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Strictly speaking

Posted on December 16, 2013


Week 12 – The semis

We’re back to a lengthy show, so I’ll keep this brief. Here are my five gripes about an otherwise enjoyable semi-final…

  1. Why were the female celebs styled as little girls? Did anyone else find the overabundance of ribbons, cupcakes dresses, ponytails and ringlets uncomfortably cloying?
  2. Poor salsa. Please, producers, either drop it altogether or get some salsa pros on so we know what we’re actually aiming for – and/or use remotely appropriate music, rather than merging it with drunken disco.
  3. Much discussion on Twitter about tactical voting so as to avoid the judges forcing an unwanted result on us. How about we keep it simple and ditch the dance-off from the quarter-final onwards? POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
  4. Why oh why were we subjected to nauseating messages from random members of the public in all the VTs? I shall not comment on them further, other than to award Borrowed family prop points. And pray for the arrival of the Child Catcher.
  5. Finally, Darcey. Where to begin? It’s not that I mind you handing out random 10s (well, that’s a lie – did you know that whenever you use your 10 paddle, a fairy dies?), but if you’re going to pretend something’s perfect, DON’T POINT OUT A FLAW IN YOUR CRITIQUE. See: telling Natalie she was too careful in her salsa, agreeing Abbey had sickled feet in the American smooth lifts.

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Natalie’s Argentine tango Scored less than her clinical salsa, cause that’s just how those crazy judges roll, but as close as this pristine pair have come to dancing as a convincing couple, rather than two soloists who just happened to be on the same stage dancing the same steps OH HOW EMBARRASSING. Simmering intensity, technically assured.
  • Best costume: Sophie’s 1980s bridesmaid look Wonderfully dated electric-blue off-the-shoulder slashed dress and fountain ponytail. Here’s one we recycled earlier!
  • Best move: Anya’s Iveta tribute random leg lift/crotch flash Oh, Iveta. The world is so grey without you.
  • Best line: Len re: Sophie: “Her biggest competition is HERSELF.” Someone’s been in LA too long…


Irritating Mission: Impossible VT, featuring Darcey doing some “acting”. On the Patrick Robinson Woodenness scale: a 10! Of course, the real mission is to find whoever keeps insisting on these VTs and shove a glitterball trophy down their throat. “IS THAT ENOUGH SPARKLY DISTRACTION FOR YOU?”

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Black shroud held up with electrical tape, hippy hair and clown-like smear of orange lipstick. Somehow both conservative and trashy.

Natalie and Artem – You spin me right round

5369958-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalBorrowed family prop points: +5 for beaming kids, chocolatey reward just out of shot. Their salsa was about as authentic as every other salsa on this show (i.e. not even a little bit), but as the judges now mark it purely as a “party dance” of unknown origin, it was as good an excuse as any for Artem to try out his bare chest/white jacket combo and Natalie to dress as a disco fairy. Great rhythm, crisp synchronicity, amazing series of spins and even more amazing series of gurning faces from Natalie, but fell between two stools: lacked both the dynamic wow factor of a competitive dance and the fun, earthy chemistry of a club dance.

Song: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, Michael Jackson (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alesha Dixon and Matthew)

Judges’ comments: Len said if her second dance is at this standard, she’ll be in the final. Bruno thought she balanced rhythm and fluidity perfectly. Craig was upset because he couldn’t find anything wrong with it. “Most animated I’ve seen you.” Darcey praised her underarm turns, but thought it was sometimes too careful.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40

Overall: Immaculate.

Patrick and Anya – Achilles’ heel

5370010-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soBorrowed family prop points: -1, as they came as part of a “Did you know Patrick’s OLD?” package. I half-expected him to waltz with a zimmer frame, but no, it was with Barbie/Anya, a vision in pink silk and dangling fringe placed in an unfortunate nipple tassel arrangement. Apart from the requisite floor spin (now practically a basic syllabus step), this was sadly underwhelming: no heel leads, so lacked drive and clear timing, very square frame and the stately, linear movement of a cumbersome tractor mowing a hay field.

Song: “Unchained Melody”, Righteous Brothers (COPYCAT KLAXON: Claire Sweeney and John, Pamela Stephenson and James)

Judges’ comments: Bruno, who got the “Patrick is OLD” memo, praised his “sense of distinction”, but a couple of footwork issues. Craig wanted more swing and sway and stronger heel leads, but great flow. Darcey praised the topline improvement, though problem with his right shoulder, and called it “charming”. Len liked the movement, but not enough heel leads.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Overall: Plodding.

Sophie and Brendan – Drama queen(s)

5369780-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensational

Borrowed family prop points: +10
for inclusion of Downing Street Christmas party where she both held a baby and danced with an adorable boy. Sophie = MVP of Borrowed family prop points. She then threw a proper Black Swan melodrama strop in their camp-tastic paso, narrowing her eyes at Brendan as if he’d misused an apostrophe. Twice. Impressive pot stir (although her head drooped oddly), nice basics and some great lines, but a bit vague out of hold and lacked conviction in her shapes. Still, best we’ve seen her perform when out of her comfort zone.

Song: “Montagues and Capulets”, Prokofiev AKA The Apprentice theme music

Judges’ comments: Craig found it starchy and stiff, lacking Spanish line, but liked the attitude. Darcey praised her power, but wanted more strength. Len thought they interpreted the drama of the music brilliantly. Bruno loved the passion and intent, and thought she coped well with challenging music.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Overall: Operatic.

Susanna and Kevin – Just a spoonful of sugar

5369793-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so so

Borrowed family prop points: +4
for eager sign-toting school group in strict North Korean formation. Kevin took no chances with this foxtrot, going for maximum “Aaaaah” factor: cutesy styling (and glasses!), hummable tune, cuddly routine and godawful breaks for faffing around on a twee bench. Oh, and pivots, natch. I find this difficult to square with their Week 7 waltz, which had far superior hold, footwork and movement, and relied on beautiful classic choreo rather than chocolate-box naff, but, however syrupy, it got the job done: instant adorable vote-winner.

Song: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, Frankie Valli (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jill Halfpenny and Darren)

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked the story and technique – “You’re shining again.” Len called it “a lark in the park”. Bruno: “The nation’s sweetheart at her charming best.” Liked the changes of pace and OTT facial expressions. Craig: “Sickly, saccharine, sweet – all the things I detest. But the dancing was magnificent.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38

Overall: Mawkish.

Abbey and Aljaž – Blonde bombshell

5370023-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensational
Borrowed family prop points: +10
for Abbey’s genuine emotion at the support, -10 for more wailing about “Me NEEEEERRVES!” This is genuinely the only thing we’ve learned about her in three months. More playing to their strengths, with Aljaž sporting denim and aviators, Abbey a see-through dress and her body weight in mint feathers, and another sexy, crowd-pleasing routine. Wild free arm from Abbey, a few footwork hiccups, lacked bounce and far more hair shaking than hip shaking, but managed to make the Strictly DANCE OF DOOM look surprisingly fun and natural.

Song: “Faith”, George Michael (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Dawson and Lilia)

Judges’ comments: Len thought she combined rhythm, technique and performance. Bruno called her “sex on legs” and lost his way in a gasping Brigitte Bardot comparison. “Bruno’s on the turn, darling,” drawled Craig. He wanted more bounce, but she coped with the rhythm changes brilliantly. Darcey said she got the vibe and is flying into the final.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39

Overall: Fetching.

Natalie and Artem – Quiet fire

5370049-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensational
Second dances came with judges’ Pearls of wisdom. Bruno noted Natalie is too predictable, and Darcey observed all their dances look the same. You know when you should have pointed that out? ANY WEEK OTHER THAN THE SECOND-TO-LAST ONE. Wardrobe styled them both in bright red for their Argentine tango, like two ripe tomatoes, if tomatoes wrapped their limbs around each other on a giant chessboard. (Which, in fairness, is almost certainly a Dalï painting.) This routine had a gorgeous understated seduction, cool interplay and fantastic tricks. Even better, there were moments when they were actually dancing as a partnership and glimmers of characterisation, although – weirdly, considering her profession is “actress” – that’s still a weak area for Natalie. Still, my favourite of theirs this series, by far.

Song: “Montserrat”, Bajofondo

Judges’ comments: Bruno found her lines mesmerising and it was “absolutely involving”. Craig agreed, though wanted looser ganchos, foot passes on the ochos, and she took the lead sometimes, but “what a dance”. Darcey commended her expertise, but wanted more attitude. Len: “Dance is like fire: some should warm you, Argentine tango should burn you. You sizzled out there.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38

Overall: Hypnotic.


Patrick and Anya – Night terrors


5370083-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparklePearls of wisdom: Patrick is the BEST. But he needs to do something completely different in the paso. Righto. His sparkly jacket with purple brocade was certainly different, as was Anya’s ribbon-infested dressing gown, but their overly busy routine was all too familiar. Sensing weakness, Anya did a creditable cover-up job à la their rumba, hurling herself round like a cat stuck in a tumble dryer, but Patrick’s mediocrity shone through. Comical “I’m not angry, just disappointed” expression, odd posture and gestures that were less matador, more “Your table is ready now, madam. Would you care to follow me?”

Song: “Because the Night”, the Patti Smith Group (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jo Wood and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Craig said it had control, but no Spanish feel. It exposed his weaknesses – “Walking seemed to be a problem.” Darcey thought it lacked “GRRRR”, Anya led him and no shaping. Len said he turned the attitude off and on, but praised his verve and energy. Bruno felt his determination to reach the final meant he lost the finesse.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 9, 9 – 33

Overall: Patchy.


Sophie and Brendan – They’re playing our song


5369932-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalPearls of wisdom: Sophie has the looks, but not the power, says Bruno. Can she change his mind in… an American smooth that’s all about style? Well, no. This wasn’t a revelatory number, but it did recapture the insouciant allure of their Charleston. Both are right at home with the jazzy, Old Hollywood vibe, floating lifts and casual elegance, plus Brendan got a gloriously cheesy sliding down the banister moment. Sophie (wrapped in tinfoil) was still fuzzy out of hold, and her frame still moves with her feet, meaning her head finishes at a funny angle sometimes, but a charming, classic number performed with panache.

Song: “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, Gershwin (COPYCAT KLAXON: Kenny Logan and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her seamless lifts and sophisticated glamour. Len agreed on the lifts and loved the musical interpretation, but a few head problems. Bruno called it her best performance to date. Craig said she didn’t hold her own out of hold, but “packed full of style”.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 10 – 36

Overall: Ravishing.


Susanna and Kevin – Hot mess


5370254-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soPearls of wisdom: “Susanna is what this show is all about!” saith Goodman. In other words, they know she has the public vote. The judges worried about her getting the club feel for the salsa, but the opposite was true: she and Kevin (both in chest-baring hot pink) had a rip-roaring time, at the expense of the technique. In fact, basically the polar opposite to Natalie: lacked her accuracy and crisp rhythmic movement, but felt more spontaneous, joyous enthusiasm and no need to manufacture chemistry. Plus, on the basis of the salsas, Susanna’s the one you want to have a night on the town with, yes?

Song: “Move Your Feet”, Junior Senior

Judges’ comments: Len praised her all or nothing approach, but a tad messy. Bruno agreed – she sold it, but not precise enough. Kevin: “These are the salsa girls I like dancing with, though!” Craig: “If I had a pound for each facial expression, I’d be a multi-millionaire.” Heavy of foot, but vivacious. Darcey liked that it felt relaxed and natural, with “100 per cent disco energy” (see above re: wanton abuse of salsa).

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Overall: Wild.


Abbey and Aljaž – Prom King and Queen


5370293-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensational
Pearls of wisdom:
The judges are worried about Abbey’s nerves. STOP PRESS. It’s prom night at Model High, and our toothy twosome are embracing the kitsch: Abbey in fluffy pink and a bouncing ponytail, Aljaž ensuring all eyes are on his chest for a different reason, namely his obscenely ruffled shirt. Strewn with footwork errors and Abbey’s hold is rather inconsistent, but when it works, she has the best celeb topline this series. Lifts lovely in the air, clunky on the transitions, but generally sweet, pretty and winning.

Song: “Sweet Caroline”, Neil Diamond (COPYCAT KLAXON: Claire King and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it was another captivating performance. Craig found it full of charisma and style, but sickled feet in the lifts. Darcey agreed on the feet, but “High School Musical glamour”. Len: “I’ll see you next week in the final.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39

Overall: Disarming.




Natalie and Artem – 40 + 38 = 78

Abbey and Aljaž – 39 + 39 = 78

Sophie and Brendan – 35 + 36 = 71

Susanna and Kevin – 38 + 32 = 70

Patrick and Anya – 36 + 33 + 69

Patrick tumbles from top to bottom, while Natalie and Abbey continue to vie for pole position.




Magician Dynamo did a blink-and-you’ll miss it card trick and our pros managed about 20 seconds of Charleston and 10 of quickstep, while dressed as banana extras from Alice in Wonderland. After watching Lucan, I’ve decided this was a coded message about the evils of gambling.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Tacky white dust cover with sleeve embellishment from the Claire’s Accessories department. Claudia marginally less tacky version in black.

Showdance exhibition champions Craig and Micheline performed a gravity-defying piece that left us all thinking “My, what incredible artistry!” and “I need to take a cold shower” in equal measure.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Len characterising Patrick’s paso movements as a waiter offering round vol-au-vents. Austin Healey flashbacks, anyone?
  • The judges boogieing gawkily to Bruce’s “Keep…dancing!”

Celine Dion yelped in emo fashion while Artem and Aliona – YOU GUESSED IT – floated around with some angsty semi-lyrical. I poked my eye out with a fork.

In the dance-off: Patrick and Anya, and (gasp!) Natalie and Artem. Not surprisingly, the judges saved Natalie. Patrick was the right one to go based on this week’s performances, but unlucky to get two dances that didn’t particularly suit him.

Do you feel Patrick deserved to be eliminated? What do you think of the all-girl final? And who’s your favourite to win? And I’m compiling my Best in show for the whole series – any suggestions, let me know. Leave your thoughts below or visit me on Twitter: @mkmswain

Join me next week for the grand final. In the meantime… keep dancing!

Simon Oliver has been production editor of Dancing Times since 2010 and is highly experienced in design across print and online magazine production. Throughout his career, Simon has worked on a diverse range of subjects including music, family history, book collecting and poker.

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