Sunday, 18 December 2016

Oduba-lieve in Miracles

So here we are, after a really quite odd year on Strictly, the final is now upon us. We're back to three people, which makes it seem a bit more manageable, but also all the more competitive.

Now, we don't usually describe final dances we've seen before, but here's  a quick run-down. Ore and Jo lived their American Smooth dream, and he brought some more musicality - it also takes balls to do a dance where you're throwing a prop around all the time in the final. Louise's cha cha seemed an odd choice, and while a bit better in technique her 'wooo I'm so fun' moves were super-cringey. Danny's quickstep was knocking everyone's socks off, and then they made a tiny mistake and everyone went mental and we're losing our minds.

Ore and Joanne
When this song was previewed during the week, we all knew where Jo was going with this - and rightly so, always play to your partner's strengths. Ore certainly delivered and him and Jo have always been a brilliantly-matched pair. The section on the drums looked a bit frantic, but hey, at least no one fell off or tumbled into the audience (it's going to happen one day, I tell you!). It was delightful and perfect for them, but didn't knock my socks off.

Whilst it was a tad annoying it was a sort of rehash of the Singin' in the Rain, I can understand the thinking behind it. It played hugely to Ore's strengths. It was suave and sophisticated and well, just plain lovely. I'm not convinced what's so special about a showdance these days given that every other dance has lifts, sizable portions out of hold and crazy-ass theming but hey, I can't knock this routine on its own merit.

Louise and Kevin
The choice of One Moment in Time meant this was never going to be a subtle number. There was dry ice, sheets, the longest lift ever, feet, Kevin grabbing random bits of Louise. It just went on and on, spinning and lifting over and over again. There was indeed emotion, which she has been missing for a lot of this series, but it came at the expense of a coherent dance.

This is more the sort of thing I expect to see from a showdance. But Louise, Louise, Louise. She just does not commit to movements (something which Bruno proclaimed greatly that she does after her tango, as though he read my mind and disagreed profusely with it.) It was wafty and non-committal. Not hideous, but not final-worthy.

Danny and Oti
How could you not be excited by the prospect of an Oti showdance? These two gave us everything they possibly could have, with content all over the place and some amazing lifts - at least one of them made me shriek, and I haven't done a lot of shrieking this series. Also, extra points for Oti's goddess dress.

Yep. This was a showdance and a half. Oti BROUGHT it this series and I'm grateful we have been able to see her showcase her skills. What a great addition to the show, she is. This was by far the best of the three. 

And then we had the favourite dances, all of which were perfect choices by the couples. Ore smashed the jive out of the building, Louise easily did her best dance of the night, but Danny and Oti brought the awesome samba of awesomeness that blew everyone away. It's too close to call, and we still have to say goodbye to Len.

That samba is officially The Best Dance of Strictly 2016. No argument.

...and what a goodbye that was, it was actually very touching and heartfelt. The group ballroom number was divine and the pros bowing to Len at the end was a real tear-jerker. Then, in a marked contrast, we get the hot mess that is the annual group number which always has us cackling away. Highlights included Gangram OBVIOUSLY, but also Rinder being spin-tastic, Daisy and Aljaz cycling yet again, Lesley camping it up, and Greg leaping around all over the place.

Weep. Now BBC, bring on Karen Hardy. Come on, you know you want to. And group number was all kinds of awesome. I do so love it when they showcase each celeb in order of the Strictly story.

Then we finally get to the winner...which was...in dramatic lighting...all very tense...ORE AND JO! A deserved win after raising their game and really going for it in the final, plus they've been a brilliant pair throughout the series. Joanne's stunned reaction and simple statement of "you're a dancer" summed up the whole thing wonderfully. A fitting end to the series!

A deserving win and one of the most touching announcement moments ever. It clearly meant as much to Jo as it did to Ore, and that was delightful to see. After a series that has annoyed as much as delighted, this was actually a cracking final with excellent dances. Bring on next year!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Strictly Chaos

Well after last week's lacklustre affair than was Musicals, we needed a lift to get us excited for the final, and we certainly got one! This week was basically crazy, but amid it we did actually have some great dances and people really going for it to get to the final - let's roll...

Louise and Kevin
Because there's nothing more passionate and moody than conveyor belt chic. There was a tango hiding away in this, and Louise's performance has definitely improved, but you also had Kevin gurning at everyone over her should looking oh-so-pleased with himself. Considering her Argentine Tango was her best dance, they should have taken some of the lessons from there, but the themeing wouldn't allow for that.
Half expected Brucie to pop out from behind the conveyor belt. To be fair, that would have been less weird than this actual dance. I doubt we can blame Louise and Kevin for the surreal theme and even-stranger-than-usual-and-that's-saying-something song choice but I still don't think it was as good as the judges made out. 

Danny and Oti
Now this was something to get excited for, these two are on fire at the moment and they even had a proper song. This had lots of fluidity and intricate shapes that you want to see. Also, lifts that actually fit with the routine rather than gymnastics just for the sake of it. I could have done with a bit more in hold, but there was a lot going on there and such much more dynamic that the other couples. Very much looking forward to their AS.
YAAAAAS! SALSA, BABY! Ok, so Marc Anthony is on the 'poppy' side of salsa but this is about as good as it will ever get on Strictly, and the choice was more than fine by me. Such a catchy one too. Can't knock the lifts and fancy arm work but I did agree with Craig. I would have liked to have seen more basics and hips. Nevertheless, there are styles of salsa where the men just seem to lead and lean. Let's pretend they were going for that. 

Claudia and AJ
Claudia definitely raised her performance game last week, which you really need for a rumba. Especially when you have a bit of a clunky song like Bleeding Love. I actually quite liked this, Claudia has a very strong core and was able to use it very well in this, and they resisted the temptation to try and fill it with gymnastics. Plus it's nice to see Claudia being able to do something without having to pretend she's 10 years old. No, it didn't set the. world alight, but it showed improvement.
Bad luck getting a rumba in the semis. This had beautiful shaping (as to be expected from an artistic gymnast) but lacked fluidity, I think the judges were a tad harsh though (or there were too soft on others *cough* Louise *cough*)

Ore and Joanne
Well those were some...interesting outfits. This really reminded me of their week one tango; lots of strange unnecessary gimmicky bits amid quite a good dance. Everyone (by which I mean judges AND Twitter) said they loved it, I was a bit confused by it all. And then scoring drama broke loose and Len stood up and Claudia fell over a crash-mat and I have no idea what's going on any more...
I'm writing this less than 24 hours later and I can't remember what the dance was. That doesn't bode well does it?

And change, let's go round again (maybe we'll turn back the hands of tiiiiime...)

Louise and Kevin
Once again, Louise in a dodgy outfit I'm not sure she was completely comfortable in. This was all a bit underwhelming, would have been fine in week four or five but this was the semi final. She did seem comfortable, but has Kevin ever actually told her she shouldn't be looking at her feet all the time? It was alright, and like the judges said, had plenty of classic samba content, but we need to be wowed at this stage.
It's like the were going for a Pixie Lott stylee samba. But Louise ain't no Pixie. Great music but everything else about this was meh. Like you're expecting a pina colada and you get a tin of pineapples from Lidl.

Danny and Oti
I feel like Danny has been waiting all series, nay his whole life, to do the American Smooth. This was also a divinely classy piece of music and a wonderful routine amid a night of craziness and unnecessary drama. It flowed beautifully and told a story, there was more than one bit that made me gasp and it built to a dramatic ending. Also, lovely vintage costumes. I lost it when this didn't get a 40.
Yas, it was good. Danny is good. He's totes a ringer but when the ringer manages to improve, and builds a wonderful partnership, it's totally forgivable. Jay peaked too early last year but Danny gets better week on week. There's the difference. 

Claudia and AJ
She raised her game last week and then did it again this week, she now looks like she both enjoys it and really wants it. Small gapping issues, but her stuff in hold has really improved. Plus now she is able to keep up with what AJ is giving her, and he gave her pretty much everything possible in that and she still nipped along happily with it all. Good on her, it could see her through to the final.
Zippy and perky. Loved it.

Ore and Joanne
I couldn't get entirely on board with this unfortunately, although I though the song was a very good version for the AT. The elements where there, but I was feeling uber-concentration rather than passion coming from them. Plus, grey velvet is a bit of a weird look. I also think there was a bit too much Joanne in it, I know the tango can do that with the women, but he could have had a bit more footwork. 
Couldn't get past the music I'm afraid. OK, it was tango-fied but the strict 2/4 beat made it a much better choice for a ballroom tango. It was too heavy for a soft, seductive Argentine tango and that ruined it for me.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Cha Cha Chicanery

Post-Blackpool, after-Blackpool, the Blackpool hangover. There are many names for this episode of the series. That is especially the case when you add in a random competitive group number that ALWAYS throws a spanner in the works.

Danny and Oti
I had been positively salivating over this dance during the week, I was very surprised to see them out first - but Oti is wearing one of the best dresses of the series. It started with a samba roll...and we even got another samba roll at the end...and everything else in between! It was innovative, but also a samba, crammed full of steps but also the two of them really working together rather than Oti dragging him around the floor. There were debates over whether Danny deserved that 40 last week - he certainly did tonight!
First of all, LOVED the music. Both the selection and the arrangement were wonderful. Hurrah. The dance was full of content. I was a wee bit agin Danny at the start because he was just too good. But I believe the show is about improvement. And he's improved on too good. He's now quite awesome.

Ore and Joanne
How indeed do you follow the first 40 in samba history? Well they got something suitably moody for a paso, and managed to put a dramatic drumbeat behind it. When I first heard about it on ITT I thought it was going to be a car-crash, but I actually liked it more than I was expecting. But saying, it wasn't more than the sum of its parts like Danny's samba was. I also felt sorry for Joanne in a weird pair of shorts.
Dramatic. Atmospheric. When this first started I was like all ooooh. I just really wanted it to pick up pace a bit. I thought the music was building but it wasn't. It wasn't... marchy...enough for me. But don't get me wrong, the dancing was wonderful and I was quite captivated by the whole spectacle.

Louise and Kevin
Louise is back in the baggy dresses, why? It was a waltz right out of a Richard Curtis film, schmaltzy and playing to the crowd. Although I will say you might as well do something to jazz up a waltz at this point in the competition. But as ever, it was all about Kevin leading her through it. And also, toe lead where there should be heel leads.
Meh, I just can't think of much to say. It was nice. Like a custard cream - you're not sad it's there but you're not excited by it. And she did toe leads. Just saying.

Rinder and Oksana
People were rather wary of Rinder doing a rumba, and understandably, but this was actually pretty good. A lot of work had gone into those lines and hips, and as the judges said there was a lot of fluidity in the dance, which some people never manage. Also, points for Oksana's sparkly leotard thing.
Oh that was tough for Mr Rinder. It looked as though he was really thinking too hard before each step - I wondered if he was struggling to break on 2. The technique was ok in places but it was all a little awkward.

Ed and Katya
Well we've had some pretty random tangos this year and they weren't about to change that with this one. And Katya dressed as Nancy Del'Ollio because why not? For all the promoting of the 'catwalk' theme there was actually a fairly standard tango routine. Big problems with the frame in hold. Ed is best when he's allowed to be exuberant, so a tango probably wasn't going to work for him, both he and I were frustrated by it.
It was a hunched and stompy and didn't have the joyful pizzazz of some of his more upbeat performances. Ed's musicality is excellent though. And he's loving every minute. And, I'm pretty sure he did more heel leads in his routine than Louise did.

Claudia and AJ
I've never really warmed to these two, but after the disaster that was last week's jive (yes it was a disaster, judges) this was definitely one of their best performances. Although the world's longest lifts as she pawed the air with her feet made me laugh, which I don't think was what they were going for. But a definite improvement in technique and commitment to the dance, it could save her this week.
I was all ready to hate this because I miss Greg and Natalie. But ah bloomin' 'eck I actually really liked it. Although it was questionable how much time she actually sent with her feet on the floor. I thought her shaping was excellent. I even liked the arrangement of the song. Dammit.

The Cha Cha Cha Challenge!
Well this seemed odd when it was announced, a VW makes sense, even the swing-a-random had its novelty factor, but this looked like a new ballgame and potential for people getting kicked. And in eye-watering outfits no less. Danny and Oti led from the start, obviously, Oksana and Rinder were in their own world, which I liked to see, Lousie and Kevin were doing the same step every time the camera was on them. And as ever, the whole thing should've been twice as long...The scoring from the judges was laughable.
WTF?

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Seaside Shenanigans!

In the real world, no one would ever get excited about going to wet and windy Blackpool in November - but this is Strictly World and everyone is buzzing with anticipation. We can even live with bucket-and-spade VTs if it means we get the dazzling Tower Ballroom. Especially when we get epic opening numbers like that one, full of retro ballroom glamour and style.

Claudia and AJ
I think this is the first time Claudia's ever performed in the first half the show, and the poor thing is wearing dodgy sportswear - someone obviously fell out with her this week. This was not a good dance for Claudia, she made a few mistakes and just looked massively self-conscious about the whole thing. I know the judges don't want to start the show on a downer, but this was massively overmarked. On the plus side, the extra dancers were unobtrusive.

Ore and Joanne
These two got some of the few decent outfits of the night, and also a dance that travels which is actually useful at Blackpool. Now, I'm all for jazzing up a VW, but there was just so much in this it was confusing - even giving Neil a chance to actually get out on the floor was a bit too much. The waltzy bits were good, as was the never-ending-fleckrl-of-all-fleckrls, but it didn't really flow the way it should have.

Louise and Kevin
The song and production really carried this, oh yes, and Kevin. Because as ever it was all about Kevin and Louise had to try and keep up (whilst looking like a smiley Cersi Lannister). I can't tell you a lot about what I thought of the dancing because there was too much production and extra dancers getting in the way. Although there were some good flamenco arms going on there in places.

Danny and Oti
Thank goodness for these two! I was a delight amid some seriously messy dances, and their costumes were super-cute too, especially Oti's spangle-tastic dress. There was a lot going on but the production actually enhanced it, mainly because Danny was able to hold his own in the middle of it all. Technique and performance were great, and the lifts were seamless. Like Len said, if something had gone wrong the whole thing would've come crashing down, but it didn't!

Ed and Katya
I cannot believe this did not go last, if only because someone might have fallen over and died. Amazingly the histrionics of Blackpool didn't change anything, I really feel like they could've done this dance on any week of the show. And once again, there was a lot of jive content, Kayta didn't just let him sit there, his jive moves even got better towards the end than they were at the start. The cracks were probably showing this week, but jive is very hard and I think he was better than most people thought.

Greg and Natalie
After last week's drama I was wishing so hard for this to be a good number, and it really was! Oh Natalie Lowe doing a quickstep and Blackpool to Grease, what more do you want? Greg really brought it with this performance, working with the theme but also doing good quickstep technique, he's so much better in hold than he was to start with. I also need a GIF of that running splits towards the camera with Natalie pulling the happiest face ever.

Rinder and Oksana
Having these two in the pimp slot with comedy neon outfits was a bit of a concern, and this was a bit of a hot mess. The assisted somersault at the start went wrong but Rinder styled it out in hilarious fashion. Another highlight was Oksana appearing at the end between the legs of five people. In the middle there was some shaking and stuff, but it was a dip in quality for Rinder that might leave him in a dangerous place.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Grans and Gangnam

It's that time of the series when the competition hots up and all of a sudden there seem to be fewer and fewer people coming down the spangly stairs. Thankfully, we get to spend all this week playing Blackpool Bingo, as it gets mentioned at least once every 30 seconds. Although were the costume people holding back this week? Not many stand-out-wow pieces or fun colours, are they saving their crystalising-strength for next week's all out camp spectacular?

Daisy and Aljaz
Well, there were SOME bright colours this week, although that strange psychedelic robe looked like a bit of an afterthought. This was a really hard routine from Aljaz, so full of steps and twists and turns but Daisy looked like she was taking it in her stride - she brought a confidence to it and flashes of performance gusto that we don't always get from her. There was enough salsa in here for me, it looked like Aljaz had at least tried - also, top marks for Daisy's 90s-high-ponytail-game.

Greg and Natalie
I had very high hopes for this watching training and Natalie's declarations of joy on Twitter, so the death slot was a bit of a worry, as were the terrifying trousers. However, these two smashed it, with so much drive and focus that I was SO annoyed when the judges suddenly went into picky mode - it was like Anita Rani all over again. The knee moves, the leap, the massive sections in hold, there is no way he could have done anything like that during week 1.

Rinder and Oksana
After last week's ballroom delight I was amazed he got another one and didn't have to do a tenuously-themed latin camp-fest, hurrah. Oksana pitched this just right in classic foxtrot territory and gave you all the steps you wanted to see, and all whilst wearing and unfortunate Laura Ashley cast-off that looked like it was meant for Louise. Love how they attempted to have a row about whether his heel leads were good enough, when most people don't even do them. I'll even forgive the Double Grandparent Card, especially since Grandad Rinder kept cutting in over Tess he was so excited.

Ore and Joanne
A rumba, arrrgh a male rumba, prepare to cringe people. This wasn't too bad in the end, but nothing to write home about. Great arms from Ore, but not enough hips, and as is often the case with the rumba I found it hard to watch him and not Joanne (who looks gorgeous). These two have such great chemistry you'd like to think they would have ramped that up but it somehow wasn't there. Oddly overmarked, but a tricky one to try and recover with after being in the bottom 2 last week.

Ed and Katya
After last week's ballroom triumph, they seemed to decide it was Ed's turn to do Around the World Week on his own, because who was actually waiting for a K-Pop themed salsa? After about 10 seconds I was totally into and LOVED it, Katya is a genius, there were even some salsa steps in there! The lifts were also really hard and very well executed, his timing remains, as does the sheer gumption of these two.

Claudia and AJ
The prop swing of legend is back! There was way too much faffing at the beginning of this, but once they finally got in hold it was a classic VW. There isn't too much to say really, although I do think it was her best executed ballroom dance so far. Also nice to see them dance to something suitable and not a tweeny pop song for once. Not sure why this was given so many more points than Rinder.

Danny and Oti
There'd been a massive debate on Twitter about this song from the moment it was announced, but I was always in the pro camp, its moody and driven by the bassline, I don't know what more you need from a tango song. Saying that, I think my expectations were a little bit too high here - it was good but I wasn't blown away. The footwork was amazing and as sharp as it should be, but you'd expect that after all the ringer-ness we've had from Danny this series. I didn't dislike it, but I'm not clamouring to see it again.

Kevin and Louise
Louise in the pimp slot? Oh you do surprise me...I actually found this dance really weird, there were so many bits and pieces that didn't add up to a whole. They never seemed to get into any actual foxtrot and were just high-kicking and jazzhand-ing all over the place. Also, I got the impression Louise was supposed to be sassy in that, but she was giggling away like she was doing a campy cha cha. Bit of a disappointment after last week's AT breakthrough.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Shut up and dance

Come out from behind the sofa, the Halloween scariness is over for another year, and we should be getting down to some vaguely recognisable dancing this week. Look, Tess is even wearing a random brightly-coloured jumpsuit to make us all feel at home once again.

Danny and Oti
Despite it apparently being the worst disaster since the Titanic, I quite liked the foxtrot of doom last week, but what do I know? Not sure why Oti was wearing a Christmas Jive Pixie outfit when she was supposed to be running a pool hall, but she could wear a sparkly bin bag and she'd be fine. All the elements were there, with content and footwork and all that jazz, but nothing about it wowed me, largely because we hold Danny to a very high standard, so I was pretty surprised when the 10s came out.
 I forgot that Danny even got 10s, which shows just how little it wowed me. Of course it wasn't bad but my expectations for this series' Mr Perfect are quite high given he came out in the first show as though he were in a professional production. It didn't have the coolness of Jay's, the sharpness of Jill's or the pizzazz of Ore's so it's not in the realm of Jive Greats for me. But not a bad one to open the show.

Daisy and Aljaz
Poor Daisy getting the death slot again after being in the bottom 2 twice, it doesn't bode well. Although she got to use 'her song' so that's nice, even if she did have to waltz through boxes of turnips (now there's a sentence I never thought I'd type). As ever, these two are a delight, and some how manage to be cute rather than cloying. There's not much you can do with a VW but it was well executed and performed.
I liked this. It was neat and pretty and I loved the little hoppy steps on the musical accents (cute choreo Aljaz...) I also loved Daisy's dress. I find her so inherently likeable so I'm not sure what isn't resonating with the public. Perhaps she's just - much like this dance - too nice. 

Ore and Joanne
Joanne as a tribute to Jem and the Holograms and Ore in the tightest whitest trousers EVER was a...strong look for this dance. A bit like Danny's jive, there were lots of the right bits there but it didn't add up to much. I could have done with a lot more in hold too.
The song did not lend itself to salsa. It would have been fine had it been a cha cha. But alas, it wasn't. It's sad because Ore had all the moves and this potentially could have been great. But alas, it wasn't. I think he could be in danger. But alas, I just like typing alas.

Ed and Katya
After finding his mojo again and then some last week, we were looking forward to Ed once again this week. Plus his return to ballroom too, after the Amarillo Disaster, it was nice to see him back in hold. And do you know what, this was a pretty good quickstep! He was very nimble and light of foot, and managed to nail a routine full of choreography and added twiddly bits. All that and Katya actually looked pretty good in a shiny nylon wig - who would've thunk?
That awkward moment when your joke contestant can actually dance. I like to think that the BBC expected a full on Widdecombe with this one, but he's definitely in a whole different league. No he's not perfect. His basic steps were a tad awkward but his hops, skips and Charlestons were as light and fluffy as a strawberry mousse (mmm mousse *stomach rumbles*) 

Laura and Giovanni
Not nearly enough feathers for a samba, I mean when else do you get the chance to dress up as a neon pink peacock? Other than that, I really enjoyed this, there were a lot of samba steps and the running promenades were great. Slightly odd that Giovanni flew off like a whirling dervish at the end for no apparent reason, I would have much rather seen him take Laura with him on the world's fastest samba rolls.
Giovanni, Giovanni, Giovanni. Never leave your celebrity to wiggle whilst you show off. Especially when you have one who can dance and whose samba action was pretty nifty. Shame. On. You.  

Rinder and Oksana
They are dressed as layers of fabulous upon fabulous, what more would you want to set you up for a quickstep? All the bits came together in one brilliant package here, the choreography, the technique, the song, the look - it was a joy to watch. Also sick of criticising for Rinder for being happy, that is just his face! Totally criminal that it scored lower than Daisy and Laura, criminal I tell you, Rinder should bring legal action.
Here is someone who is living the Strictly experience (as Frankie would say, he is embracing the sparkle...) He exudes joy and isn't what that is about. He's also technically very good (on a different level to Ed), has great musicality, good style and knows how to perform. 

Louise and Kevin
After Harley Quinn in a baggy jumper, we now have an Argentine Tango in a Dorothy Perkins Christmas party frock. Saying that, this was a lot better than I was expecting, the song lent it a lot of drama and they managed to dial down the vacant grins. Lots of AT content, jigsaw-legs, all in there alongside the fan-favourite wobbly lamp post. There's also the unquantifiable 'grrrrrr' factor in the AT, that I never thought Louise would be able to bring, but she managed it.
I was expecting to be all the meh with this, but no, it's the first dance from Louise I have actually liked. It was atmospheric and dramatic (the music certainly helped), but her ochos could have been neater and kicks sharper. 

Greg and Natalie
Ooooh I'm all of a flutter! Last week he learned how to do performance, and this week he got to bring it to a proper ballroom number. He also held on towards the end when he was looking a wee bit dizzy, I myself would've fallen over and vommed. But no, Natalie would never let that happen, and despite what is obviously some uber-intense training she's putting him through, they are still a lovely team. Bum update: much improved.
I said 'Ooh his bum is tucked in'. Frankie said 'Are you just watching his bum?' In my defence, I was admiring his much-improved post...ure. Natalie choreographed a routine that screamed manically YOU WANT A CLASSIC DANCE? DO YOU? DOOO YOOOU? It was lovely. And Greg does dance tortured angst well. 

Claudia and AJ
I spent all week thinking this would be the worst song choice ever, but it was actually quite good - the band's choice was rockier than I was expecting. Marvellous shaping from Claudia, especially with the flamenco arms. I have love-hate moments with these two, but this was probably my favourite dance from them - it just really suited her, probably more so than super-smiley AJ. Also, who else things that AJ's pink spangly bolero jacket was originally meant for Rinder?
I watched this with my fingers in my ears and decided in terms of shaping and style it is one of the best pasos I have actually seen on the show. It hurts me that it wasn't done to a traditional piece of music and I genuinely think she would have received different comments from the judges had that been the case. Still my favourite dance of hers but the music? No, there are no words.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Fright Night VII - Dances of Doom

I may get in trouble for breaking format here but as I'm blogging on my own this week, and it was Halloween week (I hate theme weeks) I'm taking a risk. Sorry Frankie, you lovely person, you.
I just don't think I have enough to say to break it down couple by couple. On the whole, the music picks were - as typical of themed weeks - abysmal. The costumes and theming were in most cases, completely arbitrary. I spent most of the evening confused (though, granted, that doesn't take much.)



Three Things I Liked:

1. Ed Balls


Now here's a revelation. I'm not a fan because he's the joke contestant and I like to see people humiliated. I'm a fan because he's come from a no-dance background (such a rarity these days), he's enjoying learning and he's throwing himself in to it. He's this year's Jeremy Vine. And he's not that bad. Ed's timing is good, and he is improving week after week. OK, his knees were as bent as noodles, but these are the sorts of things that can be ironed out by the next time. It's so dull if they are practically perfect from the start,


2. Oksana's Choreography

Week after week, she is being thrown ridiculous theme after ridiculous theme, yet if you watch what she has choreographed, the dances are always jammed full of actual content. It's quite clear that Judge Rinder is being painted as a camped up joke contestant but just watch him dance. He's actually excellent.


3. Paint It Black

Really enjoyed this song choice for a tango and the band's arrangement was excellent. They dance itself could have had more attack, but it wasn't bad either.

One Thing That Really Wound Me Up:

1. Inconsistent Judging

See, I'm going to keep it to ONE thing (don't fall off your sofas!) I was incensed (incensed, I tell you) by Craig's comments to Greg and Natalie. But that's not because he was wrong - he wasn't - there was very little rumba content in that, there's no arguing. However, the comments were unjust given Craig had praised Will and Karen just a few weeks ago for a 'salsa' which consisted almost purely of Bollywood moves. We had this last year where a lift was allowed one week but not the next. I felt so sorry for poor Natalie. How are the professional dancers supposed to keep within rules when they change from week to week? 

Sorry it's a grumpy one guys. Halloween week was always going to be. But I live in hope that next week someone's going to come out and do the dance of the series. And if not, there's always Blackpool. 



Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Curse of Strictly?

It's been a bit of a drama on this series already, what with people being ill and dropping out. I hope everyone has had their flu jabs this year and are being extra careful around ladders and black cats. The tabloids are in a frenzy and everyone seems a bit fraught, maybe having a nice old dance can cheer them up? At least we always have the comedy gold that is Claudia, who appears to have entered a tanning war with Tess, they are so so so orange.

Rinder and Oksana
Those were the campest outfits since...er, Rinder's last dance? And then they added a sparkly playground, because we might as well keep those props people in employment. Now it's always hard to do a dance after someone just did a first-tens-of-the-series-showstopper, but these two put a hell of a lot of work into this and it largely paid off. OK, the technique wasn't as sharp as it could've been, but there was a lot of content and it was a fun routine, and didn't shy away from solo work from Rinder. GI Barbie Oksana was also a treat, I think she could go on to be a real Strictly trooper.

Lesley and Anton
Forget any questions about the theme, the biggest mystery was why Anton was wearing eyeliner? He looks creepy during Halloween, we don't need more. Aside from all that (and Anton's crazy trousers), this was obviously a tango, with proper choreography and music - and we should always appreciate a good tango song choice these days. It wasn't her best dance, especially in comparison to the delightful Charleston last week, and the mistakes showed and threw off the balance, and she still has issues with frame. Hopefully they will make it through, because we always want more from these two.

Greg and Natalie
Oh how we adore that multicoloured car-wash dress Natalie is wearing, it's so old-school SCD it brings a nostalgic tear to the eye. This was indeed a bit of a mess, and Greg was obviously not feeling the cha cha vibe, but he pulled his way through it and kept up. I also can't decide whether his face said 'uncomfortable' or 'smouldering', I'll stick with smouldering.

Anastacia and...Gorka!
Rumours of Brendan Cole's death have been greatly exaggerated, but thankfully Gorka stepped into the breach. Quickstep is a tricky dance to learn with a new partner, but this was definitely her best ballroom and was a delightfully old-school routine choreographed by Brendan. Anastacia also looked gorgeous, I wish Brendan could've been there to do it with her, there'd be 'This Girl' all over the place. There was indeed some gapping, but a definite improvement in technique they can't all be ringers.

Louise and Kevin
So sad to see the elephant grey fabric return, but who else would they put it on than Louise? I could see where they were going with the romance theme, rather than the 'sexy smouldering rumba' school of thought, but it was all just a bit dull. She's been very balletic and flowing so far, so I expected this to be good to an extent, but there could've been more hip action. On he plus side, the band did a beautiful performance of the song.

Ed and Katya
After last week's hilarious disaster, it was nice to see Ed allowed to do some ballroom again, even if he's forced to do it to a comedy song. The sheer concentration on his face when they were in hold was lovely, as was his foxtrot footwork...and then the lifts came! Poor thing, it's not like you get much practice at lifts when you've spent your life hanging around constituency offices. They managed to soldier on, but this is the first week when I might be worried for him...

Ore and Joanne
Well if Ore is prone to tears you might as well give him a blubfest of a song and totes emotes choreography and run with it, I can only imagine what their rumba is going to be like! There was pretty much everything you'd want from a waltz routine here, with added twiddly bits to keep you interested. There was rise and fall and control and top lines and all that, although maybe a few frantic fast moments.

Daisy and Aljaz
Will these two ever stop being delightful? This was a really fun routine without straying into gurning and Aljaz's face was a picture. I was terrified at the start that the whole thing was going to be done in the dark (I wouldn't put it past them!) but it turned out to be the sort of experimental cabaret type-thing that brightens our day. She had swivel and crispness for someone who's 5ft10 with legs that go on forever - great job guys.

Danny and Oti
I was dreading the sheer level of emooootion we were about to be exposed to, but it was actually quite smiley for a rumba and not painfully slow either. In fact, I think this was my favourite of Danny's dances! Yes, it was ringer to the max as usual, but that's better than watching another painful rumba. Maybe a bit too contempo in places, but there was still rumba in there. Only other point was that Oti was in a rather glitzy dress, spangly beaded lampshade does not usually make me think rumba.

Claudia and AJ
I've much preferred their latin to ballroom so far, and that definitely played out again this week. That and a super-spangly Lilia Kopylova dress will always win my favour. They said it was fast and it really was, it looked like the footage had been sped up at times! This was pitched as disco, but it really wasn't compared to some of the disco-sambas we've seen in the past, there was even a samba roll, which I cheered at home on the sofa because I'm sad like that. All the criticism was about the routine being so hard and fast, but she did a pretty amazing job keeping up with it and not tripping over her own feet.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Jive Talkin'

There was a lot going on with Strictly tonight, many things to discuss, but let us take a minute to discuss a rather special Tess Dress Mess - just what was that about? Comments on Twitter ranged from Christmas turkey to stretched glitterball, answers on a postcard please. Now, on with the show!


Greg and Natalie

Once I stopped harumph-ing at the death slot and Greg's floral blouse, I got into this, mainly because amid all the drama and the lifts it actually looked something like a salsa. Natalie is genius at putting together a routine that is a) entertaining b) full of content and c) suitable for her partner. Also, Greg hasn't lots any of his week 1 exuberance - shimmying away like demon and shaking that bum for all it's worth, but also a bit of progress in the hips.

I own that blouse. I picked it up in a charity shop in Southport.

Now I gave these two a vote, despite it being salsa-nothing-like-salsa-to-a-stupid-song because they had a death slot and totally deserve to stay. The music would have far better suited a cha cha cha. Our Twitter friend Marianka Dance Guru Swain is now calling for salsa to be ditched on Strictly because it has become so far removed from the dance it is utterly unrecognisable. I concur. #RIPSalsa
I refuse to believe that Natalie had anything to do with the choice of music. A dancer would not have picked that. 


Laura and Giovanni
Those outfits were a bit Jane Norman circa 2005 for me. On the whole, it was a hot mess. The song choice was great, but it meant the whole thing had to go at breakneck speed and I was pretty impressed that Laura seemed to do all the steps - if one thing had gone wrong they could've easily come tumbling down (and burst into flames amid all those man-made fibres). I feel like I would've liked to have seen her do it in Blackpool with a bigger floor and a couple more week under her belt.

Great song. Forgettable dance. Hey no one has mentioned Blackpool for a few weeks. What's going on? 

Anastacia and Brendan
In one of the very few nice dresses for this week, Anastacia gets the honour that no one really wants - the first rumba of the series. I actually thought this was quite good, very nice arms and lines from Anastacia. The song was lovely too and brought a nice atmosphere to it all, but as the judges said, it was missing a bit of technique. As with many rumbas, it didn't set the world alight, who knows if it will keep them in the show.

Brendan has choreographed some nice rumbas over the years and this wasn't bad. But Anastacia's execution of the steps wasn't great. Her knees were as bent as an iPhone 6 Plus that has been left in the back pocket of someone's Levis. 

Claudia and AJ
This was so High School Musical I can only assume Jared Murillo choreographed it (which is why it didn't look like a foxtrot). They went straight back into my 'annoying category' with this one, with the pointless 'theme', hardly any hold and stupid song choice. I still don't connect with these two, although I will admit, the producers acting like they are 12 years old doesn't really help, I can only assume they will be dressed as Pokemon next week.

Their grins were so wide and large it would have been easy to mistake them for Plasticine figures modelled by Nick Park. The dance was completely disconnected from the music. They may as well have been swaying in silence. From top of the leaderboard to forgettable in one week.

Ed and Katya
After an underwhelming opening to the show, the combination of Bonnie Tyler and Ed Balls is what we all needed. Now, no lies, it was a complete shambles, but it was full-on fun and sheer teamwork from the two of them as Katya tried to keep him on track. I was slightly distracted by Ed's feet, it looked like he was wearing silver wellies. He needs to go through, he's been spot-on at remembering his routine's every week and should be given the chance to recover - the show would suffer if we went.

Thank goodness for Ed Balls, our new and unexpected national hero. I have been making the claim that Ed can actually dance in time but I have to admit this was, in the words of Malcolm Tucker, a [insert expletive here] omnishambles. Oh but I totally mean in a good way. 

Naga and Pasha
I never really thought Naga and a Charleston was going to work, especially not when she's dressed like Rainbow Bite on acid. But actually, this worked for me more than any of her other dances, she looked like she was so much more comfortable in the routine. She looked athletic and confident, so well done to her, although the lifts were a total disaster.

How did this score less than her tango? Glad Naga decided finally to join us. She was enjoying it, showed some character and danced it well. OK, the costume looked as though it had been inspired by a pastel goth Pinterest board but definitely my favourite from her so far.

Louise and Kevin
Louise finally looking stunning in a proper ballroom dress, and amid all the frustrated-musical-theatre nonsense from Kevin, he actually managed to find the time to choreograph some proper foxtrot in there. As the judges said, her footwork was marvellous, but also enjoyed Darcey's thinly-viellled comment about her ringer-ness.

Yaaaas for the frock. She looked a delight all wrapped up in lovely. But I don't get the smiley-happy-cheesy foxtrot to an Amy Winehouse track. The song is quite clearly about a pretty dysfunctional relationship. There ain't no smiling about that. 

Danny and Oti
I'm getting really annoyed with Danny saying he's struggling with a dance every week where there isn't a shred of evidence to suggest he is. yes, this quickstep was marvellous, and the routine Oti put together was fabulous. if I'd seen someone do it in the final I would've have been delighted, but it's week four and I simply don't care. 

It was glorious. But we expected it to be. And therefore this is going to get pretty dull very soon. 

Daisy and Aljaz
The trainng footage of this looked pretty promising, but we have always learned not to get our hopes too high for a rumba. This was a cracker though, a proper rumba with lots of content and dedication from Daisy. A bit stiff in the hip in places, but I can see her doing this again in the final and it being great. Not sure about that dress though, a sultry black would've been better than Carol Vorderman nude dress.

A fair amount of content, although a little posy for me. I like those traditional rumbas with lots of basics.I haven't got all that much to say other than I thew these guys a vote too because I thought this might get lost somewhere amidst the breadth of ringers and..,Ed. 


Rinder and Oksana
Boom Bang-a Bang was actually the perfect song choice for a Rinder VW, a panto Bavarian theme not so much. There was enough waltz content from Oksana to bring it through, it's not like Rinder can't do it, but it would be good for him to have some more opportunities to work on it.

So they've definitely decided he's a dud comedy act then? What's actually interesting is it's possibly the first time we have seen dud comedy routines performed so well. He genuinely can dance but I do wonder whether Len's right and if he does go down the straight route he'll be out before Len can perform any type of fermentation on any sort of seed from the genus Juglans. #googleit #idid 

Lesley and Anton
Anton gives good Charleston, he just does. This was a great routine, crammed full of fun steps and movement, without going crazy on the lifts. Although Anton doing a cartwheel and Lesley high-kicking up a storm makes me think I should really start doing more exercise. Ok, there could've been a bit more swivel from Lesley, but how can you say that to someone having such a good time?

Week in, week out, there is something captivating about these two. I have enjoyed watching them every week but this one was particularly special. Her costume did look a little as though she were on a student St Paddy's Day bar crawl, but hey, emerald green glitter? Bring it on any time. 

Ore and Joanne
Now, when I was watching the training footage on ITT I was worried that Joanne was going to out-dance Ore in this, as pros can often do in the jive - but he kept up...just! This was easily my favourite routine from Ore, and speaking of the routine, I was unsure of the '60s theme' but it totally worked and the little touches complimented it rather than detracted from it.

But has he had prior dance training? Some say no, and some say he must have. If he's just had some lessons as a kid or student, it wouldn't put him in ringer territory for me. For me, a ringer has to have extensive full time training at a performing arts or dance school, not just happen to be really good. Does Ore just happen to be really good? I don't know but I do know I loved this jive. It didn't match Jay's for me - what I loved about that was its nonchalant cool - but this was darned close. 



Saturday, 8 October 2016

Jai... NO!

Daisy and Aljaz
Well Daisy looks like a sheer Delight as Mary Poppins, Aljaz carries Bert off pretty well too. Despite my initial reservations, the song was a delight too, perfect for a quickstep, you can't help be light-footed in a number like this. I feel like it could've been better in a few weeks when she has a bit more ballroom under her belt, but she carried it off with aplomb (sorry Clover, I stole aplomb).
Aplomb is a great word. This was nippy and nifty and, despite my utter disgust at the very thought of theme weeks, I thought Daisy and Aljaz pulled this off rather nicely. There was plenty enough quickstep to stop me moaning throughout and that's quite an achievement. Fast becoming one of my favourite pairings. 

Brendan and Anastacia
Well, we don't like too much theming, but Brendan looks like he's a been bit ill rather than a vampire. On the other side, Anastacia looked radiant, and despite the injury, we wanted to see some nice soft ballroom from her and we got it. It was simple, classic VW, basically forgetting that it was Movie Week. Good work guys, I hope it will send them through to next week.
Other than Brendan being painted the colour of a snail's trail, this was fine. It didn't set the world alight, but for a theme week, it wasn't too themey (Brendan has a knack with this sometimes) and I'm all over that. I hope Anastacia gets the chance to dance next week as she does have potential but I'm afraid the necessary injury-avoiding caution she displayed in this routine could send her packing. Oh you British public, you are heartless. 

Danny and Oti
Guyliner AND a Zorro mask, oh you spoil us Strictly...and actually, this make perfect sense as a paso anyway. Spanish, innit. This was easily my favourite dance from Danny so far, it just wasn't as cocky or uber-slick like the others. The judges raved about his lines, I think they were a bit overblown actually, he looked like a penguin at times.
It was as slick as oil sliding off a greasy spoon but dare I say it, also, too...dainty. Come on, man, I want a fierce appel! I want you to stomp that floor like you're a toddler having a tantrum in Tesco. Ole! 

Lesley and Anton
Lesley winning the Kirsty Gallagher Award for the least glamorous costume, you do have the disadvantage that hardly anyone is going to know what this dance is based on. I thought this was a cracking routine actually, loads of quickstep content, but also some fun bits that still didn't manage to break the flow of everything - Lesley has great musicality. No, it wasn't perfect, and they are never going to get over that height difference, but they have certainly earned a place for next week.
She's light on her feet, in time and more than a match for Anton. Other than copious gapping, I thought this was pretty good. Like Daisy's it had enough actual quickstep content to allow me to overlook the ridiculous costumes and theme. The music was fitting too. Lesley is far from a joke contestant and I'm looking forward to seeing what they bring next week. 

Will and Karen
Now, the training footage they showed on ITT was basically a game of 'spot the salsa step' and...that was pretty much what happened in the show. Like Len, I noticed a little bit in the middle, and actually a moment of decent hip action from Will at one point. But we are talking about 10 seconds of a 90 second dance.
There are no words. You have to do some salsa to call it salsa. This is like making someone a pancake and insisting on telling them it's spaghetti bolognese. Seriously, what is the point? 

Naga and Pasha
Speaking of lack of basic dance content, it was fun watching Naga waggle a torch, wasn't it? Really added to the drama of a tango. Actually, saying that, the song choice worked a lot better than some others, and she was obviously a lot more suited to it than the cha cha. Bruno was actually right about her having flashes of greatness marred by a lack of confidence. I was also muchos pleased to see Pasha's Cold War Spy Roll Neck Jumper make it onto the main shows.
Wow, this was a long show wasn't it? I don't even remember this dance. Were they dressed as the people you're not supposed to see changing the sets at am dram productions? 

Rinder and Oksana
This has been a bonkers journey already, so a Charleston and Fred Flintstone for Rinder seemed totally normal. Also, I've been humming the theme tune all week and it totally makes sense as a song choice. But then the routine happened, and it somehow seemed to missing something. It was a bit sloppy, and may have been a bit too technical for him, because it was missing the joy he usually exudes in a performance. Also, WHY isn't Oksana in a ginger wig as Wilma? It is the Strictly Year of the Ginger!
So they've decided they're going to send him down the path of joke contestant then? That's a darned shame because he's actually a talented dancer. His faces don't even bother me. This is what has annoyed me most about the show over recent years - if you're not a young, stage-schooled bore, then you're not allowed actually to learn how to dance. You're there to be dressed up in stupid costumes and laughed at. It's insulting really... 

Ore and Joanne
Our first opportunity to see if Ore can carry off a bit of smooth ballroom, and when you've got an American Smooth to Singin' in the Rain all the pieces are there. He carried it off...just. I think he's still more confident out of hold than in it, and too much on the toes, but the whole thing fit together in a way that was missing from Rinder's Charleston. I was also happy to see they didn't make a meal of the lifts, they fit into the routine rather than Ore throwing Jo over his head for no reason.
I wanted to like this more than I did. He has huge potential and I have to say, looked rather dashing in his suit, but something was missing here. The fact he was on his toes for every part of the routine I could see didn't help. Joanne's has demonstrated on It Takes Two that she's a talented teacher so I'm hoping to see something better from these two next week. 

Laura and Giovanni
Oh my word, that is the outfit of our Moulin Rouge-SCD mash-up dreams. What's more, Laura threw herself into this in a way we've not seen her perform a routine before. I don't think I glanced at Giovanni once during the routine, apart from gratuitous point-baiting by flirting with Bruno. I feel like it would've been better without the lifts though, Laura was partying on down until they came along and then was properly nervous.
Shock! Horror! I didn't *hate* the arrangement of this track for a Strictly-salsa. It was smooth enough to allow for moves, unlike the jerky dance like music they oh-so-often insist on using. Laura also had a bit of a *insert trademark here* Gethin-Salsa-Moment and performed with abandon. It was a side to her I wasn't expecting to see and it gave the performance more of an edge. Don't get me wrong, I still don't think it resembled anything near enough like actual salsa, but in the context of the show, I was less angry than I usually find myself... 

Greg and Natalie
Greg being endearingly awful in his VT acting AND dressed in a sub-Game of Thrones outfit, what a treat. I thought this was going to be waaaay too slow for an American Smooth, but I should have learned by now not to underestimate the genius of Natalie Lowe. He's a dab hand at lifts and she's the ultimate waltz teacher, all the pieces were there and I couldn't see them *sob* there was a typically movie-esque happy ending.
Sticky out bum? Hide it under a peplum. Who would have thought Greg would be taking fashion advice from Grazia. It worked though. No one really commented, despite his frame still being a little hunched. Oh but who cares because it's Greg and Natalie and he's NOT a stage school brat and he's NOT a performer but LOOK WHAT HE DID. Natalie is all kinds of wonderful. One of my favourite pairings for a long, long time. Can we even start to dream of another sports star winner? He's of the Goughie/Ramps realm. (Gymnasts don't count.) 

Claudia and AJ
I swing between liking and disliking these two, but they definitely won me over with this one. I have to say, I was surprised at the lack of gymnastics in this, I was expecting Claudia just to be backflipping the length of the floor, but it was all totally appropriate. Yes, she was a bit sloppy in places, but there was swivel and they'd obviously worked hard and pulled it out of the bag on the night, one slip up and it would've fallen to pieces.
I agree with Frankie that the gymnastic-level was just about appropriate. She's very good but I'm tempted to put gymnasts (female at least) in the ringer-zone due to their floor routines to music. Her charleston tonight did have a stop-start quality, as though she were pausing for breath before each move. I'd like to see a smoother performance but I suspect that will come with experience. 

Tameka and Gorka
I have to say I wasn't looking forward to this, not in a 'OMG this will be a disaster' way, more of a 'meh, movie week' way. However, through sheer force of will they managed to bring some aggression and intensity to it, and brought out the staccato beat of the bassline. I think this was more technically achieved than her Charleston actually. Not one for the ages, but better than expected.
As I have said many times, some dances are as much about the mood and style, as the actual steps. Tango is one of those dances. You take away the tango mood, put it to inappropriate music, and it's no longer really a tango. Not saying it was danced badly - it wasn't - but I didn't like it. 

Ed and Katya
After last week's (literally) barnstorming performance, the question was whether he could pull it off again, they certainly beat it for surreality on costume! Now, giving him a samba at this stage seemed a little mean, but Katya didn't try and bottle it, they were actually doing a samba routine. Ed, like Jeremy Vine last year, might not be the most naturally talented of dancers, but give him a routine and he will learn every step of it and remember it on the night - some people struggle with that throughout the whole competition.
Oh Ed, bobbing up and down dressed as a corn on the cob. I loved it. Frankie compared him to Jeremy Vine, and that's fair. Both men actually do dance. They're not lolloping about like Ann Widdecombe. Both have good timing and give it their all. He's an absolute joy to watch for this very reason, and, I hate to use the cliche, but that is what Strictly is all about, after all. 

Louise and Kevin
Louise with a bubble perm and wearing something that doesn't resemble a beige duvet cover! I have to say, it is easily the happiest she's looked doing a dance, but it was also the sloppiest. She's obviously more of a ballroom one, and often looked like she was thinking of the steps, but expectations have been very high on her. Easily the dance of hers I most enjoyed though.
Kevin dances for himself, not for his partner. Sad but really does seem to be true. It's been demonstrated with every celebrity he's had. Instead of throwing more and more complicated steps at Louise, he should strip it back and teach her some technique. She's naturally very good and that cha cha could have been at a professional-like level had her legs been straighter and the moves been sharper. Come on, man!