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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 4, 2013


Well, look – we all know Halloween Week is godawful. There’s just no getting around it. Unfortunately, some deluded producer seems determined to keep it on the schedule, so for their sake, let us go through the top ten blindingly obvious reasons why it is an abomination and should never see the light of day again.

  1. Halloween is over At best, it’s nearly Guy Fawkes Night. So, let’s just open with a “Relight My Fire” cha cha, chuck a few Catholics on the pyre and call it a day.
  2. We’re not American They’ve given us many fine cultural exports (The Simpsons, Lady Gaga, Mandy Patinkin’s thoughtful beard) – blackmailing strangers for a free sugar rush is not one of them.
  3. Announcer Alan Dedicoat gets overexcited Give him a break. He’s only just figured out how to say “Lukosiute”. And “Kovalev” is still touch and go.
  4. Wardrobe gets overexcited Helena Bonham Carter called. She said: “GET YOUR MUCKY PAWS OFF MY DRESSING-UP BOX.” Also, the make-up had all the finesse of a six-year-old wrestling with a blunt crayon. On a moving train.
  5. Props gets overexcited Took me three rounds of scoring to figure out the paddles were meant to be ghosts. I thought The Snowman had picked up an extra holiday gig.
  6. The VTs. Oh, the VTs Other than establishing which of our pros can act (none of them, hilariously) and which of our celebs can act (none of them, worryingly), they are a painfully unfunny, squirmingly amateur blight on the show.
  7. We’ve run out of monsters The first Halloween Week, everyone got away with a dash of emo eyeliner and mutterings about Twilight. Now, we’re faced with scary…scarecrows? #reaching
  8. The ghost of Christmas future On a very good day, Bruce can find the autocue AND make sense of his cue cards. Add in a load of distractions and the whole thing falls apart. Isn’t that right, Dave? Err, I mean, Darcey? WELL, IT SAYS DAVE ON THE CARD.
  9. The (drunken 1980s disco) Time Warp We all know it was written to satirise pop songs given over to dance instructions, right? Right?
  10. The scoring gets spooooooky Even more so than usual. I mean, sure, whoever managed to embed glitter into every crevice of Ben’s pecs deserved a 9 for services to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but the dancing? Not so much, Len. More inconsistency, including the first 10s of the series to a half-Viennese waltz, half-Born Again baptism. As Patrick’s song so rightly howled, “SAVE US!”

Of course, the madness also resulted in a downright scary dance-off. For my money, Rachel wasn’t long for this world (and was overmarked this week), but I hope it’ll make people think twice about voting for Dave again. If, that is, they’re in their right minds, which is by no means a given.

Also working against him: this gleeful media storm over the backstage catfight between the apparently saintly Ola and newly demonic Karen. Take it with a truckload of salt (and consider tabloid desperation during a relatively demure series), but it may have an effect on voting.

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Natalie’s watery Viennese I would have liked more in hold, because I’m apparently turning into Len, but a beautiful number.
  • Best costume: Sophie’s ketchup pleather peplum Who knew condiment fetish was a thing?
  • Best move: Natalie drowning Artem … just days after breaking his nose. Artem, is there something we need to talk about? (See also: Rachel throttling Pasha with her sleeve.)
  • Best line: Len to Dave: “You were like a Cumberland sausage chasing the mustard.” He’s not wrong. And clearly the condiment fetish is here to stay.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Morticia SHALL go to the ball! Honorary mention for Darcey’s hair, halfway to Sideshow Bob.

Patrick and Anya – Practical magic

5035582-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: Anya’s lacklustre mad scientist. If anyone deserves the title, surely it’s Iveta? As punishment, she was stuffed into a carrot-coloured sack while Patrick battled a bedazzled shoulder growth for their lively, frenetic quickstep. Odd break in the middle for Anya’s costume change (so she could double back with her sweetie bag and hit the same houses again?), flat-footed in places and still rather messy, but a step up for Patrick.

Song: “Man with the Hex”, Atomic Fireballs

Judges’ comments: Len was bewitched by routine and performance, bothered by the lack of body contact, bewildered by the energy and speed. Bruno said their magic spell had all the right ingredients, including more content, but the frame was too loose. Craig loved the theatricality and timing. Darcey praised Anya’s choreography and the spellbinding footwork.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 8 – 34

Overall: Energetic.

Fiona and Anton – If I only had a brain

5035621-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleVT low point: Our licence fee is going to leisurely pumpkin carving. This scarecrow Charleston (her: muddy fringing; him: sack beard) was never going to be a study in refinement, nor was it – the less said about hoe-ography (ahem), the better. Still, Fiona has the OTT faces down and wasn’t afraid to throw herself into the routine, albeit in a different time stream from Anton.

Song: “Jeepers Creepers”, Al Donahue

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was too prim and proper – “Halloween at Doris Day’s house” – and they went out of sync a lot. Craig agreed, but praised the swivel action. Dave, I mean Darcey, loved the precision and cheeky character, but agreed it was off time. Len, possibly warped by constant jetlag, thought it was “a proper Charleston”.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 7 – 28

Overall: Confused.

Ben and Kristina – Grin and bare it

5035732-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: Ben hauling his cute children in front of the camera again (Family prop points: -5 for kiddie fatigue). The footwork in his topless paso would be a major cause for concern if it weren’t for the fact that NO ONE was looking at his feet. If they were, they might wonder at the gulf between his scores and, say, Mark’s, given that Ben’s technical level was disappointingly low, but lots of Kristina dramatics, including random puffs of smoke (either measuring the level of Bruno’s excitement or announcing the arrival of a new presenter).

Song: “Supermassive Black Hole”, Muse

Judges’ comments: Craig was distracted by the “machismo”, but thought it was too blocky. Darcey loved the attack, though “if you’re going to show it off, you’ve got to use it”. Len wanted more finesse, but praised the “sheer guts”. Bruno: “With all that muscle power you can out-bull the Minotaur.” He attempted to give Ben a lesson in shaping/gyrating, before falling off his chair in elation.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 9, 8 – 32

Overall: Calculated.

Sophie and Brendan – Vamping it up

5035758-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleVT low point: “Err, yeah. You know what would really help with my training? A party with my friends. ’K thanks, bye!” Can’t fault Sophie’s logic. Her “vampiric characterisation” consisted solely of her weeping blood (you and me both) during a peculiarly unfocused jive with no bounce, casual kicks, an illegal lift and an extended slo-mo chase sequence ending with her jumping Brendan behind the bins. At least buy him a drink first.

Song: “Maneater”, Hall & Oates

Judges’ comments: Darcey noted she had bent knees, so no sharp kicks, but “fabulous entertainment value”. Len praised her competence, but wants more impact. Bruno agreed it was “heavy and leggy” and lacked precision, though still stylish. Brendan, sensing imminent disaster, threw in a random thanks to the backstage team. “Vote for us, vote for the creepy severed hand props!” Actually, that might have backfired.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 7 – 28

Overall: Murky.

Natalie and Artem – Water, water everywhere

5035872-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalVT low point: Artem (one of the finest terrible VT actors) haunting Natalie by appearing in her microwave. Does that mean he has a “Defrost” setting? Perhaps not, given that their Viennese took place in a swamp of dry ice, with poor Natalie squinting through a face full of pond scum. Lovely measured movement, decent fleckerl and beautiful lyricism, though only a tantalising glimpse of dance in hold before a floor spin/siesta. Look, uber-trained Natalie’s clearly lacking a “J word”, so why not push her out of her comfort zone, i.e. less balletic movement, more pure ballroom?

Song: “Devil In Me”, Natalie Duncan

Judges’ comments: Len said it felt too much like an American smooth. Bruno was left “spellbound” by her Lady of the Lake. Craig: “You make me sick, darling. You are fab-u-lous!” Darcey called her lyricism “a dream”.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 9, 10 – 38

Overall: Impeccable.

Mark and Iveta – Lost in space

5035924-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: Awkward plug for Wicked during Mark’s flying lesson. Although it’s worth pointing out that all VT awfulness is improved by Iveta’s “You really make me do this? You know Iveta World Professional Ten-Dance champion?” deadpan. This was a sci-fi B movie in paso form, complete with astronaut Mark’s halting entrance on visible wires, Iveta’s barely-there alien seductress attire with hair shaped like a bulbous root vegetable, a spaceship borrowed from Doctor Who’s 1970s prop store and a sudden disco breakdown that can only be attributed to temporary lack of oxygen. Even better: Mark and Iveta playing it dead straight again.

Song: “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper”, Sarah Brightman

Judges’ comments: Bruno found it “more space cadet than matador”. Craig said the paso was too stompy, but the rhythm was fantastic and he didn’t mind the disco. Darcey loved the entertainment and conviction, and suggested curving arms to get better shaping. Len: “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” Long on performance, short on technique.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 6 – 25

Overall: Loony.

Rachel and Pasha – Take the rough with the smooth

5036208-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: Pasha, another of our finest terrible VT actors, dressed as a cat. Painful. The singer set the tone for their American smooth Viennese by yelping like he’d just stepped on Lego in bare feet, while Rachel seemed stymied by her wobbly Amy Winehouse beehive. Pasha cleverly played on her awkwardness with his “zombie doll lurching out of captivity” theme and managed to jostle her through the lifts. Decent in hold, but we got lots of toddler airplane arms in the side-by-side. Blame The Children That Ate, Series 11.

Song: “I Put a Spell on You”, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (COPYCAT KLAXON: Scott Maslen and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: Craig welcomed her back into the competition. Darcey agreed, but wants her to point her feet in lifts. Len called it her best dance to date. Bruno: “The zombie bride has found her mate and her mojo.”

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30

Overall: Cute.

Ashley and Ola – The devil is in the details

5036234-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: Ashley proudly admitting that he has the attention span of a five-year-old while his partner pelted him with Silly String. Thankfully, their graveyard tango was rather more serious, with strong, sharp movement and the requisite dramatic Ola floor spin. Downside: yet another dance from Ashley with good intent but clumsy footwork and wandering frame, particularly when changing direction. And Ola, hairmet with tomato feathers is not your best look.

Song: “Beautiful Monster”, Ne-Yo (COPYCAT KLAXON: Tina O’Brien and Jared)

Judges’ comments: Darcey, who may need to address some “issues”, was attracted to evil Ashley, but wants him to watch his neck in the turns. Len: “If you want to shine, you have to polish.” It was missing details, like frame and crisp footwork. Bruno said it had “menacing power”, but agreed with Len. Craig loved the aggression, but he needs to sort his head out.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 – 33

Overall: Compelling.

Abbey and Aljaz – Pipped at the post

5036073-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: Evocation of a tacky Most Haunted Live! type show. We expect better on the BBC. Abbey sadly began with ten rolls of loo paper caught in her knickers, but once she was freed by erotica magazine cover boy Aljaz (translucent blouse billowing around teak-hued chesticles), they launched into a sultry rumba that was certainly easy on the eye. However, bumpy transitions between the “sexy grabbing”, an illegal lift and lacking in emotional storytelling – no sign of Miss Havisham, unless (god forbid) Julian Fellowes has had a crack at Dickens as well. She’ll need to up her game to get back on terms with Natalie.

Song: “Stay”, Shakespears Sister

Judges’ comments: Len, taking an unspoken swipe at the perfect-10 scorer, praised Abbey for doing so well despite not having any previous dance training. Bruno thinks she’s here to stay. Craig’s one word: “Impressive.” Darcey wants her to smooth out the transitions, but loved the chemistry.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34

Overall: Comely.

Dave and Karen – Fright night

5036099-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleVT low point: Karen plugging the London Dungeon while claiming Dave can’t be scary. Huh? Did you see him with those maracas? Theirs was a jive in name only – clumsy, casual and, worst of all, underwhelming. If he can’t get the technique (which he can’t), dance in time (which he can’t), remember the steps (which he can’t) or honour the style (which he can’t), he needs a seriously high entertainment value. Karen’s gunning for it, but Dave doesn’t seem to be playing ball – in fact, he was rather chippy after the judges’ negative comments.

Song: “Monster Mash”, Bobby “Boris” Pickett (COPYCAT KLAXON: Patsy Kensit and Robin)

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “I wish there was any jive to judge.” He called it “soft-shoe shuffle mashed potato”. Craig compared it with the weather: “Cloudy, grey and dismal.” Darcey found it too sweet and flat-footed. It frightened the life out of Len, but he praised Dave for trying. Again I say: huh?

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 6, 4 – 19

Overall: Monstrous.

Susanna and Kevin – Pet rescue

5036393-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soVT low point: The entire of concept of Kevin turning into a werewolf, including Kevin dressing as a werewolf for what could otherwise have been a fab Charleston. Susanna got off lightly with a mint flapper dress, which only made his get-up look more absurd. Also distracting: the fast and furious song, which caused some untidiness and detracted from the style. Fun characterisation and bags of energy, as always, but they haven’t yet had that breakthrough from good to 10 territory.

Song: “Bad Moon Rising”, Creedance Clearwater Revival

Judges’ comments: Craig: “What I love about you is you take complete and full advantage of the freedom of expression within dance.” In other words: great faces. Darcey thought she hit some nice positions in the lifts and good swivels, but wants more crispness. Len: “Plenty of tricks and plenty of treats.” Bruno was charmed by Susanna turning the big bad wolf into a puppy and loved her side kicks.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34

Overall: Jolly.


Natalie and Artem – 38

Patrick and Anya – 34

Abbey and Aljaz – 34

Susanna and Kevin – 34

Ashley and Ola – 33

Ben and Kristina – 32

Rachel and Pasha – 30

Sophie and Brendan – 28

Fiona and Anton – 28

Mark and Iveta – 25

Dave and Karen – 19

Natalie and Dave remain bookends, while Patrick and Rachel improve and Sophie takes a tumble. Yet more ties, which might have contributed to the strange results.


Gaga. “Bad Romance”. Stripy hat boxes. Puppet bondage. Karen lip-synching with all the skill of a tipsy X Factor cast-off. I think we’ve found the “scary” part of Halloween Week.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

LBD, black jumpsuit and witchy hats to go with Tess and Claud’s mightily camp high-flying entrance. How kind of Craig to lend his broomstick.

More thematic appropriateness with a performance by Madness, featuring a psychedelic fairground and Iveta attempting sexy slinking while dressed as a futuristic jester. Don’t fight it any longer: just let the insanity wash over you.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • The judges loving the Time Warp just a bit too much
  • Len finally noticing the plethora of illegal lifts
  • Darcey demonstrating a delightfully balletic jive action. Ah, Darcey
  • Craig praising Rachel’s improvement while we watch a wonky lift
  • A slo mo of Tess and Claud’s entrance… from five minutes ago. At some point, the recapping will happen before we even watch live telly and tear a hole in the time/space continuum

In the dance-off: Rachel and Pasha (shock!), and Abbey and Aljaz (double shock!), which meant the inevitable countdown (waits for laughter) to Rachel’s exit. Clean sweep for Abbey from the judges, not surprisingly. Another riveting dance-off there.

What did you think of the shock (shock!) result? Who did you vote for? And what did you think of Halloween Week? Leave your thoughts below or come say hi on Twitter: @mkmswain

Join me next week for more crazy shenanigans and perhaps even some ballroom dancing. HEAVEN FORFEND. 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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