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Strictly speaking

Posted on December 5, 2011


Week 10

Were you playing a Tess intro movie puns drinking game? I WAS! (Not really. That would render typing impossible.) Still, I think I counted 206. Anyone? Anyone? Yes, this is “Strictly” Movie Week and the Punning Police are on standby, so no funny business. (Get it, Brucie? FUNNY business. No?)

Our pros kicked off the themed proceedings with a fun, marginally scarring retro number (Scarring moment 1: Kristina in Chelsee’s leopard-print leggings. Scarring moment 2: Bruno popping through the door from Scott and Natalie’s jive to snog Vincent. Poor Vincent. Remember your glory days of Louisa and Rachel and eyebrow flirting with Claud? Oh bella, what has become of you?)

Some deep reflections on Movie Week. Well, as deep as you can go in a bullet point:

  • If you use a song from a film, should you somehow connect the story and style of the dance to the drama and themes of that film? Or is it best to make a glancing reference, possibly in props, costuming or “hilarious” VT, and then pretend that Tarantino and quickstep are natural bedfellows and say no more about it?
  • Why put down a red carpet and then not allow anyone to walk on it? Is this a comment on the level of celebrity on this year’s show? (Wait. I answered my own question)
  • Why aren’t our couples doing two dances yet?
  • How does Singin’ in the Rain not clinch a (dance-fan) public vote?
  • Was painting Pasha green a challenge to my undying affection? If so…you lose, make-up department! Bring on the Thatcher mask!


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Argh. Attack of the killer jumpsuit!


Robbie and Ola – Back to black

robbiestruggles_sparkleA painful reminder of Robbie’s stripping, Ola’s evil eye and the bizarre choice of the British public to keep them in. But it was just as well they did or the world would never have seen Tarantino interpreted by Chippendales in the half-hearted guise of quickstep through the prism of Legally Blonde and Zoolander at a funeral. Still looking for a 2012 Cultural Olympiad opener? LOOK NO FURTHER! Ola jettisoned their winning formula by introducing many, many clothes and gangsta ponytails (no, Delilah! Don’t take away your power!), but introduced a surprise twist in the form of some ballroom steps. Oh, and there was a VT with a stand-off and a hairdryer and… No, I just can’t do it. My therapist says it’s too soon.

Song: “Little Green Bag”, George Baker Selection, from Reservoir Dogs

Judges’ comments: Robbie’s given Len a lot of pleasure this series and he has “the sportsman’s will to win”, but it’s “a bit rough around the edges”. Alesha thought it was all great, because she’s a CRAZY CAT. And she likes making Harry jealous. Bruno: “It was somewhere between Kate Moss and Russell Brand.” Craig noted that the knee pulses were out of time, it lacked swing, sway and drive, his head position was wrong and he looked like a rabbit trotting. But he liked the concept. Woo!

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30

Overall: Because Tess has crept into my soul… Straight to video.

Harry and Aliona – Riding through the glen

harrystrictly_sensationalElsewhere this weekend, on the Channel That Must Not Be Named, Harry’s bandmate McDougie loafed around in a jungle with an Essex boy and won a whole competition – without once having to put on tights and “act” in a “forest”. Ultimately, McDougie may be the wiser man. In another am-dram-meets-soft-porn VT, Harry McHood rescued Aliona, who was “tied” to a tree, and through this god-awful experience he learned the true meaning of rumba: Brendan Cole is coming for you. Thankfully, their routine was much less painful, although I was somewhat baffled by Harry’s…err… “snug” brown trousers and artfully looped scarf, which gave him the air of a metrosexual art student. Bar a couple of “run and reach” moments, this was one of the most impressive male celeb rumbas we’ve ever seen, with a lovely natural lead, but still lacking in real chemistry between the pair.

Song: “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”, Bryan Adams, from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Judges’ comments: “Rumba can break or make a man,” claimed Bruno. That’s what his father told him. And his father before. He (and Dr Seuss) thought Harry “turned something could have been tragic into a little bit of magic”. Craig happened to notice some rather nice hip action in the snug trousers area. Len (channelling pernickety Craig) thought his hands were too spiky at times. But “someone’s dreams are going to be left on the cutting room floor – and it won’t be you”. (Did Tess leave that gag on the cutting room floor?)

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36 

Overall: Date night viewing.

Alex and James – Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

alexsimply_so_soLast week the audience liked their Charleston, but then evil Craig CRUSHED THEIR DREAMS. James went Hulk. He even shocked Alex by being tough in training – because he’s been such a pussycat up till now. Her VT nonsense involved evoking Pretty Woman by squeezing into thigh-high boots and loitering by the side of the road until… Only kidding! She went shopping. Yes, that what that film’s about. Nothing to do with prostitution. Do you know what else isn’t? This lovely American smooth, where James gives her jewellery purely because she’s a lively conversationalist. Her ballroom is always more convincing, so this was a pleasant performance, but there were a few posture issues and a fluffed feather step (say that ten times fast).

Song: “Oh, Pretty Woman”, by Roy Orbison, from Pretty Woman

Judges’ comments: Bruno, wearing his special tough guy hat, told her not to worry about going wrong because she looks really, really nice. Craig thought she’d finally learned how to “put the sexy into a dance”. And all it took was jewellery. Len said it was going swimmingly until the feather step slip-up, but the lifts were great and she sold it.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34

Overall: Respectable remake.

Holly and Artem – “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my…” Oh, wait

hollystrictly_sensationalAfter another week in the bottom two, the pair are taking training very, very seriously. OK, that’s a lie. They’re learning to fence. Still, transferable life skill, right? RIGHT? In a delightful gender reversal, Holly’s swordplay left Artem partially stripped, a look topped only by his shirtless Zorro ensemble. (February in the Artem Dress-Up Calendar – available soon from the “Strictly” Shopping Channel.) Gorgeous routine with lots of flamenco and some crazy knee spins from Artem, and this was definitely the most committed we’ve seen Holly, but I’d still argue she doesn’t really convey anything in her face or carry a storyline through a dance. Also, chemistry is still off the curriculum. So, overall, definite improvement but somewhat over-hyped and overmarked. Do you agree?

Song: “The Plaza of Execution” from The Mask of Zorro

Judges’ comments: Craig: “That, my darling, must be your personal best.” He loved the shaping and skirt work, but wanted her to look up more. Len’s fortune-cookie wisdom: “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish, and you’re finishing strong.” Alesha felt she was totally in character and stepped it up a notch. (And a level. Through the roof. Out of this world.) Bruno: “Finally, you Spanish sorceress, that’s what I want!” He adored the flamenco a cappella sequence, and disagreed with Craig – “Sometimes you have to look down to build it up.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38

Overall: Sleeper hit.

Jason and Kristina – It’s raining 10

jasonstrictly_sensationalThe oldest person in the competition™ continued his tradition of bizarre, I’ll do anything antics by being continually rained on. Next week: waltzing in a clown costume, in a pit of snakes. He borrowed the wobbly tango lamppost for his opening solo, which was either very, very brave or very, very foolish in that he may have won the hearts of Gene Kelly fans or invited a raging backlash. Kristina, dressed as a lemon meringue, choreographed a fab old-Hollywood number that suited Jason perfectly. I loved their little tender moment and the overall jazz hands pizzazz-ity; it was almost, dare I say it, Grant-esque, although sadly when Jason opened the umbrella at the end, glitter didn’t fall out. (You know The Grant would have made that happen. It’s in his contract.)

Song: “Singin’ in the Rain”, Gene Kelly, from Singin’ in the Rain

Judges’ comments: Len’s expectations were high, but he loved it, praising the foxtrot footwork in particular. Alesha thought the concept was wonderful and Jason truly deserves to be in the semi-finals. Bruno agreed it was a risky number to choose, but it was a “clever tribute”, well executed, with a great Hollywood ending. Craig: “It’s getting boring now – everyone’s good.” Ah, poor Craig. Perhaps he should start scoring Bruce’s jokes?

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 10 – 37

Overall: Box office gold.

Chelsee and Pasha – It’s not easy being green

chelseestrictly_sensationalPasha noted that the level is high now, so he wants to push his “princess”. Chelsee, on the other hand, still thinks she can’t really dance. (Has this tipped over into irritating yet? Getting close.) As she hasn’t had time to watch Shrek, “Pash” took her to the West End so she could have elaborate green make-up applied and then BE REALLY SURPRISED that she’s green! Alas, it was Pasha who had the Halloween costume treatment, while Chelsee got off lightly with a lacy radioactive-green bridesmaid dress. Nice donkey cameo at the start (I like to think it was on loan from the Grant’s prop menagerie), then Chelsee launched confidently into a solo opening, followed by clean, sharp side-by-side work (Pasha’s built that up cleverly through the series) and great energy throughout. She’s never 100 per cent, Halfpenny-level perfect in her execution but she came very close, although I dock points for her blocking Pasha’s kiss at the end. It’s like she’s torturing us all.

Song: “I’m A Believer”, The Monkees, from Shrek

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “The fairy tale really has a happy ending. You’re on the fast track to the semis!” Craig found Pasha’s ears disconcerting but loved the routine, though he wanted Chelsee to pick her knees up more. Len: “If you’re not back next week, I’ll pickle me walnuts.” Alesha thought she’d found her dance.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39

Overall: Record opening weekend.


Chelsee and Pasha – 39

Holly and Artem – 38

Jason and Kristina – 37

Harry and Aliona – 36

Alex and James – 34

Robbie and Ola – 30

A surprise ascent by Holly, otherwise business as usual on a very high-scoring night – Harry fans might have been surprised to see him fourth after such a strong showing. Could we have a Jordan-off in the bottom two? My money’s on Ola – she looks scrappy.


sunday-charlestonOur pros. Charleston. The entire series’ fringe budget. Aliona reminding us of The Giant Swing. A cameo duck. Ah, yes, that’s how to kick off a show.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Where are my sunglasses? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHERE ARE MY SUNGLASSES? Tess was attacked by a merciless sequin monster, while Claud borrowed a frock from Anita’s Victorian doll dressing-up box.

The recap recapped. Len walked and talked. He’s a one-man Sorkin machine, honestly. “Budget deficit? Leave it aht!”

Safe couples: Alex and James, and Chelsee and Pasha. In the bottom two and in the EVIL RED LIGHT OF DOOM: Jason and Kristina. The studio audience was shocked, shocked and appalled! Bruno gave a moving eulogy. Hold your horses, Tonioli, he’s not gone yet.

Claudia’s in a whole new show, at least in her mind – “Strictly Come Reactions”. Fabulous idea. My suggested panel: Harry Hill, Miranda Hart and, natch, the Grant.

Beardy tenor Alfie Boe gave a Bond medley the operatic treatment we’ve all been crying out for. (Has anyone been crying out for this? Maybe calling softly? Murmuring? Thinking out loud?) It was so high voltage, our dancers weren’t allowed to play – this took Fosse-stockinged girls writhing and undulating to really convey its message. Opera is pure filth, people!

Gems from Claudia, the judges and Len’s lens:

  • Alesha’s cleavage-baring gown suggested she was running late for Junior Prom
  • Bruno switched teams long enough to ogle Kristina
  • Len had a crack at an Americanism
  • Slow mo Chelsee was amazing, but slo mo green Pasha made me weep. How could you destroy something so beautiful?
  • No, Holly didn’t look more animated in slow mo. The 10s are still mystifying
  • Claudia introduced the technical lift term “flooping”. (Filing that one next to “spatulistic”)
  • “Goodman: In Concert” will be out in time for Christmas

Final safe couples: Harry and Aliona, and Holly and Artem. In the bottom two: Robbie and Ola. It’s not too late, Ola! Get some Velcro in those trousers!

The other half of the pros broke out the swan dresses and champers for a charming ballroom Rat Pack tribute. Bruno popped a breath mint hopefully, but Vincent didn’t give him so much as a loving glance. He’s a heartbreaker, bella.

sunday-leavingBottom two chat: Jason thought of some clichés he hadn’t used yet and Kristina did some pre-emptive crying. He spouted more clichés. She cried more. Ah, that explains their bottom two-ness. Robbie claimed that Ola has magically transformed his public image, as we now have nothing but respect for him. (Are you showing the stripping clip again? And the crotch grab? Yes, there we go.)

And the couple going home is…Robbie and Ola. I look forward to his inevitable Full Monty L’Oreal ads.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you MUST watch our judges (bar Len) revealing all on Alan Carr – amazing what a difference alcohol makes. I propose a late-night spin-off: “Strictly Come Swigging”. (Note to self: pitch this to producers, in the bar.)

What did you think of the high-scoring night? Did Movie Week live up to your expectations? Who’s going to make the final? And who will be the next victim of the Brendan-ator? (“I’ll be back!”) Leave your thoughts below or contact me on Twitter at @mkmswain.

See you for the semi-final two-dance and double-elimination extravaganza (are you seeing double yet?). 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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