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Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 22 April 2008

It’s all over the telly, people are signing up for lessons in spades, some even do it on ice; dancing hasn’t been this in vogue since the hey day of Come Dancing. So it’s great timing for the British premiere of Richard Alfieri’s recent play Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks. Dance judge and choreographer Craig Revel Horwood was watching his protégés Claire Bloom and Billy Zane in the first night audience at the Haymarket last night, as was Caroline Bishop…

Richard Alfieri’s play brings together two unlikely friends for a light-hearted and sentimental tale of love, loss and friendship. Lily is a senior citizen who has retired to a condo in Florida and lives a solitary life with few pals to speak of. When she hires a dance instructor to teach her some moves she gets more than she bargained for in the shape of flamboyant Michael, whose tell-it-like-it-is attitude offends her pensioner’s sensibilities.

This is the nub of the story really, and to go into too much detail would be to spoil the gentle plot, which is gradually teased out over the seven scenes, each similar in structure and each detailing one of Lily’s dance lessons. However, the lessons simply provide an enclosure within which Alfieri asks the audience to get to know these two individuals and their histories, and understand why they come to be a comfort to each other.

Billy Zane, in his first West End stage outing, plays up the comedy as Michael – clad in an array of extravagant outfits – and has several great one-liners. He commands the stage in this two-hander, while Claire Bloom as Lily displays her character’s stubbornness and vulnerability as befits a lady of her years.

The dances, which range from tango and Viennese waltz to cha-cha and contemporary (for which read twisting to The Beach Boys’ Surfing USA), are choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Revel Horwood. Though the dancing is used more as a conclusion to each scene rather than an integral part of the story, it brings a touch of fun and lightness of heart to the play. No doubt the duo wouldn’t pass muster on the Saturday night dance-off, but they’re not trying to, rather the dancing just gives each character an excuse to forget their loneliness for a moment.

There’s nothing too taxing or profound about Alfieri’s play, but it never claims to be anything it’s not. It’s a gentle comedy that makes a pleasant night at the theatre, and the chance to see the charismatic Billy Zane on stage in the West End for the first time.

CB

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