Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bling me Sunshine

Week 4, where the judges apparently get notoriously tough (since when?! I feel like history is being rewritten this series.) However, I'm not hating on Craig's new found respect for rules. This, in addition to the back-to-basics approach to choreography (Nadiya aside), and the fact that props just appear to be background scenes instead of infiltrating the dances to the point of stupidity (let's ignore Brian's glittery stick...), means I am enjoying the routines far more than I have for quite some years. Is this Shirley's influence? Whether it is or not, I approve nonetheless.

Debbie and Giovanni 

They were pretty tough on poor Debs. However, her legs were as straight as matchsticks and her footwork was a wee bit sloppy in places. I would have thought the scores would be higher but perhaps Giovanni has got lazy teaching her technique, assuming she's a natural. But the movement in each dance is so different, she's not going to pick them all up without help. I bet we'll see a mahoosive improvement next week. This lady is nothing if not plucky.

Brian and Amy  
We have reached Peak. Camp. Not sure why Brian was having a toddler tantrum on a block at the beginning of the routine. Despite the horrific song choice and garish costumes, this actually genuinely did have paso content. And it wasn't executed all that terribly either. Brian's timing isn't bad. He's not good enough to be good, but he's not bad enough to be good either. I wonder how long he will last. 

Mollie and AJ  
YAAAS another latin track for salsa? What are you doing to me BBC?! I'm delighted. It's AJ I'm going to critique here. Ballroom dancers always take such huge steps on salsa basics and it's so blooming unnatural. And if AJ is doing that, Mollie is bound to follow. Gives it all an awkward edge to be honest. So yeah, not my favourite. And he dropped her didn't he? She bounced off the floor.

Davood and Nadiya  
Oh bless, we're still at the point where we have many contestants, some just get lost in the process. Davood's performance was forgettable. In fact, I genuinely forgot it whilst writing this blog. He's such a contender in the sense that he's ripe for a journey. I want him to come out and WOW us, with pizzazz, like the time Gethin found his Salsa. 

Charlotte and Brendan  
Poor Charlotte. She's the sort of contestant we just would have expected to be better. I think she probably thought she'd be better too. That's a tough glitterball to swallow. I thought she improved though actually. 

Joe and Katya  
So Joe's graduating from the Jake Wood school of body movement. He's trying but it's not quite there. I'm loving that this series it's at least being called out instead of praised. Movement has to come from the feet/legs/core, not from the hips themselves. I saw timing issues but perhaps I was wrong given the judges said that was spot on. I'll have to rewatch. He's a nice chap and has potential. I don't think we'll be losing him yet. 

Ruth and Anton  
A dramatic Anton Tango (and Ant-ango?) But, like, Davood, this wasn't good enough to be all that memorable. Or bad enough to be all that memorable. She's having a jolly nice time though. And it was a huge improvement. 

Aston and Janette  
First of all, I called this song on Twitter four years ago for a perfect quickstep. And I loved it. But why on earth were they wearing green?! A lovely sky blue would have been just perfect. Regarding the dancing, I'm wondering if Aston got cocky. It was relatively ungainly in places. Glad again it was called out. They'll come back fighting next week.

Simon and Karen  
I don't care if it's re-used. I will always welcome a samba to Copacabana. Always. And I will always welcome fruit-related hair pieces. And yellow fringing. What I liked best about this however was the fact it was a samba. WITH SAMBA STEPS IN IT. Remember a few series ago when the sambas, salsas and cha chas were almost indistinguishable? No more! Not sure if this was enough to save him but I enjoyed this. 

Gemma and Aljaz  
Gemma is the definition of rough diamond. One week soon, she's going to waltz out like a Disney princess and make everyone go ooooh, she's a LADY (woah woah woah, she's a lady). She's improving week on week, and is exactly the sort of contestant we love.

Alexandra and Gorka  
If it's good enough for a ten, it's good enough for a ten. No matter how early it is. This was the FIERCEST dance I have seen on Strictly. I think ever. It wasn't only technically proficient, it seemed as though Alexandra threw her heart and soul into every single step. Alex - already a Strictly Come Dancing legend. 

Johnny and Oti  
First of all, I heart Oti's dress. I can't pull off a red dress, being pale and ginger. Jealous. Johnny was great in this and I loved the routine. Musicality, technique, all great. But he has the sportsman performance problem. Totally agree with Craig regarding the acting lessons. Look what it did for Matt Dawson. Got him to the final... just saying.

Susan and Kevin  
Susan for Strictly Champion! No! Susan for Prime Minister. No! Susan for QUEEN! She was so light on her feet and her musicality was impeccable. I ADORED this. Now I have been down on Kevin in the past. But honestly, he gets the best out of his celebs doesn't he? I take it all back. Think this might be my favourite partnership of the series this year. And Susan, this wasn't 'it-was-a-great-performance good', this was 'you're-a-great-dancer good.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Movie Week, Schmoovie Week

Another year, another chance missed to do a super-camp opening number to Let's Go To The Movies from Annie, sigh.  A week of highs and lows and the downright odd, with scoring all over the place. Read on to find out who was completely overwhelmed by theming and who struggled to the top...

Simon and Karen
Poor Simon really got the b-list selection here, didn't he? Although I am kind of in love with Karen's cow-print skirt with purple tulle. Strangely enough, this didn't feel much like a quickstep, it's a very difficult one for someone with no dance experience like Simon and he did look like he was jogging about a bit.

Ruth and Anton
I was quite looking forward to this, the rehearsal footage on ITT looked quite good and they had a cracking song choice. Thankfully, this didn't get overwhelmed by the theme, but it also didn't get overwhelmed by anything, and was a bit dull. Also, Anton just seemed to leave her on her own and wander off at one point. Saying that, she has definitely improved from week 1, so I'm happy for her to stay for a bit.

Mollie and AJ
This was weird, weird, weird. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be watching, especially with the 80s power ballad version of Climb Every Mountain. They didn't know what Maria 'look' they were going for, with the apron plus wig making her look like Cersei Lannister posing as a peasant. And AJ seemed to have decided the more time Mollie spent in the air the better. There seemed to be some decent ballroom hold and footwork in there, but I was totally baffled.

Rev Richard and Dianne
I am now spelling Dianne's name properly, sorry everyone! Now the rev hasn't been the higher calibre of comedy contestant yet (more Dave Myers than Ed Balls), but you'd think Flash Gordon could get him there. Sadly, I feel like this just missed the mark, despite Dianne putting plenty of paso content in there (and looking totally awesome), he just hasn't shown the ability yet to really sell a dance properly.

The Lovely Debbie McGee and Giovanni
Well after a rather lacklustre start, Debbie has come to bless us with her high-camp cougar ringerness. Yes, it wasn't as rip-roaringly fun as her paso or as twee as her waltz last week, but it was easily the best of the night so far and was beautifully executed. Debbie also makes me like Giovanni more, so I'm all for that.

Brian and Amy
Our poll last week showed a lot more of you thought Brian should have left rather than Chizzy, but fair play to him I think he raised his game this week. They'd obviously worked on his ballroom skills and Amy put a good routine together, although he is still a bit tentative. However, he definitely exceeded my expectations and it wasn't a complete gurn-fest, so for that I'm grateful.

Gemma and Aljaz
This was sold a lot during the week, yes the theme seemed a bit bonkers, but the training footage also looked good. And yes, it was bonkers, but Gemma is really coming on in leaps and bounds - she was dancing alone in it for so long but looked like she was really enjoying herself. The lift was seriously clunky though. I could actually have done without Aljaz dancing as a pregnant teddy bear because I found it a bit distracting.

Charlotte and Brendan
I am so over Charlotte's cha cha drama, she did a bad dance, get over it. Now let us return to Brendan's 80s fantasies...and not a totally awful tango song choice actually. However, Charlotte still dances very passively, like she's having some sort of terrifying out of body experience. There are times when she has some nice lines and shows potential in hold but she's got a mental block it's going to be tough to get over.

Jonnie and Oti
I still can't get over how bad Oti's outfit was when you consider all the glamorous 1930s outfits you could put her in for Indiana Jones, Willie Scott wore a sparkly floor-length ballgown FFS! Jonnie looks awesome though, even when his face is covered in half a tub of Bisto. This was a great routine with loads of choreography which I was impressed Jonnie could handle compared to his tentative week 1 routine. Great in hold, good footwork, slightly leaden arms (but his arms consistently need work) - keep on improving Jonnie!

Susan and Kevin
Well this was delightfully bonkers! Loved Susan leading, and when she span Kevin on the floor I actually shrieked, along with the customary shout of 'samba rolls!' whenever I see them - and these were actually pretty good. In fact, there was a fair bit of samba in this performance, and some bounce action. They'd obviously worked very hard on this in a week when they cold have easily coasted on camp, cracking job guys!
 
Joe and Katya
We've learned this week that Joe can grow some pretty impressive facial hair in the space of a week. Also, Katya is good in furry headwear. This was rather lovely, with a sweet song and more than enough choreography. Joe was probably better in hold than out, but it's a Viennese Waltz so that shouldn't be a problem. I also quite enjoyed Katya being all tragic heroine with dramatic facial expressions and Joe just beaming away like he was having a marvellous time.

Aston and Janette
The greatest movie themes in the world....and some random nonsense from Trolls. I enjoyed this more than last week's salsa, mainly because there were no lifts and it did look like a cha cha underneath those terrifying day-glo outfits. Still not properly warmed to them, but this week I only rolled my eyes at the scores, rather than them.

Alexandra and Gorka
They'd given themselves a tough act to follow after the barnstormer of a paso, but this was was a complete delight. So light and charming! Props to Gorka for for such a lovely routine, and not going to town on the lifts, just sticking with her amazing musicality. I even got over them using half the props from the Eastenders market cluttering up the place, long may they sail.

Davood and Nadiya
Oh look, disco-samba returns to haunt us yet again...just make disco it's own category! Saying that, I actually think this was Davood's best so far: he came out and sold it and wasn't totally overshadowed by Nadiya. There was also some samba content in it...at the beginning before he ran off up some stairs to sexually harass the judges. Darcey was right though, they have energy, but they're also often a bit frantic, but this week it was a bit more coherent.



Saturday, 30 September 2017

Gorka, what a corker!

Wow, that was a lengthy show. These early ones take it out of me. I'm getting so old. Honestly, it was so long I managed to get through a total of 432 Tunnocks Caramel Wafters and a vegetarian roast dinner whilst watching that. Such a joy to see all the celebs still all caught up with the Strictly bug. It's all very real once one goes home...

Chizzy and Pasha  
She's so Chizzy (and pretty good at spinning...) That was kind of the problem though - it was sassy and brash and it just didn't gel. She brought the performance factor but the technique was a tad lacklustre. And it's all well and good to dress Pasha as Professor Plum but did you know he did it? In the library with a candlestick. Maybe. 

Aston and Janette  
Now I'm not going with the Despacito hating. It's as latin as it gets on Strictly and I welcome that. I had such. high. hopes. for this. Yes, despite the most-totes unnecessary theme-age. But mostly I was just freaked out by Janette's dress. A plastic doll wouldn't have been seen dead in it circa 1986. The dance though. Not going to lie. I actually really liked it. Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that is a rare compliment from me regarding salsa... maybe my standards are lowering, or maybe that side by side footwork was just plain cool. 

Susan and Kevin  
If I knew Susan, I'd be telling her YAY. This was a decent job. Not only did she look rather fabulous, it was jolly and relatively entertaining. However, the dance itself was a tad heavy and lacking of swivel. She also seemed slightly out of time in parts (Has Suze been on the booze? - I totally would have done an accompanying meme to this but hey, I just didn't.) I love these two, and that's coming from someone who's struggled with Kevin for the past few seasons.

Charlotte and Brendan  
Ah Charlotte is quite clearly a ballroom girl then. There was no fluidity between movements here, and to me it seemed as though she were casually sauntering through her routine, as though out in the park on a Sunday afternoon, rather than dancing it to millions on viewers on live TV. And where she wasn't sauntering, she was being dragged about like an awkward toddler at the Pick and Mix at Wilko. I think the routine was too difficult for her. Badly done, Brendan, badly done. 

How fabulous was Charlotte's costume though? And how bleedingly gorgeous did she look in it?

Joe and Katya  
YAAAAAAS Katya bringing out the Lilia Broomstick Method. That is so Strictly Old School and I LOVE it. I do so wish they didn't waste the first half of the routine with Joe just casually popping on his waistcoat. He could have got dressed before the show aired, surely. Tango posture was not there in the actual performance though and it was a terrible, terrible song choice. 

Brian and Amy  
So this is what the Grinch would look like if you dipped him in glitter and forced him to audition for Saturday Night Fever. The timing was abysmal, the technique was non-existant and the scores were... weirdly high. It was entertaining of course (that old chestnut) but Brian, oh poor Brian, it was about as close to a cha cha cha as a tin of baked beans. 

Gemma and Aljaz  
Being in the arms of a professional dancer can mask a lot, but unfortunately not stumbly feet. Gemma had beautifully expressive arms though, it was a huge improvement and she looked stunning in midnight blue. Gemma has everything going for her to become one of this series biggest j-j-j-journeys. And Aljaz mimicking a northern accent is the highlight of my life so far. 

Rev Richard and Diane  
Well, the Rev actually has timing. I'm not convinced he was supposed to break out into the funky chicken mid way through the routine, but hey. The race to the bottom is between Brian and the Rev. And the Rev is just adorbs. No contest.

Ruth and Anton  
I love a bit of gold fringing. Ruth was actually quite nifty with a swivvelly basic. She could have committed to the moves more but it was a fast piece of music (obvs) and WHAT. AN. IMPROVEMENT. I love an Anton Charleston though, I suspect he was born dancing it.

Simon and Karen
Ah, I saw heel leads, and Simon managing incredibly well to waltz to a difficult piece of music. It must have been really tricky to pick out the rhythm in that arrangement so kudos for keeping it going. But the end? I thought it was trying to fling Karen across the studio as though he were an Olympic hammer thrower. Ouch.

Mollie and AJ
It was an improvement but I get a sense that Mollie isn't quite as good as she thinks she should be. Perhaps I was expecting Mollie to be better than this too. Perhaps I was expecting her to be a ringer. That she isn't. But that gives her the advantage of improvement. Like Gemma, there's potential for a real journey here. Not sure why someone had drawn a line of red glitter glue across her head as though she is a pre-school craft project.

Johnny and Oti  
I was sure hoping Johnny would be good. Boom boom. He didn't disappoint. That was so quick, and boy, Oti didn't hold back with the choreography did she? The kicks and flicks were quite something to behold, although there were slight timing issues elsewhere. I couldn't quite tell if that's because he was struggling with the rhythm or it was just far too fast. Time will tell. 

Debbie and Giovanni
Is Debbie always a woman? Or is she sometimes a small white bunny who lives inside a top hat? Conspiracy? Maybe. This was exquisite as expected, the dirteh ringeh. Debbie actually made Giovanni look like the celeb in this partnership, and she can extend her leg as far as Japan, but you know what? I don't care. She looks as though she is having the time of her life. Let's let her. 

Davood and Nadiya  
This never happens in my library. I'm totally going to quickstep at work on Monday. (PS. Also, can we stop with this outdated nonsense that libraries are always quiet? This is not the 1950s, BBC.) Can I just say that I love, love, love this music choice. But wasted with flashy, trashy moves. It's the curse of having a new pro isn't it? Sometimes takes a while to get the gist. And of course, the goal posts are always changing. This wasn't a bad job at all though. And Davood is quite the darling. 

Alexandra and Gorka
Wow, this had attack! Could have done with a wee little more polish and softness in places, but there's no doubt this girl can dance. This was one of those cases where the music and the dance and the partnership all came together, and for that to happen so early on in the series is very rare. Think Louisa Lytton and her jive. Fierce. One I'll be watching back on Youtube later. The only dance from last year that got that honour from me was Danny's samba. Yes, Alexandra, you're that good. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

2017: A Strictly Odyssey

Oti awakens from her slumber and flies through the air with Giovanni, a totally normal way to spend your Saturday night from now until Christmas. Welcome to Strictly 2017, we're kicking things off with everyone dancing in the longest episode ever. I hope you've got plenty of #StrictlySnacks at the ready...

Gemma and Aljaz
As we know, the person who dances first gets to the final as per the Winning Formula, so no pressure there Gemma. And this was what you would expect from an opening number, a perfectly serviceable cha cha. She didn't embarrass herself and had obviously worked hard, but it wasn't really memorable - apart from Aljaz really giving his all in the eyes-and-teeth stakes, plus white trousers.

Brian and Amy
First tango of the series and it's actually to vaguely appropriate music, you could knock me down with a feather! Yes, there was faff, but once they got into it you could see Amy had tried to teach him a proper tango, possibly despite her better judgement. It was better than I was expecting, but still a bit wooden and blocky, but hey it's week one and a tango is tough at this stage. Also, the red shoes were not a good idea.

Alexandra and Gorka
I was expecting her to get one of the more coveted slots later in the show, but she made up for it in the dress department - what a mermaid's dream of a frock! In fact, she had all the elements you need for an opening waltz, including a great song and some lovely choreography. Also, it's a ringer-esque quality, but her musical theatre experience means she can emote. Sure there were some frame issues and a couple of missed heel leads, but it's week one people!

Simon and Karen
I have a bit of a soft spot for Simon as a normal bloke who doesn't seem like he's doing it for a career boost. Also, Karen is always good value with bonkersness, see her early-2000s-punky styled paso outfit. Now, this was a tough one to get week 1, alongside a more quirky song too, but there was also a lot of walking in this. He was definitely better in hold, but the little slip at the start probably had him shook. Hopefully he'll get some nice chilled ballroom next week.

Charlotte and Brendan
Well this was cute! I didn't have high hopes for Charlotte after her rather leaden performance in the group number on the launch show, but a couple of weeks of training seems to have done a lot of good! She was a bit tentative at times and was obviously more comfortable in hold, but this was a nice surprise. Also, Brendan got to do some of his favourite things, including hopping over furniture, what lawks!

Chizzy and Pasha
Chizzy is a bit of an unknown quantity, but she certainly sold that cha cha. It was a bit simplistic and reliant on flirting with the audience/judges/Pasha. Also, we've hopefully got the doctor jokes out of the way in week one, unless she's going to be cutting Pasha up like a mad scientist during Halloween Week? I really shouldn't give them ideas...

Jonnie and Oti
Gosh, this was cheesy, thank goodness they're both so likeable. It doesn't look like this is coming naturally to him, but as our new Goddess Shirley pointed out, he'd put a lot of effort into his footwork. These two have definite chemistry, so once he's warmed up to the whole performance thing I hope we'll see some real strides.

Joe and Katya
Ah, a classic 1950s twee jive, we know how this goes. Since he's a bit of a ringer I'm ok with him being given a harder dance early on, and he definitely rose the to challenge. A bit flat-footed in place, but that could have been down to the trainers. Katya also deserves extra points for jiving on a car bonnet in heels without plummeting to her death, I suppose after her adventures with Ed Balls this series will feel a little tame for her.

Susan and Kevin
There was a lot of faff in this, and probably the most over-burdening theme of the night, but was actually matched with some great movement from Susan. Her frame was pretty good in hold, despite her being so very wee, and she was good and confident in the footwork, which is half the battle at this early stage. She's also what Strictly is all about and has already had what feels like a life-changing experience, I think we'll be seeing a lot more of these guys...

The Lovely Debbie McGee and Giovanni
That woman has a pair of legs on her! This was seriously camp and all the better for it, forget Debbie's ballet training if she can deliver entertaining bonkersness like that. Plus Giovanni just got to have a sit down for a fair portion of it, which was hilarious. It's shaping up to be a nice mix of contestants at the moment.

Davood and Nadiya
Thank goodness for another cha cha, I need my week 1 to have the cha cha in order to feel at home. And crikey, Nadiya is an amazing dancer, she totally overshadowed Davood throughout the whole thing - sometimes new pros need to remember to turn it down a notch. Saying that, he did manage to keep up for the most part; it was a bit rough around the edges but it seems like he'd mastered the basics. We shall see what ballroom next week will bring...

Ruth and Anton
Could there be a better pairing for this series? In fact, the whole thing went totally as expected when it came to song, choreography and movement. She obviously was nervous and Anton was doing a lot of the steering. I imagine this is going to be a Deborah Meaden-style journey, where we see someone having the time of their lives and can't help but like it. Hopefully that annoying clip-in ponytail that looked like a cocker spaniel's ear will have gone next week...

Rev Richard and Diane
These two have already been hilarious on Twitter, so we were all awaiting Richard's first outing on the dancefloor. Despite the celestial cloud entrance, they did manage to keep the faffing to a minimum and Diane put plenty of basic cha cha steps in there. He also remembered the routine and did it in time, must be that 80s synth background. It was cute and charming and a good thing to have in the mix, more than happy for them to stay for a while.

Mollie and AJ
Loving Mollie's super-cute Minnie Mouse hair, but as Bruno said (surprisingly) she doesn't seem that comfortable dancing with her partner. She also seemed a bit gangly for someone so small, so might need to work on her core. It was a perfectly acceptable week 1 jive, but she may suffer from people having high expectations. I was also waiting for AJ to slide off the end of the piano when he swept across it on his bum at the start, but you can't have everything...

Aston and Janette
Ah, the ringery-est of ringers has been left until the end. As Craig said, they were more than capable of doing a lovely foxtrot, but then decided to ham it up with unnecessary faffing towards the end - this will get annoying if it carries on. Beautiful styling though, and thank you for whoever fixed his hair.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Winning Formula - Version 9.0

I mean seriously, version NINE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDIT: And so, our predicted finalists for 2017 are....
Alex
Aston
Gemma

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Class of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Oduba-lieve in Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Strictly Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Cha Cha Chicanery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Seaside Shenanigans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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