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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 7, 2011


Week 6

jennifer-grayWhat a difference a week makes. In contrast to the Halloween horrors, “Strictly” Week 6 had no pesky theme, no absurd 10s and no salacious moments for the Daily Mail to get worked up about – unless you count the bizarro pro dances (more on those later) and Bruno’s increasingly overt desire for pretty much all the male contestants.


How does Tess record those “amusing” theme voiceovers without stabbing herself in the eye? I hope no one was playing a Bonfire Night drinking game – you would have been comatose within the first ten seconds. (In which case, this recap will be invaluable. Hurrah! Feel free to show your gratitude with large financial donations.)

But enough of Tess. Nobody puts Baby in a corner (watermelon…hungry eyes…pickles on plates etc.). So, how did she fare?

  • We should make Jennifer Grey a permanent fixture. Not for her expertise, judging skills or effective scoring (dear god, no), but because Alesha was forced to imitate an actual ballroom judge in order to justify her position. “You guest, me proper panellist. Get it? That’s why I’m dressed as a Christmas tree ornament – SO PEOPLE TAKE ME SERIOUSLY!” Alternatively, the producers may have taken my advice – confiscated Alesha’s paddle and put her in detention. “I must not use 10s to seduce McHarry McFly…”
  • Does Jennifer have a burning desire to be loved by all? Or does she genuinely believe we score out of 100 on the British show? I’m trying to be generous here…
  • Also, she’s either a verging-on-weird uber-fan of our bronzed and bedazzled female pros or the effusive praise (“You must get down on your knees and totally worship this sexy paragon of sexy sexiness!”) was commendable sarcasm – again, I’m being generous
  • I guess the Dick Van Dyke accent was a jolly attempt to invoke the spirit of Len, but it basically sounded like she was taking the piss every time she scored. Either that or she was tipping us off that she didn’t REALLY think Audley and Lulu deserved 8s – it’s all a funny funny joke!

And another thing. Actually, two more things…

  • Are we meant to be comparing the contestants against one another or judging them against their past performances? Yes, Jason’s rumba was HIS weakest dance to date, but it was a better performance than many on the night. If Robbie had produced a rumba that decent, would he have scored 28 or would Bruno have thrown himself at Robbie’s feet, weeping with joy? (Actually, the two aren’t mutually exclusive)
  • Now, I don’t claim to be a top economist or anything, but I get the impression that this isn’t the most affluent period in our nation’s history. Does the BBC have money under the mattress? What’s with all ridiculously elaborate VTs? STAY IN THE DANCE STUDIO! Sure, some were less glam than others (James and Alex in the kiddie play park – that’s what comes of heckling Len), but really, we’re tuning in to watch a dancing show – we won’t object if you show us some, you know, DANCING

Two new penalties this week: Bafflingly Literal VT (BLVT – the “Strictly” sandwich of choice) and Shameless Vote Grabber (SVG).

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Have you ever wondered what congealed porridge would look like in body stocking lace form? Wonder no longer! And, as astutely observed by “Strictly” super-fan Vikki Jane Vile, there was some unfortunate VPL.

Worse than that (well, maybe equal), Brucie-itis is catching – now Tess can’t read the autocue either. By the end of the series, we’ll just have Russell astride a giant luminous swan, communicating the intros through the medium of multicoloured feather boa. (Note to self: pitch this to producers.)

Lulu and Brendan – Mime artist

lulustruggles_sparkleClearly Lulu’s gunning for a Nike sponsorship deal – no one owns that many baseball caps. I found the whole dancing with a mop/ballroom hybrid (mopoon, if you will) deeply disturbing, although it’s not really much more absurd than curling when you think about it. Is mopoon a surprising 2012 entry? Brendan couldn’t resist yet more stairography, whirling down the stairs like Maria von Trapp while Lulu followed cautiously, crippled equally by her constant miming and stylin’ out that mad hippie ensemble. Is it even remotely possible to sell a tango while sporting purple trousers and bangles? Our survey says: uh-uh. Sensing trouble after her giggly, error-strewn, seemingly stoned performance, Lulu did manage to get in a quick SVG in the form of the infamous “Weeeeeeeeell”.

Song: “Kiss”, Prince

Judges’ comments: Bruce made the first Dirty Dancing ref by murdering “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”. I know. I’m scarred, too. Baby herself borrowed a Len cue card: “I don’t know what they’re putting in your porridge – I want some!” She and Alesha reassured Lulu that “we all have little slip-ups”. (Subtext: “Well, not ALL. We’re both flawless champions. But, you know, other, more fallible people.”) Bruno loved the start – “Queen of mean, looking at him like he smelled”, but Lulu lost the frame and performance. Newly appointed head judge Craig pointed out poor head placement, loose shoulders, timing issues and miming.

Judges’ scores: 5, 8, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Is it time for Lulu to tan-GO? (Thank you. Thank you. I’m here all week. Tip your waitresses.)

Audley and Natalie – Take it to the bridge

audleystruggles_sparkleAudley’s been KNOCKED DOWN but not KNOCKED OUT. (Really. Tip your waitresses.) But “OMG, Viennese is hard!” Thanks, Gossip Girl. Cue the first filmic training montage of the night: Rocky! How does this relate to the Viennese? How indeed. This is actually a subliminal SVG – remember how Audley’s a super-famous boxer and we must all vote for him? No, me neither, but I applaud the intention. Outstanding literal choreo by Nat (“The lyrics are ‘I’m standing on a bridge’ – build me a bridge to stand on!”),who came dressed as a lemon sherbet put through the shredder. Or mauled by a wild animal. (Do NOT touch Robin’s éclair!) Audley remained smiley and resolutely not a dancer, Nat upped her game in the “Over here! Something shiny! Woooo!” approach to partnering.

Song: “I’m With You”, Avril Lavigne

Judges’ comments: “So delicate, so careful, so caring,” purred Bruno. He loved their connection but wanted more drive. Craig thought Audley needed to spot more, his hands needed shaping, his head position was funky and his tongue was hanging out. Jennifer thought it was “Audley (oddly) enchanting” – see what she did there?! Len’s Book of Practical Puns and Affected Analogies did not go to waste. But she wanted him to be more dynamic and take charge. Shame about those size 17 feet. Have we mentioned those? They’re Crazytown! (Twinned with Coventry.)

Judges’ scores: 5, 8, 7, 7 – 27 (Scoring déjà vu)

Overall: A for effort, as always.

Harry and Aliona – Pecs appeal

harrysimply_so_soThe pair managed simultaneous BLVT and SVG: the former in the radical “Samba is sexy – let’s have sexy samba girls being sexy with Harry!” and the latter in Harry taking his top off lots. And what do you know – that was also their routine! Harry McLost My Shirt and artfully covered Aliona looked more Pussycat Dolls than Rio at times and their lack of actual chemistry showed through, particularly in Aliona’s pole dancing segments. Was there marginally more ballroom content? Yes. Is Harry realising his full dancing potential? McHell no.

Song: “I Wish”, Stevie Wonder

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved Harry’s “pecs appeal” and the “intriguing glimpses of what your hips can do”, but wanted more abandon and flow. Craig was slightly distracted by the lost shirt (“How unfortunate,” thought Aliona. “I wanted you to concentrate solely on his ballroom technique”) and he wanted more hip action. Jennifer made a tragic attempt at cougar: “You don’t mind if I call you Harry, do you?” As opposed to…? Harold? Harrison? Mr Aliona? She and Alesha agreed he’s too cautious in Latin – cue dirty look from one of the McFlies. A gasping Bruno volunteered to give Harry private lessons. This is essentially a form of torture – dangling a toy in front of a kitten and snatching it away.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 – 33

Overall: Just OK. McSigh.

Anita and Robin – Time team

anitasimply_so_soLove that Robin truly thinks he’s gangsta. Oh yeah. Those are some mean swivels, dog. In another BLVT, the pair invoked the Bugsy Malone spirit by…re-creating a scene from Bugsy Malone. Inspired. The Charleston definitely suited their delightfully hammy style, but it was essentially the Happy Feet remix – cute and somewhat bland. If Len was here, he might have told them to spend less time messing about with splurge guns and more on timing and technique, but he wasn’t, so I had to scream it at my TV instead. (Sorry, neighbours.)

Song: “I Got Rhythm”, Gershwin (Ruthie Henshall and Kirby Wood version)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted she lost a bit of swivel action, but really brought the dance to life. Jennifer: “Now I see why you’re a national treasure!” (Is she? Step down, Fry and Lumley.) However, she needs to point her toes more. Bruno thought she evoked the 1920s jazzy party girl brilliantly, despite losing timing.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Overall: Fun but flawed.

Jason and Kristina –Whe-ee-ee-ee-ere is love?

jasonsimply_so_so“I really don’t even think about the scores” Donovan was on a high from Alesha’s 10 (despite her handing them out like sweets to trick or treaters last week), but struggled with the romance of the rumba. Cue weird and horrifying BLVT: what could be more romantic than a 1970s porn star?! (Kristina– we need to talk.) This discomfort carried over into a clinical rumba, although Jason’s technique was actually pretty good and he fared better than most male celebs do. Kristina sacrificed a bird for the occasion and hung its severed limbs from her corset, but that wasn’t enough to save them from a critical hailstorm. More birds, dammit! Sidenote: this song always reminds of the awful “singing with eyes closed” and social suicide in About A Boy. Anyone else?

Song: “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, Roberta Flack

Judges’ comments: Jennifer loved their interpretation, but wanted him to connect more to his “sexy, beautiful partner” and show more lust and “grr” (technical term). Alesha was bored. Bruno didn’t feel anything. Quick, take your top off, Jason! Craig thought it was earnest and there were too many sharp stops. Jason thanked them through gritted teeth before heading backstage for his ritual self-flagellation.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 7, 7 – 28

Overall: Not that horrendous, just not his best.

Alex and James – Swing time

alexsimply_so_so“You’re not going to talk to me at all this week. I’m just going to hammer you.” If I was feeling physically or emotionally vulnerable, I’d definitely call on James. We should make him available on the NHS. Not sure why Sergeant Jordan’s boot camp took place in a children’s playground, unless it was to give Alex literal SWING, nor why Alex paired a blue and yellow frothy monstrosity with a high ponytail (“Anyone? Anyone?”). Mind you, it was probably the hairstyle of choice for a dance that was less partnering, more James driving her round the floor like a show pony while she scrambled to keep pace. Their end fall was the only truly collaborative element in the whole performance.

Song: “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”, Duke Ellington

Judges’ comments: Alesha noted a few timing problems but said it was classy and sophisticated. Bruno thought it started out “in sparkly form, I had frissons of excitement running down my spine”, but there were timing and footwork issues, partly due to Alex getting her heel caught in her dress. Jennifer, reading from Len’s Book of Practical Puns and Affected Analogies, Chapter 3, Verses 7–9, said it was “like a fine champagne – bubbly and effervescent and you made me feel giddy”.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Overall: Pleasant, but only memorable for the fall.

Robbie and Ola –Whe-ee-ee-ee-ere is love? Part II

robbiesimply_so_soWell, if this dancing lark doesn’t work out, Robbie could always go into acting! Oh wait. The VT was meant to be his SVG by showing that Robbie is SO popular, people ask him about “Strictly” wherever he goes. The fact that it was (very, very badly) staged suggested the opposite. In other news, Ola was crowned Miss Teen Malibu Barbie and celebrated by pulling magic hankies out of her bedazzled dress. Their waltz was surprisingly restrained and…well, waltzy, so somewhere out there, Len is very happy. (Mainly because he’s sipping cocktails by the pool while Jennifer struggles with porridge gags.) This approach could go either way, given that most Robbie fans probably aren’t voting for his commitment to ballroom. Sidenote: love that Robbie essentially has two modes: “serious” (portrait shots, Lynx ads) and “Zoolander– you’re a tiger, give it to me, grr!” (action shots, extreme hair ads).

Song: “Love Ain’t Here Anymore”, Take That

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was controlled, poised, slightly heartbroken and correct, but needed more swing and musical phrasing. Craig loved the rise and fall but thought his pivots were “tense and angry”. Perhaps that was a dramatic choice, Craig? Pivots mess up his hair, the bastards! Lenifer pulled out the trad “That’s what I love about this competition” and followed it up with a confusing “It gives someone with natural grace the chance to bring it to the dancefloor”. Riiiight. Oh, and he should lavish some love on “this sexy, beautiful woman”.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 7 – 29

Overall: Attempt at proper dance commendable. End result mixed.

Russell and Flavia – Matadorable

russellstrictly_sensationalWho cares what went wrong last week? Kylie tweeted Russell the word “shimmy”, thus all is right with the universe. Now, the paso’s all about being rough and tough, so cue BLVT – Russell playing rugby, hilariously, flamboyantly, while Flavia silently showed enviable natural ability in yet another athletic pursuit. In what could be the Best Dance Intro Of The Series (so long, Venus shell), Russell donned comedy specs, polka dots and more eye make-up than is medically safe before humping a giant bull and waving his hankies in a clear homage to the Railway Children petticoat scene.The real miracle is that Flavia made it through the whole thing with a straight face. Have they outdone Sergeant? Debatable. But if this is Crazytown, Russell is its queen. And he SO needs his own show. (“The Only Way Is Gypsy”? Note to self – pitch this to producers.)

Song: “Les Toreadors” from Bizet’s Carmen

Judges’ comments: Craig’s one word: “Astonishing.” Lenifer’s been LOOKING AT HIS STARS (reaching), and if he keeps entertaining like that, he’ll be here for a while.”You really loved riding that bull, didn’t you?” sniggered Bruno. Oh, behave. He appreciated that there was proper paso content, even if it came via Benny Hill, making it “demented and fabulous at the same time”.

Judges’ scores: 4, 7, 6, 7 – 24

Overall: Back to the Russell we know and love.

Chelsee and Pasha – Driving Miss Healey

chelseestrictly_sensationalLast week was the Wardrobe Malfunction, but Chelsee’s going to “forget it and move on”. Apart from this interview. And “It Takes Two”. And now the VT. Another filmic training montage, this time Karate Kid – because the Charleston is basically wax on, wax off, right? RIGHT? Trying a different form of transport, feathery flapper Chelsee had some car trouble (possibly because she was driving half a car), so she charmed flat-capped mechanic Pasha into helping her out. Love this pair’s ability to fuse concept and dance, and their chemistry is improving every week, although Chelsee still can’t quite nail every detail of a routine. Also, given her wardrobe issues, should she really be tempting fate with a mid-dance striptease?

Song: “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?”, The California Ramblers

Judges’ comments: Prepare to groan. Jennifer: “You’re the baby of the competition, and from one Baby to another, keep dancing like that and nobody’s going to put you in a corner.” GROAN. Alesha praised Chelsee’s musicality, kicks and stamina. Bruno loved the fabulous flapper’s “pleasing and teasing” and energy – she was DRIVING (get it?) the Charleston to the limit! He also praised Pasha’s choreography. Craig thought the synchronicity was mainly excellent and the whole thing was fab-u-lous.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Overall: Another winning number.

Holly and Artem – Be cool

hollysimply_so_soIn the most absurd BLVT of the night, Artem helped Holly get to grips with the fast jive by… getting her to drive a fast car! Really, that speed will just rub off on her! Next week: they pet a bulldog before their paso. “Top Gear” madness aside, the big news was that Artem injured his leg, but being Mr Tough Russian, we were spared any “But that was yesterday. Today, disaster struck” VT nonsense or indeed any sign of human nerve endings whatsoever. The pinstriped pair’s chilled-to-the-point-of-deep-freeze jive interpretation made Holly’s perpetual Mona Lisa expression look like a creative choice (nice work, Artem), but her footwork was still disappointingly sluggish.

Song: “Runaway Baby”, Bruno Mars

Judges’ comments: “Holly, you looked exhausted!” chirped Alesha, but she thought the cool jive suited her personality. Bruno enjoyed the creative “jive with a twist and a swagger”. Craig loved the concept and that Holly finally showed some energy – apparently she’s normally too laidback and Australian. (Yes, because the other Aussies on the show – Craig and Jason – are renowned for their laidback ways.) Lenifer said they took chances and it paid off.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 9 – 34

Overall: Good performance, especially given the injury disruption.


Chelsee and Pasha – 36

Holly and Artem – 34

Harry and Aliona – 33

Alex and James – 31

Anita and Robin – 31

Robbie and Ola – 29

Jason and Kristina – 28

Lulu and Brendan – 27

Audley and Natalie – 27

Russell and Flavia – 24

Chelsee back on top, big tumble for Jason, Holly on a roll, no movement from Anita and Alex, and Russell bottom but surely performed the most memorable dance of the night.


pro-girlsTo this group number, I say HUH? Do our female pros moonlight as MTV backing dancers? That would certainly explain some of Ola’s wardrobe choices. Good thing Len’s not here; the poor man’s head would explode. But hey, maybe Beyoncé will hire them off the back of this? Yup, that’s about as likely as Jen using her 4 paddle.

Tess’ dress: impressed or depressed?

“Tess, I was re-covering my couch in cheap imitation black velvet and I had some left over.” “Hey, that’s lucky – I was wondering what I could do with these Accessorize studs, carrot heels and clashing pink lippie!” Depressed depressed. Claudia flashed her bra through a starry smock and still looked better. It’s like she’s mocking her.

The oh-so-informative recap. We had to hear Jennifer’s porridge joke again. And that Audley/oddly joke. And the Baby/baby bit. (Tick –fee paid.) More interestingly, Russell had glitter stubble. Bless! Is this the”Strictly” version of Movember?

judgesSafe couples: Anita and Robin, Holly and Artem, Russell and Flavia, and Harry and Aliona. In the bottom two: Audley and Natalie.

Oh no! Westlife are splitting up! (Wait. Were they still together? And were they really the bestselling band of the last decade?! Who made that calculation – George Papandreou?) Anyhow. They’re flying without wings. Tess’s dress is repurposed as a set. At no point does Craig fly in on a broomstick. Fail, Westlife. Fail.

Claudia, the judges and Jen’s lens (oh, Jen/Len – THAT’S why they picked Jennifer Grey! Also considered: Ken Loach, Ben Fogle and Boyz II Men):

  • “LOOK AT ME! NOT THAT BABY WOMAN! ME ME ME ME ME!” (Subtitles for Alesha’s cleavage-and-thigh-flashing banana dress with giant tropical flowers taking root in her shoulder)
  • We all love Harry’s…err…technique. Bruno: “The deltoids, darling, the deltoids.” Jennifer: “It’s tight, it’s sharp, he’s, ahem, manly…” Come out in a thong, Harry, and you’ll get 12s across the board.
  • Nothing’s funnier than a fall in slow mo. Sorry, Alex
  • Bruce must be the first ever dancing stalker. Watch out, Holly
  • Bruno actually attempted to critique the Grant’s hankie waving. For shame, Bruno. That man just saved a trainload of passengers

Argh. Brucie singing ambush! Isn’t this torment (err…treat) normally reserved for the final? At least Erin and Katya got a chance to wear their extra-special herd-of-flamingos horrors and try out the new Farrah hairspray.

Final safe couples: Alex and James, Chelsee and Pasha, Robbie and Ola, and Jason and Kristina. In the bottom two: Lulu and Brendan. Discounting the Grant (who’s in a league of his own, let’s face it), that’s the two leaderboard lowest. Nevertheless, Bruno is panto SHOCKED that Lulu’s in the bottom. Drama! It’s all kicking off! Don’t switch over to “X Factor”!

pro-boysOh dear. Who thought those shiny stretch trousers were a good idea? Come on, own up. There’s no way our male pros are feelin’ good in those. But this should warm the hearts of all wannabe “So You Think You Can Dance?” – if you work very, very hard and actually win the show, you can be a stand-in for injured Artem in a faintly embarrassing stretchy trousers number. Living the dream, Matt Flint?

Sidenote: why are the pro boys and girls separated this week? Either someone’s been rather naughty or Kara’s seething jealousy has reached new levels.

So, Audley wants to stay in because “Strictly” is good for the waistline, while Lulu’s stepped into a DIFFERENT UNIVERSE. And yet the couple going home is…Lulu and Brendan. (That sound you hear is a million tabloid editors cursing and deleting their “knocked out” headline. Its time will come.)

Did Audley deserve the reprieve? What did you think of Jennifer’s judging? Will Harry ever keep his shirt on? And who’s becoming a serious contender?

See you next week for more Crazytown fun and games. In the meantime…keep dancing!

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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