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.