This Christmas, BBC Radio 2 listeners will be waltzing, jiving, grooving and toe tapping through the festive period as the network broadcasts a Dance Season featuring eight glittering documentaries celebrating all things dance related, as well as 'dance' specials in Gloria Estefan’s Latin Beat series and Desmond Carrington’s Friday night show.
Documentaries to feature include choreographer Arlene Phillips’ take on dance troupes of the Sixties and Seventies in Super Troupers and Strictly’s Len Goodman celebrates the twinkled-toe genius of Gene Kelly and the swing dance phenomenon.
Other highlights are comedian Stewart Lee’s exploration into the misunderstood art of Morris dancing, a documentary dedicated to Northern Soul all nighters and a show hosted by Ryan Tubridy that charts the success of Riverdance.
Radio 2 listeners can look forward to the following programmes which will air throughout December:
Monday 5 December, 10-11pm: In Swinging At The Savoy, Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge Len Goodman celebrates the dance phenomenon of swing, from the Savoy Ballroom in 1930s Harlem to its modern day renaissance. Len explores the culture, the music and the dance moves, featuring anecdotes from pioneers like Norma Miller who danced at the Savoy. He explores its origins in African American music and dance and how swing made it into the nightclubs and movies. A Folded Wing production.
Len Goodman said: "It’s fantastic that Radio 2 is putting the wonderful world of dance into its schedule this festive season. Join me for two shows in which I reveal the toe-tapping history of swing dance from its origins to it current revival, and the incredible life and legacy of a true great, Gene Kelly."
Tuesday 6 December, 10-11pm: In The Gene Kelly Story, Len Goodman celebrates the magic feet of this Hollywood legend. The documentary features original interviews with those who knew, admired and learned from Kelly including Leslie Caron, his romantic lead in An American in Paris. A BBC Scotland Production.
Thursday 8 December, 11pm–12midnight: In Gloria Estefan’s Latin Beat, Gloria puts on her dancing shoes and explores how the rhythm and movement of the dance floor has been central to the success of Latin music. Playing mambo, tango, salsa, she defies listeners to keep still, with the music of Oscar d'Leon, Los Lobos, Cachao, Herb Alpert and more. A Folded Wing Production.
Friday 9 December, 7-8pm: Desmond Carrington shares good tunes, some unexpected ones and a few listeners may never have heard before, but all themed around ‘dance time’. From quick-step to waltz and much more, he shares his personal record collection of some 250,000 titles for songs and music celebrating a whole selection of dances. A Foldback Production.
Monday 12 December, 10-11pm: Comedian and traditional dance enthusiast Stewart Lee delves in to the world of Morris dancing in It’s Got Bells On. From Strictly Come Dancing to So You Think You Can Dance, there is extraordinary enthusiasm for dance in this country. But there's one that rarely gets featured, England's very own - the Morris. Stewart reveals that the tide could be turning, though, as choreographers are now turning to the tradition for inspiration. A BBC Production.
Stuart Lee said: “For years, Morris dancing was the punchline to a cheap joke. Now a new generation is realising that the men with bells on were onto something all along. We had Morris dancers at our wedding, and five long years later we are still married.”
Weds 14 December, 10-11pm: In The History Of The Dance Marathon, Andy Davies tells the story of the dance marathons - gruelling competitions of the Depression that half killed the competitors and laid the foundations for ‘reality’ entertainment. Their legacy continues right up to the present, extending an influence down the years in the development of the twist, disco, huge charity events, The Guinness Book of Records and the likes of BBC’s Strictly and this year’s Edinburgh Festival. A Unique production.
Monday 19 December, 10-11pm: In Super Troupers: The Story Of Dance Troupes dance supremo Arlene Phillips takes a look back at the television of the Sixties and Seventies, when the likes of Pan’s People lit up the nation’s television screens and established themselves as household names with their strangely literal dance routines and risqué costumes. Talking to the movers and shakers from the era - the Go-Jo's to Pan's People, Legs & Co and Hot Gossip - Arlene tells the story of the super troupes in all their star studded, lycra glory. A Folded Wing Production.
Arlene said: "I'm thrilled that Radio 2 has given me the opportunity to present a programme on a subject I feel so passionate about. I can't wait to delve back to the Sixties and Seventies and reminisce about my Hot Gossip days, and to tell the story of other dance troupes of that era including Go-Jo's, Pan's People and Legs & Co."
Tuesday 20 December, 10-11pm: In Too Darn Soulful: Northern Soul, Pete Waterman tells the story of Northern Soul and dance. He examines what makes Northern Soul music so all consuming for the devoted fans and introduces the uninitiated to this intoxicating mix of music and dance. And he meets the people for whom Northern Soul is a way of life. A Unique production.
Pete Waterman said: “Northern Soul is such a phenomenon, it’s great to be looking at this fascinating insight into the continuing fan base it has. I was the only man who always went to Wigan for his summer holidays - I loved Northern Soul that much! I only got two weeks off from being a DJ back then, and I spent those 14 days just going to Northern Soul Clubs.”
Wednesday 21 December, 10-11pm: Ryan Tubridy presents Tiger Feet. In 1994 Irish dancers stole the show at the Eurovision Song Contest with their story of the Irish people expressed through music, song and traditional dance as it had never been seen before – modern, glamorous and sexy. A dance phenomenon, Riverdance is now approaching its 18th year and continues to play to full houses around the world. Ryan finds out how it all came about and what its legacy is as Ireland’s boom years become a distant memory. A BBC Northern Ireland production.
Friday 30th December, 10pm – midnight: In Strictly New Year with Russell Grant, Russell gets the New Year vibe underway with a sizzling Strictly themed extravaganza, joined by foxy Flavia Cacace as the two of them relive their favourite musical moments from the hit BBC One show. A BBC production.
Russell says: “Music is in my heart and soul. Flavia and I share an intuitive musicality so we both knew what songs would bring out the best in our showbiz/dance partnership - and it worked! I want to share the songs with you that we danced to - and the many we wanted to but didn't or couldn't, as well as those that give me joyous bumps and shivers. I promise a musical treat that will bring your airwaves alive so much so you'll just have to get up and dance wherever you are - Strictly from me!”
Elsewhere, as part of the BBC’s continued commitment to dance, other programming includes a special edition of Between The Ears – Tap City for BBC Radio 3 (Saturday 17 December, 9.30pm) which follows an adventure in rhythm in New York City, where the African American tap dance revival creates unexpected new fusions with diverse musical and dance traditions. And on Saturday 31 December at 12.15pm Ballet Goes To The Music Hall is a music feature for Radio 3.
On BBC Two for Christmas, in Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood (TX TBC), Darcy - one of Britain’s greatest living dancers - steps into the shoes of her Hollywood heroes to celebrate the enduring legacy of classic dance musicals. Taking famous dance routines from her favourite Hollywood musicals, Darcey, working with leading choreographer Kim Gavin and conductor John Wilson, discovers how dance in the movies reached the pinnacle of perfection and how the legacy of the golden age lives on.
It’s fantastic that Radio 2 is putting the wonderful world of dance into its schedule this festive season."