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He’s The Greatest Dancer – The Arches, Glasgow

Collaborators: Ian Johnston, Gary Gardiner, Adrian Howells

Technician: Michella Fee

Creative Learning Programmer: Lucy Gaizely

Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald


Adrian-Howells-112x154Beckoned into the basement of Glasgow’s Arches, the audience are briefed before entering that we have to read our programme and take note of the ‘instruction’; that we scrunch up our programme and throw it onstage when the name ‘Robbie Williams’ is mentioned. Greeted by Ian Johnston and Gary Gardiner dressed in tuxedos, seats are taken as Sister Sledge’s “He’s The Greatest Dancer” is played. When all are seated, we are introduced by Gardiner to Johnston (referred to throughout the performance as Ian), a gentleman with undiagnosed learning difficulties, who becomes the protagonist of the show.

Leading the audience to immediately challenge their own perceptions of ‘dance’ as a concept, the show, in essence, displays the sheer joy that dance can bring to an individual. Gardiner introduces us to Johnston, informal in tone and warm to what is essentially a group of strangers. The likeable nature of these two performers, cemented by their quips with each other on stage, shine through and create an immediate bond with their viewers.

It would be incredibly easy for the show to use Johnson’s disability as the item for debate; no doubt, innumerable topics could have been explored in relation to this. Instead, two people dance; in this, some pieces are beautiful in their simplicity, others in their complexity. There seems to be no real choreography – rather, as the show intends, dance is about what one feels. Classy in its execution, there is no element of bad taste at all in the production.

To finish, the audience are asked to join the cast in dancing to “Gangnam Style”; Johnston’s favourite piece to dance to. Through the journey they have been on with these two men, the audience need no encouragement to take to the floor. Testament to the shows impact, it would have been doubtful the same audience would have agreed to do this before the show.

Challenging ones perception of dance is what He’s The Greatest Dancer sets out to do; it is a triumphant success in doing so. An absolute joy to watch, the production successfully leaves the audience with a renewed love for the medium of dance.

Runs until 26 September

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