Volume 7, Issue 2

(November 2010)

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An investigation into audiences' televisual experience of Strictly Come Dancing  

Karen Wood
University of Manchester, UK



This paper explores ten participants’ viewing experience of Strictly Come Dancing (BBC, 2009b) through personal, reflective diary writing.  The main aim of the research was to investigate the concept of kinesthetic empathy and to see how this central concern in dance spectatorship might be theorised in relation to the active/passive debate in media audience research.  Viewers’ motivation and commitment in how they watch Strictly will be explored to try and understand the range of viewing strategies adopted.  From the research, areas that have been highlighted for particular attention are spectacle, emotional connection, admiration of skill and aspiration to dance.  The conclusion will draw together discussion of moments of passivity, kinesthetic experience and active or passive engagement in relation to the concept of intuitive spectatorship. 


Keywords: Kinesthetic, empathy, active, passive, spectatorship, commitment, engagement


The research presented in this paper is part of a wider project investigating kinesthetic empathy and screen dance audiences.  The concept of kinesthetic empathy provides a framework to explore spectator responses to dance on screen, whether in terms of experimental dance film or popular dance on television.  The aim of the research for this paper was to investigate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of ten participants’ interaction with Strictly Come Dancing (including my own interaction as a self-confessed fan) and what motivates the viewing.  The objective of this paper is to interweave debates in media audience research on active or passive spectatorship with those from dance scholarly discourse on kinesthesia with the ambition of reaching a refined understanding of spectatorship of dance on screen.


Kinesthesia and Active/Passive Spectatorship?
Discourses around reception research have their roots in media and communication studies and are derived from the study of mass media.  Classic cultural theory takes the view that mass media imitates a ‘hyperdermic needle’ through which it ‘injects opinions and attitudes directly into the audience’ (Gripsrud, 1998, p.28).  Scholars following the Frankfurt School tradition hold the view that audience passivity is progressively increased through the presumed effect generated by the long term consumption of the media.  In contrast with this perspective of audiences as passive, advocates of a theory of active audiences, broadly speaking, reject this claim and argue that viewers have alternative, interpretative behaviour which empowers them more  than the media industry had believed (Seaman, 1992).  This side of the debate was founded in studies of the cultural and social values involved in watching television. 

The long-standing discourse within media audience research, exploring conceptualisation of screen audiences as passive or active, has provided various descriptions.  To be a passive audience member has been said to involve being distracted from the screen (ironing whilst watching a soap opera, for example), involved in the content, in the flow of the moment and swept away by the programming.  (And it is worth noting that the images of distraction and immersion, while both categorised as passive, are contradictory.) In contrast, active spectatorship has been described as having aesthetic distance, critical reflection and detached or objective evaluation. Martin Barker proposes that the strongly-asserted theory of active spectators at times needs to be adjusted to recognise that on occasions spectators do adopt passive relationships to screen media. Barker recognises that the descriptions of audiences as active or passive are indeed problematic as he refers to a mode of spectating as ‘committed passivity’ and suggests a scale of viewing from casual to committed.  He queries the active or passive model and proposes the concept of a ‘viewing strategy’ (Barker, 2006, p.134). He asserts that viewing becomes a ‘motivated activity’ and focuses on why people watch what they watch and how they watch it, which gives a new and different perspective to researching spectatorship, an approach my own research study has tried to adopt. Barker’s scale of casual and committed spectatorship points to a problem with binary descriptions in response to which I would like to introduce the descriptive term of ‘intuitive’ [1] viewing.  Intuitive viewing involves some aspects of passive spectatorship and some aspects of active spectatorship which require the spectator to be in the moment, involved with the content and embodying the qualities of the performer.  Intuitive viewing does not comply with the binary descriptions of active or passive spectatorship, but instead has aspects of both.  In addition, viewing fluctuates and there is difficulty in defining such seemingly fluid activity which includes embodying movement characteristics. I will develop this concept further through the course of this paper.

Jostein Gripsrud asserts that there are two diametrically opposed images of the TV experience, ‘that of being swept away by an external force, and that of coolly and calmly regarding a river at a distance’ (Gripsrud, 1998, p.29).  One could say that the former is a passive response and the latter active.  Consequently, Gripsrud acknowledges that different audiences can make discrete choices as to their condition of engagement and should not necessarily be viewed as passive.  In my research, for example, one participant, Sally, wrote in her viewing diary for this project, ‘he was so good, I stood up clapping’, which illustrates that what one might presume to be a passive experience of watching television has in fact encouraged physical activity.  Could this activity be presumed as active due to its physical nature?  Or was her impulse to clap a result of being engaged in the present moment, ‘swept away by an external force’, and of being closely involved  with the programme, and can therefore be defined as passive?  Strong impulses such as standing up and clapping reveal the ambiguity of the binary definitions when a physical response is displayed.

According to Susan Bennett writing on theatre, ‘spectators are [thus] trained to be passive in their demonstrated behaviour during a theatrical performance, but to be active in their decoding of the sign systems made available’ (Bennett, 1997, p.206).  This suggests that there is a difference between bodily behaviour and cognitive activity, which is different again from nonconscious and conscious cognitive activity.  At one extreme, for example, the audience at a classical music concert, where the primary reason for attending is to listen to the music rather than watch the performers, are expected to sit still.  One can presume that they are actively decoding what they are listening to.  Alternatively, at a rock music concert, not only are the visual components and the appearance of the band much more significant but also audiences expect to be able to dance or jump around to the music in a manner that could be considered a physical decoding to accompany their cognitive response.  There are modes of expected behaviour when attending the theatre, cinema or concert but that expectation is more complex within the home.  At home, the TV spectator can sometimes be passively lounging, sometimes sitting on the edge of their seat or breaking these expectations and jumping for joy (or stood up clapping at the TV).

It is frequently argued that dance elicits kinesthetic responses from its audience, although frustratingly the current debates in media audience research do not discuss kinesthesia as a form of spectator response.  It is hinted at perhaps when media scholars John Fiske and John Hartley consider spectatorship of sport and of dance on television, commenting: ‘sometimes the spectator participates in the ritual by proxy, sometimes he is asked to sit back and evaluate objectively’ (1993, p.39).  Participating in ‘the ritual by proxy’ suggests an involved and engaged viewer; while ‘sit back and evaluate objectively’ implies aesthetic and critical distance from the art form.  According to spectatorship theories, the first of these descriptions might be explicated as passive and the latter active, suggesting that when considering kinesthetic responses to dance it becomes more difficult to maintain a binary description.  It can be argued that an engaged viewer of dance, whose vicarious experience includes felt sensation and subtle muscle activation, could indeed be an active spectator due to the very nature of internal, empathetic intricacies.  Fiske and Hartley [2] acknowledge that dance performance has a blurred relationship with spectatorship theories, requiring different ways of viewing particularly when a form of audience participation is involved. 

Both kinesthesia and empathy are concepts that are difficult to define; a full exploration is beyond the scope of this paper.  Instead, it is my intention to broadly describe the term ‘kinesthetic empathy’ and how it intersects with other responses, such as emotion and pleasure. The term is used in dance scholarly discourse to describe a vital aspect of engaging with dance as a spectator [3].  It represents the sensing and feeling of another’s bodily movement, enriching the viewing experience through our multi-sensory network [4].  A neural contributor to kinesthetic empathy, the mirror neuron network, has been more recently explored in neuroscience [5] and has informed dance scholarly discourse.
Positioned therefore as a central element of audiences’ response to dance, it is interesting to consider how the concept of kinesthetic empathy might be conceived in relation to conceptualisations of audiences as active or passive.  For example, it could be argued that experiencing kinesthetic empathy when watching dance would involve being fully invested ‘in the moment’; therefore passively viewing dance rather than actively reflecting on the experience.  On the other hand, pleasure in watching encourages commitment in the viewer and maybe it is the level of commitment or casualness in the viewer that determines that engagement as active or not.  Pleasure is sought and is equally a product of what we watch, informing emotional responses to the viewed.  The level of commitment is determined by the motivation of the spectator, perhaps induced by pleasure seeking and is crucial in ascertaining whether the viewer is committed or casual; a distinction which is perhaps more significant than defining the viewer as active or passive. 
In this paper I want to develop these ideas further through close examination of a particular example of watching dance on screen.  My study focused on ten participants’ experience of watching Strictly Come Dancing, 2009.  Although using a small sample, the in-depth qualitative nature of the methodology counterbalances these limitations due to the richness of material produced.  The discussion presented in this paper is centred on the individual, spectatorial experience to watching Strictly Come Dancing, drawing upon the discourses surrounding active and passive spectatorship and kinesthetic empathy outlined here.  In this context, the argument explores how spectators may adopt a form of ‘intuitive’ viewing in order to derive ‘in the moment’ experiences of kinesthetic empathy and the particular pleasures that this provides.  In contrast moments when spectators respond in terms of evaluation or sympathy might entail a more active, reflective viewing position, but this position is adopted at the expense of exiling themselves from the present moment.


The huge success of Strictly Come Dancing has encouraged an enormous following of fans of the programme and it is the kind of programme that is often talked about socially, including by myself.  Its success is indicated by the number of viewers,  an average of 8 million per week, with 11 million viewers watching the final (Telegraph, 2010) [6].  In addition, there is an active web forum totalled 94,482 entries on the messageboard chatting about the dancing couples.  The use of the messageboard suggests an active participation with the programme where people write their opinions, thoughts and evaluations before and after the viewing of the show.  The show contains a live orchestral band and is conducted in a studio converted to a ballroom.  The celebrities who take part in the show are sports professionals, actors, television presenters, models, musicians and politicians.  Professional dancers are paired with celebrities who compete each week with Latin and Ballroom dance routines to a live audience, which is broadcast on television.  The television viewing audience can vote for their favourite celebrity to stay in the competition for the following week; the couple with the fewest votes, combined with the judges’ scores, is out of the competition.  The programme is based on the previous long-running show, Come Dancing, aired between 1949 and 1998, and also makes reference to the popular Baz Luhrmann film, Strictly Ballroom [7].    Having been a fan and viewer of previous series, I approached this research with awareness of the varying perspectives and levels of engagement with the programme on my own part and that of my friends and family. This relationship to the programme as ‘fans’ was therefore something I wanted to use to inform my methodological approach to the research.

According to Joli Jenson, a fan is a response to the star system, a response to celebrity and the encouragement to be a fan is constructed by the mass media (Jenson, 1992, p.10).  Jenson acknowledges that in past academic literature the fan has been seen as excessive, verging on psychopathic, situated amongst the lower classes and stigmatised by the press.  She argues against this, countering the focus of the academy with the approachable fan who is simply dealing with the stresses and strains of everyday life.  Whereas some fans have stronger fascination with celebrities, like the case of the fan/assassinator of John Lennon for example, most fans ‘respect, admire, desire’ (Lewis, 1992) their subject courteously and indulge in viewing activities through motives of admiration and esteem.  Grossberg (1992) also connects fandom with reacting to circumstances of everyday life and Fiske states that fans are involved in ‘producing meanings and pleasures that pertain to their social situation out of the products of the cultural industries’ (Fiske, 1992, p.30).  Being a fan, therefore, is linked with seeking pleasure and making meaning out of particular cultural products that are part of the social context of one’s life. 

I am very aware that my position as ‘researcher as fan’ has implications.  However, as well as considering how being a fan might provoke possible bias in my approach to the material, I am also interested in how the position of being a fan of the show has its advantages.  Scholars with little knowledge of being a fan in the subject area they research have faced criticism, as Henry Jenkins remarks; ‘scholars with little direct knowledge or emotional investment within the fan community have transformed fandom into a projection of their personal fears, anxieties, and fantasies about the dangers of mass culture’ (Jenkins, 1992, p.6).  Jenkins also recognizes his fellow fans as ‘active collaborators’, which refers to the involvement of the participants.  One advantage of having participants who are fans is that they will be motivated to engage fully in the research process.  In this instance, I completed my own diary of the viewing along with my research participants and used my ‘fan position’ to add subjective, in-depth knowledge of the experience.  

Participants were recruited through university networks along with advertisements which were placed in prominent places in the city of Manchester.  I was actively looking for Strictly Come Dancing fans like myself, who watch the whole series and provide the enthusiasm and commitment to complete a diary over the 12 week period.  Being aware of the importance of getting people involved, I placed no restrictions upon age, gender or whether or not participants had any dance background.  Seventeen participants were originally recruited spanning a wide age range of 20-70 years of age and included two men.  Each participant was posted a diary along with an information sheet outlining the research and a consent form.  In line with confidentiality guidelines each participant will be anonymous and the names used with the quotations are purely fictional.

Unfortunately, seven of the participants did not complete the research, including both men.  The ten final participants were all female, comprising: four students in higher education (one undergraduate and three postgraduates), three in full-time work (two in mid-thirties and one 58 years old) and three participants in retirement/semi-retirement, aged 60-70 years.  All of the participants were self-identified fans of the show. 


Diaries as Research Methodology
Using participant diaries as a research methodology was motivated by the invitation this form provokes for confessional and intimate writing.  Diaries provide richness in quality of material and allow for individual, personal and creative expressions of the experience.  The participants were asked to keep a diary of their weekly viewing experience of Strictly Come Dancing and any viewing of It Takes Two, the weekday chat show programme that presents ‘backstage drama, latest training and dance gossip’ (BBC website, 2009c), during September to December 2009.  Each diary was personalised and the participants were invited to use the diary as they wished, including entries, drawings, cutting out magazine or newspaper clippings and anything else they desired, such as doodling.  If there were other members of the household who also watched the programme, I suggested that the diary could be open for their use and one participant employed this option; her diary reflected comments from her elderly mother who visited most Saturdays to watch the show with her.  On the back inside cover of the diary a list of suggested tasks was inserted to assist them with flow of writing.  These included: writing about their favourite moment, drawing or writing about something they remembered such as a costume and cutting out a picture of their favourite dancer (see figure 1).
Fig 1: Instructions included in the diary

Each participant was contacted by telephone three weeks into the research and again ten weeks later for courteousness and to develop a connection on a personal level with all of the participants involved [8]. 


Overview of Diary Completion
On the return of the diaries, it was evident that some contained more in-depth writing than others.  Some participants had watched every show and some had not, therefore quality and quantity of content varied.  There were numerous ways in which people had engaged with the show and the diary writing: Ruselle, for instance, wrote her diary as if she was commentating on the show as she was writing; Annaliese wrote as if she were a judge, critically analysing each routine and giving her opinion as if a professional; Mary decided to focus on describing and drawing the dresses of the routines placed alongside other remarks about the performances.  Sharon included on her diary page, in brackets, ‘quick notes – stopping show on pause to scribble immediate reactions’.  Sharon later added that she had decided to write after the show had finished as she had felt it was too disturbing to her viewing, commenting;

I’m beginning to feel this is not the way to go on with this diary; I feel a bit like I am making judges comments.  I think I will just write one or two specifics next time [...] sometimes I get caught up in a particular thing and at the moment I am frantically jotting down notes which takes my eye off the screen and stops me following so intently.
To ensure the task was not so much a chore but added enjoyment by reflecting on the experience, it was important that the participants found their own way of completing the diary.  Time to reflect would hopefully help them to articulate their expression and communicate intimate moments of their experience.  Indeed, two of the participants, Sharon and Elisa, both commented at the end of their diary on the enjoyment they had writing their journals.  Sharon writes, ‘I’ve loved doing it [writing the diary] and know I’ve just scratched the surface of everything that was going on’ and Elisa comments, ‘oh now it’s ended I will miss writing this diary. What a journey we [Elisa referring to herself and her diary] have been on.’  Sharon further comments about the enjoyment of maintaining the diary: ‘writing a diary has been great for my enjoyment of the whole three or four months – maybe I’ll do it again next year – just for my own satisfaction’.  Consequently, for some participants, the diary provided added pleasure to the viewing of the programme, time for them to reflect on their experience and express whatever thoughts, feelings, judgements and emotions they had of the show.  Writing the diary helped to articulate their experience and engage them in a different way to the usual viewing of sitting at home and watching what was on television.  However, it is worth noting that as it changed their viewing experience, it could ultimately impact on the research.  

Previous studies where writing about the experience of watching television has been used to gather information regarding viewing patterns and behaviour include Ien Ang’s Watching Dallas (1996) and Gauntlett and Hill’s (1999) five year longitudinal study of 500 participants’ TV viewing habits.  Ang advertised in a Dutch Magazine, VIVA, for people who watched Dallas on television, to write a letter to her about why they liked or disliked watching the programme.  Gauntlett and Hill asked participants to complete diaries over a five year period.  Their research questions were general and the research project was vast, and it therefore seems questionable as to why this research method was chosen as diaries provide more in-depth material than other methods. They acknowledge the huge amount of data gained from this method and the time needed to analyse the data; they also acknowledge that the more data a researcher has, the more difficult it becomes.  However, the investigation explored the social interactions along with personal meanings associated with the viewing of television.  An interesting point raised by Gauntlett and Hill concerns the pleasure gained from watching certain programmes on television and how a meaningful relationship can develop between the viewer and a programme (1999, p. 138).  This will be a point worthy of consideration in the discussion of the participants’ experienceof Strictly Come Dancing.  The programme is based on relationships between professional dancers and their non-professional, celebrity partner, providing a ‘real-life’ story with narrative progression which ultimately engages the spectator.  Some of the participants express their enjoyment in following the weekly progression of the dancing couples and enjoy seeing the non-celebrity improve.

One interesting element of Ang’s use of the 42 letters of Dallas watchers is where she states that the letters cannot be read at face value and should be read ‘symptomatically’. By this she means that she treats the participants’ writings as a ‘symptom’ of what lies beneath the written text and as the product of the participant’s expression, their ‘account for own preference of something’ and as part of their discourse (1996, p.11).  Ang adds that the researcher should search for concealed attitudes and beliefs (1996, p.11).  Although not unproblematic, I was interested in adopting a version of this approach when reading the diaries.  I looked for the nature of expression and the participants’ preference for a particular dance, celebrity couple, music, costume and feelings.  Gauntlett (2007), when discussing Ang’s use of the letters, questions how the participant can be judged on anything other than what is written down, as a means to accessing their experience through written expression.  He concludes, ‘this data will usually have a mangled relationship with the stuff that was originally in participants’ heads’ (2007: 9).  Following Reason’s discussion of audiences’ post-experience reflections, however, it is worth stressing the richness of the data that can be produced and how insightful and engaging these can become when the spectator is given the chance to express themselves about their experience (2010).  For me, researcher as fan, the task of writing down what I had experienced became a pleasurable moment of recollection, rumination and embodied aspiration, including inexpressible moments.  It is in this context that I think it is possible to engage with something like Ang’s notion of symptomatic reading.    

Of course writing about something like dance could be considered as writing about the ineffable, as we do not always seem to have available the vocabulary to fully express the visceral, ephemeral, embodied experiences that occur in life.  This point was well illustrated by a frustrated participant, Sharon, writing about watching a ‘stunning’ performance of Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe’s tango dance. Sharon notes ‘good God I hate words’ whilst trying to describe her experience.  Dance scholar Deidre Sklar, writes that ‘talking cannot replace deep somatic meaning of movement’ (Sklar, 1994, p.13) and whilst in agreement with this statement, to empirically research an embodied experience presents a challenge of translating the somatic to something that can be exteriorised.  There is a need then for methodologies that make the experiences knowable to others, whether verbal, written or expressed by other creative means [9].  Morley and Brunsdon describe the difficulty with language and decoding meanings from people’s communication: ‘language must be conceived of as exercising a determining influence on the problems of individual thought and action’ (Morley and Brunsdon, 1999, p.140).  Acknowledging the difficulties expressed by Sklar, Morley and Brunsdon and recognising the limited vocabulary available to people dependent on a milieu of social factors, it is a larger and wider problem with qualitative research and not one that is going to disappear overnight or within the realms of this study.  To its advantage however, getting people to write about their experience is a means of constructing it and can therefore be taken as an important part of their experience.


Data Analysis
Each diary was read thoroughly to determine any emerging themes within the data.  The material was then colour coded using page markers and was primarily analysed against the following categories of responses:  visual, emotional, kinesthetic, musical and interpretative [10].   These particular categories were used as they represent the sensory and cognitive engagement aspects of watching performance.  From these initial categories the following themes (or codes) emerged: voting and celebrity, spectacle, emotional and personal connection, admiration of skill and virtuosity, aspiration to dance and embodied, kinesthetic response.  These were chosen for analysis to highlight the weaving of various aspects of spectatorship relevant to both kinesthetic responses and discourses around active/passive spectatorship.


Voting and Celebrity
A programme like Strictly, which is set up as a reality dancing competition, engages the audience through interactivity in voting and through featuring celebrities.  Unlike other reality TV shows, or game docs as they are referred to by Annette Hill (2002), the Strictly format has been developed from a long-running series of a reality TV competition, Come Dancing, where the participants were not celebrities and the viewing public were unable to vote.  The voting system encourages active participation in the programme and the production company’s aim is to give the viewing public a sense of autonomy over who stays, who gets eliminated and who becomes the series winner.  Not only this, but voting gives the viewer the opportunity to support their favourite couple or celebrity over time, and from the impressive arrangement of training video footage shown on the live show, develop a relationship with the performers.  However, the viewer can also decide to vote for the best performance on the night or the most entertaining; which in past series has caused a great amount of controversy [11].  Therefore, for the public, voting is not necessarily always about technical ability.  Moreover, as could be seen in John Sargeant’s case, there appears to be a power struggle between the judges and the apparently ‘autonomous’ public (Reynolds, 2010).  The interactive format of the programme gives the viewer a degree of control by enabling them to affect the outcome by casting a vote. 

Interestingly, only two out of the ten participants in this study explicitly mentioned that they had voted.  The participants were not particularly asked to comment on voting and therefore may have felt no need to write about this.  The two who wrote about it had only voted for the performances in the final show.  Bridget comments,

I had decided that I would only vote in the final as I didn’t want to give my money to the BBC.  Now we are at the final, I am torn between Chris’s likeability factor and the journey and the progression he has made and Ricky’s amazing technical ability...that’s it I’ve done it... I’ve voted for Chris.  He was much more genuine.

Elisa writes, ‘I voted for Chris and Ola in tonight’s final... Chris and Ola are the winners of the glitterball.  Well deserved, he has come a long way’.  Both comments refer to the progression and journey that Chris Hollins had been on over the course of the programme. Reynolds concludes, ‘spectators’ attention tends to focus on individual dancers, characters and celebrities rather than on the process of dancing and choreography’ (2010, p.30) and this focus forms the basis of creating narrative.  

Bridget and Elisa’s evaluative comments suggest a desire to see people succeed who may start as the underdog and overcome insurmountable odds to achieve success.  As a Strictly fan myself, I look for technical skill, genuine willingness to succeed and work hard.  These qualities are often praised in the evaluation of celebrities (Bennett and Holmes, 2010).  Writing on Big Brother, Hill (2002) discusses ‘authenticity of the self’  where the spectator looks for authenticity of the newfound celebrity to assess the ‘truth’ in their character.  Although Big Brother turns ‘ordinary’ people into celebrities from their time confined in a house, the Strictly contestants have certain similarities in terms of what appeals to the spectator.  Firstly, the Strictly Come Dancing contestants are generally not dancers and therefore have an alternative career, albeit one in the media limelight.  Secondly, they are required to do a task that is out of their comfort zone – dance, with a professional partner, routines that will undergo scrutiny by a panel of judges and voted for by the general public.  Ruselle illustrates these two points at the beginning of her diary, after the first show:

Go Chris! He is the last person I could ever imagine on the show.  Ah he is terrified... not bad at all... the sexy side of Chris... never thought about that really...cannot wait to see and to watch [BBC] Breakfast [the daily programme where Chris Hollins is Sports Presenter] 

Further into her diary, she establishes that her favourite celebrities are Lynda Bellingham and Chris Hollins:

Go on Lynda.  She is amazing.  She really has the right spirit.   Love her, she is a very nice person probably the best female celebrity in the show... Go Chris go.  Wow, he is great... the more I see Chris the more I like him.  Seems to be the ideal man, sweet, funny and not bad looking with this outfit at all.  He is a great dancer.  I cannot believe he is the same guy I see on [BBC] Breakfast.

For Ruselle, the qualities of being ‘nice’, having the ‘right spirit’, being ‘sweet’ and ‘funny’ are the driving force behind her claim of favouring certain celebrities in the show whom she supports to the end.  These qualities support Hill’s argument about the search for authenticity of the self in the newfound celebrity, which attracts the viewer to watching the series.  As Bridget notes above, her vote in the final was due to Chris’s genuineness which gave him the edge over the other contestant.  Bridget also notes the journey that the celebrity has been on as an indicator of her decision to vote, which signifies her appreciation of his transformation into a dancer.  Sharon also writes, ‘you really know [her emphasis] the dancers, over months you have watched them perform and grow, so you really love when something really works and is good, sincere and stunning.’  Again, Sharon highlights the attraction to the dancer’s journey; seeing them perform well with sincerity was important to her.  In accordance with Hill’s argument, the spectator’s viewing strategy is focussed on authenticity of the celebrity, transformation of the self and assesses their character on the basis of ‘truth’.


When analysing the data the most common category I identified concerned the visual, particularly writing relating to costume, the physicality of performer and the environment (for example, lighting and the ballroom).  A few participants were drawn to write about the ‘glitz and glamour’ of the show, with one participant commenting; ‘I just love the glitz and glamour this programme brings to my lounge’.  What constructs the visual attractiveness of the programme is the colourful, sequined and flamboyant costumes along with the glittery elegance of the ballroom environment.  The costumes heighten the visibility of the dancers and capture the spectator’s attention through visual effect, indeed enough for some participants to draw pictures of the costumes throughout their diaries (see fig.2).  The participants commented on the costumes frequently, with remarks such as; ‘I love the dresses’ from Frances, ‘Martina’s [Ingis] dress is very beautiful’ from Ruselle and ‘I really love the colours of the outfits, the striking black against the silver created a real drama and elegance’, remarks Mary.  Captivating the viewer immediately, the colours of the costumes and the shape and style of the outfits are the prominent visual feature.  At the beginning of the show, the dancing couples promenade out on the stage before starting their dance routine on the ballroom floor which exaggerates the visuality of the show.  Once the dance starts, the visibility of the costumes does not fade away but blends in with the dance performance and it seems attention is then focussed on other such things as technique, musicality and physical appearance. 

Fig. 2: Writing on costumes and glitz and glamour


The costumes received major attention, bestowing glamour and sophistication and inducing a desire to wear them; a desire perhaps to pander to the feminine qualities of the ball gown worn in the ballroom dance.  On the other hand, the scantily clad performers of the Latin routines invoked mixed responses; the Latin costumes highlighted the physicality of the female performers and left the participants envious of the figure or rebuking the scantiness of the material covering the body.  For example, Ruselle writes, ‘Ali [Bastion] has such a lovely body’ and Paula remarks, ‘Ola’s [Jordan] dress was a bit distracting – it was almost obscene’.  However, Paula later remarks about Zoe Lucker and James Jordan’s rumba dance; ‘I agree with the judges that it was a bit raunchy but then that’s not a bad thing’.  Although it seems slightly contradictory that provocation in the dance is acceptable compared with a provocative costume, it seems that Paula found Ola’s skin-baring costume more offensive than Zoe’s hip wiggling rumba. But perhaps Paula was slightly envious of Ola’s physicality, as was the case for Bridget:, ‘I wish I had Ola’s petite little figure, she’s curvy and voluptuous and still tiny’.  Envy of body figure is also revealed by Jess: ‘watching Flavia [Cacace] in those hot pants makes me and Hannah [Jess’ housemate] want to go to the gym’.  These comments require a degree of aesthetic distance; however an element of embodiment may also be present for the spectator to project body envy. 

The dancers’ costumes made such an impact on their viewing experience that Mary drew some of them in her diary while Elisa attached glitter and sequins as part of her diary entry when commenting on the costumes (see Fig.3 below). 

Fig. 3: Visual methods used by participants to show the costumes

Discussion of the costumes and physicality of the performer reveals aesthetic distance and the ability to critically evaluate.  Criticism of the performers reveals envy, and admiration and desirous comments suggest reflection, evaluation and a degree of committed and intuitive viewing.  In media audience research, these spectatorial qualities would have previously been referred to as active spectatorship.  I am suggesting here that body envy has aspects of kinesthetic empathy as it requires a connection to the dancer through the body.  This is an aspect of a ‘wow’ factor that overlaps with admiration of virtuosity, which will be discussed later at greater length. The comments are provoked by visual pleasure, admiration of beautified, costumed bodies and the corporeal qualities of the performers.  Although distance is required to appraise, in a slightly voyeuristic manner [12], it is difficult to separate distance and engagement in spectatorship which involves kinesthetic responses...  When we are distanced, there is a detachment from the observed but how can there be detachment when one can get aroused by the desire to impart certain corporeal characteristics to one’s own body?  Returning to the ‘wow’ factor, Reason and Reynolds (2010) state that ‘part of the audience’s interest becomes that of spectacle’ and one can find oneself being amazed at spectacle and in wonderment of corporeality and the trimmings that go with it.   For the participants in this instance, it appears that embodied spectatorship requires a level of commitment.


Emotional Connection
Emotional responses to the dances were identified from the participants’ diaries.  The responses were linked to the sensuous and energetic nature of the choreography and the performance of the couple.  Jess describes, in general terms, how the ballroom dances make her feel: ‘watching the ballroom dances make me feel quite emotional as they are such elegant dance moves.’  This comment was made on the first show where eight of the sixteen couples performed either a Latin or ballroom dance.  The emotional reaction came from her recognition of elegance in the choreography combined with engagement with the movement.  Likewise, in two separate comments from Elisa, ‘a very emotional me having just watched Ricky and Natalie’s fantastic quickstep’ and ‘gorgeous foxtrot performed by Chris and Ola, very confident and emotional – I’m filling up’.  These expressions are her subjective recognition of the quality of the dance, producing emotional reactions. ‘Fantastic’ and ‘gorgeous’ are descriptive words that express the enjoyment of watching the dance and the dancers.  ‘I’m filling up’ implies that the emotion had welled inside of her and she is on the brink of crying which is a strong emotional reaction to a performance. 

In many instances, participants reported that they had emotional reactions to the dances they were watching.  Expressions such as ‘butterflies in my stomach’, ‘tear in my eye’ and feeling pleased for the performers, ‘I’m smiling with them’, were used to describe their engagement with their experience.  Jess comments, ‘Watching the ballroom dances makes me feel quite emotional as they are such elegant dance moves’.  These responses illustrate an empathetic response to the dancers, with an expectation that the dancers are enjoying themselves as well.  All three of these short expressive comments demonstrate an embodied engagement in addition to an active engagement.  The comments of Jess and Elisa reinforce what Reason and Reynolds (2010) say about the concept of kinesthetic contagion.  The participants experience kinesthetic contagion where they ‘passionately describe the feeling of joyful pleasure in uplifting and graceful movement, where the spectator responds to the dance in an immediate emotional manner’ (Reason and Reynolds, 2010).  The pleasure, enjoyment and anticipation felt by the viewer are associated with emotion and kinesthetic empathy. 

The engagement with the show and the process of writing a diary can be seen in this image of Ruselle’s diary entry.  Her diary read as someone commentating on the show.  Through her use of expressive writing, when the show reached a crescendo and her ‘favourite couple’ (Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan) had danced, the sense of being overjoyed and excited is visible in her writing.  This can be seen in the size of her letters that get bigger as she scrawls her excitement over the page.

Fig.4: Excitement shown in the writing from Ruselle

Her response suggests that a pleasurable moment was experienced; she was committed to seeing her favourite couple do well.  The exuberantly vibrant written response suggests an active engagement with the show.
Participants also show emotional connection and engagement with Strictly Come Dancing at times when a dance style or music triggers an image or a past personal memory.  Jess writes, ‘the waltz and the music played paints a story in my mind and draws you in’ which implies a moment of imagination and creation of stories.  Jess is engaging with the waltz and feeling that she is involved by ‘being drawn in’ to a story that she extracts from the suggestive quality of the dance.  The close involvement suggests a level of commitment from the viewer and also perhaps an experience in the present moment of watching.  Recognising her favourite song and a story to go with it, Sally declares; ‘my favourite record by Little Richard! When I was about 16 years old, I was crazy over the records made by Little Richard, they were fantastic to jive to.  I drove my father mad to buy me ‘tutti frutti’’.  She goes on to tell the story of her father buying her the record.  For Sally, her engagement suggests a ‘wandering off’ in her mind, picturing or remembering a story personal to her.  Reflective and nostalgic experiences have a quality of reverie which suggests moments of contemplation.  During moments of daydreaming, commitment to what is being watched becomes more casual as one recalls memories or thinks about other things.


Admiration of Skill and Virtuosity
The spectators’ responses to Strictly Come Dancing demonstrate admiration of various qualities of the celebrities and professionals, their costume, physical appearance, the music they dance to and their virtuosic capability.  Jess commented: ‘Laila Rouass looks like she’s really enjoying it and looks amazing’, and Ruselle enthused: ‘Erin is such an elegant beauty, the dress is wonderful on her’ and  ‘Vincent’s just lovely, I could watch him all night’ from Frances.  There is a subtle difference between admiration of skill and virtuosity.  Admiration of skill requires prior knowledge and appreciation of the form whereas admiration of virtuosity involves pleasure in spectacle, although both can elicit an embodied engagement (Reason and Reynolds, 2010).  For example, Paula comments on a professional dancer, ‘I loved Natalie’s twirly dress.  I also like the fact that these two always do fast dances which makes me want to join in’.  Here, Paula writes about the dynamism of the couple and how these qualities engage her embodied response, making her want to participate.  Again, Ruselle makes a similar comment which interestingly uses the costume as the springboard, writing; ‘Natalie Cassidy’s outfit – best of the night.  Loved the music, made you want to get up and join in.’ 
Admiration of skill and virtuosity can draw the spectator closer to the performance. The participants instinctively felt a desire to join the performers in the dance, like football spectators shouting at their team on television and at any moment, wishing they were there to join the skill of the game and revel in jubilations on the pitch.  Wanting close involvement indicates an intuitive spectatorship.  A spontaneous reaction to watching something that has given pleasure and enjoyment through admiring skill or virtuosity is perhaps the reason for the desire to join in.  This kind of spectatorship is indicative of a committed, intuitive and close relationship with the viewed.  Admiration of skill and virtuosity involves embodying qualities of the performer, experiencing their physical prowess intuitively and corporeally, in the present moment.

Conscious attention to skill and virtuosity can also induce a more distanced attitude, whether because the spectator feels unable to join in, or because they are critical of aspects of the performance.  For instance, Jess exclaimed: ‘we want to dance like the professionals but we can’t!’  Ruselle followed her writing cited above with this comment; ‘unlikely build for a dancer but Natalie is light on her feet and managed the spins well.  So bubbly but not perfect – I’m sure she can do better.  I enjoyed watching this one’.  Although Ruselle has previously commented on the desire to join in, she is also able to pass judgement on the performer, commenting on the technical skill and expressing encouraging words.  This may involve an almost immediate switch from intuitive spectatorship to a moment of reflection and evaluation.  The latter suggests sufficient aesthetic distance to comment critically on the performance.  These two seemingly opposing types of spectatorship (intuitive and distanced) probably occur more in tandem than I had originally hypothesised, which makes it harder still to binarise this relationship. 

Other participants comment on virtuosity such as, ‘Zoe [Lucker] has fantastic armlines’. Ruselle also refers to the ‘lovely routine and amazing ending’ and ‘very involving choreography’.  The last comment suggests that the choreography drew the participant closer, made her feel that she was getting involved with the dance.  In addition to choreography, movement quality and performance attitude are important factors in drawing and holding the spectator’s attention.  Jess commented, ‘confidence and flowing continuity make the difference, some of the couples draw you in and hold your concentration more than others’.  

Wanting to join in and feeling involved with the dance are key indicators of kinesthetic engagement.  Expressions such as ‘sharp’, ‘smooth’, ‘elegant’, ‘effortless’, ‘amazing’, ‘such perfection’, ‘magnificent’, ‘sophistication’, and ‘graceful’ were used to express positive responses to the dancer and the dance.  Some of these words are kinesthetically loaded and indicate that the participants engaged with aspects of the movement qualities.  The participants’ responses are reflective and show an appreciation of the dancers’ effort as manifested in their technical aptitude and gracefulness in executing sophisticated dance moves. 

However, it is not always a pleasurable experience to watch and kinesthetically engage with a performer.  Paula experienced an embodied reaction to one of the celebrities whose dancing fell short of her expectations.  She comments, ‘Joe [Calzaghe] was wooden and it made me cringe and want it to finish’ as she found him ‘difficult to watch’.  ‘Cringing’ indicates quite a strongly embodied reaction to Joe’s inability to move fluidly and is linked to an emotional reaction to the way he moves, suggesting a kinesthetically empathic response.  The participant also shows embarrassment for Joe, fearing that he is made to look foolish in front of millions of viewers.  Paula does not appear to stop watching altogether, perhaps an indication of our ability to carry on watching even when people are hurt, injured or in precarious positions.  This appears to have not been a positive experience for the viewer but she is ritualistically engaged with the dancers and committed to seeing the dance to the end.   The moment of displeasure for her is seeing a sporting figure try to complete a dance that makes for uncomfortable viewing; she feels his discomfort and sympathises with the embarrassing situation. 


Aspiration to Dance
Several of the participants noted feeling a desire to dance, or specifically wanting to dance like the professionals or celebrities.  Comments include; ‘such fab dancers makes me feel like dancing’, ‘makes me wish I could dance like that’, and ‘watching Strictly makes you want to dance like them’.  Jess commented on several occasions that watching the show made her want to dance like the performers.  Writing more specifically about a specialised dance, the Rumba, Jess calls it a sexy dance and comments, ‘would like to be able to dance like that’.  Writing about a specific couple, Laila and Anton, Ruselle writes, ‘it is almost impossible to distinguish between the professional dancer and the celebrity.  I would like to dance like this’.  The drive to want to dance like this has its impetus from watching a dance the participants found extremely pleasurable and enjoyable to them, such as the professional dancers’ routines, or a dance by their favourite dancer. 

Emotion and empathy can be so closely linked that it is impossible to say whether emotion facilitates empathy or vice versa.  The words ‘empathy’ and ‘sympathy’ have very similar meanings and have sometimes been used interchangeably.  However, only empathy involves projecting oneself into the experience of another.  Sympathy relies on compassion for another’s situation, maintaining the distance between self and other, whereas empathy is about vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts or actions of another; as Alain Berthoz (2010) [13] explains, it is ‘putting yourself in another’s shoes’.  Interestingly, Augusto Boal, writing on theatre, argues that empathy can only be realised through the emotions and that ‘the only indispensible element in empathy is that the spectator assumes a “passive” position, delegating his ability to act’ (2000, p. 102).  Kinesthesia, broadly speaking, is our ability to sense movement and if we combine empathy with dance movement, then, we experience empathy entwined with our kinesthetic sense.  Aspiring to do what the dancers do is, in part, an aspect of kinesthetic empathy characterised by wanting to step into the ‘dancers’ shoes’.  Although the body’s outer behaviour looks passive, the inner musculature may be active, as John Martin  claims: ‘though to all outward appearances we shall be sitting quietly in our chairs, we shall nonetheless be dancing synthetically with all our musculature’ (1965, p.23).  This is an extremely important point to consider for active or passive spectatorship as it illustrates and reinforces my theory of intuitive viewing.

However, Martin has been accused of taking a universalist approach to viewing dance and not recognising that all spectators bring with them different historical and emotional backgrounds.  Vittorio Gallese recognizes that personal history is crucial in experiencing empathy and asserts an underlying functional mechanism called ‘embodied simulation’ that is responsible for the interpretation of interaction with others.  He affirms that embodied simulation
mediates our capacity to experientially share the meaning of actions, intentions, feelings, and emotions with others, thus grounding our identification with and connectedness to others [...] though modulated by our own personal history [...] and by our sociocultural background [...]embodied simulation generates our “intentional attunement” to others (2008: p.775).
On this view, each individual has an innate mechanism that operates through vision and other sensory modalities, receiving subtle adjustments from personal history and resonating in the present, when experiencing empathy for others. When watching dance, kinesthetic sensing becomes a fundamental source of information and when entwined with empathy it results in an embodied response to what is being viewed. This is what takes place in what I have called intuitive spectatorship.


Embodied, Kinesthetic Responses
Reason and Reynolds refer to the overlapping concepts of empathy, sympathy and contagion to describe the kinesthetic engagement of dance audiences watching live performance. 

Kinesthetic ‘contagion’ between spectator and audience[...] might describe those instances where spectators passionately describe the feeling of joyful pleasure in uplifting and graceful movement, where the spectator responds to the dance in an immediate emotional manner. It might also describe the process where audiences find their heartbeats and breathing moving into synchrony with their perception of the movement, possibly also involving auditory perception, particularly of music or dancers’ breathing. (Reason and Reynolds, 2010)

Take this participant’s reaction, for example, to watching Laila Rouass and Anton du Beke’s tango.  Paula reports, ‘It made me feel a bit tense while I was watching it in the kind of way that emulates the dance – if that makes sense’.  The tango is a strong, passionate dance originating from Argentina, and portrays strength and passion in the arm lines and upright body posture.  A lot of tension is held in the upper body region when dancing, depicting a struggle between the male and female roles.  This tension is what is imitated by the participant.  She feels, to a certain degree, the tension required of the dancers, as if placing herself in the routine.  Similarly, Francis commented on the routine performed by Natalie Cassidy and Vincent Simone, ‘I felt quite involved in this dance.  My arms tensed when they were doing the flamenco style arm movements’.  Although both of these comments are about Latin dance routines, there were similar remarks about the ballroom dances also.  Sharon comments about Zoe Lucker’s waltz: ‘loved the spinning – feels like letting go’; and of Ricky Whittle’s waltz: ‘she [partner Natalie] felt trusting, I felt previously unnoticed tension in me soften’.  Furthermore, the many turns performed in the waltz represent a feeling of ‘letting go’ in Sharon.  She can feel the sensuous nature of producing these turns, experiencing the spatial dynamic of ‘spinning’.  Sharon’s comment discloses tension dissipating from the participant due to the softer, elegant and graceful qualities of the ballroom dance.  These kinesthetically empathic responses show ‘letting go’, being in the present moment and engaging intuitively with the performers. 

Furthermore, there is an issue of how committed a viewer is to what they are watching which affects their degree of investment in what they attend to.  From my research, for example, Paula comments, ‘my attention wavered a bit during Ricky and Natalie’s waltz.  It was nice though’.  Here, whilst allowing her attention to drift off she was still able to comment and appreciate, to some extent, the waltz danced by Ricky and Natalie.  However, what this does show is that she had a limited investment in watching this dance, perhaps, as she later commented, because the ballroom dances were not her preference, as she favoured the Latin routines.  As stated above, Barker acknowledges a ‘scale from casual to committed’ viewing and recognises that this is not quite so simple as a scale of passive to active engagement.  He states, ‘a highly committed viewer may want to bathe in a film [...] a committed passivity’ (2006: p.136).  The participant watching Ricky and Natalie’s waltz with wavering attention can be said to have indulged in a degree of casual passivity.  The idea that viewers determine the magnitude of their commitment in accordance with a preferred, individual viewing habit is central to the debate of what is active engagement.  For Strictly viewers, commitment and investment are driven by the motivation to seek pleasure from a favourite dance style; from a favourite dance couple; from listening to their favourite music; from the sheer thrill of seeing people progress and from vicariously joining people in the achievement of something.


Returning to the bigger question of this paper, where does this research place the participant’s kinesthetic experience of watching Strictly within the binary definition of active and passive spectatorship? Unsurprisingly, careful close reading of actual experiences reveals how their complex natures resist categorisation as merely active or passive as binary opposites.  In media audience research, active spectatorship has been described as having aesthetic distance and critical reflection (Fiske and Hartley, 1993).  Passive spectatorship explanations, on the other hand, have included being swept away by the narrative and participating ‘by proxy’ (Williams, 2003; Fiske and Hartley, 1993). Undeniably, these descriptions have been useful in the past and for particular media research, but my aim was to query this model when kinesthetic responses to dance on TV are considered. 

Here I have drawn on Barker’s querying of the active/passive binary through the concept of ‘passive commitment’, but rather than using the terms ‘active’ and ‘passive’, I have introduced the terms ‘reflective’ and ‘intuitive’ which appear more appropriate to the reception of dance on TV.  It is not a straightforward task to categorise intuitive spectatorship, as the fluidity of the experience means that it can fluctuate in any given moment.  In my conceptualisation, reflective spectatorship requires distance to subjectively evaluate what is being watched, whereas intuitive spectatorship happens at times of close involvement and being in the moment of watching.  For some, inner embodiment of the movement implies inner activity which is not necessarily conscious and cognitive but equally goes beyond ‘passive’ engagement. 
Inevitably the themes discussed in this paper – such as engagement with spectacle, aspiration to dance or admiration of virtuosity – in fact overlap with each other in the richer, deep and complex expressions of the participants’ viewing experience.  For instance, emotions can become embroiled within the experience which makes it harder to determine the functioning of the kinesthetic sense.   Barker also acknowledges the difficulty of separating emotionally fuelled from cognitive responses.

Audience responses are always emotionally charged understandings and educated emotions. That is to say, there is no way of separating out the cognitive and the emotional responses, regarding them as separately shaped or driven (2006, p.126).   

Barker recognises the viewing experience as inseparable in terms of cognition and emotion; I would add to this a multiplicity of converging senses and the coming together of conscious knowledge and embodied response (which is absent from Barker’s own discussion).

Undeniably, people have different motivations for watching dance on television.  One person might feel active or energised as watching movement gives them an inner mimicry and desire to move while another might want to sit back, relax and enjoy as a form of escapism.  Whatever the motivations, spectators can be committed or casual in the way they view the programme.  In either viewing circumstance, they can experience moments of reflective or intuitive spectatorship.  It is evident that the active and passive binary definitions are unhelpful when dealing with kinesthetic responses.  I have argued that although intuitive spectatorship involves elements of what we have previously known as passive viewing, the actual act of intuitively watching is the moment when kinesthetic empathy can be experienced and this in terms of dance should be conceptualised as active. 

There is also the added complexity of written reflection on the experience.  Although the participants have written about immediate experiences and often done the writing as close to that immediate experience as possible (sometimes even during it), it is still reflection on experience.  As Reason states, ‘spectator experiences, as a result, reside not just in the moment of the thing itself, but also and equally within ongoing, reflective engagement within audiences memories, social relations and imaginative lives’ (2000, p.33).  With my research, the diary-based methodology sometimes produced confessional and intimate material that provided exactly this intuitive and reflective record of their experiences of Strictly Come Dancing.

To end with an evocative quote from a participant, ‘Human beings really pick up on body language [my emphasis] – that and the costumes, music (great singing) and the tension of the competition – knock out’.  For this participant, pleasure itself was the motivation for watching, and also its outcome.



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[1] This term is problematic as it implies a natural instinct with cognitive interference and I do not believe it is necessarily natural, innate or cognitive.  However, it does imply contemplation and the use of non-inferential knowledge.  It is derived from the Latin word intueri meaning to gaze upon, which has relevance here.

[2] Fiske & Hartley write about the BBC programme, Come Dancing, which ran from 1949-1998, which Strictly Come Dancing has been developed from. 

[3] The term ‘kinesthetic’ is also used when training dancers to ‘feel’ the movement rather than just see the one’s movement in a mirror and it is used by choreographers to enable a sense of movement dynamic and quality felt internally in order to project to an audience.  

[4] This is a brief overview of kinesthetic empathy as the concept itself has generally been used in the confines of dance criticism and dance studies scholarship with variations of the idea used more widely in film studies and more recently referring outwards to neuroscience. The New York Times dance critic of the 1930s, John Martin, initiated the attempt to define kinesthetic empathy in dance spectators by describing the dance experience from the spectator’s seat whilst watching live performance.  He comments:
When we see a human body moving, we see movement which is potentially produced by any human body and therefore by our own...through kinesthetic sympathy we actually reproduce it vicariously in our present muscular experience and awaken such associational connotations as might have been ours if the original movement had been of our own making Martin, J. (1968) America dancing: The background and personalities of the modern dance, New York, Dance Horizons.
What Martin suggests is that when we watch a human body moving, and in this case a dancer, we imitate the movement using knowledge from previous bodily experience.  The imitation takes place within our own musculature.  More recently, Ivar Hagendoorn added an alternative explanation suggesting that spectators can ‘internally simulate’ movement sensations of, ‘speed, effort, and changing body configuration’, Hagendoorn, I. (2004) Some speculative hypothesis about the nature and perception of dance and choreography. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11, 79-110..  Hagendoorn’s explanation suggests that  spectators’ imagination might be involved where they have the ability of internalising simulated movement. The internalisation of the simulated movement could be re-enacted in the imagination and therefore show itself through tension in the musculature. 

[5] See: Calvo-Merino, B., Glaser, D. E., Grezes, J., Passingham, R.E., Haggard. P. (2005) Action observation and acquired motor skills: An fMRI study with expert dancers. cerebral cortex, 15, 7.

[6] The reality TV format has been sold to 38 other countries under the name of  ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (BBC), B. B. C. (2008) Strictly 'World's most watched' 12/05/2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7719968.stm.   In the United States, reality TV format shows, which included ‘Dancing with the Stars’, had higher ratings than sitcoms and appealed to both White and African-American viewers, Baluch, J. (2010) Developments in black and white television ratings in the United States. IN READING, U. O. (Ed.) Journeys Across Media. University of Reading, p.6.  In comparison, the Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board (BARB) in the United Kingdom shows that Strictly Come Dancing competed for the top spot on the weekly top 10 programmes with the formidable Eastenders for the duration of the viewing period, September to December 2009. 

[7] For further history on the show, see Reynolds (2010).

[8] A Google group was set up for the participants to discuss any topics between themselves if they felt the need to do so.  One participant, who was a 28 year old postgraduate student, commented on their favourite couple by using this form of communication, but none of the others used this form of interaction. 

[9] See: Reason, M. (2010) Asking the audience: Audience research and the experience of theatre. About Performance, 10, 15-34. In addition, other creative methods such as Lego have been used, see: Gauntlett, D. (2007) Creative explorations: New approaches to identities and audiences, Oxon, Routledge.

[10] The categories of visual, emotional, kinesthetic, musical and interpretive were developed through the Watching Dance Project (www.watchingdance.org) as part of audience research investigating audiences’ kinesthetic responses to live dance performance.

[11] In series 6, John Sargeant quit the show because the public kept voting for him to stay in the competition despite his lack of dance skills.  For further information, see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/3482936/John-Sergeant-quits-Strictly-Come-Dancing.html

[12] See: Mulvey, L. (1999) Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. IN BRAUDY, L., COHEN, M. (Ed.) Film theory and criticism: Introductory readings. New York, Oxford University Press.  Mulvey discusses ‘scopophilia’, the pleasure of looking but I suggest that, in the participants’ case, it was not always pleasurable looking but envious looking.

[13] See:  http://watchingdance.ning.com/video/keynote-address-from-alain




I would like to acknowledge Prof Dee Reynolds and Dr Matthew Reason for their support in developing this paper.



Biographical Note

Karen Wood is a PhD student at the University of Manchester researching Screen Dance and Kinesthetic Empathy. Her PhD is funded by the AHRC in the context of Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy  (AHRC 2008-2011) www.watchingdance.org

Contact Karen: karen.wood@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk


Last updated 2010-12-23

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