Slipped into my weekly box of goodies was a slim little disc called Dance With Len Goodman, which, I must admit, rang absolutely no bells for me (I only received a review disc, without packaging). When I mentioned it to my wife, her eyes lit up and she enthusiastically told me to put it into the player because we were going to have a dance lesson. Keeping a sharp eye out for the nearest exit, I put the disc on, and up pops that guy from ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Not the one guy, who screams the mangled metaphors and similes, but the older, distinguished British guy who really seems to know what he's talking about. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I am not a regular viewer of Dancing With the Stars. I only caught it a few times (I think it was last year) when a buddy called up one night and said he was in love with some hot blonde with legs for days, who was half naked on some show (it turned out to be WWE's Stacy Keibler). When she was voted off, I quit watching.
But evidently, according to the ratings for Dancing With the Stars, ballroom dancing is back in a big way here in America, and Len Goodman (I learned after a brief Googling) is a television star not only in the States but in Britain, too. As the head judge of Britain's Strictly Come Dancing (the inspiration for Dancing With the Stars), Len has become a media star, trading in on his four times winning the British Exhibition ballroom competition, plus a lifetime of other dancing awards. And now, we have Dance With Len Goodman, an instructional dance DVD from 2006. Shot in a beautiful vintage ballroom (unfortunately, it's not named in the credits), Len speaks directly to the viewer as he guides his dancing pupils through eight popular ballroom dances. Dances highlighted here are the Quick Step, the Cha Cha Cha, the Tango, the Rumba, the Waltz, the Samba, the Foxtrot, and the Jive.
After giving a short rhyme about the particular dance (Remember, whilst doing the Rumba, to act like a cool cucumber. With the correct hip action, there'll be lots of attraction, and requests for your telephone number.), Len gives a short, informative history of the particular dance. Then, he breaks down each individual instruction into three parts. First, he goes over the steps needed for the dance, constantly talking through the steps as his expert pupils execute the proper moves. Second, he highlights the proper holds for the dance, often simplifying them for beginners so they can be comfortable learning the initial holds. And third, he narrates the complete version of the dance, with steps and holds correct, as the pupils execute it to musical accompaniment. Finally, the pupils get to show their stuff on the dance floor in a fully executed version of the dance, with extra moves and flourishes that Len (quite honestly) tells you are for professionals only. Going to the menu, you can select the dance you'd like watch, and, in a nice feature, you can select "Dance Practice," which is an appropriate music selection for the specific dance you may practice without Len's help.
Having watched Dance With Len Goodman, I was pretty impressed at how difficult it appears to execute even the simplest moves on the dance floor. The worth of a DVD like Dance With Len Goodman comes in whether or not it actually works for the viewer as an instructional DVD (it's not really a DVD you would watch just to watch as entertainment - although the final dances are pretty spectacular). Well, having tried one such dance with my wife (hey, if I'm going to review it, it's my job to actually try it), I can honestly say it kind of worked for me. Sort of. Having to back up the DVD about ten times to review the steps (which is the whole point of having such an instructional DVD), I managed to execute a fairly crude Social Foxtrot. I was pleased with myself (my wife held her nose). But I have to say that Len's method did seem to work for an average viewer with absolutely no dance training. He's a fairly entertaining guy, too. He throws out little asides (Ladies, don't look at your feet; that's how you get a double chin!) and cute British expressions (That step is a little tiddley fiddley.) that at times made me think this was Dance with Archie Rice, so it's not just a boring instructional DVD. He's a suave one, too; it's obvious he was a champion ballroom dancer (when he does one or two little dance moves, you can see the old pro hidden behind that avuncular veneer). Despite my dread when I first put in Dance With Len Goodman, I actually learned something, so, for an instructional DVD, Dance With Len Goodman did what it was supposed to do.
Shot on video, the widescreen, 1.78:1 video image for Dance With Len Goodman is pretty sharp, with some nice lighting effects during the dances, and a more-than-clean, crisp, focused picture.
The English 2.0 stereo sound mix is more than adequate for the job here. Close-captioning is available.
There are no extras for Dance With Len Goodman.
I would imagine a lot of guys would have the same reaction I had when seeing Dance With Len Goodman ("I'm watching ESPN"), but honestly, it was a pretty entertaining and more importantly, helpful instructional DVD. It did exactly what it was suppose to do: it taught me how to execute a fairly basic dance step. Offering instruction on eight popular ballroom dances, Dance With Len Goodman is strictly for beginners, but it's certainly worth the price of the DVD, especially when you consider how expensive dance lessons are today. And Len Goodman is a fun host, and a patient and confident instructor; when he says a few simple steps will allow you to hold your own on any ballroom floor, you believe him. I highly recommend Dance With Len Goodman.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.