I’ve been watching Strictly Come Dancing which, for those who don’t know, is a BBC knockout pro-celebrity dancing competition. Last year it was won by a soap actress, the year before that by a newsreader. This year, for me the pleasure has been watching Darren Gough. Gough is a fast bowler (i.e. a cricket pitcher), and he’s a big beefy cheerful Northern lad. For years, when England were crap at cricket, Goughie could be relied on to wake up the crowd and lift his teammates – but I don’t think anyone ever would have guessed, watching him run in and try to knock the batsmen’s heads off with 90mph bouncers, that he was a natural dancer.
What’s been great, watching him, is that although his dancing is sharp and technically excellent [according to the judges], he never loses the sense of bloke-ish physicality. Doing the jive, he could be a GI at a local dancehall; doing the salsa he could be a Cuban stevedore on his day off. There’s nothing dancerish about it. And he always looks like he’s enjoying himself.
To go off at a tangent for a moment, Brazilians sometimes claim to play football ‘to the rhythm of the samba’. I’ve wondered sometimes if English clubs would do well to take that literally, and to teach the young trainees to samba as a kind of cross-training. If nothing else, it’s good practice at close foot-control and balance.