Rather than setting up singles on a blind date at a restaurant or bar for a couple of drinks with the hopes that sparks will fly and they’ll exchange numbers at the end of the evening, British reality dating show Flirty Dancing S2 keeps would-be couples on their toes.

A pair of strangers meet for the first time on the dancefloor. For 4 days, they’re separately taught half a dance routine by host, choreographer and Dancing On Ice judge Ashely Banjo. When the singles finally face each other, they don’t speak – not even a “Hi, how are you doing? I’m just as nervous.” Instead, they perform their rehearsed routine as soon as the music begins. Only after their dance do they decide whether they’d like to see each other again. Or if they’ve missed the beat, they go their separate ways. Whatever verdict, it’s all based on the chemistry they share while slow dancing and staring into each other’s eyes.

“Catching and throwing somebody in the air can be an ultimate icebreaker,” says Ashely. “We test whether these couples will get along because we don’t just break the ice, we create that common ground,” he adds.

A showstopper

With the animated dance moves, scenic locations that seem like they’re out of a rom-com movie, and bright-coloured playful outfits, it makes sense that Flirty Dancing is inspired by Oscar-winning film La La Land (2016). Like jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and waitress-turned-acclaimed-actress Mia (Emma Stone), couples on the reality show waltz off into the sunset during their date. “Flirty Dancing has a lot of potential to be a bit cheesy, but I think that viewers will be surprised by what it is and how beautiful it is. I was over the moon that they liked it,” says Ashley, adding that S2 is even more polished. “It took us S1 to really understand that we have a great concept. And now, with S2, locations, dances, matches, everything is refined,” explains the host.

First impressions last

S2 features an array of couples who will be taking to the dancefloor. There’s a fun elderly duo, a fiery same-sex couple, and a sensitive rugby enthusiast who is matched with a timid Polish model. What makes the dance routines interesting is that they’re designed to highlight the singles’ personalities and their relationship requirements. If they’re searching for a serious and intimate bond, their dance piece will be passion-filled and involve plenty of touching. And if they’re looking for something light-hearted, their routine is bound to include lifts and fast-paced moves. “We put so much time and effort into trying to create a connection for the couples that we just hope and hope and hope that it works out,” Ashley adds.

Getting into groove

While the couples are dancing, Ashely, like a proud dad, watches the performances from a screen nearby. He is always as tense as the couples, if not more so, as the dates rest on his choreography. “Dance exposes your true self. I hold on tight and look out for chemistry between them,” says Ashley.

“If you take a touch for example, how long they do it for, what they do with their eyes [in that moment] and how their body moves, it all creates this combination of either ‘get away from me’ at one end. Or, ‘Oh my, you are an absolutely gorgeous specimen of a person,’ at the other end. You really can tell so much from their body language,” explains the choreographer, who met his dance manager wife, Francesca Abbott, at a dance class. “We really connected. There was a chemistry that I don’t think would’ve been created sitting across from each other at a table and just talking. I want to bring a bit of [that] old-fashioned romance back to dating – the magic that can be created without a word being spoken.”

Out of step

Ashely reveals that some of the couples from S2 are still together after filming, which is much better than the fate of S1’s pairs, as they either cut ties or chose to remain friends despite leaving the show together.

Dan and Luke from the first episode in S1 couldn’t stop smiling during their dance and even kissed. Fans were rooting for the couple after their date but they soon revealed that they split as they’re “better off as friends,” says Dan. “Dancing with Luke was amazing, and there was definitely chemistry between us, but when we met, we realised that it didn’t translate into a spark enough for a relationship.”

Watch Flirty Dancing S2, Sundays on BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174) at 20:00 or on Catch Up

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