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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 11, 2013


Week 7, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. Claudia!
2. No theme!
3. Actual dancing!
4. Bye bye, Dave!
5. After 10 million references to Blackpool, Darcey still confused it with Brighton! (I can’t judge – I’m hazy about anything outside Zone 2.)

However, the Natalie Lowe Casualty Curse continues to wreak havoc, this week descending upon Other Natalie and sweet sad Artem, who got to deliver the sombre news while dressed in a paisley shirt and sparkly braces. Honestly, I’m just surprised she wasn’t carted off in a bedazzled wheelchair – I can only imagine a panting crew member wielding a sack of sequins and a hot glue gun arrived seconds too late. Get well soon, Natalie, and bring us that Tina Turner jive!

In other news, the Blackpool bus has only nine seats – either a depressing example of arts cuts or stealth support for HS2.

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Susanna’s waltz Perfect balance of basics and flashy content, beautifully restrained and sincerely performed.
  • Best costume: Iveta’s eye-watering catsuit Unfamiliar with the Bond oeuvre, she took a literal approach in her styling. “What? Iveta dress as gold finger. Iveta always right. IVETA TEN-DANCE CHAMPION.”
  • Best move: Claudia’s interpretation of the monkey step Has anyone ever done a Jungle Book Charleston? Give it time.
  • Best line: Let’s mosey on over to…

Claudia’s corner

  • Claudia (wearing a bald cap) to Iveta (one bead of sweat away from permanently merging flesh with spandex): “Tell me you wear that to the supermarket.”
  • To Ben: “When you started, you really couldn’t move and now you can!” And “Literally can’t stop touching him.”
  • “If you want to see what Fiona and Anton get up to in Blackpool, I think it may involve a mosh pit.”
  • To Kevin: “You are dance royalty. If we go to Blackpool with you, can you just get us anything we want? Like we want donkeys, we want green rock?”
  • To Susanna, who was having a slightly luvvie “It’s all so surreal” moment: “This isn’t real. It’s an elaborate home video.”
  • And honourable mention: the list of wonderfully terrible Bond puns, followed by Tess delivering a link in Blofeld’s chair. This is why we love Claudia – everyone is more fun when she’s around.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Matronly woollen blue shroud, with incongruous Angelina Jolie split. Claudia went for her usual black and skin the colour of glazed teak.

Ben and Kristina – Able seaman

5079606-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soThis canny couple continues to play the game better than anyone else. This week: courting the rugby vote/casual viewer lust with athletic training montage, cosying up to Olympic hero/Strictly champ Louis Smith, throwing in a crowd-pleasing trick, both dressing as sailor strip-o-grams. Just as well, given that their jive was more fudged lindy hop, with loose kicks and erratic timing, but decent effort.

Song: “Jump, Jive an’ Wail”, Louis Prima (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was “mostly smooth sailing”, but a bit of a trifle – “fruity up top, sponge down the bottom.” Bruno had “an irresistible urge to join the navy” and loved the intensity, but Ben had “sea legs”, lacking sharpness and pointed toes. Craig said the best part was the opening back somersault. Too leaden, but then he is “carrying some very heavy equipment”. Darcey disagreed, liking the energy and attack.

Judges’ scores: 4, 7, 8, 7 – 26 (Really, Len? And you have a strop when the audience doesn’t vote purely on dance ability?)

Overall: Competent.

Fiona and Anton – Knowing me, knowing you

5080273-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleOh honestly, VT, why are we worrying about Fiona finding her inner señorita when matador Anton’s parading around in a biscuit-coloured V-neck jumper? She actually turned in an OK performance, with requisite haughty paso expression and earnest skirtography, but the Alan Partridge of Strictly went wrong, very obviously, slammed her into a clumsy floor spin and scarred me for life with his knee slide. I’m not sure which was more alarming – his crotch hurtling towards the camera or the fact that his hair didn’t move an inch.

Song: “Song 2”, Blur

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Thank god I have to score her, not you!” Liked her aggression and “cranky” skirt work, better timing than her partner, but lost her Spanish line and lacked flamenco. Craig agreed, and found it “indifferent, average, vanilla, adequate but forgettable”. Darcey thought she created a “dramatic diva”, but agreed about her shaping. Len enjoyed the “wafting” and did see some flamenco, but wanted more “wow”.

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26

Overall: Unfortunate.

Abbey and Aljaž  – You can leave your hat on

5080286-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalAljaž decided to get his partner in the jolly Charleston spirit by taping her mouth shut and drawing on a lipsticked leer more chilling than the Joker. Jolly jolly! But Family prop points: +5 for judicious use of helpfully adorable daughter. Wardrobe stuck Abbey in a crooked wig and bubblegum-pink negligee, but she coped well with a detailed jazzy number and inevitable dropped hat moment. If I’m being picky (how unlike me!), it lacked dynamic, accented characterisation, plus side-by-side Fosse requires an insane level of precision – this was close, but not quite there.

Song: “Cabaret” from Cabaret (COPYCAT KLAXON: Aled Jones and Lilia, Peter Shilton and Erin)

Judges’ comments: Craig loved the attention to detail. Darcey enjoyed the fast leg action, ease with the prop and great monkey step. Len thought it went back to the 1920s, throwing in a groan-worthy “Downton Abbey”. Bruno said she combined “the allure of Louise Brooks and vivacity of Liza Minnelli”.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Overall: Exuberant.

Mark and Iveta – Bonded for life

5079528-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleThis will go down as one of the great Strictly odd-couple partnerships, encapsulated by Mark practising extravagant shapes while Iveta absently sings “I’m sexy and I know it”. Yes, there is total madness, but also appreciable effort – more Russell Grant than Widdy. However, this week the theme rather overtook the dance. We did get some rumba basics, but it’s hard to buy any kind of romantic connection when Mark’s styling is somewhere between Dr Evil and Kim Jung-un. Fab performance intensity, as always, but jarring.

Song: “Goldfinger”, Shirley Bassey (COPYCAT KLAXON: Denise Lewis and Ian)

Judges’ comments: Darcey wanted him to stroke the floor with his feet like he stroked his cat. Nice lines and interesting story, but too bitty. Len thought it lacked hip action, but praised his hard work. Bruno enjoyed the characterisation, but needed more flow. Craig said his arms were good, but his hands were like “wet spatulas” and transitions needed to be smoother. “The concept saved the dance.”

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 5 – 23

Overall: Peculiar.

Susanna and Kevin – A fine romance

5081023-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensational“I’ll see your Louis Smith, and I’ll raise you Chris Hollins! And, err, this weirdly giant plant!” The Breakfast club bonded, bland advice was bestowed, and Susanna was fired up for a really gorgeous waltz. Hard to make it stand out amongst the Charlestons and tangos, but Kevin did a great job of creating a musical routine with stirring accents (pivots! More pivots! And they brought friends!), controlled hesitations and lovely movement round the floor. Minor detraction: while he got tails, Susanna was stuck with Barbie’s feather-fest Miss America gown.

Song: “You Light Up My Life”, Debby Boone (COPYCAT KLAXON: Julian Clary and Erin, Gavin Henson and Katya)

Judges’ comments: Len dismissed Paxman’s derogatory comments about newsreaders doing Strictly by telling Susanna: “You light up my life, and you lit up this ballroom.” Bruno praised the timeless elegance and heavenly spins. Craig loved the hesitations and full circle of pivots – “absolutely gorgeous”. Darcey praised the precision in tumble turns and strong frame, but wants Susanna to stretch even further.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Overall: Enchanting.

Dave and Karen – Burns Night

5080390-low-strictly-come-dancingstruggles sparkleJoy of joys. Faux fusion has returned. Dave worked on his passion/courted the Scottish vote by wearing a kilt… for the tango. However, this did lead to Gloriously Unconvincing Line Reading of the Week from Karen, on tasting haggis: “Mmmm. Passion. Fire.” Wardrobe managed three clashing tartans – two for Dave, one for Karen’s skirt-cum-picnic blanket – and Dave honoured the tenuous theme by giving his best drunken Glaswegian looking for a fight: stompy weaving, flared nostrils, putting his partner in a headlock. If this doesn’t settle the Scottish independence question, I don’t know what will.

Song: “(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles”, The Proclaimers

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Too much haggis and not enough Argentina! John Sergeant all over again.” He conceded it was “very, very funny”, which elicited more Dave chippy backchat. If he genuinely believes he’s Gene Kelly, he may have bigger problems. Craig to Karen: “You could now write a book on how to survive a grizzly bear attack.” Hands hideously splayed, but some tango in there. Len: “Normally a bit of leg and a flash of knicker turns me on. Now I know why you’re called the hairy biker. You’re unforgettable, unpredictable and unmissable.”

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 4 – 20

Overall: Grim.

Ashley and Ola – Quick fix

5080416-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soOla addressed her partner’s posture problem by visiting the Hollyoaks set and picking out a new soap hunk with a better frame. Bad Ola! A D-list actor is for life, not just for Christmas! Somehow this translated into a much-improved topline in their slightly bland quickstep, though constant gapping and Ashley’s head position is still strange, but good drive throughout and the fact that he had the strength to support both Ola and her flock of flamingos bodes well.

Song: “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, Jet

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his consistent performance and improved posture. Len loved that he kept the energy up and made a somewhat laboured pun about the dance being Ashley Taylor Dawson tailor-TAYLOR-made (geddit? Geddit?) for him. Bruno said they were “skimming around like two dragonflies in a dance of courtship”, and frame, footwork and timing all better. Craig wants him to work on the gapping and footwork occasionally impacted on upper body, but fantastic energy.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Overall: Spirited.

Sophie and Brendan – Same difference

5080429-low-strictly-come-dancingsimply so soFirst Argentine tango of the series, and Brendan wants more passion and attack. So do we. Sophie’s cool insouciance is perfect for some dances (well, mainly the Charleston that everyone’s still talking about) and comically juxtaposed with others (disco samba), but to go further she needs to find more variety or at least fake it better. Their tango had simmering intensity and intricate lifts with wonderful shapes, and Sophie looked the part in her red-hot dress, but there was more sexual tension between Brendan and the chair than between her and Brendan.

Song: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, Tanghetto version (COPYCAT KLAXON: Louisa Lytton and Vincent, Russell Grant and Flavia)

Judges’ comments: Len loved the choreography and storytelling, but wanted more passion. Bruno liked the “high-class courtesan” vibe and great lines, but “sometimes a bit of dirt doesn’t hurt” – more variety in characterisation. Craig spotted a few unstable moments, but loved the hook spin lift. Darcey agreed, and wants to see Sophie in Brighton. Oh, Darcey.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Overall: Frustrating.

Patrick and Anya – Golden oldie

5080230-low-strictly-come-dancingstrictly sensationalAnya celebrated her partner’s 50th by throwing him the world’s saddest surprise party. No, really – it was just her and a banner. And some soggy crisps. All it needed was Karen and her haggis cheer to tip it over the edge. Anyhow, their American smooth was a much chirpier affair – lovely old Hollywood glam, elegant musicality, great accents and decent lifts, though Anya did a lot of the work and the last one was a hot mess. (Note to Darcey: glaring errors do not equal perfection, mm-kay?)

Song: “It Had to Be You”, Harry Connick Jr (COPYCAT KLAXON: Patsy Palmer and Anton, Michelle Williams and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the transitions from jazzy sequences into restrained foxtrot, but bemoaned the fudged lift. Craig called him the best male celebrity in the competition, which… damning with faint praise, but OK. Darcey said he oozed style and showed no weaknesses in the lifts. Len: “As Henry VIII would say, take him to the tower – TOWER BALLROOM!” Did Len inherit Brucie’s joke writers?

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 9, 9 – 37 (Sidenote: Patrick’s total lack of reaction to Darcey’s strange 10 almost made it worthwhile.)

Overall: Splendid.




Patrick and Anya – 37

Abbey and Aljaz – 36

Susanna and Kevin – 36

Ashley and Ola – 35

Sophie and Brendan – 32

Ben and Kristina – 26

Fiona and Anton – 26

Mark and Iveta – 23

Dave and Karen – 20

With Natalie away, Patrick became a surprise new leader, while Ben slipped and Dave stayed at the bottom.




Remembrance Day pro number: 1940s pilot costuming in Thunderbirds blue and an army that wouldn’t protect our nation so much as teach the enemy rockin’ jazz hands.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Tess wearing an awkwardly crocheted napkin, Claudia an off-white sack.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Feathers in slo-mo pivots truly mesmerising. Oh, and Susanna looked good too.
  • Darcey defending her 10 while Len gives her major side-eye.
  • Craig finding more to nitpick watching Sailor Ben and incurring Len’s wrath. Apparently Len is the non-judgemental judge…

The Tenors gave us a bland cover of “Forever Young”, accompanied by Aljaž and Janette doing some wafty lyrical in wafty white clothes. It’s not that the wafty lyrical doesn’t work for Our Unfeasibly Attractive Pros, but we’ve had rather a lot of it this series.

In the dance-off: Dave and Karen, and Mark and Iveta – a return to conservative voting after last week’s shock (shock!) result. Dave stompy and slightly miffed; Mark hurling in random hip rotation, just in case anyone’s actually looking at him. All saved Mark, apart from (non-judgemental judge) Len, who had a strop about Mark’s mistakes. I wouldn’t pick a fight with Iveta in Bond girl mode, Len – I’m guessing she can kill a man and “make it look like accident”.

What did you think of the result – and Len’s comments? Will you miss Dave’s “comedy”? And did Patrick earn that 10? Leave your thoughts below or visit me on Twitter: @mkmswain

Join me next week for… erm… Basingstoke? Birmingham? Bolton? It’ll come to me. 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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