Review: Shine

MILO YIANNOPOULOS sees Shine as ‘a celebration of pop culture’ and an antidote to academia.


Friday 5th – Saturday 6th (2.30 and 7.30) at the Mumford Theatre, £4-8.

Watching a tap dancer try to be sexy is a deeply uncomfortable experience. Particularly when, as happened last night, they’re set against blisteringly hot contemporary booty-shakers. It’s Cliff Richard versus Britney; Celine Dion versus Mariah Carey; West Side Story versus Grease.

You see, tap dance isn’t cool. That hot girl in the nail bar you’ve wanted to get on since sixth form? She does street dance. Your local librarian, the one with the squint and the perfectly centered ponytail? Yup, you guessed it. Tap.

And it isn’t just me: I could hear groans of agony rippling around the auditorium every time the lights went down and we heard the tell-tale tippity-tap of Mandy from the Reference section. I’m sure it’s fun to practise – not that you’d know it from the rigor mortis grins last night. Perhaps it’s even fun to perform. The problem is, tap is simply unbearable to watch.

It was judicious of the choreographer to employ safety by numbers in the bigger numbers to hide the crap dancers, and wise also to give two of the street dancers – both called Ruth, apparently – room to show off. I was mesmerized by their Fix Up, Look Sharp routine.

I enjoyed the girl band audition from a clutch of the sluttier dancers, who shimmied to Girls Aloud while the front row alternately vommed and came. Though that piece illustrated a general problem: when you have such talented leads, it really shows when the backing dancers are lacklustre, or a bit tired. “She’s only in CUTAZZ because her mother makes the costumes,” I almost heard from the row behind me. She needn’t have bothered: while the street dancers gyrated in little more than leggings and boob tubes, the librarians made us wince with  awful skirts and bits of crap tied around their necks in a hellishly anodyne parody of studied Parisian nonchalance.

Two parallel shows wrestle for your attention within Shine. The first one is boring, and slightly sad. You watch it with pity and you applaud reluctantly. But there’s a second, stupendously good one, too: the street dancers, whose routines are a gay man’s wet dream. But unlike those overweight, sweaty poofs in provincial nightclubs, these girls can really dance. When they want you to get hot under the collar… you get hot.

When the street dancers turned lyrical, bathed in red light for a beautiful slow number, you could see they had soul as well as attitude. But it was mostly attitude: think body-popping, swooshes and sharp jumps. What Tyra Banks would call “fierce.”

I could have done without the “interludes,” to be honest. Yeah, I know the real dancers need time to get changed, but a bit of OK-ish prancing around to Shirley Bassey remixes didn’t really do it for me. (Get This Party Started? I wish they had.) 

Shine is a celebration of pop culture; a warning against one too many choccie biccies at the issue desk; a chance for some of the University’s best dancers to show off and, overall, a bloody entertaining night out.