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Strictly speaking

Posted on October 14, 2013


Strictly speaking

And so to Luuuuuurve Week, meaning the set became a nauseating shrine to DIY bargain-basement tackiness. Why? Truly, we may never know. It’s up there with the great mysteries of the age, like what was really in that briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

More timely, equally nonsensical themes Strictly could have celebrated instead:

  • World Post Day (Oct 9) Who wants to see a tango expressing frustration at failing to get Royal Mail shares? I know I do!
  • Bramley Apple Pie Week (Oct 14–18) If you’re going to hit Craig in the face with a pie, at least support an industry while you do so
  • Conflict Resolution Day (Oct 17) Brucie, autocue – please bury the hatchet. THINK OF THE CHILDREN
  • National Bug Busting Day (Oct 31) Hello, cucarachas? I can’t believe I even need to suggest this one
  • ADHD Awareness Week (Oct 14–20) Sorry, what?

Aptly, everyone treated Luuuuuurve Week like an embarrassing school project foisted upon us by an overeager substitute teacher. Our pros used it to sneak past traditionally deathly dances like samba and male rumba, while the celebs expressed love through steely tactical choices (“Look at this adorable child. Do you want to see this adorable child cry? No? Well then you’d better vote for DADDY!”) and delightful passive aggression (“You know what I love? SHOVELLING HORSE CRAP!”). Put it this way: Richard Curtis is sleeping easy.

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Susanna’s Viennese waltz Expressive, sincere and beautifully performed. I hardly even noticed her tinsel handcuffs
  • Best costume: Deborah’s quickstep dress Surprisingly restrained and flattering. Well done, wardrobe! I knew you had it in you!
  • Best move: Stalker Iveta sprinting towards a closed door It’s not often we get such chilling social realism
  • Best line: Susanna’s “It’s easy to be in love with Kevin. For two minutes.” Ouch

In other news:

  • Brucie returned. Just as well – Claudia, queen of ironic jibes, would have imploded three minutes in
  • Yet more song copycatting. My klaxon grows weary
  • What does love mean to the judges? “Se-vehn!” Really, we could have just said “They’re all vaguely mediocre” and gone home early
  • It’s James and Ola’s 10th anniversary. That’s nice and all, but if this is the whole reason we’re stuck with bloody Luuuuuurve Week, I WILL MAIM SOMEBODY


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Wow, guess who got the memo about World Post Day? Yes, this was more of a slutty red post box with a worryingly descending slot and shock-collar accessorising, but still… Points for relevance.

Abbey and Aljaz – The Yoko factor

4917028-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Abbey? Liverpool and, err, the Beatles. Who doesn’t love the Beatles? Vote for Abbey! (Mainly this was a wince-inducing excuse to laugh at a foreigner’s mispronunciation – Bruce’s go-to gag.) Their jive introduced us to wall-ography AKA “seated jive”, compelling in its audacity, but also highlighted the fact that Abbey’s sulky teenager act will only get her so far, no matter how pretty her pout (or indeed partner). Faked jive action, some ungainly kicks and disappointingly lacklustre performance.

Song: “Can’t Buy Me Love”, the Beatles (COPYCAT KLAXON: Rachel Stevens and Vincent)

Judges’ comments: Len liked the energy, but her toe heel swivels lacked swivel and her legs were too loose. Bruno compared it with a Mary Quant photo shoot, but agreed her kicks and flicks weren’t sharp enough and her free hand needs work. Craig thought they sat for too long and noted she got behind the beat and lacked attack. Darcey pulled out the old “jive is hard for tall people” line and praised her style.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 7 – 28

Overall: Lackadaisical.

Patrick and Anya – Let there be gloom

4917015-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Patrick? Earnest reminiscing about his dad playing Nat King Cole. (People with more joie de vivre than Patrick: 1. Ed Miliband. 2. Dana from Homeland. 3. Eeyore.) Anya’s beige dress that began with attractive bedazzling and ended with ruffles the size of a speedboat summed up their foxtrot: initially inoffensive, vaguely stylish, gradually alarming, ultimately forgettable. Patrick has nice musicality, but refuses to drive off the standing leg and thus travels less than the Jubilee line on a weekend (hello from north London, where I am eternally stranded!). Strong contender for a “shock” early elimination.

Song: “Let There Be Love”, Nat King Cole (COPYCAT KLAXON: Denise Lewis and Ian, Pamela Stephenson and James)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was too restrained and lacked drive. Craig wants swing and sway and noted gapping issues. Darcey liked the panache and connection, but wants more risk and travel. Len called it “style with a smile”.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Bland.

Dave and Karen – Hell’s angels

4917192-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleIt’s now apparent that Karen’s dearest wish is for Dave to become the next John Sergeant. Luckily for her… What does love mean to Dave? Motorcycles! Woo! Substituting a matador’s chaquetilla with a biker jacket set the tone for their paso, though for my money, the deliberate attempt to court controversy is less entertaining than the comic juxtaposition between straight-faced effort and absurd result. However, there were some amusing moments, including Dave hurling a cape round as if trying to put out a spreading fire and pointing at Karen like a cartoon villain deploying “evil lasers” from his fingers.

Song: “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, Meat Loaf (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Dawson and Lilia)

Judges’ comments: Craig’s one word: “Dreadful.” Darcey liked the conviction, not the shaping, and it nearly brought her to tears. Len compared it with the pain of waxing and sighed over Dave “wafting a tea towel”, but branded him “the people’s champion”. Bruno thought it looked like he was smelling bad cheese and also had toffee stuck in his teeth.

Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 5, 4 – 16

Overall: Wayward.

Fiona and Anton – Class act

4917166-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Fiona? Her husband bringing the world’s smallest birthday cake to a somewhat dismal teashop. Family prop points: -5. Their waltz was apparently a High Society homage, though Anton looked more like he was running late for the Golf Club raffle. The smoke monster was deployed to hide footwork omissions (like the Lesser Spotted Heel Lead, now on the Endangered Species List), but elegant lines from Fiona, who might do well if she could maintain focus for an entire dance.

Song: “True Love”, Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in High Society, which discerning readers will know as the inferior cover version of The Philadelphia Story (COPYCAT KLAXON: Denise Lewis and Ian)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her reduced nerves, but wants an improved topline. Len compared her “J word” with snakes and ladders – last week down, this week up. Bruno thought she had better turns and lovely lines, but still a few unsteady moments. Craig noted she overbalanced, went out of time and needs to pull up, but beautifully danced.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28

Overall: Pleasant.

Rachel and Pasha – Model pupil

4917153-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Rachel? The glamour of Strictly! Wardrobe rewarded this sycophancy with truly terrifying finger-in-socket hair extensions, five layers of eye make-up and more than her body weight in electric-blue fringe. Don’t judge – it’s how they show their love. Following last week’s criticisms, Rachel maintained a studiously Zoolander “sexy” face and definitely improved her balance and body rhythm, but still struggles to link steps together and didn’t manage to straighten her legs at all.

Song: “When Love Takes Over”, David Guetta feat Kelly Rowland (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alex Jones and James)

Judges’ comments: Len noted some loss of control, but thought her hips were much better. Bruno wants more confidence – “it’s still a bit automaton” – but she’s starting to “use her assets”. Craig wants her to stop plonking her body down on finishes, but nicer free arm placement. Darcey agreed she’d taken their comments on board and produced a cleaner performance.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Hopeful.

Mark and Iveta – Every move you make

4916074-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so so“Don’t walk into my space!” Ah, Iveta. Never change. What does love mean to Mark? A fascinating S&M dynamic with his mad-genius partner and, oh yeah, his brood of adorable, camera-friendly children. Family prop points: +8. Their American smooth was the age-old tale of boy meets stalker, boy enjoys stalker’s obsessive attentions, boy runs away from stalker, boy succumbs to stalker’s advances because of a lack of validation in his childhood. Iveta serenely overcame her pastel swamp of a dress, while Mark travelled slightly more than Patrick (let’s say the Bakerloo line on a weekend) and, apart from bumping into Iveta during a lurching spin, nicely embodied the style.

Song: “It Must Be Love”, Madness

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the storytelling, but wants him to watch his turns. Craig agreed, and noted his hands ruin his lines. Darcey wanted more flair, but enjoyed his partnering. Len praised his ability to capture the essence of every dance.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26

Overall: Charming.

Ben and Kristina – Luuuuuurve Fest

4917811-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Ben? Shamelessly seducing the public with tales of his diligent housework and pair of lisping tween girls. Family prop points: +10. Also in shameless seduction mode: the ever-artful Kristina, who went for serious eye candy. Spangly lingerie for her, suave loose bow tie for him, and a routine chock-full of sexy grabbing and Rihanoff soft porn – one more suggestive wiggle and she would have turned Bruno. A few fumbles from Ben and no hip action on the basics, but surprising confidence and great focus on his stripteasing partner.

Song: “Make You Feel My Love”, Bob Dylan (COPYCAT KLAXON: Pamela Stephenon and James)

Judges’ comments: Craig confessed his love for Ben and was delighted to report he did well. Darcey saw good connection with Kristina and more fluidity. Len likes “a big butch bloke being gentle” (you’re not alone, Len), but wanted more hip action. Bruno called it “a series of erotic friezes”, not unlike the ones emblazoning the walls of Tonioli Towers.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28

Overall: Steamy.

Sophie and Brendan – Till Strictly do us part

4915691-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalWhat does love mean to Sophie? Reprising the song used for the first dance at her wedding while in the arms of another man. Husband Richard visited training to declare he’s even more in love with her now while eyeing Brendan suspiciously. He needn’t have worried – wardrobe sapped all sex appeal with its 1980s-throwback monstrosities, and Sophie astonishingly maintained her cool, arch insouciance WHILE DOING A SAMBA. She delivered the strong content pretty well, including decent samba rolls and batucadas, but not Brendan’s Latin gusto nor her five-inch glitter eye-shadow stripes even remotely dented her froideur. Sidenote: the wobbly lamp-post is back, it’s brought a friend, and they’ve both gone DISCO.

Song: “All Night Long”, Lionel Ritchie (COPYCAT KLAXON: James Martin and Camilla, Felicity Kendall and Vincent)

Judges’ comments: Darcey wanted more wild carnival and noted overextended arms in the running promenades, but brilliant isolations and musicality. Len thought it lacked toning, but praised the back rocks, corta jaca and natural rolls. Bruno: “Sophisticated samba from an uptown girl.” Craig said it needed more double bounce action and cleaner finishes, but loved it.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Overall: Remarkable.

Julien and Janette – On parole

4917771-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Julien? Narrowly avoiding crushing your miniature dog while thrashing around on a trampoline. It didn’t really improve his jive bounce, but the dance-off experience seemed to give him more focus, and Janette cannily paved over the cracks with a gleeful Blues Brothers pastiche featuring a protracted, somewhat random striptease. As a competitive dance, it lacked distinct steps, rhythm and synchronicity, but as drunken end-of-term cabaret, it was fairly entertaining.

Song: “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, Blues Brothers cover (COPYCAT KLAXON: Darren Gough and Lilia)

Judges’ comments: Len enjoyed the devil-may-care attitude and called it his best dance to date. Bruno thought it was “a criminal attack on the jive” – good energy, but off timing. Craig compared him with a three-year-old at a dance recital after ten bags of sweets. Darcey wanted sharper kicks and flicks.

Bonus feature: Brucie’s open bemusement at Julien’s squawking and caterwauling. When Bruce is judging you, it’s time for serious self-examination.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 7, 6 – 22

Overall: Giddy.

Susanna and Kevin – The beautiful game

4917745-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalWhat does love mean to Susanna? Err, football, apparently. Moving on. As we neared the end of a strange, disjointed show, Susanna and “Kevin from Grimsby” delivered the first really satisfying performance. Their autumnal Viennese waltz had effortless style and movement, clear storytelling and a lovely, easy connection – it’s evident they’re one of the couples gelling off the floor. She does tend to hunch in hold and clutch onto her partner, but good transitions and sincere performance.

Song: “Annie’s Song”, John Denver (COPYCAT KLAXON: Andrew Castle and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Bruno enjoyed her natural feel for the dance and lovely flow, and noted her prowess in both ballroom and Latin. Craig wants her to raise her chin, lower her left shoulder and work on arm extensions, but gorgeous. Darcey praised her technique and weekly improvement, and agreed with Craig on arms. Len was in luuuuuurve with the dance – beautiful rotation, fluidity and attempted fleckerl, best performance of the night.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 8 – 34

Overall: Lovely.

Vanessa and James – Green-eyed monster

4917706-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleWhat does love mean to Vanessa? Her sole reason for doing Strictly is to express her affection for fiancé Ben through the language of dance. Avid viewers will note Vanessa has had a new “sole reason for doing Strictly each week. It’s unclear whether this is tactical or a sign of her general unravelling. Possibly unrelated, possibly building a picture for future psychological study, Vanessa slipped very, very easily into the role of violently jealous scorned woman – even her sub-Princess Leia pastry hair looked infuriated. Lots of stumbling and stomping, some aggressive but fuzzy kicks and inconsistent performance.

Song: “Lay All Your Love On Me”, ABBA

Judges’ comments: Craig criticised her lines, head position and lack of sharpness and staccato. Darcey thought she had good attack, but enjoyed the smell of James too much. Or rather, she didn’t have her head to the left. Len liked the content, but it lacked bite and snap. Bruno said she gave good battleaxe, but she messed up footwork and stopped driving the dance.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 6, 6 – 20

Overall: Spurious.

Ashley and Ola – Up, up and away

4917654-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalWhat does love mean to Ashley? Baby baby baby baby baby. And cute toddler. Baby baby baby baby baby. Family prop points: +10. (But -4 for cramming it down our throats, even after he was called safe during the results show.) Ola fully embraced the seedy possibilities of Luuuuuurve Week, gunning for Moulin Rouge but coming up end-of-the-pier dive bar with her wonky entrance on wires and gyrations-heavy samba. (Adding class: Ola’s microscopic pink-dental-floss dress, Ashley’s hammy gurning and bare chest pumping.) Still, this was a confident performance in a style that tends to trip up celebs, particularly the men, with decent musicality and hip action.

Song: “Love Is In The Air”, John Paul Young (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his rhythm, but wants cleaner finishes and was duly distracted by his unbuttoned shirt. Len said the running promenades were a bit heavy, but he coped well with a difficult dance. Bruno called him the “dreamboat from Brazil” and proposed elopement. Craig: “The hip rolls were absolute filth and I loved it.”

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 8 – 31

Overall: Raunchy.

Natalie and Artem – Top of the class

4917628-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalWhat does love mean to Natalie? “Family and friends and… stuff. You know. I was busy. The dog ate my homework.” Never mind – this flimsy reasoning gave us the glorious sight of Artem in a cow onesie glowering through girls’ night in. He is the gift that keeps on giving. Speaking of which, unmistakeably professional Natalie turned in another flawless performance, even exuding sensuality through a gypsy shawl and mint swimming cossie. Their rumba was textbook Artem: slow, controlled, deliciously moody, with gorgeous lyricism and striking lines. Only the fact that it was danced to a song with a perturbing domestic violence message brought it down in my estimation.

Song: “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)”, Rihanna

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was fabulous. Bruno found it expressive, meaningful and “beauty in perpetual motion”. Craig: “Love, love, love.” Darcey said she speaks with her whole body, and broke out some ballet terminology to prove it was THAT GOOD.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Overall: Unrivalled.

Deborah and Robin – High on dance

4917589-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat does love mean to Deborah? Eschewing Paul the Boring Husband (sorry, Paul), Deborah showed her love for all things horsey, from riding to shovelling poo. Robin was THRILLED. (Almost as much as Aljaz when recounting his trip to Liverpool.) Anyhow, this packed quickstep was rough around the edges – gapping, the odd missed step, bouncing frame – but wonderfully, innately joyful, with Deborah beaming from start to finish. She is truly the anti-Patrick. If Robin can keep showcasing her superfan giddiness, they’ll be here for a while yet.

Song: “Higher and Higher”, Jackie Wilson (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Dawson and Lilia, Mark Ramprakash and Karen, Scott Maslen and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: Bruno broke out his animal metaphors: the dragon turned into a butterfly, but then she lost her neck and became a tortoise. Craig said it put a smile on his face. Darcey called it fast and furious and loved the pleasure Deborah gets from dancing, but wants more work on the frame. Len said it was her best dance to date.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28

Overall: Merry.


Natalie and Artem – 36
Susanna and Kevin – 34
Sophie and Brendan – 31
Ashley and Ola – 31
Abbey and Aljaz – 28
Fiona and Anton – 28
Ben and Kristina – 28
Deborah and Robin – 28
Patrick and Anya – 27
Rachel and Pasha – 27
Mark and Iveta – 26
Julien and Janette – 22
Vanessa and James – 20
Dave and Karen – 16

Natalie still tops the board, with Susanna and Sophie looking strong and improvement from Ben, Fiona and Deborah, joining the mass of tied couples mid-table. Dave has taken up permanent residence at the bottom. He’s even built a patio.


The smoke monster returned. Our pros were allowed to do some actual dancing (dancing! I ask you!), beautifully choreographed by the much-missed Natalie Lowe. Best of all, the number climaxed with Iveta choosing to take flight rather than attempt sensual partnering with Anton.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Ooh, not horrible! LBD with mysteriously enlarged skirt and weird sheen, but otherwise inoffensive. Suited Claudia was running late for a job interview.

In case you were still calling out for romance (I KID), Andrea Bocelli was on hand to sing “When I Fall In Love” while Aliona and Aljaz smouldered on a bench and did some dreamy spinning.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Oh. Sophie’s samba rolls slightly less impressive in slo mo
  • More ballet waffle from Darcey. Reward? Gratuitous shots of gyrating Ashley
  • Dave going head over heels in rehearsal and the judges openly howling with laughter

In the dance-off: shouty Julien and Janette (no surprise), and intense Vanessa and James (slight surprise). Both improved marginally second time round, but everyone saved Julien, again with no comments. Are they short of time? Seems a tad harsh. If we have to sit through the sodding dance-off, it would be nice to have some critique at least.

Did the right celeb go home? What did you make of Luuuuuurve Week? And who was your favourite performance? Leave your thoughts below.

Join me next week for a mercifully theme-less show. 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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