Beeb should have picked Karen Hardy as the new Strictly judge

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, April 26 2012

I am not the only one who thinks the BBC has missed a trick hiring Darcey Bussell to replace Alesha Dixon as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

I have never made a secret of the fact I am a big Strictly fan and that I thought it was wrong for the Beeb to replace Arlene Phillips with Alesha Dixon back in 2009.

Regardless of the ageism claims, the show lost one of the most respected figures in the world of dance and replaced her with a young, beautiful but largely clueless ex-contestant.

No one can deny that Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha is the show’s best female champion ever but there is a huge leap between doing what you’re told and spotting flaws and strengths in other people’s efforts.

Now, to say Darcey Bussell is a step back in the right direction is an understatement but hiring the former principal dancer of the Royal Ballet misses one vital point.

Ballet is not a category of dance performed on Strictly Come Dancing.

Now hold your horses. I remember just as much as you the lovely jive Darcey did with professional Ian Waite when she guest-judged on the series in 2009. It was very nice.

But sitting her alongside Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli when the show returns in the autumn does not add a relevant string to the judging panel’s bow.

I was chatting to the lovely, if not a little ditsy, Ali Bastian about this, for an interview about her starring role in the UK tour of Chicago, which you can read about in next week’s What’s On (out from Wednesday, May 2).

Aside from her appalling lack of current affairs knowledge – when asked who should replace Alesha she replied “What? I didn’t even know. I had no idea. What is going on? I have not seen the news or a TV,” – she actually made some very valid points.

“It’s important to get someone from a ballroom and Latin background. When you are waiting for the judgements with Len you know it has technically got to be good and Craig is from a massive showbiz background and is a choreographer.

“So maybe someone like Karen Hardy would be good. She would have my vote. She is amazing and a leading voice in ballroom and Latin.

“She is so well respected in the industry. People travel the world to have lessons with her when it is competition time.”

OK, Ali is biased because she is a regular visitor to former Strictly professional Karen’s dance studio in Chelsea. But Karen was the force behind the show’s greatest ever champion, Mark Ramprakash, and its best ever moment, when the pair performed their Argentine Tango to Tina Turner’s GoldenEye theme.

If they wanted someone who was respected in the industry, still young, and someone with previous on the show, surely Karen should have been the BBC's choice.

(Karen Hardy, pictured hosting a summer school at Maidstone's Margaret Preedy Dance Studio last year)

Categories: Celebrities | Dancing | Entertainment | Showbiz

I drink, therefore I am

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Monday, March 7 2011

They say if you can remember the 1960s then you weren't there.

Perhaps the O2's new nightclub Proud2 is pushing for a similar slogan, judging by the incredible party they threw for their press launch on Thursday.

Yes Thursday. Four days ago and I still can barely remember anything past 11.30pm from that night. The occassional free bar is a wonderful perk of the journalistic world but they never lose their devastating potential.

And on Thursday, it felt like they caused Armageddon for my liver.

Ok, so I fell fowl of having a few too many glasses of champagne and can barely report on The Bees, Nero and The Mystery Jets, pictured left, who performed on the night to the, shall we say, enthusiastic crowd.

That doesn't make me a criminal but it did make me ponder my attitude towards drinking.

Did I go out with a couple of my mates on Thursday with the intention of getting mind-bogglingly bladdered at the free event? No I didn't. Did we decide we were going to take advantage of the free booze on offer? You bet!

There lies the problem. Although we claim to know our limit, all notion of moderation went out of the window once what was on offer became free.

Was my shaky camera work at the opulently laid out and impressive club a sign of unprofessionalism? Or did I just have a few too many on a night where I was letting my hair down?

Perhaps we deserved the raging hangovers (mine suffered at work) the following day. But should we feel bad about it?

I was still at work at 8am and able to report on what was going on. Work hard, play hard is a philosophy that has served many before me well and will serve many well in the future.

Should I have felt naughty for arriving at my desk bleary-eyed the next day, even though I got on with the task in hand? Answers on a postcard please.


In Strictly news, Tom Chambers appears to be the main star set to grace the stage at the New Marlowe Theatre when their first programme of events gets underway in October.

He will don his dancing shoes once again for Top Hat, the first ever stage version of the 1935 film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Tom was never my favourite Strictly Come Dancing champion. Lisa Snowden or Rachel Stevens should have won that year but no one could deny he was a charmer.

Also Tom made no secret of claiming Fred and Ginger were his dancing idols during his run to the glitterball in 2008.

Which surely means his toe-tapping antics will be a coup for the new Marlowe, who will stage the show before it goes on a West End run.

Categories: Celebrities | Dancing | Entertainment | Health | Leisure | Media | Showbiz | Work

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