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....