap popularity with sequins and ballroom dancing’.

But with a sexy mix of rumbas, sambas and quicksteps, Katie thinks the two are a perfect match.

‘Most of the dances on Strictly were originally danced to classical music and if some Strictly fans watch a Prom for the first time, I hope they love it and will come back and watch more.’

New Proms director David Pickard, in his first season in the job, agrees and is happy to justify it. ‘If people come to hear classical orchestral music because they enjoyed the television show that can only be a good thing. 

‘I hope people will come along, hear some music they’ve not heard before, then see there’s a piece by the same composer in a week or two’s time and come and listen to that too.’

He says the idea for this dance spectacular was finalised in January. ‘I have to admit I hadn’t seen a series of Strictly all the way through until the last one with Katie.

The mixture of music and dance certainly seems like a natural fit, and should be popular too, as Strictly, which returns to BBC1 for a 14th series in September, pulls in audiences of up to 12 million

‘Then we came back after Christmas and the thinking was that, because she’d made the final and has such a huge presence on Radio 3 and at the Proms, if we were ever going to do this, it had to be this year.

‘It just felt like a fantastic opportunity to showcase popular classical music which has always been a huge part of the Proms ever since they started in 1895.’

The mixture of music and dance certainly seems like a natural fit, and should be popular too, as Strictly, which returns to BBC1 for a 14th series in September, pulls in audiences of up to 12 million.

There are eight dances, including the Samba, the Charleston and the Waltz, danced by the professional dancers to music from the BBC Concert Orchestra.

‘A highlight of the show though is Katie Derham reprising the Viennese Waltz she performed on Strictly to music from the Broadway musical 42nd Street. Even curmudgeonly Craig Revel Horwood felt obliged to call it ‘a gorgeous dance’.

Her original partner Anton Du Beke is not available, so instead she does this and a Quickstep with Strictly’s chiselled Slovenian hunk Aljaz Skorjanec.

The music has an international flavour from Vienna to Brazil, and ranges across the ages from Strauss and Tchaikovsky to Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and film music composer John Barry.

While the dancers have been rehearsing their moves, how they look has been the responsibility of Strictly’s long-serving costume designer Vicky Gill.

‘I’m sure they’ll all arrive with a nice healthy glow,’ she laughs about the customary fake tans, ‘We joke about their tans backstage and ask them if they’re going for one dip or two.

‘As for the dresses, we’re working with the fabulous backdrop of the Albert Hall, so I don’t think you need to be blinded by sparkle.

‘It’s not the same as doing a show in an arena with thousands of lights on the dancers when the dresses are absolutely encrusted with rhinestones.

‘You still need a bit of punch but we’re going to start out with strong, bold colours before we move on to apply sparkle. The look we’re going for is a more of a subtle twinkle.’

Vicky will be on hand backstage in the ‘quick change areas’, where two dressers will look after the professional dancers, and one will be devoted to Katie. 

There will be orchestral interludes of music so that the dancers have a chance to change and catch their breath.

‘There’s no dress code for the audience that evening,’ adds David Pickard, ‘although something glittery or sparkly would be good. We also hope that there will be some dancing in front of the orchestra down in the arena.’

He worked as General Director of Glyndebourne Opera Festival for 14 years so knows how to put on a show, and he’s not ruled out future music and dance Proms should this one prove to be a success.

If there’s waltzing and samba dancing in the aisles, he might not have any choice, he might just have to face the music and dance…

The Dancers

Katie Derham

Born in Wilmslow, Cheshire, she has an economics degree from Cambridge and worked for ITN and the BBC.

Strong suit: She won most points, 35, for both the Foxtrot and the American Smooth, while the 33 points for her Viennese Waltz in week 4 put her briefly into 1st place on the leaderboard.

Strictly history: Made it to the final in series 13 where she finished 4th with Anton Du Beke, who was shocked to have a celebrity partner who could actually dance.

Aljaz Skorjanec

Born in Slovenia, he started dancing when he was five.

Strong suit: Ballroom and Latin American.

Strictly history: Joined the show for the 11th series and won with Abbey Clancey. Since had his nose put out of joint by arrival of another hunk, Gleb Savchenko, who’s now left the show. In the most recent series Aljaz partnered Helen George to come 6th. Now set to marry fellow dancer Janette Manrara.

Giovanni Pernice

Born in Sicily, he has ‘Nato per sincere’, which translates as ‘Born to win’, tattooed on his arm.

Strong suit: Latin American, though his favourite dance is the jive.

Strictly history: Only joined the show last year, but came second with Georgia May Foote, and has been dating her since.

Janette Manrara

Born in Florida but of Cuban heritage, she only started formal dance training when she was 19.

Strong suit: Salsa.

Strictly history: She joined for series 11, when she came 13th with fashion designer Julien Macdonald. She followed that up by coming fifth with Jake Wood in series 12, and seventh with Peter Andre last year. Set to marry her toy boy Aljaz, who’s over six years her junior.

Joanne Clifton

Born in Grimsby, daughter of former World Champions Keith and Judy Clifton. She first competed aged three with her brother, the fellow Strictly professional Kevin.

Strong suit: Ballroom.

‘There’s no dress code for the audience that evening,’ adds David Pickard, ‘although something glittery or sparkly would be good. We also hope that there will be some dancing in front of the orchestra down in the arena.’

Strictly history: Joined in series 12, in 2014, when she came 11th with Scott Mills. She was not partnered with a celebrity but danced with the professional troupe last year and also danced with Russell Grant in the 2014 Christmas Special.

Karen Clifton, nee Hauer

Born in Venezuela, she moved to New York when she was eight.

Speciality: Ballroom and Mambo (she was the 2008 Mambo World Champion).

Strictly history: She joined in series 10, and her best result was 4th with Mark Wright in series 12. In the most recent series she partnered Jeremy Vine to come 9th. Married Kevin Clifton last year.

Kevin Clifton

Also from Grimsby, brother of Joanne.

Strong suit: Ballroom and Latin

Strictly history: Has been on the show since series 11, and come 2nd each time, with Susanna Reid in series 11, Frankie Bridge in series 12, and Kellie Bright in series 13. Married Karen Hauer last year.

Dancers, from left: Aliona Vilani, Natalie Lowe, Ola Jordan, Otlile Mabuse, Len Goodman, Joanne Clifton, Janette Manrara, Karen Hauer and Kristina Rihanof

Review: Proms and Strictly Come Dancing make for a charming pair as Katie Derham delights at the Royal Albert Hall

It was only a matter of time before the Proms and hit TV series Strictly Come Dancing joined forces. Following in the footsteps of Doctor Who and Sherlock, who have previously enjoyed the spotlight at the Royal Albert Hall, it was the dance competition’s turn to take to the stage.

With Radio 3’s Katie Derham at the helm, some might accuse the BBC of some mighty self-promotion but this is an obvious pairing, with the music for ballroom dancing being firmly ground in the classical repertoire.

Derham, of course, was a Strictly finalist last year and the woman credited with getting stalwart professional dancer Anton Du Beke within touching distance of the glitterball. That wasn’t to be, but Derham hasn’t quite hung up her dancing shoes yet – she tiptoed out onto the floor to perform two of her best routines from the series.

We got a rehash of her triumphant Viennese waltz, performed to Walter Earl Brown’s If I Can Dream, the song made famous by Elvis Presley in 1968 two months after Martin Luther King’s assassination. The dance signalled an impressive u-turn for her on the show when she unexpectedly topped the leaderboard in week four.

This time, there was no Du Beke to spin her round the dance floor – he was engaged elsewhere celebrating his 50th birthday. In the capable hands of fellow pro Aljaž Škorjanec, however, it was a delightful interlude, and one that would undoubtedly please head judge Len Goodman, for heel leads and fleckerls were duly in check.

Less successful was her quickstep to 42nd Street, but no matter, all eyes were mainly on a group of the show’s professional dancers, including the devastatingly good trio that have put Grimsby on the map: champions Kevin Clifton, his sister Joanne and wife Karen.

Their carnival samba, danced in fluorescent outfits, was just one of the highlights. Performed to the spirited Aquarela do Brasil with its catchy three-note accompaniment, it was driven home with gusto by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Drifting from one moment to the next, Joanne Clifton and Giovanni Pernice exuded a wonderful sense of the stately and the serene as they waltzed to Erik Satie’s dreamy, gentle and far-from-strenuous Gymnopédie No  1. With its timeless purity, the piano exercise was perfect for the pair to perform a series of slow poses, bringing together a delicate meeting of movement and stillness.

The Strictly peg may have brought in the populist audience but the focus of the night was very much on the music. Alternating dance sequences with orchestral pieces, under the baton of the English National Ballet’s Gavin Sutherland, ensured that the music remained at the fore.

And where better to hear the glorious, rapid descending scales of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Pas de deux than in the grand setting of the Albert Hall. Bizet’s energetic Farandole heightened the atmosphere, while Rodgers’ Carousel Waltz had the audience in awe as the famous, shimmering glitterball hanging from the ceiling gave the illusion that we were all having a ride on a magical merry-go round.


All in all it amounted to a jolly evening watching the masters at work.

Source: The Telegraph