TALENT SHOW SECRETS OF THE DANCING KING

By Kari Rosenberg - Thursday 5th 2011f May 2011


You can't switch on a television set these days without being confronted by yet another talent show, so you' expect viewers to be weary of watching hopeless hopefuls battle it out for 15 minutes of Z-ist fame. But judging by the success of one of the latest shows, Dancing King:Man In The Mirror,which sees performers audition for roles in a Michael Jackson tribute show - it seems there's of life in the tired old format yet.

David King, the show's top judge, is a renowned theatre producer and entrepreneur. Indeed, the 60-year-old is one of the biggst employers in showbusiness with 500 dancers, singers, creative directors and technical staff on his books. He has around 20 shows taking place worldwide at any one time.
Born in what he refers to as the "Jewish ghetto" of Alwoodley, Leeds, David's story is a typical "rags to riches" tale. His first hit show was "Spirit Of The Dance", which thrust him into the limelight.

Growing up surrounded by music, with both parents in the entertainment business, David was inspired to create his first show after watching Michael Flatley's Riverdance. He was so passionate about his idea that he gave up his job and re-mortgaged his house to raise the funds to open it.

After receiving an offer "too handsome to turn down", he accepted the role of judge to find stars for the Michael Jackson tribute show - despite only being a "medium" fan of the pop icon. He says: "When I make a show, it isn't because I like the music, it's because I think it will make money. You need to know your product and market so Michael Jackson was a no-brainer."

Does he consider himself to be a Simon Cowell figure? "Simon is unique, but there is room for other versions of him. His amazing career has gone up and down so many times."

David manages to remain composed during most auditions for the show, a far-cry from the histrionics of The X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent panellists. He says: "Sometimes I do feel like laughing at them. The producers encouraged me to be nasty but I didn't want to be. The fact that the cameras were there encouraged me to be nicer than I would usually be. If the cameras weren't on I could have been brutal. But the last thing I wanted was to be a Cowell copy. I'm not nasty. Maybe I should have been."

Viewers may recognise fellow judge Sophie - who is David's 22-year-old daughter - from The X Factor back in 2006. Her girl-group the Dolly Rockers made it through to the final round before the live shows, only to be rejected by Louis Walsh.

Did David support his daughter's X Factor ambtions? "I didn't advise her to go on the show, she just did it herself. These shows put people straight onto primetime TV. There is no better avenue for that kind of exposure. Anything that brings talent to the public can only be a good thing. If you win X Factor, it's like winning the lottery 10 times over. You can become a superstar."

Did he worry he wouldn't find the talent required for the show? "There were some really bad auditions. Some days I couldn't be bothered while on other days I felt really good about what I was doing. These people got up in the morning thinking it was a day that could change their lives and I didn't want to destroy that feeling for them."

The show was originally supposed to be about the dancers, following them in a soap-opera style format. He says: "It wasn't about the judges - it was about the dancers' private lives. But when the cameras arrived they felt uncomfortable. They were happy to be filmed in auditions but when it came to their private lives they didn't want the exposure. The focus of the show changed dramatically from them to me. It was never planned that way."

When he's not filming the show, David organises corporate events with big-name stars. "I recently worked with Lionel Richie, Leona Lewis and Liza Minnelli. Liza was a challenge. She was a problem from the minute she walked into the hotel. I also worked with Elton John in Monte Carlo. He insists on sitting on white couches - in fact everything in his dressing room has to be white! But I actually prefer the other side of my job - filming TV shows and being creative. Working with superstars is prestigious, but it's just a hyped-up babysitting job."

Dancing King: Man In The Mirror is on DMAX, Thursdays at 10pm