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Monday, February 5, 2018

REVIEW. A rejuvenated Dancing with the Stars SA on M-Net is true 'Disney-glitter television', a dance-off menagerie filled with colour, strobe lights and beautiful bodies.


"This show should come with a glitter warning," said co-presenter Tracey Lange on Sunday evening - and she was absolutely right - in the revived, rejuvenated and improved Dancing with the Stars SA that took a giant leap forward in techni-colour projection and high definition in the jump of this ballroom dancing series from the SABC to M-Net (DStv 101).

Strictly Come Dancing SA, the title under which the glitter floor format show was known as over the course of 8 seasons on SABC2 and SABC3 was never a bad show. The Rapid Blue produced song-and-dance fest is now just even better as the BBC Worldwide format show transitioned to M-Net under the retitled Dancing with the Stars SA name.

It's now in high definition (HD), the revamped voting process is much improved, and everything has had the "M-Net glitter machine once-over", elevating the show's production values to pay-TV levels for a pay-TV audience, specifically for MultiChoice's highest-tiered DStv Premium subscribers.

With a (first-ever) rooftop ballroom, a live band and lead vocals, projectors casting full-colour images on the dance floor and walls to envelope the dancers and ballroom spectators in dancing diaramas and with a large video wall ensconced under circular arches, Dancing with the Stars SA is finally a South African version sporting pedigree specs similar to its UK and American counterparts.

Dancing with the Stars SA, produced by extremely skilled and veteran producers, clearly must have a bigger budget and it shows in a refinement of basically everything with the result that the M-Net viewer and DStv Premium subscriber get a TV show that's gone from fine as it was economy, to more attentive, better furnished business class.

While eagle-eyed observers would spy some first episode production jitters, brief glimpses of stage-fright and some technical problems that will surely be ironed out as the season rolls along, the show, done live from the top of the Hyde Park Corner shopping centre, shined bright in its first episode on M-Net.

Impacted by some sound problems especially towards the end, Dancing with the Stars SA was a colour and dance Sunday evening TV samba as celebrity and professional dancers entertained in what for the bulk of it felt like a wonderful 2-hour live Grease musical with a waltz and tango thrown in.

The co-presenters Tracey Lange and Chris Jafta are in tandem television jewels. Quite simply they make magical television together.

Not since eNCA's NewsNight with Jeremy Maggs and Iman Rappetti has South African TV had a couple being such a perfect fit in natural charm, backing each other up, imbuing the autocue with just enough of their own personality, and striking the perfect tone in both humour and unaffected delivery.

Whoever found Tracey Lange and Chris Jafta and thought of putting specifically these two together, deserve a mirror ball trophy of their own.

Together the twosome, who have individual experience of presenting TV magazine shows, are not just extremely natural and comfortable on-screen, but become a bigger, even better, and more powerful compound than their individual elements on TV's periodic table.

The four judges are all very likeable but the funny and effervescent judge and choreographer Jason Gilkison is clearly the high EQ head boy in this dance-off menagerie filled with colour, strobe lights and beautiful bodies.

Judge Tebogo Kgobokoe, back from Strictly Come Dancing SA, is clearly going to be the "strict one" and will provide added drama as the scoring reveals of the four judges and the numbers on their scoring paddles already turned into a little mini-drama of its own.

In variety and comedy television, timing is everything. In the first outing of Dancing with the Stars SA the pacing was fine, interrupted by somewhat halfhearted in-show audience applause at certain places but deftly smoothed over by Chris Jafta who at some points were a bit quick in transitioning from judge to judge in eliciting comments but will still adapt to their speaking patterns.

The costumes and set design are top notch, the professional dancers extremely talented, agile and skilled, and the band masterful in the rendition of instantly recognisable hits to accompany the dance acts.

Some camera angles felt oddly missing, as if the majority of cut to's were done from only one or a limited range of direction. Still, it is true "Disney-glitter television" - an immersive, highly entertaining variety TV experience that draws you in and manages to keep you spellbound.

The opening group dance number was explosive and so expansive in scope and filled with so many little details not seen on television, that some viewers would probably wish there were camera drones to capture even more different angles.

Dancing with the Stars SA is perfect TV viewing for Sunday evenings and definitely the most colourful programme in a very literal sense on all of South African television right now.

It's cute like a dog show filled with the same dramatic irony that the beautiful and beautifully dressed things have no idea what they're really in for, is filled with vibey music, and brims with more colours than Crayola.

In a world of Donald Trump, Cape Town running out of water and a lot of other troubling issues, the crystal TV palace of Dancing with the Stars SA on M-Net is a wonderful hidden hideaway, devoid of all life's problems for two hours on Sunday evenings.