Story transcripts

Ballroom Blitz

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reporter: Liam Bartlett

Producer: Sandra Cleary

They say everything old is new again. And it sure is when it comes to ballroom dancing on television.

Take a look back through the 60 Minutes archives and you'll find a story about a couple of youngsters from Perth with a huge dream.

They wanted to be ballroom dancing champions of the world.

That was 21 years ago. And yes, their dream did come true.

What's more, Peta Roby and Jason Gilkison are still partners. But now they're the creative force behind a truly spectacular show called FloorPlay.

Once it was the local town hall, now the world's their stage. And what an amazing stage it is, as Liam Bartlett soon discovered in Japan.

Special features:

For more information about FloorPlay
http://www.burnthefloor.com/pages/home.asp

Full transcript:

INTRODUCTION LIAM BARTLETT: They say everything old is new again. And it sure is when it comes to ballroom dancing on television. Take a look back through the 60 Minutes archives and you'll find a story about a couple of youngsters from Perth with a huge dream. They wanted to be ballroom dancing champions of the world. That was 21 years ago. And, yes, their dream did come true. What's more, Peta Roby and Jason Gilkison are still partners. But now they're the creative force behind a truly spectacular show called FloorPlay. Once it was the local town hall, now the world's their stage. And what an amazing stage it is, as I soon discovered in Japan.

STORY LIAM BARTLETT: It sounds like a rock concert. And looks like a Vegas floor show. But this high-energy phenomenon sweeping the world is ballroom dancing, Aussie-style.

JASON GILKISON: This whole thing - being able to create our own dream show. Take it as far as it can go. Each day is fantastic.

LIAM BARTLETT: Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby are Australia's golden couple of dance. And this is their creation - FloorPlay. Tonight were in Osaka, Japan.

DANCER: I've got so much adrenaline going through me right now, it's so good to be back in Japan, I love it. It's unreal. I can't breathe, I'm sorry.

LIAM BARTLETT: But it could be Vegas, Amsterdam or London. Everywhere the reaction is the same. Who would've thought ballroom dancing would come to this?

DANCER: Exactly. I wouldn't have, that's for sure... I don't know.

PETA ROBY: We wanted to bring this dance form to the general public and I think the long-term effect was actually doing our own show.

LIAM BARTLETT: It's all a long way from 1932, when Jason's grandfather Sam Gilkison opened Australia's first ballroom dancing studio in Perth. That was where Jason and Peta partnered up at the age of six at a time when ballroom belonged to a by-gone era.

JASON GILKISON: It was a pretty daggy thing to do. Now to see ballroom dancing finally get recognition in such a better light and to see the guys in our show be so proud to be ballroom dancers and that's... to experience that through their eyes, it's just amazing.

LIAM BARTLETT: 60 Minutes first met these dancing legends 21 years ago, when they were Australian Ballroom Champions, young and unbeatable.

JASON GILKISON: We wanted to become the world champion because no other Australian had done that. At that stage I think my grandparents and mum said, "Oh yeah, it's nice to dream but that's as far as that will go."

PETA ROBY: We've got a goal and we want to make it.

LIAM BARTLETT: They did become world champions and international superstars the Torvill and Dean of the dance world.

LIAM BARTLETT: But even they couldn't have predicted what was to come. The hit film 'Strictly Ballroom' breathed new life into Grandma's dance steps. From the local town hall to a massive world audience. Suddenly everyone was dancing.

PETA ROBY: I think we lived through a fantastic era - we saw the old turn into the new and we were part of the old turning into the new.

LIAM BARTLETT: You must never have imagined how it could become this cool.

JASON GILKISON: Yeah, we always hoped but it was just a case of perseverance and maybe trying to see the way we saw it. We see it in the rehearsal room where you see these dancers just thrashing themselves about and getting wet and sexy.

LIAM BARTLETT: Now both 42, Peta and Jason have stepped off the dance floor and into new roles behind the scenes of their own dance spectacular, inspiring a whole new generation of young dancers. So they were both your idols when you were young?

JEREMY GARNER: Yeah, they were. Pretty much.

SARAH HIVES: They were very big in Australia and we used to look up to them all the time.

JEREMY GARNER: We used to follow them around for autographs they were big stars and they still are today.

LIAM BARTLETT: Jeremy Garner and Sarah Hives are now stars too thanks to Jason and Peta's show. They're also real-life partners. And when they're not burning up the floor this is home - Shepparton in rural Victoria. What's it like being a career dancer coming from a country town? Is there a touch of Billy Elliott in there?

JEREMY GARNER: Definitely there's a touch of Billy Elliott here. I mean Shepparton's main thing that the kids do is football. Yeah, football, that's about it. So dancing for me - I tried to keep it secret as a kid. I didn't want anyone to know because I thought, "I'll get beaten up."

LIAM BARTLETT: But Shepparton, like the rest of the world, was swept up by the ballroom blitz. And even Jeremy's dad Peter, once the local real estate agent, is now the proud owner of his own dance studio. You used to sell real estate?

PETER GARNER: Yeah, bit of a turn of events isn't it.

LIAM BARTLETT: You've gone from Bob Jelly to Fred Astaire.

PETER GARNER: Oh, I don't know about Fred Astaire.

LIAM BARTLETT: Well you're not doing to badly. Look at your son.

PETER GARNER: Gene Kelly maybe.

LIAM BARTLETT: This is cow country and if Jeremy's mum hadn't dragged him kicking and screaming to dance classes he could well have ended up on the land. Ballroom dancing has come a long way since the rotational barn dance.

PETER GARNER: Yes, it has. I reckon you'd be good at the rotational barn dance.

LIAM BARTLETT: I think that's about my only chance.

PETER GARNER: Yeah, it's an incredible ability. Something most of us will never achieve.

LIAM BARTLETT: No wonder he didn't want to be a dairy farmer.

PETER GARNER: Yeah, well take one look at her.

LIAM BARTLETT: A lot of your mates would look at you now and think, "Gee, I wish I was travelling the world?

JEREMY GARNER: As soon as they saw the tapes of the girls, actually, they sort of said, "We're doing the wrong thing - football. Nothing against football, though 'cause I like that too. I like girls better.

LIAM BARTLETT: And maybe its the girls who are partly responsible for dancing's resurgence. With their raunchy moves and barely-there costumes the quickstep was never like this. Once again we've got Peta Roby to thank for that.

PETA ROBY: I don't know where that person comes from but there isn't a time that I start dancing that thing inside me doesn't switch on.

LIAM BARTLETT: She was one of the first to sizzle on the dance floor and make ballroom sexy. I mean there was a touch of the vixen about you?

PETA ROBY: Yeah, I think, it's maybe buried a little deeper but it's still in there.

JASON GILKISON: And it's great seeing new members of our company discover that part of themselves.

LIAM BARTLETT: Cast members Sharna Burgess and Patrick Helm certainly look to be discovering that part of themselves. but it's all for the show. Being that close and dancing so passionately has there ever been a temptation to be more than just friends?

SHARNA BURGESS: For us we haven't. Many people do.

PATRICK HELM: For us it's more like a brother and sister thing.

SHARNA BURGESS: Girls are always screaming about how hot Patrick is and I'm like, "Yew, that's gross man. He's like my brother."

PATRICK HELM: Oh, cheers.

LIAM BARTLETT: Patrick's from Berlin and Sharna, well hard to believe, but she's a 23-year-old tom boy from Wagga in New South Wales. SHARNA BURGESS: I think mum put me into dancing to make me a little bit more of a girl when I was younger and something about it stuck. I don't fit the stereotype of a dancer I'm a rock chick from way back and I was never the dress up in all the heels and the glamour and the glitz. But when it comes to ballroom I just want to be dipped in glue and rolled around in diamantes. Just be one big Swarovski stone.

LIAM BARTLETT: From Wagga Wagga to the world. Ballroom dancing is now a ticket to an international career for young couples like this.

SHARNA BURGESS: People ask me where I live and I think about it, and my answer is, "I'm homeless but in a really cool way." I live out of a suitcase, we are all pretty much in the same boat.

JASON GILKISON: I just want you to enjoy. Opening in Osaka has always been fantastic for us.

LIAM BARTLETT: FloorPlay is a sellout. In Japan, over 50,000 fans will see the show before it hits Australian stages next week.

JASON GILKISON: It's good to see you all nervous. I haven't seen you all nervous for a while.

LIAM BARTLETT: For Jason and Peta it's the culmination of all their years on the dance floor a mix of modern moves with good old-fashioned glamour. Jason, when you were a little boy and you had your own dreams did you think you'd get this far?

JASON GILKISON: No, never. I get a bit emotional just seeing it finally on stage and it's just this is my dream coming true.

LIAM BARTLETT: But look at that, since you last talked to us 20 odd years ago you're helping these young people realise their dreams?

JASON GILKISON: To come to work with these guys every day. It's just a beautiful thing. I love what I do. I wouldn't do anything else. I'm living my dream so I'm very lucky.

LIAM BARTLETT: These days the old hands are happy to watch from the wings. It's good from here, isn't it.

PETA ROBY: Oh, it's great. I feel like I'm out there.

LIAM BARTLETT: Do you really? Would you want to be out there?

PETA ROBY: No, I'm quite happy standing here.

LIAM BARTLETT: Looking after all these dancers, you're really the mother hen backstage here.

PETA ROBY: Yeah, I love it. They're my passion now. My day revolves around them being fit, healthy and enjoying what a wonderful dance form it is.

LIAM BARTLETT: They're big kids.

PETA ROBY: They're my big kids.

LIAM BARTLETT: Jason and Peta have known each other for their entire lives and since they started dancing together they've rarely been apart. Today they're like an old married couple even though Peta has a husband, Nick, who also works for the company. It has been an incredible friendship hasn't it?

JASON GILKISON: It's hard to describe, actually. Because it's like the left side of my body, really.

PETA ROBY: I would almost say that there is not a day, that I don't, if Jason's not with me, that I don't speak with him or ... I think we're secretly attached at the hip.

ANNOUNCER: ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for the cast of FloorPlay.

LIAM BARTLETT: As opening night draws to a close these old friends deserve to take a bow. But the show is far from over. FloorPlay is performing around the world until 2010. And there's one last stage for our home-grown dancers to conquer - How far can you take this?

JASON GILKISON: Well, I think the dream's always West End or Broadway.

LIAM BARTLETT: You're nodding your head.

PETA ROBY: Yeah, that's it. That's the final step.

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