Now, I’m not a reality TV fan and that makes watching the box quite a challenge these days. True, there’s a huge variety of channels at present, but most of the “quality” programming has been replaced by the lives of “celebrities” in Essex, Chelsea and Newcastle.
Where am I going with this? Well, when I can’t watch sport, I sometimes find myself watching reality shows that involve a certain degree of competition. Ashamedly, one trip back home and I caught myself watching Strictly Come Dancing. And enjoying it! I can’t stand the needless theatrics, corny jokes and pretentious characters, but I admire the level of performance by the stars and professional partners. They learn one or two new dances every week and turn them into exhibitions in front of millions of fans, despite them not having a dancing bone in their bodies prior to the competition. Of course, as a sports lover, you have to urge on the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Louis Smith, especially after the year they’ve had compared to some of the other non-entities in the line-up.
It’s been years since I’ve caught any of Dancing on Ice, which is a shame because it’s the closest reality TV has come to a sporting show in recent years. It is essentially the “pairs” element of a figure skating meeting, taking the ballroom to ice and performing to a wide range of musical routines. On the outside, that doesn’t sound like an exciting activity to watch but I managed to catch some footage of Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland’s first dance at the NHK Trophy at Sekisui Helm Super Arena, Miyagi, Japan and I remembered everything that makes figure skating one of the most popular winter sports in the world.
Donning traditional “Irish” clothes, Brits Coomes and Buckland danced a hearty jig in front of the Japanese audience, cheekily acting out an opening exchange that wouldn’t be out of place in a camp episode of Strictly. Ice dancing forbids overhead lifts and all jumps, but they creatively combined solo skating and combined holds into a coherent routine. A slow section emerged halfway through the performance (although I feel it could have been a more seamless link), before the pair kicked back into action with one-hand-on-feet pirouettes (that’s not a technical term, don’t you know?), something of a highlight for me.
Unfortunately, Coomes and Buckland finished the day in sixth out of eight pairs, something they’d go on to do again in the free dance section. Still, an overall sixth place was a new record for the British pair in the NHK Trophy and it was certainly an improvement on their eighth place finish in last fortnight’s Rostelecom Cup short dance. The place gives them five ranking points for the ISU Grand Prix but it probably isn’t enough to qualify them for the Finals in Sochi next month. They also miss out on any substantial prize money for not finishing at least fifth.
I can’t imagine I’ll ever be much of a dancer, but I envy the way these athletes glide on ice. I’ve only ever taken to a rink once in my life and I didn’t so much do an Irish jig, more of a frantic jog and a slip to the floor.
To check out some ice dancing for yourself, visit Youtube for full coverage of Coomes/Buckland’s short program, including discussion of the highlights (if you understand the non-English language).