Embrace the Glitterball

Occasional guest blogger and DHS drama teacher Lesely Graney has been reflecting on Strictly Come Dancing…


It time to embrace the glitterball.

If you walk past my room at this time of year you might hear comments like “Don’t be a Judy, you need to give it more of a Jake”.  You see it’s that time of year.  It’s time to embrace the glitterball.

So with the final approaching and my two children fully indoctrinated into my way of thinking, I think I am about ready to talk about my love and now my children’s love of “Strictly Come Dancing”.

We are now having weekly Strictly parties, complete with judge’s masks and handmade scoring paddles. It will come as no guess that my husband is Craig, sat in the corner and is really a fan!  Not only is it time to talk strictly, but as I like to do in my blogs, time to shoe horn my home life and TV viewing, into my school life and teaching.

So, back to my love of “Strictly Come Dancing”. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I am old enough to remember it when it was called “Come Dancing” and was part of my weekend TV fest at my Grandma’s around the time of ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Giant Haystack’.  Or that for a short time when I was about 9, I did ballroom dancing for a bit (oh, how I wish I had carried on; how different it all could be!)  Or the fact that in my dreams I would love to take part. Or is it just the huge spectacle of the whole thing.  The attention to detail, the sense of occasion. The fact they sing live (unlike other Saturday night shows),the costumes, the set, the concepts as a Performing Arts person; it does tick all the boxes for me.

However, I do know there is controversy in “Strictly” and we do have to gloss over certain things like firstly, I know it’s not real, it’s just a TV show .

The fact the word ‘celebrities’ is a loose turn of phrase. The fact some of them went to stage school and can already dance. The fact that some of them have more time to practise, because let’s face it, there’s a lot of “my career is on a plateau” contestants and it’s full of self-promotion.

Then there’s the “They are only voting because they’re popular”.  In fact who does vote? I am a fan, but to be fair, never have.

Then there’s Tess…bless ..don’t get me going on that. However, even with all that I still love it. So let’s take all that as a given and move on.

This time of year I often find myself using “Strictly” as a point of reference with my students. I know there can be the rolling of eyes sometimes, but there is so much to draw parallels with, particularly when we are thinking about how a growth mindset can influence learning.

For starters, the whole premise of the programme is based on a growth mindset theory – the idea that with hard work and perseverance, anyone can learn to dance.  Again, I know I am on slightly dodgy ground here with Scott Mills and Judy Murray. However, the idea generally holds that effort and deliberate practice will take you towards your goal.

So I’d like to unpick how I think it relates to mindset theory – and so in turn, how we should be supporting learning through our teaching:

Expect excellence

With 10 million viewers and the world as your stage, it’s a given that you have to do it. You have to perform, live. The sense of occasion and expectation of excellence on a Saturday Night.  Excellence is expected – so they usually live up to it.

Embrace challenge

The challenge of it all for most of the participants who are generally out of their comfort zone. There must be a feeling of “If I can do this I can do anything”.  This supports the idea of struggle being a key aspect of learning – make it hard.  The professionals understand the importance of breaking the challenge down into small steps and explaining each move in detail, whilst modelling it at the same time – not expecting the contestants to be an instant success.

Be inspired by the success of others

There is the modelling, when we and the celebrities get to see the professionals dance all together, we can see what great looks likes and know where we are heading. We also get immersed in the environment of dance with it’s glitter spray tan and sparkle. Then there is the coaching – one -on-one,  full of challenging questioning and feedback.  Why do you do it like that?  How can I make that better?


In fact at times, although perhaps “just for show”,  the feedback from the judges does play a major role in moving the celebrities on. My son loves Len and can do a cracking impression “You came out, you gave it your all, so well done to you”, and Darcey , after a wobbly few series is now a God. A proper expert in her field, seen as one of the best British ballerinas ever; she know what she is talking about and is passionate about the world of dance.

Their feedback can be very pantomime in style, and sometimes very honest; it involves praise, as well as criticism which is taken onboard .  One thing about the feedback though is that it is very specific – ‘I like the way you did X with your arms, but your  hands need to be more flat’.  The contestants go away knowing precisely what neds to get better.

I love the angry glint in the professionals eyes and that of the celebrity with the “I’ll show you” look; “You want technique next week, I’ll give it to you technique!”  They seem to thrive on it and respond to the feedback – with lots and lots of practice.  The professionals understand that it’s ‘perfect practice that makes perfect’.

Be resilient and overcome obstacles

The resilience is obvious.  Just when you think you have got something like heel leads, fleckels and guiding in Waltz, they want bounce, on your toe kicks and flicks in the jive. Look at Jake – hero week 2 with those snake hips, then obstacle after obstacle befell him. But, he is successful, because he takes it on the chin and tackles the obstacles head on.  Again, he puts in the hard work and effort through hours of deliberate practice.

Support and encourage each other

There is often talk about” the team” – not only praise for the people behind the scenes who are all working towards the common goal, but also the camaraderie and friendship from everyone performing. They support each other, clapping and whooping. Some contestants talk about other professionals, not just their own partner, giving lots of welcome top tips and support.

In fact, just as “Strictly” ticks all my boxes, it could be said, it ticks all the growth mindset boxes too. It is all about the journey, we get behind the person who makes the most improvement. We want them to do well and they respond to our expectations….mostly!

In the words of Virgil, the Roman poet:

‘Success nourishes them.  They succeed, because they think they can’

So, its time to embrace the power of the glitterball. By the way my money is on Jake to win.

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