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Strictly speaking

Posted on October 28, 2013


This week on Strictly Come Casualty, Craig’s hip op gifted him a giant Bond villain sparkly throne, a garbled Bruce seemingly dipped into Craig’s meds, and from among the assorted dance injuries emerged a clutch of wildly confused dances. Has Fusion Week come early? From Spanish sambas to Vienneso dobles, with a dose of furniture removals, Week 5 felt like the choreography version of a jumble sale. Len’s “no more messin’ abaht” order was perfectly fair, but whether it can actually be obeyed and/or enforced during Halloween Madness Week remains to be seen…

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Natalie’s samba Proof that you don’t need gimmicks to wow, just great technique. And an explosion in the pink ruffles factory
  • Best costume: Karen’s five-a-day hair Closely rivalled by Darcey’s giant pick n mix earrings
  • Best move: Dave’s maraca shaking Either he was deliberately trying to find an acid jazz offbeat, or he mistook them for salt and pepper grinders. Honestly, the wobbly table has more musicality
  • Best line: Bruno’s “It’s hard being a maneater. I can do it.” Ah, Bruno




Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Navy prom dress tent with slashes from an animal attack and origami weaving, with beach hair. If you can make sense of that combo, you get a gold star. And a call from MI5.


Natalie and Artem – Pain in Spain


4993093-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalINJURY PORN KLAXON. This time poor Artem had a fractured nose, but like last week, their dance was still flawlessly performed. However… Faux Fusion Alert: Artem the one-man mariachi band seemed convinced a sombrero would get Natalie in the mood for a Brazilian samba. Yup, me neither. Also heinous: Natalie’s ruffled bustle and loofah hair. Still, this was a pleasant demonstration that fairly trad choreography delivered technically is brilliantly entertaining – cool, rhythmic movement, confident shapes, lots of manic Latin faces and just a slight lack of hip action and ungainly floor spin to stop it nailing that first 10.

Song: “Bamboleo”, The Gypsy Kings (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna, Gavin Henson and Katya)

Judges’ comments: Len wanted a tad more bounce, otherwise brilliant. Bruno found it “hypnotic, exotic, with a touch of erotic” and loved her extensions. Craig agreed with Len on bounce, but timing brilliant. Darcey, adding to the Faux Fusion confusion, said the flamenco style really suits her. (Which should help with her Mardi Gras paso!)

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Overall: Slick.


Abbey and Aljaz – Signed, sealed and delivered


4993145-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalAljaz gamely delivered a not-remotely-staged pep talk to poor Abbey, CRIPPLED with nerves, but she found a better cure in her adorable daughter, paired with a cute cat to capture that elusive child-hating/cat-loving demographic. Family prop points: +5. We had yet another moody, emo dance from the pouting beauties, who managed to suck all the joy out of foxtrot (this was the Ruby Tandoh of dances), but Abbey is assured in hold and finally starting to travel, if sticky on some of the footwork.

Song: “Dear Darlin’”, Olly Murs

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it had the feeling of “a love letter set to music”. Spinning isn’t her forte, but it was almost picture perfect. Craig loved the story and control on underarm turns, but wants an extended topline. Darcey praised the arch in her upper body and asked for more stretch in the back leg. Len called her consistent.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Overall: Atmospheric.


Dave and Karen – Trolley folly


4993261-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleWeek 2 of new improved serious Dave, and he addressed his posture problem by… dangling in a hammock like a fruit bat. Speaking of which, Karen went full Carmen Miranda with her headgear, styling and indeed choreography – back to the comedy gurning approach for this, err, salsa. With maracas. And a conga. I’m not sure if the Faux Fusion Alert even covers it. Oh, and Dave, Julian Clary called: he wants his sleeves back. Actually, no – on second thoughts, he really doesn’t.

Song: “Cuban Pete” from The Mask, Jim Carrey

Judges’ comments: Craig: “Perhaps you should have considered the possibility of remaining on the fruit trolley throughout.” Darcey noted he was out of sync the whole time. Len: “You’ve got the unique ability of never letting your left leg know what your right leg’s doing. Not top-quality dancing, but top-quality entertainment.” Bruno: “Strictly Come Dancing Presents Crackers with Maracas 2: Falling off the Trolley!” He wondered if Dave was going for a record by dancing off time constantly.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 4 – 17

Overall: Tiresome.


Deborah and Robin – Three’s a crowd


4993287-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soWhat will get Deborah back on track? Why, a chance to draw obscene symbols on the boardroom window. Ohhhh, those are scoring paddles. Right. Faux Fusion Alert: Robin decided to create a routine two parts tableography, one part Viennese waltz and one part paso glowering, with a sprinkle of flamenco. What’s happening this week? Has the Spanish tourist board engaged in some underhand “sponsorship”? Technical issues aside, Deborah delivered on the tough posturing, like a be-ruffled Angela Merkel, and I’ll definitely be calling on her next time I need to move a sofa.

Song: “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, James Brown (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jade Johnson and Ian)

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked the twist on Viennese, thought Deborah handled the turns well and wants a clearer topline. Len found the beginning “meals on wheels”, but an improvement. Bruno agreed it was good once they got moving, with improved footwork, but wants stronger posture. Craig: “You did prove you can push a table in waltz time.”

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Baffling.


Patrick and Anya – Paging A&E


4992232-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleDashing our hopes for a Starlight Express salsa, skating enthusiast Patrick’s reckless moment of engaging in fun predictably (for Casualty aficionados) ended in death and disaster. Or at least an injured wrist. This is why Patrickbot must never express happiness. Anya created a new routine with one-handed armography and lots of side-by-side action, rather than lifts and tricks, although she did throw in a sultry fan dance. Injury aside, Patrick was rhythmic but too casual, with flat-footed steps and vague delivery.

Song: “Wings”, Little Mix

Judges’ comments: Len praised them for rejigging the routine. Bruno thought he switched the performance on and off, and it was unfinished. Craig found it too stop start, lacking flow, but fantastic hips and rhythm. Darcey Pankhurst once more deployed her particular brand of feminism, praising him for taking control of Anya, but wants him to mirror her shapes.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 7, 7 – 28

Overall: Unfortunate.


Fiona and Anton – Table for two


4993492-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soAnton, shockingly, was on hand to offer Fiona some good (if obvious) advice: don’t let the audience know when you go wrong. Has this never come up in Fiona’s acting career? Perhaps that explains why “Bond girl” is still her trading card. Speak of the devil, an alarmingly mahogany Roger Moore sent a brief good luck message before their dinner. I mean quickstep. No, I mean dinner. What the hell? Faux Fusion Alert: old-school ballroom and formal dining, complete with napkin-ography. At least it wasn’t tapas. Still littered with errors, but much better performance and enjoyable old-school routine.

Song: “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity (COPYCAT KLAXON: Verona Joseph and Paul)

Judges’ comments: Bruno called it “high-spirited high society”. A few mistakes and he wants more of an arched back. Craig noted the Charleston section went awry, but they flew around the floor. Darcey channelled alliteration-happy Arlene with “Finally fabulous Fiona”. Len: “More confidence plus more focus plus more content equals more points.”

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30

Overall: Agreeable.


Rachel and Pasha – It doesn’t pay to be nice


4993531-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleOh dear. Rachel’s turning into this year’s Pendleton. It’s all very well Len saying the dance didn’t suit her, but we’ve yet to find one that does, given her well-documented issues with being sexy, elegant etc. Add “convincingly aggressive” to the list and we’ve basically covered the lot. Pasha did everything he could (acting coach, Rachel’s Chicago slicked-back hair, mesh top and egregious mullet skirt), but she was more Catherine Tate’s “Am I bovvered?” grouchy teen than feisty paso senorita.

Song: “Maneater”, Nelly Furtado (COPYCAT KLAXON: Emma Bunton and Darren. And FYI, it works better as a tango)

Judges’ comments: Craig found it stiff and unconvincing. Darcey murmured about Rachel being far too nice to pull this off (what does that say about everyone else?), but it needed to be crisper and sharper. Len thought it didn’t suit “Smiley Riley”. Bruno said he’s the real maneater; this was “the vegetarian option”. He also urged her to fight for her place.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22

Overall: Limp.


Mark and Iveta – Arise, Sir Mark


4993557-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soMark wanted to work on his elegance, so he went for a deportment lesson with someone both improbably named (Lady Henrietta, which I believe was one of the Lady Chatterley’s Lover euphemisms) and improbably dressed (tartan on tartan on tartan, somehow all clashing). Iveta treated the exercise with the silent disdain it so richly deserved. However, all that nonsense translated into a rather charming waltz, though the overemphasis on oversways meant lots of stopping and starting, and Mark did a lot of gazing into middle distance, as if pondering where he’d left his phone charger.

Song: “Apologize”, OneRepublic

Judges’ comments: Darcey was transported, and praised the improved topline and tender lead. Len likes his naturalness, though felt his frame was compromised. Bruno loved the deep feeling, but agreed with Len on posture. Craig thought it was danced “simply, effectively and with emotion”.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28

Overall: Delightful.


Ashley and Ola – Nice work if you can get it


4993583-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soAshley is the busiest person in the whole wide world! Poor Ashley, who has to work SO HARD, doing interviews, appearing on chat shows, posing for photographs… Oh. In fact, it’s possible Ashley is just the the most publicity-hungry person in the whole wide world. Ola capitalised on his, err, entertainment kudos in their jive by having him awkwardly mime with a guitar before sliding all over the floor while buffing his 1950s quiff. I’ve yet to see him nail his footwork, and the excuses about shoes were fairly pathetic, but he still has potential (and not much competition on the boys’ side of the room).

Song: “Johnny B. Goode”, Chuck Berry

Judges’ comments: Len enjoyed the speed and energy, but he lost the technique. Bruno agreed, asking for cleaner, sharper kicks and flicks. Craig thought the knee slide was ungainly, and “You have to be aware that you have feet at the end of your legs” – AKA please point your toes. Darcey liked that it wasn’t safe.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Overall: Spirited.


Susanna and Kevin – Family values


4993622-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalI’m sure Grimsby is a terribly nice place, but for some reason we were only allowed to see the station and the Cliftons’ dance studio. Still, the latter was excellent reality TV fodder, with both adorable kids and cheeky parents. “Maybe I’m dancing with the wrong Mr Clifton!” quipped Susanna as Kevin’s dad whirled her round the floor. (Sidenote: if no one has a family Clifton docu-soap in the works, why ever not? They’re the von Trapps of ballroom.) The pair opened their American smooth by ditching the brollies and flasher macs to reveal wardrobe horror: Ribena suit for him, colour-blind child’s Easter dress for her. However, we were treated to their usual pleasant ease, plus a nice heel turn and some decent lifts.

Song: “On the Sunny Side of the Street”, Benny Goodman (COPYCAT KLAXON: Tina O’Brien and Jared)

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “It’s always sun in Susanna land! You exude happiness.” He wants better extensions, otherwise great. Craig: “One word: Gorgeous.” Darcey loves the focus she gives each dance – “there’s a film star in you.” However, she wants Susanna to have confidence in Kevin when it comes to lifts. Len called it “smooth, suave and sophisticated”.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Overall: Joyful.


Ben and Kristina – Change the channel


4992425-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleBen wheeled out a champion footballer uncle to impress us, which displays a shocking lack of knowledge of the Strictly fanbase. Kristina, on the other hand, is well-versed, hence the Strictly/Friends crossover, but I found the hammy opening of their quickstep grating. Maybe it was the use of yet another furniture prop, maybe it was Ben’s forced grin, or maybe it was Kristina having to dance the whole routine with popcorn stuck in her cleavage. When they finally got in hold, Ben’s frame wandered somewhat and Kristina did some masterful back-leading to keep him in time.

Song: “I’ll Be There For You”, The Rembrandts

Judges’ comments: Craig thought he was out of his comfort zone and didn’t really lead. Darcey praised him for being light on his feet, but wants more difficulty. Len had his grumble about “messin abaht”, but he did well. Bruno asked for “the Full Monty”. It’s possible he doesn’t actually know what that means. OR HE DOES.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Underwhelming.


Sophie and Brendan – Inspiring a generation


4993674-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soSophie found the challenging cha cha speedy, so Brendan took her to a running track, mainly so we could indulge in the Chariots of Fire music. Sophie showed her level of commitment by trotting along in a giant coat. Another random opening, this time a game of hide and seek among the ginormous diaphanous curtains, and an enjoyable but unsteady dance – Sophie couldn’t style out her discomfort quite as well and didn’t get into the floor enough, but hit the odd nice line. And it’s possible that at least 10% of her errors were due to toxic green eye shadow blindness.

Song: “P.Y.T.”, Michael Jackson

Judges’ comments: Darcey loved the attitude and musicality, but she needs to work on locking her legs. Len thought it was too staged and lacked raunch. Bruno disagreed: “You don’t give out immediately – you make him work for it!” He liked the stylish feel. Craig wants her to keep dancing when she’s walking and spot on turns, but it was rather good.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 8 – 30

Overall: Respectable.




Natalie and Artem – 35

Abbey and Aljaz – 35

Susanna and Kevin – 32

Ashley and Ola – 31

Sophie and Brendan – 30

Fiona and Anton – 30

Patrick and Anya – 28

Mark and Iveta – 28

Deborah and Robin – 27

Ben and Kristina – 27

Rachel and Pasha – 22

Dave and Karen – 17

The girls are still on top, but Sophie and Patrick slip, while Fiona jumps up. There are really two competitions going on here: top half of the table (I can’t see someone like Natalie dropping further than fourth any time soon) and bottom, with the odd wild card like Ben.




Yes, that is our pros performing a loopy conceptual piece involving slutty geishas and The Karate Kid, to Beyoncé’s Halo. She never saw it coming. Who did, apart from the person who dreamed it up after a dose of bad sushi?

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Purple bodycon with yet more animal-attack slashes. Claudia vaguely complemented her in a salmon sack.

Another contemporary booking! Or not. The many members of Earth, Wind and Fire pitched up for some genial D-I-S-C-O with squawking falsetto, while the celebs vamped it up in sparkly dandruff tops and tinsel two-pieces.

Len’s lens highlights:

Sans Craig, glued to his sparkly seat. On the upside, he had the delectable Aljaz serving him cocktails. Bruno will be limping in next week, mark my words…

  • Ashley’s tricks are not exactly awash with finesse
  • Grisly slo mo of Natalie breaking Artem’s nose. “Fortunately he doesn’t need a sense of smell to dance,” observed Bruno sagely

In the dance-off: lovely Deborah, Robin and the stupid table, and one-armed Patrick and Anya. That’s just cold, people. I expected Patrick to tumble into the bottom two at some point, but INJURY PORN usually buys time (or has Cameron made us unduly suspicious of disability claimants?). And poor Deborah gets knocked out by someone with only three working limbs, which has got to sting.

What did you think of the dance-off shocker? Who did you want to go? And do you think Patrick’s days are numbered? Join me next week for (sigh) Halloween Week, featuring (sigh) increasingly aggravating Hairy Dave. 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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