Sunday, 22 November 2020

Bring Back Blackpool!

This week is normally Blackpool week, but this year is 2020 and we're not allowed nice things. We did get a jolly seaside number from the pros though, who at least don't have to freeze their bits off this year. There were donkeys and beach huts galore, too bad no one got dive-bombed by a seagull. However, the show itself was definitely a pick-n-mix of oddness, with not only some weird dances but some downright insane scoring. Bring back the Blackpool glamour and history as soon as possible please!

Bill and Oti
Well they have to get the death slot one week, but still brought out a gorgeous ballroom number. This should hopefully dispel any ideas of Bill being the comedy contestant, it was actually a fairly old-school routine. Bill still needs to work on his hold a little bit, but his footwork continues to impress me. Extra points for delightful costumes and a perfect song choice too.

It was charming, and I still love them. However, I found myself a little underwhelmed. I have started to expect great things from Bill, but when you're already great, how do you progress? Bill's biggest selling point has been the sense of surprise he has offered, and let's face it, if we knew nothng about him, we would perhaps expect that classic ballroom might be a relatively strong style. So what I want to see now is for Bill and Oti to knock us down with one big samba-costume feather, with an awesome latin-flavoured, latin routine.
 
Maisie and Gorka
After the not-shocking-at-all bottom 2 moment last week, it was good to give Maisie the salsa as something more naturally suited to her. Plus an epic dress, I didn't know that much fringing was possible! I really loved this, I thought they flowed really well, great hip-action and Gorka just casually throwing Maisie over his shoulder while she somersaults. Interesting match of loosey-goosey salsa and bad-ass lifts, I hope this sees her through to next week! 

ARGH the song. ARRRRRGH the song. The music on this show was shocking - this is not to knock the band, who are wonderful, but the choices? Just no. You can't just pick the correct time signature and hope for the best. Each dance has a mood and style that needs to be expressed and the music is KEY. However, this dance really suited Maisie - salsa is latin without all the rules and regs, and that is exactly her style. Now imagine this to Hector Lavoe, or Los Van Van or, La Excelencia, or Sonora Carruseles or... 

JJ and Amy
After last week's rather messy jive it was nice to see JJ back in ballroom again, but this came across as a tad...uneventful? JJ is very endearing and clearly working hard, but it feels like the others are pulling away from him a bit. The hold wasn't great and it was a bit skippy. It certainly wasn't terrible and light enough around the floor, but it wasn't worth two 9s, that's for sure...

They are just lovely but really not keeping pace with the rest of the couples. The scoring here seemed a tad off. 
 
Clara and Aljaz
Clara had a lot to live up to after last week's darling Charleston, but unfortunately she got saddled with the samba in a completely ridiculous and distracting outfit. Yes, it's a hard one and probably not the best for her, but she gave it her all. A bit lumpy in places but not as bad as the judges made it out to be. 

I actually think samba could have been great for Clara. If she had been given a samba. If she had been given an appropriate song, and an appropriate outfit, or anything at all that made it look and feel what she was being judged to do. I have no more words. #VotesForClara 

Jamie and Karen
This felt a bit jarring after the travesty served up with Clara, but their energy certainly brought the routine to life. It was fun and played for laughs, but clearly had a lot of work and sweat put into it. Plus Karen was wearing the shiniest pants ever, they could have burst into flames at any time! I didn't love it as much as last week's samba, but it's great to see Jamie careening along and having a brilliant time.

As I keep saying, Jamie is inherently likable. I was half expecting to find this routine crass, or cringe, but it wasn't. Again, it had a weird kind of charm and I very much doubt we'll be seeing these two leave this evening.

Harvey and Janette
This had slipped under the radar for me during the week so I went into it with no expectations, but I actually really liked it! There was a real commitment to the tango style from Harvey, even with the slightly odd song choice (nowhere near as bad as some tango disasters though). The outfits were gorgeous too. It felt like a piece of calm and focus in a pretty crazy night.

The song ruined it for me. 

Caroline and Johannes
I was SCREAMING at the campness of this number, Caroline's facial expressions were worth it alone. The cha cha is supposed to be cheeky and they have it in spades, I didn't think this was going to be the best for Caroline but she took the idea and ran with it, for miles and miles. The cha cha content was pretty decent and her timing was spot on - not the most technically achieved but whatever. Johannes continues on his way to national treasure status. 

Now this was entertaining and enjoyable. It just found the perfect balance between being kitsch and camp, and technically decent. I do wonder whether Caroline's Strictly days are numbered. They are an absolute joy, but she's not sprinting out ahead of the others. But it doesn't mean she won't. It doesn't mean she can't. I would love to see that.

Ranvir and Giovanni
Another clanging change of tone, but hurrah for a classic Argentine Tango with an extra layer of filth for good measure. It wasn't perfect, but it was impressive, there was everything in this routine choreography-wise, I'm always here for the jigsaw-legs. Ranvir is really wonderful at committing to a dance, which is sometimes hard for people with little performing experience, it's great to see her developing like this. A great ending to a strange show!

Finally, an appropriate song and a dance with the appropriate mood. I felt Ranvir's frame wasn't perfect, and her legwork could definitely have been sharper. However, over all, this dance pretty much saved the show.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

The One With Antonioli

It's been another eventful week in Strictly-land, losing Katya and Nicola permanently and Motsi and Rylan for two weeks - all in the space of 24 hours! But who could step into the breach in Strictly's hour of need, our knight in shining armour is...Anton? It felt inevitable in a way and after a couple of dances it became clear he wasn't going to rock the boat. In contrast, this was an odd edition of the show, a few people flagging, some surprises at the end and then it started raining 10s! Let's get down to business...
Harvey and Janette
This looked good on ITT and meant they were going into it with expectations very high, but Harvey took it in his stride! Janette threw a proper routine at him plus some fairly complicated lifts and he delivered it whilst also looking like he was having a good time. Actual hip action and good footwork, was it worth the first 10 of the series? Possibly not, but it got things off to an exciting start. 
I refuse to comment due to the ridiculous song choice, made all the more insulting by the VT featuring Janette talking about her latin heritage. SALSA MUSIC PLEASE.

Ranvir and Giovanni
I wasn't really on board with this from the start, I think Giovanni making her start on her own was a mistake as it made her nervous. It was technically ok, but she seemed to be cringing throughout it like she wanted it to end. The judges were overly kind in their comments, which felt a bit patronising as she knew it wasn't great. I hope this doesn't knock her confidence though because she clearly can dance and deserves the chance to learn more. 
Great music, but it seems as though Ranvir might be more of a ballroom girl. I actually thought the judges were a bit harsh. Her technique could have been sharper but it wasn't bad at all. Her performance however, was a little tentative. Acting lesson required klaxon! Threw some votes her way as I definitely don't want to see her leaving just yet...

Max and Dianne
Well thank goodness Max survived the yellow paint ordeal (despite appearing to be terrified of his own reflection) and was allowed to do some proper ballroom. Plus Dianne looking like a sexy Christmas tree in a gorgeous art deco number. I actually agreed with Anton, Max and Dianne work very well together, it's one of the strongest things he has going for him. He does need a breakthrough though; this wasn't technically amazing and he's going to need to standing out more soon. 
Meh. I get the sense that he's improving but it is slow and steady. He's not great, and he's not bad. And somewhere in the middle isn't the safest place to be in Strictly Land.

JJ and Amy
Ooh they were always going to get JJ in uniform given half the chance. Amy's shiny khaki playsuit looked like some sort of terrible mid-2000s fashion disaster in comparison, she does rock a victory roll though. This was his weakest dance so far, a bit like Ranvir and the cha cha, it just doesn't suit him. He did commit to it and it was decent, but his feet just weren't sharp enough and he seemed a bit stiff. Hopefully they can *solider on* into next week! 
It wasn't bouncy or energetic enough; JJ did the classic 'stand still and kick leg' style favoured by middling contestants over the years. However, I suspect this was just a style that didn't suit him. He's absolutely a ballroom guy - but will he see enough improvement in latin to make it to the end?

Maisie and Gorka
This was amusingly kitsch, I liked seeing them have fun with the cha cha and the song. However, like a lot of people this week, it wasn't Maisie's best dance. I think the excess focus on technique and footwork meant she lost a bit of her performance sparkle, that and Gorka's shorts, which looked a tad uncomfortable. Those legs were definitely straight though, which is apparently all that matters in a cha cha these days. Onwards and upwards guys!
Maisie's a natural. But she just doesn't seem to be picking up the detail of technique required. You could see she was trying, but something just hadn't clicked. I can see her shining in the non-regulated dances - salsa, charleston, 'Couple's Choice'. The judges care less about technique in these (they aren't experts after all) and Maisie's carefree style should shine. 

Bill and Oti
Oh dear, Couple's Choice, but at least it's Bill and Oti generally larking about once more. It was fun and charming, but didn't blow the roof off in they way we needed. It was packed with elements and props to contend with, but Bill took it like a walk in the park and was once again completely in time with Oti. To me it was more like a hip-hop themed piece of musical theatre, but that is the genius of Oti bringing out the best in her partners. 
I hate Couple's Choice. But I couldn't hate this. I honestly think there is nothing Oti could choreograph (although I appreciate they probably had support with this one) that I wouldn't like. Bill just shines when he is dancing. Hurrah. 

Caroline and Johannes
Oh gosh, the hammiest of songs, this was more musical theatre than last week's Couple's Choice. This was definitely Caroline back in her comfort zone and it showed as her and Johannes were able to work together and produce a lovely classic waltz. I wish someone would compliment my ankles the way Shirley did!  
Classic beginner ballroom waltz song. This was OK. Caroline is clearly enjoying the experience but I would like to see her start to improve even more...

Jamie and Karen
This was the unexpected surprise of the night, Jamie and Karen suddenly brought the party and woke us up! Extra points for attack and teamwork, they just pointed themselves at the end of the dance and hurtled towards it like there was no tomorrow. Fair play to Karen, there was plenty of samba in there and a good stab at samba bounce. I think she just decided to keep Jamie moving at all times! Overmarked but joyful. 
Wow, well this was a bundle of joy. Jamie's timing isn't the best but props to Karen for keeping this under control. This was cheeky, bouncy and fun. 

Clara and Aljaz
Hurrah for Clara finally getting a breakthrough and some love from the judges! This was a super-charming routine from start to finish, well done Aljaz, and gave Clara a great way to channel her musicality. Lovely swivels and great attention to detail, it was the best way to end the show. What a joy to see her at the top of the leaderboard!
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaas! <3 

Saturday, 7 November 2020

The Good, The Bad and The Simpsons

Welcome back everyone, it's been an eventful week but we always have Strictly ready on hand to bring us sparkle and joy. Plus a rather fun James Bond pro routine with every gimmick in the book plus Johannes flying dressed as Grace Jones - that's right, it's Movie Week! Alas, despite us killing off Halloween week, we had an extra abundance of theming this year, but there's also some treats thrown in for good measure. Grab your popcorn and off we go

Boo theme week!
Nicola and Katya
In a week with a LOT of costume insanity, these two came off loooking pretty cool, including Nicola's epic victory roll. In fact, given it was a half decent song choice and theme Katya managed to put together something that was pretty much a normal jive, hurrah! Nicola performed this well, she just seems to have natural cool, but it wasn't as well-executed as some of her other dances. A bit flat-footed for the jive in some places, it just needed tidying up a bit. These two have oodles of more to give, but maybe have them dance something slow next time?
As far as themes go, it wasn't the worst or most inappropriate; I can accept a Grease-themed jive. Nicola danced well, and the choreography was decent (although not as epic as Katya has shown she can do in the past). The dance could have been sharper however.

Maisie and Gorka
Here we are with massive wig number 1, Maisie could be charging a lot to attend children's birthday parties in that outfit. This wasn't terrible by a long way, but it was my least favourite of Maisie's dances so far, I think Gorka might need to calm down a bit and stop throwing everything possible at their routines. She also suddenly came alive when they broke hold, but we know from last week's epic tango that she can do well in hold.
I was mildly underwhelmed, which is a shame, because Maisie is a beautiful dancer. 
 
Caroline and Johannes
Caroline going full luvvie during Movie Week, well why not?! All the bits were here, the dress, the staging, the hammy acting at the start, but I felt a bit underwhelmed by it. Caroline did a great job with what she was given, but it just looked a bit simplistic, especially coming after Gorka throwing the frozen kitchen sink into his routine. Marvellous arms and musicality as ever, I still want them back every week.
Again, underwhelmed. And I have LOVED these two the past two weeks. I think, we gotta get rid of the gimmicks. This year's bunch of celebs are really good - the themes distract from rather than enhance their performances. No more theme weeks! 
 
Jason and Luba
Ah, the Star Wars paso doble, I remember when we used to use the term "It was one step away from a Star Wars tango" to describe a ridiculous routine, now we get something like this at least once a year. This incarnation was...a bit weird but not totally dislikeable. I think the music was a bit too sweeeeeeping for a paso doble and they just couldn't get over it looking incongrous. On the plus side, Jason gave it his all and that is quite endearing, the impassioned kneeslide was something to behold! 
Yes, I remember the days when we thought a Star Wars tango was a weird, weird thing from across the Atlantic. But that tango actually had tango in it. Where was the Paso in this? 

JJ and Amy
Could these two be any more wholesome? I barely even noticed the theme, it was just a sweet, light number with two people who work really well together. JJ clearly has some good ballroom talent in him and he's really light on his feet. I worry for him when party latin comes along, but for now I think we should enjoy watching someone learn.
Cute. Well executed. Nice frame. One of the best dances of the night. 

HRVY and Janette

And in a clanging change of gears, we are back to theme-o-rama with this cha cha based on gnomes. If only there was a recent film about Elton John they could have used....As the judges said, this was very light on cha cha content, but they delivered it very well. Harvey just knows how to dance, when you can see him through the CGI and stuck-on beard. 

HRVY is really good. What was waste of a cha cha. He couldn't apply decent technique because of stupid footwear, and the whole gnome theme? Seriously? It completely overshadowed what should have been a joy to watch. Badly done, Strictly, badly done. 

Ranvir and Giovanni

An over-the-top wig that actually works, the 60s were a crazy time and Ranvir looks a million dollars. This woman just comes alive with the right outfit. Once again, the less gimmicky you are, the better your routine is, Gio did a great job with this and Ranvir had clearly worked on her ballroom basics. Her hold had improved since last week and she seemed more confident in her footwork. My favourite routine of hers so far. 

YAAAAAS, this is more like it. Loving the Lancashire lass coming top of the leaderboard. This was genuinely lovely. 

Jamie and Karen
When wigs attack, Hercules will be here to drop you on your head. It gave a shot of energy and hilarity to the show, plus Jamie was clearly more comfortable with a daft Charleston than suave ballroom. Saying that, it was pretty messy and Jamie could have done with a bit more swivel. Extra points for Karen's amazing gold boots, although maybe not points as high as 8s! 
It was entertaining but not really charleston. Jamie still has potential for a journey, but I really question whether Karen is the pro that can take him there.

Clara and Aljiaz
I'd been waiting for this one all week and I absolutely loved it! It was not a traditional tango song, but what they missed in dark drama they made up for in sex. Aljaz also did amazing things with the choreography, pulling out some sharp tamgo moments from a disco beat is quite the thing. That then gave Clara the confidence to sell it for all it was worth, I whooped more than once. She's progressing each week and had better be back for more.
This song for me way more suits a cha cha, but this was decent. In fact, it was more than decent and I don't really know what the judges were laying into. This rings of Anita Rani. #JusticeforClara 

Max and Dianne
The dance I was least looking forward too and it played out like the acid trip that I was expecting. Yes, I suppose it was in time and Max executed all the steps, but I'm still not sure what it was supposed to be. Maybe we just make a pact never to mention this routine ever again?
MY EYES. MY EYES! 

Bill and Oti
Well thank goodness for these two, just bringing us technically detailed, offbeat amazing routines week after week. Bill's Spanish line was only beaten by his footwork in the technical achievement stakes. Oti also put together a marvellous paso, she really used the way the music built to give us something with real tension. Plus the genius of the flamenco interlude, it was a like a nod to Movie Week gimmickry, but didn't break the mood of the dance. Long may they reign!
Of course Oti wouldn't let a little issue such as an out-there theme or over-the-top costumes get in the way of a dance actually looking like a dance. She is exceptional. Bill is growing each week. Hurrah! 


Sunday, 1 November 2020

No Hallo-theme Week

So, often I don't blog this week; Frankie usually excuses me due to my extreme dislike of theme weeks (particularly Halloween) but hey, NO HALLOWEEN WEEK. It also hit me mid-show yesterday evening that there's no way 'human props' aka backing dancers can be used this year.  Silver linings, eh? I am here for this pared back old-school-Strictly vibe; add that to the generally high standard of dancing so far this year, and I think we are in for a great series.

Max and Diane

He's no Jay. But that's OK. I haven't got much more to say.*

*I just wanted to make that rhyme. In all fairness, this was a decent jive. The judges praised the energy of it but to be honest, I would have liked to see more bounciness and spring action from Max; he was a tad stompy, and when he travelled across the floor, it looked like he was on a purposeful walk - you know, the sort of walk you do back to the shop when you realise you've forgotten to buy milk? Yeah, that. However, the timing was spot on and the dance was full of content. All in all, a job well done.

Clara and Aljaz

Ah, they were not going to let us get away with no Halloween theme-age at all, were they? I can handle this level and I quite liked the dark, smoulderiness of this dance. They got into hold nice and quickly, and there wasn't too much messing about. Clara's feet were skippy however, and it looked as though she messed up some steps (although that could have been when she got her foot caught). I am not convinced that was a real fleckerl* but at this stage in the competition, we should be able to forgive that. Props for the alt prom dress frock - Clara looked amazing. She definitely has potential so I swung her a vote.

*correct me if I am wrong.

Bill and Oti

I was NOT expecting this. Bill, your footwork and timing were exemplary. Oti, you are basically amazing. This was so full of fun, and joy; it was genuinely technically sound, and it was my favourite dance of the night. The only negative I can think of is the CGI menagerie but we can't really blame Bill for that. I suspect Bill will definitely continue to be strong on the ballroom; if Oti can help him master the latin too, there'll be no stopping him. Their reactions to the well-deserved scores were all kinds of adorable.

JJ and Amy

JJ was visibly nervous - and who wouldn't be - but I would like to commend his shaping. He was precise throughout and you could see how much work and thought had gone into it. It needed more oomph, but to be honest, I don't think the song/musical arrangement helped in that respect; it was a little delicate for a Paso, in my opinion, and the choreography seemed a little sparse - perhaps in reaction to that. I have no doubt that JJ has potential.

Jamie and Karen

Jamie is very likable and this makes him fun to watch. I had suspected he might have had a bit of informal ballroom dance experience; he definitely seems like the sort of person who may have found himself at a formal ball before now. However, now I have seen him dance, I suspect that even if he had, he probably bopped along on the edge of the dancefloor, rather than swept a lady up into a waltz. This was much better than last week, and I think if Karen employed the same level of extreme training methods as Oti, Jamie's sticking-out-bottom would be sorted out in no time. We can tell Jamie has potential because of the high standard to which he executed the out of hold segments. I was mildly distracted by the song, which just makes me think of Joey dancing with Trigger.

Maisie and Gorka 

Let's talk about Maisie. She is young, talented and confident and I am so disappointed by some people's assessment that, for some reason, this makes her annoying. The audience rarely punishes young men for confidence, so let's not punish Maisie - isn't this exactly what we would want our daughters (if we had them) to be?* I really loved this dance. It had attack and drama. It needs some refinement, technically, but for her to be dancing like this so early on, is a credit to her.

*Completely freaked out by the realisation that I am old enough for Maisie actually to be my daughter.

Jacqui and Anton 

I was most surprised - and quite put out - by the lack of flouncy sleeves on Anton's shirt. I was expecting those, and if I am honest, I was also expecting maracas. This dance particularly took me back to Strictly's early days, with no theme, and when the dancing standard was generally much, much lower. It had classic, basic samba steps but do I think it's enough to keep Jacqui in beyond this week? Probably not. But I'm often wrong. 

HRVY and Janette

He is good. He is very  good. He also has the endearing cheeky-chappiness of Joe Sugg, and clearly a very good working relationship with his dance partner. In other years, he might have been a dead cert winner from the beginning but this year, he does have some very strong competition. 

Ranvir and Giovanni 

In an evening of surprises, this was unfortunately one of the more forgettable dances. Ranvir is beautiful, and has potential, but there were some technical issues that can't be ignored. Footwork could have been cleaner and there were some timing issues. I don't get all the hating on her dress though - I really liked it - it's very picnic-in-a-field, which is exactly the vibe I expect they were going for. I hope very much that Ranvir doesn't get lost in this. If she can come out with a breakout dance in the next few weeks, that will certainly help.

Nicola and Katya

Ugh, Couple's Choice. Perhaps I should be happy one of my favourite partnerships has got it out the way early. I could tell Nicola really loved this, and that was a joy to see, but I am just not here for it. However, I think it did show how much potential she could have in Charleston, Salsa, Jive... and I just can't wait to see those. 

Caroline and Johannes

Oh, just cancel it all and let's see a Caroline and Bill final. How awesome - and different - would that be? A traditional Paso Doble is what we all needed yesterday. This was beautifully placed, but I agree with the judges that Caroline seemed a little hesitant this week. And I too, urge her not to be. She is clearly naturally an exquisite dancer and I can't wait to see more. Now let's talk about her partner: Johannes for Prime Minister. Johannes for anything, really. Give him his own show. He is one of the brightest things about 2020. 

Jason and Luba

A surprise choice for the pimp slot. I had my tweet typed out ready - you know it - THAT IS NOT SALSA. I found myself in the weird position of having to delete it, and confess that it actually did have some salsa in it. Not only that, the musical arrangement had a latin segment. I'm not saying the dance was perfectly executed (it wasn't bad thought) but the simplicity of it was really nice. I know some people on Twitter disagreed with me regarding the fact there was salsa in it, but hey, I danced it for 10+ years and it's actually not about the tricks and jumps and lifts; it doesn't really have many complicated steps and this one was packed full of fun basics. 

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Strictly Sunshine

Welcome back to the land of dance, camp and glitter! Strictly is here with a very interesting selection of people and loads of excitement to come for the series. It's the vitamin D injection that the government may/may not insist on you having to get through the winter. We even got a super-sunny opening number with the pros living it up in a street food market, bring me a margarita and let's get down to business!

Jamie and Karen
I was not expecting Jamie in the coveted first dance position! Does this mean he's getting to final? It's not a given, but this fun little number showed some possibilities. He didn't look great during the launch show but Karen has clearly whipped him into some sort of shape in the past couple of weeks, there was more rhythm for sure. I also loved the reinvention of the song as an 80s party anthem, especially when it gives us Karen starting 2020 with yet more amazing outfits. A promising start for a beginner. 
 
Caroline and Johannes
I don't think I've seen an interview with Caroline yet where she hasn't mentioned her dancing experience, she's owning it and it seems to be a good tactic. She's clearly confident out of hold with great arms and knows how to perform her moves, but she'll need to do more work on the stuff in hold. This was a lovely performance and exactly what we wanted, even if the CGI porn train was quite a distraction! 

Max and Dianne
I don't normally approve of a week 1 tango, but Max seemed to grab the technicality of this fairly well. He seemed to adapt to hold well enough and was in time, very very bent knees though. Plus compulsory blue-steel tango face. Like Craig though, I was left wanting a bit more, he's going to have to express a bit more in the latin dances. Rubbish tango song, but that's what we've come to expect in the past few years.

Clara and Aljaz
These two are very much on my 'Ones to Watch' list, so I was very excited for this and Clara's tinsel outfit. This was a brilliant opening cha cha! It was all you wanted to see, with cheeky accents and a great relationship between the two of them. She has some rough edges but clearly a lot of raw talent and I can't wait to see what Aljaz can bring out in her.

Jacqui and Anton
A week one foxtrot with Anton, you say? Well blow me down with a feather. This wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't very good either. Jacqui had a fair stab at doing this rather difficult ballroom dance though, so I wonder what she has for week 2 to build on it. However it was also ridiculously prop-tastic and the fireworks were needed to wake things up.

JJ and Amy
Oh this was schmaltzy, but we could do with a bit of that right now. Amy knew just how to pitch this and gave JJ a good waltz but nothing too advanced for week one. I saw rise and fall and a good stab at musicality for someone with no performing experience. Good tactic with the judges to go for classic and lots of basic steps and in lovely classy outfits too, it felt a bit old school. There's a long way to go but we might have a contender here.

Maisie and Gorka
What. A. Frock. This was an old-school Strictly samba dress and all the better for it, just bring us the camp we want! As expected, these two came out all guns blazing with the kind of energy we love to see. Gorka must be having the time of his life after being benched last year. Yes, it got a bit wild at times and that impacted on the technique, but the girl has rhythm and boy can she shimmy! Ballroom will be a different beast for her, but I'm excited to see it. 
 
Jason and Luba
Can Jason shrug off the lumbering male sportsman tag? Possibly. This dance was actually quite bonkers, there was skipping about and dad dancing interludes when I was expecting, well, something smoother. He was light enough on his feet but also a bit hunched. He does however have enthusiasm in spades, so maybe he'll be better at party latin? 
 
Ranvir and Giovanni
A Beyonce paso in week one for someone with no dance experience was....ambitious, but they certainly gave us good frock! Extra points to Ranvir for coming out on her own too, Gio wasn't going easy on her. This dance was about 80% attitude and 20% technique, her footwork wasn't that great but she performed it much better than I was expecting. I was even occasionally distracted from Gio's weird emo fringe. 

Nicola and Katya
Another highly anticipated dance, this didn't disappoint. A lovely peppy quickstep that played to Nicola's strengths with lots of flying around the dancefloor and changing of direction. The switching of hold was also pretty impressive. I'm sure there's lots more to come from these two and Katya is ready to dish us up all sorts of choreographic treats. 

Bill and Oti
The return of champion Oti Mabuse here to bring us sunshine for 2020 and she's also bringing the unexpected delight of Bill into our living rooms for the winter. This was a joy from start to finish, Bill might not be a boyband ringer, but he has rhythm and musicality and is clearly hell-bent on having a marvelous time. I'm already desperate to know what dance they're doing next week!

Harvey and Janette
The young upstart was in the pimp slot so he needed to impress, but this boy can move! As with a lot of people tonight, it wasn't technically perfect, but the raw materials were certainly there. He was fast and bouncy and clearly very suited to the jive. A bit flat-footed at times, but I don't want to be too Craig about it. A good way to finish off the night too, there's clearly lots of excitement to come this series!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The Winning Formula - Version 12!

Here we are again, in an attempt to bring some much-needed normality back to us I armed with the ever-reliable Winning Formula to work out who will win Strictly this year. Well, I say ever-reliable, but last year the only finalist the formula predicted was Karim and he was a massive ringer. Although it wasn't really possible to predict Kelvin at the time, so I'm going to say it balanced out. There's only 12 celebs this year, so surely our odds of predicting the winner have improved? 
 
Formula don't fail me now, let's get 2020 sorted out! 

1) Get the party started
How annoying to start on a frustrating variable, do real scientists have to deal with this? The person who dances first usually gets to the final. Last year we got Alex first, who popped onto our screens with a peppy quickstep and general positive vibe, it all seemed like it could happen at that point! To be fair, she made the quarterfinals before she was felled by the Musicals Week randomness. All I'll say is that they rarely put a duffer on first, so watch whoever gets out there first on Saturday. 

2) Quit your day job
Is this the year when they finally level the playing field and we have contestants who aren't doing anything else at the same time as Strictly? Maybe those bubbles do have their benefits! I am hoping that Maisie has escaped the Eastenders curse of being expected to record Christmas scenes on the Square in the middle of the night after doing 12 hours training. People like Caroline and Bill don't have much else going on performance-wise, while you also have the recent professional retirees like Nicola and people whose job seems to just be being themselves like Jamie. Does Clara have time off from Radio 1 or is she going to pull the old BBC-presenter trick? Only time will tell...  

3) Blondes don't have more fun
Once again, the British public did not elect a blonde to win Strictly last year - we didn't even get a blonde in the quarterfinals - what gives? Jamie Biscuits was the most high-profile 'curse of the blondes' last year and hilariously they've given him a partner with the same haircut as him! So it wasn't too surprising that we don't see to have many blonde contestants this year, apart from Jamie I would put JJ and Bill in the 'fair' category rather than trademark blonde. Plus we have a hotly-tipped redhead this year: could Maisie be our second ginger winner? Stranger things have happened...
 
4) Latin fever 
This variable is now seeming more and more of a given, as the only pro left who specialises in ballroom is Anton. Plus there aren't any new pros this year because no one had the mental or physical strength to make that happen in a global pandemic. But it remains true that Joanne Clifton remains our shining exception as the only non-latin specialist to win the show. Anton, despite getting to the final again last year, I don't think 2020 is the year you'll be flying the flag for the ballroom brand. 
 
5) Age is more than a number
Otherwise known as 'life begins at 42', it still seems weird that Joe was our first and only winner over 40. So what does 2020 hold for us? We have some fairly young contestants in Maisie and HRVY but there's also quite a range this year. Poor Jason is hitting the dancefloor at exactly 42 however, he should have signed up last year! Our over-42 contestants this year are Bill, Caroline, Jacqui and Ranvir - could one of them break this sparkly ceiling and win this year?

6) Embrace the sparkle!
If there was ever a year the literal and metaphysical sparkle needed to be embraced, it's this one. Thankfully it looks like our chosen 12 are all raring to go and ready to have a good time. We've got superfan Clara, Nicola skipping all over TikTok, Caroline ready to camp it up, and that's just for starters. As ever, there's some people who might take a while to come out of their shell, like JJ, who I think is going to be guided expertly by Amy this year. Plus I can't wait to see what irreverent fun Bill is going to dish up along the way. This show is going to be such a tonic! 

So here is that all-important equation once again, and our predicted finalists for the 2020...

Dance first - day job + brunette x latin pro - 42 years old + sparkle = winner!

Clara
Jamie
Maisie
Max
Nicola

As ever, the first dancer on the opening show will be added to the list - in the meantime, let us know what you think and vote in our poll!

Saturday, 17 October 2020

You Have Now Entered The Strictly Bubble

Strictly has begun! Phew, it didn't look like we'd make it at some points this year, so bring on the sparkles and sequins for 2020. We started the show with some wafty pros getting chilly on the beach before taking us on a tour of National Trust properties. I suppose it's nice to remind us what the outside world looks like. The show has often been here to get us through the long winter nights and this year it feels more important than ever.
Caroline and...Johannes!
What a great pairing to kick things off with! These two are going to be theatrical and dramatic and all that jazz, what a delight. Caroline is also well and truly owning her ballet past, a tactic to ward off ringer accusations from the beginning?  

Clara and...Aljaz! 
Another good partnership! It's always a good sign when your celeb partner runs around screaming when they're realised you're been put together. Loving Clara being a superfan and obsessed with her song choices and when you add the forever delightful Aljaz to the mix you have a couple to watch. 

Ranvir and...Giovanni!
A slightly more left-field pairing, but mostly because Ranvir is very much an unknown quantity when it comes to dancing. Gio has worked so hard with his partners over the years to bring the best out of them, so let's see what he comes up with this time.

HRVY and...Janette!
I didn't see this one coming, but then again I'm barely aware of Harvey as a concept. He was also one of the surprises of the night in the group number. Could he reach the heights of Joe Sugg? There's a long way to go...

Jason and...Luba!
I did see this one coming, Luba is statuesque and awesome - these two could make some waves together! Also, I don't mean this in an insulting way, but Jason is the most American person ever. It's like he's a GI who's come to sell us nylons or something.  

Jamie and...Karen?!
We all thought it would be Oti; I love Karen but this really feels like a missed opportunity. Saying that, I'm sure they'll get on like a house on fire. There's bound to be a lot of laughs along the way and I really hope Jamie gets to have the Strictly journey he deserves.

Nicola and...Katya!
The rumours were true and thank goodness for that! If there was a pro who could take on the innovation of the first same-sex partnership it's Katya. Nicola has a lot to give as a contestant and she's bound to put together some amazing routines for her. Get on it girls!

Jacqui and...Anton
I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to hear Jacqui had been paired with Anton. I feel like we've been here a few times before, so should we predict an early exit?  

Maisie and...Gorka!
Now this is an exciting pairing! These two look like they have the final written all over them and they're going to come at this competition full throttle. The big question is whether Maisie can overcome the ringer tab, but people are also so happy to have Gorka back that it is bound to help. 
 
JJ and...Amy!
This is just lovely and they will spend all series being lovely together. I don't have much more to say at the moment really, although I'm hoping he gets something simple like a waltz to begin with. Also, Amy looks better blonde than Gorka does.
 
Bill and...Oti!
I did not anticipate this, mostly because I was obsessed with her dancing with Jamie. They do look like they're going to have a brilliant time though and I spied Bill doing some good moves with rhythm in the group number. Could they be this season's surprise? 
 
Max and...Dianne! 
Lucky Dianne, she's had quite the mix of partners over the years and now she's landed herself the male favourite for the year. He's always going to be in the shadow of Jay though and I hope they keep him away from the jive for a while.
 

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Strictly's 2020 Vision

Welcome back ladies and gents, we didn't know for a while if we'd be here, but it appears the glittery Strictly wagon is rolling into town (local restrictions permitting) for 2020. 

There's only 12 contestants this year and we still don't quite know how the format is going to play out, so there's a fair few question marks to consider. Saying that, the makeup of this line-up doesn't seem particularly out of the ordinary for Strictly - there's popstars and sports people and politicians, oh my! This comes despite the tabloids telling us all the big names would be queuing up to do the show as everything else has been cancelled, whatever, you know you'll be rooting for someone you've never heard of after two weeks anyway.

Caroline Quentin
This got us off to a good start, everyone just seems to love Caroline and she's super-excited to get going on Strictly. I know her from TV in 90s-tastic shows like Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek (will there be a mystery-themed dance with her partner in a duffle coat?), but she's also done a lot of theatre over the years which will stand her in good stead. Plus, as Alex Jones was very quick to mention on the One Show reveal, she did some dancing in her youth - could we be on to something good here?
Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Readers, I have heard of her. She gets an automatic ten. 
 
Jason Bell
Some of us struggle with identifying sports people, but bringing in AMERICAN sports people is in another league *boom boom*. So yeah, drew a blank with Jason but he seems very keen and...American. Aren't American footballers supposed to be fast as well as strong? That could work. Plus he's 6ft, which is tall for a dancer but not ridiculous. Hopefully he's not too competitive, because as we've learned the British public does not take well to that. Kind of hoping his ex Nadine Coyle will be inspired to finally do the show. 
Clover Awareness Rating: 0. Readers, I have not heard of him. At first I thought I heard it as Jamie Bell. Who would have been the ringer to end all ringers. But no, I can't imagine many have heard of him in the UK tbh? Surely we have not run out of British sports people. 

Max George
The lengths they will go to to try and make Jay McGuiness come back for a visit, even during a pandemic! He's go a lot to live up to, but I imagine is fairly confident due to boyband experience and, randomly, being on the final series of Glee. I don't know what it is, but he reminds me of Matt Goss From Bros, which just makes me sad that we don't seem to have gotten that delightful loon on the show again this year.
Clover Awareness Rating: 3. I haven't heard of him, but I have heard of The Wanted. Yes, yes, that's only because of Jay McGuinness maybe, but hey. Get a Bros on Strictly. 

Ranvir Singh
This year's 'make sure to get coverage on ITV' contestant is GMB's Ranvir Singh, which feels like a perfectly sensible signing. Sorry people, but it looks like Ben Shephard and his degree and in dance will never be making it onto the show. Ranvir feels like an unknown quantity here, so happy to see how it turns out. Plus she's from Preston, so we feel a bit of local loyalty there. What a shame it's unlikely we'll go to Blackpool this year, they could have milked it no end!
Clover Awareness Rating: 5. I had heard her name but I'm not sure I could have placed where from. She went to a school local to us. That school always used to beat us in netball matches. 
 
Clara Amfo
The fabulous Clara seems like another contestant who is raring to get out on the dancefloor and mingle with the whole Strictly experience. She always seems to be around music, whether it's Radio 1, Top of the Pops or the Brits, so let's hope she can channel some musicality into this. It doesn't appear she has any dance experience, so could be a bit of a dark horse - I guess it could all depend on her pro partnership.
Clover Awareness Rating: 0. Sorry, Clara. I barely know anyone off the radio.
 
Nicola Adams
Nicola is finally in the Strictly ballroom! Fans have been calling for her to take part for a few years now, plus her retirement from boxing last year means she's got the time to devote herself to the task. Her TikTok dancing moves plus her flyweight category boxing suggests she could be quite fleet-of-foot. I sounded like I knew what I was talking about then, didn't I? Of course all media attention will be on which female pro she's going to partnered with, but irrespective of that, she has a lot to give to the show and is a top j-word contender already.
Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Olympic gold medal winner. Enough said. And it's about time we had a same-sex partnership. I used to go dancing with someone who was an amateur boxer. He said they were surprisingly similar so I'm expecting her to be light on her feet.
 
JJ Chalmers
Another sports person? Amid the smaller line-up this year that means a quarter of our contestants are sporty (while Maisie is ginger and Jamie is posh, ha!). JJ hasn't really been on my radar before, but he certainly seems to be up to the challenge after being injured whilst serving as a Marine and then going on to win medals at the Invictus games - this is a guy who's notafraid of hard work. His presenting work means he should be at home in front of the camera, but a lack of performing experience might be a challenge. But as we've seen before, a great pro could make all the difference.
Clover Awareness Rating: 5. I had heard the name and that he's something to do with sports presenting, but that was all I knew. Sounds like a worthy competitor however. If the performing is a problem, make like Lilia and book him an acting lesson! #WorkedOnDawson 

Bill Bailey
A bit more of an unusual signing, but a welcome one! This might be our more covid-impacted signing for the year as so many live comedy and music gigs have been cancelled. Bill is clearly going to be marketed as the dad-dancer for the year, which could be both good and bad. I don't expect him to be terrible as he's a musician first and foremost, so hopefully he'll be given a chance. Plus he has a whopping 3.3m followers on Twitter so there's definitely a fanbase there! If there is a movie week I BEG you, Strictly crew, please don't dress him up as a Hobbit.
Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Ha. Will he be this year's race to the bottom? I'm hoping he'll surprise us. 

Jamie Laing
Poor little Jamie Biscuits is alive and well, and ready to finally hit the dance floor! As we said last year, he's a good egg with a history of being self-deprecating on reality TV. All he needed to do was apply himself and there's an extra incentive to do that this time. The big question is will he be partnered with Oti again? They did look like they'd have a whale of a time! I expect they're now keeping him in a padded sterilised room for the next few weeks....
Clover Awareness Rating: 10. This. Was. Not. A. Surprise. I can't remember what I said in my opening post about him last year, but: that. 

Maisie Smith
Ooh now this is an intriguing contestant. Spoiler: she's done a lot of stage school and musical theatre stuff, but I'm guessing the audience doesn't associate her with that. She's also the youngest contestant this year at 19 and in my head she'll always be about 6 as the brilliant little ginger Tiffany, even though her character is much more grown-up now. There's a lot of pressure and expectation that comes with that too, so I hope she's ready for it. Plus I have no idea how they're going to write her out of the Eastenders bubble. surely she can't do both this year? I will no longer stand for this excessive working of Eastenders stars!
Clover Awareness Rating: 4. No idea who she is but I HAVE heard of the original Eastenders Tiffany. So she can have some points for that. Let's have another ginger winner of Strictly!

HRVY
I'm sorry, what? Are we sure that's not his number plate? Yes, yes, I know I sound like your granny, but I'm just going to call him Harvey and that will be that. As you may have guessed, this one is very much an unknown quantity for me. He has the youth on his side, does he come with a ready-made fanbase like Joe Sugg? Popstar experience also means performing experience. I guess the raw materials are there and we'll see pretty quickly whether he'll have potential.
Clover Awareness Rating: 0. I'm going to call  him Huh-Ruh-Vuh-Yuh.

Jacqui Smith
Well this was a dramatic change of gear! 2020 was not the year I expected the return of the politician to Strictly, but then again, this year has taught us not to expect anything. Please, no references to W*ddy, we've suffered enough this year. You might not associate Jacqui with performing, but she did reveal her secret performing background on Twitter, having won a bronze medal for Scottish Highland Dancing - ringer alert! Bit of a weird one to end the announcements on, but that's your class of 2020.
Clover Awareness Rating: 5. I have heard of her but tbh couldn't quite remember what position she had held. Not someone I was expecting at all. Is she set for Anton?

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Floti-ing Through The Final!

It's been a funny ol' year, but here we are at the final all of a sudden! Lots of people have commented that it has come round quick this year and we'd agree it only feels like last week poor Jamie Biscuits fell over. We're back to over two hours in the show with more padding than a DFS sale, so grab your Strictly Snacks as we do this for one last time in 2019...

As ever, we're not going to make a meal of dances we've already seen for the final. Karim delightfully darted around in that quickstep like the poppet he is. Emma's Charleston was just as enjoyable and I think I liked it more because you could actually see Anton this time so it felt more like a Strictly dance. Kelvin brought us THAT rumba with extra hips on top, anyone who can make a rumba my favourite dance of the series certainly deserves a 40, so just get out of here Craig.

But now here's the showdances, where the real peril is because anything can happen!

Karim and Amy
We knew this was going to be contempo from the ITT footage, which now just seems to be a stalwart of the final, plus their outfits even looked the same as last time. This didn't have the wow factor for me that I want in a showdance, but I did feel it suddenly came alive when they started throwing the glitter around and it became quite joyful. It seems odd for them to choose this style when they were in the bottom 2 doing it for Couple's Choice, but if they just went for something they wanted to do, I'm fine with that.
When a celeb has prior dance (or other) training the showdance can just become a vehicle for their pre-existing talents *cough Tom Chambers* ... *cough Louis Smith*. For Karim too, this was the case. I'm no fan of contempo-waft. But this was never going to be anything else. He's a cracking dancer though and well deserved his place in the ginal.

Emma and Anton
Another couple playing to their strengths, with Anton bringing all the razz and matazz and Emma looked stunning in that frock. It was nicer than I was expecting and quite a coherent routine, where some showdances can be a right old mess, but it didn't really wow me. I can see why the cane section was in there for an added final element, but Emma looked terrified behind the eyes while she was doing it. I'm sure their fans loved it though and that's what it's all about.
And as much as Karim's was always going to be contempo-waft, Emma's was always going to be glitz and glam. That was as much to do with having Anton as a partner as anything else. I didn't hate it but it didn't blow me away. Whilst Karim and Kelvin stood out,  Emma was one of a number of celebs who could have made the final this year. It was tentative in parts and lacked synchronicity, both of which made the whole thing fall a little flat. Adore the dress though.

Kelvin and Oti
Now that is what a showdance should look like! Yes, people have done the 'all the elements from different dances' thing before, but this came together as a really fun dance. I whooped on many occasions, which is basically how I measure whether a showdance is worthy. The breaks in the music were perfectly used and the lifts were epic. 
This is what a showdance should be all about. All the bits Kelvin learned throughout the series in a fast-paced, energetic routine. These kind of showdances run the risk of being disjointed but this was not. Oti is a supremely talented choreographer and teacher and that deserves as much praise as Kelvin's extraordinary natural talent. 

So how do you follow Kelvin and Oti bringing the house down? Karim had a pretty good stab at it with that rip-roaring jive, I will say. Emma and Anton brought quite the change of gear with a VW but it was a welcome moment of calm and well-executed. The final word was left to Kelvin and Oti rocking that samba just as hard as in week 1 when he brought those hips into our lives, hurrah! 

The compulsory returnee group dance was once again a delight this year with so many fun moments. Highlights included James walking followed by Anneka walking and swaying, Chris popping up like a happy child, Will being included despite not being able to dance, Johannes and Catherine giving it full Beyonce, Michelle acting like she'd won anyway, Karen's hair - it was all there! 

But finally the final moment of the final came our way, cue lights and music and thumping hearts. Our winners are.....KELVIN AND OTI! Rightly so, it was the proper way to end this series. Thanks to everyone for coming along for the ride with us once again!

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Semi Final Showdown

Having not enjoyed the last few weeks, I am most surprised to have found tonight's show a rather entertaining affair. Hurrah!


Emma and Anton - 

Firstly Emma's cha cha dress was glorious. Cha cha was not however. Unless you count writhing your backside against Anton for any number of counts. Which I'm going to assume most people don't. There were hesitant mistakes and legs were as bent as bananas but I genuinely can't fault the performance. Her likeability is so strong she almost cancels out Anton's lack of it. As for the waltz, it was lovely. A dainty piece of music and the navy blue costumes made it all quite magical. Even a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought Emma might make the final. Guess I was off the mark.

Kelvin and Oti 

Kelvin I-already-won Fletcher smashed it again. I didn't think Quickstep would necessarily suit him but this was light ...and reminiscent of Mr Gough all those moons ago. Not only was it delicious, with every accent hit with gusto; he looked as though he were having the time of his life. Where did this natural talent come from?! And the Paso! Firstly awesome song. Secondly, I thought his line was as Spanish as a paella named Pedro. The power,  the attack and the musicality were all spot on; he really lucked out with his semi-final dances. I think he's definitely got a free paso (sorry) to the final. 

Chris and Karen

He might be the underdog but he's keeping himself right on this train. His technique might not be up with the other two chaps but in terms of improvement, he's top dog. I did not for a second imagine he would learn to dance like this so all the kudos from me. I understand the scores but the public genuinely could keep him in. Getting a rumba though in the semi-final is a bit of a bust. He really tried but it wasn't fab. Whilst his Viennese was more than passable, his rumba was simple and sweet but yeah, not great. His musicality and performance were OK but near on zero body action were a shame, but not all that unexpected. 

Karim and Amy

I can't say much about the AT because I was distracted by his trousers. After I'd also finished shrieking VIIIINCENT, I did manage to spot some very nifty footwork. And I always approve of Libertango.  I found the American Smooth slightly underwhelming myself but I really don't like the song, so it possibly dampened it a little for me. He is very good and has visibly improved too - timing, performance and technique are all great - which overrides his DIRTY RINGAH status a little.