When I heard that Giovanni Pernice was touring his own show this year, I was full of excitement. As someone who has starred in one of my all-time favourite TV programmes ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and as someone I idolise as both a dancer and a performer, I knew I had to go and see it, and that I had to learn some dance moves from the man himself. Luckily, both of those wishes were granted on April 29, 2017.
The dance workshop
As part of my role as President of the University of Lincoln Dance Society, I organised for Giovanni to come and teach a class to around 50 dancers. Understandably, everyone’s eyes lit up when he entered the room and, from that moment on, we knew we were in for a treat.
We started by learning a few basic Cha Cha Cha steps, but it wasn’t long before he decided to challenge us by throwing a trickier Jive routine our way. He clearly likes to push his students and, because of that, he managed to draw a level of skill and energy out of us that we haven’t reached before – and a level of breathlessness and sweatiness that I doubt we’ll ever replicate.
The hour-long workshop, which was held at the University of Lincoln Sports Centre, was jam-packed full of dance technique, tips and a lot of fun and laughter. He was charming and charismatic throughout the class, and then incredibly patient as each one of us took it in turns to snap a picture with him – including me, obviously!
‘Il Ballo è Vita’
At 8pm, we took our seats in the sold-out Lincoln Drill Hall, naturally assuming we were about to enjoy an evening of Latin & ballroom dance. But it was so much more than just that. This show, meaning ‘Dance is Life’, was a pleasant blend of dance, comedy, drama and music, all woven together in perfect measure.
It comprised 22 dance numbers choreographed by Jason Gilkison, one of the most sought after and highly respected choreographers around today, and produced by Paul Irving. The performance showcased the talents of 8 dancers. These were Giovanni and his partner Luba Mushtuk, a stunning Russian dancer who was part of the 2017 Strictly Come Dancing UK Tour, as well as ‘the girls’ – Giulia Dotta, Emily Barker and Dianne Buswell – and ‘the boys’ – Kai Widdrington, Curtis Pritchard and Robert Rowinski.
Contrary to expectations, these were not simply ‘Giovanni’s backing dancers’; they were a group of extremely talented individuals who all brought something different and exciting to the table. These are certainly all names to keep an eye out for in the future.
Each dance number told a different story and, in between each performance, Giovanni managed to catch his breath to comedically narrate and tell the audience a little bit more about himself and the inspiration for each piece, which was honest and refreshing. His upbringing and his life have clearly played a huge part in the construction of this show, meaning the audience were taken on a complete tour of Italy and Italian culture.
My favourite dance was called ‘Too Lost In You’ performed by Giovanni and Luba. A theatrical Rhumba absolutely crammed with emotion and attack, this piece truly took my breath away – I don’t think I blinked at all once it had started.
With the exception of this dance, there were two other highlights of the show for me. The first was when Giovanni invited an audience member up on stage to be involved in the piece ‘That’s Amore’, which was staged as a romantic date between the two of them. Despite being speechless and overwhelmed at having the pleasure to be sharing a (“cold”) pizza with the ‘Italian Stallion’, she was humorous and very entertaining.
The second highlight took place at the beginning of the second half; after a 15-minute break we were asked to take to our feet and the cast got the whole audience dancing along. Male and female, old and young; every single person was having the time of their lives and felt like we, too, were the stars of Strictly!
Credit must also go to the costume department, as the dresses worn by the female dancers were particularly gorgeous, and the men looked handsome and smart. The music was also perfectly selected, with an assortment of speeds, styles and themes. Both of these elements, in addition to the lighting and the set, really brought each story to life and gave the show as a whole a real sparkle that it will always be remembered by.
I always think it’s sad when people speak of meeting their heroes or people whom they idolise only to end up disappointed when they realise they’re nothing like they appear on the big screen. But, in this case, I can proudly confirm that Giovanni Pernice was one of the nicest, most genuine people you could ever meet.
He made time to speak to all of his fans after the show, and had photo after photo taken, despite this going on way past 11pm. The dance workshop he led was second to none, and his show was utterly perfect – if you haven’t already got your tickets, you definitely need to get them now!
Talented, genuine, inspirational, funny and kind. Thank you, Giovanni Pernice – you’re a credit to your profession!
Featured image: Paul Irving/Strictly Theate Co.