You’re The Inspiration

I have a new guilty pleasure, one which I should feel slightly grubby for revealing, but the truth is I can’t stop watching it. It’s Sky’s Pineapple Dance Studios, which goes behind the scenes of the eponymous business and simultaneously mocks and celebrates the people who work there. The leading players are a freaky bunch. Take dance instructor Andrew Stone, whose dream is to become a global pop success with his band, Starman. In his mind he’s the next George Michael, but when you hear the band they sound more like what would happen if you blunted the Scissor Sisters. Then there’s Tricia Walsh-Smith, a socialite whose photos from the Seventies show her to be absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, in order to retain her looks she’s had so much plastic surgery her facial skin is so taut it looks as if it could rip at any moment. She’s a messy divorcée who attained fame thanks to some YouTube videos in which she bitched about her ex-husband, and now she’s launching a pop career in which she does the same. Like Stone, she shows a glorious mismatch between her belief in her own musical talent and said talent. Before each performance she should really go looking for a bucket to carry a tune in…

However, there are bound to be plenty of people who’ll tune in simply for all the lithe young flesh on display. Every week there are various auditions and glimpses of dancers making videos, and as anyone who’s watched MTV Dance for more than ten minutes at a stretch will know, the average pop video these days features more naked, writhing bodies than a Seventies porn film. Sploshing fans would have loved the scene where one girl performed to a Slayer track dressed in nothing but an all-over coating of thick black treacle, while a fantasy sequence in which male dancers showed off their different styles (ballet, jazz, ‘street’) under the Pineapple Studios showers was one of the most homo-erotic things you’ll ever see but also strangely entertaining for someone who writes as much M/M fiction as I do! (You’ll find a clip of that last one at http://sky1.sky.com/pineapple-studios, should you be interested in that kind of thing…)

In among all the near-nudity and lack of self-awareness, though, is the occasional moment which is more than fluff. The real star of the show is Louie Spence, Pineapple’s artistic director and a man prepared to wrap his leg round the back of his leg at a moment’s notice. (Much like Gillingham’s Mark McCammon, as those of us who were watching him warm up behind the goal at the Priestfield Stadium last season will testify…) He may be camper than a branch of Millet’s, but as he tells the audience repeatedly, he’s stil got it, and in the most recent episode he went back to his old dance school in Cambridge as a guest of his former mentor. When he took part in the gruelling warm-up, he was clearly struggling to keep up with students half his age, but when he danced for them, he blew them away. By the end of the lesson, he’d given them a few home truths, but he’d also visibly inspired many of them.

The wacky maverick who inspires students to achieve may be a genre cliché, but a lot of people would admit there’s a little bit of them which cheers inside when Robin Williams’ pupils climb on their desks to show their support for him at the end of Dead Poets’ Society. And it’s something which really does make a difference if you’re in a creative profession. Seeing someone who’s making a living from writing – or dancing, or anything which so often comes with the ‘starving artist’ tag – helps to make you believe you can do the same thing, too. When I was at sixth-form college, my English teacher invited Ian McMillan, who’s now all over radio and TV but at the time was just starting to perform as one of Rotherham’s ‘Circus of Poets’, in to read some of his poems. Though I never wanted to be a poet, it was fantastic to see someone flexing their creative muscle and bringing their own work to life.

Sadly, I doubt I’ll ever be invited to give any students a reading of my stories. I don’t know how well an extract from my contribution to the I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus anthology would go down. Perhaps I should offer to go along to Pineapple Studios and read it there. I get the feeling a few of the boys there might actually enjoy it…

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