How we (very nearly) made the Strictly Come Dancing final...

It was the call we’d secretly been hoping for but thought would never come.

‘You free in London tomorrow afternoon?’ asked our manager George. ‘To film a slot for the Strictly final?’

Strictly Come Dancing. Three stable words in uncertain times - words with which we’d become all too familiar.

It started with an idea from George. We’d always admired the Strictly celebrities for learning and performing a new dance from scratch each week. As classical guitarists at music college, we were expected to learn and recite at least one new piece per week ourselves.

So George put the two thoughts together. Why don’t we pick a new Strictly song each week, learn and then post it on social media on the day of the show? Easy for him to say, but we’re up for a challenge and it seemed like a fun one.

Our Strictly journey began with ‘Tico Tico’, as danced by Susannah Constantine and Anton du Beke. It’s a crazy Brazilian track, made famous by Carmen Miranda. And now even more famous by Anton’s head (and a pair of maracas) appearing from beneath Susannah’s orange dress.

So we learned, filmed and posted our own version. People responded well - even the lovely Susannah herself saw it and enthused.

Week two was Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’, followed by the ‘Greatest Show’, then a track by Los Lobos. We’d completed our first month.

We were enjoying the discipline and it seemed others were too. Dr Ranj Singh tweeted ‘Love this!!!’ after seeing our version of his dance. Strictly legend Zoe Ball also gave us the thumbs up.

So we kept going. Every Tuesday, when the song choices were announced, we’d pounce on them and decide which one to tackle. Beyoncé was next, then 5 Seconds of Summer, then Assassin’s Tango from the film Mr & Mrs Smith.

What started as a bit of fun, was becoming a mission. And it didn’t stop there. One Saturday night, we were playing a gig in Reading when we broke into an impromptu blast of the Strictly theme tune. It brought the house down. From then on, for every Saturday night gig, we’d do a Strictly interlude.

Something weird was happening too. In choosing our weekly tracks, we opted for different styles - we weren’t governed by the celebrities themselves. But we found that, no matter which song we selected, the couple who performed it would never be eliminated or even end up in the bottom two. 

One friend wondered if we had the opposite of the ‘Strictly curse’. Another suggested we might be the ballroom equivalent of Paul the Octopus, who famously ‘chose’ the winning teams in a string of Euro and World Cup football matches.

Our challenge continued. Even when we were abroad playing a gig for distinguished royal guests, we’d find time to learn and record a new Strictly tune. Moon River, Shake A Tail Feather, Malagueña, Don’t Rain on My Parade, Red Right Hand - all classic tracks which we were glad to add to our repertoire. 11 weeks, 11 new songs.

And then, on semi-finals week, came The Call. The Strictly crew were in town shooting the end of series montage - where members of the public rave about highlights from the season. Could we get to London and be filmed playing the Strictly theme tune in the middle of Leicester Square? We were there before you could say Paso Doble.

The crew were absolutely lovely. A crowd gathered in the Christmas market to watch. They clapped and cheered from the moment we struck those instantly recognisable chords.

A couple of takes and we were done. The director said she was very happy with the footage. The team had just come from filming a ventriloquist and were off to see some wall climbers (people, not plants). She couldn’t make any cast iron promises but was confident we’d make the cut. Having said that, she suggested it was probably wise not to advertise it too widely until the clip was broadcast. 

Fast-forward to the night of the Strictly final. We’re all there, waiting patiently. Family, friends, neighbours, postman, hairdresser, butcher, local bell-ringer...

The final gets underway. The dances are brilliant, the celebrities amazing, the judges on form - all’s well in the Strictly world. But what we’re really waiting for is the montage.

Two hours later, we’re still waiting, slightly less patiently. And then... it begins.

The camera moves around the country, cutting fast between members of the public. Each reminisces about favourite moments/contestants. It all seems to be moving quickly, very quickly. But look, there’s the ventriloquist. And some cute kids. And some nurses. And firemen. And Russell Grant. Then everyone’s saying ‘Keeeeep dancing’ - and it’s all over. It’s time to announce Stacey as the Strictly 2018 winner instead.

Where were we? Well, we didn’t make it after all. And nor did the poor wall climbers. Tantalisingly close to the Strictly final, we were both left hanging in mid air.

Still, we won’t be deterred. Our Strictly journey may have ended but we loved the experience and will back in our Latin shoes in 2019. When we’ll hopefully give the bell-ringer a real reason to chime.

Find us @duoguitarmusic on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and click here for our full Strictly 2018 playlist on YouTube


Unknown said…
You were fantastic in Winchester yesterday, hope you visit again soon. Maria.
Unknown said…
We don't usually get treated to such amazing music like we heard in Winchester high street today. Will be keeping an eye out for live gigs!

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