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?