Ashley Banjo's Secret Street Crew
There’s no shortage of reality dance shows on TV but they are mainly of the Britain’s Got Talent variety, where youngsters are either desperate for fame, precocious overachievers or being shoved onto stage by pushy parents. Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew is different from the rest as it shows ordinary people, usually out of shape and with no dance ability, learning a skill for the purpose of changing peoples perception of them, or simply getting them out of their shell. It really shouldn't work as well as it does, and it certainly should produce so many tears of joy at the end of each episode, but it works because of a few simple things that a lot of more high profile reality shows could learn a thing or two from.
As the title suggests its presented by Ashley Banjo (yes, that is his real name) the lead dancer and choreographer from Diversity, the group that beat Susan Boyle into second place in Britain’s Got Talent. Not only is he great at what he does as a day job, but he is a natural TV frontman. Confident, without being cocky, talented without being a show off, and a natural when it comes to dealing with the participants on the show. His job each week is to turn a group of work colleagues into a street dance crew in three weeks in order for them to perform at an event in front go their family and colleagues. No easy task when you meet the “contestants”. With no dance experience, and at least one person each week who doesn't have what you would call a dancers physique, it always seems a lost cause. I don't know about you, but it would take me a lot longer than three weeks to get anywhere near ready to get up on stage and strut my stuff, but Banjo and his crew seem to have a knack of knocking people into shape and drilling into them a sense of musicality and rhythm.
Of course there is a pattern to the show that seems to repeat every week. On meeting the participants none of them can dance, but once in the studio they throw themselves into it with gusto, until the halfway mark when it transpires they just aren't ‘getting it’. At this point they are taken somewhere to inspire them and from then on it’s always plain sailing. When it comes to the final performance they deliver in style - every time! It may seem contrived and slightly set up, but when you watch them dance in unison in front of a crowd I guarantee you will have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.
So far this series we have had a group of nurses and traffic wardens. The nurses wanted to let loose and get away from the stresses of the job, while the traffic wardens just wanted people to see them as human. They dazzled, of course, and the joy on the dancers faces at the end of the show is what makes this work. The shy ones have come out of their shells, the extroverts are finally allowed to shine in a way they cant in their day jobs, and friends, family and work colleagues are all blown away. All of this is thanks to Ashley and the other members of Diversity, who seem to be able to take anyone and turn them into competent dancers. Over the fifty minute duration of the show it’s easy to forget just how hard this must be. We are shown a little of the training but it must be hell for someone with two left feet to be turned into street dancer while being filmed and also still doing your day job.
Here’s hoping this series continues delighting us for some years to come and, who knows, one day that could be me busting a move on a church hall stage.