This was my first ever visit to the Cresset in Peterborough, even though it’s barely an hour’s drive away from where we live. On the plus side: there’s plenty of free parking, a useful bar/restaurant area, and friendly staff. On the minus side: it feels a bit like a sports centre and when you enter the Sovereign Hall for the show, it’s like someone’s quickly erected a makeshift stage at one end of an aircraft hangar. We were in row E and the seats are not particularly comfortable, there’s no rake until you get to row AA and the place doesn’t have much of an atmosphere. As a result, any show you see there is going to have to work really hard to get its entertainment value across. Fortunately, the cast of Dance to the Music do indeed work really hard!
Perhaps I should come clean here, gentle reader, and explain (if you didn’t already know from my blog about Soo Yoga) that Strictly Come Dancing’s Kristina Rihanoff, who has masterminded (mistressminded?) this show also happens to be my yoga instructor, which made us want even more to come and see it. Added to which, a couple of weeks before the tour started, two of the dancers, plus host Jake Quickenden, joined us for a yoga session. So I almost feel part of the company!
Back to the show. It’s an informative, entertaining and spectacular journey through a century of dance, from the Charlestons of the 1920s to the shapes people throw on the dance floor today. Choreographed and devised by Kristina Rihanoff, it consists of a series of retrospectives celebrating various famous dance styles decade by decade, with a great choice of contemporary music and lavish costumes. Some of the music is pre-recorded, but much is also performed by the aforementioned host and singer Jake Quickenden; he of the jungle, X-Factor and Dancing on Ice – and he’s never going to let us forget it. Jake has a charming, likeable, relaxed style that quickly wins the audience over and he narrates the show with great humour and abundant cheekiness. He also gives us some great musical performances.
A fantastic highlight was Jake’s singing I Heard it through the Grapevine to a seductive rumba (I think it was a rumba – I’m not an expert!) by Kristina with lead dancer Jo Baiao. There’s also a terrific sequence to the music of the Andrews Sisters, with the whole cast throwing themselves into a jive/lindy hop routine. And I really enjoyed the disco section, and much appreciated the fact that they featured one of my favourite 70s tunes, Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry. I’m not sure how often Peterborough swings to that particular soundtrack.
Of course, there’s always that moment that everyone dreads, the audience participation section. Kristina reminds us of her Strictly Paso Doble triumph with John Sergeant, where her celebrity partner dragged the poor woman across the floor like a burglar with his swag. Jake scours the crowd for a chap willing to give it a go on stage with Kristina. Fortunately for us all, as this was the last night, he picked on a willing guy in the front row to whirl the cape onstage – and it was none other than Ben Cohen, Kristina’s dance- and life-partner! Whilst all the other guys in the audience breathed a sigh of relief, Ben promenaded a few classic Paso poses, much to everyone’s amusement.
In addition to Kristina and Jo, we were also treated to the dance artistry of Aaron Brown, Angelina Anastasia, James Davies-Williams and guest stars Marcella Solimeo and Dylon Daniels. I must say I thought Marcella was especially enjoyable to watch, with great dancing mixed with a huge personality. There were also two local bonuses: local youth theatre Kindred gave us a great dance routine, including a very funny let’s make Jake look too old for this sequence; and then we also had the pleasure of Kristina’s young Bespoke Ballroom company, showcasing their talents. Both teams of young performers did themselves proud.
This was – allegedly – the last time Kristina will dance her way around a stage; and was definitely the last night of this particular tour. Not sure if I believe it; once a performer, always a performer. Time will tell. If this did turn out to be the very last Dance to the Music, then I’m sorry you missed a treat.