Sunday, 16 December 2018

Dooley Scrumptious

Here we are then, I don't know about you, but this year's Strictly has totally flown by! It doesn't feel that long ago we were squealing at the unexpected cast announcements (Joe who?) and now it's freezing cold and we're getting down to this long December night of emotion. Oh yes, and never-ending montages...Let's go round for one last time in what has been one of the most random years on Strictly.

As you may remember, the final is too frantic and emotional for us to summarise all the dances, so here's a quick rundown of the judges' (wrong) choices of numbers. Ashley nailed the Dirty Dancing lift so wonderfully she can go home happy whatever happens. Stacey definitely improved on her hold in the foxtrot, but there still wasn't enough of it in the routine. Faye brought drama to a VW, which is an achievement in itself. Joe however, showed the most improvement and brought a much cleaner and stronger paso than a few weeks ago.

Hang on to your hats, it's SHOWDANCES time!

Ashley and Pasha
What I liked about this was that they seemed to be dancing for their own pure enjoyment, embracing the freedom that should come with a showdance. We know she can do contempo, but this wasn't constipated emoootional contempo, it was fun and flighty. All that and a dress that looked like something from Jem and the Holograms - I would say going out in style, but then they went and chose the Charleston!

In a world where contempo-wafts masquerade as rumbas, in theory, this wasn't all that special. BUT can't argue that it wasn't excellent. Actually quite enjoyed it. Ashley has had a tough time and she must have known she wouldn't be holding the glitterball, but she still gave her all. Props. 

Stacey and Kevin
I did not have high hopes for this, as Kevin was inevitably going to throw the kitchen sink and bathroom laundry basket at this, but I actually wanted more from it! Stacey delivered it all perfectly, but the routine was sorely lacking, as Craig said, it was basically just running around. This puts them on rocky ground going into the last dance....

So basically showdances are Kevin's kryptonite. I don't get it. He's a stand out, creative choreographer throughout the competitions; year on year he delivers innovative (sometimes weird) and fresh routines. BUT this? Nah-ah. Running around and pretending to be silly. Nothing wrong with Stacey's execution but it was by far the weakest dance of the evening. 

Faye and Giovanni
We were promised a Broadway bonanza and we certainly got one! This started out as nice jazzy quickstep but actually managed to build rather than being 100mph the whole time. The spotlight sections were pretty amazing, along with Faye's superhuman run up the stairs at the very end. Pushed all the right showdance buttons, and Faye has certainly raised her game in the past few weeks.

Joyous. It's actually taken me this time to warm to Faye. But by the end of this, I wouldn't have minded in the slightest if she'd won. The only thing I'd say is that all her dances in the final had a similar flavour - theatrical, jazzy, dramatic. I'd have loved a feathers-on-the-bum samba to balance it out. 

Joe and Dianne
I had so much expectation on this I was actually nervous when it started, and then we were off - flying off the seat of our pants all the way through! That was an example of gimmicks working, including a tiny trampoline and jumping through an amp, which actually made me shriek like a fangirl. Not perfectly executed, and Joe's leggin-clad legs were a hoot, but definitely memorable.

Everything you want to see in a showdance. Gimmicks, fun, an excellent piece of music; this was energetic and a joy to watch. Not the best dancer but his improvement has been immeasurable. I hope very much that he's encouraged a whole new generation to get involved.  

Finally, we had the surrealness of Ashley and Pasha's magic mushroom Charleston. Stacey and Kevin actually chose the right dance to end on, and pretty much nailed it, real angry sex vibes going on there. Faye and Gio brought back one of the few Couple's Choice routines worth repeating (fingers crossed it won't be back, but well done Faye). I have no idea why Joe and Dianne chose the Charleston, but they had a jolly good time and he did it like he was having a stroll in the park.

And then of course, we have the annual car-carsh mess, although this was actually delightfully competent! They managed to worked in so many little bits from the series, it was really good to see and did everyone proud. Ranj's shimmy! Kate's leg! Graeme's I'm-dancing-on-the-telly face! Susannah just being there! Great job all round everyone.

Finally we came to moment...lights, music, tension, and it was.....STACEY! What a cracker of a time she's had, and what a year it's been. Thanks to everyone who has come along for the ride!


Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Ghost of Ramps

So here we are, the semi-final is upon us and we will soon be leaving 2018 behind us. It's been emotional and exhausting, but Shirley has at least come dressed as a Christmas tree to keep our spirits up!

Stacey and Kevin
On ITT it was suggested they were going to be dressed as old people, it appears that went by the wayside 1) because it was a stupid idea, and 2) they needed to look fabulous for this fabulous dance. Not too gurn-y, but nice and Charleston loosey-goosey. Great period song too, so it all came together without feeling forced. Highlight for me was hearing Stacey shout 'wooo!' and being able to hear her over everything going on the studio, girl after my own heart there.

Joe and Dianne
A gorgeous song that can carry any VW away on a tide of loveliness, but this was also lovely and romantic in itself - Joe and Dianne are an underrated team this year. Thought the judges were a bit too picky myself, they should be giving credit for his top line and posture. I like Joe doing traditional ballroom and hope he gets to do some of it in the final.

Ashley and Pasha
I rather enjoyed this, with the ethereal warblings of Florence + the Machine and Ashley and Pasha really looking like they were getting down to a sexy fight. Pretty fabulous armwork too, flamenco meets Kate Bush. Oh yeah, and Pasha was there in a tight top with go-faster stripes.

Lauren and AJ
Lauren gave some peak tango face in this performance, she was overshadowing AJ in that area, plus her dress was much nicer than his flocked wallpaper shirt. It was snappy as it needed to be, but felt like it ran out of steam halfway. However, it was still better than anything Lauren did in her early weeks of ballroom, and AJ thankfully didn't do too much out of hold.

Faye and Giovanni
Faye is dressed as a Twister lolly and is doing a samba to one of the hallowed Ramps songs, so I was not off to a good start with this. The song is so perfect it breathes life into any samba, but I wasn't really feeling this anyway. It just felt a bit perfunctory and didn't have a lot of oomph in it, which makes me think they were saving themselves for dance number 2. 

All change, let's go round again....

Stacey and Kevin
This was schmaltz, on cheese, on twee, but I was here for it. Could have done with a few bars more of actual VW, but I think we've given up on that these days. If it wasn't for the lovely relationship between the two and the bombastic song it would have been totally meh, but as ever, they pulled it together into something nice.

Joe and Dianne
This wasn't ever going to be Joe's strongest dance, but I like what they did to bring some theatre to it. There was drama and tension, just not quite enough sharpness from Joe, or actually enough real AT steps for him when you get down it it. However, he bounced off Dianne really well and she looked looked stunning.

Ashley and Pasha
This was an odd routine, the tone just didn't feel right, it was too kitschy for a classic Hollywood song. Just give them top hats and ballgowns and let them get on with it! I was totally here for the final sequence of lifts though, it just kept going and they didn't care whether anyone wanted to shout ringer or not. Pasha could have dished out some mini tubs of ice cream though, just saying...

Lauren and AJ
I was prepared to watch this through my fingers, and on a bloody boat in beige outfits too. It was a cursed voyage, and Lauren lost her place more than once. Probably the whole two-dances-in-the-semi-finals thing took it out of her and it was all just a step too far to give her such a difficult dance too. Saying that, she kept going, whereas I would probably have just laughed and sat down.

Faye and Giovanni
We all knew this was going to be good, but this looked, sounded and...smelled? like a full-on Argentine Tango. Faye's legwork was as sharp as it gets, to the extent that Giovanni seemed to be leaving her there to do all the work! It wasn't my favourite AT of all time, but it was easily the best this series, my favourite dance from Faye, and the best dance of the night. 

Sunday, 2 December 2018

No, no, no, Joseph!

So here I am writing about yet another theme week (I hate theme weeks - did you know that?) Last night's was, like all others, completely nuts. There were, nevertheless, some genuinely lovely dances, if you watched through your fingers to pretend the human props weren't there. Here are three things I liked, and (only, honest) three things I really didn't...

Three things I liked

1) Anton shaking his thang. I mean, who wouldn't love that? Complete with shorts and a dapper hat. It was the highlight of the whole of 2018. 

2) Lauren and AJ's dance. It was a jolly holiday of an American Smooth, with swing and sway and schmaltz. Lauren really has grown as a dancer, but I don't know if she's strong enough to make it to the final. Props for the darling dress, too. 

3) Faye's Charleston - I kind of wanted to dislike this. I've realised I have become less and less agin to Faye as the weeks have gone on. But alas, this was quite compulsive to watch. It was so blooming sharp. The puppety isolations were also quite marvellous. 

Three things I did not like

1) Rumba with no beat - This just made me angry. Rumba is a LATIN dance. Latin requires drums. Or at least a steady rhythm. This arrangement had none. The dance made no sense. Calling it a contempowaft would be too kind. I don't even know what to call it. Pffft. 

2) Ashley's Quickstep - I agree with Shirley. It was too quick. Couldn't catch a breath watching it. Yes, yes, that's Pasha's fault. 

3) WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? - OK. This was the worst thing I have ever seen. Salsa? SALSA? That was about as salsa as a cardboard box. Music was the wrong rhythm. The theme was just darned strange. I only wish I could unsee the whole thing. 

One thing I absolutely love

Let's end on a high, shall we? How much of a delight is Stacey and Kevin's partnership? I think they could be one of my all time faves. That performance was the sort of thing I normally hate - so over blown with the theme, but something about it was completely captivating. Could she be our winner? 

Sunday, 25 November 2018


Here we are, the nights are drawing in, there's fewer couples trotting down those stairs, and we're all wary of the Blackpool Hangover. That's November for you, pass the Strictly Snacks! We also have the delight of this year's group dance to content with in the form of the Lindyhop, will we ever get our dream of a pile-up and people getting kicked in face? Read on...

Graeme and Oti
So glad to see these two back in ballroom, no so glad about the sailor suits, especially when you're using the Denise Lewis quickstep of yore song too. There were some stumbled but it kept its lightness, and I thought the transitions in and out of Charleston were pretty seamless - and when you've already done the Charleston you might as well milk it in your quickstep! I am afeared for Graeme this week...

Ashley and Pasha
After last week's chiptastic jive, you'd think they'd struggle to keep up, but no, wind them up and watch them go! Rave fans, feathers on the bum, a samba roll that was pure filth, Pasha is living his best life right now. I agree it probably did have a bit too much attack in it, but that's also a sign of someone having the time of their life. Haterz gunna hate.

Faye and Giovanni
Faye appears to be wearing a maroon sack, but thankfully Gio is in tails and it didn't distract away from this classy ballroom number. It was a nice tranquil moment, and the break of hold didn't feel too unnecessary for once. A waltz rarely sets the world on fire, but this was smooth and looked effortless when I doubt it was at all.

Joe and Dianne
The build up to this on ITT was weird, because neither of them seemed particularly in control of the routine. Things I liked about this routine: Dianne's bunches, hearing the start of Jump Around with a live horn section, the fact that they had a little sit down. That's about it, this was a terrible routine which suggests to me this was not this couple's choice.

Charles and Karen
Proper tango outfits on these two, a dramatic song, and plenty of attack - we're doing quite well with the dances-that-look-like-dances this week. This had flashes of greatness, and Charles gave good smoulder to the point of flaring his nostrils. But it was a bit rough around the edges, including the posture. Charles has been on the up recently, and while this wasn't terrible, it wasn't the most exciting of things.

Lauren and AJ
I did not expect Lauren to suit the salsa, and this did all feel a bit awkward. She was back to looking like she was thinking about steps, rather than embracing the daaah-ance, as CRH would say. She still also isn't great at lifts, despite having done quite a few dances with lifts this series.

Stacey and Kevin
I had no idea what to expect before this, and I'm still not quite sure what I just watched - but I was captivated. Great music and costumes, is this the week of the fan? Kevin did this very cleverly, he had more to do than her, but to hold that mood and do all that skirt swishing without collapsing in giggles I applaud her. Seriously, this could have easily come crashing down at any second, and that's why I loved it.

Well that was like being trapped inside the wardrobe department's washing machine, there were legs and elbows all over the place. Alas, no one got kicked or fell over, boo, but it was all very jolly and fun. I would say I think Faye and Gio did very well in the middle of it all and stayed in sync, and whilst Graeme looked very stylish in his vintage outfit he did basically drop Oti at one point. Not much else to say about the dancing, but the car-crash of the scoring was definitely a series highlight!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Blackpool Breakthroughs

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside! Blackpool gave as spectacular an opening as ever, but with added kitsch and camp this year with feathers, glitter explosions, and...oh yes...the actual Gloria Estefan! Tess has even managed to find a nice dress for the evening and Ginger Neil got to dance at the front - its the place where miracles happen.

Stacey and Kevin
Not a proper salsa song, but a classic 90s banger to get the party started. Saying that, there was no salsa in this at all apart from a vague attempt at doing some armography. Thing was, it was infectious and Stacey is completely and utterly fearless. It would have been better if the judges had picked up on the lack of salsa, as it's their actual job, and the public will vote for them anyway. Not quite a classic Blackpool moment, but anything but boring.

This. Was. Not. Salsa.

No further comment.

Lauren and AJ
The AT is a difficult one for Blackpool in that massive space, remember when Kristina just used lighting to make her own tiny stage? Canny woman, that one, miss her. This showed off that Lauren is definitely more technically accomplished than she was a few weeks ago, although she's still pretty ungraceful getting in and out of lifts. She also can't sell a dance like Stacey yet. Perfectly fine, but not enough for Blackpool for me.

I really like Lauren, but this seemed like a series of movements and poses, as opposed to an actual dance. It was a move here, a step there, with nothing at all in the transitions. The result was a somewhat stilted performance, which is such a shame. 

Graeme and Oti
I have annoyed all my family and friends by constantly singing 'clang clang clang went the trolley!' to myself all week, so I was very much looking forward to this. I have to say, I wanted to like this more than I did, it just didn't feel like there was much to it. Yes, delivered with Graeme's customary joy and verve, and Oti gave good frock once again, but it wasn't more than the sum of its parts. I also wanted more tram action, of all things!

Good song. Forgettable dance. Honestly, I agree with Frankie, it didn't seem like there was much in it. It was a poor musical theatre performance without the singing. Pointless. Please let's not have Couple's Choice back next year. It's coming back isn't it? 

Faye and Giovanni
Faye, in peak paso outfit, and Giovanni with some sort of sheer number from Dorothy Perkins. This one is the first where I was overwhelmed by all the Blackpool extras - especially the extra dancers when I wanted to see the two of them dancing together. Faye executed it pretty well, but I think a simpler routine would have allowed her to focus on the technique and mood more. 

OK, this is more like it. I can't express how much I hate the extra dancers though. 

Kate and Aljaz
These two doing an American Smooth in Blackpool was definitely the perfect choice, and Everlasting Love is such a daft overblown number it worked. Also, Aljaz didn't get the memo about ramping up the danced to the nth degree and gave her something that looked like the actual dance. It didn't blow my socks off, but it was charming. Also, Kate suddenly came alive in the final section of the dance, maybe she was just happy about the lifts being over? 

I also like Kate, but it does seem like she's falling behind some of the rest of the pack now. 

Charles and Karen
I actually feel like the rollercoaster journey trope is actually appropriate for once, and this was Charles on the up once again. It looked like an actual samba and had palm trees and maracas, all we needed was feathers on Karen's bum, but you can't have everything. He stayed in time, had bounce, and made me smile - Blackpool mission accomplished, Charles!

This samba had more salsa in it than Stacey's salsa.

Joe and Dianne
The quickstep is your dream ballroom number of Blackpool, you can just fly through it, and how he did! The song, the outfits, the choreography, it all came together for a proper 'moment'. Great work Dianne in taking this random person, working hard with them, and delivering one of the best ballroom numbers of the series.

HERE WE GO! Joe is the kind of contestant I love: potential from the beginning and actually grows! This dance could have won him the competition. It was so beautifully Blackpool. Dance of the night.

Ashley and Pasha
We all knew Ashley would be able to do a good jive, but she came in and gave it with both barrels and a plate of chips to boot! This was full-on from start to finish, and being Ashley she could take the extra dancers in her stride, if anything Pasha was a wee bit sidelined. Highlights included the infamous toll booth move and the gasp-inducing whipping away of the tablecloths. This was clearly going to be the first 40 of the series, and well-deserved.

OK, this was excellent. Don't usually like a gimmick but I was like ooooh when they did a Bucks Fizz with the table cloths. I saw some little wobbles with those kicks and flicks on the table, but all in all, it was pretty much Halfpennyworthy. 

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Week 8 - everyone gets an 8!

It's week 8, but otherwise known as Blackpool preview week, will they get to Blackpool week, teach an American what Blackpool is week, and Claudia in Blackpool gags week - you know the drill, and you love it! I also love Claudia's spangly jumpsuit that somehow looks glam and comfortable, there's nothing that woman can't do.

Kate and Aljaz
These two continue to be a scream, taking on the randomness of a wedding-themed quickstep with all the camp it deserved. This was a return to form for Kate, easily her best dance in weeks and delivered with the zingy energy you want from a quickstep. Hardly any gapping to be seen (I was looking, judges!) and fleet of foot, with attention to detail and posture. Onwards and upwards Kate!
It's getting to that point in the competition when the Kates of the world start to be at risk. Unless they up their game. And she did. This quickstep was nifty and swift. I think she's perhaps only got a few more weeks left in her, but I hope I'm wrong. 

Danny and Amy
This was a very...precise samba. There were plenty of steps and executed in time, but it didn't capture the feel of the samba and I agree with Craig it was a bit stiff. Will he make it to the top of the leaderboard again like he did with the jive, when everything just came together, I don't know. We need another breakout moment from this pair.
OK. So I really liked this. Is that weird? I like his dance style - the musicality and sheer joy was lovely. And I liked the sharpness. Yes I know there could have been more fluidity but it was not half as bad as the comments (and score) he received. I was genuinely surprised at them. 

Ashley and Pasha
Oh goody, contempo once again - although at least they've already done a non-contempo-waft rumba so it's not like they're retreading territory. This was always going to be good, but I wasn't prepared for the complete fluidity of movement and seamless transitions. Pasha didn't even do much, he just left it all to Ashley! But as ever, I'm wondering what this two would now do for a showdance in the final, that could've easily brought the house down.
So getting a 10 for a contempowaft is the new Donny 10. Official. (OK, OK, I know it was great but I'm struggling to care.)

Graeme and Oti
If there's one thing we've learned this series, there's no hairstyle Oti can't pull off, even when she's encased in a neon bin liner. I'm not sure what I just watched: it felt like a comedy routine, but Graeme isn't a comedy contestant - there was just too much theming. As random as the song was, I think the heavy beat helped him stay on time. Good lifts too, when this hasn't been a vintage year for celebs being able to do lifts. This was clearly overmarked, but whatever, get him to Blackpool!
Cuban? This was about as Cuban as a sack of turnips. I really like Graeme but no, this was not good. I much preferred Danny's samba. 

Faye and Giovanni
I never thought the Italian ice cream seller trope would last this long on Strictly, but the cultural stereotype lives on! I think we all knew this was going to be about Faye trying to keep up, but I felt they were a bit disconnected throughout, it didn't feel like they were dancing as a pair. As Shirley said, it was fine, but it didn't really have any pizzazz. Bruno really strayed into Donny 10 territory here.
Pleasant. But when did pleasant last win the show?

Stacey and Kevin
The latest in the dances-that-actually-look-like-the-dance shocker, this was as lovely as a waltz should be. Maybe Pasha raised the bar last week, with the most foxtrotty of foxtrots? The focus on the technical aspect and the work they'd put in was much appreciated. Also, lovely frock and now-typical massive bouffant hair. Undermarked after Graeme got 8s for the aerobics on acid routine.
Stacey brings a real authenticity to everything she does, which makes it a joy to watch every week. I don't think she could have been partnered with anyone better. They just go. 

Joe and Dianne
Who knew that drummers dressed for a spangly apocalyptic hellscape? I had forgotten this was chuffing MmmBop until the music started, and I actually think it was too slow for a samba. As predicted in the VT, bless him, he tried his best but it wasn't really his thing and it all went a bit loosey-goosey. I doubt his legions of fans are going to desert him, so he'll be packing his bucket and spade for Blackpool (do millennials even know what that is?).
Mmm bop for Samba? Mmm, no. 
Frankie, my dear, by definition I'm pretty sure we are millennials ourselves, albeit the really old ones. I'm taking agin that comment. Joe's fans'll be the next lot. Again, I liked Danny's samba more. 

Lauren and AJ
Remember all the way back in week 1 when Lauren did a waltz and we all thought 'ooh that was good'? It's taken us all this time to get back to here! I could have done without AJ's random sweep-the-floor moment, but she took the actual waltz content in her stride. Confidence has been key for Lauren so far this series, and it looks like she's getting there.
Awwwww this was a Matt-Dawson-After-His-Acting-Class breakthrough! Loved it. 

Charles and Karen
I was not expecting Charles to be good at the Charleston, he's a tall and heavyset guy in a dance that's supposed to be nimble and nippy, but this was actually pretty good! He could swivel, but also swivel in a sort of casual way that really suited the number - this was certainly a rare gurn-free Charleston. Great lifts too, as you would expect. This wasn't a Charleston for the ages, but it was executed with skill and character. 
I liked this funky, cool interpretation of a charleston. And it was executed well. I don't expect to see him in the dance off this time, but if he is, whoever else is there is likely to be in trouble again. 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Back to the Ballroom

It's that time of year where we breathe a sigh of relief that Halloween is over, and we can start stanning for Blackpool all over again. However, it does also mean we're halfway through this series! Tonight also felt like it was dominated by the ballroom side of things, which is a nice feeling to have.

Lauren and AJ
From what we saw on ITT it seemed like this song was driving them crazy and they were just going to be gibbering heaps on the floor, and the outfits were also very much stuck in the early 2000s. I didn't enjoy this and I'm not sure what the judges were going on about - yes, it was FINE as a dance, but I thought our standards were higher in week 8. I am afeared for these two this week.

Graeme and Oti
I'm all for kitsch and milking the Gran Card if it gives us a lovely bit of classic ballroom and Oti in a fabulous frock. This was impressive after last week's seriously off Halloween number, and showed a lot of hard work and commitment to posture and doing it old-school. We all love a waltzing cricketer like the days of yore. As Shirley said, it made us feel all fuzzy!

Kate and Aljaz
The one we were all waiting for this week, coming on slightly early and in some very mismatched outfits. The thing they have working for them is that it's a great partnership, and that showed in this routine and gave it some much-needed intensity. However, it just wasn't sharp enough for me, the old jigsaw legs need to be done on a razor edge. By no means was this a bad dance, it just had the weight of expectation and a busted rib on it.

Dr Ranj and Janette
We all know our favorite doctor loves a party dance, but this was better executed than I was expecting. It had actual bounce and momentum, and the routine had more pure samba than we would expect. It wasn't the most wonderfully executed routine, but it was fun, and they turned Janette into a human Catherine wheel without any health and safety disasters. I think this has kept him in another week.

Stacey and Kevin
Street Commercial, the genre we've all been crying out for. At least this wasn't hip hop, or was it? I actually can't tell - but I kinds of liked the surreal dream-like quality of it. Probably my favorite Couple's Choice number so far, and I would like to watch it again - but just to assure you, this is not me converted.

Danny and Amy
I had in the back of my head that Danny would walk off with the quickstep and skip to the top of the leaderboard, but this was a right dog's dinner of a number. The parts of out of hold, as ever, were really lovely and light, but that's not what the quickstep is about and the mistakes made it look like he was just jogging alongside Amy. Disasters happen and he is very much The Show Must Go On, maybe if he ends up in the bottom 2 he can pull it off?

Ashley and Pasha
What a frothy little treat this was! Lovely outfits, classic music, all the content - it was what happens when all the pieces of a foxtrot comes together. I almost wanted it to be an American Smooth with a big lift at the end, but it had enough razzmatazz that they carried through. That very difficult balance of hard work and making it look effortless. I don't know why I was surprised, but I properly booed Craig for only giving it a nine.

Faye and Giovanni
This was a sharp and edgy tango, with the kind of drama you want - but something just didn't really click for me. It might have been the cube distracting me, because I was waiting for someone to stub their toe on it, or Faye's Ann Summers outfit. I cannot deny the footwork and posture was pretty awesome though, and it did indeed look like a tango.

Charles and Karen
This was one of those numbers that is greatly improved by an appropriate song, which swept them away quite nicely. It didn't blow our minds, because that's pretty much impossible for a VW, but we all had a nice time and Charles showed some improvement.

Joe and Dianne
Well there is no way Joe could have done a paso doble seven weeks ago when this started. Fair play to Dianne for putting together a routine to stretch but not completely overwhelm him. They also focused on the basics with posture and lines, which looked like it paid off. Plus extra points for the Tom Chambers paso smell-the-fart face with occasional flashes of the old rabbit-in-the-headlights Joe.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Fright Night IX - ‘Cause this is Filler

I hate Halloween week. In the days of yore, Frankie used to allow me a free pass not to blog this week because I couldn't bear it. Since bizarre themes are pretty much commonplace most weeks now, I just have to get on with hiss boo. Since I spent most of last night's showing tweeting I HATE HALLOWEEN WEEK (I was slightly under the influence of Pimms), I have changed our blogging format slightly for one week, and one week only. Here are 5 YAYs and 5 NAYs from last night's show:


Choreography Against the Odds

The one thing I hate most about theme weeks is that the 'concept' often takes precedence over real dance content. Contestants are praised for their theatricality in say, a salsa, even if it looked about as latin as a pork pie. However, sometimes great dance content is woven in and the dance can work, not because of the theme, but in spite of it. Kudos to Aljaz, Kevin and AJ this week who created dances that looked like dances. 

Jazz Hands

I have surprised myself by liking Faye's routine. This is most likely because I'm not precious, nor do I know anything, about this style of dance. It's pretty much just wafting one's hands before one's face and acting as though you're surprised they're there, isn't it? And it's theatrical anyway. So Halloween wasn't taking much away from it as far as I could see. Loved the footwork, but there's something very Donny O about all these 10s for Couple's Choice. I'm gunna say it. I don't think it counts.

Musicality, please

Joe is starting to improve. And improvement upon what can only be described as a natural knack for musical timing, is starting to create something quite wonderful to watch. As above, this dance wasn't so far away from a Foxtrot it made me want to scoop my eyes out with spoons (was that a jive Janette?) It actually was quite good. Although I do think the BBC was trying to go all Twilight on us. A decade too late. Again. like the High School Musical debacle - Joe's target audience probably wasn't even born at the height of toothy popularity.

It's in the Eyes

A bit scary how much the spooky contacts suited Shirley. She looked fabulous in that macabre get up. She's still just a joy all round isn't she? Len who?


MOIIIIRRRRRRA STEWART. (Sign her for 2019.)


Bad Timing

Seann proves his timing is so bad he can't even keep it whilst Katja is swaying about in front of him doing her best impression of a human metronome. There is no hope. No hope at all. Abysmal. I am a great believer that you can teach technique, and you can improve coordination, but if that musical ear is really not there, there is no hope. He should just put us all out of our misery.

Fluffy Feet

Yes, so expecting a contestant to do sharp kicks and flicks whilst wearing enormous fluffy slippers is hardly fair is it. I mean, I hated the whole routine, despite having Monster Mash stuck in my head since the moment it started. Bad choreography. Bad concentration of concept over content. Just bad. 


Something about Pasha's costume belly made me feel very, very uncomfortable. Cute charleston, yeah, but no. Just no. 

'Cause This is Filler

Occasionally it works cutesily tying in established dance moves into ballroom and latin routines, but most of the time it's just lazy. Thriller? We've seen it before. The Time Warp? We wish we hadn't. It's bad enough when it's done seamlessly but when it just jars, or is tacked on, it's just filler. 

The Whole Bloody Thing

Oh I'm so glad it's over. We had some lovely dance routines last week - can we get back to more of that now? 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Back to the Old School (well, nearly)

Strap yourselves in guys, it's been a spangle-tastic wild ride on Strictly this week. Oh yes, and there was Couples Choice. We also had a guest judge this week, and in Alfonso we have yet another DWTS import foisted upon us rather than a past UK winner or something. Thankfully, it appeared they gave him a Donny Osmond talk about 10s...or just hid it from him.

Dr Ranj and Janette
So happy to see him doing some ballroom again, even if Janette doesn't think the American Smooth doesn't require anything in hold. This was as twee as I was expecting, could've given you a toothache. Ranj carried it with his usual aplomb, but even though his time in hold has improved it's not great shakes. He doesn't seem to be progressing much at the moment, I want to do something that isn't so nicey-nicey!
OK, now I want to see some progression. He started well, he's a showman, but it's all getting a little stale. But the fact he is in a choir is adorable. And I love a seasidey set. 

Lauren and AJ
Here we go with the first Couple's Choice pool for randomness, considering half the rumbas are contemporary these days I'm not sure what to make of it. In fact, I have no idea what I just watched, apart from a couple of minutes of lifts and not nearly as much wafting as I was expecting. And then it just sort of....ended. I suppose Lauren did OK with what she was given, although she did struggle with conveying rhythm in such a different style of dance.
The only positive that came out of this is that later we saw a rumba that was actually a rumba, instead of this. I wanted her to point her toes, but I do believe the flexiness was deliberate. But it did look uncomfortably so to me. 

Graeme and Oti
Another person finally being allowed to get down to some ballroom, and there was no mistaking this was a tango - the song, the outfits, the choreography, it was all here and then some. They'd done great work on his hold and posture, but it was also a cracking routine with lots of content. Oti had clearly worked him hard in her dancing dungeon of drama this week. Possibly his best since the samba, even with the mahogany tan! 
Legend of the evening number one. This was so much fun. High camp, flamboyant and unashamedly bonkers. But it also had great technique and musicality. I'll take it.

Ashley and Pasha
No one wants to watch the toe-curling awfulness of a rubbish rumba - give me a ringer one any day of the week. This had a bit more bite in it than Faye's from last week, benefited by a song with a bit more pizzazz in it. That spin sequence - oof! It was one of those dances where everything comes together, and praise be for that.
RUMBA THAT LOOKS LIKE RUMBA. If this was the trade off for that contempo-me-jig earlier then I can get on board with it. The tempo wasn't crazy-slow; there were great basics. It was classic. 

Seann and Katya
I have never wanted to smash a guitar more in my life than in this dance, especially since once they got in a proper hold Seann had clearly improved on it. No gapping at all really, which is quite something for an earlyish quickstep. But his feet were pretty much a disaster, and the whole thing just got more and more ungainly as it went on. Katya rocks a vintage headband though. 
Ugh, he has no rhythm and I have no words. 

Stacey and Kevin
Just give Stacey all the points for that showstopper of a samba dress. I cannot get over how old-school shamazing this routine was, with all the content and that filthy slo-mo samba roll thrown in for good measure. Feathers on yer bum - it was like being in series 4 all over again! This probably wasn't technically perfect, but it was more than good enough, and Stacey sold it exactly the right amount. 
SAMBA THAT LOOKS LIKE SAMBA. Well, knock me down with a spangly feather. So. It seems I'd rather see a dance chock full of content but executed like an amateur, than a dance that isn't the dance it's meant to be but glossed over and slick. Stacey was a tad ungainly but she is learning. This was great - proper old school Strictly. Yay. 

Joe and Dianne
This was a grinding change of pace after samba-o-rama, but such a lovely atmosphere it was forgotten pretty quickly. We all got a little bit swept away by a simple waltz, which is what Strictly should be really. Shirley only half-pretending to tear up over a heel lead was pretty special, as the nation still can't quiet believe a millennial YouTuber can knuckle down and deliver some proper ballroom. Bring on the nan vote!
Cuuuuuuuute. Yet another solid classic dance. The choreography is making me so happy this week. Joe is starting to show some improvement in addition to his natural musicality. Still one to watch...

Vick and Graziano
Speaking of old-school, Vick was definitely channelling Alesha Dixon in that cha cha. Shirley was right though, we were waiting for it to get off the stairs, and like Craig, I wanted to like it but there just wasn't much there. None of which is really Vick's fault, she was indeed selling it all she could, but it was all a bit candyfloss.
Ah poor Vick. I can't help but wonder how different her journey would be if she were partnered with Pasha, or Aljaz, or Kevin. Graziano is really letting her down, both in teaching the correct skills and showing her off with choreography. Such a shame. 

Kate and Aljaz
Last week's hilariously naff samba has thankfully been replaced with some classy AF ballroom. This was a lovely VW, with the poise and elegance we want from this dance - and also from Kate. They seemed very comfortable in hold and she took the swirling pivots and fleckrl in her stride. Yes, it didn't set the world alight, because it's a VW and not a badass tango or samba, but this week has been all about appreciating the low and the high notes.
This kind of passed me by. But I like Kate. I'd like to see more pizzazz next week.

Danny and Amy
Excuse the pun, but Danny flew through this with the wind at his heels. It was one of those routines where if anything had gone wrong it would have all come crashing down, but amazingly it didn't. Danny kept up with Amy all the way, and he kicked and flicked his way through with character and energy. Plus, Amy looked amazing, which is obviously not something that should be scored, but whatever.
I smiled all the way through this. It was so... jolly. Some folks on Twitter were criticising the timing but I have watching it a few times now, and despite losing a tiny bit of momentum towards the end (who WOULDN'T at that speed?) he looks bob on to me. Legend of the evening number two. 

Faye and Giovanni
Looking remarkably elegant for someone dressed as a bottle of Ribena, Faye took this in her stride. The foxtrot bits were nice, but then Giovanni decided to go for a wander and pretend they were in a Hallmark advert or something. That felt jarring in an evening where traditional routines have shone through.yes Faye can do good ballroom, but this didn't push her and the routine needs to make sense.
Ribena? I had her down as The Big Purple One. I had no idea what the boppy bits were. Ruined what would have been a nice routine for me. 

Karen and Charles
Not to sound too snarky, but I don't actually know if this was any good, because I've been watching a programme about latin and ballroom dancing for the last fifteen years. It looked pretty sharp and Charles was delivering with a lot more confidence, and the execution of the routine seemed pretty flawless. The scoring probably means he's safe from the bottom 2 for another week.
I have no blinking idea. Can't see either of them joining the Diversity crew any time soon. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

1-2-3 shake your Strictly down

It's been an...eventful week in Strictly-land, but there's 13 couples get through in a show that's under two hours, so hang on to your hats!

Joe Graham Sugg and Dianne
Loving Dianne's 90s-chic pop art outfit, but not sure why Joe is dressed as a hipster barman in very high trousers. This was pretty good as a proper cha cha, with definite improvement as they're giving him more difficult dances. Also Dianne is great at choreographing for him, with little tricks like always giving him something to do with his hands and arms - most blocks usually just wave them about like table tennis bats. A good start to the show!

Vick and Graziano
So happy to see Vick back in ballroom again, well, once she's stopped wandering around a fairground or whatever that was. This was a very annoying routine, because there was flashes of great quickstepping in here, but once they got into it Grazi the Pink Panther would whisk her away out of hold and into mugging the camera and all sorts of nonsense. I did enjoy the jete though, always love one of them, and as the judges said, her frame had massively improved.

Danny and Amy
This was definitely my favourite of Danny's dances so far, he relaxed into it much more and looked like he was having the best of times - much helped by the band's wonderful performance. That and Amy dressed as a Quality Street and delivering a VW that had breaks in it, but still actually flowed. He's not set the world alight yet, but give him time.

Faye and Giovanni
Faye is winning the dresses this week, possibly the series. There was a lot of expectation on this, being the first rumba of the series, and the main thing I enjoyed was that it looked like a rumba and it didn't wander off into contempo-waft. There were some nice moments and good hip action, but a rumba has to be really wow people. It also seemed to come to a standstill at the end.

Katie and Gorka
I was worried for Katie when she got the jive, and whilst this wasn't awful, it was lacking in energy and technique. In the kick and flick sections she did just look like she was skipping, and she went out of time in a couple of bits. Saying that, she delivered it with so much more confidence and partnership with Gorka than we've seen before, so she's there's a chance she's heading in the right direction.

Charles and Karen
I mean, could anything be more iconic than the Peter Schmeichel shimmy dance?! This was a weird dance, it's not a good sign that I couldn't tell whether they'd gone wrong or not, especially in the 'the floor is lava' lift at the end. There was salsa content, which was nice, and actual use of hips, so I shouldn't complain too much - I just don't think I'll remember it tomorrow.

Lauren and AJ
The contrast in Lauren's dress is making my eyes hurt, whereas AJ continues to to pilfer yer nan's curtains for shirts. This was a lovely little routine though, helped by the more subtle song and a nice bit of choreography from AJ with basic steps and lots in hold. A bit like Katie, Lauren seems to be easing into this a bit now - can she please give us a fierce paso or something next?

Dr Ranj and Janette
Once I got over that they'd made Dr Ranj do a dance where he wasn't beaming all over the place I actually rather enjoyed this. Nice to see the flamenco influences too, and Dr Ranj keeping up with all the steps packed in there at various tempos. Oh, and there was a hat. Will this man ever do a chill dance? Do we even want him to?

Kate and Aljaz
I'd been waiting for this all week, because it sounded delightfully kistch and Kate had been stanning for it like nothing on earth. Then they just seemed to be looking at a slideshow of some animals and I lost it, this was definitely my first so-bad-its-good moment of the series - it did make me giggle. Feathers on the bum too, always worth an extra point in the samba. Let's just move on...

Graeme and Oti
Graeme has been such a surprise for me all series, but I think this is the first time he's gone right into dad-dancing. Saying that, he's much better than most dad-dancers, even when wearing bright pink shoes. It was well-executed but didn't excite me like the Charleston or samba, and he really needs to get a chance to nail the ballroom side of things. Much like Oti, I'm only harsh because I care...

Ashley and Pasha
When I first heard this was happening, to this song, I was Ready For It (see what I did there Swifties?). They attacked this full-throttle, like any tango should be in my option, and ooh for a chance for Pasha to be dark for the first time in about a decade. It wasn't technically perfect, but it's always good for a ringer to show a few cracks and have some challenges, and in PVC no less.

Seann and Katya
Just keep going, keep smiling, la la la! This started out well but then seemed to fall to pieces for me, culminating in the wonky lift of doom near the end. There was swivel however, and improved timing, and solos and couple work. The judges were rather kind to it though, that's all I'm saying.

Stacey and Kevin
Stacey looks divine, super-high bouffant and all. Now, I appreciate the foxtrot is not the most showstoppery of dances and they had a bit of a random song, but I did shout 'do some foxtrot!' at my TV twice during this. Much more confidence from Stacey in ballroom though, and as Shirley said, her technique had improved. Not sure it was worth a 9, but the girl is on the up.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Marvel, Matrix and Minions

So here we are with the first theme week of 2018, we go in with hope, but also gritted teeth. May there be more dazzling spectacles than people dressed as furry animals...The Harry Potter opening was rather odd however, considering all the memorable movie song and dance numbers in the history of cinema. Also, I will not accept Graziano as a Ravenclaw.

Vick and Graziano
Take a Chance on Me is a potentially iconic song choice in the making...for a cha cha! I can literally visualise cha cha steps to this, but no, it's being shoehorned into a salsa. Then again, it took them about halfway into the routine to actually attempt any salsa, which was actually quite good once they got down to it. Vick looked fairly relaxed and smooth going through it, but the lifts were clearly a challenge
I said I wasn't going to watch in protest of the song choice. I did though. But I'm not going to comment.

Dr Ranj and Janette
Well hopefully we can move on now, especially with Dr Ranj taking his first attempt at ballroom. This was much more like it: a glitzy routine but with ballroom content, and delivered with his signature charm. It was definitely a good quickstep for a non-ringer this early on, in that it wasn't perfect but he was light on his feet. I thought the judges were actually a bit harsh on this, but we've got a long night ahead of us.
Love the song choice for a quickstep and loved all the traditional content. He wasn't fabulous (he!) in hold but there was a lot of it. 

Lee and Nadiya
So Back to the Future is my favourite film of all time, and this is a classic song and actually pretty appropriate for a cha cha. Even with a cardboard DeLorean and gender-bending Doc. Once again, I thought this went quite well, but was unfairly maligned by the judges. It had lots of content and wasn't overwhelmed by the theme (unlike the dry ice) and Lee had put the work in - and it's not like I'm actively trying to like Lee here.
I haven't even seen this movie. Oh my goodness, I'm not even sure if Frankie knows that about me. We may no longer be friends. I barely remember this but I did think at the end of the show that the marking must have been a tad harsh. It wasn't that bad. 

Kate and Aljaz
We were all waiting for this one, and it was worth it. Not overwhelmed by the theme, the outfits weren't cartoony and it was all just sooooo smooth. Like Darcey said, it had control and was full of choreography. I'm now ready for her to do some more latin to see if she has versatility, but at the moment Kate is pulling it out of the bag weekly and her partnership with Aljaz is so lovely to watch.
What I love about Kate is her surprise that she's actually quite good at this. It's rather endearing. But the best thing ever in my life is Aljaz dressed as a bunny. He should do it always. 

Stacey and Kevin
And then theme week came back with abundance...although despite expecting to hate this, I actually enjoyed it a fair bit! Mainly because it was basically a straight jive and delivered with customary aplomb from these two - their happiness is infectious. The kicks could have been a bit sharper and she still needs to work on her core, but it's going in the right direction.
This is the kind of theming I despise, and yet, Stacey and Kevin's infectious happiness transcended that. She could have been sharper and bouncier on her standing leg, but this was neat and cute and I really, really like this pair. They look like they are having so much fun. 

Joe and Dianne
Joe is 27, not 12, but he is also supposed to be the voice of yoof. Thank goodness we got him doing some ballroom, and actually fairly well, but as we've seen there is potential there. There were posture issues though, and the lifts were very simple but also a bit scary since he obviously had no idea what he was doing. Dianne put together a good AS routine for him though, rather than throwing in all the bells and whistles.
Not sure that the BBC realises that a significant proportion of Joe's target audience wouldn't even have been born when this was released. It's not exactly current. And he's not nine. But anyway, it was OK. Lots of chat on Twitter that he's overmarked but I maintain, what I think the judges are seeing is raw, unpolished talent. You can teach technique but not natural musicality. It will be good to see if he can master the former. 

Graeme and Oti
This should have been a theme week disaster, and it really wasn't  - what a twist! Oti was back on form, and oddly enough, Graeme's performance got better as it went on. He swivelled and threw her around with ease, despite being a middle-aged man in a lycra body suit. It was two minutes of pure randomness, but delivered with just enough skill to work - onwards Graeme!
I was distracted by Oti's dress, which I am convinced was inspired by a Sindy outfit from circa 1991. He is such a showman and I was glad to see him back on form. 

Pasha and Ashley
I feel like we've seen this routine before, but it was very well done. Props to Pasha for putting the lift in the middle rather than making Ashley wait until the end for the scary bit. Apparently it was supposed to be a salsa, but whatever, I suppose they moved their hips a bit. Jolly good fun.
Such a lazy choice because the pro basically has to create zero choreography. I mean, this was technically excellent but was it salsa? Lol nope. 

Katie and Gorka
The wobbly lamppost returns! I don't really have much to say about this routine, because I felt like it was over before it really got started. Katie had improved though, especially in hold, which is where a lot of people are struggling this year. Who would have thought a foxtrot would be where someone could find some mojo?
Katie wins prize for best dress this week, and also for most improvement. I may get upset about theme weeks but I have to confess they do sometimes help the more reserved celebs let go a little in character. 

Seann and Katya
I was waiting for this one, because I knew it would be eventful, and I assumed Seann would collapse in giggles at some point. Now, the theme overtook this, it was what you'd expect from a paso, but Katya put so much creativity into the choreography you couldn't take your eyes off it. Points to Seann for increased control and musicality though, if he'd gone wrong he would have knocked her out. This could go down as one of the most memorable moments of this series. 
HA. So Katya Jones is basically an evil genius of dance. Absolutely stunning choreo. Stunning. That slo-mo. If our blog page supported emoji it would totes be all hearts-eye-face. I'm not sure Seann will surpass this, but for a high point, it's a good one. 

Lauren and AJ
It was always going to be tough following the 90s fetish paso, but this felt a bit pedestrian in comparison. Lauren did all the steps neatly, but like Craig said, it didn't really have much attack. For me a cha cha is all about kitsch campery, and if you can't do that to Fame I don't know what else there is. Points for AJ's poofy hair.
Sorry I have kind of forgotten this. When did the cha-cha-is-the-hardest-dance lore take hold? I missed that memo. 

Charles and Karen
I wasn't expecting much from this, but it was easily his best dance so far, in and out of hold. It wasn't a knock-your-socks off routine, however, it built nicely towards the lift sequences at the end. There was some proper Acting going on in this, but it was such an improvement I can allow for a bit of cheese.
Very nice lifts. But the rest of it left me a little cold. 

Faye and Giovanni
I was rather taken aback by this. As in, I actually squeaked when they suddenly got into hold and flew around the dancefloor. I would say there could have been more quickstep in it, but the actual quickstep section had enough choreography in it for about three people. Also, I know Grease inside out and the re-enactment sections were bang on. Faye's left me cold so far, but whilst I can't say whether I actually liked this, I was very impressed!
I think I was bored by this point. I mean this was really really good. But I didn't really care.

Danny and Amy
I am basically the last remaining person in the Western world who has not seen The Greatest Showman, which might be why I struggled to connect with this routine a bit. I did appreciate that it looked like a paso though, and Amy had put some proper content in. Danny's technique seemed to suit the paso too, but the whole thing didn't seem more than the sum of its parts.
Oooh no, I haven't seen it either! Looked like a paso but this song stylistically lent itself more to a showy ballroom number to me. Amy is working Danny hard but he needs to work on his body movement. He's cool though. So cool. 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Still Standing (Sort of)

The problem with Week 2 is that after the razzmatazz and excitement of Week 1, it always feels a little flat. Last night's show was no exception and even the dances that got others excited didn't really get me going ...

Stacey and Kevin  
I basically want to be Stacey when I grow up. She's so cool. My opinion of Kevin varies from series to series and is very much dependent on his partner so of course this year I love him. I want them to win. There I said it and it's only Week 2. I didn't hate this dance. It was way too faffy but I got it. I think.

Charles and Karen 

I missed most of this performance because I was too busy drawing a Charles Venn diagram that Twitter did not find anywhere near as amusing as I did. Charles did look as though he was taking charge and leading at some points but his timing was a wee off. Why it's OK for Faye not to do heel leads but Charles got pulled up for it is beyond me. Oh yeah. The judges are really consistent. Ummm.

Katie and Gorka 

Katie isn't a dancer. Katie pretty much walked through this routine. Another one this evening with quite significant timing issues and I could visibly see her watching out for cues from Gorka. I'd like to see him work with her on performance, confidence  and styling for next week. It's not all about the steps, it's how you sell them.

Graeme and Oti 

Oh Oti,  you are mortal after all. I didn't like the choreography. It did not gel. But I like Graeme and think he has Darren Gough levels of potential. Oti needs to work on his technique and give up on the gimmicks.

Kate and Aljaz

Finally! This was more like it. Wouldn't have been my first choice for  tango piece but the band did a great job and it worked. Aljaz kept it classic-with-a-twist and that also worked. It had attack and it had class. Ones to watch. Also, Aljaz's reactions are my new favourite thing.

Joe and Diane  
Strictly, I hate you for making me suffer this song. This was quite divisive and I thought it was OK. What was extraordinary however was Joe's natural musicality. I'm going to defend Shirley's standing ovation here because what I think we're seeing with Joe is raw, unpolished, natural ability and it's really quite refreshing. Lee, Faye and Ashlee are so stylised in their approach but Joe is a surprise. Hurrah.

Susannah and Anton  
I don't think Susannah has the character to play on Anton's Antonness this year. I'm not enjoying. They're a Kate Garraway sort of pairing. Really bad before John Sargeant taught everyone to ham it up. She did improve though. I'll give her that.

Lee and Nadiya  
This was a genuinely good Week 2 jive but there's something a little off kilter about Lee and I can't put my finger on it. I should imagine he's going to pull off some wonderful dances over the next few weeks but I just can't imagine myself caring one jot.

Danny and Amy  
Now this made me sit up and watch. The movements were in the most part a little awkward but there was a energy about the routine I just couldn't ignore. And boy, Amy worked him hard. You could see he was really trying to work that latin leg motion and I applaud that. Timing and musicality excellent. Oh I do like to see natural talent shine through ... Another rough diamond.

Vick and Graziano  
Beautiful. So much better than last week. But if that was a waltz, I am a pancake.

Dr Ranj and Janette  
Part of me is pleased they chose a song with latin flavour. The other part is screaming IT SUCKS AND IS TOTALLY WRONG FOR SALSA. This obviously was not salsa. It's never salsa. They're a jolly pair though. I'll get over it.

Faye from Steps and Giovanni  
This was good. But I didn't care. It was a long show... and heel leads? Yeah. You just pulled Charles up for that Craig. Piffle.

Lauren and AJ  
I did not see much Charleston in this Charleston. Just saying. I'm losing the will to live now.

Seann and Katja  
This was the worst thing I have ever seen.  He danced the whole thing off time and I'm sorry, to be that bad at THAT means he might as well go home. I don't care how hard he tries. Poor Katja. Her face at the end was a picture.

Ashlee and Pasha  
Yeah yeah, she's good and I enjoyed it despite my best efforts to remain meh about it. Let's blame it on the boogie (wonderland) which is an altogether infectious song. Pasha's face. Oh if you could bottle that joy.

And so endeth the blog post. Apologies it gets grumpy towards the end... I'll lighten up as the shows get shorter. Possibly. 

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Ready for Lift Off!

Gosh, Strictly opens with a swirling romantic number in Somerset House that hopefully sets the tone for the rest of the series - it's good to be back! Saddle up, because it's going to be a long one with plenty to discuss along the way...
Danny and Amy
Starting the series with a foxtrot sounds harsh, but Danny is the hot favourite according to our poll and he's doing the famous first dance, which basically guarantees him a place in the final. This was razzmatazzing all over the place at times, but thankfully Amy put in lots in hold, even though Danny obviously found it harder. Plenty of potential with the top line etc, and of course ALLLLL the outfits as the series goes on...

Kate and Aljaz
I have fallen for these two more and more as the training has gone on, Kate is already having the time of her life and I want to join her on the ride. A cha cha is where we all feel secure week 1, and this was the epitome of a week 1 cha cha. There was sass, basic steps, and jiggling and nervous giggles and the whole thing was great fun. Yes, there were some awkward bits and she didn't nail the technique, but I'm sure there's much more to come!

Lauren and AJ
I had no expectations going into this, especially after Lauren had to go to Australia, but this routine quite impressed me. There was a lot more content than I expected too, I imagined time off would lead to excessive faffing, but it was nearly all waltz. Lauren proved herself to be pretty capable too and wasn't distracted by AJ wearing her nan's curtains for a shirt - that shows she's made of strong stuff.

Seann and Katya
Another unknown quantity, but that's what this series was all about. I thought he was going to go for comedy, but despite the barely-contained excitement, he was committing to doing an actual tango. Katya continues to be a fierce goddess, and the band totally brought it with Sexy Back - I didn't think that was a good song choice when they announced it, but maybe it gave Seann the heavy beat he needed? Can't wait to see what they do next.

Vick and Graziano
Tonight Tess, I'm going to be....Alesha Dixon! The outfit and the dance matched, and it looks like we're going to great some great stuff from her this series. The kicks and flicks weren't 100% sharp, and I was waiting for it to explode at some point that never came, and as many people said, it was a bit too much on the Grazi. Jive is super-hard to start with though, and she clearly has potential, fingers crossed for next week.

Susannah and Anton
Well, we knew they were going for a comedy samba, the key question was whether it was actually going to be funny....and it wasn't. It was like a French revolution acid trip merged with the Honey Monster, with a couple of basic samba steps thrown in for posterity. I can't work out whether Susannah is properly bad, or if Anton just didn't even try - pray for some (normal) ballroom next week.

Charles and Karen
I totally expected them in the pimp slot, not halfway through, especially with that epic 90s throwback of a song. This turned out to be a cheeky little number, and I was surprised that it got called out on the lack of cha cha content, considering it's week 1 and some of the nonsense that has been let slide in recent years. It didn't blow my socks off like I was hoping, but Charles has shown he can certainly bring it. And in a particularly jaunty red outfit nonetheless.

Ashley and Pasha
Loving how they've put Queen of the Ringers in the most ballroom dance possible, and head them off with 'oh this is so different to what I'm used to', only for her to knock it out of the park two minutes later. But let us enjoy some good, classic ballroom in week one, in a nice frock with Pasha having a marvellous time.

Dr Ranj and Janette
Yes, the man has a doctorate, and I will be using it all series. This was a delightful cha cha, with the full on commitment to eyes-and-teeth that I demand from this dance. Janette was spangle-tastic but thankfully didn't overshadow him, and he managed to keep on track of the whole thing despite props and tables etc. The cha cha suits him down the ground, so I'm waiting on next week's (probably) ballroom number with some trepidation - but he's been the surprise of the night so far.

Katie and Gorka
A dramatic change of pace after Dr Ranj, but I think Katie got a bit overwhelmed by the emotion of the song and essentially the whole thing. Her and Gorka seem like a good team though, and he can hopefully guide her through it, because it all looked a bit tentative. But it is nice to have these moments when you remember doing Strictly is A Big Deal and you are Dancing On The Telly In Front Of Millions.

Graeme and Oti
Oti clearly hasn't got a frontrunner this year, but she continues to be the most fun and fabulous pro and her and Graeme clearly get on. This was so much fun, I really enjoyed it - Oti just grabbed what she could and made it into something resembling a samba. Yes there were props and flossing, but there were properly-attempted samba steps in there - and this is only week 1 with a cripplingly hard dance! Bring on next week!

Stacey and Kevin
Another unknown quantity we were all looking forward to seeing, but also slightly apprehensive that Kevin's pulled out a week 1 quickstep for a non-dancer. But wow, she took everything thrown at her and then some, great song choice and a sparkly frock and we were away! She's better out of hold than in at this point, but that will come in time, as will the core strength hopefully. She flew around the floor and was brimming with confidence, onwards and upwards...

Lee and Nadiya
I haven't been sure what to make of these two since the launch show, and I still don't. All I can say is that it didn't really feel waltzy enough for me and Lee seemed to be holding her at arm's length a lot of the time. Not a lot to say really, hopefully they bring some exciting latin next week.

Joe and Dianne
Joe came so late in this marathon opener I'd basically forgotten he was doing the show and that we had no idea how it was going to turn out. Amazingly, this wasn't a total car crash; he'd obviously worked at it despite being terrified. The bits of him jiving were easily better than the faffing! A whole series worth of cringe-worthy emoji symbols and sidebars would be more than grating, but nice to see he's throwing himself into it.

Faye from Steps and Giovanni
I know there have been approximately nine million dancers this evening, but I just didn't connect with this routine - it wasn't a bringing-down-the-house week 1 finale. Yes, it had cha cha content and was all smooth and clean, maybe just a little too smooth and clean? Considering we have dubbed this the 'Surprise Series' this was anything but. Knock my sparkly socks off next week please!

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Winning Formula - 10th anniversary edition

Since I have been trying to scientifically work out the Winning Formula for winning Strictly for 10 years now, I believe I deserve some sort of academically-recognised award. It's stood the test of time pretty well over the decade, but the present for a tenth wedding anniversary is apparently tin, and that doesn't feel glamorous enough. A teeny tiny glitterball trophy with my initials scratched on it maybe?

As we go into this, I would like to highlight that last year the Formula picked 2 out of four finalists correctly - Alexandra and Gemma (the other one was Aston, make of that what you will). My work is never done, let's get down to 2018...

1) Get the party started
I concede, we've stretched this definition a bit over the years, with contestants being split into two batches and giving us two opportunities for a 'first dance', but Gemma really came through last year by dancing first and making her way to the final. That tentative cha cha in an odd orange dress had me worried for a while, but the formula came thorough once again! It's one show for everyone's first dance this year once again, so I'll be biting my nails like a Kermit the frog GIF.

2) Quit your day job
It's clear that Strictly and doing another job rarely goes well; physically, mentally...spiritually? Unless you are the superhuman breed known as the BBC News presenter, so no pressure there Kate Silverton! Last year hilariously proved this, after Joe had not only left Holby City, but also didn't reveal the shock of his character being killed off! The drama! There are some difficult scenarios this year, with Charles staying on Casualty and commuting from Wales, but that pales in comparison to Lauren doing a competition literally on the other side of the world before week 1 - poor AJ didn't even get a trip to Oz out of this! Can you take a day off from being a YouTuber? Will Dianne have to surgically remove that phone from Joe's hand? Expect all the *crazy* jokes about the youth of today to not wear thin at all...

3) Blondes don't have more fun
The evidence is right before your eyes, we had a 50% blonde final last year, and it still don't come through and Abbey Clancy remains our sole blonde winner - what is that about? Debbie McGee is also about the blondest person in the world, if she couldn't do it, I can only assume the British public is inherently prejudiced. If this plays out, we're losing Ashley, Faye, Katie, and Susannah at the outset, while Stacey is holding it up for the redheads this year - will we ever have a ginger winner? The #JusticeForGingerNeil campaign continues apace. 

4) Latin fever
Once again, we had a latin specialist win Strictly last year, making Jo Clifton the ballroom pioneer of the ages for all of two years. As for this new batch of pros, Graziano is very much a latin specialist (whilst simultaneously having to take on the Strictly mantle of Most Italian Man Ever, I assume), so it looks like ballroom specialists are off the table for another year. Unless some Terpsichorean miracle occurs with Anton that is, along with dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, etc. 

5) Age is more than a number
This is where we had our *shock* variation last year, with Joe winning despite reaching the grand old age of 42. Before you start throwing sparkly bedpans at me, up until that point, no one had won Strictly over the age of 40. It's a fairly young cast this year, with nine out of 15 under 40, and a couple of people sneaking in at 39 - keep your eyes on Graeme and Dr Ranj! I'm happy for this variable to be revised as time goes on, because age shouldn't really be a barrier on this show, maybe life can begin at 50?

6) Embrace the sparkle!
The least quantifiable, but most important of variables, you must throw yourself into the glitter pit, head first (and naked, apparently, if you're Jeremy Vine). Strictly requires losing all sense of reality and becoming one with the da-hance, dah-ling. Last year's finalists all had the benefit of being amazing teams together, and we can only hope we get the same this year. Stand-out contestants this year for embracing the sparkle seem to be Seann, with his out-of-the-comfort-zone hysteria, Kate with her mummy-sass, and Stacey and Kevin jumping around like five-year-olds after too much sherbet. Joe on the other hand looks like a rabbit in the headlights, hopefully the fake tan will work its magic.

On doing the calculations (I've definitely shown my working for extra marks), the Winning Formula this year predicts the following people will make it to the final...

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


As ever, the first dancer on the opening show will be added to the list - in the meantime, throw your hat into the ring and vote in our poll!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Ooh, What Lovely Pairs

Welcome back!

It's been ten years since we started this blog, guys. TEN YEARS. Feeling super old but luckily our fingers still work well enough to type Strictly-related ramblings. Aren't you lucky?

So after an uber-lengthy group number during which I recognised so few pro faces I think I may have early onset memory issues ... it's time to have a wee chat about the new couplings.

Kate and ... Aljaz!

Kate reminds me so much of Natasha Kaplinsky I was almost certain she'd already been on the show. She seems like a jolly good sport. And Aljaz is obvs all kinds of adorable. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6 - her name and face were familiar

Vick and ... Graziano

She has amazing hair. Would have put money on this partnership. They look like fecking dynamite. I have a feeling they'll be finalists already. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0 - sorry, I had no blinkin' idea. 

Susannah and ... Anton

Cue fun, frolics and a guaranteed pass to at least week 5. She didn't look the most rhythmic in that group number. But I'm sure Anton could just stick her in a wardrobe for at least 33% of each dance and it'll be fine.

Clover Awareness Rating: 8 - Didn't know her surname. In fact, thought her surname was Susannah and her first name was Trinniand. My mum used to have one of the books. 

Faye and ... Giovanni

Loving the La la land-esque yellow dress, despite it being a little skewiff. If there are no Steps moves included in her routines, it will be an absolute tragedy. I know some of them are really better best forgotten, but sometimes it's better the devil you know. I reckon these two will be pretty good, but the final is really the last thing on my mind right now. Ah anyway, as long as she doesn't just stomp...

I am oh so very sorry. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. I was a teenager in the 90s. 

Lee and ... Nadia

Of course they put him in a blue suit.

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. I was a teenager in the 90s.

Ranj and ... Janette

These guys seems like a ray of sunshine already. I'm feeling happy vibes. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. I neither watch CBBC nor daytime TV. 

Danny and ... Amy 

He is wearing a joyous hat. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6. OK DON'T SHOOT ME. I didn't watch Red Dwarf. BUT I did watch Maid Marian. Fun fact: Author Mark Billingham was one of the guards. I met him at a work event. That obviously means Danny and I are practically related. 

Joe and ... Diane

Let's stop the Youtuber bashing. He's really quite famous. Just not to anyone over the age of 24. I think he is such an interesting signing. Poor mite looks terrified. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6. Had genuinely heard of him. I am so down with the kids it hurts. 

Katie and ... Gorka 

So, the first signing to be announced and one so free of spoilerdom, it knocked everyone sideways. She is rather an inspirational lady and an unknown quantity with regards to dance ability. The perfect combination for a reaaaally long trip? Tour? Voyage? Expedition? Drive? J....?

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Seen 'er on telly, innit.

Lauren and ... AJ

Competitive and fit. Doesn't it make you sick? These two could be a proper power couple. Apparently has a thing for salsa dancing. I will be keeping an eye on that. Please don't make her dance to Michael Jackson.

Clover Awareness Rating: 7, heard of her, but unfortunately sports people are rarely at the top of my radar.

Stacey and ... Kevin

I genuinely think Stacey is great! What a great reaction and a great partnership. Too many greats. Sorry. But she's potentially a great 'journey' (yes, I've already mentioned it twice...) contestant, having no performing arts background that we know of...

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Love her docs. Shows, not boots. 

Ashley and ... Pasha

So... Pashley? Don't cha think she'll be amazing...and win? I think she could be the ringiest ringer of them all. Will she be open about it, or keep it hush hush? Will she ditch Pasha because she, ahem, doesn't need a man? Or cling to his torso wailing I'LL STICK WITU. I'm not sure the British public will be per-sway-ded to vote for her. Will she bite the dust early on?

I HATE myself right now. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 4. I have heard of The Pussycat Dolls. Just not the individual components. 

Seann and ... Katya

I'm all for anyone who talks a lot about cheese and can pull off a sparkly red suit. Katya has a good track record with ringers and comedy contestants alike. Good pair. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 3 - I've definitely seen him on 'telly. But I wouldn't have been able to tell you his name. 

Charles and ... Karen

Oti looked like she really wanted him. Not surprised. He was basically the stand out star of the group 
number. And more than a little dishy. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. The last time I watched casualty, Sam Colloby and Dr Richard McCaig were sharing a staffroom. 

Graeme and ... Oti

The only cricketers I have heard of are those who've been on Strictly. So Graeme, welcome to the very small and select group in my head. He was clapping in time in the group number. Let's hope he's more of a Gough than a Vaughan *has Vaughan jive flashback* *dies* 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. See above. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Surprise Class of 2018

It feels like 2018 has flown by, and all of a sudden Strictly contestants are popping up all over the place! By which I mean on carefully selected media outlets, but despite the lack of rumours in the build-up, we've had a very interesting crop emerge this year. Sure there are the typical popstars, sportsmen and newsreasders, but also some real left-field signings that mean this series is sure to hold some real surprises. Onwards!
Katie Piper
Exhibit A, there was no rumour around Katie and I don't think I'd ever seen suggestions she'd like to do the show, so she made the first announcement all the more exciting. Like a fair few contestants this year, her potential dancing ability is more of an unknown quantity, but whilst she might lack a typical 'performance' background she's incredibly likeable and used to being in front of a camera. Hoping she gets a pro that she really clicks with and can bring out the best in her. I'm thinking Pasha.

Faye from Steps
Yes, that is her official name, and she is such a classic Strictly contestant I'm surprised it's taken this long. Yes, yes, Steps did dancing, but they were hardly the Royal Academy and did moves specifically designed for small children and drunk people to copy at parties. Her time in musical theatre since seems like more relevant experience.

Danny John-Jules
I made an Cat-like squeal when this surprise announcement was made, it might seem random but it makes total sense. He's known to various generations from Red Dwarf, Maid Marian and her Merry Men, The Story Makers, and is current and mainstream BBC with Death in Paradise. He's also hilarious and can clearly move, the fact that he's one of the older contestants will probably be quickly forgotten. I cannot wait until they let him loose on the dancefloor.

Joe Sugg
Ah, the most controversial signing of the series, from some people's reaction you'd think they'd signed a Russian Eurovision entry. All I'll say is that every year a sportsman who's been retired for years is signed and I don't throw a tantrum that I don't know who he is. Back to Mr Sugg, I'm not sure he completely understands what he's let himself in for, and is going to be heavily reliant on his female pro to guide him through this weird and sparkly world. Put in some hard work, and the British public will love it.

Vick Hope
This was my first real 'who?' of the announcements, but she seems pretty fun and is brimming with enthusiasm. She also has awesome hair. Her wiki page also reveals she began her career as a journalist in Buenos Aries, and I can guarantee that will be flogged to death when the Argentine Tango comes around.

Graeme Swann
So, yeah, retired sportsmen...This is much more in the Classic Strictly Signing space, I wouldn't be surprised if they brought Erin back to partner him. I'm not expecting much from him, but the last cricketer we had on the show was Michael Vaughan who brought us one of the greatest rollercoaster experiences in Strictly history, from the low of the jive of death to the triumph of the Wembley American Smooth. He's also 6ft 1, which means he'll tower over a lot of the female pros.

Dr Ranj Singh
Another classic Strictly signing, in that you always need someone who will get you some free coverage on ITV. I was vaguely aware This Morning had upgraded Dr Chris had upgraded to a younger, sexier model to talk about something other than the menopause, but I didn't know he also did a show on CBeebies on children's health. Someone I work with who has kids claimed it's about "not pooing your pants" but I'm sure there's more to it. I have no idea whether he can dance or not, but more than happy to give him a chance, I smell a J-word...

Stacey Dooley
We're back on the random train (don't confuse it with the porn train), I think there was the odd rumour about Stacey but no one really too it seriously. Another unknown quantity without a performance background, I think confidence could be the key here - although her current Twitter freakouts are totally relatable.

Ashley Roberts
Here is the Official Ringer Target of 2018, because, well, she's been a professional dancer. Can't pass that one off with 'I just sat on a chair', and her dance experience being the justification for her place on the Dancing On Ice judging panel. I'm not about to have kittens over this (pussycat, kittens, see what I did there?) because we're sure to get some fun dances out of her and I'm excited to see who she gets paired with. She also survived The Jump without sustaining serious injury, which is pretty impressive.

Kate Silverton
Are we sure she's not already done this? A Christmas special? Children In Need? Apparently not, although I still can't shake the image of her in a ballgown, so maybe she's just made for it. No discernible dance background, but a lot of sport experience as a youth, I'm expecting some sort of 'jolly hockey sticks' joke somewhere. She seems like a shoo-in for Anton, but maybe they will mix it up this year? 

Seann Walsh
From the totally predictable to the completely random once again, I've never seen a rumour about him, and we've always been pretty light on comics on the show. I haven't the foggiest whether he can dance a step, and again, I think confidence will be the key here, as it feels like he's way out of his comfort zone. Also, will he be having the ceremonial haircut like Jay McGuiness (only to then have two dances where long hair would have worked)?

Lee Ryan
Gotta get your popstars of yore in, and despite Blue being more of the shuffle-about-and-look-moody school of boybands, he has a fair bit of stage school experience from in his youth to fall back on. Or is he our Eastenders contestant this year? Have to economise and all that. At 5 ft 9 he's tall, but not massively so, which leaves the field fairly open for a female pro - who will also have to deal with his rather eccentric streak. You know what I'm talking about.

Lauren Steadman
She's got a lot to live up to after the joy of Jonnie Peacock last year, but always happy to have a Paralympian on board. Not only is she super-fit and used to training (I can't even think about a triathlon without feeling tired), she also confessed to a love of salsa dancing on The One Show - Clover will be watching this with a beady eye!

Charles Venn
Charles or Chucky? He goes by Chucky sometimes and I really want to go for it for the kitsch vibe, this is Strictly after all. He's being pitched as the Casualty/Holby contestant of this series, but I don't watch those and will forever remember him as the Footballers Wives character who went to a team mate's Pride and Prejudice-themed wedding as a slave. That's woke AF. At 6ft, he's one of the taller male contestants this year, but other than that, we'll just have to wait and see.

Susannah Constantine
Can she strike out as one half of a double act? We know the BBC are always desperate for a double act. I'm more interested in whether she can throw off the tyranny of sleeves on the older woman, which I have been railing against since the days of Cherie Lunghi (seriously, there are dusty blog posts about this). Everyone's saying it's a choice between her and Kate for Anton, and she'd totally dig Anton's sense of style, but if this year has already taught us something, it's that you can't predict what's going to happen!