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Strictly speaking

Posted on October 22, 2012


Week 3

Hollywood Week on Strictly was the equivalent of a resolutely reformed character falling off the wagon. Cardinal sins included:

    • The return of the horrific “comedy” VTs and gimmicks. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
    • A disappointing lack of content in some routines. Still, this gives us the opportunity to play a brand-new game: “Spot the ballroom!”
    • Plagiarism galore, with reused songs, ideas and steps. These will be heralded with the COPYCAT KLAXON
    • Schizophrenic scoring. After a wonderfully restrained start to the series, the judges jumped the shark – some couples still got appropriate Week 3 marks, others were wildly overscored



I still don’t understand the opening to the show. Can anyone explain it? The feathered fans suggested Vegas rather than Hollywood and Ricki-Lee Coulter’s “U Wanna Little of This” has only hit the silver screen as a closing-credits track for that cinematic masterpiece…Sex and the City 2.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Ooh, not horrible! Clearly tinfoil is the way to go. And the slipping shoulder straps added a layer of tension to proceedings.

Fern and Artem – Spoonful of sugar

00fernstruggles_sparkleA thing with a bag and some chimneys… oh, I’m not going to dignify it with comment. Artem, attired in a striped blazer and boater, sadly didn’t punt onto the floor, but he created another adorable number for his partner, one which answered the immortal question: what is the dance equivalent of the postprandial stroll on Hampstead Heath? Thus this classy but ambulatory Charleston takes the evening’s first “Spot the ballroom!”

Song: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins

Judges’ comments: Len labelled it “Jollywood”, but wanted more content. Bruno thought it was “prim, proper and extremely nice”, but needed more pumping. (Steady.) Craig noted a lack of swivels and laboured footwork, but liked the back jazz split. Darcey’s mic wasn’t turned on. What a brave editorial decision.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23

Overall: Sweet, but insubstantial.

Victoria and Brendan – Lost at sea

00victoriastruggles_sparkleWeek 3 and Victoria still carries an air of sufferance, as though the fate of a kidnapped relative rests with her battling through another agonising dance. Brendan distracted manfully with his gratuitous (though, um, effective) naval uniform and solved her skirt-caught-on-heel crisis, but their rumba was woefully lacking in emotion. Unless we take Victoria’s attempt to throttle him with chiffon and blue-and-white-striped dress as clues to the dance’s real message: Scotland struggling against the imperial yoke of its oppressor. Oh and COPYCAT KLAXON: Julian Clary did An Officer and a Gentleman.

Song: “Up Where We Belong”, Joe Cocker, from An Officer and a Gentleman

Judges’ comments: Bruno applauded the effort, but thought she “nearly boiled over”. Craig saw an actress emerge and a glimpse of hip action, though wasn’t keen on the drag. Darcey loved the sensuality and offered tips on refining her hands. Len stuck doggedly to an increasingly confused extended bike metaphor, which stopped just short of the requisite doping scandal.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 7, 6 – 22

Overall: An OK attempt.

Michael and Natalie – Hot mess

00michaelstruggles_sparkleCOPYCAT KLAXON: Darren Gough’s cha cha track, Gavin Henson’s uncomfortable stripping. And why exactly did Michael strip down to cricket kit – is he hoping viewers subliminally sense he wants to go home and not vote for him? A few cha cha steps made it through, otherwise this was notable for its unintentional hilarity – Natalie’s increasingly manic skirtography, Michael nearly knocking over a chair and the juxtaposition of “sexy” music and… well, Michael dancing. As India Knight tweeted: “He’s made of wood below the waist.” Ahem.

Song: “Hot Stuff”, Donna Summer, from The Full Monty

Judges’ comments: Craig: “Hot it was not.” Timing issues and he “landed on 2 like a felled tree. Latin is not your dance.” Darcey, queen of the backhanded compliment: “I enjoyed it, because your top and lower body were at least connected.” Len praised his basics. Bruno wanted the Full Monty (just you, Bruno) and urged him to listen to the music.

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 6, 4 – 19

Overall: Painful.

Jerry and Anton – Strange bedfellows

00jerrystruggles_sparkleIf you missed Jerry playing Mrs Robinson on stage, here’s your chance! Yes, there’s some jogging interrupting now and again, her Benjamin is a middle-aged Rob Brydon doppelganger dressed for the golf club dinner and she’s had to compromise with the Strictly wardrobe department on her vampy M&S dressing gown ensemble, otherwise it’s marvellous. Quickstep… Oh, yes, quickstep. Well, there were some quick steps. Will that do? (Sensing imminent doom, Jerry played her Jagger Joker: “We’re dancing to ‘Paint it Black’ next week!”)

Song: “Mrs Robinson”, Simon and Garfunkel, from The Graduate

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked that she told the story, but she faded towards the end. Len, brand loyalist, shunned Downton and said it was like Upstairs, Downstairs: “Upstairs lots of problems, downstairs you’re neat and tidy.” Because we’re very adult, we’ll nod sagely at this summation of her posture and footwork and ignore any other connotations. Craig thought the whole thing would have been better hidden behind the screen.

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 5, 4 – 18

Overall: Can’t she just talk? I love hearing her talk.

Sid and Ola – Rock bottom

00sidstruggles_sparkleStrictly has a highly developed warning system, a dancewear version of DEFCON. Responsible citizen Ola realised Sid the tangoing rock star was a disaaaahster waiting to happen, and thus she did don her catsuit and warn the townspeople to flee from the beast, adding a bustle for good measure. Everything about this was painful. The camp pirate mullet wig. The sweater vest. The woeful air guitaring. Sid’s shell-shocked expression. Oh and “Spot the ballroom!”

Song: “Here I Go Again”, Whitesnake, from Rock of Ages

Judges’ comments: Len wanted more staccato and aggression. Bruno likened him to Les Dawson trying to be Van Halen. Craig: “Stompy, clompy, clumpy.” (Three of the lesser-known dwarfs). Tess yelped out a vague compliment: “That’s certainly the most original tango we’ve ever seen!”

Judges’ scores: 4, 4, 5, 4 – 17

Overall: Horrendous.

Kimberley and Pasha – Happy feet

00kimberleystrictly_sensationalThank god. Getting the evening back on track, Nimble Kimble (inexplicably wearing a bra and giant skirt) gave us a light, airy quickstep after a meet cute with Pasha on a bench. It was a bit scrappy in parts and there was some gapping, but it travelled beautifully, her posture is improving and she completely sold the sweet, kooky romance. Sidenote: what made The Strictly Times? Does Craig have an agony aunt column? Does Russell Grant do horoscopes? IS IT MURDOCH ON THE DANCEFLOOR? (Sorry. I’ll stop now.)

Song: “Get Happy”, Judy Garland, from Summer Stock

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Now we’re in business!” She captured the spirit of the song and her frame was much better. Darcey praised the attack, light steps and top hold (err, topline). Len, who randomly slammed her last week, gave “good news from Goodman”, though wants them to fix their hip connection.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29

Overall: Fun and uplifting.

Denise and James – Playdate

00denisestrictly_sensationalCOPYCAT KLAXON: Hope Solo and Maks did a Toy Story foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars. Also, why was James dressed as Woody, but “cowgirl” Denise swamped in a giant blue skirt and sparkly bustier? Another accomplished number with lovely movement across the floor and a spot-on performance, but such early perfection has turned off voters in previous series. Sensing this loss of empathy, Denise hastened to expose her hidden well of crippling nerves. That was a less-convincing performance.

Song: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, Randy Newman, from Toy Story

Judges’ comments: Craig praised her posture, control and acting. Darcey loved the clean turns, but wants more of an edge! In a cutesy foxtrot! OK… Len gave her a “verbal pat on the back”. Bruno thought they set up the story beautifully and balanced that with a beautiful foxtrot.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Overall: Another strong dance.

Colin and Kristina – Skyfall from grace

00colinstruggles_sparkleMAJOR, SACRILEGIOUS COPYCAT KLAXON: Mark and Karen’s beloved Argentine tango to GoldenEye. This plagiarism felt like an act of desperation on Kristina’s part, as she stalked Colin to Canada and wrestled only a few hours’ rehearsal out of him. That desperation extended to the performance: Colin, courting Bond votes in a tux; Kristina, naked from certain angles, her minimalist dress an astonishing feat of engineering; eye-catching, legs-akimbo tricks; Kristina flying around like a whirling dervish, using Colin as a rather dashing pole. A wasted opportunity, and “Spot the ballroom!”

Song: “GoldenEye”, Tina Turner, from GoldenEye

Judges’ comments: Darcey wanted a much dirtier spy, and more risks! Kristina, who spent two minutes contorting upside down, gaped in disbelief. Len was “more shaken than stirred” – it was well acted, but not enough tango. Bruno liked Colin’s badassery and he coped with Kristina throwing herself at him, but also wanted more dancing. Craig, oddly, thought it was authoritative and dominant with great lifts.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 6, 6 – 26

Overall: Big step backwards.

Richard and Erin – It’s off to work we go

00richardsimply_so_soAn entire VT built on a pun! Dreadful as this was, you have to salute the commitment to verbal gags. Richard doesn’t work 9 to 5 – he works 5 to 9, in the morning! Geddit? Erin, forced out of bed to witness his inane ITV segment, thought it was HILARIOUS. Between the blonde wig and the face pulling, Richard hovered uneasily between Jimmy Savile and Kenneth Williams this week, but did at least cope well with a traditional Erin quickstep. Poor Erin wore the expression (and power suit) of a put-upon Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, so at least her pain was appropriately themed.

Song: “9 to 5”, Dolly Parton, from 9 to 5

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was mincing on occasion, but otherwise bright and lively. Bruno was expecting Dollywood (it was unclear whether he was disappointed not to get it), but praised his improved frame and footwork. Craig didn’t mind it. Hallelujah! Darcey called it his best dance so far.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 6 – 25

Overall: Respectable.

Dani and Vincent – Puppy love

00danistrictly_sensationalHas Dani been moaning about ballroom shoes for the past month just so we could have a ruby slippers gag? That’s serious forward planning. Everything about their foxtrot was adorable, from her pigtails and baby-blue cotton-ball dress to Vincent’s charming, understated and thankfully much less frantic routine. But of course, everyone was upstaged by the real-life Toto, who sadly didn’t join in the dancing. Where’s Pudsey when you need him?

Song: “Over the Rainbow”, Judy Garland, from The Wizard of Oz (but they used the Eva Cassidy version)

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Friends of Dorothy are going to be so pleased!” Truly, that should be Strictly’s tagline. He loved the romanticism and lines. Craig adored the routine and praised her turns (though she still looks down). Darcey liked the control and smoothness. Len told her to walk down the yellow brick road straight into next week.

Judges’ scores: 7, 6, 8, 8 – 29

Overall: Quietly beautiful.

Lisa and Robin – Ray of light

00lisastrictly_sensationalCan we take a moment to salute Robin’s rehearsal attire? The king of daringly low-cut vests isn’t afraid to layer up with a see-through shiny cardie. Love him. Returning to the camp joy of their cha cha, this perfect pair brought boundless energy, synchronicity and spot-on musicality to their naughty jive, though her basics were a little rough and it was arguably light on traditional content. But so much fun! And Robin wore yellow suspenders! And a red tie! And a blue hat! It was a primary colours extravaganza!

Song: “Hanky Panky”, Madonna, from Dick Tracy (Nope, me neither)

Judges’ comments: Craig loves how she always sells the number. Darcey was entertained, but her jive lacked spring and bounce. Len thought she captured the feeling of jive, if not the technique. Bruno thought it was vibrant and light, “like a breath of fresh air”.

Judges’ scores: 8, 6, 7, 8 – 29

Overall: Wonderful entertainment.

Nicky and Karen – The masked avenger

00nickystruggles_sparkleCOPYCAT KLAXON: track used by Helio and Julianne on Dancing with the Stars and in a tricks-galore number by Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and Derek. (And we call Denise a ringer!) Nicky, slathered in the face paint scraped off Shrek Pasha, finally showed a spark of personality as he manically embraced his Mask character, banana trousers and all, but his actual quickstep was confused and laboured. Sidenote: yet another outing of the table and chairs. Did we blow the props budget on last week’s wobbly lampposts?

Song: “Hey Pachuco”, Royal Crown Revue, from The Mask

Judges’ comments: Darcey loved the energy and attack, though his top half needs control and his knees were bent. Bruno thinks he needs a mask every week to help him perform and he led well, but again bent knees. He’s starting to win over Craig, who loved the characterisation, but it was more like a tango because of…you guessed it, the bent knees.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Memorable, but messy.

Louis and Flavia – Dance déjà vu

00louissimply_so_soCOPYCAT KLAXON: well, we’ve seen this about 103 times. The re-created training montage. “I carried a watermelon.” And, in a chilled week for Flavia choreography-wise, a step-by-step copy of the iconic salsa-based routine. Yes, you get instant audience delight by associating yourselves with something so popular, but you also set up comparisons – in this case, rather unflattering. This was a limp cover version, like the recent remakes of Fame and Footloose: the same formula, glossy and good-looking, but no soul. Unless Flavia seduces Louis off camera sharpish, the hot favourites could slip.

Song: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, from Dirty Dancing

Judges’ comments: Len praised the lifts, but the actual salsa lacked attack and wasn’t oily enough. Bruno thought it was just like the film, including The Lift, and salivated happily. Craig called it contained and understated with good hip rotation. Darcey wants him to be freer and suggested a nightclub field trip. Bruno volunteered his services.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 6, 8 – 30

Overall: Accomplished, but emotionally lacking.


Denise and James – 32

Louis and Flavia – 30

Kimberley and Pasha – 29

Dani and Vincent – 29

Lisa and Robin – 29

Nicky and Karen – 27

Colin and Kristina – 26

Richard and Erin – 25

Fern and Artem – 23

Victoria and Brendan – 22

Michael and Natalie – 19

Jerry and Anton – 18

Sid and Ola – 17

Same top half as last week, with a big fall for Sid and climb for Nicky. James Jordan finishes on top and his wife on the bottom, which I’m sure is no comment on their domestic arrangements.

What do you think of the leaderboard? There was some bizarre scoring going on; for my money, Nicky, Victoria and Jerry (and probably Lisa, much as I love her) were generously marked, while Dani and Kimberley were perhaps underscored – note that Len gave a 7 to Victoria, Nicky and Kimberley.


00anton and tomAnton, Erin and a flock of flamingos quickstepped to “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, before he jettisoned her to join controversial Strictly champion Tom Chambers and the tapping cast of Top Hat. We all feared Bruce’s imminent arrival, before remembering that Tess’s Sunday partner in crime is Claudia –and, judging by her gloriously awful Len’s masterclass It Takes Two performances, she wasn’t strapping on her tap shoes. (Ah, those were the days. Watching Zoe cling to Ian and the past is funny in a much bleaker way.)

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Was the unflattering gold two-piece meant to evoke an Oscar? It felt more like Mrs C-3PO’s casual Friday office ensemble. With inbuilt flak jacket. In the 1980s. Claudia stuck with black.

Another behind-the-scenes endless recap. James and Vincent did The Lift. Claudia played with Louis’s ball. Hilarious shenanigans all round.

Safe couples: Kimberley and Pasha, Louis and Flavia, Nicky and Karen, Sid and Ola, Colin and Kristina, and Dani and Vincent. In the dance-off: Jerry and Anton.

Claudia, the judges and Len’s lens

  • Yes, the dog is cute. Please don’t introduce Pet Week
  • Len defended his 6 for Louis. As the only member of the panel who doesn’t fancy him rotten, he’s clearly in a minority
  • Darcey has an imaginary friend

More safe couples: Denise and James, Fern and Artem, Lisa and Robin, (weeping) Victoria and Brendan, and Richard and (game face) Erin. In the dance-off: Michael and Natalie.

The legendary Dionne Warwick, a startlingly classy booking, performed “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me”, accompanied by jiving, uber-sparkly Pasha and Iveta, the latter shaking an actual tail feather. Gotta love the literal minds of Strictly’s dancewear designers.

After a nervy, painful dance-off, which did nothing to sell the enterprise to dubious viewers…

  • Craig saved Michael for slight improvement
  • Darcey saved Michael, reasoning unclear
  • Bruno chastised both for myriad mistakes and saved Jerry
  • Len agreed the pressure got to both, mistakes abounded, and saved Michael

00jerry leavingMichael lives to strip another day.

Well, I shall miss Jerry, if not her dancing. And an early exit for Anton, but at least that Top Hat audition seemed to go well! If I were Tom Chambers, I’d hire a food taster.

Next week, the madness continues with fright night (and that’s just the costumes). What do you think? Were the right couples in the bottom two? Did you agree with the scoring? And who was your film star?

See you soon for Halloween hijinks. In the meantime… keep dancing!

In the current issue of Dance Today, Marianka Swain writes on floorcraft and dance etiquette, while Lee Knights speaks to Strictly‘s Anton Du Beke. In November next month, look out for interviews with Denise Van Outen and Aliona Vilani.


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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