BBC's Strictly Come Dancing trailer uses an inventive trick to get wallflowers on their feet

BBC Creative took a different approach this year for Strictly Come Dancing's 16th series to celebrate the joy of dancing.

You’re at a wedding or out on a Saturday night, and the music begins to play. But you hang back, not wanting to be the first on the dance floor. Finally, after a few drinks or the encouragement of your friends, you find the courage to start dancing.

The BBC captures this relatable moment in its new trailer for Strictly Come Dancing, unveiled today ahead of the 16th series premiere. Unlike the show’s previous trailers, which usually featured clips of the competing celebrities, this one takes a different creative approach with a conceptual and narrative film about the joy of dancing.

The ad tells the story of a scruffy pair of brogues that have been left out in the rain, discarded by their owner. Then a pair of bright red heels comes along and inspires the abandoned brogues to get back on their feet. They unite and start dancing together on a city sidewalk.

"Everyone does love to dance, so hopefully this inspires people," said Rachel Miles, one of the creatives behind the film. "Everyone wants to be taken by the hand by Pasha [Kovalev, a Strictly dancer]."

The work was created by Miles and Michael Tsim at BBC Creative, the BBC’s in-house agency, and directed by Sam Brown through Rogue Films.

When the team got the brief from BBC Marketing for a trailer that would celebrate dance, they thought they would use animation or puppetry to tell their story, Tsim explained. But Brown, who has directed ads for brands including Apple, Waitrose and Virgin Media, came back with a treatment in which real dancers would perform the routine and be erased, except for their shoes, in post-production.

"We realised we could do something totally new and exciting," Tsim said. "Hopefully the nation will watch it and not understand how it’s been done."

Brown said he was drawn to this project for the strength of its story and characters. He envisioned the protagonists as such:

"The brogues have reached the end of the road. They’re not wanted anymore by their owner, they just want to give up and lie down and be left alone. Then they’re chanced upon by these red shoes who are a bit more impish and ready to party. The red shoes are trying to bring the brogues back into the world and get them dancing again."

The story is "about learning to dance but also about finding the person who’s right for you, who complements you," he added.  

The initial script had multiple scenes, but Brown proposed reducing the action to one scene and place. "My first thought was to simplify it, treat it almost theatrically, and pretend like they were on a stage… to explore their characters and build a story arc," he explained. "The more simple it got, the better it got."

The team ruled out puppetry because it "didn’t feel very human," he said. Using actual dancers who were painted out through post-production would allow them to get more emotion out of the performance.

Former Strictly dancers Anya Garnis and Trent Whiddon played the roles of the red shoes and brogues, respectively, and a choreographer from the show helped create the dance. With Garnis and Whiddon dressed in black leotards, the crew shot the film over one day at a London studio.

Making the ad was a complicated and time-consuming process because the dancers and their shadows had to be erased, then details such as the inside of their shoes were reconstructed using CGI. "I haven’t seen this done before," Brown said.

The other major challenge was getting inanimate shoes to embody human thoughts and emotions.

But in the end, "when I’m looking at their feet I can picture the people and know what the expression on their faces would be in that moment," Brown said. "That’s what we were trying to get to."

The trailer is set to the track Two Can Have a Party by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. As the music plays and the shoes come to life, you can’t help but tap your feet.

"We’ve had the time of our lives," Miles said.

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