Get ready to usher in a new hybrid dance-dating show that is about to turn the unscripted show format upside down. On Sunday, Dec 29, FOX premieres Flirty Dancing, based on the hit series from the U.K. The unscripted show has been a big hit on Channel 4 there and FOX is hoping to do the same here in the U.S. for 2020.
In the U.K., the show has a different format than what we are going to see in the U.S. It's in its second season overseas and is hosted and choreographed by Ashley Banjo. The street dancer is best known for winning Season 3 of Britain's Got Talent with the dance crew Diversity.
On Flirty Dancing, he teaches the contestant and their potential date their half of a dance. The dance is rehearsed separately and performed together for the first time on their blind date. What's also special about the series is the fact that it features singles of different age groups and sexual orientations.
While the concept might sound bizarre, the idea has created some magical on-screen moments like the recent clip that went viral of two men dancing a contemporary routine together. The eye contact alone was powerful and intimate; it was clear that a love match was made from the very first step. The clip was so different than anything U.S. audiences had ever seen before that many social media users thought the video was fake. It's all real and it's about to come to the U.S.
In the U.S., FOX is mixing up the format to make it more of a competition show. Instead of just one potential date, the contestant will learn two separate dances and have two blind dance dates with two different people. After the two dances are completed, the contestant gets to choose who they had the most chemistry with. In the final twist, the person the contestant picked has the final say on whether they want to go out on a date with them — that's where the real drama comes into play.
Jenna Dewan is hosting Flirty Dancing in the U.S. As a dancer herself, she's the perfect fit for the series, from Step Up to World of Dance, she's immersed in the industry. Dewan is not only able to give contestants any last-minute dance tips they might need, but she's also playing cupid to the couples.
“Flirty Dancing is a truly unique format – it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s fun, fresh and romantic, and broadens the dating format far beyond its traditional boundaries,” said Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials at FOX Entertainment said in an October press release. “Jenna is our dream host. She knows all about how powerful connection
and chemistry can be on the dance floor. So there really is no one better to help guide these singles in their search for love.”
Dewan explained to Dance Network why she chose to host the show, "I had the feeling that this was really cool. It was fresh, it's different yet we are incorporating a lot of dance with some incredible choreographers we know from a lot of other shows and in the dance world. There was something really fresh about the idea of adding this element of finding love and done in a way of a barometer of finding chemistry and connection. It felt kind of old school. I got really emotional, I loved it."
Dewan promised that the audience was going to be surprised by how the love stories unfold on Flirty Dancing, too. Viewers might think the concept is ridiculous, but it's brought forward some beautiful moments during the taping of the series.
"As far as the journey people go through to get to the dance dates, there is a lot of emotional cleansing, a lot of ups and downs they have to get through to get to that vulnerability to put themselves out there for the first dance," she explained. "So learning about their journeys and what they've been through in life, we call it dance therapy. The people who come on our show are not professional dancers, but they are able to pull off incredible dances. There's been surprise after surprise."
The contestant only has approximately six hours of rehearsal to learn two different dances. That's quite a challenge for a professional dancer, so the fact that this is what expected out of a non-dancer proves that this is a demanding show. They have to grasp the physical elements of a routine and try to focus on the emotional aspects of the dance, too.
"They really have to start going from the very first second. They have to confront any fears. They have to know themselves and what they want and it just shows for a really good journey for them," Dewan shared. "We had one person on the show who was very nervous and almost unable to do the dance. So we were shaking it out together, doing some breathing techniques, moving our bodies, just getting comfortable and knowing that no matter what you're both in the same place and just go and enjoy the moment. The dance is there, but it's not about the dance, it's about finding love."
Flirty Dancing is also bringing in major choreographers from dance shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance to choreograph for the dates. Dance fans will see familiar faces like Travis Wall, Kathryn Burns, Sharna Burgess, Chloe Arnold, Tyce Diorio and Val Chmerkovskiy. There's a wide variety of styles represented by the choreographers, including contemporary, jazz, tap and ballroom, so viewers can expect to see something different each episode.
"The great thing about this show is that [contestants] are encouraged not to think," said two-time Emmy Award-winning choreographer Kathryn Burns. "You are supposed to feel and be present and listen to what the other person is telling you nonverbally. It's so fun."
Viewers will also have to remember that the people looking for love on Flirty Dancing are not professional dancers. They are putting a lot of faith in the show and the choreographer to help them find a love match. The show has been a challenge for the choreographer because the concept is so outside the box of the work she did on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and recently on Dancing with the Stars.
"It's partner dancing of which partners can't practice together. How do you know if he's going to be able to lift her or if she wants to be lifted? So I had to do my homework. I was able to study their auditions. Luckily, I’ve been working with non-dancers my whole career, I've learned to cater my choreography to how they naturally move best. I had that advantage," revealed Burns. "However, you can't change things on the fly because it's going to throw off the other person because they've been practicing with my assistants. The bonus is that they happen to know the same dance, so I don't care if they sashay on the wrong foot — as long as they don't hurt each other and he catches her when she trust falls and they have fun."
Flirty Dancing also features magnificent Los Angeles locations as backdrops for the blind dates. Some of the dances take place at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Santa Monica Pier.
"[I told the contestants], I don't care about the steps, take in where you are. They are shutting down the Santa Monica Pier, a place everyone goes to when they first move to L.A," said Burns. "So take [your date] in, but there are moments in the choreography to take in the view and to take in the gratitude for being where you are."
This show will make you believe in love and in the power of dance. It has taught Dewan a thing or two since she began shooting the show this fall.
"I've had a lot of moments of reminding and remembering what's important in life. People have great careers and work is wonderful, but at the end of the day, what people want is love, connection, family," she said. "All of these things that are important every day. [The show] has taught me that dance is really an innate ability for everybody. Everybody on some level can move their body and connect in some way. Dance is its own language. It's a reaffirmation that you can say so much through dance without speaking. To be able to watch that and see that happen reminds me how important that was to me as a dancer."
Flirty Dancing will premiere on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 8/7c on FOX, but it moves to its regular time slot on Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 8/7c. That week will have two new episodes, so be sure to program your DVR correctly. The show is guaranteed to make you think differently about dance and love.