Sunday 19 December 2021

It Takes Two!

We've made it to the final! Ironically, it seems more of an achievement than last year, what with the revolving cast of celebs and judges and injury dramas all over the shop. We're also GUTTED that we're having to do this without AJ, who has been an absolute star all year. I hope she remains part of Strictly legend for years to come, wins the tour and the Christmas special, and maybe come back and do her showdance next series?
Now saddle up guys, even with one person down, we're in for a long night...
So here we have the judges' choices. We start with the frankly odd choice of Rose's quickstep, her least impressive and entertaining ballroom number. Saying that, she did it with such pep and charm that I can't really complain. Plus like Anton said, we got a chance to see her amazing topline. John's rumba was a better choice, as it really showed his lyricism and partnership with Johannes. A rumba in the final always deserves extra points, maybe one day we'll get that 40! Both of the couple's actual choices were great though, with Rose's iconic CC and John taking it up a notch with his pirate paso, they served us well and had a great time along the way.

Right, let's get down to business...bring on the showdances!

Rose and Giovanni
Not going to lie, I may have rolled my eyes when I heard Rose was dancing to The Rose, I apologise for my churlishness. This was lovely because it was sincere, like so much these two do, they transcend any form of cheesiness. I also liked that the routine had touches of ballroom in it and showed off Rose's great posture and poise rather than being all about the lifts. The only thing it was missing was actual Bette Midler, but I suppose the BBC budget doesn't stretch quite that far.
John and Johannes
I didn't know quite what to expect from this showdance, but I loved it! What a joyful number they put together, both of them really gave it that final-dance-lets-go-out-with-a-bang oomph you love to see. Plus it was quite a technical routine, the ones where you try and put in a bit of every dance can be a bit hit-or-miss, but this one definitely worked. Extra points for not inhaling any confetti.
Our final treat was the annual hot-mess of a group number...and what a treat it was this year! Fun and hysterical in equal measures, I was shrieking from start to finish. Pros hiding behind palm fronds, Sara in her big boat, Gorka giving us the gratuitous furry vibe, Ugo literally flipping his wig, an en masse lobster shuffle, Nancy being reconstructed out of tinsel - what more do you need?! Maybe I'm over-excited/emotional, but I think it was the best one yet!

...and so, the big moment finally came and our winner was ROSE! It might have been obvious from mid-series, but it's been amazing to go on the journey with her (yes, you can use that word in full in the final) and so wonderful to see Gio finally win it! Thanks all for joining us on the crazy Strictly adventure this year!

Sunday 12 December 2021

The Sensational Semi-Final!

It's time to load up on snacks and go to the loo, we've made it to the semi finals and everyone is doing two dances. It's going to get emotional, don't say we didn't warn you... 
Rhys and Nancy
It's so much nicer to see these two doing proper routines in nice outfits rather than having to raid the fancy dress shop, loving Nancy's leather and tulle look. Now, I went into this wanting to hate the song, but Rhys had apparently lobbied really hard for it and I think it paid off in the end, he was clearly channeling his performance through it. It didn't have the surprise or drama of his Argentine Tango, but he drove through the routine well. His frame was a bit loose, but he's come on in leaps and bounds in recent weeks.  

Now personally I'm not a fan of the song for a tango but there's something to be said for a celeb really loving what they're dancing to. I was impressed with Rhys' conviction about it because it certainly worked far better than I thought it was. This was sharp and bold and I liked it. Rhys has been the biggest surprise for me this year - John, AJ and Rose have been on my list for the final since nearly the beginning, but Rhys is really giving them a run for their money.

AJ and Kai
Was ever a more classic quickstep ever quickstepped? A joy from start to finish, they got straight into it and didn't let up for a moment, all whilst looking like they were having the most marvelous time. As ever with a quickstep, I was on Gap Watch, but no gapping could be seen. There isn't a huge amount more to say, they work so well together and I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it. A well-deserved 40!

Eeeep! Classic, classic costumes. Classic, classic choreography. And an absolute gem of a piece of music (now we have got past the fact that they re-use them...) What an absolute beauty to pull out on semi-final week. 
John and Johannes
Oh my cold, cynical, couple's choice-hating heart, I couldn't bring myself to hate this. It was full-on, unabashed contempo, which actually worked because it made for a fully realised routine that they both committed to. Particular shout-out to the amazing steps-in-the-air move. I do agree with Craig that it was the first time John felt like the lead of the routine, no criticism of Johannes because he is just so good, but John took a step up here like you need in the semi-final.

It's not their fault but I soooo do not like Couple's Choice. However, there was a cool piece of choreography I did like, and that was when Johannes was walking upside down whilst being held up by John. 
Rose and Giovanni
Ah, a classic waltz from Rose and Gio. They even overcame their song being wrestled into the right time frame and carried it off with effortless grace. The whole thing was so smooth and Rose's hold is now wonderful. I also appreciated how calm and peaceful the routine was, it's nice to have a quiet moment during these insanely intense semi-finals.  

There was no doubt this was going to be lovely, was there? I'm mightily thankful they did bother to re-arrange the piece of music, and given I'm hardly familiar with the original, it didn't jar with me at all. I was mostly just captivated by the beautiful dance. Rose is quite astonishing.


*showing my age there...

Rhys and Nancy
If you'd told me Rhys was doing a samba in week 2 I would have hidden behind the sofa, but I went into this quite excited...and they definitely delivered a party routine! Props to Nancy for this, she put together a routine with loads of samba content and let Rhys bounce to his heart's content. Oh it was as camp as knickers, but all the better for it. Some slightly manic shimmies, but massive fun.

This. Was. So. Much. Better. Than. I. Expected. Bravo, Rhys, Bravo. And I really liked the band's arrangement too. This semi-final is really strong. 
AJ and Kai
Oh a semi-final rumba, what a gamble. You're never going to blow the roof off with it, but you can get a lot of kudos for mastering what is genuinely the most difficult dance. If anyone was going to pull off a rumba with chemistry it was these two, but you could also see the hard work that had gone into it. Great synchronicity and fluidity about, it was a whole dance rather than a series of steps. I also really liked how Anton called it elegant and classy, thankfully they resisted the temptation to go for raunch. 

I really, really thought they were going to go for raunch - and whilst it had its intensity, it managed to stay on the polite side of rumba. It was elegant and AJ's lines were exquisite. I was not expecting her body movement to be great given her salsa was a little rigid but no, I was wrong. Basically loved it.

John and Johannes
This was the dance I was most worried about tonight; John's a big guy and the jive needs to be light-of-foot. Plus Coldplay. It turned out to be much more interesting than I expected! It wasn't a typical jive, quite swingy in places, and whilst there were jive steps I felt like I was watching something quite different. Which I suppose is better than the nine millionth Grease routine. John also gave it everything and pulled off the technique pretty well, so hopefully it stands him in good stead.

Unfortunately my WiFi went boo boo whilst John was dancing and I missed most of it. Having gone back and watched, I can't say I'm sold on the music. However, it was an excellent job with what they had - he really is a natural dancer. I know they've said it to AJ, but you do think if he'd started dancing as a kid, he'd be a pro. 

Rose and Giovanni
This looked good on ITT this week, my expectations were high, but ooft this surpassed them! The drama, the drama, from the opening seconds I knew they'd be delivering something awesome. I liked how Rose's natural fluidity wasn't lost among it, but she could do those jigsaw-legs with the best of them, she was like an electric whisk! Plus the lifts were beautiful, not over the top, but done with poise and transitioned wonderfully. What a final it's going to be next week!

Rose, you absolute BEAUTY. I haven't much to say other than reiterate what Frankie said. Expectations were high and expectations were surpassed.  

Sunday 5 December 2021

The lifts are gonna get you...

Well this was a short episode, but wow it was exciting! In a case very much of quality rather than
quantity, everyone raised their game and was really going for it. Also, quick shout-out to the early Christmas-themed number which was as camp as, well Christmas, and an absolute delight. Oti and Grazi hamming it up and even some actual ballroom, it was like an early present. 
John and Johannes
One of two salsas this week, we've been really light on the salsa routines this year (other dips are available). Yes, it was more disco than salsa, but oh it was fun! John's more laid back style worked here and I really felt like he and Jojo were bringing a nightclub to our living rooms. The hips were good but I thought the knees were a bit too bent at times (is that a thing, Clover?) The lifts were indeed a bit ropey, but Jojo styled out his not-a-fall at the end like a charm.  

Adorably styled, I must say. Also, completely demonstrated the reason why, as a social salsa dancer, I always refused to be dipped or lifted. But it's live TV and these things happen. Knees, Frankie? Nothing wrong with his knees - as a non-codified latin dance, we're not looking for the snappy straight legs you'd expect in a cha cha or rumba, so all's good there. In fact, his salsa motion wasn't too bad at all. It's just a damned shame it was mostly a disco routine. 

Rhys and Nancy
I really wasn't sure how an Argentine Tango would work for Rhys, it's all about controlled energy. However, he certainly pulled it off, he's come on in leaps and bounds in the last few weeks. Not just in technical skill, but much-needed performance, I genuinely forgot that was Tigger-ish Rhys in this number. I personally think there were too many lifts and the floor spin was superfluous, but what an amazing step up after so many trips to the bottom two. Plus Nancy, what an absolute star!  

YEEEEES. Have I been on Team Rhys up until now? Nope, not really. But wow. I was not expecting this and I do love a positive surprise. This was by far my favourite dance of the night. Now, I chucked all my votes at AJ but then felt so guilty that Rhys deserved some, I cast my first. phone. vote. in. YEARS. I think it was the beautifully syncopated footwork that made it for me. If he swoops in now and steals the glitterball, with dances like this, good on him! 

Rose and Giovanni
What a delight of a ballroom routine. The song, the moves, the dress, it was all one pretty package and exactly what Rose needed after a couple of weeks in the doldrums. I was also watching it thinking, ooh these lifts are good and Rose does the transitions really well... and then THAT lift came along! Wow, can Rose actually fly? Was Gio levitating her? I was also impressed it wasn't gimmicky and the whole routine continued to flow after we all had our collective gasp. Top work guys, well done!

Lovely, lovely, lovely. As we have come to expect from these two. I think they might be one of the most adorable partnerships in all of Strictly history. And I do wonder whether they've already got this in the bag. In typical Rose fashion, this was charming, beautifully performed and she made it look so... easy. 

Dan and Nadiya 
Oh Dan, you've come so far and stayed so wholesome. I never would have expected he could do something resembling a proper tango and the start of this. Craig was right that there were balance issues and I think that affected his posture at times, but this week was still another improvement. Perfectly respectable, but everyone else is on fire tonight...

I've defended Dan's right to be in the competition up until now. His improvement has been astonishing, his attitude is an utter delight and he's genuinely a pleasure to watch. People who have been making out he's bad know nothing about dance. But there comes a point with the Dans of the world that the remaining contestants are just better, and that it is time to go. The other four could make the semi-final one of the best for years, and Dan's just that bit behind. If he makes the semis, I'll be happy for him, but I would be feeling genuinely sad this time that he's taking the place of someone extraordinary. 

AJ and Kai
This was the one dance I was nervous for tonight, since AJ hasn't had an amazing time with the party latin so far. And turned into a bit of a hot mess. She gave it everything and performed to the max throughout, plus even with the dodgy lift at the end she and Kai just giggled away rather than falling flat. Good rhythm and synchronicity too, there were great things here, let's not just talk about the lifts!

Eeek, poor AJ and Kai! What a disaster! Let's just call this a loss. What we saw was clearly not what it was meant to look like. I'm hoping enough votes were cast to keep her out of the dance off, but if she's there, she does have a chance to pick it up and show us what we were meant to see! Whilst not salsa music, I can get always get on board with a party latin pop song - it has the right flavour and feel. This was all set up to be pretty decent - what as shame! 

Saturday 27 November 2021

Rumba in the Jumble

I think you're all painfully aware that out of the two of us, Frankie is the very lovely, positive one. Well boo hiss boo, she's not here and you're stuck with me. I've found this series very hit and miss so far, but I'll try my best to be nice. It's rarely the dancers I'm frustrated with - they all work hard and do a lovely job with what they're given. But the scoring and production choices this year have been a little more bizarre than usual... 

But hey, let's get on to the dancing...

Rose and Giovanni

Was it me or did the music blend into some notes from The Final Countdown? Now it's unlikely Rose is going to do a bad dance now. And this was - technically - her usual high standard. But something about the choreography didn't spark for me this time. So often pasos can be the most exciting, stand out dances in any series but we really do seem to be struggling with them this year. I absolutely love these two however and if they do not make the final I'll have a proper tantrum.

Dan and Nadiya

This could have been terrible. But it really wasn't. Simple, classic choreography saved the day. Not trying to be intense and ... uh... slutty also saved the day. It wasn't the best rumba we've ever seen on the show but if you'd have told me prior to this series that Dan Walker would pull off this dance without being made to look a fool, I'd have slapped you on the head with a pickle. But yeah, credit where credit's due. A nice job.

AJ and Kai

Loved the mega-fringy green dress. But what was this? Couple's Choice was bad enough when they focused on a particular style, but now it's anything goes, I really don't get the point. Anton said 'commercial jazz' - was that it then? I don't know enough about it to know. It was really well danced and they were completely in sync...but I just can't get on board with these routines.

Rhys and Nancy

For a dance that no one expected would suit him, what an excellent job. I saw an absolutely gorgeous step sequence in the middle of the routine, and his frame, whilst not perfect, was so improved you could have knocked me down with a handful of sequins. I'm stuck somewhere in between Shirley and Craig on this one. Not literally. That would be weird.

Tilly and Nikita

Even Tilly knew this wasn't going to be her dance. It was worse than I expected however - not for want of effort - that I could see in buckets. But Tilly's body just wasn't moving in the way it should for samba. There was a little bounce but the action was awkward,  and there was no fluidity. But again, Nikita could have helped by choreographing routine that actually suited her. Loved the dress and her pure pluck with this one.

John and Johannes

I really wanted to love this. And it was the dance I was most looking forward to. But - oh I'm so sorry everyone, I really am a misery guts - I wasn't all that keen. And it's not because it wasn't a spectacular, well danced routine - it was. This was a paso/tango/showdance and not what I would have expected from an Argentine Tango. Craig made the point that it originally would have been danced by two men - I had forgotten that, and he swayed me a second - but no, would a tango in downtown Buenos Aires in the 1860s have looked like that? \Really? If yes, then I take it back. 

Sunday 21 November 2021

Good Mornin', You Revolting Children!

We're back with a theme week, instead of Blackpool! Life really is cruel sometimes. As ever, whenever a theme week gives us something good, it also takes something away. In this case, the routines either looked reassuringly normal or overwhelmed by the theme, with very few inbetween. We also lost poor Craig to Covid for the week, which felt particularly mean, but did bring is us the lovely and rather impressive booking of Cythia Erivo! 
AJ and Kai
After last week's travesty of paso scoring, I was very happy to see AJ back in some beautiful classy ballroom. Even if she's dressed as one of the Supremes for some reason. A waltz is never going to blow people away like, say, a jive, but this was absolutely beautiful. Her frame is amazing and there was so much rise and fall in the routine. Throw in some fake snow and I'm totally happy, she's set a very high standard for tonight.
I'm glad she wasn't picked apart at a different standard to everyone else this week and also the fact that this dance could have been from any week, not just a themed one. It was pretty delightful.

Rhys and Nancy
Not a massive change of gears after last week's Charleston, the gear being fifth and full throttle. I think this was actually my favourite dance from Rhys, he performed it really well and it felt like a coherent dance. Saying that, it was a bit sloppy in places and a jive needs to be more technically accomplished than a Charleston. Also, a round of applause for Rhys and Nancy actually being given nice outfits rather than fancy dress costumes - and in a theme week of all things!
I really liked it. Those who are saying it's unfair he got two dances in a row that suit him just think about the poor bloke if he ends up in the semi-finals with only a waltz and a rumba left. Or something like that. 

Tom and Amy
Steeling myself for the first of TWO bloody Couples Choice this week, I notice Amy looks perfect for Les Mis. This really suffered from the style of dance for me, it felt a bit jerky in place considering it's such a flowy piece of music. It's also not easy to try and tackle contempo the week after Rose and Gio did such an amazing performance last week. It wasn't terrible, but it didn't gel and the stakes are certainly getting higher were week this series.
Can I just have a free pass not to comment on any more Couples Choice? I mean, it was kind of contempo piece, but it didn't quite come together.

Rose and Gio
Another person I'm so glad to see back in ballroom. This was downright cute, but I think it suffered a bit from the theme. I would rather have seen Rose do a full-on Hollywood quickstep. Saying that, they did it with pep and it was clearly a quickstep and Gio didn't skip on the content. She also managed the transitions in and out of hold very well, which is even more impressive when you think she has to keep time between the two.
Cute. Technically nice. Would have been far nicer if their costumes didn't look like they were from the bargain bucket at The Disney Store. Fine, keep the music but Rose in a stunning quicksteppy gown and Gio in proper ballroom garb? Yes please. 
John and Johannes
This was one of the routines I was really waiting for and it totally delivered. Great song and perfectly suited to the style of dance, plus Jojo put together a really fun routine with lots of elements. John's arms are also getting really really good, so lyrical. I agree with the judges that he needs to just push it a tiny bit more, he needs to hit on another great dance for him like the paso. Slightly undermarked in my humble opinion...
I really liked this. I thought actually that Johannes looked mildly uncomfortable when taking on the follower role - his frame could have been much nicer. But yeah, I love how these two dance together; they are completely in sync.

Tilly and Nikita
This routine didn't seem like a great idea when I first heard about it...and yep, I was right. A slightly obscure song, unflattering outfits, and no clear dance style, I couldn't see this saving Tilly from the bottom 2 again - until she got a completely ridiculous 40 for it. Not against her personally, she did the routine well and really threw herself into it, plus Nikita in short trousers was a fun addition.
Nothing against Tilly, but I can't even. 

Dan and Nadiya
Dan in the pimp slot? Swiveling away with a jolly smile? Genuinely looking like the original musical? Who would have thought?! I suppose his natural dorkiness helped for a Charleston, but he genuinely showed some musicality, it's taken him a while to get there but him and Nadiya work so well with each other. Also wanted to mention that the lifts were ambitious but executed well. It wasn't one for the ages, but it was a delightful way to end a rather odd theme week! 

This was cute and peppy, and if it's his last week (which I'm sure is not quite yet, but is creeping upon us) then what a high to end on. He's the embodiment of what Strictly is about but his time is coming.  Bill held his own against last year's best, best dancers; Dan does not. He's an absolute joy to watch though and I very much enjoyed this routine.

Sunday 14 November 2021

Strictly Scandalous Scoring

We're halfway through the series, and boy is it starting to show. An odd night fully of slightly off routines and people really trying to keep up with the hectic pace of the show. Oh yeah, and the judges possibly took some sort of communal hallucinogen at the start, read on for our journey through randomness...
Tilly and Nikita
From dance off to death slot, they really know how to make people feel better on this show. Saying that, Tilly looked delightful, I loved her Missoni-inspired dress and the whole look really suited her. I expected her to take quite well to the quickstep and this was pretty good. A bit of a Charleston overload but she is very good at it, plus her frame has improved. She needs to tighten up her footwork a bit but she is genuinely improving. 

It was cute, but her feet looked a tad sloppy. At one point it definitely looked as though she were trotting up on her toes to catch up, when there should have been heel leads (although it is quite difficult to tell with the swooshy cameras). As Frankie says, she is improving, but feels as though she might be starting to stall a little. 
AJ and Kai
We're seriously testing AJ's ability to pull off any outfit with that omelette yellow fever dream of a dress. The whole thing felt like a fever dream actually, at first I thought it was going to be overwhelmed by the theming, but these two sure know how to bring the drama. Even the slip seemed part of the drama! I do agree it wasn't her best, but the standard we're setting for her is ridiculously high, the judges seemed so keen to point out the bad bits that they didn't actually mention any of the good bits, of which there were plenty. Craig can get in the sea. 

WTAF. OK, so it wasn't her best dance but the judges almost certainly were holding AJ to a whole different set of standards to everyone else last night. Which isn't at all fair. There was plenty that was good here - in fact, I actually liked it. And this lady would look fab no matter what costume she's given - I believe it is an impossibility for her to look awful. She got all my votes yesterday. 

Dan and Nadiya
So glad to see Dan and Nadiya in some classic ballroom once again after a few weeks of daftness, plus in spectacular outfits! I wasn't a fan of King of the Road as a song choice but mostly because I thought they were going to set it in a motorway service station or something, so thankfully that worked out better than it could have. This was another example of Dan putting in all the hard work, it was definitely improved even though he looked terrified whenever he had to do a lift. Scores ranging from 4 to 9 is ridiculous, but that's not Dan's fault. 

Craig's 4 was bang out of order. And I think the others 'upped' theirs somewhat to mitigate it - but that led to him being above AJ, which is just odd. That said, again, I really liked it. Dan is really joyful to watch - from some comments on Twitter you'd think that he's being kept in because it's bad/funny but he's genuinely dancing. His timing, performance and style are improving week on week. Do I think he's final material? No. Do I think he's a Kate Garraway? Absolutely not. 

Rhys and Nancy
I think I've been waiting for Rhys to do a Charleston from day 1, he was just made for it. This was suitably bonkers, the swivels were huge and there were limbs and knees flying all over the place. Plus the lifts were confident rather than haphazard. I don't agree it was the best Charleston of the series, you can't just wipe AJ's away, they were two different styles of the dance, although once again I am looking at you Craig...

Yeeees, this was Rhys' dance and I loved it. I wasn't expecting a 40 but I have no idea what was going on yesterday with those judges. Something was certainly amiss. But hey, I'm really glad Rhys did a standout, memorable performance. 
Sara and Aljaz
This was a bit of a weird one and not just because Sara seemed to have been given an early Christmas special dress. It started off well (including an amazing solo section from Aljaz) but then never really went anywhere for me. A disco song was not right for an AT, but the arrangement was thankfully paired down a bit. It was an intricate routine and Sara certainly couldn't have managed it at the start of the series, but it wasn't quite sharp enough for me.

Disco themed tango. Let's have a samba themed waltz next week, shall we? But hey, that's not Sara's fault. I thought this was good. It didn't blow me away but it was decent. 
John and Johannes
The ITT rehearsal footage of this looked a-mazing, so my expectations were quite high. I think they might have been a bit too high, because I was expecting to be blown away, whereas this was a perfectly nice samba with lots of content and basic steps. I'm also jealous of John's shimmy, since I cannot do them to save my life. Two 10s felt like a step too far here. I think I agree with Craig though that John needs to push himself out there a bit more, he has a lovely natural way with his dancing but sometimes I just want a wee bit more oomph.

I actually missed most of this due to being so incensed by the fact that they finally had some salsa music on the show, but it was used for a samba. John is great though. Such a natural. 

Amy and Tom
After last week's bonkers paso a VW was always going to be quite the gear change. Saying that, this didn't really feel like a VW to me, too many dramatic interludes and random arm-wafting for me. Once Tom got into hold, his frame really has improved but I found the routine too stop-start. I'm glad the judges finally agreed with me on a routine,

To be honest, at this point I was still smarting about the salsa/samba thing above. What I did catch I thought was OK. Tom does seem to be improving, which is good, and I do think he is possibly someone who could knock one of the TOP THREE (Rose, AJ, John) from a place in the final if he keeps at it. But in order to do that, he needs a standout breakthrough dance. And soon.

Rose and Giovanni
Argh, and rounding

off a weird week with Couple's Choice. Plus outfits made of grey bedsheets. The odds were stacked against me liking this, but I found it positively charming. They were so well synchronied and the choreography looked quite difficult, unlike a lot of CCs which just look like jumping around. The silent interlude was wonderful too, not just for what it showed us about Rose but also the way it was seamlessly incorporated into the routine. A real highlight to a very odd night! 

This started like a relatively standard Couple's Choice contemporary routine and I was just not prepared for how much the silence would affect me. It was absolutely beautiful and absolutely important. I am so glad it was included and this dance basically made my night.  Rose has got to be the favourite to win now, surely? She is captivating to watch.

Saturday 6 November 2021

Strictly's Roaring Twenties

...we survived Halloween guys, it's safe to come out from behind the sofa. Tess is wearing a sparkly nude number and Claudia is in a man's suit, so it's business as usual. Let's roll up our sparkly sleeves and get down to some serious dancing!
Adam and Katya
I was quite wary of Adam doing a jive, throw in some rather slinky pyjamas and the death slot and it looked like the odds were stacked against them. I think he pulled it off, but only just. It was a proper routine with lots of jive content, but it didn't really have any finesse and he needed to point his toes more. It would have been ok in week 2 or 3, but we're too far on for that now. Shout-out to Katya's rather lovely lemon drop dress.   

Rose and Giovanni
I secretly love a 60s samba, don't judge me, Ian and Penny set a precedent about 15 years ago...The band also did a great job with the bosa nova style, hurrah. This wasn't Rose's best dance, but she had a pretty good crack at the samba bounce, traveling and Gio giving her more to do on her own. And as the judges say, her timing is amazing, which is half the battle with party latin. Hopefully this will see her through and we can get back to her general awesome-ness next week.

Tom and Amy 
After last week's wonky tango I wondered how Tom would take to the paso, I'm still not quite sure because there was SO MUCH going on in this routine. A random bridge. And the Austin Powers costumes. AND the smell-the-fart face Tom was doing. It was without a doubt a full-on paso though and Tom totally committed to it, I think we're all in agreement it was the best dance so far. I love it when a middling contestant suddenly connects with a dance and comes alive. I particularly enjoyed the cape interlude too, he swooshed that thing like he'd been doing it for years, bravo!

Rhys and Nancy
I'm still struggling to connect with Rhys and this routine didn't really do anything for me. His frame was way too loose, plus like the judges said, he continues to be much better out of hold than in. I don't really have much else to say, other than it really shouldn't have got three 9s...

Tilly and Nikita
Tilly has been quietly delivering better and better routines each week; this week was the turn of the haughty 80s synth tango and I really enjoyed it. She's powering through her performances and really getting into the style of each one, maybe she just needs a 'wow' moment like Tom to get people to take notice? I was also very much here for her swishy pleather skirt, if this was a paso they could have made a kinky cape out of it!

Dan and Nadiya
We spent all last week protecting those little lobsters only to be rewarded with Couple's Choice, bah. However, on the whole, I quite liked it as far as these routines go. It wasn't trying to be anything it wasn't and Dan certainly wasn't trying to be cool, it was adorkable personified. It was perky and in time, might give him a hand when party latin comes a-knocking. I hope he gets through and can do some jolly nice ballroom again next week.
John and Johannes
Oh gosh, the expectations were as high as Blackpool Tower for this rumba, but ooft they delivered. It was a beautiful routine and song choice, with both of them dancing with wonderful synchronicity. Plus a flowy shirt is always good value in a rumba. I could have done with John's hips being slightly more pronounced, but I'm being really nit-picky here, hopefully he can do it again in the final and blow everyone away!
AJ and Kai
Speaking of high expectations, I think that people just accept that AJ will be great every week, but she absolutely smashed this one! Everyone kept on going on about her being too long-of-limb to do a Charleston, but she made them her own and threw in some amazing loosey-goosey moves. Plus those lifts genuinely were daring but she sprung around like a pro, and all without a gurn in sight! I want to see it again, if she doesn't get to the final, we riot!

Sara and Aljaz
That wig, that travesty of a wig. It's not even Musicals Week, Sara really should sue. I also think it made her shoulders look a bit hunched, but ultimately that rogue sheep distracted me for most of the number. This didn't feel like Sara at her ballroom best, it was fine but it didn't have the elegance associated with her other numbers. Good speed and limited gapping, clearly a quickstep but not one for the ages. Sara needs another stand-out dance before she slips out of the contender-tier.

Sunday 31 October 2021

Fright Night XI - Back from the dead!

Just when you might have thought 2020 had killed off the Halloween theme, it's lumbered back from the dead once more. Mwhaahha! The opening number felt like a bad omen, I didn't get it at all and thought it was oddly twee. Saying that, the judges all looked amazing, with an extra shout-out to Anton perfectly cast as the Riddler. He's full of surprises this year! 

I hate Halloween Week so much I used to get a free pass not to blog the show. But I'm feeling particularly moany this year so let's go... 

John and Johannes
This got us off to a nice start; cute outfits, not too much theming and definitely recognizable as a quickstep. Bad Moon Rising is practically its own Halloween genre now (there's been 11 shows after all) but it worked for these guys. Very good frame and hardly any gapping too. It didn't set the world alight, but John should be happy with how his ballroom is progressing.

If I pretended to watch it through a magic lens that got rid of the theme, I actually quite liked this. Three couples are really starting to stride out ahead of the pack and these two are part of that. I liked the song for a quickstep. Tick. There was actual quickstep in it. Tick. But we need a huge, spectacular breakthrough number from these two now.

 AJ and Kai
You wouldn't think a Medusa-themed VW to Arianna Grande would work, but oooft this was great! These two deliver week after week and this was such a fun spin on the usual VW format without sacrificing technique. Great routine from Kai (in guyliner no less), he's proving to be a very interesting choreographer. Also, I normally think a floor-spin is a bit of a time-waster but that was a spin and a half and actually added some drama to the dance.

And very, very rarely a dance is so good I actually forgive and forget the theme. If I'm a sucker for anything at all on Halloween Week though (and that's a push), it's a dark VW. I really liked this. I think they could put AJ in dressing gown and ask her to line dance to the Hits of the 70s and she'd still make it look fabulous. 

Dan and Nadiya
I was DREADING this dance all week, what a theme to get lumped with. Saying that, the costumes were much better than I was expecting, slightly-mad West End show rather than cheap fancy dress shop. Also, against all my better judgement, I genuinely enjoyed it! There were jive moves and kick and flick sections, Dan was never going to be amazing at the jive, but I thought he had a good stab at it and was in time for the whole routine. One for the kids I think, but they could vote for it in droves.

Oh dear. Dan's actually turning out to be a decent dancer so this kind of thing is a bit of a slap in the face. There was no need to throw him hurtling into the realms of Scott Mills/Ann Widdecombe territory. I think he'll manage to scrape through to next week and if he does, I hope there's a dapper redemption ballroom waiting for him...

Rhys and Nancy
There is only one War of the Worlds Paso and that is bonkers-awesome Pixie and Trent in Blackpool pretending they were on Game of Thrones, sorry guys. Saying that, they didn't go too overboard with theme, it was a proper paso, but in dusty Victorian outfits. It didn't blow me away, but they'd clearly worked hard on the Spanish line and partnership of the routine, I agree with Craig though, he was pushing it a bit too hard at times. Is it enough to save him from the bottom 2?

I feel he could do really well if he could just stop powering through ahead of the beat. I thought last week was a bit of a breakthrough but it looked to me like there were real timing issues with this one - he was just ahead for too much of it, and Nancy looked as though she were struggling to match him.

Sara and Aljaz
Speaking of Game of Thrones...and here we have Aljaz in bondage gear! Apparently this was Couple's Choice, but it looked like a paso with extra twiddly bits to me. I would say it was a victim of theming, but I didn't think that was possible for CC - it was more baffling than the lobster jive! I do agree she's better in hold rather than out, but it might also have been a bit of a step too far performance-wise. I really hope Sara's chances don't suffer because of this.

Has there ever been a contestant who has rollercoastered up and down the leaderboard quite like Sara? I don't quite know what this was but it wasn't good. Aljaz's reaction/guilt breaks my cold, hard heart though. 
Rose and Giovanni
Well done giving Rose an ice queen dress that didn't make her look like Elsa from Frozen, plus Gio rocking the guyliner, it's what you want from Halloween. This was a wonderful tango, the theming clearly gave her something to work with and her sharpness was spot-on. Great in hold and out, she's bringing us surprises and improving ever week.  I didn't even mind the Ed Sheeran song! Plus these two are such a delightful pair, will Gio be dressed as a lizard at some point before the end of the series?!

These two bring me joy. I have no more to say. 
Tilly and Nikita
I asked in week 1 whether Nikita was going to be dressed like a lothario from Grease and they seem to have run with that theme most weeks, even with a Halloween number! This was my surprise of the night, I loved how they played up the kitschy song and it was pure cheeky cha cha. Maybe a theme really helps Tilly? Plenty of content too, straight legs and they'd done work on the hips, I think this was my favourite of Tilly's so far. 

I barely saw any cha cha content. What was there was nicely danced, and Tilly is progressing well. But choreography-wise, Nikita is not impressing me. 

Adam and Katya
I was quite intrigued by this number, Katya always goes big for Halloween. I wasn't expecting her to climb out of a piano in a pair of massive trousers though - so extra!  I think it might have been a bit much for Adam, he seemed to lose it in the second half, but it was a ballroom improvement on that messy messy quickstep back in week 2. The whole thing was a great watch, but it was more about theme than his actual dancing. It does feel like he's lagging behind the leaders a bit now and needs a smasher of a dance to get back in the game. 

He started off so well! I was like, YES, this is what we have been waiting for ... and then it descended into the realms of lacklustre. It actually has been my favourite of Adam's dances so  far, however. He has been grossly over-marked on occasion, but his score was deserved this time. And whilst I am not keen on too much theme, I actually thought the concept and choreography of this dance were very interesting. 

Judi and Graziano
Nice to have Judi back, but this was the worst week for trying to shoehorn in a dance for the previous week. The CGI graphics have been ok this series, but it was just annoying in this. The timing was good and there was cha cha content, but it never really got off the ground. I feel really bad for Judi because the odds were stacked against them, but it didn't work and had come just after Tilly's triumph of a routine. 

Ah, you could tell Judi wasn't firing on all cylinders but I was so glad to see her back. The dance had rhythm, good timing, real cha cha content and the beginnings of some good technique. But it lacked energy. I preferred the choreography to Tilly and Nikita's. 

Tom and Amy
It's hard to follow a tango that got the first 40 of the series, but Tom and Amy came out and attacked this for all it was worth! And in actually quite scary costumes, I wouldn't have expected Amy to look so good as a demon, it must be the cheekbones. It was clearly a tango, but I felt like it was fighting to be a paso at times. It certainly wasn't bad and was packed with content and a more confident Tom, so hopefully it's a step in the right direction.

It had the design, concept and music of something that should have been huge and epic. But it all felt rather small. It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. I'm still waiting for Tom to have his Rachel-Stevens-Rumba breakthrough dance. 

Sunday 24 October 2021

The Ballroom Ascendancy

...and here we are with what I can only describe as the 'revolving cast' of Strictly this year - you really have to pay attention to who is in it each week! I hope Judi and Grazi are ok and we can get back to the full component next week. As for this week, we had some bonkers scoring, some great routines, and yet more evidence that this series is all about the ballroom.

Dan and Nadiya
Dan really has been my surprise of the series, where did those ballroom lines come from?! Yes it was a bit twee, but that's part of the charm of these two. It's so lovely to see someone really fall in love with dancing like Dan has and he works so hard; a definite improvement once again. The fleckerl was a bit touch-and-go, but his hold was good and he's learning to perform. I kind of hope he doesn't lose some of that gawkiness that makes these two such fun...

It wasn't perfect but Dan is having a very earnest j-j-j-journey on the show. There's nothing we love more than an absolute beginner who finds they really enjoy learning to dance. That usually makes them enjoyable to watch - which Dan absolutely is. Do I think he'll win? No. Do I think he'll be one of this year's most memorable and likeable contestants? I really do.

Adam and Katya
Katya has really been channeling B*Witched this week, which was unexpected but fun. Too bad she didn't recreate Lilia's legendary samba turban in denim. This was...interesting...and also a mess. It was a fairly hard routine and Katya left Adam on his own quite a lot, which I don't think he is quite ready for yet. It was a step up in performance, but not technique. Also, whilst there was plenty of samba, I did not see a samba roll, so it should be instantly disqualified.

URGH. Jake Wood level thrusting doth not a samba make. Thing is, poor Adam will now blithely go about the rest of his life thinking 'hey, I'm good at samba' when really the routine he performed had about as many true samba steps as your average drunken stumble home from a kebab shop. Ok, maybe that's too harsh but honestly, this was lazy choreography from the usually inspired Katya. And judges, I am ashamed of you.

Sara and Aljaz
I came to this with apprehension because, well, rumba. However, it was quite a sweet routine and I liked how it wasn't painfully slow or too contempo, well done Aljaz. My main issue with it was that Sara was only moving her hips about half the time, because that's what the rumba is all about. Their partnership really helped carry it though and create a mood where it was a bit technically lacking. 

Are any of you familiar with the lovely dance from the Dominican Republic, Bachata? Beautiful intricate, syncopated footwork. But what you often see in Europe is a version that is basically couples dry-humping each other's thighs. My point? That is what (some of) the judges seemed to want from rumba. Raunch. But it's not about that, and Sara and Aljaz should not be marked down for doing a lovely, romantic dance with plenty of basic steps. It wasn't perfect but it was not second-to-bottom territory. I hope you all cast her some votes. 

Tom and Amy
Wholesome Tom and Amy doing a dance to a slightly naughty song, how I giggled. The arrangement by the band at least felt better for a salsa. Now, I didn't dislike this, and Tom has definitely improved, but the routine didn't gel for me. I felt like they were both trying reeeeally hard all the time, which kinda kills the salsa flow. I think it might be being a bit mean though, they carried off a complex routine and yes, for the millionth time, Tom didn't drop Amy - hurrah!

This was not barely salsa. I saw some comments on Twitter saying the music was too slow. It wasn't too slow. Unlike the standardised dances, there is no set tempo for salsa. It was absolutely wrong, however. If Caffe Nero can play me Cuban music whilst I drink my morning mocha, why can't Strictly bear to play it? For a Cuban dance, nonetheless? Other than that it was OK. 

Tilly and Nikita
Awww, wasn't this a sweet number? Please don't imagine I was doing that in Tess's ickle baby voice, because it genuinely was. I'm so happy to see such a traditional dance like the foxtrot become the standout of 2021. This was a pretty tricky routine too; packed with content and almost entirely in hold. Tilly rose the the challenge with grace and rightly so, keep at it girl. 

Tilly showing the haters. Let's ask ourselves why it's always the young women on this show who get the toughest time from the media? I love that Tilly won't have it. Keep calling it out, Tilly. Oh, and the dance? It was pure loveliness. 
AJ and Kai
My expectations were pretty high for this, but woah AJ and Kai delivered! I couldn't take my eyes off it, they brought intensity with that really intricate footwork we demand from a AT. Great in hold and out and she never misses a beat alongside Kai, he's been a great addition as a pro so far. Plus no one ever talks about how effortless AJ is in lifts despite her long, long limbs. Definitely my favourite of the night, those people who didn't like the song don't appreciate real drama, dah-lings.

Brace yourselves for a controversial opinion. I didn't love it. Her lines were stunning, she managed some beautifully intricate footwork and it was as dramatic as a drama student drinking a dram of Drambuie in... D'rham?. But, to me, it was too intense and harsh all the way through. I would have liked some softness, some playfulness and that genuine Argentine A-frame hold. I absolutely LOVE AJ and she deserved tens in the context of last night's weird, weird scoring. But it wasn't perfect in reality. 
Ugo and Oti
Nice to see Ugo back, I was worried about his back injury because those things can go on forever and we don't want to lose anyone else! Bringing the poor thing back to do a rumba dressed as a DFS sofa was a bit mean, but he pulled it off better than I was expecting. His arms are terrible and it wasn't the most technically accomplished thing, but they managed to capture the right mood due to their great partnership. Hopefully he can do something a bit more fun next week?

Poor chap. I've tried to dance with a back injury and it is not pretty. I was trying to think what dance might have been better for him, but in reality, none of them would have been much good. However, this was far better than I was expecting and Oti is clearly really trying to push the technique. They had so much against them this week though, I'll be surprised if they manage to stay out of the dance off.

John and Johannes
Was a delight this was, a charming little bon-bon of a number. The theming was a bit random but they were playing for camps with the baguettes and it gave us some of that amazing side-by-side action these two are so good at. The synchronisation on the swivels was amazing and I loved the changes of pace in the routine. A treat from start to finish.

Haha! Now this is more like it. These two seem as though they were made to dance together - they match up so perfectly. The routine was fun, polished and professional. John started with some natural dance ability, and is now growing into a real  performer. Does anyone know if he can sing? I can hear the West End calling his name...

Rose and Giovanni
This was a wonderful routine from Rose, but the acting and story of it turned me off a bit. It was too distracting and meant there wasn't as much gorgeous ballroom content as there could have been. Rose is going from strength to strength for me as she gets more experienced at dancing and managing the music. Her top line is amazing and Gio is doing such a good job of teaching her, long may they continue.

My favourite. It was classy, beautifully danced and told a gorgeous story. Rose is clearly a talented actor, and brought this skill with her to the show. But she is also a talented dancer, whose natural elegance is really shining through. She is also funny. We love funny. I think she is winging her way to National. Treasure. Status personally... 

Rhys and Nancy
Despite my concerns this was going to be overwhelmed by theming, this was my favourite dance from Rhys so far! It's good to know he can be reined in when needed, he just needs to do more ballroom to work on his technique. Like the judges said, his hold was a bit sloppy, but he managed the lifts pretty easily. Rhys is still one of those people I think could go either way, but this was definitely on the positive side.

Yaaas, could this be a breakthrough from Rhys? I really enjoyed this number, fizzing with pep and full of beans. But, crucially, just enough but not too much energy. Hopefully the positive comments will spur him on to keep checking in on that technique. He absolutely has the potential to be one of the best. 

Saturday 16 October 2021

The Samba Curse Returns

Hello! Nice to see you all. You'll be glad to know that my post this week isn't half as ranty as a fortnight ago. It doesn't feel like this series has hit its stride yet but we saw some nicely choreographed routines, with some lovely basic steps. And it was a genuinely nice show this evening... 

Rose and Giovanni

At first I was like, oh here we go, six bars without a dance step and an overbearing theme, but then... off it went into a lovely routine, squished full of basic cha cha content. Rose's foot and leg action was great, and I was quite mesmerised by her trousers. I think these two have the strongest partnership of this year and I am really enjoying watching that grow. 

Tom and Amy

This was one of those routines that wasn't bad, but didn't blow me away (with a feather from the trim of Amy's truly gorgeous dress.) It's all about finesse now with Tom. He's got everything he needs to do a breakthrough  routine, he just needs to refine everything - most particularly his frame. I do really feel he has the potential to do this though, so they're still a pair to watch. 

Tilly and Nikita

I think Nikita has fallen into the trap that befalls many a first-season pro. He's so excited to show what he can do, it almost feels like he has forgotten it's a partnership - one that should be far more about Tilly. He should be choreographing routines that suit her skill and style, and also supporting her through them. But no, there he is going for it, gung-ho, and leaving her behind, making the routine look mis-matched. Don't get me wrong, Tilly is doing amazingly well trying to keep  up with him, but she is being let down a little.

Greg and Karen 

Oh, we have been missing some dad dancing. And some Anton-worthy samba sleeves. But Greg seemed so disappointed in himself it was almost heartbreaking. There's always so much talk about the rumba being difficult for the men (so much so that they don't even bother making most people do it anymore) but samba is the most rhythmically challenging of all the dances, and the body action is so unnatural to anyone who's never tried to move that way before. And whilst this had some real issues with technique, Greg's timing looked spot on. 

John and Johannes

These two have been slowly growing into one of my all time Strictly partnerships, but for me this week it was a little off. And it wasn't really about the technique, it was about the choreography. They got so sucked in to telling a story, the dancing itself just lost some sparkle. But they dance so well together that I have no concerns at all that they'll be back with something amazing next week.

Rhys and Nancy

I'm gonna say it. This. Was. Not. Salsa. It was also a tad overzealous - as now seems to be Rhys' style. This man has so much potential though. Whilst his steps were far too wide (also not an uncommon sight in a ballroom pro trying to salsa...) he actually had the beginnings of a lovely, authentic body action. Nancy needs to help him refine his technique. If he can, he could be one of this year's biggest... journeys. 

Sara and Aljaz

I actually found the music distracting. Whilst I absolutely love the piece, it is not suited to a marchy 2/4 ballroom tango. Why it was not saved for an Argentine later in the series instead is beyond me. Or re-arranged for the dance in question. But never mind. Other than that I thought this was fab. I think Sara is fab. And I want to adopt Aljaz. 

Dan and Nadiya

I did not expect this to be one of my favourite dances of the night but you know what? It was. This had an infectious joy about it and actually was fairly technically sound - when they actually did a bit of cha cha. Dan is really embracing the sparkle and comes across as a genuinely lovely man. We always love contestants who just fall in love with the experience and Dan is really giving off that vibe. 

Judi and Graziano

This was understated, stylish and I basically really liked it. I would have loved more sway from Judi but the change of pace, and emotion behind it were just absolutely delightful. I thought she looked absolutely stunning in a classic ballroom dress. What a way to come back from being in the bottom two. Graziano is starting to really grow as a professional partner and I love the support he is showing.

Adam and Katya

Well, it was about as tango as an egg custard tart. But I think Katya has realised that Adam might not be the natural we all assumed he might be, and - as the polar opposite to Nikita - is choreographing routines that suit him. Whether they look like the dance or not. So I can appreciate that, even though I would have loved to see an actual Argentine Tango. The lifts and tricks were pretty cool. This lady managed to create a routine that made it look like Seann Walsh could dance. I just hope she remembers that Adam is of a significantly higher calibre.

AJ and Kai

Oh AJ, I was so looking forward to this and it just fell a little flat. Her technique had a more salsa than a samba vibe for me (as did the music), but this is a lady who has never danced before. Such high expectations are unfair - and as mentioned, samba is the most difficult latin dance. And it just got the better of her this time. She looked absolutely stunning and has such a fun, engaging personality and I have every hope that she'll bounce back next week. Everyone has a tricky week.