Sunday, 23 November 2014

Hips Do Lie Actually, Shakira

We're back in the studio this week, after the blast-the-cobwebs-away weekend that was the Blackpool Bonanza. Now we're left wonder what is in store for this week, the Blackpool Hangover is now the stuff of legend, it's hard to get excited after all that camptastic wonder. But hurrah for Claudia being back, and rocking a Beyonce bedazzled jumpsuit, no less! Also quite shocked it's only four weeks to the final, where did the year go? I need Brucie and his lame Christmas shopping references!


Steve and Ola

I never thought this was going to be good, but no need to wedge a mid-90s children's TV theme into it! Although props to him for doing a solo at the start, that'll always make you feel a bit sick with nerves. Considering we heard on ITT that Steve's body could shatter into a million pieces at any point, he didn't do too badly and stuck with the routine, but it was a bit clompy-stompy. I think Steve may have plateaued...

Whilst I know he has a bad ankle and this dance was always going to be tricky for him, it's week ... what week is it? 8, 9?... well, far enough into the competition to catch the faint whiff of final. And this dance was about the level of a week two or three effort. Steve's progression has not been great enough to warrant his continued place in the competition. If he's not gone this week, he will be the next. This was subject to bizarre and arbitrary themeage once again. If it's absolutely necessary to give someone a cheerleading theme (absolutely necessary), it ought to be someone with the potential to give more pep. Pep. I love that word. Pep. 

Caroline and Pasha

Caroline is allowed to look sophisticated for once and isn't made to wear a lime green puffball or something equally horrible. And an American Smooth with a classy song, who would've thunk? Yet more gorgeous arms from Caroline, she can waft like a pro! And what kicks, what they didn't do in lifts they made up for with showstopping choreography, I've never seen someone spin on the floor with such class.

Classy, elegant, appropriate song. What was with the under-marking, judges? Or even if these were about right, what was with the over-marking everyone else? Further convinced that the scores are decided before the show even starts. Conspiracy theory, you may shout at me in horror, but there is something just not sitting right with these scores... On another note: Pasha in a tux. 

Pixie and Trent

Pixie wins spangle-tastic dress of the week hands down. Like Tess said, probably the fastest Charleston ever, it was exhausting to watch! They threw absolutely everything at this dance, even the kitchen sink from the most random foxtrot ever a few weeks ago. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it might even have been a bit toooo manic, there was hardly time to recover from one step into the next. Not my favourite Charleston ever, but once again, Pixie and Trent bring a highlight every week. 

Pixie wins costume of the series so far. Of course there's the whole RINGAH thing but Pixie brings personality, charisma and pizzazz to each of her performances which makes me actually not care. I actually found her leg action a tad ... squatty... in this dance. As if this very sparkly celeb was trying to lay a very sparkly Faberge egg in the midst of her swivels. That saying though, these, along with another couple... who I shall mention further down the post... 

Mark and Karen

Oh look at Mr Cutie Pie Eyes-and-Teeth Mark trying to do a tango face! It's testament to his improvement that there is no way Mark could have done a tango that well four or five weeks ago. And my word, a tango song that didn't make me curl my toes in abject horror. Not his best dance, but certainly not anything to be embarrassed about, I now actually want to see him try and do an Argentine Tango.

This was a great song. If this dance had been a cha cha cha, not a tango. Love Mark and this was competent, but that Craig scored it higher than Caroline? See conspiracy above. 

Frankie and Kevin

What's New Pussycat is the most delightfully eccentric choice for a Viennese Waltz, I can't believe it's taken us about 10 years to get to it. A VW never really sets the world on fire, but it was classic and dizzy-making. The slide at the end looked a bit like she'd fainted, in a falling-with-style Buzz Lightyear way. Am I the only one who misses the group VW numbers when it looked like the contestants were about to end up in a mass pile-up?

No, they were lovely, I miss those. It was all very pretty and placed, but a tad dull. This pair reeks of Rachel Stevens. Lovely, but something missing. 

Jake and Janette

I don't think I've ever been as sick of hearing about a person's body part more than Jake's hips, they've had more attention than Bill Turnbull's mouldy ankle and Natalie Gumede's back combined! Decent samba rolls, proper shimmies, terrible arms, really quite worrying gurning face - all overshadowed by him basically pointing his bum into our living rooms! And who chose the lighting? I thought I was going to have some sort of seizure! Ginormous mess of a dance, massively overmarked.

I am getting the impression that Jake is more pleased with himself than he ought to be. He also seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that latin dances just involve moving one's hips. Fuelled by comments to that effect by the BBC and on Twitter, it took me completely by surprise when he moved his feet in this routine at all. Despite the judges saying that the only samba move in this samba was executed badly, they still gave this high scores. The samba rolls were about as roll at the Barbican.. I actually despair. 

Sunetra and Brendan

What a delightful change of pace, and sumptuous in velvet, it was like a Marks and Spencers food advert of a waltz. Not too sure about the song, it didn't quite work waltzing-wise or emoting-wise. Little bit worried that they'll get forgotten in the voting.

Trying to squeeze a random slow tempo into waltz timing again? The phrasing makes it sound stunted, and this is not the fault of the band who actually made a pretty nice arrangement out of a dreadful situation. But for a celeb who's used to hearing the track in its usual time signature, the forced phrasing it bound to throw them out. However, Brendan's usual beautiful choreography cheered me up in the middle of a more than usually grumpy evening. 

Simon and Kristina

After last week's breakthrough AT (has anyone had a breakthrough so late? Ah, Gethin...), the pressure was on for potential salsa of doom. As much as I hate comedy VTs I kinda loved the fake movie trailer "excuse me, you dropped your...legwarmers". Do you know what, this was an absolute delight! So much content, great armography, actual hip work rather than someone shoving their bum in your face, and both of them having a great time. Kristina is always so ridiculously happy when her partner does well, it really makes me chuckle - great work guys!

Hated the song. And it wasn't really salsa. But we know that now, guys? Please tell me you know that.  However, I shall do what I did when Natalie Gumede was in a similar situation last year. I shall overlook the music and the fact that the dance wasn't really the dance it said it was, and look at potential. And my, I think Simon could dance an amazing salsa given the opportunity. In fact, even despite the song, it was definitely one of the better salsa dances in Strictly history. Simon leads, and his timing is spot on. He dances with his body (NOT JUST HIS HIPS). So along with Pixie, Simon is fast becoming my favourite. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Blackpool Bonanza!

BLACKPOOL! BLACKPOOL BLACKPOOL! The Tower, candyfloss, trams, rock, donkeys, the tangerine football team, looking down on Fleetwood - there is literally everything about Blackpool in this episode. Hold on to your sparkly sunhats, and away we go....

Frankie and Kevin
Got to say I loved the kids pretending to be SCD pros, and the tiny Kevin and Joanne was so cute. Kind of like Frankie's dress but thinking of Cher from Clueless, or was this some sort of attempt to be...punk? Anyway, a delightful quickstep, charging around like that football pitch of a floor without even pausing for breath. I do have to say I loved watching Kevin having a Blackpool-gasm near the end, kind of upstaged Frankie there!

Jake and Janette
He's had a hairy few weeks, really hoping he didn't peak too soon - hopefully an AS at Blackpool will give it the wow factor. I can see that this was a very good routine from them, and I don't want to be grumpy for Blackpool, but this for me was ruined by the human prop dancers, they were completely distracting! Great piece altogether though, good job Janette, although would it really be the end of the world if Jake was allowed to smile?

Sunetra and Brendan
Hated the hen-night intro apart from the fact that Brendan got to go all Johnny Castle yet again! And, just like a night out in Blackpool, the staggering hens just kept coming back. Len was right, it was her best latin, a lot quicker and less clunky than some of them, but on the whole it wasn't that great when the standard already seems so high tonight. Extra points for Brendan's hips please!

Simon and Kristina
They finally unpacked the AT for this series, better than doing it as early as Halloween. They did a very clever job with the lighting marking out the smaller area of the massive floor, it gave it an intimacy that I didn't expect. Plus, EPIC song. I really liked this, Simon pulled it out of the bag more than I was expecting, especially when it built towards the end. Nice nifty footwork - could this have saved Simon in a week as sticky as Blackpool rock? (Omg, that was a pun of Tess proportions).

Judy and Anton
Anton is dressed as Bert Goes to the Seaside, I love it, someone make that sequel. And that song, I'll be whistling it until Christmas. I might be going crazy in all the Blackpool-ness, but I actually thought she'd made an improvement on her ballroom work. There aren't many steps in a VW and it seemed like they'd had a decent stab at it. Good job guys.

Mark and Karen
Karen looks a bit...naked? But fabulous, obviously. I had high expectations for this Charleston, Mark's quickstep and jive were so good it just made sense, I really should learn about having high Charleston expectations? I just never really lifted off into the hyper glee that you need in this dance. I think the song just might have been a bit ploddy and slow? Not that it wasn't well-performed, and not that I don't still want him to go far, just bring back the magic next week.

Pixie and Trent
They've raided the dressing up box again, are the Lannisters going Targaryen this week? Who cares, they had so much gumption they outdanced the human props and left them in the ashes! Gosh, it's a good job I've picked up the phrase bonkers-awesome because I can't think of any other way to describe them. Great Spanish lines from Pixie, oodles of paso content and more grrr than you can shake a stick at. Also, who chose War of the Worlds? The fine line between genius and madness...

Steve and Ola
Not going to lie, in the midst of the Blackpool crazyess, this was totally underwhelming. I can just see them turning up to rehearsal and seeing everyone else and thinking, 'oh bugger, we've just got some people wafting net curtains around'. It wasn't bad, Steve's ballroom is still coming along quite nicely, but I would worry they're going to be forgotten.

Caroline and Pasha
Nothing like having a Spice Girls outfit foisted on you for no apparent reason, although Twitter did seem to go into meltdown at the sight of Pasha in uniform. And wow, amazing solo at the start from Caroline, Pasha knows how to work his girls hard! Again, packed with jive content and great synchronisation from the two of them. What a night it's been!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Return of Ballroom

Halloween is over, thank goodness, for another year and Blackpool is on the horizon...can you see it? The sparkling lights, the smell of candyfloss and donkey poo - if you can't see it, they're going to mention it at least a million times this week, Blackpool Blackpool Blackpool! We love it, but first, we must see the celebs battle to make it to the Home of Ballroom - can't believe we're halfway through this series already!

Good to see Zoe back looking all spangle-tastic,

Was this ballroom and latin themed week?!

Simon and Kristina

Good to see Kristina back in Marilyn Monroe mode and Simon in tails, not good to see them in the death slot. Great music choice too - it might have been used before but it's so perfect for a rip-roaring quickstep. A bit sloppy on the top line and hold, but we didn't have to scream GAPPING at you all, which I'm sure you're grateful for. Great Charleston interludes too and both of them looked like they were having the time of their lives. Simon's 9 face was wonderful too, he looked like he'd been slapped in the face.

This was quite a delightful way to open the show. Zippy, syncopated and timing as spot on as Spot the Dog under a spotlight in Spott - FYI, Spott is a small village on the eastern fringes of East Lothian...totes had to Google map that - Simon is becoming a real contender. Dave Arch and his Strictly band always excel at these classics too. Welcome back, actual ballroom dancing. 

Caroline and Pasha

Despite the wardrobe department trying to sabotage her yet again, Caroline pulls off the sparkly-mermaid-caught-in-a-bit-of-netting look rather well. She's not had to do a lot of traditional ballroom yet, but she pulled it off pretty well. She might have looked a bit uncomfortable in hold, but the whole thing fit together, and gorgeous pivot turns. I do like a pivot turn.

Sweet Caroline, I couldn't tell if it was the dancing or the camera angles that made it look as though she were about to wobble over. The dress did not suit her, being half ephemeral mer-person and half Wicker Man. But it wasn't a bad job in the grand scheme of things - in the opening bars, her arms were just exquisite - it was all just a little tense-of-shoulder in parts. Perhaps she had a chilly neck. We will buy her a scarf. 

Jake and Janette

Ooh it's a blokey-rumba, whatever shall we do? Really liking the slightly left-field music choice, it's a slow number but not an OTT shmaltzy ballad. Wasn't 100% sold on this, but there were plenty of good parts. The hips were good, the top half not so much - it looked like he was repeatedly hugging her at times.

For starters, rumba does not have to be slutty. As Mr Cole argued last year, it can be gentle and romantic. It's all down to interpretation. So, in that respect, it was a nice dance. However, having smoke wafting around the floor was a sure fire way to disguise poor technique. But it's not fooling me *evil laugh*. Jake, we know you can move your hips and that is a huge advantage but you have to let other limbs join in the fun. 

Judy and Anton

It's ANDY! They've finally got Andy in! Blatantly under duress, but whatever. I cannot get over how bad Judy's paso arms were, how hard is it just to stick your arms out? Think this was their weakest dance for a while, the paso is very distinct and it just didn't come through and the themeing wasn't funny. I do have my suspicions Judy will bow out gracefully at Blackpool...

So Judy had a saunter about the floor and Anton did some ban-tah. At least she has the grace to be self-deprecating about it like any good British person.

Brendan and Suntera

Hurrah, they're back to gorgeous ballroom! Sunetra also wins the gorgeous sparkly pouffy dress of the week. Once again, and I don't know how many times I've written this now, Brendan brought out an amazing routine - even with the arm-hanky peekaboo incident. There was a mood to this, real romance and I actually went 'awwww' out loud at the end, I don't know what's coming over me...

Brendan over the years has become a dab hand at elegant, classy ballroom routines, and this was no different. The problem is, this had the potential to wow, but there were too many technical issues. There was gapping abundant - in parts, you could have driven the Tate Modern between them. If the Tate Modern was on wheels, that is. Still a fan, Sunetra, but it's getting closer to the end and an increased level of improvement is required. 

Alison and Aljaz

Well if Alison can't do a Charleston, we might as well all go home. Crazy song choice that somehow worked and Aljaz put together a great routine for it. A but sloppy in places, could have had a bit more swivel, but her best dance for weeks. Plus I think we're all properly awake after that!

Initially her swivel and double bounce action was great, but Alison can't sustain that level of energy throughout a whole routine. It was jolly good fun, and her best dance yet, but I can't help but feel she's on borrowed time now. 

Mark and Karen

Oh gosh, our naff-tastic Towie boy has grown up into a ballroom dancer. Even when he's distracted by dirty leaves falling from the ceiling. Yet another proper ballroom dance tonight, I'm starting to sound like Len! Well done boy. Well done to Karen too for pulling off a pepto-bismol princess dress without looking like Barbie.

Despite the saccharine nature of the whole affair, this was lovely. My favourite dance of the evening and fast becoming my favourite couple. Loved the appropriate waltz music, despite it being a repeat, and loved the simple, traditional, elegant choreography and costumes.  

Frankie and Kevin

Well those outfits are...something. Are we at the stage where we're sticking glitter on stuff from the Primark bargain bin again? There is a donkey as a nod to Blackpool though! I didn't have high hopes for Frankie and the samba, thought she'd be a bit stiff, but she actually gave it some welly. Probably her best latin since the Paso (aka the Paso of Donny Doom), great samba rolls too! Disclaimer - not as good as the bonkers-awesomeness of Pixie's samba.

Appropriate music and a latin flavour, so very pleased about that, though seemed much faster than other sambas we've seen. Props and theme not necessary. This was packed full of steps but Frankie had very little hip movement and seemed disengaged throughout the performance. Kevin's top looked like something a children's TV presenter would have worn circa 1986.

Pixie and Trent

So these guys get the crazy themed vintage dance - of course! Thank god these two can style out pretty much anything, even dancing around furniture from a low-budget kitchen sink drama. Great foxtrot content and brilliantly performed, although it's hardly keepin' up wit da kids! Not sure about the 10 for such a random dance, but Pixie is bringing us something new, skilled and entertaining every week.

Bizarre theme. But, and I can't believe I am saying this, it kind of worked. Maybe it's just these two have the chutzpah to pull off whatever's thrown at them. I'm not sure I would have given it a 10 but I suspect there's a ploy to create a rivalry between Frankie and Pixie. Conspiracy, much?

Steve and Ola

Don't know what's funnier, Steve's emergency facial hair or Ola's Christmas knickers! I do love watching Ola do the paso, it's one of her best, I was a bit scared by Steve's face though - there's serial killer face and then there's hiding behind the sofa face! This was always going to be one of his best, even after the Ballroom Breakthrough a few weeks ago, and he gave it some oomph, but it didn't set my evening alight.

So Steve reminded me of Dexter in this dance. Yes, the serial killer. I half expected him to stop in the middle to slice up a blood orange. I'm not sure that's what you want in a dance, even a paso doble. Having said that, it was strong, and danced well. I preferred his ballroom, but this is his best latin. As Frankie says though, it was always going to be. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Fright Night V

Get ready to hide behind the sofa, it's the FIFTH Strictly Halloween Special, mwaaahahahaha! We usually open these posts by being rather grumpy, and by the end we're epically grumpy (Halloween is not our favourite night of the year for SCD) - but this year I, at least, am going into it with an open mind. Just so long as there aren't more props than actual dance steps...

I'm grumpy.

Halloween Dress Watch: Tess looks like that person who thinks wearing a black top counts as a Halloween outfit...Zoe looks properly spangly and on-the-money. Speaking of Zoe, very glad to have her on board, and may the little Winkleman get well soon. I'm also still loving the judges dancing on - so there!

I do not like the judges dancing on. In the words of one of my colleagues over a watermelon mojito last week: "it puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the whole show."

Opening number? Scooby Doo acting abounds as ever - and how does every pro Halloween number just look like Rocky Horror these days?!

Sunetra and Brendan

Literal choreography alert! Running to...running from....praying! The moving around of the furniture did manage to cover up that this wasn't really Sunetra's best dance. The jive is really hard and she seems more of a ballroom girl, Brendan's kicks just looked so much sharper than hers. Good to see that they keep the original Northern Soul music though. I hope being in the death slot doesn't mean an exit in this week of all weeks!

First things first, was this bed formerly the table from last year's boardroom tango? Or possibly one of the beds from the NHS segment of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony? For I thought I had not seen bedography before, but then I had forgotten about Danny Boyle's brain. Sunetra's definitely a ballroom girl. She manages the top half of latin relatively well, but below the swarovski-encrusted belt, it's all a little flollopy. I do like her - and Brendan, despite his facial get up of a ghostly version of Lorne, the karaoke demon from Angel - but sadly this week not enough to give her one of my precious votes. Loved the song though.

Alison and Aljaz

Aljaz wins the guyliner wars for the second year in a row, he's also one of the few male pros not buried under 9 tonnes of makeup. I think this might actually have been Alison's best ballroom - the American Smooth doesn't need a lot in hold and when they actually were in hold it did seem a little better. But my word, the facial expressions! Alison looked like she was on a lot of medication - can we all have some please?

Well. I'm not quite what to say because this was incredibly surreal. all. She came in like a wrecking ball (as proclaimed by a friend of mine, who incidentally also once peed next to Brendan Cole - true story) and proceeded to waft her way around the floor like linen sheets in a tumble-dryer. And yet, I loved it. I smiled from beginning to end. Alison can dance, and I actually think this week she was under-marked. 

Simon and Kristina

EPIC paso song - Poison is camp, over the top and creepy. I'd take it in a normal week, let alone Halloween week. Also, he's dressed as the Riddler in green eye shadow for some reason. This was pretty good, very strong performance from Simon, he's given 100% yet again. Kristina looks amazing in the catsuit, but think I would have preferred a full paso skirt.

Can we all just take a moment to consider the point that Simon is leading Kristina around the floor? I'm not seeing that from any other male celebs this year - no, *dodges bullets*, not even The Untouchable Mr Wood (is that the porn version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown?). I thought this was great - his lines could have been better but there was a musicality in his movement that I'm not seeing in all other contestants this year. He totes got some votes. 

Steve and Ola

AMAZING costumes, I think they might be my favourites of the night. My hopes were really, really high for this number and I was sad that it didn't turn out quite right. After his energetic quickstep I thought this was going to be epic, but I guess it just wasn't the right dance for him. Hopefully they've picked up enough fans along the way to get through this week.

In a dark, dark town, there was a dark, dark street; and in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark studio; and in the dark, dark studio there were two skeletons dancing a somewhat mediocre charleston. This could have been very good but all mistakes were unfortunately magnified by the studio lights reflecting off dem dry bones. 

Pixie and Trent

I'm genuinely a bit scared of Trent, most weeks, not just Halloween. Although that was overshadowed by Pixie's hair, as was the audience, the studio and the sun. This was suitably bonkers, I rather enjoyed it actually. The fact that they were able to put little electric details in the routine alongside the tango just shows how far ahead of everyone Pixie is (dirty ringa klaxon!). It was pure bombast, but great fun.

So this is what it would be like if the Lannisters went to hell and took control of the underworld. And there was a musical version of that. It was packed full of tango - and exquisitely executed, but I couldn't keep my eyes off Pixie's hair - in itself, the size of a small nation. Trent sort of just looked like a waxwork version of himself. 

Judy and Anton

Well, we just knew this would be a camp as knickers, didn't we? I did worry that Judy couldn't even take off her coat without looking clumsy, but what a marvellous outfit. Anton on the other hand has just come in his own clothes. The stiffness returned, I loved how she grimaced every time they went into a lift. The steps were better, but she's still behind everyone...apart from Scott.

Judy looking as classy and as lovely as ever. But yeah, in the words of a schoolgirl-witch-doppelganger-vampire: bored now. 

Jake and Janette

I really loved this, they were wearing Halloween outfits but that dance could have come from any week. He struggled a bit with the Spanish line at first, but then really got into the grrr of it all. I seemed to be in the minority on Twitter about that, but I really enjoyed Janette's choreography.

Now I'm not saying it was bad. It wasn't. It was good. But it's not automatically good just because it's Jake. I'm glad the judges brought up issues with it because he's kind of been getting a free ride. His line was more Spennymoor than Spanish, and he's got a very straight upright kind of posture in every dance he does. He isn't dancing from his middle - something that I think Simon, for example, is doing - he's very arm-and-leg. I'm actually feeling a bit mean whilst writing this (seriously - I do have a heart) because he is, quite honestly, very, very good. But that doesn't explain why it looked like a six year old had drawn on him with a 2b pencil. (I've had a really bad week...)

Caroline and Pasha

These two seemed to get the bargain bin costumes for Halloween this year, plus the samba is the worst dance to be given for Halloween. Felt quite sorry for the two of them with this one, it was a perfectly perfunctory samba and performed well, but nothing to write home about amongst all the madness.

Besides a few rolls, I saw very little samba in this routine. The first few steps looked like poorly executed cha cha, American Rhythm style, and many of the other steps seemed more like salsa. Ish. That's no slight on Caroline though, as she's technically great; it's also not really a slight on Pasha because - again - that was an appalling choice of music for that dance. As for the aforementioned rolls though, I wonder if we should call them samba barms in the north. Just a thought.

Scott and Joanne

Joanne looks amazing as Morticia, much less jazz-hands than usual. I actually quite liked this, I can't believe I'm saying this but it was actually quite charming. There was foxtrot content in there, even with the face pulling, and he managed to do it without falling over. Despite the gimmicks, they had put some work into the dancing - I think this could save him for another week.

This does not deserve my words. Fine, if you find it entertaining. (Do you? Do you really? I worry for you.) But Darcey, praising the performance and marking as she did narks me to next September. If the show were called Strictly Come Acting, her comments would actually be relevant. 

Mark and Karen

Loving Karen's post-night-out-on-the-lash look, but not as much as I loved this jive! So cute and bouncy, lots of content, everything you'd want from a jive. Has this made Mark suddenly a real player this series? He's been quietly plugging away whilst still keeping his excitable-puppy style. He can even over shadow Karen looking like she's been pulled out of a ditch.

THIS IS MORE LIKE IT. This was my favourite dance of the evening. These are the reasons: Mark started out OK, but not amazing, hence: journey -we may not say it but we do still like it. It was also relatively gimmick free. And the dancing was spot on. They were completely in sync and his timing was excellent. Mark is the male Abbey Clancy. I am now saying this at least once a week. And the more I say it, the more I believe it. 

Frankie and Kevin

Frankie and Kevin look marvellous, but this is a terrible, terrible song choice for a tango - it screams American Smooth! Saying that, it was full of content and very well performed by the two of them. The song is so good everyone got a bit carried away - I can't say this was a bad dance, because it really wasn't, but for heaven's sake BBC, pick the right songs!

Poor Kevin. Having to choreograph a tango to a piece of music so unwholly unsuitable it might as well have been the dance of the bloody sugarplum fairy. Not only was it in 4/4 time, there were variations in tempo that made it impossible to have any consistency of movement. But it wasn't about the dancing was it? It was about the production. But whoever's 'genius' idea it was to pick that, please don't praise yourself too much. Copying a West End show does not a creative make. Grow an imagination, dumbass.

As for Frankie, she can dance, we know that. She's just an unfortunate pawn in my rant of the week. But also, weird math: Frankie + Green Make Up = Kelly Brook. Watch it back. Spooky. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Shake your coconuts

What's this? Another week without extra judges, themes or other such twaddle? Rejoice! You'd better actually because it's Halloween next week and we'll get seriously grumpy. Speaking of Halloween, Claudia appears to have come as a pair of 80s goth curtains - but it's Claudia so we'll let her get away with it.

Jake and Janette
I don't know how they manage it, but every now and again the SCD costume people make someone look frumpy. Janette looks like a 1920s movie star in her 70s, swigging gin from the bottle or something. I wasn't enamoured of this, I think it might have been Jake's worst - one his strengths is that he has confidence enough to perform and I got the impression he just wasn't feeling this. Top line a bit wonky, but good footwork.

Sunetra and Brendan
Fabulous song, fabulous dress, slightly odd hair - like a small startled dog. But my word what a dance, Sunetra's best and yet another amazing routine from Brendan! I was captivated, which is pretty impressive for a VW, it was probably the drama of the song and Sunetra being able to channel the emotion. Great work, guys!

Scott and Joanne
When did the Charleston become all about cockney, it's really getting odd! I can't decide whether I loved or hated Joanne's sexy Victorian nightgown, it was cute but weird. It was Scott's best dance, mainly because you can make a Charleston step-then-gurn and get away with it.

Iveta and Thom
Even though I said this about Frankie last week, Iveta now wins all the Strictly dresses ever, have we ever had anyone so fabulous? I was pretty impressed by this - Thom really looked like he was enjoying himself. In the first few weeks he looked so scared of going wrong and now he's actually just getting on with doing it! (Edit: Oh dear, look what happens when you try and enjoy yourself...)

Frankie and Kevin
Look at these two delightful little cranberries out early for Christmas, so cute. At the start I went into a hate-spiral about how there was nothing in hold, but then once they got into it there was a lot of content. Foxtrot is hard/boring, don't forget. I also liked Kevin's Full Grimsby moment, he's not been as fun this series without hyper Susanna. Not technically brilliant, but a bit less bot-like than before.

Alison and Aljaz
Alison finally gets to some ballroom again, it's been about a year, hasn't it? Walking holding Aljaz's hand is not tango-ing by the way. She put a lot of work into the performance, but the technical parts of the dance weren't great. She seemed to miss some footwork and it just seemed like there wasn't a lot going on.

Mark and Karen
Mark needed to bring it this week and there was no way Karen was going to sit back and take the bottom-2 drama - and woah did they pull out all the stops! The shimmies! The hips! I need a new adjective to talk about how fierce Karen gets. I have a kitschy love of a disco samba and Mark has really being working his socks off.

Simon and Kristina
Hmmm, not too sure about this one. It was pretty fast for a VW, when it should be all flowy and dream-like. And the song dominated it a bit, I'm all for a bit of Queen, but the singers turned it up to 11 and it didn't work with the style of a waltz. Simon could be in trouble again....

Judy and Anton
I secretly quite like an Anton Charleston, he's actually rather good at them and was basically born in the wrong century. After last week's high-point of a tango I think Judy might have broken through some sort of barrier, she suddenly seems a bit more relaxed. Especially when Anton picks you up and all you have to do is wave your arms and legs about! It was cute, she is kind-of-improving, so she's probably earned herself a trip to Halloween week - what will Anton come up with then?!

Caroline and Pasha
Out of all the non-traditional paso songs, Live and Let Die is the pinnacle of appropriate-ness. You can''t NOT do a drama-filled paso to it, if you don't, you're dead. Good choreography, great flamenco arms, great Spanish line. What a team these two are, they bring it week after week, and yet no one seems to notice - show some love for Caroline!

Steve and Ola
Another traditional ballroom number, Strictly you are really spoiling us tonight by sticking to your remit. Steve tried to act, it was terrible, but quite endearing. Not much to say about this one, it was competent and had a bit of smoothness to it that I wasn't expecting from Steve - he's a grafter, that one.

Pixie and Trent
I am totally in love with Pixie's bonkers samba outfit, all it's missing is feathers. I bet it took a lot of dry shampoo to work that hairdo. My god, this was a full-on amazing, knock your socks off coconuts samba! I think Pixie may have had a few drinks beforehand because she let it go like never before. Also, samba roll watch: they were brilliant and they had to get their arms extra-high to clear her massive hair. Love it.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Anton du Beke: Bad(ish) Boy of the Ballroom

....and we're back! Donny is gone and there's no themes, maybe we can just have a nice spangly week on Strictly? Even Tess and Claudia have brought out some nice dresses and Darcey is dressed like some sort of fabulous ghost of Miss Havisham.

Frankie and Kevin
It's a Call Me Maybe cha cha - my dreams her finally been realised! After all the dross we've suffered in song choices and then the perfect cha cha song choice comes along, and Frankie has the fringe-tastic dress to end all dresses - I hope she realises how lucky she is! It wasn't the pinnacle of cha cha-ing on Strictly, but it was fun and cute. The judges suddenly got a bit technical too - maybe they realised how embarrassing Donny was last week.

Mark and Karen
Pardon my French, but this had a serious case of the trots. He was trotting around that dancefloor like an over-excited little shetland pony. It was a tough, jam-packed routine from Karen that I think he was struggling to keep up a little bit. The Charleston section was promising though and that boy can eyes and teeth with the best of them too! He should stay in for a bit, he's working hard and his technique is starting to improve. Karen just rocked that amazing dress, by the way, on anyone else it would have looked like loo roll cover.

Judy and Anton
Illegal lift! Judy sliding on her bum and nearly mooning the camera! Anton just trolling us like he did with Widdy! This was completely bonkers but also her best dance so far, gotta love that natural stiffness being put to use. Despite all the weirdness, I feel like she deserves to stay in this week, some of the footwork was pretty decent. I also feel sorry for her because they didn't bother to make her a new dress and just stuck a frill on her launch show one.

Simon and Kristina
Well that was....interesting. It was cute, it was a Charleston, it was full of moves and swivel. IT HAD A PROPER GURNING FACE. But it was also themed to Pearly Kings and Queens -  why?! Kristina is wearing a random 99p wig, why? Fair play to them though, despite all the randomness they pulled off something pretty good - probably the best since his jive. This bodes well for a good cha cha.

Alison and Aljaz
That was a bit of anticlimax, wasn't it? A bit like last week's jive, there just wasn't enough going on - which is odd when you think how much oomph there was in her cha cha moves. There were also some really quite bad samba rolls. Amazing lampshade dress though and somehow I am also loving Aljaz's mustard ruffled shirt.

Scott and Joanne
Will Scott and Joanne be able to do a routine that isn't a comedy cringe-fest? Well they had a go at it at least! I would rather watch that than the stupid lobster routine. Although the problem might have been that his contribution the routine seemed to be entirely walk-then-grab. We did also have the delight of Total Eclipse of the Heart, which I love and Clover hates, so that kept us entertained!

Steve and Ola
Wasn't sure about the cocktail opening, it's a good idea to keep us away from the idea of dodgy suburban wine bars with the salsa. This was alright, but interchangeable with a lot of male salsas on the show - a bit awkward and not enough fluidity in the hips etc. Not his best by far, but he's so chipper and likeable I'm sure he'll get through another week.

Pixie and Trent
It's Jamie and Cersi Lannister all over again, cover your eyes children. A bit balletic, but not enough hips. What is it about ringers and not being able to do the rumba? Then again the judges followed the pattern of pick-a-dance-apart-then-give-it-8s, which takes us all the way back to the grand old tradition of Emma Bunton. Also, at the end I thought she was injured, but no, she was just milking it.

Tim and Natalie
Natalie looking absolutely gorgeous, steeling herself for the campest paso ever. And THEN unleashing some seriously fierce paso faces, I admit I was hardly looking at Tim. It was the John Sargent school of walking with a funny hat as far as I can tell. He's such a good egg though and really trying for Natalie, keep at it you two!

Sunetra and Brendan
Not her best, after the marvellous American Smooth last week, but there's something totally infectious about Sunetra when she's dancing, she's just so happy and in the zone! I can't really comment on the salsa-ness of it (maybe I was distracted by Brendan's trousers) I just hope they don't end up in middle-table danger.

Thom and Iveta
This was weird, there were so many things that were just a little off. The song, It also doesn't help that the foxtrot really isn't the most exciting of dances. I was expecting Thom to whip out some sort of Dick Van Dyke accent afterwards since he's going all method acting these days. Definite improvement to his ballroom technique, but nothing much to write home about. 

Jake and Janette
What will the most left-field of couples be bringing out this week? A totally bonkers jive, that's what! There was so much energy I thought Jake was going to swing Janette around by her ponytail at one point. It was kind of bitty, going from section to section, but I don't feel like I can complain about there being too much choreography these days.

Caroline and Pasha
The costume people really don't like Caroline, do they? Gorgeous pouffy skirt, horrible top. I am however totally enamoured of Pasha's Palma Violet pants. I do love this song, but I'm also ambivalent to it being a quickstep. But these two were very fleet of foot and super-cute - and Pasha manipulating the British public by playing with that teddy bear, that's Erin levels of evil genius!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The One With Bruno's Thunder

There are no words. There are NO WORDS.

OK, there might be a few words, and here they are.

I am not sure whether to laugh or cry or scream or barf or run around the neighbourhood in a donkey costume screaming "BANANAS!". This week's's debacle could be described as The Worst Episode of Strictly Come Dancing Ever. It quite possibly is even worse than the (before this evening at least) current official holder of that title: Saturday 15th November 2009. If you happen not to recall, that was the night Laila had an injury, Jade had to pull out and there was Ronnie Corbett. Which says it all. And, as Frankie quite rightly pointed out on Twitter this evening, at least the bad points of that episode were not planned. Most of these were. And that's the scary thing. 

I was going to describe Donny Osmond as a waste of space, but that would be too kind. He was like an overbearing stage school brat under the influence of excessive amounts of caffeine. Flailing and leaping about? That's Bruno's thing. And don't get me started on giving the First Ten of the Series. That's also often Bruno's thing. Other than Donny, the attempt to squeeze each dance into a theme failed yet again. As I have said before, the theme becomes more important than the dance and that's to the detriment of everything. EVERYTHING. 

PS.  I don't own a donkey costume.

PPS. But if I did.

Alison and Alijaz

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but jive is definitely one of the most energetic dances on Strictly, and Alison really did struggle with it. Upstairs was all that jazz, and downstairs all labour and no reward. She was the dancing embodiment of an episode of Downton Abbey. Don't get me wrong, I really love this pairing and Alison does have a natural flair for dance, it's just this was, like having a large slab of cake as an entree, a bit too much, a bit too soon,

Steve and Ola

Despite the overbearing theming, this was actually a good dance. Well, it was for someone like Steve at this point in the competition. If he keeps showing this level of improvement week on week, he could well become one of those contestants we all love and save this series from . Think Chris Hollins, think Darren Gough. Ones to watch. 

Jennifer and Tristan 

I couldn't remember this dance and had to watch it on repeat on iPlayer. That's never a good sign. It wasn't stupid enough for the ignorant to vote for it in manner of Celebrity-Shaming à la I'm Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (I remember when Strictly had more class); it wasn't good enough for many to vote for it on merit. Jennifer isn't really connecting with the audience at home, yet I suspect Tristan is gaining in popularity, so that could help their cause. All in all, it was, unfortunately like many dances this week, alarmingly...forgettable.

Simon and Kristina

In the grand scheme of horrendous Monster Truck crash level rumbas on Strictly, this wasn't actually that bad. In fact, it was, compared to many dances on tonight's show, good. Yes, there could have been considerablyt more latin motion (that's feet, legs and hips to you and me) but it was well-performed and competently executed. It's hard to perform the rumba without descending into Carol Vorderman levels of Facecrime, and I think Simon's presentation was (thankfully) subtle and smooth. But again, like Jennifer, I'm not really feeling his personality - I'm assuming he does have one - coming through at all, and this could be to his detriment. He needs a breakthrough routine, and soon. 

Judy and Anton 

It was better than last week's cha cha - that goes without saying, as in ballroom, Anton can prop her up like a ladder - but poor Judy did seem as though she'd accidentally stumbled onto the set of Funny-Girl-Through-The-Looking-Glass and been whisked into the arms of a Mr Arnstien slash Gene Kelly slash The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang type character. Anton going all Blair- Waldorf-schemy with an illegal, and tactical, lift may have saved their bacon. 

Tim and Natalie 

Natalie is amazing. She managed to distract all attention away from Tim. Whether that was intentional or not, I do not know, but her Karen-Hardy-slash-Camilla-Dallerup levels of facial expression coupled with the Sally Bowles hair assured - I imagine - very little attention was paid by most to Tim's abysmal footwork. I watched it again, and just watched him: no timing, and no technique. I wish I could say he committed to the performance, but he just looked uncomfortable. He's with a formidable teacher however - Michael Vaughan anyone? - so we may be seeing much better from Tim - and soon. 

Caroline and Pasha

Thank the Lord of the Dance for this routine. Classy, clean and gimmick free, it was a pleasure. Caroline, like Simon, could have straightened her legs more but in a night of otherwise excruciatingly embarrassing or painfully mediocre dances, this was a joy. 

Scott and Joanne

Just no.

Frankie and Kevin

The most over-swished skirt in the history of swishing. Besides that, I quite liked it. The movie theme wasn't too distracting from the essence of the dance. Frankie's a little bot-like, to steal Monkseal's term, and I'd like to see her come out of her shell, like Rachel Stevens came out in that rumba. It's definitely possible, but doesn't always happen. We never saw Holly Valance connect, despite being a magnificent dancer, but thankfully for Frankie, I don't think Kevin would allow that to happen: he's too full of beans for it not to be infectious. I just hope they realise that ten totes doesn't count.

Jake and Janette 

A moody, dark, waltz. Now if I remember correctly, Karen Hardy got her hand slapped for using this very piece music way before theme weeks came into play, but now, as then, it sort of worked and sort of didn't. I have no idea why Len chose this very moment to criticise a lack of traditional technique when so much else is allowed to slip by uncommented. In my opinion, the music was too stilted to allow for swing and sway. It would have jarred with the sombre music. So Len, if you do have your issues with it, take it up with whoever chooses the music, not the dancer and celeb who did a great job with an unorthodox tune.

Pixie and Trent

These two are squeaky. They are the halloumi cheese of the dance world. And Trent could win an award for channelling the spirit of an animated candlestick without being fully dressed up as one. This was perky and, in the best possible sense, corny. Disney could not have suited a couple more. 

Thom and Iveta

It was the first time I have seen a faint glimmer of engagement with the dance and audience. Welcome to Strictly, Thom. Has has a touch of 'The Gethins', and we all know how that can go.

Suntra and Brendan 

Oh, this was my favourite dance of the night. Sunetra lights up the floor, and you can tell she is living the whole experience. If movie theming were always like this, I would never have a problem with it. Brendan's choreography was just delightful. And Sunetra's 'Nine Face' was a joy to behold. 

Mark and Karen

This made me laugh out loud. From Karen writhing around the floor, to the oh-so-incongruous deadly serious Paso faces, to the dangling aerial work at the end. Surreal, and in some ways, a new low. This was bonkers played straight. The equivalent of wearing a dinosaur onsie to the dentist, Mark actually has the potential to dance well, so the fact he's been sent down the comedy route is somewhat insulting. The scores, including Donny's inconceivable nine, were completely out of proportion to the rest given over the course of the evening. But that's a whole. other. rant. 

Over and out. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hips Don't Lie

It's that time of year again, the biggest, longest sparkliest of SCD of the year. Forget the final, this is the real marathon - lace up your spangly trainers and away we go.

Also, I seem to be the only non-grumpy person when it comes to the judges dancing on. It takes about 10 seconds and it's a laugh, they're all dancers after all! 

Thom and Iveta
Well Iveta is continuing her range of odd but fabulous costumes, thank goodness for that. The headband comes nowhere near to the epic-ness of Lilia's samba turban though (see Clover, I got that in ALREADY!). Really not feeling Tom's trousers though, although he did seem a lot more relaxed this week. There was a pretty good attempt at salsa fluidity there and Iveta hadn't skimped on the content. He also looked like he was trying so hard, there was a grim determination to that shimmy I had to laugh, but we all love a tryer on this show.
He has potential. That has not been realised yet. Anyone who's read this regularly knows I have a real problem with salsa on this show, and unfortunately this was no exception, although I appreciate that there's been a slight nod towards latin-type music for salsa this week - a whole world of better than Michael Jackson. I really feel Thom struggled with the tempo of this track however, and there's really no need, because there is no strict tempo to salsa. He could have been given something slower. And of course there's the whole BUT THIS WAS MARK AND KAREN'S EPIC DANCE-ness about this track. Thom is the archetypal J-word contestant. Am I ruling him out? I'm thinking not, not, not. (groan). 

Jennifer and Tristan
Well this was a lot better, they'd obviously worked hard on it and ballroom suits her more than being thrown in at the deep end with a jive. But yeah, gapping, top line and all that. I still haven't come around to Jennifer, but my word Tristan is a sweetheart, isn't he?
I really think Jennifer knew what she should be doing, but I never appreciate how flaming terrifying it must be to be out there on the floor actually having to do it. Point in fact: her top line was there at the beginning, but she lost it somewhere between a whisk and a wing. The gapping was a wee bit of o' problem too: you could have driven several large combine harvesters between them at times. And it was as ploddy as a PC in an Enid Blyton story. However, I got quite caught up in the pastel-pinkness of the whole affair and Tristan? He captured the heart of the whole of Twitter in one go. I'm a total sucker for an Irish accent. 

Simon and Kristina
It's a tango and Kristina has brought out the Bond Girl dress, watch out people! It was an odd song choice that amazingly worked for a modern tango, a lot more suitable than some of the awfulness we've been subjected to before. It was sharp and sexy and Simon totally committed to it with his serial killer face, even if it was directed at the ceiling (what is up there?!). Simon's really surprised me so far, I was expecting him to be a bit dull but he's thrown himself into it.
Whilst avant garde, I did like the arrangement of this Ed Sheeran track for a tango, most particularly the sultry intro. I like Simon. I like Kristina. Together, I think they are all kinds of spiffing. In my little humble and oh-so-unprofessional opinion, out of all the dances of the evening, this was the most under-marked. I can't wait to see what they come up with next. 

Gregg and Aliona
Well that was a dog's dinner wasn't it? Boom boom, I got a food-related pun in! Rehearsal footage looked good, but he just seemed to forget the whole thing when he got out there. Aliona dancing away in front of him totally oblivious was hilarious!
Oh It Takes Two, you tease, you. You had actually managed to convince me that this wasn't going to be that bad. But it oh-so-was. I don't know whether to feel sorry for Aliona or feel sorry for Gregg. Have we a touch of the Dom Littlewoods going on here? Have they got it in them to camp it up to be this year's comedy duo? Or will it be buh-bye tomorrow? I honestly can't tell at the moment. But edible props? If you're gonna have them, why not have them scrummy. 

Alison and Aljaz
Well they both look fabulous, the opening steps out of hold were super sass but then it all went to pot once they got into hold. I get the feeling we will see very little of Alison in hold as the series goes on. I really didn't know what to make of this, it seemed a bit odd and gunning for laughs a bit too much. She's got the skills to dance properly, so hopefully the rest of her ballroom will be a bit more traditional.
It's like they did not know which route to take. Play it all for laughs or try to be serious? Alison has a great sense for music and is a natural born dancer but she was always going to find ballroom trickier than latin. I don't think it's impossible for her, however. Plus, I spotted a neat little heel turn before the camera zoomed off into a crazy drug-induced spin. I really like this pair so they got a vote from me. Alison said she wants to stay in long enough to do a samba, salsa and a charleston, and she clearly knows herself well enough to suppose that they will be great dances for her. 

Jake and Janette
Bonkers awesome! Great song choice, proper content, camp as Christmas, huzzah! My new favourite couple, can't remember the last time someone surprised me like Jake has. It wasn't perfect, it's only week 2 people, but the skill and pizzazz there bodes well for some amazing dances during the rest of the series.
Nah. Jake has huge potential and I loved his tango. But this is not how you salsa. Play it back and watch his feet. There were no steps: it was all leans and arms. I have real big problems with leans and arms. And yes, he does have hips. Which again, yes, is great at this point in the competition - I am so impressed he's not holding back. This was as out-there as outing in Outer Mongolia. But perspective, people, come on. 
Perspective? Pffft!

Judy and Anton
Well this was horrendous. The opening was bad bad bad, Anton, shame on you. When they actually started doing a bit more cha cha content together it seemed a bit better, like she actually had something to do and Anton as support. Her facial expression really made me feel for her, rabbit in the headlights. At least she got a lovely frock out of it...
A delightful frock and she looked so lovely, but poor Judy, she is so out of her depth she is drowning in a sparkly sea of Swarovski. Like Victoria Pendleton before her, I'm not convinced she really grasped what she was letting herself in for. Despite being a super-sized McFlurry fan of the show, I know I would never do it. Not for a besquillion pounds. And contestants like Judy merely remind me of that sad fact. 

Caroline and Pasha
I quite like Caroline's Ibiza-tango dress on the quiet, the Ibiza music on the other hand...Another of my favourite couples, there was a really good tango hidden under those bangin' beatz. I can see why Caroline was worried about how hard it was, there was a lot of content in there from Pasha. Loved her staccato and I now really want to see her do a cracking paso. 
That fact that this was relatively decent despite that seven-car-pile-up-crash of a song is testament to Pasha. How did he manage that? This was the equivalent of someone dancing their wedding dance to Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy: just, inappropriate. Caroline danced it well, and I like the pair, despite the loose clump of hair pounding her head like a caveman's club. Like poor Abbey last year - has Caroline upset the hair and make-up team? She deserves better! 

Tim and Natalie
Natalie looks amazing and ethereal as always, Tim has once again come in his own clothes. And is there anyone out there that Natalie Lowe can't teach to waltz, she's great. He had issues with posture, but a vast improvement on last week's cha cha, this should hopefully keep him in for another week.
Solid improvement and a classy affair from Ms. Lowe, darling of t'internet. I'm sure they can camp it up should it be required, but there is never need in a waltz. He's not a winner but he certainly should not be leaving this week. 

Sunetra and Brendan
She seemed a lot more relaxed this week and was really enjoying herself, first night nerves hopefully out of the way now. This was a good solid cha cha, but nothing much to write home about. As Darcy said, her top half is great but she needs to work on the footwork.
Sunetra can shake her thang. And what a dress. But Brendan, I implore: work on those feet. She has an infectious style and was really getting into it, but her unruly toes - more Tinky Winky than twinkle - really let her down. In cha cha, the feet really ought to be in contact with the floor as much as possible, and legs should be straight on the break. Of course, getting caught up in the moment of it all is more than understandable, but if she wants to continue without becoming dangerous middle-ground fodder, she needs to improve. 

Mark and Karen
The sweater! What is the sweater about? It could go down in SCD costuming history. Karen on the other hand looks gorgeous. This was so sweet it gave me a toothache, bordering on twee with Mark's super-white smile. I really don't know what to make of this one, I don't think it taught me anything about Mark's ability to ballroom dance. It wasn't BAD, it was just...there.
So Mark turned up dressed as a member of One Direction. That's hardly the look for an American Smooth style dance. Nevertheless, I liked this. I spider-sensed big nerves, which I think caught even Mark off guard at times. His timing was on-off, but on the whole it was quite a charming routine. 

Joanne and Scott
The worst song choice in the history of tango, dance, music, everything. God this was bad, the footwork was all over the place and gosh, the trout pout. But saying that, he got through the routine and there was no gapping - it was better than the cha cha, but that's not a great starting point. I'm sure he'll be in for another few weeks, so lets hope he's allowed to do a nice staid waltz.
This was about as tango as a banana. Get a GRIP, BBC. I don't for one moment believe that a professional dancer has chosen this piece of music. It was nothing short of wrong. And it's not helping Scott either. It was better than his cha cha, despite the odds being quite out of his favour. I think they both deserve to stay in for pure pluck. 

Pixie and Trent
Pixie looking like a Targaryen about to get married, Trent looking like a member of the cast of Anchorman. But it was lovely, proper waltz lovely, as we would expect. She's obviously the ringer, but what the hell, I like watching good dancing.
Yeah, ringer schminger. In a night of, let's face it, epic levels of mediocrity, a really darned good waltz was totes in order. Thankfully, these two delivered like a postman on Pro Plus. Stunning dress: check. Good technique: check. Appropriate music: check. I really enjoyed it, and I'm slowly warming to these two. She could be this year's safety car. Toot toot. Beep beep. How long before someone overtakes? 

Steve and Ola
This dance was like a complete guilty pleasure, Ola's costume, the dad dancing, but I couldn't help but like it. The perfect cha cha song of Treasure might have had something to do with it. It was fun, it was throwaway, but it was a cha cha.
It wasn't the best of dances. It wasn't the worst of dances. He's trying hard but isn't in his natural environment at all. I was kind of hoping Ola would have whipped him into a better cha cha routine than this, but such is Strictly. What I like about Steve is his determination and his smile whilst giving it his very best shot. 

Frankie and Kevin
This was odd. Rock and roll plus charleston - even the judges said it was weird. It was high-energy and content-packed though. A bit more swivel would have been nice, and dare I say it, I miss a bit of Charleston gurning!
Looking forward to their tango-themed foxtrot, their samba-themed waltz and their quickstep-themed cha cha cha. Seriously, a dance such as charleston is dependent on its own theme. Because there are no truly fixed steps in the same way there are in the ten dances of ballroom and latin, if the theme is cast aside, it's no longer quite a charleston. Not that this was at all danced badly. It wasn't as quirky-cute as Sophie's cooler-than-thou-hipster-charleston from last year - it just didn't have the same level of personality. But it was as sweet and frothy as a strawberry milkshake. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A Game of Glitterballs

So the battle for the Glitterball has begun. Yet, if you think that a series of Strictly is a linear build up of momentum to the climatic bloodbath of the final, you're wrong. One series of Strictly can have as many plot twists and turns, as many storylines as George RR Martin could imagine. The Battle of the Ringers commences when the pop starlets strut their stuff - practically perfect, first week. A little dull, perhaps, but where would we be without it? The Battle of the Bonkers usually follows in a week two. Once the pairing pro realises their celeb partner has more chance of running of with Prince Harry to live in a windmill and breeding llamas than lifting the Glitterball, Project Exposure begins. Stay in as long as you can. To do that, be as bad as you can. And cover yourself in tinfoil.

But on to this weekend's treats. The first week's episodes are a showcase. Flaunt your wares. Pick your battle. Let the games begin. Etc.

Scott did the 'HO!' in the opening titles, I got really quite over-excited! And Tess is wearing a massive jumpsuit, what's that all about?!
Caroline and Pasha - Caroline falls just on the right side of DIRTY RINGUH (We Northern. We have our own vowels.) And this dance was just on the right side of unperfect for the first show. There's room for improvement. Much. But actually it was still quite good. She is also quite relatable, and Pasha is...well, lovely Pasha. Loved the Midas-touched mega-fringe. Definitely ones to watch.
She's first out the stalls so that gets her Winning Formula points. I'm also digging the uber-fringe very much, it's hard to pull that off without looking like a lampshade but she managed it. Great cha cha routine and song too so we're off to a cracking start! And Len actually started the series with a good analogy - champagne indeed. There were mistakes, but I was watching her instead of Pasha (yes, some people manage that!). 

Mr Bargain Hunt and Natalie - Natalie is a fine teacher, and managed to get a relatively OK dance from this year's grandpa-fodder. They are never going to win. Their chance of longevity may rely solely on commencing the Battle of Bonkers. Yet I suspect Natalie could be too classy for that route, if she has a choice. And, if so, kudos to her for that. Not that the routine was without fun. There was just the right amount of gimmick to be within the realms of acceptable.
Natalie feigning excitement about being on Bargain Hunt, I love that woman! She did look like she was escorting him around the dancefloor a fair few times, but it was a proper routine and not too gimmicky at all after the start. He's also already better than David Dickinson because he's not randomly gurned at the camera in the middle of a routine. Bring on the ballroom.  

Jake and Janette - I love the unexpected. And this was just that. I do believe I may have read that Jake is an unlikely Sylvia Young DIRTY RINGUH, (is that true?) but as I didn't know his background when I watched him dance, I'm going to relay my initial surprise. This was kind of Lisa Riley. And Janette: welcome at last to Strictly Come Dancing. Great choreography - even the faffing at the beginning was relevant and captivating. And he was leading. Actually leading. A jolly good tango, mes amies.
Jake Wood has a really good top line! I never thought I'd write that. Dark horse clip-clopping all over the place there. Great routine from Janette too, there was a lot of footwork in there for a week one dance. I wonder how he'll cope with the more camp dances, but it looks like he has the raw skills and they're a great team. 

Judy and Anton - We haven't seen this level of discomfort since Victoria Pendleton flew into Wembley Arena on a pushbike. Poor Judy - she's so far out of her comfort zone, she's like a Made in Chelsea cast member lost in the toilets at McDonalds. However, I do get the impression from watching that she actually has the potential to do much better. If she wants to get the most out of this, then she needs to let go and enjoy it. Also: HUMAN PROP ALERT! Why not wheel out a bagpiper? Perhaps next week a runner will dash on dressed as a haggis. But Anton. Oh Anton. I never thought there would be anything more disturbing than Anton in slashed-to-the-naval lycra. But Anton in a kilt? MY EYES. MY EYES.
I was halfway through the routine when I read Clover's human prop comment and collapsed in giggles. She is obviously super-duper pee-your-pants nervous and needs a good lesson in eyes and teeth. And why is it that when someone on SCD is nervous do they stare at the ceiling, what's up there? Leftover dancers? I can't see the cha cha going particularly well next week, who knows what Anton is going to bring to that dance...  

Scott and Joanne - Two words. Dear and Oh. Not that order. Whilst Scott is clearly not a natural at this, my issues were more with the choreography. Air punches reek of desperation. More time spent perfecting the basics and less time with gimmickry could have gone a long way. He is, however, now ripe for the Battle of the Bonkers. Will they roll with that and be this year's Christopher Parker/John Sergeant/Anne Widdecombe/Dave Myers? (delete as desired.)
You have no idea how much I want to delete Ann Widdecombe...This was all over the shop and there were about five million air punches. I would be interested to see if Scott goes on ITT and says "yeah, I forgot half the routine" - it seemed like Joanne was just dancing around him a lot. 

Pixie and Trent - DING DONG DIRTY RINGUH. Now, of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. One's ringer status can easily be overcome if one is likeable. Compare and contrast Denise V.O. and Natalie G. It will be interesting to see how Pixie fares on this matter over the course of the next few weeks. Of course this was great. Of course it was. It was effervescent. Like a champagne supernova in the wires and cameras hanging over the stage. Trent really is full of beans though, isn't he? Kind of reminded me of a cross between a Duracell bunny and Vampire Ken in this dance. But we had better get used to these guys. Whether they turn out to be popular or otherwise, they are with us for the long haul.
These two are the Lannisters of this year's SCD, with all the power and the blonde locks. The jive is blummin' hard to do for your first dance and there was a little stumble, immediately replaced by Pixie high-kicking right over her head. Trent is our new over-excited puppy though and that should be great fun for zingy choreography like that. 

The Wrong Mark and Karen - sorry guys, your name here is purely unfortunate but there will only ever be one Mark and Karen. But this dance was brimming with pep, like a cheerleader on Red Bull. Couple that with endearing vulnerability on interview? He's either genuinely delightful or he's an evil genius playing a very clever game. Perhaps they will end up being the Wright Mark and Karen. OH MY LORDY, GROAN. And speaking of, this had to be the most tenuous song link to name ever. Are they going to play on this all series? What's next? Wright Said Fred? The Wrighteous Brothers? 
Are the BBC not going to mention Towie at all, is it a copyright thing? It's going to be hilarious. And is Mark going to be dressed as a different member of the Village People every week? Can't wait for his Native American paso. I quite liked this, it was rather jaunty. He really does have potential and so, so much sparkle.  

Ali and Ali - I just loved this. It was brimming with vim and vigour and verve. I hope Alison can refine her unquestioned natural ability because I would love to see these guys go far. I think they might be my early favourites. 
I haven't seen two people look so ridiculously happy on a dancefloor since Chris and Ola's legendary Charleston where they could've just ended up rolling around on the floor giggling for three minutes. There was so much right with this dance; the choreography, the song choice, the musicality. They're also such a strong partnership, hopefully there will be plenty of time for them to work on everything.

Steve and Ola - Ola has an excellent track record of teaching non-dancers to dance - at least competently. She holds the record for getting the Glitterball with the least obvious contestant in Strictly's history, so Steve's certainly in good hands. That's if he can overcome the Austin Healey Arm Problem. Perhaps he could try taping them straight with the duct tape from Ola's costume. 
No-one, but no-one, should do the tango in just a vest, even if they do have rather nice arms. Thought this was going to be horrendous at the start, but it ended up being halfway decent. I can see him doing a paso, obviously, but a quickstep? Or a samba? The mascara in his beard was also amusing.
  Jennifer and Michael Flatley's Biggest Fan - What was the dancing on the table? That is the strangest themed mime since Gary Rhodes frying invisible foodstuffs on Karen Hardy's back. They both seem jolly lovely, but I know little of either, what with Tristan being new, and my never having been able to sit through more than 15 seconds of Mrs Brown's Boys. He pushed her a little too hard, methinks, and it didn't work. But to be fair, jive is a toughie for week one, especially compared to cha cha and waltz. It was an excellent song choice, and could have been epic. But really only if someone else had been dancing to it.
Look, I am still bemused by Jennifer, but you don't go and make her do a jive in week one! It also doesn't help when you've got Tristian bouncing around like a jack-rabbit on speed next to her. Saying that, she got through the routine pretty successfully and remembered all her steps. Hopefully she can have a nice ballroom next week.  

Thom and Iveta - Thom has Darren Gough Hand Problems. And Craig doesn't like his thumbs, which is a very specific dislike. It's like going up to someone and saying: "That right nostril of yours, just no." I think there was a lot of expectation weighing on Thom which almost inevitably was going to lead to disappointment. He looked a tad rabbit-in-headlights, and a little baffled by the whole spectacle. Or, if the rumours prove to be true, he's just drunk on lurve and can't concentrate. Anyhum, there is plenty of potential here and if we don't get to see it in the next few weeks, I'll be very much surprised. And rather disappointed. 
These two just look gorgeous together, Iveta particularly lucked out in the dress department this week. I can forgive her for using You Raise Me Up, the most vom-tastic song in the world, but it was a bit hesitant from Thom. Give him time and a few weeks under the Iveta school of bonkers-yet-brilliant ballroom dancing and I'm sure he'll come through.

Sunetra and Brendan -  Excuse me while I get this out my system. PIIIVOT. There. Oh but the horrendous theming  Brendan looked most reluctant in his bizarre beating of the clipboard on the bed move. Kudos for getting that shiz over and done with in four bars. Gowns off and everything. Sunetra is the classic middle-of-the-road contestant, which is a simultaneously dangerous and exciting place to be. If she doesn't improve enough, she could be out before her time. But if she gets better each week, she could quite possibly start to nibble at the ringers' heels. (Ew.)
Oh I'm sure scrubs and hospital beds were the dancers' idea...And what about Sunetra? Maybe a bit of a dark horse in there. Although not on the same scale as Jake Wood, maybe a dark pony. Brendan will fight for his partner all the way, so lets hope she's now over her week one nerves and bring it next week.

Gregg and Aliona - This was so horrific it doesn't deserve the accolade Dad Dancing - it's more the Drunk Uncle Stomp. Aliona in pure form, keeping her distance, leaving him flailing about on his own. If they embrace the bonkers, then they might have a few weeks in them, but Aliona doesn't look as though she cares enough. It's a shame, because he looks as though he's enjoying it. Though maybe not as much as he enjoys a sticky toffee pud.
Aliona's dress is a lovely prom-dress confection, the 'lycra dressing' Tess suggested sounded horrible. And as we all know, I just love a dance that involves sitting down for prolonged periods of time. At least he seems to be putting more effort into it than Tony Jacklin (not very hard) and like Clover says he does seem to be enjoying himself. Maybe comedy, but he's got Scott and Tim to compete with for that.

The Wrong Frankie and Kevin Clifton aka Kevin from Grimsby aka THE KING OF THE NORTH - Frankie is DIRTY RINGUH 2. As I said about Pixie, her chance of winning is dependent on whether she can capture the audience with her personality. Regardless of that, she too is with us for the duration because that waltz was just lovely, especially given the slightly uncomfortable arrangement of the song. I very much liked the green dress. 
One of the other Saturdays seems to have come in Pat Butcher's dressing gown. Arm-wafting, plus prop, plus extended intro was not my favourite start to things. But then off they went doing some proper waltzing and it was all rather lovely. Even with Kevin's odd mustard-coloured shirt.

Simon and Kristina - the first pimp slot of the series: the producers must have high hopes for Mr Webbe. First of all, it's a relief and a novelty to see Kristina with a more height appropriate partner. These two look fantastic together and this routine was fun and funky and a pleasure to watch. Is he a DIRTY RINGUH? Not that I can gather. He must have had at least rudimentary dance coaching in Blue, but I haven't yet found any evidence of a lifetime of tap dancing or similar. He's undoubtedly a natural though and I am looking forward to seeing him progress.
Crikey, you forget how good Kristina is at the jive! I quite liked this, it wasn't the best jive ever but it had an attitude and musicality that I wasn't expecting from Simon. He's the latest in a number of surprises we weren't expecting this week...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Winning Formula - Version 6.0

It's time for my annual stab-in-the-dark-plus-science, as I try to work out through the loosest of methodologies who is going to win SCD this year. Can you believe this is the 6th version of this?! It's also amazing how many of the variables still stand up....well, kinda...

Also, I considered adding a new variable this year, which was going to be 'dance with a new pro'. But that has only actually happened three times: Jill and Darren, Kara and Artem and Abbey and Aljaz. Sorry Brendan, but series one doesn't count cos you were all new!

So roll up your sleeves, get your fake geek glasses on and let's do some science!

1) Get the party started
Ah, the old favourite, if you dance first in the opening episodes you seem to be more likely to get to the final. Who knows why, maybe the BBC just doesn't want someone embarrassing to kick things off and sends out the popstars. And speaking of embarrassing, it didn't work out that way last year, with Ben and Ashley kicking things off - and to think I was expecting Ashley to get to the final. Mark my words, Pixie, Frankie or Thom is being flung out on that dancefloor first this year....

2) Quit your day job
Speaking of Ashley, maybe he would have made it to the final if he wasn't involved in some sort of performing arts sweatshop doing Hollyoaks AND Strictly last year. And there's a tiny chance you might have noticed he had a baby on the way, someone might have mentioned it. Also, it looked like Susanna was going to prove that BBC newsreader anomaly all over again, but she peaked too soon. Looking around, Frankie and/or Pixie look like the one most likely to suffer from this, aren't they both doing tour work? Not a good idea ladies! Could Scott Mills clinch it with the BBC connection? What about Jake Wood? Is Max Branning going to mysteriously vanish from our screens for a few weeks? DID HE MURDER LUCY BEALE?

3) Blondes don't have more fun
When Abbey won last year I was very happy, apart from the fact that she's ruined one of the delightfully random variables - she's the first blonde ever to win SCD! It only took 11 series! (I'm not listening to any of you snarky people saying she's not a natural blonde, who is anyway?). So whilst this factor is not 100% rock steady, a 9% success rate for blondes is hardly something to shout about. Watch out Pixie and Jennifer - you're the only two blondes this year! Caroline, you're half blonde, it's your thing, but it confuses me. Jake Wood - do it for the gingers!

4) Latin fever
It's still all about those latin pros, our ballroom specialists just always seem to be the bridesmaid and never the bride (or mysteriously disappear never to be seen again, but Erin's retired from all that now - or has she...?). Aljaz winning last year is also another win for the 10 Dance specialists, could the tide slowly be turning away from those latin experts? I'm still gutted poor Natalie isn't getting a sexy young thing to bring back the ballroom dances with this year!

5) Age is more than a number
Once again, a shiny young thing in their 20s won the show last year, no one over 40 is ever going to win SCD, so it seems. Susanna Reid, you followed in the same vein as Jason Donovan and Pamela Stephenson and oh-so-nearly broke the mould for the slightly-older contestant. Now, Tim, Gregg, Scott, Steve, Jennifer, Judy and Sunetra you've got a big job on your hands. Alison, on the other hand, isn't 40 until February next year, just sneaking in there!

6) Embrace the sparkle!
That's right, every year we have to stress that you just have to LIVE the whole Strictly experience. Alison is taking the right approach, as I write this she's probably rolling around in a pile of glitter and that's the way it should be. Thom Evans also seems rather keen on those spangly shirts and he's partnered with the most spangle-tastic of pros, Iveta. Embracing the sparkle isn't just literal though, it's a way of life, a state of being, and level of conscious that requires true devotion the spray tanning, shimmering and shimmying that makes up our lives until Christmas - buckle up pros, it's going to be a crazy ride!

Here we are then, it's time for me to roll out that winning formula equation...

Dance first - day job + brunette x latin pro > 40 years old + sparkle = WINNER!

This year to add yet more excitement to the proceedings, I'm going to update this post after the opening weekend to make that early prediction, using the formula, of who is going to win. Current favourites stand as...