Strictly Come Dancing has always been about more than gliding around the dance floor performing a stylish American Smooth or a non-stop, high energy Jive.
The enduring appeal for the devoted fans of BBC Television’s annual dance competition appeals to more than fans of ballroom dancing.
What compels the audience to keep tuning in is catching glimpses of humanity in the newsreaders, bit-part soap actors and past-their-prime sporting heroes as they struggle with the highs and lows of their metamorphosis.
From mostly awkward and unsure two left feet to increasingly engaging degrees of competence and elegance the celebrities master the complexities of modern ballroom dancing with varying degrees of success.
It’s not only the contestants’ footwork that becomes unrecognisable. The Strictly experience disrupts the celebrities’ sense of self too. Spray-tan alone is not that transformative so what else is going on?
Over its fifteen series SCD has also become notorious for blossoming romance between couples who have been paired together as dance partners. ‘The Curse of Strictly’ has been blamed for instigating several marital breakdowns and for ending some long-term relationships too.
What makes Strictly Come Dancing a disruptor of family life is more than just the close physical proximity of celebrity and professional partner. The emotionally loaded power-play of the teacher/student dynamic with the students’ out of their comfort zone vulnerability versus the guidance, commitment and encouragement of the professional teacher. Dance couples rehearse, often body on body, for up to fifty hours a week during the series’ peak. The intimacy of the dance moves, the exhilaration of achievement and the release of feel-good hormones mixed with powerful pheromones make mutual attraction almost irresistible.
As the trainee dancers learn to find their balance on the dance floor conversely for some of them what had held them in check in their personal lives becomes unbalanced and no longer tenable.
For successful contestants who improve week on week, the experience is deeply affirming. Contestants take the judges’ votes and the public votes as tangible signs of more than just their competency at dance steps but as an indicator of their self-worth and value. Processing this feedback gives the contestants a chance to re-evaluate how they think and feel about themselves too.
Regular viewers have seen many of the celebrities coming into their own during a Strictly season as they’re confidence builds on the dance floor so does their self-esteem.
Plus their professional teachers, although often strict, are well versed in flattering and encouraging their dance partner to deliver their best performance. Daily tactile contact and positive reinforcement while working physically hard in a rehearsal studio is a significant factor of the Strictly ‘bubble.’ all of which contributes to the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine making the whole experience more compelling than ever.
Few lives are ever lived with such seductive amounts of feedback or attention. Hence it is often devastating for the contestants when the judges deride their efforts, and the public votes go elsewhere.
It is no surprise with such a roller coaster of emotions that real life pales into insignificance and long-term partners can’t compete with the all-inclusive world of Strictly. This unique experience would disrupt even the most stable of couples.
Every season of Strictly seems to bring one or two high profile relationship breakdowns or rumours of affairs. Disruption always causes casualties, and broken hearts are left unfortunately in its wake.
However, like any transformational experience whether its ballroom dancing, detoxing at a clinic or coming into therapy the energy generated by changing by how you think and feel about yourself is an opportunity to create a clear pathway through emotional confusion and go forward with greater clarity and if the price of that is disruption of the status quo its a price worth paying.
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