Sunday, 19 November 2017

Baffling Blackpool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Go go Joe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Seventh Heaven

We're halfway there, in week sev-ern with Halloween behind us and Blackpool on the horizon. You'd think we'd be flagging by now, but no, there's a stonker of a show ready for you here!

Alex and Gorka
In the death slot, but looking fiiiine, and great to open the show with something that’s actually good for once! Alex travels across the floor beautifully and commits to every move. The footwork was really intricate, but she seemed to take it in her stride, and even managed to avoid Craig’s pigeon-toed drama. Also, top, top, top 10s celebrations from these two.

Very happy to have a decent dance - rather than a forgettable mid-table, mid-season exit type - open the show. One of the best executed cha cha chas in Strictly history in my opinion. It may not have had the overt confidence of Alesha Dixon's but the technique was better. This girl is a star. 

Mollie and AJ
A divine foxtrot song choice, and i’m kind of in love with that skirt. We know Mollie loves ballroom, and this was a perfectly lovely dance, probably one of her best so far and it’s hard to impress with a foxtrot. Her frame seems to have improved, so maybe Shirley’s core nagging has helped. Also enjoyed seeing AJ trying to put lifts in a non-lift dance by dragging her around on one toe.

Oh Mollie. This was sweet but almost forgettable. At this stage I'm starting to question AJ's choreography. Mollie has all the qualities of an excellent contestant - she has timing and coordination but something is just not setting the dancefloor on fire.

Joe and Katya
Not sure what those early Christmas outfits are about, and what-the-actual-eff are those CGI soldiers?! This was a delightfully cute routine though, and easily one of Joe’s best; he looked like he was having  a great time and at no point were we worried for him. Plus the lifts with impressive without any danger of death, a rare event this series!

My favourite of Joe's dances so far. I've had issues with his posture and bizarre body movement but this did not come across at all in the charleston. It was perky, fun, syncopated and speedy. Loved it. 

Gemma and Aljaz
Oh my word those outfits, I quite like the stonework on Gemma’s, but it’s just SO MUCH it’s like 90s Ibiza threw up on me. Hairy lifts, some salsa basics, and not much in between. I wanted to like it, but just no. Give Gemma some classy ballroom once again!

OK, so I haven't really had a rant about salsa this season. Brace yourselves. There is a complete lack of understanding about this dance. From the celebs, the pros, the show as a whole. This was far too steppy and there was no flow. Call me biased but salsa, more than any of the others, is not about the blessed steps. It's about fluidity of movement. Song didn't help. 

Aston and Janette
I mean, this is a beautiful song, a great choice for a VW, so there was no need to get the dressing up box out, it was so distracting and very DWTS in style. Not the best frame, and it didn’t help that it kept being broken up with random wafting. Aston seems more than capable of doing normal ballroom, it would be nice for him to be given the chance.

Not his best but Craig was brutal. BRUTAL.

Ruth and Anton
These two, on the other hand, are more than welcome to raid the paso dressing up box and cackle away like lunatics. Slightly taken aback by how minimalist Ruth’s hair is, but they more than made up with it with a GENIUS routine incorporating fun and frolics with actual paso content. Ruth also seems to be getting into it a lot more and throwing herself into the dances, OLE!

Anton Du Beke: comedy genuis. The was camp, and bleedingly insane. Ruth is good enough to be improving but bad enough to pull of a Du Beke farce. Perfect. 

Debbie and Giovanni
Debbie’s twists-and-grips hair is straight out of 1999 and it’s terrifying me almost as much as this truly awful tango song choice. They actually looked like robots at times, but the technique was really strong and they somehow managed to inject some dramatic tension into it. Maybe if I played it back with another song over it? I did appreciate it was really good, but I wasn’t jumping up and down about it.

At first, all I could think was, could you imagine this to La Cumparsita. The song for me was so distracting. So then I watched it with the music off. And I saw what the judges saw. It was the sharpest tango I can remember seeing on Strictly. Sometimes the ringers transcend their previous experience to the point it no longer matters. Like Danny last year, Debbie is becoming one of those. 

Jonnie and Oti
Both of them have awesome hair this week, it’s like a fashion magazine. Easily an improvement on last week’s car-crash (shipwreck?) of a cha cha and he seemed to manage the loosey-goosey aspect, but also not one of his best. The lifts were awesome, as he can do the control better than a lot of the others, and he does seem to be dancing WITH Oti a lot more now. He also needs another stab at ballroom.

Argh, I'm going to die of bad salsa. 

Susan and Kevin
A while ago, myself and Clover saw Michael Vaughan dance to this at the actual show. Well, I say dance, Michael couldn’t chop wood in time to the music and Natalie threatened the judges with an axe...good times! This was obviously better than that, after last week’s foxtrot drama they just went with a straight jive and it was good for it – she did great kicks and flicks sections. Also, effortless dancing with a paintroller, there’s a skill for life right there.

This was pure joy. She has great musicality and the swingy type dances are definitely her thing. I'm worried there aren't enough dances left that will suit her but these two are still one of my favourite partnerships this year. 

Davood and Nadiya
Another cracking song choice, this was made for an American Smooth, and it appears it was made for Davood too – easily his best dance! For the first time it actually all came together, including non-manic choreography and Davood seeming confident and not hanging on for dear life. They were some ballsy lifts and they went without a hitch. Lovely to see such a surprise halfway through the series.

DAVOOD IS IN THE GREAT GAME NOW. 


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Fright Night VIII - Even Stranger Things

The VTs get naffer, the opening dances crazier, the country has a shortage of pound-shop wigs...it's that time of year again! Saying that, the opening number with the Ghosts of Winners Past and a Disney's Haunted Mansion tribute brought the house down and was minimum kitsch maximum drama - I hope this bodes well for the evening.

Jonnie and Oti
Extra points for Jonnie's hilarious pirate voice, and they also win best couple's costume. It was all good fun and did indeed look like a cha cha, but it was also a bit of a mess - probably his weakest since the week one waltz. That and the death slot means it could be a scary night for them (I promise I will not do this all the way through...)

Ruth and Anton
The latest adventure in Ruth's hair is Peak Bee Gee this week, along with a sparkly apron because not even witches can smash the patriarchy. This was a lovely little quickstep, probably Ruth's best ballroom so far (which means best, basically). They also seemed to have mostly dealt with the gapping issues we all saw on ITT. Yes, there are some problems, but she seems to be overcoming her nerves and that's been half the battle.

Simon and Karen
These guys had some awesome Sweeny Todd costumes, Karen always rocks Halloween the hardest. You could see she'd really tried to cover with the theme, and Simon seemed to do well for it, but it does appear he forgot the steps more than once. Also, the song seemed slightly incongruous; if you're going to do a song about a jealous lover murdering his woman, you kind of need to show that, or it's just a jolly waltz tune!

Gemma and Aljaz
They stole my jive song! I didn't get why Gemma was so cutesy until it started and realised they were Buffy and Angel and then it all made sense and I liked it 100% more. This was easily the best dance of the night so far, but also Gemma's worst for a while, and was a bit heavy in places. But it's also hard when you're comparing it to the showstopping jives of the ages. Totally overmarked.

Joe and Katya
After last week's bombastic paso, it's a bit of a grinding change of gears to getting a ponderous foxtrot. I say ponderous, someone realised the song mentioned spiders and flogged the theme to death. It was a bit too high concept, I found it hard to engage with the foxtrot content, although Joe did well to take on everything thrown at him.

Mollie and AJ
Mollie looks a total knock-out, while AJ looks like he works in a Hell-themed Ibiza nightclub in the mid-1990s. I think this was actually Mollie's best latin so far, I still find her a bit hesitant, but she'd put the work in and she and AJ were a bit more together. Also, when you have such a cracking cha cha song, it can sometimes carry you through.

Alex and Gorka
Who knew a zombie tango outfit could be so glam? Although, without the costume I think this could have been a tango from any week, great song and choreography that surpassed the themeing. It had the attack that we all love from Alex and they held on to the tension throughout, plus everyone can learn from them how to work together as a team.

Davood and Nadiya
Featuring Nadiya as the Ghost of the Victoria's Secret Runway. I actually quite liked this, making them do a peaceful rumba means they have to calm the hell down, although it could have done with more basic rumba like Queen Shirley said. It did however capture the spirit of the rumba (boom boom), for which I'm thankful, and they probably went on about the the choreography more than they should when that's not Davood's fault and he had shown some improvement.

Susan and Kevin
The one we'd all been waiting for, and they delivered! I would not have taken any of this nonsense from anyone other than these two, from the flammable-looking dragon to Kevin's smiling Jon Snow, I should of hated it, but of course I didn't. Halloween is also proving to be a good week to bury a dance you're not that good at...

Debbie and Giovanni
This was somehow odder than Susan and Kevin, I could not take my eyes off Giovanni's Frankenstein mullet. The lifts were terrifying, it took way too long to get to the costume change, but everyone was raving about it, and then it got three 10s. Are you really telling me that was as good as Alexandra's jive? Also, that song was the bane of my life growing up.

Aston and Janette
Now, I've had my issues with Aston, but I loves me a flamboyant rock paso and this was one of the best. The themeing didn't actually kill it, which was my main worry, and even with the extra bits thrown in it was still full of paso content. He's actually had a few wobbly weeks and been overshadowed by Alex and others, this definitely put them back in the game.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

A little musicality, please!

There was drama, there were new steps, there was a bullfighter bolero jacket, there was Anton in a ruffled shirt, if ever there was an episode inspired by Strictly Ballroom it was this one! Hang on to your hats guys...

Davood and Nadiya
After being in the dance-off and now in the death slot, it didn't look great for Davood. Although, the jive certainly lends itself to his Labrador-esque energy and Nadiya's manic choreography, I think this was their most coherent routine so far. Saying that, his technique needs to improve or he's going to start lagging behind the others pretty quickly. This was also the start of some rather odd outfits tonight too, Nadiya looking positively middle-aged in that heavy dress.

What are they trying to do to Davood? Totes unfair that he was in the death slot - but they seem to do this to dance off celebs don't they? Do they completely write them off once they've come bottom? Boo hiss. Having said that, I agree with F., if he survives the week, he needs to show some oomph. His performances are increasingly forgettable.

Mollie and AJ
Thankfully Mollie is back with us after barely surviving those salsa lifts last week, here's a nice staid VW for you dear. Despite being sugary enough to give you a toothache, I quite liked this, maybe it was because of the minimal faff. Yes, it didn't set the world alight, but it was good to see her making some progress.

I found this weirdly uncomfortable to watch and I don't know why. Perhaps it was the saccharine over-acting. . Mollie is improving but she needs a wow-Rachel-Stevens-rumba moment. And soon. 

Simon and Karen
Ah, king of dad dancers survived the samba to wiggle another day. Now, this somehow got better as it went along, and it was quite a good routine from Karen, but Simon is lacking in skill....and an Achilles apparently. It was just a bit leaden and no amount of facial expression, or yellow tartan, can save that.

Even Rupert the Bear wouldn't have combined that waistcoat with the pants. And he's a fictional bear. I can't remember the dance. I was too distracted by that garish yellow.

Debbie and Giovanni
Ah, we've all been waiting for a Debbie and Gio rumba, the Strictly props team were standing by with a bucket of cold water in case things got out of hand. Alas, they went for pretty, classy, traditional rumba, booo! Not really, it was good, and Debbie looked like she she'd really worked on the hip action. I was quite thankful that this wasn't one of those painfully slow rumbas too, good work guys! 

I'm not sure it was as good as the judges said but I was so super glad to see Debbie do well I don't actually care. I never would have thought she would have been one of my favourites this year but there you go. What I love is that she took the criticism from last week and worked on it. That's what it's all about. And I'm not talking about the hokey-cokey.

Brian and Amy
Amy is a saint, I hope we get her back next year, she ploughed through this jive to a very unfortunate song choice. This routine did seem rather light on content for Brian, I did genuinely think he'd forgotten parts of it at times, but he may have just been rubbish. That and the eye-watering outfits made me think we'll be seeing this again in the dance-off, what joy...

Meh. Not good enough to be good. Not bad enough to be good.

Susan and Kevin
After last week's revelation of a quickstep last week, we were all ready to see what Susan would do next. There was a fair bit of faff at the start, but when it kicked in it was great to see Kevin sticking with proper routines and this was full of cha cha. It wasn't as technically achieved as last week, but it was full of pep and brought us all to life.

Susan is the breakout star of Strictly 2017. Charleston, American Smooth, Quickstep are always going to be more her style. Latin is a tough one to crack. This was entertaining, but technique-wise not great. But somehow with Susan, she sells it any way.

Aston and Janette
So much wafting...Beautiful song, completely distracted by the all-over-the-place choreography. And this all came after them saying all week this was going to be Aston's first foray into classic ballroom. I was very annoyed.

Oh crikey, I must have fallen asleep momentarily because I barely remember it. Erm, Janette's dress was lovely.

Ruth and Anton
Oh my word, the hair! The never-ending samba roll! Anton's sleeves! Anton dancing on one leg like a flamingo on acid! What I loved about this was that it was so crazy and came out of nowhere, there was no hint on ITT this week that they were going so full-on and it was all the better for it. Yeah, it was technically all over the place, but a delightful surprise.

Ruth, 1979 called. It wants its hair back. You know, I was just about to tweet about Strictly Ballroom and was searching for a gif of Ken Railings just as Craig made the same comparison. It was so camp, and such a parody. And that's why I LOVED it. Anton's trousers are life.

Gemma and Aljaz
Beautiful routine from Aljaz, that's what proper ballroom looks like. All that, plus the hilarious trolling move of Gemma wafting while in hold! This was lovely and held my attention all the way through, which is hard for a foxtrot. Although I did wonder what was so fascinating about the ceiling, she didn't take her eyes off it for a second.

I could see this girl winning this. 

Joe and Katya
Loving how both Joe and Katya went all-in with the outfits this week, there was no mistaking what this was! And what's more, I think Joe finally had his breakout dance! There was so much power and commitment in this, and it should hopefully drive his confidence into next week. Yes, the shaping was a bit wonky in places, but I don't think he could have done that in week 1. But then Shirley gave it a 10 and sent me into a tailspin of confusion!

WUT? 10? I'm not sure I agree with that one. Great intro with arm-shaping but his body movement is very uncomfortable; he reminds me of Jake Wood in that respect. I'm not saying this wasn't good. But such high scores did surprise me somewhat.

Alexandra and Gorka
Just going to get down to it: the song didn't work for me. Yes, the arrangement was correct for a samba, but it is too subdued, and Alex works best when she's in firecracker mode. Bags of content and hip action though - that was a filthy samba roll! I could have done with some feathers, to me it's not a proper samba without feathers on yer bum.

At first I was like NO WAY RUBBISH SONG CHOICE. Then it started and I was like OOH I LIKE THE ARRANGEMENT ACTUALLY. Then it continued and I was like MEH. Loved Alex's samba style though and it was grossly undermarked in comparison to Joe. I agree with Frankie. I want feathers! Fruit headpieces! Frills! 

Jonnie and Oti
Jonnie showed us last week he can do ballroom, so I was excited to see what a quickstep would bring - and he definitely delivered! A nice nippy little routine from Oti, and the way he's learned to perform has really helped raise his game. Plus you really get a sense of teamwork from these two, which livens up any performance, I really couldn't see him dancing with anyone else.

Loved this. Think it was my favourite of the evening over all. It was so nippy and tight. The attempts at acting were endearingly cute. Another one to watch. 

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.