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It takes four to tan-go

Posted on June 6, 2013

simply so so

square-vfFollowing hot on the (Cuban) heels of departing Doctor Who Matt Smith, this week saw the mass exodus from Strictly Come Dancing of long-standing and, in some cases, long-suffering professionals Erin Boag, Vincent Simone, Flavia Cacace and Aliona Vilani. Can the newbies possibly follow in their nimble footsteps? We’re looking for a slightly uncomfortable national stereotype, a sphinx with killer abs, a whirl of self-belief and someone with survival instincts to rival Bear Grylls. After all, she’ll be dancing with Anton.

Let us all raise a glitterball in tribute to our fallen comrades. Or, alternatively, sit back and enjoy their three most memorable moments on the show.

Erin Boag AKA Miss Whiplash

strictly sensationalThe steely veteran who reinvented herself more times than Madonna partnered a parade of also-rans and two hot favourites, but only managed to land the Christmas Special trophy. She’ll be remembered for her classy choreography, rigorous training methods and That Showdance. 

1. Olé! Austin “You wuz robbed!” Healey set pulses racing with his macho waiter display as Erin channelled her inner Strictly Ballroom  – and showed off her partner’s solo strengths. Drama with a capital D. 

Watch it here.  

2. Shake your maracas With promising celebs, she was dead serious; with the plodders, she knew how to dial the entertainment up to fab-u-lous. This camp-tastic samba (oh, those sleeves) with Julian Clary was the first hint of great things to come. 

Watch it here.  

3. Puppetgate So many quality numbers with Colin Jackson. And yet this almighty dance disaaahster is the one that lingers on…  

 Vincent Simone AKA The Italian Stallion

simply so soThe pint-sized eyebrow-waggler was more interested in la passione than such tedious things as consistent teaching, but produced strong performances when blessed with naturally gifted partners. He’ll be remembered for his level of English and grasp of reality both rivalling Nancy Dell’Olio’s.

1. Instant jive Establishing the status quo (challenging routine, interesting music choice – in this case hers, severely limited rehearsal) from which he never wavered, Vincent nevertheless scored an early 10 with Louisa Lytton and this cool, infectious jive.

Watch it here.

2. Latin perfection Well, it would have been, but for stingy Craig and his 9. Yes, neither of this pair were renowned for emotional expressiveness, but Vincent and Rachel Stevens’ rumba was a technical masterclass.

Watch it here.  

3. King of the tango Tellingly, Vincent’s most electrifying numbers were those danced with pro partner Flavia, rather than with his celebs. Special mention for their Romeo + Juliet waltz, but it was their first Argentine tango performance that established both them and the style as fan favourites.

Watch it here.   

 Flavia Cacace AKA Gypsy

strictly sensationalPerhaps better suited to high-stakes poker than reality TV, Flavia makes the Mona Lisa look positively chatty, but she was an alluring performer both on and off the floor. (Ahem.) The Queen of Showmance, admirably committed to method partnering, will be remembered for her jaw-dropping physique, versatility and “doing a Camilla”, ie getting the hell out of Dodge once she finally seized the glitterball.

1. Comeback waltz After his spectacular two-dance meltdown, Flavia somehow coaxed Matt Di Angelo into this simple but simply beautiful number. Worthy of a 40? Arguably not. Spellbinding TV? Absolutely.

Watch it here.  

2. Ruling the world Flavia always knew how to use the tools at her disposal. Take one ripped gymnast, remove clothing, go for “mood” to get around his performance issues, add Take That for easy sentiment and indulge in gloriously literal choreo. ONE GIANT HUNK-SUPPORTING GLOBE PLEASE AND THEN I’LL TAKE THE TROPHY ’KAY THANKS BYE.

Watch it here

3. The birth of Venus Who knew Flavia could be such a fabulous stooge? Her partnership with Russell “Mama Rose” Grant, one of the most joyous in Strictly history, kicked off with this crowd-pleasing, life-affirming, odd-couple cha cha.

Watch it here

Aliona Vilani AKA “I don’t care what the judges think”

struggles sparkleComing to us via So You Think You Can Dance (which has also spawned Artem, Pasha and new pros Janette and Iveta), Aliona was positively brimming with self-assurance from the start. She’ll be remembered for her wise teachings: the rules do not apply to everyone, celebs are basically props and true emotional engagement can only be achieved with a giant swing.

1. Mistress Quickly In her comfort zone here (fast, showy choreo, sprightly and skilled celeb), Aliona produced a dynamic quickstep with Harry McFly, one of the dances that, in conjunction with a panting female fanbase, spurred them on to the title.

Watch it here.  

2. Hay! Where’s the ballroom? Several numbers illustrate Aliona’s unfortunate preference for schmaltz, gimmicks and forced sexiness rather than strong content (Whispergate, the salsa shocker, The Giant Swing of Sickly Sweetness), but it was her muddled The Archers: The Musical! showdance that finally doomed Matt Baker.

Watch it here

3. Flipping out However, Aliona can take some credit for Matt producing one of the best male sambas on Strictly (better than Ramps? Discuss!), though she couldn’t resist adding a touch of acrobatics…

Watch it here.  

Who are you going to miss most? And what are some of your favourite memories? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

See you after the summer for another sequin-tastic series. Until then… keep dancing!


Photograph: Michael Payne

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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