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Strictly Come La La Land: Oxstu Editors vs That Dance

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Chris Allnutt

You may remember That Dance from the soon-to-be-Oscar winner La La Land. Well, we know what you’ve all been wondering. What would it look like if Oxstu deputy editor Lizzie Shelmerdine and former Oxstu deputy editor Louis Trupia attempted to unleash their inner Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and recreate That Dance? The answer? It’s quite a sight to behold.

We hit an early snag when Louis suggested wearing the appropriate attire: a yellow skater dress and monochrome spats. Unfortunately, Lizzie admitted to have a fear of wearing yellow clothing, and Louis realised he’d left his spats at home. Regardless, we persevered in the face of adversity, a fear of colour and a lack of appropriate footwear, to perform the dance for you, the audience at home, and the academy.

Rehearsals began at 7.30pm on Friday evening. Lizzie arrived late to find an already limbering-up Louis. Lizzie had forgotten her leg warmers but was none-the-less enthused. It was initially necessary to clear some floor space for the occasion, which involved moving all the furniture to the side of the room and almost out of the window into RadCam square. Given a severe bench shortage, we were forced to turn to innovation in using a sofa rather than a bench. Whilst this might not sound like a particularly big change to the set, it proved a huge obstacle to our success and resulted in many injuries along the way.

Our beginning technique was one more akin to loose interpretative dance, as we had the Youtube video playing but did not watch said video to observe the details of said dance moves. This meant we were off to a slow start. But alas, we persevered like Babs and Ginger from Chicken Run. Eventually we realised the trick to doing it marginally well was actually to watch the dance moves before attempting to perform them. The initial section on the “bench” proved easiest to master. If we are honest, at that stage we felt so accomplished we might have been Bruce Forsyth and Darcy Bussell. The reality was – as we discovered upon watching the footage back later – we appeared a little more like John Sergeant and Anne Widdicombe.

It turns out our short-term memory when it comes to dance moves is not dissimilar to that of a goldfish.

For those of you who haven’t seen the dance, the main section involves an intensive tap routine that took Stone and Gosling three months to master – so it would be fair to say it was ambitious for us to attempt to get the moves nailed in a hour. It was. Now, the problem we encountered here was that neither of us had any dance experience, our skill level being around ‘dad dancing at a disco after one too many whiskeys.’ This meant that the extensive tap routine was a little beyond our reach, to say the least. So we inserted some bridging moves, involving poorly-choreographed spins and jumps. The Oscar would have been a shoe-in if they’d followed our lead in the performance. What you didn’t see in the film was that like us, they probably had to stay fixated on a laptop the entire time to see what the next dance move was. It turns out our short-term memory when it comes to dance moves is not dissimilar to that of a goldfish.

Many injuries were sustained during practice. No animals were harmed in the rehearsal, but a young Lizzie Shelmerdine took many near-fatal blows. Tension built during the opening “bench” section to such an extent that Louis managed to level a solid kick at Lizzie’s head, accidentally knocking her entirely from the “bench” and resulting in a light concussion. The second injury was sustained when we decided to move on from trying to perfect the dance to mastering what we assumed would be a much easier routine performed by Ross and Monica in ‘Friends.’ Lizzie sustained a solid carpet burn while kneeling on the floor for Louis to leapfrog over her. Somehow this resulted in external bleeding, but Louis’ lack of plasters and first aid experience meant the only solution he came up with was to douse it in gravy granules. Whilst Louis was not physically injured during the rehearsal, when watching footage of the performance back his pride was severely and damaged.

To conclude, it was brave, naïve and stupid to assume we, two spectacularly unfit humanities students, would be able to nail in a single hour that which took two professional actors three months of expert training to master (while we had no dancing experience whatsoever). Those who told us we were foolish to believe we could, were correct. There is a video but it is unlikely to ever see the light of day unless one of the editors gets hold of it. If we had been cast in the leading roles in the film, it would not yet be finished, and the budget would have been swallowed in extra dance lessons. It’s safe to say we have a lot more respect for Ed Balls for enduring weeks of this than we did at the start of our rehearsal.

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