Saturday, 22 September 2018

Ready for Lift Off!

Gosh, Strictly opens with a swirling romantic number in Somerset House that hopefully sets the tone for the rest of the series - it's good to be back! Saddle up, because it's going to be a long one with plenty to discuss along the way...
Danny and Amy
Starting the series with a foxtrot sounds harsh, but Danny is the hot favourite according to our poll and he's doing the famous first dance, which basically guarantees him a place in the final. This was razzmatazzing all over the place at times, but thankfully Amy put in lots in hold, even though Danny obviously found it harder. Plenty of potential with the top line etc, and of course ALLLLL the outfits as the series goes on...

Kate and Aljaz
I have fallen for these two more and more as the training has gone on, Kate is already having the time of her life and I want to join her on the ride. A cha cha is where we all feel secure week 1, and this was the epitome of a week 1 cha cha. There was sass, basic steps, and jiggling and nervous giggles and the whole thing was great fun. Yes, there were some awkward bits and she didn't nail the technique, but I'm sure there's much more to come!

Lauren and AJ
I had no expectations going into this, especially after Lauren had to go to Australia, but this routine quite impressed me. There was a lot more content than I expected too, I imagined time off would lead to excessive faffing, but it was nearly all waltz. Lauren proved herself to be pretty capable too and wasn't distracted by AJ wearing her nan's curtains for a shirt - that shows she's made of strong stuff.

Seann and Katya
Another unknown quantity, but that's what this series was all about. I thought he was going to go for comedy, but despite the barely-contained excitement, he was committing to doing an actual tango. Katya continues to be a fierce goddess, and the band totally brought it with Sexy Back - I didn't think that was a good song choice when they announced it, but maybe it gave Seann the heavy beat he needed? Can't wait to see what they do next.

Vick and Graziano
Tonight Tess, I'm going to be....Alesha Dixon! The outfit and the dance matched, and it looks like we're going to great some great stuff from her this series. The kicks and flicks weren't 100% sharp, and I was waiting for it to explode at some point that never came, and as many people said, it was a bit too much on the Grazi. Jive is super-hard to start with though, and she clearly has potential, fingers crossed for next week.

Susannah and Anton
Well, we knew they were going for a comedy samba, the key question was whether it was actually going to be funny....and it wasn't. It was like a French revolution acid trip merged with the Honey Monster, with a couple of basic samba steps thrown in for posterity. I can't work out whether Susannah is properly bad, or if Anton just didn't even try - pray for some (normal) ballroom next week.

Charles and Karen
I totally expected them in the pimp slot, not halfway through, especially with that epic 90s throwback of a song. This turned out to be a cheeky little number, and I was surprised that it got called out on the lack of cha cha content, considering it's week 1 and some of the nonsense that has been let slide in recent years. It didn't blow my socks off like I was hoping, but Charles has shown he can certainly bring it. And in a particularly jaunty red outfit nonetheless.

Ashley and Pasha
Loving how they've put Queen of the Ringers in the most ballroom dance possible, and head them off with 'oh this is so different to what I'm used to', only for her to knock it out of the park two minutes later. But let us enjoy some good, classic ballroom in week one, in a nice frock with Pasha having a marvellous time.

Dr Ranj and Janette
Yes, the man has a doctorate, and I will be using it all series. This was a delightful cha cha, with the full on commitment to eyes-and-teeth that I demand from this dance. Janette was spangle-tastic but thankfully didn't overshadow him, and he managed to keep on track of the whole thing despite props and tables etc. The cha cha suits him down the ground, so I'm waiting on next week's (probably) ballroom number with some trepidation - but he's been the surprise of the night so far.

Katie and Gorka
A dramatic change of pace after Dr Ranj, but I think Katie got a bit overwhelmed by the emotion of the song and essentially the whole thing. Her and Gorka seem like a good team though, and he can hopefully guide her through it, because it all looked a bit tentative. But it is nice to have these moments when you remember doing Strictly is A Big Deal and you are Dancing On The Telly In Front Of Millions.

Graeme and Oti
Oti clearly hasn't got a frontrunner this year, but she continues to be the most fun and fabulous pro and her and Graeme clearly get on. This was so much fun, I really enjoyed it - Oti just grabbed what she could and made it into something resembling a samba. Yes there were props and flossing, but there were properly-attempted samba steps in there - and this is only week 1 with a cripplingly hard dance! Bring on next week!

Stacey and Kevin
Another unknown quantity we were all looking forward to seeing, but also slightly apprehensive that Kevin's pulled out a week 1 quickstep for a non-dancer. But wow, she took everything thrown at her and then some, great song choice and a sparkly frock and we were away! She's better out of hold than in at this point, but that will come in time, as will the core strength hopefully. She flew around the floor and was brimming with confidence, onwards and upwards...

Lee and Nadiya
I haven't been sure what to make of these two since the launch show, and I still don't. All I can say is that it didn't really feel waltzy enough for me and Lee seemed to be holding her at arm's length a lot of the time. Not a lot to say really, hopefully they bring some exciting latin next week.

Joe and Dianne
Joe came so late in this marathon opener I'd basically forgotten he was doing the show and that we had no idea how it was going to turn out. Amazingly, this wasn't a total car crash; he'd obviously worked at it despite being terrified. The bits of him jiving were easily better than the faffing! A whole series worth of cringe-worthy emoji symbols and sidebars would be more than grating, but nice to see he's throwing himself into it.

Faye from Steps and Giovanni
I know there have been approximately nine million dancers this evening, but I just didn't connect with this routine - it wasn't a bringing-down-the-house week 1 finale. Yes, it had cha cha content and was all smooth and clean, maybe just a little too smooth and clean? Considering we have dubbed this the 'Surprise Series' this was anything but. Knock my sparkly socks off next week please!

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Winning Formula - 10th anniversary edition

Since I have been trying to scientifically work out the Winning Formula for winning Strictly for 10 years now, I believe I deserve some sort of academically-recognised award. It's stood the test of time pretty well over the decade, but the present for a tenth wedding anniversary is apparently tin, and that doesn't feel glamorous enough. A teeny tiny glitterball trophy with my initials scratched on it maybe?

As we go into this, I would like to highlight that last year the Formula picked 2 out of four finalists correctly - Alexandra and Gemma (the other one was Aston, make of that what you will). My work is never done, let's get down to 2018...

1) Get the party started
I concede, we've stretched this definition a bit over the years, with contestants being split into two batches and giving us two opportunities for a 'first dance', but Gemma really came through last year by dancing first and making her way to the final. That tentative cha cha in an odd orange dress had me worried for a while, but the formula came thorough once again! It's one show for everyone's first dance this year once again, so I'll be biting my nails like a Kermit the frog GIF.

2) Quit your day job
It's clear that Strictly and doing another job rarely goes well; physically, mentally...spiritually? Unless you are the superhuman breed known as the BBC News presenter, so no pressure there Kate Silverton! Last year hilariously proved this, after Joe had not only left Holby City, but also didn't reveal the shock of his character being killed off! The drama! There are some difficult scenarios this year, with Charles staying on Casualty and commuting from Wales, but that pales in comparison to Lauren doing a competition literally on the other side of the world before week 1 - poor AJ didn't even get a trip to Oz out of this! Can you take a day off from being a YouTuber? Will Dianne have to surgically remove that phone from Joe's hand? Expect all the *crazy* jokes about the youth of today to not wear thin at all...

3) Blondes don't have more fun
The evidence is right before your eyes, we had a 50% blonde final last year, and it still don't come through and Abbey Clancy remains our sole blonde winner - what is that about? Debbie McGee is also about the blondest person in the world, if she couldn't do it, I can only assume the British public is inherently prejudiced. If this plays out, we're losing Ashley, Faye, Katie, and Susannah at the outset, while Stacey is holding it up for the redheads this year - will we ever have a ginger winner? The #JusticeForGingerNeil campaign continues apace. 

4) Latin fever
Once again, we had a latin specialist win Strictly last year, making Jo Clifton the ballroom pioneer of the ages for all of two years. As for this new batch of pros, Graziano is very much a latin specialist (whilst simultaneously having to take on the Strictly mantle of Most Italian Man Ever, I assume), so it looks like ballroom specialists are off the table for another year. Unless some Terpsichorean miracle occurs with Anton that is, along with dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, etc. 

5) Age is more than a number
This is where we had our *shock* variation last year, with Joe winning despite reaching the grand old age of 42. Before you start throwing sparkly bedpans at me, up until that point, no one had won Strictly over the age of 40. It's a fairly young cast this year, with nine out of 15 under 40, and a couple of people sneaking in at 39 - keep your eyes on Graeme and Dr Ranj! I'm happy for this variable to be revised as time goes on, because age shouldn't really be a barrier on this show, maybe life can begin at 50?

6) Embrace the sparkle!
The least quantifiable, but most important of variables, you must throw yourself into the glitter pit, head first (and naked, apparently, if you're Jeremy Vine). Strictly requires losing all sense of reality and becoming one with the da-hance, dah-ling. Last year's finalists all had the benefit of being amazing teams together, and we can only hope we get the same this year. Stand-out contestants this year for embracing the sparkle seem to be Seann, with his out-of-the-comfort-zone hysteria, Kate with her mummy-sass, and Stacey and Kevin jumping around like five-year-olds after too much sherbet. Joe on the other hand looks like a rabbit in the headlights, hopefully the fake tan will work its magic.

On doing the calculations (I've definitely shown my working for extra marks), the Winning Formula this year predicts the following people will make it to the final...

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

Graeme
Joe
Lee
Seann
Stacey

As ever, the first dancer on the opening show will be added to the list - in the meantime, throw your hat into the ring and vote in our poll!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Ooh, What Lovely Pairs

Welcome back!


It's been ten years since we started this blog, guys. TEN YEARS. Feeling super old but luckily our fingers still work well enough to type Strictly-related ramblings. Aren't you lucky?

So after an uber-lengthy group number during which I recognised so few pro faces I think I may have early onset memory issues ... it's time to have a wee chat about the new couplings.

Kate and ... Aljaz!

Kate reminds me so much of Natasha Kaplinsky I was almost certain she'd already been on the show. She seems like a jolly good sport. And Aljaz is obvs all kinds of adorable. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6 - her name and face were familiar

Vick and ... Graziano

She has amazing hair. Would have put money on this partnership. They look like fecking dynamite. I have a feeling they'll be finalists already. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0 - sorry, I had no blinkin' idea. 

Susannah and ... Anton

Cue fun, frolics and a guaranteed pass to at least week 5. She didn't look the most rhythmic in that group number. But I'm sure Anton could just stick her in a wardrobe for at least 33% of each dance and it'll be fine.

Clover Awareness Rating: 8 - Didn't know her surname. In fact, thought her surname was Susannah and her first name was Trinniand. My mum used to have one of the books. 

Faye and ... Giovanni

Loving the La la land-esque yellow dress, despite it being a little skewiff. If there are no Steps moves included in her routines, it will be an absolute tragedy. I know some of them are really better best forgotten, but sometimes it's better the devil you know. I reckon these two will be pretty good, but the final is really the last thing on my mind right now. Ah anyway, as long as she doesn't just stomp...

I am oh so very sorry. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. I was a teenager in the 90s. 

Lee and ... Nadia

Of course they put him in a blue suit.

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. I was a teenager in the 90s.

Ranj and ... Janette

These guys seems like a ray of sunshine already. I'm feeling happy vibes. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. I neither watch CBBC nor daytime TV. 


Danny and ... Amy 

He is wearing a joyous hat. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6. OK DON'T SHOOT ME. I didn't watch Red Dwarf. BUT I did watch Maid Marian. Fun fact: Author Mark Billingham was one of the guards. I met him at a work event. That obviously means Danny and I are practically related. 

Joe and ... Diane

Let's stop the Youtuber bashing. He's really quite famous. Just not to anyone over the age of 24. I think he is such an interesting signing. Poor mite looks terrified. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6. Had genuinely heard of him. I am so down with the kids it hurts. 

Katie and ... Gorka 

So, the first signing to be announced and one so free of spoilerdom, it knocked everyone sideways. She is rather an inspirational lady and an unknown quantity with regards to dance ability. The perfect combination for a reaaaally long trip? Tour? Voyage? Expedition? Drive? J....?

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Seen 'er on telly, innit.

Lauren and ... AJ

Competitive and fit. Doesn't it make you sick? These two could be a proper power couple. Apparently has a thing for salsa dancing. I will be keeping an eye on that. Please don't make her dance to Michael Jackson.

Clover Awareness Rating: 7, heard of her, but unfortunately sports people are rarely at the top of my radar.

Stacey and ... Kevin

I genuinely think Stacey is great! What a great reaction and a great partnership. Too many greats. Sorry. But she's potentially a great 'journey' (yes, I've already mentioned it twice...) contestant, having no performing arts background that we know of...

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Love her docs. Shows, not boots. 

Ashley and ... Pasha

So... Pashley? Don't cha think she'll be amazing...and win? I think she could be the ringiest ringer of them all. Will she be open about it, or keep it hush hush? Will she ditch Pasha because she, ahem, doesn't need a man? Or cling to his torso wailing I'LL STICK WITU. I'm not sure the British public will be per-sway-ded to vote for her. Will she bite the dust early on?

I HATE myself right now. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 4. I have heard of The Pussycat Dolls. Just not the individual components. 

Seann and ... Katya

I'm all for anyone who talks a lot about cheese and can pull off a sparkly red suit. Katya has a good track record with ringers and comedy contestants alike. Good pair. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 3 - I've definitely seen him on 'telly. But I wouldn't have been able to tell you his name. 

Charles and ... Karen

Oti looked like she really wanted him. Not surprised. He was basically the stand out star of the group 
number. And more than a little dishy. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. The last time I watched casualty, Sam Colloby and Dr Richard McCaig were sharing a staffroom. 

Graeme and ... Oti

The only cricketers I have heard of are those who've been on Strictly. So Graeme, welcome to the very small and select group in my head. He was clapping in time in the group number. Let's hope he's more of a Gough than a Vaughan *has Vaughan jive flashback* *dies* 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. See above. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Surprise Class of 2018

It feels like 2018 has flown by, and all of a sudden Strictly contestants are popping up all over the place! By which I mean on carefully selected media outlets, but despite the lack of rumours in the build-up, we've had a very interesting crop emerge this year. Sure there are the typical popstars, sportsmen and newsreasders, but also some real left-field signings that mean this series is sure to hold some real surprises. Onwards!
Katie Piper
Exhibit A, there was no rumour around Katie and I don't think I'd ever seen suggestions she'd like to do the show, so she made the first announcement all the more exciting. Like a fair few contestants this year, her potential dancing ability is more of an unknown quantity, but whilst she might lack a typical 'performance' background she's incredibly likeable and used to being in front of a camera. Hoping she gets a pro that she really clicks with and can bring out the best in her. I'm thinking Pasha.

Faye from Steps
Yes, that is her official name, and she is such a classic Strictly contestant I'm surprised it's taken this long. Yes, yes, Steps did dancing, but they were hardly the Royal Academy and did moves specifically designed for small children and drunk people to copy at parties. Her time in musical theatre since seems like more relevant experience.

Danny John-Jules
I made an Cat-like squeal when this surprise announcement was made, it might seem random but it makes total sense. He's known to various generations from Red Dwarf, Maid Marian and her Merry Men, The Story Makers, and is current and mainstream BBC with Death in Paradise. He's also hilarious and can clearly move, the fact that he's one of the older contestants will probably be quickly forgotten. I cannot wait until they let him loose on the dancefloor.

Joe Sugg
Ah, the most controversial signing of the series, from some people's reaction you'd think they'd signed a Russian Eurovision entry. All I'll say is that every year a sportsman who's been retired for years is signed and I don't throw a tantrum that I don't know who he is. Back to Mr Sugg, I'm not sure he completely understands what he's let himself in for, and is going to be heavily reliant on his female pro to guide him through this weird and sparkly world. Put in some hard work, and the British public will love it.

Vick Hope
This was my first real 'who?' of the announcements, but she seems pretty fun and is brimming with enthusiasm. She also has awesome hair. Her wiki page also reveals she began her career as a journalist in Buenos Aries, and I can guarantee that will be flogged to death when the Argentine Tango comes around.

Graeme Swann
So, yeah, retired sportsmen...This is much more in the Classic Strictly Signing space, I wouldn't be surprised if they brought Erin back to partner him. I'm not expecting much from him, but the last cricketer we had on the show was Michael Vaughan who brought us one of the greatest rollercoaster experiences in Strictly history, from the low of the jive of death to the triumph of the Wembley American Smooth. He's also 6ft 1, which means he'll tower over a lot of the female pros.

Dr Ranj Singh
Another classic Strictly signing, in that you always need someone who will get you some free coverage on ITV. I was vaguely aware This Morning had upgraded Dr Chris had upgraded to a younger, sexier model to talk about something other than the menopause, but I didn't know he also did a show on CBeebies on children's health. Someone I work with who has kids claimed it's about "not pooing your pants" but I'm sure there's more to it. I have no idea whether he can dance or not, but more than happy to give him a chance, I smell a J-word...

Stacey Dooley
We're back on the random train (don't confuse it with the porn train), I think there was the odd rumour about Stacey but no one really too it seriously. Another unknown quantity without a performance background, I think confidence could be the key here - although her current Twitter freakouts are totally relatable.

Ashley Roberts
Here is the Official Ringer Target of 2018, because, well, she's been a professional dancer. Can't pass that one off with 'I just sat on a chair', and her dance experience being the justification for her place on the Dancing On Ice judging panel. I'm not about to have kittens over this (pussycat, kittens, see what I did there?) because we're sure to get some fun dances out of her and I'm excited to see who she gets paired with. She also survived The Jump without sustaining serious injury, which is pretty impressive.

Kate Silverton
Are we sure she's not already done this? A Christmas special? Children In Need? Apparently not, although I still can't shake the image of her in a ballgown, so maybe she's just made for it. No discernible dance background, but a lot of sport experience as a youth, I'm expecting some sort of 'jolly hockey sticks' joke somewhere. She seems like a shoo-in for Anton, but maybe they will mix it up this year? 

Seann Walsh
From the totally predictable to the completely random once again, I've never seen a rumour about him, and we've always been pretty light on comics on the show. I haven't the foggiest whether he can dance a step, and again, I think confidence will be the key here, as it feels like he's way out of his comfort zone. Also, will he be having the ceremonial haircut like Jay McGuiness (only to then have two dances where long hair would have worked)?

Lee Ryan
Gotta get your popstars of yore in, and despite Blue being more of the shuffle-about-and-look-moody school of boybands, he has a fair bit of stage school experience from in his youth to fall back on. Or is he our Eastenders contestant this year? Have to economise and all that. At 5 ft 9 he's tall, but not massively so, which leaves the field fairly open for a female pro - who will also have to deal with his rather eccentric streak. You know what I'm talking about.

Lauren Steadman
She's got a lot to live up to after the joy of Jonnie Peacock last year, but always happy to have a Paralympian on board. Not only is she super-fit and used to training (I can't even think about a triathlon without feeling tired), she also confessed to a love of salsa dancing on The One Show - Clover will be watching this with a beady eye!

Charles Venn
Charles or Chucky? He goes by Chucky sometimes and I really want to go for it for the kitsch vibe, this is Strictly after all. He's being pitched as the Casualty/Holby contestant of this series, but I don't watch those and will forever remember him as the Footballers Wives character who went to a team mate's Pride and Prejudice-themed wedding as a slave. That's woke AF. At 6ft, he's one of the taller male contestants this year, but other than that, we'll just have to wait and see.

Susannah Constantine
Can she strike out as one half of a double act? We know the BBC are always desperate for a double act. I'm more interested in whether she can throw off the tyranny of sleeves on the older woman, which I have been railing against since the days of Cherie Lunghi (seriously, there are dusty blog posts about this). Everyone's saying it's a choice between her and Kate for Anton, and she'd totally dig Anton's sense of style, but if this year has already taught us something, it's that you can't predict what's going to happen!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Final Fever

Final time and it's a long one, let's get down to it! As ever, it's hard work blogging about dances that have already been done, so here's a quick rundown...

Alexandra's American Smooth was a sweet as a box of chocolates, and she just exuded delight. Debbie got lumbered with her weird salsa, but sold it as ever and we also had the delight of Spelling With Giovanni. Gemma got the best choice because I do really love that paso, and it showed them as strong and a team.  Joe's VW was the first of his dances I really liked and this was great to see again, especially for Katya's dramatic heroine over-acting to make up for the lack of moustache.

Now, let's get cracking with the craziest of Christmas treats, the showdances!

Alexandra and Gorka
After the drama they've had this series, I love that Alex and Gorka chose the ultimate showtune for their showdance, and did the most razzmatazzy choreography possible. Whilst also throwing in an Argentine Tango, because why not? As ever, you should play to your strengths and we saw it with her musicality and verve. What's more, showdances often feel like they're rattling along until the wheels come off, whereas this had control, and was all the better for it. Love youse guys.

Debbie and Giovanni
I saw some It Takes Two footage and it looked rather contempo-waft, and, shocker, ballet-heavy. Giovanni likes himself a schmaltzy showdance, doesn't he? Great song choice and nice to have a change of pace in a showdance, but it didn't feel like more than the some of its parts. And too many lifts for me.

Gemma and Aljaz
This was the most unknown quantity going into it, but you can often play that to your advantage. This was a pretty good routine with a balance of ballroom and Charleston and maybe a bit of cha cha thrown in, but I think it showed up that Gemma is technically behind the other three. There were moments when looked like she was standing still waiting for the next move. But full marks for oomph, which is what you always want from Gemma, it was enough of a surprise to maybe keep her in this.

Joe and Katya
This took a long time to get to the dancing...and was basically just a bit weird. Once we got underway, it turned into a very nice quickstep with very well-executed lifts, but not much more than that. I don't really have much to say about it, which is seriously dangerous for a showdance...

And then we had the final dances, and I realised this series has gone by in a flash! Thankfully we had Alex to raise the roof with the epic jive of epicness, this girl has given everything this series. Debbie reminded us that when she's at her best, she's awesome, with the Argentine Tango. Then we had Gemma changing the pace with a lovely bit of ballroom with an AS that did her proud, and brought a bit of Blackpool to the final! Finally, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Joe and Katya's Charleston as much as I did; I felt like it had improved and was perfectly executed.

Just before the heart-stopping moment with the winners announcement, we actually had one of the best group numbers we've had! It's usually a car crash but this was remarkably good and carefree. Here's a list of exclaiming highlights...The Rev not doing any dancing! Ruth and Anton stripping! Davood and Nadiya messing up a lift! Mollie just doing lifts! Kevin and Susan making me well-up in a surprising turn of events! The return of Jonnie's glitter blade!

And then the red lights came down for the final decision (and four people instead of three just made the stage look cluttered this year), and the winner is......JOE! The only-person-not-in-the-dance-off thing did make it the most likely, and everyone loves a J-word. Plus Katya has given us some great choreography this year. It's been a cracking series that brought us some great dances, Shirley, and plenty of laughs, see you all next year!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Semi-Final Slog

The semi-final is always exhausting for everyone involved, we have two dances, it's nearly Christmas and everyone is a bit tired and emotional. It's often a slog with flashes of greatness. We also started this semi with some seriously bling-tastic dresses from Tess and Shirley, are there any sequins left in Britain?

Joe and Katya
Joe has gone from strength to strength in recent weeks, and this was always going to be a good dance for him. My expectations were high and I was watching with a beady eye, but apart from some wonky arm bits, it was very good. A nice routine yet again from Katya too with a great mix of steps and not overly-reliant on lifts. Correctly scored, and all round good and proper, but not a wow moment just yet. But we have a long night ahead of us...

Alexandra and Gorka
Apart from her quickstep at Blackpool, it feels like forever since Alex got to do some classic ballroom, and in a drop dead gorgeous frock too! PLUS a totally appropriate song choice that enhance the dance - all the elements were there for once. Now, there was a whiff, a WHIFF, of contempo waft about this, but I can forgive it since you need to jazz up a VW in the semis or you get forgotten.

Mollie and AJ
10 out of 10 for effort and smiling, much less out of 10 for dancing. She managed to look like she was having a marvellous time, but it really was all over the place. Craig comments about the palm trees having more bounce did make me cackle, I bet she is dying to get back in ballroom. Also, poor AJ looked like a puppy that had been told off...

Gemma and Aljaz
No one wants a rumba in the semifinal, contestants, pros, viewers, no-one. Saying that, I actually thought this was quite sweet and they captured a nice mood, teamwork has been one of their strengths all the way through. But is was a bit hesitant in places and didn't quite flow. Certainly not a disaster, and it did indeed look like a rumba, but not setting the world alight.

Debbie and Giovanni
Brilliant song choice for a jive, and Debbie knows how to sell a ritzy-glitzy number for all its worth. I thought this started well enough, but she really started flagging about halfway through and her steps suffered. Everyone looks for the iconic kick and flick section in a jive and that looked a bit scarecrow-y. Top marks for the festive Cadbury chocolate outfits though.

ALL CHANGE, round we go again....

Joe and Katya
This was weird. Good, but WEIRD. It feel like it didn't get going until the opening section with the mirror and the first lift were done, and then there was a proper AT section that was truly excellent. I did really feel for him with that post-lift wobble, but it didn't throw him and that's pretty impressive. Closer to a showdance than an AT, they may have been a bit too ambitious with this one.

Alexandra and Gorka
I wasn't sure which was this was going to go, but it blew me away with the sheer amount of choreography and commitment. It just kept going and going and the lifts were pretty epic too. And it looked like a salsa, not a samba, not a disco, not some deformed cha cha. After the week she's had, being able to bring both technique and showmanship in a dance like that means everything.

Mollie and AJ
Quite a grinding change of pace after the party-dance-to-end-all-parties, but a peaceful bit of ballroom is always welcomed. Although it was peaceful to the point of me dozing off. It was perfectly nice and Mollie is always better in ballroom, but if I'm stuck for something to say about a semifinal dance then, really...

Gemma and Aljaz
Gemma looks seriously foxy and this worked as a tango song better than some we've had recently. Its driven by a beat and entirely about sexual frustration, what more do you want? This started well, with lots of attack from both of them, but it didn't really go anywhere. Technically, it was very good, but it wasn't more than the sum of its parts.

Debbie and Giovanni
A twee but delightful song and minimal faffage from Giovanni in the choreography. Although I was surprised when it was suddenly over, it felt like it hadn't really built to anything. Really feeling the semi-final slog this year, where we get lots of nice numbers, but fewer 'WOW' moments.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Musical Mash-up

Does anyone else feel like this year has flown by? Can't believe we're already at the quarter finals and there's hardly anyone coming down the stairs all of a sudden. And just to throw you off, here's AJ in his primary school production of Oliver and Amy looking stunning in a peasant blouse...I think we're in for a random evening...

I hate musicals week.

Gemma and Aljaz
How is Gemma dancing under the weight of that hair? She deserves extra points for that alone. Not a bad choice to start the week, with a rip-roaring song that was actually suited to a quickstep. Gemma felt a bit clunky in hold to me and like she was struggling to keep up at times, but then the quickstep often looks exhausting. She might struggle this week, but her and Aljaz have such a great partnership it might see them through.

This made such an impression on me, I could not remember what it was. So I have just been on iPlayer for a rewatch. Now I feel bad because it's Hello Dolly and who doesn't love that? But oh, all the faff.

Mollie and AJ
Well they look divine, the perfect choice for them this week...apart from that it's a rumba. It was always going to be a tough one for Mollie, so they seemed to cope it with it by putting not a lot of rumba in it and and an illegal lift. There were snatches of good bits in her arms, but also only tiny bits of hip action. The judges seemed to like it, but it might have committed the cardinal sin of being boring. I was also CACKLING at the awful slapdash scrapbook someone had put together for their VT.

Oh, Shirley. Just no. And also I spent most of the routine freaking out about the weird time signature, which I have been reliably informed on Twitter was 12/8.

Joe and Katya
Doing a samba dressed for a Charleston, in fact this was one of the weirdest mash-ups we've seen on the show...but I actually quite liked it! Cabaret is surreal anyway, and Katya put a great routine together - it had more content in it than Mollie's rumba that's for sure. And Joe executed it very well with good bounce and aplomb, is there nothing you can't throw at him?

OK, I know all the words to this. But samba? No. It hurts my soul.

Debbie and Giovanni
They really want all out on the costumes, and probably got one of the more sensible themes for the night. This was very flowy without being wafty and not over the top or melodramatic, I was quite impressed. Also, the the lifts were well-executed rather than death-defying and wobbly. It hit all the right spots and actually showed some progression, hurrah!

We are still pretending that 'The American Smooth' is an actual dance rather than a dance style from the US, are we? I've been letting it go for a few series but I'm grumpy so I'm bringing it up again. I liked this better on second viewing. I just would have preferred it if they weren't dressed as cats. I know that was the point. But unnecessary. Totally.


Davood and Nadiya
Nadiya's hilarious perm, Davood making descending from the ceiling his signature move, this was definitely the peak of themeing madness for the evening. Which was a shame because there was some good AT in there, including a great jigsaw-legs section (yes, that is a technical term). The lifts were oddly clunky though, Nadiya was basically launching herself at him. I have no idea how the audience will take to this oddness, but hope he doesn't go out on what was basically a blip.

What a waste of what should have been an excellent Argentine Tango. Ugh.

Alex and Gorka
Gorka's jacket, my eyes! I literally recoiled from the screen when he first appeared. But this was the most jolly, charming routine I've seen in a long time. Alex's swivel was so sharp, she could even do it in a high-kick, so I assume she just doesn't have normal working joints like the rest of us! Also managing to keep up the energy right until the end - considering Craig said she was better than Gorka I don't know what she's supposed to do to get a 10 from him. Great end to the show though!

Finally, a dance where the theme didn't completely ruin it. Alexandra could have out-swivelled a Swizzel lolly on a carousel. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

All About That Bass-Ic

First of all, please excuse the lack of picture. My computer is playing up and Frankie is unavailable for emergency uploads. It totes would have been Joe and Katya. Totes. On to the show...

Joe and Katya

I do love a nifty quickstep. And particularly one that plays with musical breaks. Mrs Jones, your choreography was a joy. I could even get past the unnecessary themeage. That's saying something. What made this stand out was the range of steps. Oh so often on Strictly, a quickstep is reduced to nothing but a flurry of scatter chasses, but this had slows to balance out the quickety-quicks. Joe is seriously one to watch now. One of my favourite dances of the series so far.

Alexandra and Gorka

Ah shucks to the return of the contempo-rumba. I'm sure the temptation to go all artsy is almost overwhelming at times, but if Gorka hasn't realised that this series is ALL ABOUT THE BASSICS (no treble...) then there's not really much hope. Alex's dancing wasn't bad at all. It just wasn't what it was supposed to be. And thank the fleckerl this year that actually matters again.

Gemma and Aljaz

OK, I was confused last night. I'm still confused. This was the weirdest thing I have since in my life. From the pyjamas, the inexplicable song choice and most particularly Gemma falling asleep on Aljaz's shoulder mid samba roll. And it was not improved by Aljaz being dressed as a bottle of ketchup. 

Mollie and AJ

The second delightful quickstep of the evening. Mollie and AJ hopped into the whole thing like little drops of sunshine. OK, it wasn't as technically accurate as Joe's and the choreography was a little manic in places, but it was lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I didn't notice Mollie was dressed as a 70s patio until at least three quarters of the way into the routine.

Davood and Nadiya 

First of all, loving the traditional ballroom attire. And the oh-so-beginners-ballroom-class song choice. I actually thought this was better than the judges...judged. On second viewing, however, I did notice a wee bit of gapping. Nadiya has finally grasped that it's about the ballroom this series (to be honest, no one could have called this) and I was delighted to see beautifully executed recognisable waltz steps. Really nice. 

Debbie and Giovanni

Loving the music. Yes, it's been used about seven hundred and forty three times but for some classic pieces like this it does not matter one jot. This definitely had the air of a showdance, moving from pose to pose without much softness in between. I would have liked that softness, and some subtlety. It was technically exquisite. But not my favourite Argentine Tango of all time. 

Susan and Kevin

Susan's the tail end contestant now. It doesn't matter how much she's loved, she's going to be bottom. She's so inherently likeable and this whole dance was charming, I couldn't help but love it. But even I have to admit, her Strictly journey is nearly over. She's been an absolute gem of a contestant, and whether she leaves this evening or has another week left in her, she's been one of the biggest stars of Strictly 2017. 

Paso Doble-thon

I all out LOVED this. Felt like I was in the Blackpool Winter Gardens judging a PROP-AH LATIN COMP. Could have called the order but couldn't argue with it. Alexandra stood out. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Baffling Blackpool

Grab your bucket and spade and thermals, we're off to Blackpool! We all know what that means, a technicolour explosion of crazy dancing, inflated scores, questionable costumes, and jokes about seagulls...Speaking of which, loved the circus theme for the opening number, harking back to Victorian Blackpool. I also enjoy it when the celebs are good enough to do a group number without causing a pile-up. Great work everyone, now let's crack on...

Mollie and AJ
Ok, Mollie just won all the dresses for this series - if there's anywhere you can put samba-feathers-on-yer-bum in a Charleston it's Blackpool! Nan card well and truly deployed, we finally got down to dancing. It definitely was an improvement, even if it wasn't technically amazing, and I could have done with a few more actual Charleston steps. Also, at no point did she look like she was going to tumble out of the lifts to her death! But she took everything thrown at her (and that was a lot!), if she does go out this week I think she can do it with her head held high.

Susan and Kevin
She might be dressed for Strictly Ballroom, but Susan's hair and makeup are right back in Game of Thrones. As I feared, this dance was all about Kevin, and Susan got rather lost in it all. Although the solo she did halfway through was pretty ballsy and I couldn't have seen her doing it a few weeks ago. For all the hype, the Strictly Ballroom paso is pretty much a paso, and doesn't stick out much when you watch pasos every week on this show.

Debbie and Gio
It's always a bit awkward when you're the only one who turns up to the party in fancy dress...Spice Girls have been proven to be good samba though, and hilarious playing with the lyrics. This was a bit of a hot mess though, even with the world's longest samba roll, that was pretty much the only samba in it. Could Debbie struggle this week?

Jonnie and Oti
They had quite the wobble last week, but I perked up when I realised they had a Blackpool tango and an appropriate song for once. And then I saw the Tron outfits, although in the end I quite liked the theme. This was a bit better for Jonnie's ballroom form, and it looked like his hold had improved. Plus it was a massive routine to take on for someone with no performing experience. Food for thought: this is the first dance so far where I thought the extra dancers were too much, am I just getting better at blocking them out?

Gemma and Aljaz
Northern girl back on home turf, I would say bring it on Gemma, but this was an awkward dance to be given for the massive Blackpool floor. Also, an abundance of panto props and extra dancers. Thankfully Shirley was there to comment on the actual ballroom content and improvements in technique. Probably not worth two 10s, but whatever, it was the best of the night so far!

Davood and Nadiya
We're now going into Davood's routines with a certain amount of expectation, which a big change compared to a few weeks ago. Now he's prancing around the Tower Ballroom in fetish wear, who would've thunk? This was a great demonstration of how he has improved, with some great control and shapes - even when Nadiya may have kicked him in the face. Might have preferred it without the extra gimmicks, but it was definitely enough to keep him in the game.

Alexandra and Gorka
Have been really looking forward to Alexandra getting to do some classic ballroom once again, feels like it's been quite a while. Also whilst dressed as a complete goddess and having a wail of a time, she always brings the razzle dazzle! There was a LOT of Charleston in this, but the bits they did in hold were so effortlessly good I'm not too bothered. It was light and fleet of foot, and because the quickstep travels so much the extra dancers didn't get in the way - hurrah!

Joe and Katya
The outfits were...something...as was the concept, Blackpool was not like that in the 90s. I really expected to hate this, but it fell into the 'bonkers-awesome' category by the end, mainly due to Joe selling the routine for all it was worth. He actually had to carry it because Katya got lost among the day-glo dancers. It quite obviously wasn't a salsa, but the pot-stirrer-with-the-foot and the band climbing the mountain that was this song meant I had a good time.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Go go Joe!

Ah, Strictly, the perfect balance of the expected and the unexpected. This week before it even got properly started we had self-referential Blackpool jokes, Darcey dressed as a Strictly superhero, and the crowd going wild for Shirley. But the most unexpected thing was we had a whole week of training footage VTs! What a joy! How do we make this happen every week?

BLAAAAAACKPOOL. Totes looking forward to seeing the set up outside the tower on my way to work later this week. Yay.

Susan and Kevin
I am liking this new trend for kicking things off with an exciting number, Kevin and Susan really brought it with this tango. Lovely traditional routine that harnessed the drama of the music, and they'd clearly worked on technique all week. Frame is an issue, but she's working on it and facial expression went into hammy about halfway through, but it kept her going. Much like her joyful quickstep, it showed they can be great all-rounders and why we look forward to them every week.

Susan has such the air of a contestant who had no idea she was actually going to be any good at this. Bless. But she is. I mean, we all know she's no Alesha Dixon, but what she does have is joy, and vim, and vigour, and this all shines through when she's on the floor. I was kind of imagining that she was just trying not to laugh throughout this. Nice tango though. Kevin's a smarty pants.

Joe and Katya
The male rumba! In the death slot! Katya's costume got caught in a shredder! I actually rather enjoyed this: the song wasn't painfully slow and it looked like a rumba rather than contempo-waft. Joe was a bit too focused on attack at times, but I'm all for commitment to the dance, and I could see hip action and an all-important attempt to make the moves flow into each other. Plus, I got to cackle when he brought out "this girl" to refer to Katya, huzzah!

I think this could have been my favourite dance of the night. I mean. Male rumba in death slot? As was pointed out on Twitter by Mr Perkins. We all pretty much thought he was doomed. But alas, no. He pulled a total Rachel Stevens on us with this rumba. What I am loving most about this series is the return to actual ballroom and latin. And all tied up with this is the chance for the professionals to teach and for the celebs to learn and for the ones who were middly all at the beginning to have a real j...

Ruth and Anton
After recent adventures in dressing up and Ruth's Wig Emporium, this was a rather conservative look for these two. Took forever to get in hold, and then when they got there not much really happened. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very good either. Ruth could struggle this week...

What's been keeping Ruth in is not only Anton's comedy form this series, but also just how relatable she is for a significant portion of the show's audience. However, this one didn't stand out. 

Davood and Nadiya
He raised his game last week, so that set expectations higher than before. But within two seconds we could see he could swivel and we were away! It wasn't a knock-your-socks off Charleston for the ages, but it was well-executed and fun, with only minimal gurning. Certainly worth nines, feel like tens is pushing it, but I guess he just made it look easy. The real surprise is Davood's sudden confidence and control, and that's what we love about Strictly!

YAAAS Davood. Another dark horse, much like Joe. Another middly-at-the-beginning-going-from-strength-to-strength type, like a Darren Gough or a Gethin (pre that salsa, he was a bit of a bot...) We haven't seen such lovely charleston swivels since Ms Ellis Bextor. This series really is turning out to be a free for all. I can't call it. One jot.

Gemma and Aljaz
After a couple of clunky weeks, it's good to see Gemma back in ballroom, and with a lovely song and frock to boot. It's hard to make a VW stand out, but these two managed to pull it off, and Gemma seemed so much happier and confident - I was really surprised when the judges said they didn't think she was emoting. It appears she has a fanbase voting for her, but they will have to keep it up this week.

Now Gemma is the opposite. She started this series with much potential but she hasn't really progressed. She isn't connected with the dances and to me it just feels like watching a series of movements which happen to have music playing in the background. 

Alexandra and Gorka
First Argentine Tango of the series, and a much-anticipated one at that, and OOF they delivered! The routine travelled more than I'm used to from an Argentine Tango, but they still managed to hold on the drama and the control. Also, Gorka is very good at allowing the choreography to showcase her. I now really want to see her in classic ballroom, she's not done much of it so far, but it gives her a chance to show another side.

What I love about Alexandra is that she pours her heart and her soul into everything she does. I remember that about her on the X Factor and she has certainly brought it to Strictly. Compare with Gemma. Alexandra is 100% connected to the dance and to the music. It is all as one. Practically perfect in every way. 

Mollie and AJ
Props to Mollie for delivering after the hit of being in the bottom 2 twice in a row. It wasn't the most technically achieved, but for me it was full of paso content and delivered with commitment. Mollie is a funny one, we realised fairly quickly she's not a ringer, and whilst she's not terrible, she's not improving at the rate of some people in an uber-competitive year.

Mollie, like Gemma, has kind of got stuck. However, I do think Mollie is considerably better a dancer than Gemma. The thing is, everyone is saying she's doomed this week, but nothing does wonders for the sympathy vote than being in the bottom two for two weeks. I reckon she'll be fine. But perhaps it'll be bye bye in Blackpool. And that's actually a shame.

Jonnie and Oti
It's been so nice watching Jonnie learn to enjoy dancing and performing, and obviously Oti in an array of stunning frocks. I felt this was a really difficult song for Jonnie, there wasn't much for him to bounce off, and in the foxtrot of all dances. A few improvements, including in arms, but the frame still has issues. Everyone loves him, but Bruno was right (I know!) when he said it was missing the va-va-vroom.

Eeeh, I was a tad bored by this one. Oti is quite obviously a goddess. But Jonnie has kind of reached a peak, and slipped a little down it. I want to see a WOW dance. Until I do, I'm all over meh about him now.

Debbie and Giovanni
There's nothing more latin than a salsa set in an opticians, I was rolling my eyes before it even started. Also, my sleeve vendetta returned once again, why on earth does Debbie McGee with her age-defying body need sleeves?! Once we FINALLY got underway, this was actually a lot better than I was expecting; Gio knows his stuff and Debbie performed the hell out of it. I think I preferred it to the Halloween Charleston, although the lifts were reminiscent of Bonnie Langford the human cannonball on Dancing on Ice. Bit overmarked...

Twisting at the waist as though you are doing the, er, twist is not salsa. It never has been and it never will be. I hated it. But that's hardly a surprise.