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.