Dance Review – Brendan Cole: Live and Unjudged

Jun 7 2010 | By More

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Brendan Cole and Nicole Cutler

Festival Theatre
By Thom Dibdin

It was strictly entertainment at the Festival Theatre on Sunday night when ballet badboy Brendan Cole brought his big bro, big band and a quartet of fellow Strictly Come Dancing professionals to Edinburgh.

That Cole is a passionate, gifted and generous ballroom and Latin dancer is in no doubt after eight series of Strictly, during which he has risen from being just another of the professional dancers who partner the celebs to being a celebrity in his own right.

A Festival Theatre packed with Strictly fans, dressed to impress and gagging for a sight of Brendan, certainly knew so.

When he put the question “what would you like to see now?” during the evening’s first pause it was purely rhetorical, given that this is a scripted and choreographed show. The answer from the front of the dress circle was not in the least rhetorical, however.

“You!” came the shout for all to hear. There can’t have been many in the audience who did not agree – and for those who didn’t, Nicole Cutler, Hanna Haarala and Izabela Hannah were more than adequate compensation. But the loudest screams of delight were reserved for Brendan, not least when he made his buttocks shimmy while demonstrating the Salsa a few dances later.

That was the exhuberant, let-your-hair-down side of the show, however. When any combination of the six dancers achieved a particularly well-worked or technically tricky move, the gentle ripple of applause let you know that this audience appreciated their dance as much as they appreciated their dancers.

Cole is both self assured enough to stage a dance show bearing his name, his choreography and his staging – and self deprecating enough to realise that true entertainers do not demand applause, they earn it.

So this is an evening which might have dancing at its heart, but which is about so much more than just the dancing. It is, like the show which made Cole famous, about variety. And without the judging format of Strictly, or the anticipation of losing one celeb at the end of the show, Cole has to become his own theatrical arc.

The dancing is excellent – of course. There might be the odd moment where Cole could have squeezed a bit more out of the choreography and Scott is not always as athletic as his younger brother, but all six dancers make it all look easy, as they glide into routines that make you forget the technical aspect of ballroom dancing and simply appreciate the elegance and beauty of the dance itself.

The twelve-strong band aren’t just there as backing, either. Their presence is constantly vital to the spectacle, whether it is vocalists Iain Mackenzie and Julie Maguire adding an ironic hand-jive or Dan Botwell wandering centre stage to take an OTT guitar solo at the end of the atmospheric staging of Prince’s Purple Rain. Mostly, however, they just provide tight, musical accompaniment – even when the singer is Cole himself, with I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

Like his singing, Cole’s patter between the numbers isn’t always perfect. But there is a real feeling of spontaneity – which just adds to the impression that the whole company are having a whale of a time on stage. And Cole quickly has the whole audience on their feet for a Salsa at the end of the Latin-dominated first act.

The ballroom-dominated second act is split up with a question and answer session, mediated slightly by Scott and the third male dancer, Andrew Cuerden. When one questioner offers to show Cole the Highland Fling, he agrees and she is soon on stage as he jigs a few steps, showing himself up with utter disregard for his own appearance.

Around the whole show, the production values are tip top. The outfits sparkle, shimmer and show their wearers’ moves off to their best advantage. The lighting is simple, but effective – adding atmosphere and helping to build the innate drama of the music and the dancing.

Brendan Cole is a very good professional dancer – but that in itself is not enough to make this production work. It is his consummate showmanship which does that, as he creates a night of pure escapist entertainment.

Edinburgh run ended.

Full details of continuing tour on Brendan Cole’s website.


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  1. Susan Wales says:

    I cannot recall ever reading such a gushing review from you Thom! It sounds an excellent show – wish I could have seen it.