The Best TV Dance Show Winners

Over the years, hundreds of incredible dance acts have exploded onto our television screens in shows like Britain’s Got Talent, Got To Dance, America’s Best Dance Crew, Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance. There are have been so many deserving winners but who is the pick of the bunch? Here’s my selection of the greatest ever winners and what they are doing now.

Diversity- Britain’s Got Talent Winners 2009 

Britain’s Got Talent is notorious for producing incredible dance acts year after year. From George Sampson to Twist & Pulse, there’s always a great dance troupe on BGT. Diversity even faced stiff competition in the form of Flawless the year they won. I actually preferred Flawless throughout the competition but Diversity pulled it out of the bag with their final performance. The insanely creative choreography was matched by the sublime execution that has now made Diversity a household name. Since then, Ashley Banjo has been a judge on Got To Dance and has his own programme, ‘Ashely Banjo’s Secret Street Crew‘. And little Perri is even a contestant on Splash! After huge success, here’s the moment that kickstarted it all…

JabbaWockeez- America’s Best Dance Crew Season 1 Winners

This all male hip hop crew from San Diego sent shockwaves across America when they first appeared on America’s Best Dance Crew. They’re popping was so technically incredible and in sync with one another that so many have tried to emulate their robotic style since. Famous for their white masks and gloves, they have gone on to perform worldwide and even appeared in Step Up 2: The Streets. I could literally spend hours watching these guys but with well over 11 million YouTube views, here’s one performance you can’t miss…

Kara Tointon- Strict Come Dancing Winner 2010

Kara turned out to be a truly breathtaking dancer. In my opinion, no celebrity contestant has matched her since. To not come from a dancing background and to take to dance in the manner she did is some achievement. She scored numerous tens from the judges for her graceful performances but it was her passion and chemistry with dance partner, turned romantic partner Artem Chigvinstev that really captured the hearts of the nation. Here is Kara and Artem doing the Rumba.

Prodijig- Got To Dance Winners 2012

There have been so many great winners of Got To Dance- the most recognisable probably being Akai Osei, who has since appeared in the StreetDance 3D film. However, the reason Prodijig are one of my favourite ever dance show winners is because of how they broke the mould when it came to their style of dance. Until then, it was unheard for an Irish tap group to win any of these modern talent shows. Amazingly they managed to bring back Irish tap to primetime viewing and gave it a uniquely modern twist through both the choreography and the music. If you haven’t seen it before then here’s your chance.

Charlie Bruce- So You Think You Can Dance 2010 Winner 

Throughout the series I was just captivated by this girl’s effortless dance style. Not only did she have a few tricks in the bag with some outrageous handless cartwheels and flips but her infectious smile and energetic performances is eventually what saw her crowned the winner. The former Laine Theatre Arts student went on to perform in West End productions as well as the American version of So You Think You Can Dance. But my favourite ever performance from her came in the very first week. The jazz dancer was pushed out of her comfort zone and given a hip hop routine with Tommy to Timbaland’s The Way I AreHer charm really shines through in this as she embraces the style with a performance I couldn’t take my eyes off. See for yourself!

The Greatest Dance Moments of 2013

2013 was a hugely significant year in the world of dance. So many different dancing styles were showcased and broadcast on our TV screens over the last year and to massive success. We witnessed everything from Abbey Clancy storming to victory on Strictly Come Dancing to Beyonce’s commercial masterclass at the Super Bowl Half Time Show. Dance is now more prevalent in the media and our everyday culture than ever before. So as we move into 2014, let’s take a look back the defining dance moments of the last year.

Attraction win Britain’s Got Talent and perform at the Royal Variety Performance 2013. 

Just when you thought you’d seen it all in terms of dance on BGT, Attraction came onto our screens. The group from Hungary wowed the entire nation with their innovative shadow act that incorporated stunning dance sequences into their unbelievable and acrobatic shadow manipulation. There is no question that these guys are talented dancers but they have used their technical dance ability to create a spectacle that many of us just couldn’t believe we were seeing. Their semi-final performance is the one that really sticks in my mind. They acted out the poignant story envisaging the death of the group leader’s mother and ending with the birth of his child leaving lots of people reaching for the Kleenex (including Simon Cowell). Here’s a reminder.

Beyonce’s half time show at the 2013 Superbowl 

Beyonce has constantly reinvented herself over the years and this was an eclectic performance

Beyonce at the 2013 Super Bowl

Beyonce at the 2013 Super Bowl

that set the world alight. The choreography did an incredible job of incorporating all her iconic songs and dance routines from Crazy In Love to Single Ladies. The fact that she managed to maintain such energy throughout a performance lasting more than thirteen minutes whilst giving a world class vocal performance is just astounding. She is the unequivocal queen of pop but has also cemented herself in history as a top class dance act that people attempt to replicate all over the world.

Lukas McFarlane wins Sky One’s Got To Dance 

Ok, so the reason I’ve picked this as a defining dance moment is because over the last few years, our television screens have been dominated by hip hop and street styles. Don’t get me wrong, I love these styles and the majority of today’s viewers prefer them to the more classical styles- probably because of the up to the minute song choices and “cool” reputation. So all the more praise to Lukas McFarlane for winning Got To Dance and winning over a legion of fans with a style that people are less familiar with. Famous for wearing one sock, Lukas took contemporary dancing to a whole other level. For those that think contemporary is boring and just not for you, I promise this will change your mind. His acrobatic flips and body popping combined with perfect technique throughout in more classical moves is truly mind blowing. How he manages to maintain such emotive intensity as well is just beyond me. Watch his final performance to Alex Clare’s Too Close and you’ll see what I mean.

Strictly Come Dancing is won by Abbey Clancy and the show becomes the BBC’s most successful ever export

Strictly Come Dancing 2013 Winner, Abbey Clancy

Strictly Come Dancing 2013 Winner, Abbey Clancy

In my opinion, we saw the best ever series of Strictly this year with the standard of dance at the highest it’s ever been. I think any one of the final four could have been winners on another series. But it was Abbey Clancy who eventually came out on top. There’s no denying her elegance and poise especially when in hold and at times she appeared to glide effortlessly across the floor. Personally I preferred Susanna Reid whose progression from week one was remarkable but overall a fantastic year for Strictly Come Dancing that continues to dominate primetime viewing.

 Coronation Street’s Anthony Cotton wins Let’s Dance for Comic Relief

Once again it was just refreshing to see another dance style getting some coverage, this time in the form of tap dance. I think this was absolutely genius. Reminiscent of Fred Astaire, it brought back the old fashioned showbiz that has been missing in recent years but equally made tap dance appealing to a modern audience. Not only is Antony an exceptionally accomplished tap dancer but also a wonderful entertainer and a delight to see dancing on our screens. See for yourself!

And we couldn’t possibly discuss the best dance moments of 2013 without mentioning possibly the worst moment of all time… One word: “twerk

My Top 5 YouTube Dance Stars

Over the last few years dance videos have literally exploded onto the internet and practically taken over YouTube. Of course, there’s the ones from big shows like Britain’s Got Talent (BGT), So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), Dancing With The Stars, Strictly Come Dancing, America’s Best Dance Crew, Got To Dance and so many more. But this blog post will showcase the biggest, most breathtaking dance videos that you won’t see on your TV. There’s thousands of them out there but these are the ones that blew my mind. My top five YouTube dance sensations!

NUMBER ONE: Chachi Gonzales. You won’t believe it but this girl is only 17! She’s an American dancer who won America’s Best Dance Crew with I.aM.mE in 2011. She’s now gone solo and has nearly 442,000 subscribers on YouTube. Her choreography is effortlessly cool- think girl next door with an urban edge. It’s hard to pick just one video but I definitely recommend watching her ‘Ciara- Like a Boy’ routine as well as this one which has over 8,000,000 views.

NUMBER TWO: DancingWithYT. This YouTube channel showcases some of the best young dance talent from jazz, lyrical and contemporary to hip hop and street. Many of these young dancers went on to feature in Dance Moms but there is one girl in particular that caught my eye. At only seven years old, her flexibility, strength, expression and musicality exceeds all expectations of a girl her age. Her acrobatics are unbelievable. With over 1,500,000 views, here is Asia Monet Ray.

NUMBER THREE: OfficialHHI. This is the HipHop International YouTube Channel and it posts all the videos from the annual World Hip Hop Dance Championships. There was one crew last year that blew all the competition out of the water; the megacrew ‘Royal Family’ from New Zealand. Choreographing for that amount of people must have been a nightmare but the end product is exceptional. Their timing is so precise for that many dancers on one stage and has a huge impact. The musical arrangement is also genius with tracks from Drake’s Started At The Bottom to Big Bad Wolf by Duck Sauce. And keep an eye on the tall dancer in the middle who is phenomenal.

NUMBER FOUR: WilldaBeast Adams. Another American dancer and choreographer who regularly uploads his latest creations and tutorials to go with them. This arrangement to Beyonce’s Upgrade You has nearly 11,000,000 views.

NUMBER FIVE: Emily Sasson Choreography. Emily’s videos have exploded onto YouTube and get hundred of thousands of views. She’s YouTube dance royalty! Here’s one of her routines to Ester Dean’s Drop it Low featuring Lil Wayne.

Pointe Shoes, Pirouettes and Pregnancy

So this week a lady named Mary Helen Bowers made the news by continuing to dance at 39 weeks pregnant! And she says she’ll carry on dancing right up until giving birth! The 34 year old Ballet instructor formerly danced with the New York City Ballet and even trained up Natalie Portman for her role in the Black Swan. Now despite moving on to a new phase in her life, she’s kept up a strenuous dance regime and has even created a pre-natal ballet programme for other women.

Watch her story here:

So what do we think? On the health side of things there are most definitely conflicting arguments. Some say that this level of exericise can help maintain body strength, muscle tone Expecting_motherand even ease some nasty side effects of pregnancy such as back pain.

Others air on the side of caution. As the pregnancy progresses, the body clearly changes shape and the centre of gravity changes. This makes balancing more difficult thus increasing the risk of falling in movements like arabesques for example. So is it dangerous to be dancing at later stages of pregnancy? Some may say it’s an unnecessary risk, while others think it’s fine to continue dancing just be aware of the body’s changing limitations.

So these are the arguments but what do you think? I think I’m somewhere in the middle on this. Exercise on a low level has obvious health benefits but as you get further along perhaps the best thing to do would be to just relax! But only you know what your body can cope with. Comment below and take the poll!

My Top 5 Dance Blogs

This week I decided to branch out and look outside the window of my own blog page and celebrate some of the other dance blogs out there. Each is very different from the other but all make it into my top five favourite dance blogs.

NUMBER ONE: http://dubstepbeats.wordpress.com/

Now this is a page that you really can’t ignore. I mean Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 21.51.04seriously, they post hundreds of incredible videos each day. Each one showcases some really mind-blowing dubstep dance but this one of two young lads is one of my favourites. I think it’s just their raw, organic talent and the kids in the background don’t seem to bat an eyelid! UNBELIEVABLE!

NUMBER TWO: http://dailydancer.com/

Ok. So if it’s an insightful look into the world of dance you want from a Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 22.23.33blog then perhaps this one isn’t for you. But if you are the type of person who trawls the internet for funny cat videos and vines of people making fools of themselves then this is certainly going to be your cup of tea. This is quite literally, pure genius. A rather energetic chap posts daily clips of himself improvising to numerous well known songs. Im going to say his dance style is unorthodox yet innovative… watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

NUMBER THREE: http://bloodsweatpointeshoes.wordpress.com/

This is a really poignant insight into the life of Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 22.00.36an inspiring ballet dancer. It is a shockingly honest first person account to the point where I was quite taken aback by the blogger’s openness on her struggles with injuries and an eating disorder. Really fascinating and I’m sure a diary style blog that dancers everywhere will be able to relate to.

NUMBER FOUR: http://www.dancespirit.com/

So this isn’t strictly a blog, more of an online magazine with Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 22.05.21LOADS of contributors. But I love it. It has everything from great “how to” articles on ballet moves, choreography and tap steps etc as well as posts on dance fashion- because every dancer wants to look good while they’re performing- whether that’s on stage or in rehearsals! Plus it has really responsible writing on health, fitness and nutrition. Definitely worth spending some time browsing the site!

NUMBER FIVE: http://dancetabs.com/

Finally for all you cultured lot here is a blog that reviews ballet andScreen Shot 2013-12-13 at 22.13.42 contemporary shows up and down the country. The experienced critics that contribute to this blog really know what they’re talking about. Gallery pictures are stunning and features engaging interviews with people involved in dance companies from all over the world. A refreshing blog seeing as the publication of quality dance criticism has faded over the last few years.

 

 

The BIG Debate: Is Dance a Sport?

Is Dance a sport?
YES!! It’s part of the National Curriculum for Sport and PE lessons. NO!! Because it’s not one of the sports in the Olympics. These are just a couple of frequent arguments I hear on this topic. But which side are you on?! This post attempts to answer the question which has been tormenting dancers for years… WARNING: some of the answers, including “Dance is just a hobby, it’s not a sport”, may be infuriating to dance lovers worldwide!

Dancers in Basketball costumes at the Welsh Street Dance Championships 2013

Dancers in Basketball costumes at the Welsh Street Dance Championships 2013. Photographer: Laura Kenyon

I posed this question to a number of different people of varying ages and sporting backgrounds. The responses I got from the general public in Cardiff city centre predictably reflected a divided view. Some said “yes, of course dance is a sport” while others laughed saying “gardening is physical, does that mean gardening is a sport?!”.  While the shoppers on Cardiff’s Queen Street were both informed and entertaining, I decided to get the opinions of two sporting professionals. One, a British and Irish Lions and Wales international Rugby Union player, Alex Cuthbert. And the other, a dance teacher and choreographer who has danced her whole life, Cheryl Loxton.

Alex, a six foot six inch, one hundred and four kilogram rugby union player, understandably had a sceptical view of dance as a sport. But even he couldn’t deny that both Rugby and Dance have similarities. Have a listen.

Picture courtesy of Alex Cuthbert 

Meanwhile, Cheryl has grown up competing in dance competitions across the UK and is now a fully qualified dance teacher. She says that dance possesses all the necessary qualities to be classified as a sport.

Picture courtesy of Cheryl Loxton 

This subject of what constitutes a sport can really provoke some fiery debate, especially from those who are passionate about the activity that they participate in. So it’s a brave person who can tell a dancer that Dance is essentially not a sport. Sport England themselves recognise that defining what is and what isn’t a sport is tricky business. They do in fact recognise Dance as a sport and refer to the Council of Europe’s European Sports Charter 1993 definition of sport:

“Sport means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organized participation, at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels”

For many people, what it ultimately comes down to is… is there that element of competition? If not, then dance is an art and not a sport.

Tweets on "Is Dance a sport?"

Tweets on “Is Dance a sport?”

Well I would point out that dancers regularly compete in competitions across the UK and here’s a list of just some of them:

  • Imperial Classical Ballet Awards
  • ISTD Janet Cram Awards (Modern Dance)
  • Marjorie Davies Tap Awards
  • UDO’s European & World Street Dance Championships
  • The All-England Dance Competition
  • UK Street Dance Championships
  • Association of Dance Freestyle Professionals competitions

Saying that, these competitions are usually “amateur”, using the word “amateur” very loosely considering the amount of training many of the competitors have had. When dancers enter the professional world, this is when the competition element often ends. Dancers perform on stage, at events, in music videos etc and routines take on a purely aesthetic purpose. Is dance still a sport then? It’s lost it’s competitive edge so many would so no. Yet often dance shows will be critiqued in a similar way that a football team’s performance is analysed and critiqued by the pundits. So in that case, are Dance and a sport like Football so different after all?

Clearly it’s a contentious subject. This is clear from the volume of online discussions on this topic ranging from internet debate forums to other blog posts like debate page Is Dance a Sport? , the TeenLife blog post The Great Debate: Is Dance a Sport? , Huffington Post’s article Is Dance a Sport or an Art? and Eugene Daily News post Dance As Sport.

But what all people do seem to agree on is that it requires an exceptionally high level of physical fitness and athleticism as well as intricate technique. Some styles of dance are also more easily associated with sport and these are often the more physically explosive styles that incorporate elements of gymnastics, for example street dance, break dancing and freestyle. But even dance styles such as ballet and contemporary require huge amounts of physical exertion and the body to be at the peak of muscular strength. When you compare the physiques of the average professional ballet dancer with that of a pro darts player, it’s difficult to comprehend why darts would be a sport and not ballet. This is the view of one person on social media:

Facebook user on "Is Dance a Sport?"

Facebook user on “Is Dance a Sport?”

So overall, lots of people have mixed views on the status of Dance as a sport. And what it comes down to is people’s subjective vision. What do you think? Have your vote in my poll at the end of the post. Still not sure? Then have a watch of the following video to see what a handful of people in Cardiff think.

WATCH Incredible Crews Battle it out for the Welsh Street Dance Title

Welsh Street Dance Championships 2013

Welsh Street Dance Championships 2013

Guest judges

Guest judges from ‘Flawless’

Last weekend I travelled down to Newport to see the best street dancers in Wales compete to earn their place in the World Championships 2014 & European Championships 2015. United Dance Organisation saw around 1600 people turn out to cheer on the dancers aged from five all the way up to adults. The guest judges from Flawless even added a touch of celebrity to the occasion. The atmosphere really was phenomenal. After growing up competing in a quiet auditorium where audience members politely clap at the end of routines, it was refreshing to hear the crowd really get behind the dancers. The venue literally erupted when a crew switched up their track to a tune everyone knew. But most of all, I was shocked by the pure originality of the choreography and the outstanding overall quality on show.

But don’t just take it from me, watch for yourselves. Here’s my ‘best of’ compilation for the morning competitors of the Welsh Champs.