Sunday, 15 December 2019

Floti-ing Through The Final!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Semi Final Showdown

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

Emma and Anton - 

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

Kelvin and Oti 

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

Chris and Karen

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

Karim and Amy

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

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Those Magical Mystifying Musicals

Saddle up, it's Musicals Week and Craig is taking us on a crazy ride through Hello Dolly-land whilst standing on a wedding cake. I barely know what's going on anymore. This basically set the tone for a very odd evening, with the theming unsurprisingly suiting some more than others. Tess and Claudia really upped the glitter stakes with their seriously spangly dresses though, what are they going to wear at Christmas now?!
Chris and Karen
Chris is doing something in ballroom hold, Karen is wearing one of Bruce's old wigs, this is going to be a weird weird evening. The last time Chris did something this traditional ballroomy was the AS (sometime around April, I think it was), he at least got to do something classic and Hollywood, this was a bit too heavy on the urchin for me. However, there was a presentable top line in the foxtrot and a clear progress from back then. Miming a harmony was also unintentionally hilarious. Are his massive fanbase going to come out for him again?

Alex and Neil
Another odd song and dance composition, but my gosh Alex and Neil sold it for all it was worth. Her performance has come on leaps and bounds in the last few weeks and there's just something so enjoyable about watching someone have a wonderful time. Even in denim dungarees with a bustle. I saw bits of samba, but the technique wasn't amazing, but both Alex and Chris have suffered unnecessarily with the theming this week.

Kelvin and Oti
Now here was something for Kelvin to get his teeth into, literally and figuratively, it was so hammy I could smell the bacon. This song lent itself to a VW more than what the others have had to contend with so far. This is what Musicals Week theming should be - an accent not an obstacle. With added gratuitous fleckerls and Kelvin enjoying messing around in a wig once again. Jolly good fun, but not one for the ages.

Karim and Amy
I feel like I've seen this dance before, not just cos of the LEGENDS that are Mark and Iveta, but also because a Hairspray jive in Musicals Week is so darn basic. Saying that, this was easily the best dance of the night so far and would have been a good jive in any week. They just chucked everything at it: sharp kicks, bouncing til tomorrow, 10 pirouettes at the end for no reason! It was so good I even forgot about Amy's poodle hair.

Emma and Anton
Another appropriate song and dance choice which could've happened in any show, and all the better for it! This was probably my favourite dance of Emma's, it felt both more polished and enjoyable than her Fosse Couples Choice. She had the loosey-goosey aspects of the Charleston down rather than just hyper-swivel and gurning. Anton was relegated to a backing dancer, but the dance didn't suffer for it, make of that what you will.  

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The One Where Bruno Sings

Time to pack away the bucket and spade, the Blackpool hangover is here and we're now into the proper slog to the final. There's only six couples left...and that might be why we've got the extra treat of Bruno going full Las Vegas showgirl at us. It was a camp, cherry Lambrini-soaked delight and the pros seemed to love it too. A bit of a random interlude, but welcomed nonetheless!

Saffron and AJ
So happy to see a return to an old-school samba dress for Saffron, all samba dresses should be three parts feathers one part 70s Barbie. Really enjoyed the carnival rendition of Walking on Sunshine too. I thought she had a pretty good stab at this, with bounce and proper choreography, but you could tell she wasn't loving it the way she has with other dances. She seemed to struggle with the transitions a bit and her old was a bit dodgy. She could be in trouble again this week, especially with AJ resurrecting his own samba curse.
I love a samba. Especially one with suitably feathery costumes. The song choice was sunshiney enough but I'd have preferred more latin flavour. Unfortunately I found this to be surprisingly laboured - more like walking on treacle than sunshine - and not a great body action. A few weeks ago I thought she'd be heading for the final but I'm not convinced now... time for Saffy bye bye?

Karim and Amy
Why do all contempo dresses look like washed-out bed sheets? I know this is Couple's Choice and so does not count, but I enjoyed this. It felt like the dance Karim's been wanting to do all series, instead of putting random twiddly bits into other dances. Also, fair play to giving us a joyful contempo routine rather than the paaaaain and emoooootion of other such numbers. Seems like this one has been quite divisive, especially with Craig going off on one...
FFS I'm not in a good mood. I can't bring myself to comment on a contempo-waft. He's excellent but wasn't he trained in this style at least to some degree? I can accept 'ringers' learning ballroom and latin for the first time but this is far too close to their own territory, right?

Alex and Neil
It feels like expectations for this were too high, what with it being the first Argentine Tango of the series. I think the judges were a pretty harsh on this, considering how far Alex has come in recent weeks and she's now performing properly in every number. Plus they had the Ramps Legacy Microphone Malfunction. A round of a applause for her mastery of the old jigsaw-legs and the way she attacked the dance in a way we wouldn't have expected at the start of this series.
Yay Argentine Tango! Yay Alex having a great time! Yay a contestant who is having a real journey! It was far, far, far from perfect. I would have liked an authentic piece of music. But I really like these two still, they're just so likeable...can she sneak into the final?

Kelvin and Oti
I'm here for a bit of Northern Soul on a Saturday night, especially when it's to a real cracker of a song like this. It almost cancelled out the horrific outfits, almost. Sadly, I found this a bit underwhelming; it took forever to get going what with the captivating 'making-a-cup-of-tea' segment. There were some flashes of greatness, like the side-by-side jumps, and the way that they always dance so well together as a pair, but there wasn't really much there for me.
Kelvin I've-Probably-Already-Won-In-Week-One-Anyway and Oti dressed children's TV presenters from 1978... I find Northern Soul dancing fascinating to watch and wish I liked that element more than I did. And meh - couple's choice still doesn't count.

Emma and Anton
Emma looks like she's the only one who's turned up for the party in fancy dress, but fabulously though. This while thing was bonkers, they clearly lost their place a couple of times and just had to keep going with super-manic grins plastered on their faces. As ever, I felt sorry for Emma, she just never seems to hit it on the nail.
Unfortunately my internet connection went poof and I missed most of it. The bit I saw was quick. They stepped. It was what it says on the tin. No complaints, no hurrahs.

Chris and Karen
I properly enjoyed this, it was lovely to see Chris talking about how he was growing into the paso on It Takes Two this week and then he really delivered on the night! Well done to Karen for choreographing such a great routine that brought out his strengths and really let him get into it, she's been on an absolute roll all series. It was one of those moments where it all came together as a performance to be proud of, well done Chris!
Well blow me down with a cape. I did not expect this to be my favourite dance of the night. I liked the music. I thought Karen's choreography was great. Hurrah for Chris. Genuinely, genuinely good.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

I Went to a Marvellous Party...

Bring us the lights, bring us the wet and windy weather, bring us approximately three million sequins, bring us that slightly rowdy Northern audience, bring us Tess and Claud in matching bacofoil, bring us the deckchair and donkey puns - IT'S TIME FOR BLACKPOOL! Buckle up, we're in for a wild ride...
Chris and Karen
Nothing like starting your routine by literally sitting down, it was about 20 seconds in before there were any actual steps, but that's Blackpool for you - is it weird that I didn't hate the extra dancers? It was all good fun to start the show, but Mike leaving means Chris is standing out a lot more. I did see some basic salsa steps in there and they clearly nicked more from his hip-hop routine a couple of weeks ago. I love these two and don't want to see them go at all though, this could be a difficult week!

Emma and Anton
Emma looks completely stunning, in fact the Blackpool costumes are mostly awesome this year. This had all the elements that you'd want for a Blackpool AS, but it didn't really take off, maybe Emma felt weird dancing with other people? It was a perfectly nicely-executed bit of ballroom, but it wasn't worth Anton's first ever 10s. Katie Derham has thrown a Proms programme at the TV.

Alex and Neil
This was one of the routines I was definitely looking forward too, but this blew me away! Alex has had mini breakthroughs and momentum, but this knocked it out of the park! I loved the arrangement of the song and the choreography, the extra dancers actually worked, which was basically a miracle. Plus it actually looked like a paso! There is clearly some magic in Blackpool pasos, remember Susanah Reid? Anita Rani? Would it have killed someone (Bruno?) to give her a ten?!

Kelvin and Oti
Right from the off you knew this was going to be a cracker and what a routine it was! Thankfully Jailhouse Rock lends you to a straight jive and Kelvin is good enough to handle a proper routine without gimmicks. It was sharp and energetic throughout and I feel like I saw more musicality from Kelvin than I've seen since his rumba. Blackpool is now officially on a roll...

Saffron and AJ
Quickstep is just perfect for the Tower Ballroom and Saff looks amazing in that outfit. This was full of quickstep and even the bits out of hold weren't easy. Plus she eyes-and-teethed the solo sections to the max, which was hilarious. She also did the sliding-ski step, which I love. It's been really interesting to see her become so much better at ballroom than anything else, that takes a lot of work.

Michelle and Giovanni
Yes it's a Couple's Choice so it's hard to measure against trad ballroom, but Michelle lived this dance and was captivating throughout. Whether it resonates with the audience after last week's bottom 2 debacle is another matter, but I really hope it does because she has so much more to give. Plus, can we talk about Gio going full pout? He was fabulous and I love his relationship with Michelle.

Karim and Amy
The training footage for this looked amazing, this was clearly Karim's dance, even with the super-weird descend from the ceiling. Maybe it's because he shot off like a wind-up toy?! It was like a happy helium ballroom bobbing along the ballroom, clean and sharp and fun - and without a gurn in sight! Boo to Craig for only giving it a nine, it almost took the momentum out of a really brilliant show!

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Battling for Blackpool

It appears Claudia and Tess are on to us with the Blackpool drinking game and sought to make the nation paralytic with all their references this year, But who cares, it's just so nice seeing celebs slog it out to come to good old Blackpool each year. Bring on the blood, sweat and tears!

Alex and Neil
Hurrah for the return of Ginger Neil! Alex has been going from strength to strength following her Charleston breakthrough a few weeks ago and this jive suited her right down to the ground. Her timing has improved and she's just better at selling a dance, it was super cute and sunny and yellow. Also, the return of the much-forgotten chicken walk jive step, I love it!

This was peppy and cute and it was lovely to see them back dancing together again. Alex is improving more than anyone but I fear she may suffer an Anita-Rani-esque departure soon - the others started off so well, she's unlikely to be able to catch up to the same standard in the eyes of the judges. Unless she can stay out of the dance off...

Mike and Katya
Mike in the death slot, although who knows what that means anymore? I was glad to see they played this one straight and it was all the better for it, plus Katya's absolutely gorgeous frock. There was clear improvement here, although mainly in the footwork. I might be turning into Craig, but my gosh his hands were indeed like spatulas. Fun ending move too, I think I've seen yoga people doing it at the gym. I know it's (still) time for Mike to go, but I thought the judges were a bit hard on this one.

I think I must have been a bit distracted as I didn't think his timing was too bad, tweeted to say as much and got corrected by several people. Yeah, guys, I've watched again. It was not good.

Karim and Amy
More ballroom from Karm, oh how they are spoiling us, plus I love how Amy says fleckrrrrrrl. There was a LOT of faffing in this, I found the way they kept breaking hold very distracting. Part 2 of me turning into Craig, I think it was a bit frentic and didn't look like a VW. That's not necessarily Karim's fault although there were a couple of mistakes, so I can see why they felt frustrated, well done to Claudia for holding their hands up until that Blackpool rock faux pas!

It was recognisably a Viennese Waltz but one that was just a bit... hammed up. Karim is oh so talented, there's no need for faffy choreography. Next week I want to see clean, pure dance. Amy - take note.

Chris and Karen
Another one I'm glad to see back in ballroom, I can see why they've thrown all the party dances at Chris, but I think he can give more. The song did a lot of work here, but Chris gave good tango face, I think I even saw a smoulder at the beginning. I could see every element of concentration in the routine, but there was clearly improvement in technique, particularly the frame. Karen did a great job with this, plus did not manage to set herself alight among all those flames - flames always feel very dangerous on Strictly!

I quite liked this dramatic arrangement, even if the number of breaks made it feel more Paso than tango to me. I'm glad he's through as he is very likeable, genuinely is learning and tries hard. But yeah, I think he's gonna be out in Blackpool. 

Michelle and Giovanni
I thought it was physically impossible to make Michelle Visage look frumpy, but here we are...Beyond the odd styling this was another cheeky delight from these two, they just work so well together! There was a lot going on in this routine with a few different styles, but they didn't let it swamp the performance. I cannot wait to see how Michelle takes to Blackpool!

Mostly I just imagined Frankie going. SLEEVES. They put her in SLEEVES. 

Emma and Anton
Ah Couple's Choice, what joy, contestant who has previously done professional musical theatre tours doing theatre jazz. I thought this was an odd routine, I love anything Fosse, but the routine didn't seem to go anywhere, I was waiting for some big-bucks fabulous ending that never came. Emma has great musicality though and that shone through once again. As we know, CC's doesn't count, but it can definitely bring a contestant out of themselves in a way that really helps, which Emma deserves after last week's rumba debacle.

Ugh, Couple's Choice does not count. Even if it is quite good. Like this. I swear I thought I saw Anton go wrong. 

Saffron and AJ
More classic ballroom? I cannot believe my eyes, we've been sorely lacking in waltzes this year. Sightly odd nude dress though that looked a bit Barbara Streisand. This was perfectly nice, but I was surprised the judges raved about it. I think I just didn't like the routine, I could appreciate the technical elements and Saffron's ever-increasing skill, but I definitely got more out of their showstopper foxtrot a few weeks ago. 

Thing is though, waltz is the 'beginner' dance. It's the first thing you learn. And if a dancer with a speck of talent doesn't do it early on, it's usually a sure fire hit for a cracker later on in the series. And here we go. 

Kelvin and Oti
Putting Oti behind the wheel of a supercar sounds like the next step on her quest for world domination, watch out Lewis Hamilton! However, this is not really the ideal theme for a salsa, it's downright odd. Saying that, these two made the whole thing look so relaxed their fun was infectious. Of course there were the hips that send the nation a-quiver, but the lifts were also very confidently handled. No my favourite salsa, but a good shot of fun in an otherwise oddly-balanced show.

Kelvin will be remembered for the gorgeous samba (to salsa music) that was oozing in latin flavour. Now, if I were a producer on the show, I might think, hmmm, that worked well, let's replicate it. But NO. They wasted the most naturally talented latin dancer's salsa - which is the purest latin dance on the show having not be codified or whatnot - by DRESSING HIM UP AS A RACING DRIVER and making him dance it to pop. It was not salsa. FFS.

Bring on Blackpool!

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Rumba Rumble

We called last week's post Curses and it feels like it has come to pass, saying a premature goodbye to Will and Janette and Neil having to sit out this week too. Add poor Jamie Biscuits to the mix (nevah forget!) and this series has really been plagued by injuries. But we're now halfway through - where has the year gone?!

Karim and Amy
Thank goodness Karim is back to traditional ballroom, if only he wasn't dressed as a Butlins entertainer...This was a delightful nippy number to start the show with, if there's one thing that's so hard about the quickstep it's that you're supposed to make it look easy when it's basically insane. It was confident and fleet of foot, with clear work on the ballroom hold. A wee bit of gapping like Craig said, but definitely a strong start to the show.
Very cute. Quickstep is my favourite ballroom dance and it didn't disappoint. Shame it was first to be honest. It set the bar high for the show and no one else quite cleared it...

Michelle and Giovanni
It Takes Two suggested Michelle was doing this in her knickers, I was oddly disappointed that she wasn't, even though the final outfit was pretty darn cool. This looked too much like a tango for me in the opening stages, I think it was the song, but it felt more staccato than it should have been. However, you just can't stop the musicality of these two together and she had very strong lines and focus throughout the whole thing. Not my favourite, but definitely worth applauding.  
Spanish theming great - completely ruined by song. If I covered my ears and watched it was more than passable (paso-able?) She wasn't fully committing to the drama of it all, however. Which was a surprise from Michelle. 

Emma and Aljaz
Emma moved her hips more than I was expecting, but as a lot of people said, it was all a bit meh. There's a fine line between making it look fun and effortless and looking like you're wandering around like you've not learned the routine. It wasn't offensive, but I doubt I'll remember it in the morning...
It was twee and fancy and I just can't warm to her. She isn't really improving. I know Samba is tricky (it is, it is) but this was about as flat as a vacuum-packed pancake. Elegance works for some dances but samba? Giggly and a tiny bit wiggly doesn't wash. 

Kelvin and Oti
Another bloke who has finally been brought back to do some proper ballroom, which also gave us Oti in a beautiful ballroom dress for the ages. I could have done without the contempo-waft moments, but there was more than enough VW content in there anyway. Not his best dance, but clear improvements in things like hold and the smoothness of his moves. 
So we've gone from contempowaft to contempowaltz. His fleckerl was a wee bit stiff. Oo-er. I still think he's won it purely for his week one dance. If they perform a salsa with the same kind of aplomb I should imagine game's over.

Saffron and AJ
Saffron is dressed like a 60s sci-fi Barbie. This was the fast and the furious of salsas, which was probably too much for Saff and left her chasing AJ and flinging herself around. The lifts were pretty good considering how crazy the routine was, but the attempts at arm work were clunky. The thing that I take away from Saffron most weeks is that she attacks the dances like she has nothing to lose, which is better than watching people who are too tentative.
I didn't mind song on the whole but she looked like she was dancing the twist as the music was too fast for her. And ballroom dancers, your basic salsa steps are huge. It didn't make my eyes bleed but meh.

Alex and Kevin
Another nice bit of ballroom and a stunning frock, thank goodness. It was like a rom-com meet-cute in dance form, but didn't become cloying. However, the perky mood just died when it got into hold, but I can imagine changing partners has made improving on that quite difficult. She also seemed to take the lifts in her stride, which I wouldn't have expected a few weeks ago. Lovely to see someone blossoming and having a great time.
Alex is the biggest improver of the series so far. J word and all that. Bit worried she's gelled more with Kevin than Neil. Awks.

Chris and Karen
Tess and Claud doing pysche, sparkly bucket hats, perspective jokes - it was surreal but my word it was entertaining! This was not Chris's best dance by quite a way, but gosh he gave out and gave it all he had. It was like Ed Balls on a bad day (Ed Balls was a good dancer, don't @ me). Karen was as awesome as ever. Totally overmarked, but I'll forgive that.
Firstly WTAF. Street commercial should not even be attempted, but I appreciate the energy and fun. And F and I both went to uni in the North East and understand the sentimentality of PJ and Duncan. But argh, cringe.

Emma and Anton
This was weird, I'm not surprised half of Twitter was having Vorderman flashbacks. Emma had clearly worked on her technical elements, but none of it really gelled. I blame Anton for this, he barely even moved his hips throughout the whole dance. Emma, you deserve better, and please cut your hair in a blunt fringe because it really suits you.
I wasn't paying much attention - I missed the timing issues and actually thought it was quite nice. Or better than I thought it would be at least. But this is why you don't put anyone decent with Anton... his teaching and choreo aren't up to scratch...

Mike and Katya
This was clearly going to suit Mike, but OBVIOUSLY Kimberly and Pasha did it better. That feels like a million years ago...There was swivel and he handled the routine fine, but it was sloppier than you'd want from week 7. He looks like Chris Hollins, but I can't imagine he'll invited back every Christmas to Charleston. Katya looks like a steampunk delight though, which is nice.
Meep. After last week's controversy I was a bit pffft going in to this. It was fun. It was Mike. Katya gets the best out of her partners, yada yada bored now.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Fright Night X - Curses!

Can you believe this is the tenth Halloween edition? That's all sorts of crazy and maybe we should indeed be locked in some sort of vaguely-offensive asylum. Shockingly though, we're not getting our annual outings of Thriller and the Monster Mash, so there could be some surprises in store tonight. We've already had poor Will and Neil had to drop out, is there a new Curse of Strictly?

Also to note, Shirley has brought back her awesome Halloween contact lenses, they look so good it's too bad it would be very strange to wear them all the time!

Emma and Anton
It takes Halloween to get us some dramatic tango music these days, maybe we should take it where we can? It was a very nifty routine from Anton, I liked all the intricacies of it, but as the judges said, it needed a bit more oomph. I am concerned that Emma doesn't seem to be progressing much, she could easily get forgotten by the voters. Saying that, she looked surprisingly good considering she was wearing a giant comedy ginger wig, that's Halloween for you!

Emma and Aljaz
I get the feeling Emma refused to dress up like a goth for Halloween, it's just not on brand for the fabulous Viscountess, glamorous Miss Scarlett was much more up her street. This was an odd piece, although Emma is much better at the Charleston than I was expecting. Yes she was as proper as ever, but it kind of suited the Agatha Christie elements of the routine. The lifts were bad, so very bad, and disrupted her flow, people should be allowed to leave them out if they want too. I have no idea why Aljaz was an old professor, he should have been a sexy vicar!

Chris and Karen
This was heavily trailed during the week, plus Karen is always Queen of Strictly Halloween, so I was expecting it to be eventful - but not as eventful as this! Karen's wig all over the place, Chris trying to be sex-u-al whilst looking like a zombie, spins of doom. However, there was a lot of samba content in this, despite it being Halloween week and a wee bit of a random song choice, and Chris couldn't have managed that routine in week 1. Fingers crossed for him!

Saffron and AJ
Saffron looks super-cute, the magic tricks were cute, the whole routine was cute! It didn't get overwhelmed by the theme and the song choice worked, and as the judges said, Saffron had clearly worked really hard on it. I agree with Shirley that things need tidying up, and she was a bit wobbly in the spins, but the jive kicks and flicks were all there and nippy. She's an example of someone who really is progressing!

Mike and Katya
This was a bit of a mess, which isn't a surprise. Nice of Kayta to try and do something resembling an actual tango, but there was still a lying-on-the-floor interlude at the end which suggested she eventually gave up. Yes, there was an improvement in technique, but I would rather have just watched Chris and Karen have a laugh again. I was a bit underwhelmed when it ended, not sure this will save Mike from the bottom 2?

Karim and Amy
Now, despite the paso already having a built-in theme, I quite like it when people get a bit experimental with it. Metal pasos, electronica pasos, I can deal with them all - and I thought this one worked on a surreal level. The costumes took a bit away from it though, and did make Karim look like a tiny child with trousers up to his armpits. Thought the judges were a bit harsh on this considering it's Halloween.

Catherine and Johannes
Thankfully, these two knew to bring us vampy outfits and Steps, so we're back in familiar territory away from the Upside Down. She clearly made a mistake and lost her way, which made me feel really sorry for her because the cha cha clearly didn't come naturally. Hoping she gets the votes, she and Johannes have so much more to give and definitely don't deserve to go!

Michelle and Giovanni
The best song-dance-couple matching of the night, you just knew this was going to rock! Her frame was very good throughout, and was the most you could see thanks the ever-present smoke monster. Cute little character moments, but still a visible and accomplished foxtrot, which is a challenge in any week. That was the Halloween dance we were waiting for!

Kelvin and Oti
This left me strangely cold, and not in a Halloween-chills type way. Yes, it had Oti being an imperious vamp like no other, but the flying was a bit distracting. There was some great proper sharp tango moments, and the music had the right kind of sultriness to it, but it didn't feel more than the sum of its parts. I'm sure Kelvin will be fine, but this is not shaping up to be a vintage Halloween year.

Alex and...Kevin?!
Poor Neil, missing his first Halloween with a partner. At least we didn't see Ghostbusters shoehorned into a tango for once, even though Couple's Choice is not our favourite, as you know. Fair play to Alex for carrying off the routine with such a change, she brought what she had learned from her Charleston last week. However, that was also the issue I had with it, as it didn't show me anything new and I think she was given much more to do last week and carried it off with aplomb.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Pump up the jam!

No themes, but plenty of randomness in this week's Strictly. We saw plenty of highs and raising of games though, dare I say the j-words are being built in front of our eyes? So lots to blog about. Let's get down to it!

Kelvin and Oti
So the 'Venice Beach' theme is basically early 90s neon? Alfonso-Fresh-Prince-tribute-itis had better not spread to the whole show. I don't know what it was, but I found this routine a bit 'meh', all the bits were there in the right order, but it just seemed a bit box-ticking rather than exciting. I can see why they're throwing the party latin/hips/groin at us, but I'm ready for some more classy ballroom now. Preferably without a clunky denim jacket that may have been boiling him alive.
Part of me thinks that Kelvin has done a Jay McGuinness and already won it with one dance. This was good - as to be expected. His body movement is extraordinary. I didn't think it was all that stiff - top professionals are very staccato in their cha chas. However, I am desperate for a proper latin salsa with proper latin music from these two. If he gets some poppy nonsense I will be p*ssed. 

David and Nadiya
I never thought David would take to the jive, and well, just call me Mystic Meg. As Craig said, he does seem more comfortable with the idea of dancing, and I really do think he's come on since week 1, but we are talking a low bar here. He seemed to be hanging on to Nadiya quite a lot, who seemed to be wearing her nice new shoes while she had the chance to show them off.
He is improving and this could have been a heck of a lot worse. I have to confess I got a little bored whilst watching this...

Catherine and Johannes
They hyped this up to be a hilarious, camp, melodramatic tango - with feathers! I loved this, yes there was a theme, but it was appropriate and jammed packed with actual tango content. With a fairly appropriate song, oh my stars and garters. Catherine is also now totally committing to her dances, after being a bit apprehensive for the first couple of weeks, plus she's now getting some of the BEST costumes. A wee bit undermarked in my opinion, are they overcompensating for last week?
So Johannes is clearly the breakout star of Strictly 2019 (and we all thought it would be Neil!) These two are a joy and I think they could be dark horses. Props for Catherine's dress too which I am calling out as the best of the series so far...

Amy and Karim
I know it's 'who let the dogs out', but I honestly think we've had worse salsa song choices. Plus I saw some actual basic salsa steps in there, which Karim seemed to take in his stride. He was confident in the lifts too, especially since we've not actually had too many lift-heavy numbers so far. I agree with Craig that he sometimes hits things a bit too hard, which you sometimes get with people with previous dance training. I know I shouldn't have liked this, but I did! Cue Clover...
Pffft. I have no words.

Michelle and Giovanni
Michelle always has such a weight of expectation on her, and also had the challenge of coming after Kelvin's epic turn last week. I actually thing the judges were a bit harsh on this, they were going for subtlety rather than raunchy. She still has great lines, and I thought the backbend was pretty impressive too. Also, and I mean this in a nice way, I barely looked at Gio during the dance, he knows he's there to show her off and put together a great routine.
Another great dress, and I loved the routine. Her body action wasn't quite right though - that standing leg just needs to lock. I reckon that's something Michelle can easily address however - I still wouldn't be surprised to see these two in the final.

Emma and Anton
Ah the paso, Anton's latin saving grace. He brought us a brilliantly melodramatic routine, with plenty of smell-the-fart acting. I do agree that Emma and Anton don't really connect, but I was seeing proper luvvie commitment to the degree that I think that made up for any so-called passion in the dance. Not the greatest paso I've ever seen, but not the trainwreck the judges claimed it was.
Emma has talent and potential. At no point should she be standing there whilst Anton prances about. Contrast with Giovanni above who created a routine that showed off his partner; this was typical Anton. BBC, if you're keeping him, just give him the comedy characters. He's wasted on decent dancers.

Alex and Neil
This was a cracker of a dance, Alex just suddenly came alive and looked like she was enjoying doing a routine for the first time ever. The swivel was there, the moves flowed well, and it all just came together for an all-round package. She didn't just dance it, but performed it. Ok, it might not give her much help with ballroom or latin, but it will hopefully be something that gives her more confidence.
Yaasss, perky and cute and my favourite of the night because it was so beautifully unexpected! It was technically decent and she was performing. Alex, there's a dancer in you yet! 

Emma and Aljaz
The VW was always going to be a better fit for Emma than the jive, and they just glided through this number. The song and great Aljaz choreography added a lot to this, and Emma's topline was pretty good too. I would assume this will save them from the bottom 2, especially with those scores from the judges, but they definitely worked hard for it.
I'm struggling to warm to them as a couple, and that's unusual for me, as Aljaz is such a darling. This was good - she is a decent dancer - but something missing. She is all kinds of stunning though. 

Mike and Katya
Is basing your dance on someone from a 90s TV show and copying moves from DWTS which no one in the UK is going to have seen really the best way to get popular appeal? The zombie-fied samba roll was quite disturbing, but I would still liked to have seen some more actual samba rather than just random gyrating. Mike's schtick is starting to wear thin.
Bored now.

Will and Janette
Ah Couple's Choice contempo waft, your contribution to the show is...wafer thin. It was wonderful to hear Will's story, but I just can't take much away from contemporary.
My feelings about this are more about couples' choice than Will personally but I just can't seem able to count it. Will is a true inspiration, however, and that needs to be applauded. 

Chris and Karen
These two always put a smile on my face, their fun is just so infectious. I thought the outfits were odd, until I remembered it was Prince, and then it was just Karen genius yet again. He's not really done enough ballroom yet, so it wasn't the most technically achieved performance. A fair bit skippy, but they'd clearly worked on things like gapping and hold. Keep it up guys!
I actually enjoyed this more than most of the dances this evening because it was fun and had energy. Quickstep is my fave ballroom to watch on Strictly and I was expecting this to be far worse technically than it was. I like Chris for clearly enjoying his time learning to dance but no taking the whole thing really seriously. 

Saffron and AJ
This was one of those routines that took me by surprise, it all just came together! Cracking song, actual foxtrot choreography, super-glam dress, and a marked progression. She's building on that natural talent and keeping up with AJ, which a lot of people struggled to do with their partners tonight. Fair play to him too for putting together a routine that balanced foxtrot and razzmatazz.
Much like Emma and Aljaz, I have been struggling to connect with these two. This, however, was a mighty cracking routine and I think anyone would find it tricky to dislike it. It oozed class and for the first time it was good to see some real progression from Saffron. 

Sunday, 13 October 2019

You had me at cucuracha...

Roll up, roll up, it's time to celebrate the first Strictly of the season that comes in at under two hours! Now, we love all things Strictly, but my gosh those marathon shows at the start can wear down a blogger. However, there's still plenty to discuss this week, as the competition has definitely moved up a notch and all sorts of crazy things went on (just look at the scoreboard), so let's get to it!
Chris and Karen
This was a great way to start the show, and also I think Chris might have bottled it if he'd had to wait any longer. Yes, it was a bit frantic and I just wanted him to point his toes just ONCE, but his confidence really has come on in leaps and bounds - I don't think he quite realises that he's doing something close to proper dancing. Fair play to Karen for not making everything totally comedy though, they're one of my favourite partnerships this series. Also, Karen is WINNING the costumes this series. 
OK, so points for feathers and a dance delivered with muchos amplomb. But yeah, flexed and flat-footed - I'm not as down with that as dear Shirls. Timing about as good as Northern Rail. Only Karen could pull off Bacofoil and look like a star. 

Emma and Anton
The last time Emma did ballroom she looked like she was being held hostage, and whilst this wasn't exactly a happy dance, she was clearly in the zone and totally committed to it. Yes, there was enough ham you could smell the bacon, but you can't exactly do carefree to Send In The Clowns. As Shirley said, Emma has a really good frame and top line, and the whole thing flowed beautifully. Fair play to Anton too for putting a VW together that was different but still familiar.
Classic Anton ballroom. I mean, if they struggled to pull this off there would be no hope. It was lovely but I'd rather have seen more in hold. Emma's face when she saw her 9s though - just darling.

Dev and Dianne
This was a little bit different for a cha cha, but I quite liked what Dianne did with it - it wasn't a camp eyes-and-teeth extravaganza, but still a cha cha routine. Agree with the judges that it was a bit patchy, but I also think they were a bit harsh, considering there was some impressive hip action and some pretty good fluidity for early on. Also, I don't think anyone has tried to rock a fringed catsuit since Laila Rouass and that was just to distract us from the fact she couldn't jive, go Dianne!
I can't quite work out what was wrong but something about this just didn't work. The song choice was hardly catchy. But his technique wasn't too bad. His timing and musicality was good. Diane's carwash-esque costume was a highlight. I hope he's safe... such potential there. 

Catherine and Johannes
I was quite excited for this one and it lived up to all our campest Strictly dreams. It looked exhausting, but completely enjoyable from start to finish. I agree with Craig though that Johannes had cranked it up to 11 and forgot to try and make Catherine look good, I can't blame him though. The lifts were a bit disappointing too, trying not to be a downer here though, because it was a delight nonetheless!
Firstly, how much fun are these two, just generally?! I hated this music choice for Charleston though. The whole thing seemed super-forced - just to fit it to the music. And no amount of hot, hot pink could change that. 

Alex and Neil
Probably Alex's best technical performance so far, but what a duff routine. The music wasn't suited to a tango, too much faffing about, and she really got short-changed in the frock department. I was just left feeling a bit 'meh', which is never a good sign. Please get your breakthrough soon!
I, like many,  thought Alex might be naturally better than she is. I'm not saying she's bad and it's great to see her improve,  but I'm not convinced it's going to be enough to reach anywhere near the final stages. She seems so self-conscious. If she could fall in love with it and let go a little it would help.

David and Nadiya
I have to say I was apprehensive about David doing a quickstep, but who would've thunk it would be his best dance?! It was a borderline Michael Vaughan moment. I say borderline, because the routine went off at a random tangent that involved them hopping up and down for quite a bit - what was that about? He was much better in hold. Nadiya did have an absolutely cracking dress though, so she's partially forgiven.
Loved Nadiya's dress. But David really isn't the greatest showman. Having said that, it was an improvement for sure - his energy increased tenfold. That was no way 7 or 8 levels imo, but I thought it'd be all over for David... maybe it won't be now. 

Kelvin and Oti
A third rumba for the series, we are really being spoiled. We all knew he could move his hips, but there's a long way between that and doing a rumba. But this was a proper down and dirty rumba, no contempo-waft and all about the proper steps. Bravo Oti for that routine! It was like they were having a competition to out-sultry each other. Another thing I wanted to mention, Kelvin has massive hands, but seems to know how to use them, hurrah!
If any bloke was going to pull off a rumba, it was always going to be Kelvin.  His natural talent is absolutely extraordinary.  Loved the music. Loved the simple black silhouettes. Loved Kelvin's musicality. Loved the choreography. He steals the spotlight from Oti Mabuse - I doubt there are many in the world who can do that.

Emma and Aljaz
Emma secretly hates that outfit, I just know it. This was slightly 'meh' dance number two, all the steps were there and in the right order, but it was all a bit prim and proper. No idea why the judges went crazy over it, I doubt I will remember it on Monday.
Oh it was OK. But seriously didn't like the band's arrangement for a jive. It just seemed rushed and jolty. The dance didn't have much spring but it really didn't seem like she had time for it. Pffft. Aljaz is just a joy, though. 

Michelle and Giovanni
It's like late 80s Cher decided to dress up as acid-trip Barbie, that outfit is really not doing it for me. This was probably the first time I've seen Michelle struggling to keep up with Gio, who for some reason was completely on fire during this dance. She said she was struggling during training and it showed, but she's not the type to go off and cry about it, just chalk it up to experience and march on!
CELIA EFFING CRUZ for salsa. Be still my beating corazon. Quimbara is very quick so she did well. And it had such a laid-back, social dance vibe to it, some genuine salsa moves and decent technique. 

Will and Janette
Quite happy to see Will doing a dance that you can't get by on by just being super-enthusiastic, and even with the sightly off theme it had more foxtrot in it than I was expecting. As ever, he is simply not good in hold, but they did have a stab at it. Not much to take away from this really, apart from that they really need to work on the ballroom stuff.
I rarely find a foxtrot exciting but this was pleasant. Frustrating how it's perfectly fine to have a Spanish theme though yet there is rarely a Spanish themed Paso. Which is, you know, actually Spanish. 

Mike and Katya
Again, I wasn't expecting much from a Mike quickstep, but this was clearly his best dance! Maybe it just takes a few weeks to bed in with some people, bringing together skill and performance. Not a bad routine from Katya either, apart from the random trip to the stairs at the end. The main thing I was impressed by was the complete lack of gapping, I'm all about the gapping in a quickstep. As surprised as I was, this was not worth a nine!
Not usually one to comment on the private lives of the dancers and whatnot but I do wonder whether anyone's stopped to consider that the reason Katya is quite emotional is because she's also had a genuinely tough year. She really is one of the most talented choreographers and teachers in Strictly's whole run - always working with her partners' strengths. Whilst I didn't necessarily see exactly what the judges saw in this routine, it was a marked improvement. Something we've come to expect from her. Respect.

Saffron and AJ
Gosh, there was so much in this for me not to like, but I couldn't bring myself to hate it. It was so ridiculously cheesy and contempo-waft, but bless her she'd worked hard and put all of herself in it. Plus she kept up with AJ, which was pretty hard in that routine. Also, she's surprisingly good at lifts! She's no Joe Sugg, but she's trying.
Urgh, it's couple's choice. Do I have to comment?

Karim and Amy
This was much more tango-y than I was expecting, mainly because the two of them grabbed it with both hands and did not let go for a second. It was sharp and sexy and all the things you want from a tango, apart from a perfect song, but I've basically given up on that.  Karim also looked like a totally different person. When you think they both had the lurgy this week too, it's even more impressive that no one sneezed on anyone. 
Blimey he's good. I'd still prefer a tango to have more of a tango mood, but I have been harping on about that for years. Karim is a dead cert for the final I'm sure of it. He has a rival for natural talent in Kelvin but Karim is currently (and understandably due to prior training) more polished.