Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Winning Formula - Version 9.0

I mean seriously, version NINE?

Last year the Winning Formula only managed to predict one successful finalist, but one of the others was Will Young, and another was Claudia, who should have been in the final anyway *grumble grumble think of your blood pressure*. But yay for Danny, he'd always come through for us. So I feel like the intuition was still there, stay with me guys...let's get down to predicting our 2017 finalists.

1) Get the party started
One of the weirdest elements of the formula still stands, if you dance first, you end up in the final. Well, I say weird, I guess the producers want to start the show with something half-decent and attention-grabbing (do the producers have rational thought processes?). Last year, we had Laura kicking us off on Friday and then Louise on Saturday, and Louise was even doing a jive, they did a good job getting that out of the way quickly. This year however, we're back to one show and so only have one 'opening' person - so no pressure there!

2) Quit your day job
Ore once proved again that you can only win Strictly whilst simultaneously doing your day job if you are a BBC News presenter, they must breed them tough in that office! He held up the fine tradition of Natasha Kaplinsky and Chris Hollins, while their ITV equivalents continue to lag behind quite dramatically, so I hope Brendan is working Charlotte hard in training. Apparently Simon Rimmer is planning to keep on doing Sunday Brunch every week, so I expect to see him asleep behind the sofa by 10:30 with Tim Lovejoy drawing on his face. Speaking of day jobs, can you actually take a day off from being a vicar? It's not like Eastenders where you can persuade them to send you off to Kettering for a few weeks (think of an excuse Davood).

3) Blondes don't have more fun
We didn't have a single blonde in the final last year, hey, we didn't even have a blonde in the semi-finals! Abbey Clancy remains our sole blonde SCD winner, British public, you are a strange one. We also have a fair few blondes this year, with Mollie, Gemma, Debbie, Ruth, Charlotte and Jonnie, and some of these people are quite hotly-tipped. Jonnie is probably the most natural blonde too, I have no idea if that means anything, there's a fine art vs science vs reality TV voting patterns balance going on with this formula.

4) Latin fever
Something very dramatic happened last year: thanks to Joanne a ballroom-specialist pro won Strictly. This has never happened before and left me questioning everything, right down to whether Anton could ever win this thing. He is after all the last ballroom pro standing now that Natalie has left *sob*, I can only assume Erin was up to her old sabotage tricks again...As for this year's new pro intake, Nadiya was World 10 Dance Champion twice, so that could even things up (Flavia proved 10 Dance-rs can win this thing) if she can whip Davood into shape.

5) Age is more than a number
Nine people out of fifteen in the cast this year are over 40, and no-one over 40 has ever won Strictly, so we may have an upward battle on our hands this year. Admittedly, some of them have only just celebrated their fourth decade, like Joe at 41, Susan at 42, and Chizzy at 43 (they must be so happy I take the time to google this). I still need to know if Charlotte has a portrait in the attic or something. Also, they haven't managed to find someone to cast as a child this year, like they did with Claudia, and so Mollie looks like the yummiest of yummy mummies pared next to AJ.

6) Embrace to sparkle!
In case you're wondering, whenever I type that term, in my head I squawk it in an Australian Strictly-ballroom accent. Strictly is all about losing your cool, and really wanting it, with added glitter and bells on. Literal bells are coming during a theme week, I'm sure. Ore's blubbering was a sign of that last year, because you can't do Strictly half-hearted and the British public won't stand for it. The prime candidate this year is Susan, who is grabbing the experience with both hands and probably won't let Kevin go at the end of it. See also Rev Richard and Diane making him dance in his pants, Ruth and Anton being the perfect pairing, and Alexandra actually saying she's looking forward to the rumba. Sparkle on my pretties, you'll be a mess come December, but all the better for it.

So here is a reminder of that formula we rely on to see us through the series:

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

Come back after opening weekend to see who the Formula predicts will make the SCD final - and in the meantime you can always vote in our poll!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Class of 2017

Here we are with a line-up of newbies, and fairly mixed bag for the Strictly pick-n-mix in 2017. Some young, some old, a drought on sports people and a gaggle of popstars, with some real surprises thrown in along the way. We're flexing our blogging fingers for what is bound to be an eventful year...

Mollie King
We do seem to be getting The Saturdays on instalments with five easy payments, we're up to three out of five now. I'd rather it was three out of five Spice Girls or Girls Aloud or whatever, but we take our popstar fodder where we get it. A wikipedia search suggests she might not be as ringer-y as you would initially expect, seems like she spent more time winning skiing competitions than going to stage school, and thankfully she wasn't coerced into the Dancing on Ice revival. She's only 5ft 3 and if she gets partnered with Kevin I might just roll my eyes out of my head.

Davood Ghadami
Popstar followed by a soap star, so far so predictable, but it looks like they've made a popular choice with Davood this year! Twitter made a collective "oooh" when he was announced, and whilst there isn't a lot of evidence either way, it just seems like he'll be a good contestant. I have my worries he might be a bit stiff and/or gangly, but we do love a journey. Give him to Katya, I say, and start sewing those see-through shirts.

Ruth Langsford
Ruth is inherently likeable, she's like that slightly-cool friend of your mum's who you don't mind bumping into, and most importantly, she is NOT Eamonn Holmes, for which we are all grateful. I see her being in the Deborah Meaden category, and whilst she won't be in it for weeks on end, will have a truly marvellous time. At the moment she's definitely on Anton's dance card, but maybe they'll go crazy and give him Mollie or something.

Gemma Atkinson
This felt like a blast from the past, as I mainly remember her from Hollyoaks in the early 2000s, but Casualty and Emmerdale means she's been on TV fairly consistently for a while. She has also done a lot of reality TV. She seems like an unknown quality when it comes to dance ability, and I feel like she may suffer the wardrobe department's wrath of trying to do young and edgy outfits.

Rev Richard Coles
Now there's a surprise! Amid what seems like a thoroughly predictable line-up this year, we suddenly get a member of the clergy thrust upon us. Possibly in the 'Ed Balls' category, and he actually was in a band so could have pretty good timing and rhythm, but he has also confessed (see what I did there?) to having arthritic knees. I'm also sad once again that Erin has left, because she would have obviously have been partnered with him, which makes me wonder if he will be given to one of the newbies.

Joe McFadden
With a name like that, I assumed he was in Westlife, serves me right for not watching Holby City I suppose. Bit of an unknown quantity, although his CV shows he's done a fair bit of theatre in his time, including some all-singing-all-dancing stuff like Rent. Also, the show now has to decide between tartan-shortbread-Scottish or ooh-doctor-I-feel-faint numbers, so they're basically spoilt for choice.

Simon Rimmer
This seemed like a nice surprise for the show, Simon isn't a superstar but seems like an all-round good egg, and doesn't seem to be doing Strictly to launch an album or whatever. Considering all the random things he has to deal with live on Sunday Brunch every week, I feel like he'll be able to handle it, even though he is obviously going to be dad-dancer-extraordinaire. He's also been posting videos on Twitter of him trying to teach himself to waltz, which is super-endearing.

Aston Merrygold
Otherwise known as the tiny one from JLS with a name like a pixie. I know we keep going on about it, but 5ft 4 really is rather small - and basically makes him a shoo-in for Janette. I can see them flinging each other around as I type. There's also the controversial issue of him being a judge on Got To Dance, which didn't stop them signing up Louise last year, but does make the whole thing seem a bit weird. People will be expecting the standard to be exceptionally high - can he do a Danny Mac and win everyone over?

Susan Calman
I was so happy to see Susan appear out of the blue, you don't actually get many comedians on the show, let alone female ones. Like Aston, she is also teeny-tiny, and will probably end up with AJ, although I can see her having a whale of time with Ginger Neil, and he definitely needs a partner this year. I doubt she's going to go massively far, but stranger things have happened (by which I mean Nancy Dell'Olio in her entirety).

Brian Conley
This one brought on a bit of an eyeroll, I don't think anyone is particularly desperate to see Brian Connelly doing a cha cha. Saying that, he's done a fair bit of theatre and variety in his time (including something directed by Craig R-H no less), so I'm sure he will be capable, if not a total ringer. Can you be a ringer when you're over 50? I've also had in my head for years that he is a super-tall person, but he's actually only 5ft 11. Men's heights aren't as interesting now that Natalie Lowe has left *sob*

Charlotte Hawkins
I'm getting Rachel Riley flashbacks here. Classic ITV fodder, she'll look good in a frock and will probably be a bit tentative. I don't have much to say other than that she's 42 despite looking about 28, so she must have some sort of super-power up her sleeve.

Chizzy Akudolu
Another Holby person? Why does the show I don't watch have two people from it this year? She's been on TV since she was a kid but doesn't seem to have done stage school, although she did come second on Lets Sing and Dance for Comic Relief, so I'm sure there's some talent there. Also, she said in her announcement that she once came second in a disco dancing competition aged 13, which is so endearingly naff I've warmed to her.

Debbie McGee
I may refer to her as The Lovely Debbie McGee all series, since I have no 'Matt Goss From Bros' option. She's actually a bit of a ringer on the quiet with her years of ballet training (dramatically swept aside during the Iranian revolution, google it), and being a magician's assistant means you have to be flexible enough to be crammed in a tiny box, oh the glamour. I can't see her being very good at latin, but we'll have to see what partner she gets.

Jonnie Peacock
One of those rare, rare moments when someone on your wishlist actually turns up on the show! I want him to dance with Oti and have a journey and pick up where Greg Rutherford left off, miracles do happen sometimes. Since he is the only sportsperson in the line-up this year, there's actually some pressure on him for someone who isn't an experienced performer. Chin up, shoulders back, big smile, Jonnie!

Alexandra Burke
A bit ringer-y, but not too ringery - and also a fairly starry name in a line-up that people haven't really been raving about. Seeing her on The One Show reminded me that she didn't just win the X Factor because she can sing, but because of her bouncy enthusiasm and general star-quality. She'll look fierce in a spangle-tastic Strictly frock and with the right partner could easily go all the way. Bring it on.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Oduba-lieve in Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Strictly Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Cha Cha Chicanery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Seaside Shenanigans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Grans and Gangnam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Shut up and dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Fright Night VII - Dances of Doom

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

Three Things I Liked:

1. Ed Balls

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

2. Oksana's Choreography

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

3. Paint It Black

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

One Thing That Really Wound Me Up:

1. Inconsistent Judging

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

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

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Curse of Strictly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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