The Paso Doble
By Bob Mabena- @bob959
The first time I was exposed to ballroom dancing was back in 1990 at the international Ballroom dancing championships. Lillian Dooley and her regal and elegant parents were running this contest in Sun City and Lucas Mangope was a patron. The closest I had ever gotten to ballroom dancing before then, was watching my mother and father dancing – they were great! That night at Sun City was probably one of the toughest MC gigs I had ever done and I think it showed because, poor Lillian and her father had to hold my hand for a greater part of that evening. My nerves were later calmed and seductively thawed by two words – “Pasa Doble’. Upon hearing those words, I rushed to Mr. Dooley’s table and asked him to explain this Latin thing to me and in classic English debonair old school demeanor, this is what he said to me and I have not forgotten his words since “The Paso Doble is a theatrical Spanish dance. Traditionally, the man is characterized as the matador and the lady as his cape in the drama of a Spanish bullfight”. I watched the competitors dancing their hearts out and I concluded then, that the “Paso Doble” remains an orderly and pleasing combination of elements that seem to paradoxically complement and contradict beautifully – it can look quite aggressive too!
After that lengthy self-indulgent drivel about dance, I have to then quickly get to your question – what the hell does this have to do with Radio? Plenty actually! Especially in the area of what used to be called Zoo Radio. I have always thought of co-presenting on Radio as a form of ballroom dance. The principle is the same when it comes to radio and ballroom dance – someone must lead and the other/s must follow. Ballroom dance isn’t complicated at all but Radio is and it is about time I uncomplicated it. When Radio started, the voices one heard were presenting, hence the term “presenters”. Later, it changed to DJs and then “personalities. More than one person on air, we called them co-presenters and that’s where it all went pear-shaped. There is no way two people on air can have the same and equal voice time and responsibility. As in the “Paso Doble” there is the Matador, the Cape and the Bull – each plays a different but equally important part. Let me give you a few excellent examples; John Berks and Garry Edwards on what was then called “Magic 702”, Thato (DJ Fresh) le Thato on the original YFM.
With the few examples I have given, it is clear to decipher who was leading and who was following. The trick here is that the follower was also brilliant at following – not a limp and aimless puppet but a flawless Tonto to the Lone Ranger.
I have had the greatest pleasure working with fantastic side kicks – yes, side kicks and they knew when to interject, leave a skit hanging, interrupt, laugh, sigh, grunt or laugh. When George Manyosi and I did the morning show on Radio Bop in the nineties, no one explained the roles but we seamlessly flowed like an uninterrupted and calm stream. Manyosi was the cleaner and I made the mess, he was the intellectual and I was the voice. The same feat was achieved when I was working with Tracy Going as well. There is the Host and sidekick, any other arrangement is messy and often leads to On Air anarchy, ill-timed links, inconsistency and just sheer noise and madness. Even Howard Stern, Robin Quivers and Fred Norris had a perfect mix and role-play was clear and concise. Think Ike and Tina, Simon and Garfunkel, all the duos I have mentioned had a leader and follower and they were able to synchronize and harmonize, let me not leave out Batman and Robin.
In closing, any program manager worth their salt knows and understands that roles On Air have to be clearly defined and the role players have to stick to their roles, unless a character is about to be killed off or has some kind of earth shattering epiphany. This has to also be accompanied by On Air talent that understands radio and how it works at its best. Longevity on Radio has a lot to do with understanding the basics and no shortcuts will do. Listeners are more intelligent and savvy and they cannot be fooled, attracted or appeased with just great music clocks and fine imaging. The talent has to work hard every single day and deliver consistently.