Monday, 21 December 2015

The Impossible Journey

This has been the strangest series of Strictly Come Dancing yet. The whole thing has felt very odd and bad feeling has been at a high. Allegiations - from the public, pros and celebs - that it's fixed, have left an odd feeling hanging over the entire show. Of course there has been a sense building over the past few years of 'over-production' that there has been an attempt to control every last detail - whether that includes the scoring or not, I don't plan to comment, but Strictly's charm, being live TV, was often its spontaneity (something Brucie was a pro at, I must say). Viewers do get a sense when they are being manipulated. They may not know the details, but it has certainly felt that something is amiss. And this year it came to a head. 

However, this series' problems may also boil down to one over-riding and quite simple fact: there were too many previously trained dancers in the competition. Now, I don't have a problem with a 'ringer' or two. In fact, I think they bring a lot to the competition. Firstly, they provide viewers with some excellent dancing in the early weeks of the competition when everyone else is getting to grips with the basics. Secondly, they set the pace and give the rest of the contestants something to aspire to. 

Two examples of this are Denise Van Outen and Natalie Gumede - both brilliant from week one, and did we mind? No. Did we enjoy their dances? Absolutely. Both made the final but were beaten to the Glitterball by celebrities who did not have the same level of dance background but - and this is crux of the matter - progressed more. I doubt either Denise or Natalie would complain about this - they had a great run - the full experience - and both appeared to enjoy it immensely. 

So why was this year different? In short, there were too many Denises. Georgia, Kellie, Helen, Jay and -arguably - Peter, all started the competition, week one, at a relatively high level.
It normalised that level of dance to the point that other celebrities' progress was lost somewhere in the middle. Jamelia (regardless of her level of popularity with the public) improved beyond measure. Anita, with no previous dance experience, did that absolutely wonderful Paso Doble, one of the best dances of the series. Now, yes, you could argue that the 'middling' contestants are the ones who usually get lost - but the problem is that Anita particularly shouldn't have been 'middling' at all - another year, she would have been right up near the top. 

Let's put scoring scandals to one side for a minute and assume that all the marks given to each couple this year were fair and square. Even in this instance, having four or five consistently getting 8s, 9s and 10s from the start effectively locks many others out of the final stages. From the very beginning. Anyone not already at that level was never really given a chance. We could have held the final at week three.

This is not a dig at any particular contestant. We do all have our favourites but they have all worked hard and all in the final were wonderful dancers. However, I think a terrible miscalculation when casting this series - amongst quite a few other issues - has caused many fans to question their loyality to the show. We may all mock the J... word but that's what Strictly's always been about. Only this year, a journey has been all but impossible. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A funny old final...

Here are at the final! The pros are dancing around the production studio like a super-spangly, super-camp version of Is This The Way to Amarillo - while the celebs cling on for dear life whilst suspended from the ceiling. Fun, but not a patch on the golden chariots of Blackpool.

As ever, we're not going to do the dances we've seen before, but will have a quick run-down. Jay's quickstep was a sensible choice to show improvement, and he sure did - he was even smiling! Georgia got the tricky choice of a rumba (I'd rather die than do a rumba in the final!), but certainly managed to pull it off, although again not perfect. Kellie got lumbered with a week one tango that I had completely forgotten was supposed to be a tango, and it was just as annoying as last time - despite the technique being great, it's just not a worthy routine. Cue national eye-rolling for the 40. Thank goodness Katie and Anton arrived to give us a bit of ballroom class with their lovely old-school quickstep, admittedly full of mistakes, but so likeable.

The first four dances were all a little meh, despite the judges' feelings about Kellie's. I think they possibly got carried away there because she displayed more oomph than the other three put together. Jay's quickstep, Georgia's rumba and Katie's quickstep were all good, but weirdly lacklustre. But I guess that's what happens when the judges make them do dances they'd struggled with initially. Problem is, it was the final and I wanted to be wowed. I wasn't. 

Jay and Aliona
He's upside down, oh the drama! Not sure about Aliona's yellow pants. And this song makes me feel old cos I have no idea what it is. I quite liked this as a whole, it was a tight routine rather than a frantic hyper-active showdance like so many of them are. But with that, you lost a bit of the razzmatazz. As a few people said on Twitter, they tried to be cool and it didn't really work, SCD is not a place to try and be cool.

The hipster of showdances, it was like the dance thought it was too cool to be there. Jay is an exquisite dancer, and turns like a professional. This was slightly odd and uncharacteristically clinical. A bold move by the couple that sort of backfired. Beautifully danced, though.

Georgia and Giovanni
It was Coldplay, it was contempo, there was a blindfold - and yet it worked! It was pretty and there was hefty amount of ballroom in there for a showdance, which is always brave. Also, Georgia's dress was gorgeous and not a showdance glitter-bucket. Again, not a knock-your-socks-off performance, but still very good and they tried to do something different without being overly gimmicky. They've worked hard, this pair, and deserve to get to the very end.

Twitter wasn't keen on this, but I thought the beginning at least was very powerful. Mostly though I was just snorting at Frankie's interpretation that Giovanni made a blind woman see by the power of dance alone. I was on the wine by this point. Georgia danced splendidly again and this showed she would have been a very worthy winner.

Kellie and Kevin
The training footage looked great, and like an actual dance, which is always a good start. And the porn train came back, the most infamous prop ever! I was still super-cross about the 'tango' but they totally won me over with the showdance, I loved it. It's what I want to see from a showdance; energy, technique, personality, joy. Yes it was jazz-handy, but not gurning, how they managed that I do not know.

I expected nothing less from these two. Gusto. Razzmatazz. With aplomb. Slightly annoying but my goodness, they were both fighting for it and I can't knock that. 

Katie and Anton
Oh my stars and garters, it's an Anton showdance! We'd waited for it for literally years, and he wasn't going to disappoint us, I do not see how he could possibly have given anything more. It was cram-packed full of content, brought the wow-factor and had some death-defying moves. And Katie got to be Roman and haughty, in a Game of Thrones on acid dress, some people have all the luck. Still wobbly, but I don't think Katie's ever going to overcome her natural wobbliness. If they do go, it was a pretty cool dance to go out on.

This was high camp and dramatic. Katie was just an accessory in this crazy, epic showdance that Anton's probably been planning in his head for years. 

So we're back after our trip to the loo, make a cup of tea, wrap some Christmas presents break. And the person to leave us is.......KATIE!

Sad to see you go Katie, you always had an amazing time and your pairing with Anton was very special. And you had some blummin' fabulous frocks.

Bye Katie. I kind of wanted you to win because it would have annoyed the judges so much. 

So we're back down to the final three dances. Jay oddly did his paso, which was a mistake since the first show did not go very well. Saying that, I loved this paso first time around and thought this was even better - his technique was so good, especially on the Spanish lines and jetes. However, Georgia just went and knocked it out of the park! This was the proper boom moment of the final, her Charleston had everything you would want to see, and you just felt for her when she was so excited and happy she couldn't actually speak. And then after that, Kellie and Kevin did they're Charleston - another bad choice, it couldn't help be underwhelming after Georgia blew the roof off.

The only one of these three I really loved was Georgia's charleston, and despite not being a particular fan throughout the competition, I sent my three web votes her way after that. Jay's paso was good, of course, but we all just wanted to see that jive. Kellie and Kevin's charleston just looked like kid mucking about after the clean performance from Georgia.

And as for the group dance, I love the mess it always is - and this one was no disappointment Leaves me on a happy high for the end. Highlights included Jezza on his horse, Jamelia sassing it up with a backflip followed by Peter rolling is hands like a dad-dancer, Pasha on his cloud of ultimate randomness, Daniel reminding us he existed, and everyone looking gorgeous!

They don't even bother making them dance any more do they? Apart from Jamelia. Jamelia was fabulous.

After what seems like a million monologues, we finally hear our's JAY!

Was this expected since that jive? Quite possibly. But either way, he's been one of the most talented males we've ever had on the show and kept us on our toes the whole way. And his crispy perm hair was forever immortalised in the opening titles.

Extremely talented dancer. Probably the best male celeb who's ever been on. But yeah, his best dance was week three - so did the show peak then? We love to see a journey and I suppose his journey to confidence was a big one.

Thanks to everyone who's read the blog this year, it's been a bumpy ride, but great to have you along with us! See you on Twitter for Christmas!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Semi-interesting, semi-spectacular, semi-final

The semi-final is upon us already! This year seems to have flown by, like Craig Revel Horwood ostentatiously pirouetting past the camera every week. There's hardly anyone to come down the stairs for us to go 'oooh' at, and everyone's a wee bit knackered. Remember the snore-fest of last year's semi-final? Hopefully we're up for a bit more drama this year...

Katie and Anton
Anton gives good Charleston. You wouldn't think it at first, but the man has been quickstepping half his life. And I mean old school Charleston, not hyperactive gurning. Unfortunately, Katie was not giving us good Charleston, she looked like a gangly drunken spider. Although a drunken spider having a good time, I'll give her that, but it was rather out of sync. Also, are their outfits intentionally supposed to clash?

They really did get out of sync but given the over-inflated scoring (for some contestants) this series, even I think Craig's four was nothing short of ridiculous. Unfortunately, that set me on the back foot for the rest of the show. I beg to differ that she had no swivel. One side was fine. The other was a little awkwardly jerky, but hey, everyone has a good side. 

Jay and Aliona
Starting with a fleckrl, how nice. Of course this is Aliona, so there was wafting, but I do actually like to see Jay wafting. And spinning, gosh, how that boy spins. Although now we're all on boob watch: Jay seems to put his head on Aliona's boobs in every dance, I dread to think how that's going to turn out in the Charleston. Lovely waltz moves in there too, the song was appropriate. It didn't set the world on fire, but it was rather nice.

Jay gives good waft. It was lovely but strangely static in parts. I expect a VW to swing around the room with sway and momentum, and I can't say this did. When he's out on his own, he's exquisite, but in hold (and I know that is hard for a bloke) he's not as good as he could be. Jay has really allowed Aliona to flex her choreography muscles this series though. I haven't been a fan before but I have to admit, she has come up trumps this year. 

Georgia and Giovanni
I wish I looked like that when I had a stinking cold...I assume this routine was brought to us by the incredible healing powers of Lucozade. Problem with doing a late cha cha is that expectations are way too high, like Alesha high. There was plenty of choreography in there, but it did feel a bit like they were going through the motions.

I know cha cha action is difficult, especially at the end of the series when we care about it more, but Georgia's technique was as iffy as 6 week old cheese sandwich that's accidentally been left in a teenager's locker. That's fine, she was poorly. But, the judges should have marked accordingly. Yet another example of the extraordinarily inconsistent comments and marking this year. Yes, Georgia is talented and probably should make the final. But if she has a bad week, maybe not. That's the game. But no one's really playing ball this year, are they?

Anita and Gleb
Antia looks amazing, even with the random arm streamers. It's a toughie to do a foxtrot at this stage, but getting a showstopping number like New York New York is always a help - remember when Natalie pulled off an actual miracle to it with Michael Vaughan? And as foxtrots go, this was one of the more memorable. Don't care what Len says, compared with many other routines this was jam-packed with work in hold and proper foxtrot.

Gleb's coming in for a lot of criticism from Anita fans. But tell me this, how is he supposed to keep to the rules when the rules change on a weekly basis? Len, I just wanted to scream STFU at you. Not because you were wrong - you weren't - you were spot on right, but this had more foxtrot content than Kellie had Viennese Waltz last week, yet there were no comments there. And why was it OK for Georgia's routine to be packed full of disco, then this get penalised for being out of hold too much?

Kellie and Kevin
Never sure about a rumba where you can see someone's pants. Other than that, quite a nice dress and colour on Kellie amid the shockers she's had this series. I thought this was going to be really cringey, but it was actually quite sweet. And it looked like an actual rumba, with lots of flowing steps. She did have that proper wobble that made me gasp though, thought she was going to face-plant down in the middle of the floor. All in all a pretty good turn is a rather patchy first half to the show.

For a rumba, it was very good. Didn't blow my socks off, but my feet were pretty cold anyway so that would have been tricky. I liked that it genuinely had rumba steps in it, and despite starting the show as my least favourite pairing, by this point, this was my favourite dance. 

Right, let's go round again!

Katie and Anton
Oh what a delightful dress, it was even good for sweeping away the overload of dry ice, the audience probably needed gas masks. As Len said, it was a nice classy routine, but it just wasn't neat enough to be beautiful. Maybe if it was a different week and they'd had time just to focus on the one dance, they could have nailed it.

This should have been perfect. If you're going to ace a dance with Anton, it should be the waltz and I thought she had kind of lucked out getting it so late in the competition. Nevertheless, there were issues. Gapping, being one. There should be no gapping at this stage. Having said that, I would love to see both of them in the final. Katie is not a trained dancer, and to me that is what Strictly should be about.

Jay and Aliona
We've been building to the Jay Charleston Redemption for weeks now, and we got it! The theme was actually pretty cute, although not sure what Aliona's wig was about. And Len was right, it had a sort of casual charm in it that was great to see. And oof that footwork, Jay's knees obviously have an extra hinge in them. Too bad about the clumsy lift near the end, I think they could have taken at least one lift out at the moment. At the moment, this is the standout dance of the night by a long way.

Now Jay is a trained dancer. I'm not going to make a deal of it, but he is. But sometimes a trained dancer is so unbelievably good, it ceases to matter. I adored this charleston. I loved the modern, cool feel to it and Jay's legs are extraordinary. Hurrahs. 

Georgia and Giovanni
I kind of wished they'd actually dressed Georgia as one of the Corrs, but then they might have made Giovanni be Jim. It was lovely and cute, and they do lovely and cute so well. A nice routine, and her top line has definitely improved. Not much else to say really, the question is whether it will save her from the bottom 2.

A beautiful song to use and quite shocking it hadn't been used before. This was quite adorable. As Len had been getting picky over people's footwork this week, I'd expecting a comment about that good or bad. I couldn't tell from the camera angles but I know I saw a standing spin instead of a flerkerl. If it had been good, would Len have not commented on it? Maybe. Seems like it matters for some contestants but not others. 

Anita and Gleb
What were those outfits about? A tribute to Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl? Also, I was expecting there to be a latin version of this rather odd song, but no...So we just had to go with it, as did Anita, throwing herself quite literally into one of  the most surreal SCD moments ever. She was very good with what she was given, she always is, but it was odd odd odd.

Anita is one of my  favourite contestants this series and completely sums up to me what Strictly should be about. I rarely care for the celebs who have come in week one and danced almost perfectly, than hardly improve. I like to see those who haven't had previous dance experience learn. It's why I loved Goughie, and Ramps. Having said that, I despised this dance. It was the furthest thing from salsa I think we have ever seen on the show, and that is saying something. The music was the wrong rhythm and impossible to dance to. How DARE the judges ask for fluidity when they had been expected to dance to an extremely 'unfluid' song? Now someone on Twitter claimed that they had been given a charleston choreographer? If that's true, added to the fact the music was ridiculous, it is totally unreasonable to have a go at Anita (or Gleb) saying there was no salsa in it. This to me summed up everything that is wrong with the show. It failed Anita. And it failed dance. 

Kellie and Kevin
See what happens when you're given an appropriate song choice and theme? Well, the theme was basically just doing the actual dance. This was blummin good, the jumping lifts near the start were an actual delight. And I as watching Kellie throughout, not Kevin, which is always a good sign. I been pretty meh about Kellie most of this series, but tonight she totally raised her game and deserved to go through, even if it means a Kevin Clifton showdance. 

Lovely. But I think most of our couples could have done a great job with this number. I don't want to take away from Kellie though who thoroughly deserves to go through to the final. She was the only contestant who seemed to be fighting for it and that's admirable. As I said earlier, she's been my least favourite for a while but if she gets through, and ups her game next week, with the same pluck, vim and vigour, I can see the public getting right behind her. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Maybe This Time (Anita Won't Get The Death Slot - Oh, Wait.)

So MUSICALS week. Now, I do like a musical. However, it's a theme week. And I don't like those. In some ways, musicals week is the least offensive of all the theme weeks, but in one crucial respect, it is the worst. This is where the production of each routine takes precedent over everything else. Think along the lines of Frankie Bridge's tango (although not in musicals week, as kindly pointed out by Mr Monkseal!) - there was no concern that the music was the wrong time signature, or that after all the faffing there was little time to choreograph many real steps - all that seemed to matter was that it replicated the stage production of Wicked. I don't tune into Strictly to see a poor reconstruction of a West End show. If I want to see that, I'd head to my local am dram society's latest play. They say if you can't do, then teach. But if you can't do theatre, you apparently end up as a frustrated producer on Strictly. But aaaanyway...

The dances... 

Georgia and Giovanni

I have to admit, Georgia did look very much like a Disney Princess. She wouldn't look out of place on a 5 year old's lunch box at all. Giovanni too looked rather dashing as the (rather unhairy, now I think of it) beast. It was a beautiful dance despite the distraction of the human props wandering aimlessly around in the background (this was Peak Prop - I mean, a dancer dressed as a clock - does it get much weirder?) and I was somewhat surprised it didn't score higher. Then, who can tell this year at all?

Anita and Gleb

Ya'll know I've been a fan of Anita from the beginning. I was concerned for her after the rumba last week, and I am concerned again. This was not good. It was also not an argentine tango. The music was too hard. A strong theatrical piece of music has no place with an argentine tango, which should be quiet, and smoky, and sultry. Gleb looked, like Anton, to be having trouble with the hold. I would be interested to know whether this was his first go at this dance too. All in all, I didn't want to be disappointed, but I was. 

Kellie and Kevin

Oh dear. This was like watching a Year 8 production of Oliver. Only the participants were not 12 and certainly old enough to know better. Kevin and Kellie both singing along as though they were auditioning for I'd Do Anything. I was yelling at the TV "You've got the wrong show!" (well I wasn't actually, because my neighbours might have thought it a little strange, but you can imagine the picture) Honestly, I'd do anything not to have to see that again. Apparently on theme weeks the 'rules' (whatever they are these days) don't apply at all, and breaking hold and lifts are just fair game. Which again begs the question WHAT THE FLECKERL IS THE RELEVANCE OF THE 'AMERICAN SMOOTH'? Oh, oh. This wasn't danced badly. But oh. I genuinely despair.

Jay and Aliona

Jay, the lumbersexual with limited facial hair, and Aliona, the Bassetts Fruit Salad chew. They meet, they move, the audience applauds. Thank the gods of latin that this rumba had some rumba in it. I thought it was beautifully choreographed and wonderfully performed. It was understated, quiet and tender. Dance of the evening. 

Katie and Anton

I was semi-dreading this dance purely on the basis that once this song is in my head, it refuses to leave. For weeks. MAYBEEE THIS... and just creeps into conversations at random intervals TIIME, I'LL BE LUCKY... Anton managed to make the choreography stand out over the production in this (this is where Gleb sorely failed) MAAYBE THIS TIME... and it was generally extremely pleasant to watch. I still like this couple and Anton looked to genuinely HE'LLLL STAAAAAYYYY delighted when receiving positive remarks from the judges. I would like to see Katie in the final.

Helen and Aljaz

Again, the production completely overshadowed Helen in this. However, in this case it may have gone in her favour because the judges didn't mention her lack of spanish line, the fact that it was too placed and dainty, that grimacing doesn't necessarily equate to feistiness. At one point, she was being dragged about by Aljaz like Linus dragging his blanket. Thankfully they did mention her balance and timing issues, though they didn't reflect that in their scores. Helen isn't a bad dancer by a long way but she hasn't improved, and I see that as a problem at this stage. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015


After Blackpool, it' s always like the January blues, after all the excitement and glitz there's always a bit of a comedown. On the plus side - so much training footage! Great to see them actually learning the dances rather than prancing about in a field dressed as llamas or whatever, I assume it was because of quickstep-a-thon time constraints, but who cares at the momen

Kellie and Kevin
Is Kevin modelling for the River Island sale rail again? I know wardrobe hate Kellie, but I quite liked her Barbie-does-salsa spangly top. The dreaded Jackson Five music actually had a vague attempt to be remade into something approaching a salsa number, thank heavens. But on the whole it seemed a bit meh, a run of the mill SCD salsa that no one will remember by next week. She's already been in the bottom 2 once, does the death slot not bode well?

Thank goodness it was the latinised version of the song - and the band did a pretty good job with it. Despite my moaning I don't expect all salsa dances on Strictly to be danced to the hits of Hector Lavoe, just some pinch of latin flavour would be nice. This had it. So, win. This wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorably great either. I wouldn't be too surprised to see these guys in the dance off. 

Katie and Anton
Anton's first AT, in case you hadn't picked up on the million and one times it was mentioned. Lovely outfits, but not too sure about Katie's sparkly bra, not very Radio 2. Really loved the scissor-tastic opening lift, but also that they didn't obsess over the lifts either. This was technically very difficult and executed pretty well, but was missing the sex appeal of the epic Argentine Tangos - but do you really want to see that from Anton?

Tangos and Argentine Tangos are starting to merge into each other. The hold for this wasn't correct - they couple should be leaning into each other - it would have helped Katie pick up on Anton's lead too. That comment of Craig's I did agree with, though from the perspective of a follower, it could have been Anton's lead that was a tad late, rather than Katie's picking-up-of-it, if he is unfamiliar with the dance, which we know he is.

Helen and Aljaz
Have they chopped the top half off of Katie's week 1 jive dress to make that gown for Helen? Nice to see her looking comfortable in a dance for once, she seems to have been on edge for weeks, but this was a delight. Well done on the choreography from Aljaz, lots of nice flourishes to add a bit of variation, but also not straying too far from the VW. All in all, a lovely a ballroom dance - and sometimes that's all we really want!

THERE it is. I may have moaned that Helen has been overmarked in latin (she has) but this was right up her street and quite evidently the best dance of the night. Absolutely beautiful and well deserving of 9s and 10s. The footwork looked good to me from what I could see. Mistakes in ballroom tend to be trickier to spot on TV than mistakes in latin. 

Jay and Aliona
Now this is what happens when you do a tango to appropriate music! Imagine if they'd made them do that routine to the Spice Girls or something. Absolutely loved this routine, it's what I want to see from a tango - staccato, sharp, sexy, serial killer faces. Gotta love a Game of Thrones face at a time like this. Easily his best since the Epic Jive of Epic-ness.

Eep. Again, I keep saying it, but this boy's musicality is to die for. I could watch him dancing all day. In terms of technique, he was too 'up' - should have been more into his knees. But the choreography was genius: played to his strengths, hit every accent and break, just...divine. What a talent. 

Peter and Janette
Well this was always going to be awkward after last week's drama...The song did a lot of the work here, along with them trying to bribe us with cake. It was alright, the hold was decent, but it wasn't very memorable. He did look really scared at the start actually, but then it was taken over with crazy faces that reminded me of Jake Wood.

OK. It was better than last week's. It really was. But it was still coated with a thick, saccharine layer of Andre-ness. He is unable to commit fully to a style or character. Where Jay and Anita (for example) are beginning to be able to 'live' the dance they're doing, and perform with conviction, Peter is just always 'Peter moving about', 'Peter moving his leg, 'Peter wafting his arms.' He's unable to escape himself and that is his biggest failing. 

Anita and Gleb
After that all-out-amazing paso last week, following it up with a rumba was always going to be hard. This flitted on the edges of contempo-rumba but thankfully not too much to be annoying, and lots of actual content. This wasn't a natural fit and wasn't ever going to be, but she'd obviously worked very hard and made a lot of headway - hopefully she'll never have to do it again and we can all move on...

Oh this wasn't Anita's best dance. Take it from me though, rumba is hard. It's hard to do without toppling over and requires such control. I don't think she was undermarked this week, and the judges' comments were more than fair. Nevertheless, I voted and voted to keep her in because she has such huge potential, but to have her in the dance off this week could end tearfully... 

Georgia and Giovanni
Loving Georgia's dress, it's a total Ola Jordan knock-off, she also looks a lot like Kristen Stewart in make-up like that. Also, props to her doing a massive solo at the start with full-on faces and nostril-flaring. This was waaay undermarked by the standards of this series, it had attack, lots of steps and commitment to the drama.

Nah, I think it was marked about right... I know Frankie likes a rock paso, but come on, The Final Countdown?! It's hardly hardcore. Anita was given such an advantage with her traditional music last week - the flavour and movements come so much more naturally with an authentic piece. Georgia didn't do a bad job with it at all but it didn't blow me away.

Ooh we were all ready for a pile up!  There wasn't so much a pile-up as a lot of tentative, nervous people trying to smile. Here's a random stream of consciousness...Jay doing some amazing pivots and just Charlestoning when in trouble. Peter and Janette spending the first 30 seconds hogging the middle and hopping around. Helen and Aljaz flitting around looking delightful. Katie and Anton hiding in the corners. Scoring fair on the whole - apart from Jay being put much too low.

This was super hard to keep track of but Helen stood out, and to me, so did Jay. However, the camera didn't focus on any one couple long enough to make a thorough decision, so I will have to trust the judge's judgement on this. Wise, or not, I don't even know any more.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


Blackpool camp? Never!
It's Blackpool! We blummin love Blackpool, it's probably our favourite episode of the series. Donkey jokes and sticks of rocks abound, but most importantly there's always such love for the Tower Ballroom and the history of dancing that comes with it. Also, it's always hilarious that they go at the worst time of year when it's freezing and raining, it's so British!

*Disclaimer*: Nothing against them personally, but we hate the backing dancers and they shouldn't be in any dance.

**Agreed - the arguments about the floor being too big don't stand either. Didn't stop earlier contestants...

Jay and Aliona
He's not had a great few weeks, so was hoping the magic of Blackpool would rub off on Jay with this salsa, and at least he had something vaguely approaching a salsa song. Too bad he was dressed in Kevin's dodgy latin cast-offs. Now there's two things I want in a salsa: armography and hips, and I do believe we got both in these. AND an attempt at looking funky from Jay - he wasn't going to go all jazz handy crazy (that's a technical term, that is), but he did seem like he was having a good time. A wee bit overmarked, but whatever, Blackpool!

I'd dance salsa with Jay after seeing this. From me that is a huge compliment. No, the song wasn't salsa but it's as close as the show will go, and at least was an attempt at something vaguely authentic in terms of mood. No issues with it at all. It didn't have the effortless suave of his week three jive, but it was pretty darned good anyway.

Jamelia and Tristan
Remember when Jamelia started doing ballroom and she could barely stand up? Well she just did a pretty decent quickstep - Tristian's shins are intact! She is operating at a lower level than the others, but this was her best dance since the Charleston and her best ballroom by a mile. Improvement and we didn't even have to shout GAPPING, which we normally love to do. Wasn't too sure about the 80s Barbie ballroom dress.

Jamelia's the last contestant in the competition who didn't start from being pretty good anyway (Anita may not have had training but she's quite clearly got natural ability.) Her first attempt at ballroom was like watching a mannequin being dragged about. She has improved immeasurably however. Others have not. She is eclipsing some *cough Peter*, not that you would know it from the comments. The judges talked as though she would be a dead cert to go this week, and in my opinion, she definitely danced better than two other couples... those scores are getting silly... 

Anita and Gleb
Epic dress, epic song, epic curtain-y things - EPIC paso. Also the backing dancers reminded me of the Unsullied from Game of Thrones, which kinda helped, I'm not going to lie. It was a tad over the top and camp, but if you're not going to do that with a paso you've wasted an opportunity. Also so technically sharp, and the Spanish line, ooof what a star!

Let's get the negative over with first. It didn't have a massive amount of paso content - it was very theatrical showdance - but nevertheless, it was absolutely stunning. Anita's characterisation and Spanish line were things of legend. And what a difference an appropriate song choice makes. Loved this. Dance of the night. And oh, topless Gleb.

Katie and Anton
Let's just take a moment to appreciate Erin dropping in for a chat, what a treat. Also what a dream of an old-school ballroom dress. This was Anton acting out his Blackpool dreams and it was everything we thought it would be. Not a perfect performance, bit wobbly on the lifts and I absolutely hate it when they dance with anyone other than their professional partners, but this is the kind of thing we come to Blackpool for.

I popped out the room and missed Erin. Fo' shame. This was perfect for Blackpool. It wasn't perfect technically definitely good enough to stay in. 

Peter and Janette
I thought jive was going to be a strong one for Peter, and he got a perfect song too. Saying that, I didn't think this routine was up to much, you have to really ramp it up for Blackpool and this was pretty underwhelming - lots of running backwards and forwards and not much else. Nice to see the judges actually mention it, was wondering how they were going to try and gloss over it actually, the two 8s were ridiculous. Quite liking Janette's family-friendly-stripper-banana-dress though.

This was abysmal. It hardly had any jive content and the bits there were, were executed by Peter terribly. Those 8s were not deserved and I am convinced that the judges were told to score that highly. Horrendous. Terrible, Dreadful. Appalling. Ghastly. Hideous. Heinous. Frightful. Lousy. I can't think of any more words without trying to find a thesaurus, so I'll stop, but I think you get the picture. Again, this is not really a reflection on Peter who may just have been having a bad week. It's the inflated scoring I have beef with. 

Georgia and Giovanni
These two have suddenly rocked up to the top of the leader board and caught everyone's eye, so Blackpool ballroom was going to be a big deal. This was pretty good, they had a big song to overcome, and her technique keeps on improving. Also, beautiful frock, super-girly without looking like a bridesmaid. This was the dance that suffered from the backing dancers the most though - I lost them more than once and it totally distracted from them as a couple - stop it producers.

Where Anita really stood out in her group number, Georgia kind of got lost in it. This is not due to Georgia's dancing but more to do with the choreography. She's a beautiful dancer and (I hope) a dead cert for the final. 

Helen and Aljaz
Absolutely adore Helen's camp classic outfit, reminds me of Lilia's Candyman jive outfit of legend. Wasn't sure how she was going to take to the Charleston, but she did pretty well, although like Craig said, maybe a bit too musical theatre and not enough raucous 1920s speakeasy. Saying that, I also thought this was the dance that Helen enjoyed the most for a long time, you could really see on her face that she was absolutely loving it.

Helen's an example of someone who has had lots of training but isn't really a natural.  At this point in the competition, I would be expecting that she would have a better grasp of the style  of each dance each week but this is not happening. And again, like Peter, this is not being reflected in her scores. Nevertheless, I much  preferred this to her  latin performances and actually quite enjoyed it. Again, like Peter, the fact that her scores are high in comparison to other dancers makes me inclined to be more negative about her performances than they really deserve - it's the scores I have issues with, not the dances themselves, which aren't bad... they're just not as good as they're made out to be. 

Kellie and Kevin
I saw this on ITT and it looked like props upon props upon human props and I was right, I thought one of those desks was going to wipe them out at one point. This seemed a wee bit underwhelming for the pimp slot, it was good, but not knock-you-socks off. The conga line of dancers was actually quite a fun touch cos Kellie was in charge of them all. Also, Kellie's top looked like one of those ones that you rip off Bucks Fizz-style halfway through a routine, I was waiting for Kevin to do some workplace harassment!

Cute, bubbly and brimming with joy, I did really enjoy this. I didn't think it was worth 10s but I guess it was the end of the show and it's Blackpool and everyone could have got all caught up in the excitement of it all. I say this because Kellie hasn't been consistently over-marked.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Strictly BB - Before Blackpool

Well this was a random episode, wasn't it? So much crazy going on, thank heavens it's Blackpool fun times next week. Let's get down to it...

Anita and Gleb
Death slot again? Pfft, Anita can't be stopped and slays it again! Princess dress and classy routine, and who cares if the song has been used before, it's such a wonderful choice. No gapping that we could see, don't care what you say Craig, as bouncing along in the elegant way a quickstep should, and great hold.

This was lovely. It wasn't perfect and probably received the correct scores. However, other contestants are being comparatively over-marked *cough Peter* *cough Helen* and their - sometimes quite significant - mistakes are completely overlooked. Eg. Helen's lack of latin leg action and Peter's questionable timing. Anita may lack a tiny bit of performance polish, but her natural musicality and energy probably make her - along with Jay - one of the most naturally talented dancers in the competition. Let's go all Lady Catherine D-B on this: had she learned (as a child), she would be a true proficient. 

Jay and Aliona
A foxtrot, now this was an interesting test for Jay, can he make a foxtrot interesting? Well we had the obligatory wafting your arms around for Aliona, obviously, but then again Jay wafts better than any other male contestant. It was all a bit weird, not to do with Jay's technique, but nothing seemed to fit quite right. And then he wacked her in the face, oops. I'm sure people are voting for them, but after the quickstep mistakes, you do wonder if he's being sabotaged by his nerves.

What a bizarre song to foxtrot to. And please can we stop pretending that there's such a thing as an 'American Smooth' when all the ballroom dances on this show now follow that format? This had such a contemporary feel, they might as well have been auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. The weirdly poor British version. 

Jamelia and Tristan
This girl has had more ups and downs than Blackpool Pleasure Beach - there is your official Blackpool reference from this blog. I am loving Jamelia's 80s-tastic look, and it started well, but then it didn't really go anywhere. Her technique has definitely improved though, there is no way she could have done that a few weeks ago. Also, they just didn't look like they were dancing together, it was like they were trying to recreate when a dodgy bloke tries to accost you on the dancefloor and you keep dancing away trying not to look directly at them.

This was not good. Yes, Jamelia really can do the 'eyes and teeth' technique, but her actual samba technique? It was mostly just jogging to catch up with Tristan's increasingly questionable choreography. Then again, her improvement from the beginning of the series has been quite remarkable. She could be over-taking some of the others soon. 

Helen and Aljaz
I suddenly realised I was waiting for Helen to do this dance, she's not really suited to party dances and y'know, tango stiffness and overall haughtiness. And then I saw that Ajaz had been flocked like a reupholstered sofa. Also, why was Helen doing Carol Voderman rumba faces? And don't get us started on the song choice...amongst all that apparently there was a tango. I genuinely couldn't concentrate.

I'm going to be kind and say that Helen can do the movements. But movement alone isn't dance. And week on week, it's becoming more and more obvious to me that Helen isn't really dancing. She is incredibly poised and placed, which are great traits if you're a porcelain doll on a creepy grandmother's mantlepiece, and not so great if you're trying to win a televised dance competition. It could be that she's just not all that comfortable. So, actress..? Act.
Also, why was Aljaz dressed as Laurence Llewelyn Bowen?

Katie and Anton
Anton doing a rumba klaxon! Stand in a doorway or hide under the kitchen table as per regulations. This was cheesy as a wheel of brie, but I really quite enjoyed it. It was classy and stylish, and actually looked like a rumba, heavens to Betsy. Katie was totally into it and her technique was good. Well done girl!

Remember when week on week, the judges said to Rachel Stevens 'this should have been your dance' and then she did that rumba with Vincent and everyone was like, woah, we were not expecting her breakthrough to be rumba? Well, I'm pretty sure that everyone expected this to be a car crash. Not because of Katie at all, but well, because Anton and rumba go together like peas and chocolate mousse. But this was quite lovely. It was a rumba with... wait for it... rumba steps in it. It wasn't pose, move, pose, arm, pose. It was basics and fans and alemana turns. Beautifully executed too, yes a little melodramatic, but next to Peter's performances was positively staid. Loved it. 
Kellie and Kevin
I wanted to hate this....I didn't hate it 100%. If only because Kellie had a bit of samba technique going on there under the madness. And teenage me would have gone out wearing that skirt if she could've got her plastic bracelet-ed mitts on it. Kevin on the other hand seems to have gone over the edge, mid-life crisis maybe?

About the equivalent of a geography teacher trying to be cool circa 1996 when all this was so over but he hadn't noticed, or even realised that it was primarily novelty to begin with. It's Richard Madeley as Ali G. It's David Brent. It makes me dislike them despite my suspicion they had nothing to do with the theming or music.

Peter and Janette
Oh look Peter's children are finally with us. I was ready to vom at this VW, but it was actually a vague relief to see someone at least having a go at ballroom, and basically it wasn't Boom Boom Shake the Room and I'm exhausted. Good hold, but agree with Craig about the super-human effort in every step, he's still really blocky. Still slightly disorientated that it wasn't absolutely infuriating, so I guess well done Peter?

Did you ever watch Hebburn? One word: Gervaise. Peter's so corny he makes Mark Wright look like Gordon Brown. 

Georgia and Giovanni
Have really been enjoying these two the past few weeks, they've been working hard and putting together some great routines - and then they came and knocked it out of the park with this amazing Charleston! Great routine, so much choreography with changes of pace and gymnastical wonders of lifts. They were about four bars into this dance when I realised we were on to something special, think we may have witnessed a Strictly classic. 

This was great but all I could think was that if this didn't get 10s after Peter's undeserving foray into the top echelons of paddledom, I was going to throw my shoe at the TV. 

Jeremy and Kaen
Completely random theme! Jeremy bent double! John Cleese leg kicks! Karen just laughing her head off for the whole routine! We may have reached peak Jeremy, but if he doesn't get to Blackpool I will be sad. Also, Karen looks like a super-glamorous miner, and I'm glad they resisted the urge to put Jezza in a boiler suit.

Problem was that this became more about the theme and silliness than the dance. Contrary to popular opinion, I would say that in Jeremy's case this was actually the first week that had happened. Yes, last week's horse etc was on the random side, but I could see actual dancing. This week, not so much. His timing wasn't as on point as usual. His joy was still there though. Just let him learn to dance, please, don't turn him into a John Sargeant. He is so much more than that.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Samba Italiano

...don't worry, it's safe to come out from behind the sofa, the horrors of Halloween are over for another year. That also means we're now in November and Christmas is hurtling towards us, despite the fact there's still 10 celebs left! Claudia has even got into the Christmas spirit early by wearing a dress covered in baubles, how we love that woman.

Peter and Janette
Peter in the death slot? Oh my days, we thought it would never happen, and it means we get the Andre Sideshow out of the way early on. Not sure about Janette's wig, makes her look like Liza Minelli. Now, I saw the ITT training footage on Tuesday and called 10s straight away as part of the Peter redemption arc, it was always going to be a dance to suit him. It was good and the energy was off the scale, but it wasn't perfect; if you're going to do a whole routine based around synchronicity then you have to 100% nail it. Also, mouth choreography from the Jake Wood school, eg open it as wide as the Channel Tunnel.

Yep. The choreography was tricky and this was performed with the aplomb of a stage school brat in her first leading role as Annie. Enthusiastic, yes. Perfect, no. At first I thought there was a screen lag. Then I realised it was only affecting half my TV. Peter was a nano-second behind at many points. In dance, that's like a billion years and it was very noticeable. It was a fast and complicated routine, so there's no shame on Peter here. It's just it shouldn't have got 10s. Shame on you, judges. Or whoever is really deciding the scores.

Jamelia and Tristan
Well they got some nice outfits, as mentioned last week no one wants to go out in their Halloween outfit looking like a mouldy panda or and remnants of the dressing up box. Jamelia's ballroom has been pretty bad so far, and this was a marked improvement. The VW gives you a chance to really work on those ballroom basics, and while there were still some issues with hold this was a good effort. Whether it will save her for another week is a different matter, even with Len's walnuts on the line...

She's already in trouble so put the poor girl in the death slot. This was nice, and I loved Jamelia's red dress. It was also by far her best ballroom, if not her best overall dance yet. Problem with a Viennese Waltz in the death slot at this point of the competition - will anyone remember it? It would be a shame to Jamelia because she is improving and that is the point.

Carol and Pasha
Yes, Carol is still here. As lovely as she and Pasha are, I feel like their time should have come a few weeks ago. Her ballroom is definitely improved, but it's not going to get dramatically better. Also,  an Are You Being Served? theme is possibly the oddest choice for an American Smooth with a Shania Twain song, and a sherbet dip dress, so many odd mashups in that number!

I do agree with Frankie. They're the least competent couple now. Nevertheless, Bruno was incredibly harsh. Carol, like Jamelia, is improving. Some other contestants aren't and that isn't even being mentioned. 

Helen and Aljaz
Grey pyjamas, it just screams rumba, doesn't it? The VT with Helen's incredibly hammy friends was hilarious, get them their own naff ITV2 sitcom. I expect this to be balletic, and it was, but it was also a bit meh, they could have gone further and played to her strengths with amazing lines etc. Instead it gave us time to notice there was no hip action at all, it didn't even look like they'd tried to work on it. Three eights was daft, especially after the judges had been having a bit of a ding-doing about it.

Let's get real here. Helen's latin has not improved one bit. Her footwork was abysmal and her legs locked into a straight position like they were bound like that with duct tape. Len's inconsistent with his ranting, but I'm with him on this. This is like the Sorites Paradox of dance. How many rumba steps do you have to take out the rumba before it's no longer a rumba? 
So choreography poor, and technique poor, but 8s? Nonsense. Yes, she's balletic and graceful, Well stick her in a production of Giselle and be done. 

Jay and Aliona
First Argentine Tango of the series, and as my colleague at work said 'the idea of Jay doing the Argentine Tango gives me the googles', I'm still laughing. Also training footage in the VT and the Gotan Project, you are really spoiling us. This was a great, solid AT - it didn't blow me away but it was intense, had the old jigsaw legs and had the intricate footwork we like to see. Like the judges said, it lacked a bit of wow, but Jay's Game of Thrones faces and random moments of awkwardness make him human.

This was tricky because it did appear to be all about Aliona. But then in the Argentine Tango the man is a frame to display the lady. And Jay did that. It's just when it's supposed to be the male celeb at the centre of it, you'd expect to see more...him. So I thought back to my favourite Argentine Tango (nay, my favourite dance) ever, which was Mark and Karen. And they just had more of a noticeable connection than Jay and Aliona do. But this wasn't badly done at all, and he's still quite a exquisite dancer. 

Katie and Anton
More training footage, what the hell is going on, BBC? Nice to see a full-on-bit of ballroom too. It was a bit skippy in places, with a few stumbles from Katie; it's easy in the quickstep to make a mistake and lose the flow of the dance. A few gapping issues too, but they worked it out towards the end. Nice enough, but not winning material.

Ambitious and it's such a shame that this went a bit mibble in the middle. If this had gone well, I think we would have been smelling more 10s. But alas, this is the way it goes. I'm not convinced that this partnership can reach the final stages after that. If you can't ace a quickstep with Anton then there's little chance of acing anything else. But Katie is still delightful, she's doing well and is very much what the show is about. I can seen them doing a fabulous ballroom dance in Blackpool. Let's hope they get chance.

Anita and Gleb
I was very wary of the cleaners theme (I mean, why? ffs) but Anita actually looks as cute as a button, she can carry off pretty much any look. And as for it having a theme, it still had a hell of a lot of jive content in it, especially when you compare it to Helen's rumba. Anita is fearless and takes whatever you throw at her - including literally Gleb's body, he seems to want to hurtle at her at 100mph all the time! They did a great job, really sharp and full of energy. 

Not impressed that Anita didn't get clean dance (haha?!). By that, I mean, she didn't get one without an overt theme. Her technique is certainly not perfect, but at this stage in the competition Anita is squaring out to be the contestant with three magic things: natural dance ability, room for improvement and likeability. They are winning features. I now not only think she could win, I now think she will win. 
Lots of folks on Twitter complaining she wasn't wearing heels. Please tell me you believe that wasn't her decision. I think it could have helped her technique had she been wearing them, and I don't think she would have had much say about what was on her feet. 

Kellie and Kevin
What are those outfits about, they look like a pair of 1970s curtains. Also, excessive pointless faffing at the start, but once they got down to it there was a pretty nice waltz there. Kevin is the king of schmaltz and that sometimes works with numbers like this. Not much else to say, nice technique, nice flow, nice top line, it was all very....nice.

That I can barely remember this the day after doesn't bode well for these two. I have struggled to warm to any partnership in which Kevin is one half. There's a lack of authenticity. Don't ask me. I can't really put a finger on what I mean, but it's more him than her. This was nice, as Frankie says. I've nothing against it...

Jeremy and Karen
They are getting their money's worth out of that horse, aren't they? I always wondered what would happen when Jezza got something super-serious and non-smiley like the tango or paso, but then this happened. Although I do admit I was cackling away at the opening. It was a fairly decent stab at a tango, there were steps and skills and his great timing as ever. I'm also loving Karen's tiered saloon girl dress. I hope people are still voting for Jezza because SCD would be much less fun without him.

A HORSE! A HORSE! A TANGO FOR MY HORSE! It's like all these weird props, all these silly little dalliances with random swings, umbrellas, lightsabers etc, were all building up to this one surreal moment where there was a fake horse slap bang in the middle of the Strictly dancefloor. And there was Jeremy Vine, having a lovely time dancing in front of it. Jeremy is the heart of this year's competition. As I have stated before, he can dance. Yes, it's his own style. But it's dancing. He is pure joy. Long may he reign. 

Georgia and Giovanni
Nice to see these two graduating to the pimp slot, they've been plugging away at their dancing for weeks and it's paying off. The sight of beige samba outfits does make me want to weep though. So so so much faffing, I was falling asleep, and then BOOM, samba action! Energy throughout and the running promenade and spins were great. Like Bruno said, she wasn't just dancing but also performing, I think she might be the most improved of the lot. Also props to Giovanni for throwing together some great routines.

This was great. Possibly super fast for a samba I thought and Georgia had to sacrifice some technique just to keep up. But a great job with great music. Other than the faffing about at the start, it really captured the flavour of a ballroom samba. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Fright Night VI

There's been so many Halloween episodes of SCD now its outperforming any other horror franchise. Unless you count the franchise of Anton hamming it up for all it's worth. Really enjoyed the opening number, you can't do Scooby-Doo every year and this one got the pros doing some great dancing. Fingers crossed this will be a relatively grumpy-free Halloween!

Edit: I wrote that at the start of the show. This was a very grumpy Halloween. Reader beware. 

One of the worst episodes ever. 

Katie and Anton
Surprised this got the death slot considering I was looking forward to this one; Anton always gives good paso and the music was actually quite appropriate. Also, a dance that's a bit camp and haughty is made for Katie, not sure about the sparkly bra though. It was a bit patchy though, flashes of great stuff but also a fair few mistakes. I think the mistake she made at the start threw her off for the whole thing.
I didn't think she did too badly. It's still completely unfair to penalise Katie for poor latin when it's a result of the fact her partner can't do it. Bonkers when you think about it. 

Kirsty and Brendan
Well this was rather odd, and I don't think it had anything to do with Halloween. Brendan flying around like the Count from Sesame Street was actually a highlight. It wasn't as if it was terrible and it wasn't as awkward as some of their dances, but I think the problem is that she's not a natural performer and the Charleston is all about performing. Also find it a bit odd Kirsty doesn't know how to roll her head on her neck, that's not even dancing.
She isn't the most coordinated. Nothing about this made any sense at all. The arrangement of the song was strange. I genuinely can't think of anything to say. I haven't even the will to make a funny.

Jeremy and Karen
Well this was always going to be a little...out there...and Karen somehow always manages to look like a fabulous zombie every year. As expected, this was half-Thriller-half-awkward-attempt-at-salsa but he did the whole routine with typical aplomb. I think I might always use the word aplomb to describe Jeremy.
Thank goodness for Jeremy. I'm not going to pretend this was anything like salsa, but Len hit the nail on the head when he said Jezza dances with an 'awkward charm.' He isn't the best dancer by a long way but he is inexplicably watchable. Sent a little vote his way again this evening. It's not because he's horrendously bad either, like Widdy or Judy, as I don't usually vote for those contestants. He's a highlight of what is becoming a very mediocre series. 

Anita and Gleb
Anita looks amazing, just toeing the line between glam and fancy dress. Gleb looks like a cut-price Baratheon. Thought this was a wonderful song choice, if you're going to do Halloween you might as well make a waltz bit more interesting with this atmospheric number. Bit too much out of hold for me, but excellently performed from Anita. All done whilst running the risk of taking Gleb's eye out.
Any awkward head movements surely can be accounted for by the fecking horns of hair. Lovely, haunting song choice and what I thought was a really good performance. I am convinced that Anita is being consistently undermarked now. She is more natural than Peter and Helen combined. 

Jamelia and Tristan
Jamelia has no idea how spoilt she is getting to do a jive to the Time Warp. With this song, you either do it totally crazy and chatoic, or deadpan and detached and she didn't really manage either. Not her worst dance by far, but she was obviously a bit lost and confused - possibly due to having to remember to run over to a wardrobe and all that nonsense. And totally overmarked, what was that about? 
I can't even remember this, sorry. 

Jay and Aliona
Jay has been cremated and I think that's going a bit far for Halloween week, don't you? No one had any idea what this song was at all, and it's super-creepy, but oddly appropriate for a foxtrot. And yes, there was a foxtrot-American Smooth in there somewhere, you could even see Jay's amazing lines under all that staging. If anything, it was a bit understated for Halloween - who would have thought?
Jay's musicality makes my heart skip a beat. It is as though he completely merges with the music as he's dancing. It's exquisite to watch. This performance was a tad forgettable however. The over-theming and strange costumes did nothing for it at all. 

Kellie and Kevin
Pardon my French, but this was batshit crazy. School's Out on it's own actually turned out to be a surprisingly decent paso number, but 10 seconds of Hedwig's theme and Hogwarts styling meant it was all forgotten. Also, Kevin is super-great at the paso, but I think he forgot about Kellie somewhere along the way, I was watching him and not her. And even when the judges openly doubt the theme you know you're in trouble.
Most tenuous theme ever. And when the judges openly have concerns about the concept, don't you think it's time to rethink the production?

Carol and Pasha
Does Pasha have a...thing for green? The theming gave them an epic amount of time for them to waste not doing any rumba, and you can understand why. She's definitely come on with her technique, but the rumba was always going to be step too far for Carol.
It was never going to work. 

Georgia and Giovanni
A tango to Ghostbusters, any sense of reason has gone out of the window, although at least it's got a good beat underneath it for actually dancing too. I am totally cross however that she was not dressed as Zuul, Georgia would have looked stunning like that instead of a weird 90s grunge thing. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this but I did, it had technique and lots of content. How odd.
I just spent the whole routine disappointed that we are not going to see Georgia take on an actual tango. 

Peter and Janette
Strangely enough, this was one of the few dances that wasn't overwhelmed by the theme. It wasn't especially foxtrotty, but I think these two would have done that exact foxtrot any week. Slightly odd song, but not the worst offender of the night by far. Peter's not done a lot of ballroom, and as expected he was a bit too blocky and harsh for it.
I had no idea what dance they were supposed to be doing. 

Helen and Aljaz
At this point, everyone on Twitter was super-grumpy and there was basically a SCD mutiny going on. And then this came on and I...quite liked it, it was actually pretty cute and lifted the mood a bit. Samba wasn't a natural fit for Helen but Aljaz seemed to put together a good routine for it. There was samba, there were even samba rolls and I'll count my blessings this week for that.
There is no way this was worth a whole five points more than Anita's performance. Nevertheless, it had some good parts in it and was Helen's best latin to date. 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Disco Salsa vs Actual Salsa

Just what is Kevin pointing at?
Are you sitting comfortably? Strictly snacks at the ready, phone on silent, Twitter all fired up? We're into week 5 now, and the series is comfortably underway, so let's get down to it...

Georgia and Giovanni
I have never seen so many shimmies in one place. For some reason the producers seem scared of doing latin-themed salsa, but this had a lot more content than a lot of the other *shudder* disco salsas we've seen. As with last week, Giovanni gave her a lot to work with and loads of steps, and she managed to keep the energy going throughout the whole thing. The lifts were a bit off, in that she stood still for a second to do a run-up to each one like a kid doing a handstand in the playground.

Carol and Pasha
Ah, a nice safe ballroom number for Pasha to propel Carol through. Saying that, she no longer looks like she's going to fall over when she's out of hold, although her random arm wafting was a bit odd and she looked quite lost at times. Not much to say, it was ok, but she's in the death slot and could be in trouble this week.

Anita and Gleb
That awkward moment when you turn up for Halloween a week early dressed as gothy Dothraki. This could have suffered the curse of the modern tango, but surprisingly it didn't. I loved Len's panther analogy, it was dark and mysterious, just in a different way. And the song worked, the beat underneath it was great and they managed to put staccato into something I wouldn't expect. Anita is going to come up the inside track and overtake the headline-grabbers, just you wait and see.

Peter and Andre
I was DREADING this, I was cringing at the mere thought of it I was expecting faces of Carol Vorderman proportions. In the end was decent, there was a bit of hip action and the arms were good. And then that 'beating heart' movement appeared and I wanted to hide behind a cushion. Nice Princess Jasmine outfit on Janette though, and we've made it through the Andre rumba and never have to see it again.

Kirsty and Brendan
Well there was training footage in the VT, who would've thought that sort of thing existed? This was easily her best dance; it moved well and the routine was complete. Maybe because of the simplicity of the Viennese Waltz and not having to worry about projecting out? Rather overmarked, but whatever, she's not the worst this week.

Ainsley and Natalie
Ainsley doing a jive dressed as a neon pink chef, this is our Saturday nights now. Natalie as ever looks absolutely fabulous and can style out anything. Ainsely's shoulders were once again way too high, he's starting to resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame with spangles. It was rather messy, which we've come to expect, but he was doing plenty of jive steps - although I wonder if it was good enough to survive another week?

Jamelia and Tristan
After the spangle-tastic surprise of last week's Charleston, Jamelia is finally back doing some ballroom for the first time since week 1. And in a neon pink ballroom maternity dress of all things. This was better than her car-crash waltz, her frame looked a lot better and she did have a good bash at the footwork. She lost her way a bit towards the end, and did some amusing 'eek, what the frig is going on?' faces.

Katie and Anton
Well this was hilarious, these two are so British it was perfect to do it very tongue-in-cheek. Also, the outfits were straight out of Dirty Dancing 'parents at Kellermans' style, which brightened my day immeasurably. And Katie doing more dancing than Anton, hilarious - quite disappointed that this was the time for the judges to have a sense of humour bypass. There were mistakes, but it was totally a salsa, with salsa-based music, which is revelatory enough these days.

Jeremy and Karen
A lovely, simple routine from Karen, to show that Jeremy can do a ballroom routine without jazz hands or comedy choreography - no need for Bruno to go off on one. Jeremy was also totally lost in the dance, I loved how he seemed to have a ponderous moment halfway through. Karen looks delightful too, they'd better get through or I won't be happy. 

Helen and Aljaz
This was a bit...underwhelming? It was a quickstep, there were steps and nice music and a pretty frock, but not much to write home about. Helen seemed a little uncomfortable at times, but as ever executed the routine very well. Maybe it was the routine? I feel like I missed something, but if you liked it, fine by me...

Jay and Aliona
I love Bon Jovi Paso, I do, especially when it's the Bon Jovi song with my name it in. This was the textbook example of how a paso to rock music works - it totally suited Jay's moody Game of Thrones demeanour too. Great shaping, and like Darcey said, those flamenco arms were awesome. A return to form after the quickstep stumble.

Kellie and Kevin
The training footage on ITT looked sha-mazing, and maybe while not quite the same sharpness, this was pretty good on the night. If it wasn't for Jay's jive two weeks ago we'd have been going crazy for this. Great kicks and flicks, loads of arm work, and as ever great musicality from Kellie - plus a foxy Chicago-esque dress. Her best dance so far.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Anton on Top

....and we're back! Movie week is over, and thankfully it gave us some properly good highs. Now it's time to knuckle down to some 'normal' dancing before Halloween is upon us.

Anita and Gleb
Anita starting with a solo, that takes some guts! But why ever not when you've got some pretty good samba action going on? Anita really gives everything when she dances, her attitude is wonderful to see. The samba is actually quite hard, unlike some of the others which people say are hard, and she was great at this - don't know what the lukewarm comments from the judges are about. Also, points for Gleb's 90s silky pyjamas that made no sense, but whatever.
#AnitaWuzRobbed strikes again. Given a death slot for a party dance? Meanies. Her samba action was pretty OK, and this would have had more pizzazz if she had been able to feed of the rest of the evening. Oh I know someone  has to go first. But it's never going to be Andre, is it? This was considerably better than Helen's stilted and stiff 'salsa' but I don't suppose that's the point. Pfft.

Daniel and Kristina
Kristina looks like an absolute delight, anyone else would look frumpy in a grey ballroom air-hostess number. This seems to go back to the usual Daniel formula: nice enough, fairly competent, but not setting the world on fire. His ballroom footwork is pretty good, and we knew Kristina couldn't go all out with the lifts, I'm sure he'll be here for another , please!
That dance itself was nice. But he's just going through the motions. He's doing the steps but not living the steps, not daaahhhncing, daaahling. He's naturally better musically than other contestants but if he's not willing to embrace the sparkle then his days are numbered. 

Kirsty and Brendan
I hold my breath when these two dance, only last week did I think it wasn't going to all come tumbling down - although her tumble to the floor at the end was actually quite arty this week! Brendan's sparkly vest is paled into insignificance as a distraction thanks to U2. I don't like U2 anyway, but this had no rhythm for her to get into, so it was just posing. On the plus side she looked spectacular. I hope they get to stay this week if only because she's actually improving.
This was not good. But then how is one supposed to attack to a piece of music so wholly apart from the movements you're being told to create? I'm not convinced it was even in the correct time-signature. Had Kirsty had Carol's piece of music, I suspect their places on the leaderboard may have switched. 

Georgia and Giovanni
What a delight of a dress, they just love Georgia and wardrobe. Now despite the comedy VT, Giovanni must have worked Georgia so hard this week because there was so much in this. She seemed a bit stilted at the start and then after the first sequence she just suddenly came to life and they were skipping away. And no gapping either, I think Giovanni may have been crushing her to him!
Cute although the arrangement of the music was clunky. I can't rant or rave about it. It was nice, I enjoyed it, but it didn't blow me away. 

Jeremy and Karen
These two always make me happy, and since the jive was basically going to be his worst dance they quite rightly went down the comedy route. And Karen dressed as the world's hottest rubber duck with a Bettie Page fringe, because why not? His legs were everywhere, but his timing was still pretty good. And the chicken walk, I love a chicken walk! 
Jeremy always makes me smile, and I'm a grumpy sod, so that's a huge achievement. He's a contestant whose best bet is going to be going down that comedy route. Despite this however, as Frankie says, his timing is not bad at all. He's a wee bit ungainly in his movement but I won't say he can't dance. He just has his own... style. 

Kellie and Kevin
Kellie has three victory rolls in her hair and I am so jealous I can't contain myself. It's also a Kevin Clifton schmaltz-fest too, which I'm kind of happy to go with for this, you've got to do something with a foxtrot. It was all very lovely, classic ballroom and good technique. Good job guys!
If Strictly Come Dancing were a snack bar then this would be cheese on toast. Schmaltz-overload, but in a good way. Hair looked like a station on a Strictly themed course of crazy golf. 

Jamelia and Tristan
Jamelia looks amazing; spanglicious dress that was obviously destined for Ola and that wig really suits her! The training footage this week looked absolutely terrible but she really pulled it together on the night, great swivel, good musicality and they'd obviously put a lot of work into it. A few messy footwork bits and the lifts could have been better, but such a vast improvement from her cha cha.
Well look at this. Yet more improvement from Jamelia. Admittedly this has been the second 'non-regulation' dance in a row (as if regulation has anything to do with the others any more...) I do wonder how she will cope with something more structured, however. If she can give us the 'ballroom princess moment' I think we may be seeing one of the greatest 'journeys' since Darren Gough. If she doesn't manage that, she'll be gone in a week or two. 

Jay and Aliona
Well what do you do to follow the epic-jive-of-epic-ness? With a very confusing and unnecessary intro, as far as I can tell. I think Aliona may have tried to cram too much into this, it was all over the place and I couldn't quite tell what was happening. It does also show Jay is a human being, which I think might have been handy after our collective hysteria last week.
This was always going to be a disappointment after that jive. I only hope that Jay isn't so hard on himself. I suspect there will be a couple more tricky weeks before he wows us again but I'm genuinely hoping he has it in him. 

Carol and Pasha
This was worth it just to see Pasha flaring those nostrils for all it's worth. This was possibly the slowest paso there's ever been, although hurrah for the return of the circus music. Carol also looked pretty good and had definitely improved, mainly because Pasha had concentrated on the basics rather than covering it up with props etc. I think she's earned herself a chance to stay - it's also nice to see a lot of improvement from people this year.
Traditional music and costume. And how much better was Carol's Paso for it? If Kirsty had had this music, I think she would have done much better. I can't see Carol going anywhere after this. The people like her. 

Natalie and Ainsley
I can only imagine how happy Natalie was to get a waltz after last year's penguin debacle, not sure about her Barbie does Ballroom dress though. A nice ballroom number with no crazy faces, and I think this was the first dance Ainsley's done where his shoulders weren't somewhere north of his ears. And then we all cooed appreciatively at the rare sighting of some heel leads.
Ainsley has the ability to be a very good dancer, so I hope they stop trying to turn him into a joke. Natalie is the best pro teacher on the show, and it was reflected in this technically sound waltz. 

Helen and Aljaz
Well this was an interesting hotch-potch of things. It was better than I was expecting, since her ballet-ness was going to make her a bit stiff - they did seem to have worked on it. Although the first lift looked like something out of Swan Lake. Not a complete disaster, but could have been better. Also didn't expect Helen to mug the camera for about half the routine!
There are no words.

OK. There are lots of words. Mostly sweary words. I'll try to hold back. As someone with a little experience of this style of dancing, I can honestly say that this looked more like a broomstick than a salsa. Or much like what a broomstick would look like dancing a salsa. This was never going to be Helen's dance, and I appreciate her effort. Her dance style is balletic and elegant, which is lovely in most dances, but this did not work. What I object to are the ridiculous scores. Her isolations were as awkward as a middle class grandmother at a pole dancing class. Jamelia's was better. Controversial? True. Yes, the lifts were good but here we go again with the whole Jake Wood thing. "AMAZING LIFTS! GREAT SALSA!" What the actual fleckerl?! Salsa is more than lifts. At least Jake moved his hips. Get a grip, Strictly, get a flipping GRIP. 

Peter and Janette
The Andre Sideshow rolls into town once again...This was quite good, but a little bit perfunctory? I quite liked the song choice, but it might have hindered them in the end as it doesn't really build to anything. The technique was better than last week's paso mess, so well done for that. Peter seems to have done boxy, stompy dances forever at the moment, is he ever going to do something flowy?
And breathe.

This was OK. Like Helen, he could come out, wander around for a minute and a half and still get 8s. I think he might be a robot. I'm still angry about Helen's salsa. Writing about that has brought it all flooding back. I can't quite think now.

Katie and Anton
Anton doing a Viennese Waltz in the pimp slot? Oh my days. And it pretty much brought the house down. It wasn't perfect, there were a few trotty bits from Katie, but the flow of it and the choreography was wonderful. The run of pivots near the end was amazing. As is Katie's dress. Katie might not be as funny as Jeremy, but she does give off that wonderful sense of having a great time that is very infectious.
Lovely. It wasn't as good as made out but on a night of exceptionally mediocre performances (It's Jay's fault - what's going to top that jive?) it was a nice end. As much as I thought it was a tad overmarked, I was delighted to see Anton at the top of the leaderboard. I know it has been engineered to be so, but this one I don't really mind. Anton is great at ballroom, we know that, but what frustrates me is that Katie could be great at BOTH if only Anton...wait for it... GOT A GRIP too (I might as well roll with this...)

Sunday, 11 October 2015


The theme weeks are upon us! Well, at least they're easing us in with Movie Week and there's no scary guest judge in the shape of Donny Osmond this year. Although we did have the utterly surreal opening, where the contestants were used as human props like some sort of moving Madame Tussaud's.

Carol and Pasha
Pasha in uniform alert! It isn't quite Gethin proportions, but I'll take what I can get in Movie Week. I was not expecting anything much from Carol doing a quickstep, it's hard enough for anyone to do that dance so early - but I definitely saw some improvement. Also, props to Pasha for doing a pretty normal quickstep rather than anything too gimmicky.

Poor Carol. I thought this was a significant improvement on her efforts in the previous two weeks. The fact that she scored less for it made me sad. It actually had quite a lot of quickstep in it. And yes, in parts she was being dragged about like Linus' security blanket, but she was performing it more too. One extra point wouldn't have gone amiss. Just saying. 

Anthony and Oti
This didn't have to be a Movie Week special, what with all the take-your-partner-to-work faffing about they've done this year. I can't comment too much on his paso-ing, because I was mainly looking at a) his arm and b) Oti being absolutely amazing at the paso! He did actually look like he was in pain, but it was pretty stompy. Although he was working very hard, and we love a hard worker, I want him to stay so he has a chance to get better.

Oti really has her work cut out choreographing for someone who basically only has one working arm. Like the judges, I spotted timing issues too, which is something I find very difficult to forgive. This was one of those dances where the theme really annoyed me. A Paso Doble has its own style, and to put random punches in it, is just to ruin it. Pretty cruel to make him do a paso so early. The paso is so arm intense. I'm worried for them... 

Katie and Anton
Slightly upset to see Katie hasn't gone for thigh-high PVC boots look, but there's no going back to the Proms after that. After two show-stopping first dances, this was a bit of a letdown as a pretty run-of-the-mill cha cha. And then Anton went on and on for about a year on choreography, I don't like props but I think they missed him having a MASSIVE Richard Gere mobile phone.

Here we go. I was kind of hoping Anton would step up a Gere (boom boom) but this highlighted issues with him, rather than Katie. We know he's not a latin man, but most of that choreography was a world of horrid (although I liked to see it being danced on 2 and to see some recognisable basics.) To be fair, several of last week's latin dances consisted of very little more than strutting about, but I think the disappointment lay with the fact that the public has really been behind these two. I'm pleased Anton took the blame for the choreography, something he didn't seem to grasp years ago when he was dancing with Laila. Anton, I implore you not to give up and start hamming it to stay in. Study, work every hour there is and create routines for Katie that are worthy of her. Don't do it again, man. 

Kellie and Kevin
Well this was delightfully bonkers. I was willing to give it a go, since the Cantina song is absolutely perfect for a Charleston, and will now be humming it until at least Christmas. She had great swivel, kept up with Kevin and it was prime eyes and teeth material. I could have maybe done with a bit more energy in the lifts, but Kellie's best dance so far, easily.

I cannot tell you how much I hated the intro. But then, but then. This was an absolutely perfect song for a charleston, and using the light sabres as canes made them a more than acceptable prop. It was so in sync, sharp and perky, it was a joy to watch. Kevin may be in with a chance of keeping up his record of never being in a dance off... 

Ainsley and Natalie
Those costumes scare me, it's like an odd halfway house between dance wear and fancy dress, is this a microcosm of all that is wrong with theme weeks? Saying that, Natalie is a choreography genius to have that foisted on her and still make it look like a cha cha! Also, amazing song, obviously, and that will take you halfway there in a cha cha. Ainsley is turning into a bit of a hot mess though, I'm hoping he gets some restrained ballroom next.

I love these two. But I hated this dance with a passion worthy of a 19th Century gothic novel. To me, she didn't quite manage to make it look like a cha cha, though I imagine that was one huge ask. Ainsley's natural musicality didn't help him when it came to dancing the parts that actually were based on cha cha. But this is where Natalie's utter genius kicked in. I don't know whether it was on purpose or not, but when he pickled up the first cha cha sequence on 2, she seemed to switch to match him dancing on the 1 later on in the routine. That is called adapting to your partner's needs. Bravo, Nat. 

Georgia and Giovanni
Raunchy rumba alert, James Bond Cliches alert! They rolled everything into that VT, although Georgia being super-northern livened it up to no end. This had flashes of greatness, especially for such an early rumba, but she didn't seem to remember to use her hips all the time. I reckon if she got to do it again in a final or something it could be amazing. Also, this could have come from any week, so :P to you, Movie Week.

A what is now all-too-usual lack of actual rumba. The term just seems to cover 'any slow sort of dance' on the show now. I would have liked to have seen more steps and less posing. I would have liked to have seen some footwork, technique and body movement. She wiggled but it wasn't from the feet. We all know what Ms, Hardy says. But alas, non. What they did was OK but I'm reluctant to call it rumba. 

Helen and Aljaz
Helen's dress, that dress, all the dresses and then that dress. It's like Lilia's Candyman jive dress made ballroom. This couldn't have been anything but a delight, it's Helen doing ballroom pretending to be a crazy Hollywood legend. And Aljaz dressed as a seaman *snigger*, rather than Jack Lemon in drag. Someone should've slung this a 9. A foxtrot is hard to make exciting, and the best way to do it is old Hollywood - great work guys.

Of course this kind of theme is completely acceptable as it's so in line with the mood of the original dance. This was so 'American Smooth' style it really grates with me that the show insists on having that as a separate dance, but that is a rant for another day. A great week three dance but it didn't blow me down, me hearties. 

Daniel and Kristina
He surprised us with his Charleston last week, but this was the cringe-fest we were all expecting then. Kristina did well throwing the cha cha basics in where she could, but I couldn't get over Daniel's mile-high hair! When Bruno goes off on a monologue about not committing to the dance enough you know something's gone wrong. Although like Craig says, he does have good timing, the basics are there - and he's bound to be with us for a while. 

I thought this had more than enough content and again, danced on 2 which Daniel did marvellously, and thus, delighted me. I mean, it was as cringe-worthy as a drunk uncle doing the moonwalk at your grandma's 80th birthday, but his timing is generally very good. Mostly I was distracted by the fact that I have been looking for a lemon yellow skirt much like the one Kristina was wearing in the routine. And by the fact that there was a rogue apostrophe on Daniel's jacket. Someone on the production team didn't pass GCSE English. Tut. 

Kirsty and Brendan
So the makeup looks like a child smeared it on their faces, but Kirsty's 90s bunches are super-cute, as is the dress. After the *ahem* dogs dinner of her first couple of dances this was a definite improvement, she seemed a lot more comfortable all of a sudden. Still a bit stiff and some mistakes, but it didn't look like it was all going to come tumbling down at any point. The band did a great job of the song, by the way.

It was an improvement but yet another example of how theme weeks are blooming ridiculous. This song could have been used as an homage to the movie without the crazy costumes. I can't even think of much else to say without ranting... Next week I'd like to see her improvement. Without the distraction of whiskers.

Peter and Janette
I may have to rename Peter something lame like Sir Stomps-alot, I'm surprised Janette didn't get whiplash from that routine. It was pose-stomp-pose-stomp all the way through. And as Darcey said, the side-by-side section was the awkward bit because it showed Janette was dancing and Peter wasn't. Thankfully, the judges didn't shower it with 10s like I was expecting.

Oh it just didn't need the pirate theme. Arrrrrrrr. Grrrrrr. Paso has its own feel that is so integral to the dance itself that forcing a theme on this dance is more of a crime than forcing it on most others. Again, the theme tune could have been used without dressing Peter as an unconvincing Jack Sparrow. If they had been able to concentrate on the actual dance rather than pretending to be pirates, perhaps it wouldn't have been so stompy and stoppy-starty. 

Jamelia and Tristan
This was all a bit..meh? It was nice, probably her best dance, but there wasn't really a lot to it. In week one, they probably could have gotten away with it, but after being in the dance-off last week they had to pull out something special. Tristan's McDonalds-in-the-70s outfit was something to behold. Weirdly, weirdly overmarked.

Part of what was so horrendous about Jamelia's cha cha last week, actually lent itself well to salsa. I won't rant about the inappropriate music, but actually her 'looseness' (yes, yes, I know, I know) ensured that this was by far her best dance yet. Ballroom and latin specialists are often guilty of dancing salsa with straight legs, in a polished manner, in line with their previous training. But salsa shouldn't be like that. So her lack of what the pros and judges might consider 'technique' actually worked well for her. I liked this, and think it was scored appropriately. I'm just not convinced she will do another dance as well...

Jeremy and Karen
We love these two, and Jeremy looking like a bean pole in a tux, although I was worried for a Charleston. I thought Karen did a great job with the choreography for this one; it wasn't too fast, used his natural rhythm and they did a lot of the work together. And there was swivel! He actually got better as the routine went on as his confidence built and sold it all the way - long may they stay!

Not one judge mentioned Jeremy's impeccable timing. His coordination isn't great but I'm convinced that movement is easier to learn than musicality. He always looks happy and at this stage in the competition, he's really selling it. They were in sync, and the choreography wasn't at all simple. Go Jezza! 

Anita and Gleb
Anita looks lovely with a pixie cut. I have no idea what that dance was, or even if I liked it. I think Gleb tried to do a bit too much with it, was it a rumba? Was it a waltz? She randomly flew through the air at one point, was it an AS? The less said about the scary crawling the better. The technique was good and she has ballroom potential, but my least favourite of theirs so far.

I'm not quite sure what was American or smooth about this. That irks me. It's not even a real dance anyway, it's a style, and if you don't do the style...well, what the hell is it? As far as Strictly is concerned, they almost use it as an umbrella term for, well, freestyle. This was danced so well, and I love Anita. But, it didn't do anything for me. 

Jay and Aliona
I love how they finally picked a song where Jay was allowed to scowl through the whole thing, his facial expressions are one of my highlights of the year. And woah, what a jive, those kick-ball-change spinny things! A lot of content but also a lot of style. I think any ringer questions have been well and truly answered now, but it's combined with performance and that crazily intriguing face of his.

OMG. This was extraordinary. He's clearly had some dance training in the past, but even so, no number of classes could buy talent like that. His technique was amazing. Yet, he danced it 'cool'. Very few of our male celebs have managed that level without 'camping it up' in order to do so. Remember how Darren Gough managed to dance a quickstep like a 'bloke' - Jay's jive wasn't on that level... it surpassed it. I know some of you on Twitter will disagree but I think this may have just toppled Jill Halfpenny as Leader of the Jive. Yes, both have things better than the other, but a dance hasn't enthralled me like this for seasons. I'm not going to grumble about early 10s. It deserved more than one. LOVED IT.