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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 12:01 GMT
Secrets of Wogan's breakdance
By John Hand
BBC News

Terry Wogan at the start of his breakdance routine
Non-floral dance

A deft backflip followed by a neck-crunching headspin is hardly what you expect from Terry Wogan. So how did the 67-year-old become a breakdancer?

In the run-up to this year's Children In Need appeal, BBC viewers have been seeing the appeal's host Terry Wogan apparently showing off his best moves in a prime-time trailer.

So how exactly did Wogan - whose biggest contribution to dance culture was the 1978 novelty hit The Floral Dance - become the coolest cat on the block?

The man who can provide the answer is Mark Collins, creative producer at Red Bee Media (until recently BBC Broadcast), which was commissioned to produce the trail.

Is this Terry in breakdancing mode?

After the company came up with the idea, and Wogan said he would be happy to take part, the hunt was on for a red-hot dancer who could also act as a body double for the Irishman - tricky since he himself would admit he is built for comfort rather than speed these days.

Mark says: "We had casted for ages but it was proving difficult. We needed someone who was 6ft tall with a broad build and who could also breakdance. We were just about to give up when we finally found our man."

That was Hatim, an American Asian dancer who performs with the Vibes UK dance crew. Mark was convinced that Hatim, even with his relatively rakish build and shaven head, could be transformed into Terry on screen.

Over several weeks, Wogan's various dimensions were measured so that, by the day of the shoot, both men could be kitted out in identical outfits, with one crucial difference: Hatim also had to wear specially-built body padding so that he could match up with Terry's physique.

Mark says: "It was an exact science. We even needed the clothes to bend in exactly the same way as they moved through their routine."

As well as being fitted with a wig carefully matching Terry's hairstyle, Hatim was daubed in grey make-up, a neutral colour that allows for digital manipulation of the footage afterwards.

Terry Wogan with dancer/body double Hatim
Double bodies: Wogan with body double Hatim

For most of the trail, viewers are actually seeing Hatim performing, but to allow director Sarah O'Gorman to mix between footage of the two men, Terry also had to be coached on how to move convincingly for any shots filmed from the front.

That was a key role for choreographer Luca Tomassini, who has worked with stars including Madonna, Ricky Martin, Geri Halliwell and Kylie Minogue as well as acting as a judge on BBC One's Strictly Dance Fever.

Before the close-up dance sequence was filmed, Terry was fitted with a series of small tracking points around his neck. Sarah O'Gorman says: "These make it easier for the post-production editors to match the movements of Terry's head with those of the dancer's body."

It took 12 hours of solid filming at the Truman Brewery in London's Brick Lane to bring the trail to life. Although Hatim is an experienced dancer, there was one expected hitch - he was not used to dancing in shoes, never mind a suit and tie or heavy body padding.

Terry Wogan's stand-in completes a breakdancing flip
Flipping marvellous

Sarah says: "There was a lot of stopping and starting. At virtually every stage, the dancer performed his part of the routine, then we had to bring Terry on and shoot it again, then shoot it again with him in his full suit.

"But throughout Terry was very genial and a great joker. The crowd of youngsters who made up the dance crew in the background really loved him."

The highlight of the whole routine is when Terry is apparently seen spinning on his head, that most dramatic of breakdancing moves

In order to get the crucial close-up shot of Terry head-spinning, he sat on a circular rotating platform. Then a piece of the black lacquered dance floor was ripped up and balanced on his head. The result? "Once the whole picture was turned upside down in post-production, it gave us a most convincing head-spin," said Mark.

Terry Wogan with a dancefloor on his head
There was definitely a floor in the plans at this point

Mark also revealed another industry secret technique which he said is used in many pop videos. "Luca, who choreographed the shoot, suggested that we play in the music at half-speed and then he trained Terry and the background dancers to dance at that speed. So when we speeded it up afterwards, it made their dancing look really impressive."

But he said that all the techniques and wizardry would not have worked without Terry's convincing performance. "We needed Terry to come in and play it dead straight, and he did just that," said Mark.

As for the "lord of the dance" himself, Terry says his breakdancing exploits for BBC Children in Need have fulfilled a dream for him.

He says: "I was born to breakdance. It's a talent, you've either got it or you haven't. I was regarded as too small for the Bolshoi and it makes up for never getting to dance with Darcey Bussell."


This year's Children In Need appeal launches at 1900 GMT on Thursday on BBC Radio 2, with the live television show at 1900 GMT on Friday.


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See the finished advert as Terry Wogan struts his stuff



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