An excerpt of the Turkish show Flames of Passion was broadcast at the Eurovision Song Contest final – a suitable slot for a production that treads the tricky line between representing a nation and appealing to an international audience. It applies the Riverdance formula: take some local colour, give it some theatrical razzle-dazzle and let it travel.
Riverdance was slick and clever; Flames of Passion is a turkey. It ropes together a series of regional dances, slaps on a modern makeover and runs them through countless costume changes. It opens with a mysterious figure in a tall hat and billowing robes, who emerges from the mists and gives us a twirl. Dervish dance over, the music drums up a basic pop beat, and crowds of dancers in folk costumes and multicoloured ribbons circle, weave and stamp about the floor.
In the punchy Caucasian dance the men crouch and kick, Cossack-style, or execute fearsome piked jumps before landing on their knees. In the Arabic number, the women belly dance in unison, low-hanging tassles accentuating the jut and snake of their hips. The swirling Azerian solo is a welcome interlude of easy lyricism.
What’s Turkish for ‘naff’?
Most of the other episodes seem inexplicable. Three women imitate music-box figurines, and one is lured into a balletic duet by a young man, having perhaps been brought to life by the flame of his passion. And why bother with a “plate-whirling” dance when the plates spinning atop their sticks look fixed-on and battery-powered?
The dancers are not polished, but it’s not their fault that it all looks tacky and ill-conceived. What’s Turkish for “naff”?