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Strictly speaking

Posted on December 23, 2012


Week 12

And then we came to the end. Not the world (sorry, Mayans!), though to loyal sequin superfans or anyone not seduced by Louis’s “guns”, it may feel that way. Still, we now have our Strictly champions after an action-packed night featuring three gosh-no-not-at-all-trained girls and one acrobat with his top off.

It wasn’t my result (a superb ballroom tango tops a gurning Charleston every time for me), but it’s been a fantastic series. So, on a positive note, here is my…

Series 10 Top 10

  1. The addition of Claudia, completely transforming the performance show. We just need more of her
  2. The addition of Darcey. Once she ditched the vocal tics (yah?) and stopped clinging to the 6 paddle, she settled in nicely
  3. This year’s feel-good couple: Lisa and Robin
  4. This year’s “J word” couple: Michael and Natalie
  5. This year’s oh-my-god-I-can’t-watch-but-I-can’t-look-away couple: Richard and Erin
  6. Pasha never disappointing with his innovative choreography
  7. Tess never disappointing with her eye-poppingly awful fashion
  8. Artem relinquishing both professional credibility and his clothes
  9. Jerry’s camp vamping and delicious wit
  10. A number of standout performances, from Michael’s quickstep and Kimberley’s last tango to the unforgettable antics of Erin Island

Saturday: Episode I

IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! Yes, your Christmas shopping days are numbered! The pros wore all the yellow satin in the land for their opening group dance and the boys added ties for that popular middle manager-meets-bullfighter juxtaposition (except Robin, pecs straining manfully in a stretch top slashed to the navel. Never change, Robin!). Their performance was intercut by VTs, for that “live” feel, ending with the final four popping up like glittery Zebedees and then disappearing during the seamless “live” transition.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Oh Tess. I can’t even classify this as turkey bacofoil  the sickly yellowish sheen suggested it had been used for some kind of oozing fish or experimental curry. “It feels like brillo pad,” observed Bruce helpfully.

Whole series recap montage, the first of many. Hang in there, people…

Denise and James Jive to survive

01 denisesimply_so_so“Last week we were amazing and then you put us in the bottom “YOU BASTARDS!” Sticking with a winning strategy, then. Their judges’ pick, delivered via a cut-price Apprentice boardroom, was the jive, last performed back in Week 2. (Week 2! Those halcyon days of Johnny and Sid and Jerry and Colin! No? Me neither.) Slick, high energy and fab tricks as before, but slightly over-danced in a manic desire to please and basics still noticeably sluggish. Not a real Halfpenny, is what I’m saying.

Song: “Tutti Frutti”, Little Richard

Judges’ comments: Len thought she combined athleticism and artistry. Bruno called it “premium-grade jive, packed with excitement and energy”, and jumped on the propaganda bandwagon by emphasising that she deserves to be here. Craig praised her energy and impeccable timing. Darcey said her style is perfect for the jive, fast and furious, and her shoulders improved.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10  – 39 (Up from 8, 8, 8, 8  – 32)

Overall: Good start to the show.

Dani and Vincent Hot to trot

01 danisimply_so_soDani went up in my estimation when she openly rolled her eyes at Brucie’s laboured dark horse/pony gag. Not only is the joke infuriatingly overplayed, but how can someone who’s basically lived in the top three places be called a dark horse? Anyhow, their repeated dance was the Week 6 tango, which last time had a remarkable ZERO heel leads. Second time around, it was still missing most of them (come on, Vincent!) and had a few errors, but more dynamics and a much better topline.

Song: Tango “Rumour Has It”, Adele

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “It was like watching Tantrums and Tiaras!” The acting was more powerful, but a couple of wobbles. Craig agreed, and was pleased they finished with the music this time. Darcey upgraded her from moody teenager to sophisticated woman and praised her attack and partnership with Vincent. Len pulled out the classic “You’re what this show is all about” – he didn’t see her as a contender to start with, but she’s been brilliantly consistent (in a dark horse kinda way).

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36 (Up from 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34)

Overall: Strong performance.

Kimberley and Pasha – Masters of spin

01 kimberleystrictly_sensationalThe judges did their best to DOOOOOM Kimberley by sticking her with the pretty snoozy dance that landed her in the bottom two, namely her Week 6 cellophane-styled Twilight Viennese, memorable mainly for the rolling tide of dry ice and oversized floats. However, she’s since discovered how to project personality, so this had a lovely emotional undertow and improved technique. Still not all the heel leads (I live in hope!), but more than before, and no wobble on the attitude turns.

Song: “A Thousand Years”, Christina Perri

Judges’ comments: Craig noted she’s grown so much, in both dancing and confidence; her topline and core are much stronger, and she pulled off the spin. Darcey said she’s a beautiful dancer and a true actress. Len: “Last time I liked it; this time I loved it.” Bruno thought she shone like a diamond, praising the “timeless elegance”.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 (Up from 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34)

Overall: Gorgeous.

Louis and Flavia – Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

01 louissimply_so_soLouis’s Week 3 dance disappointed Len due to its lack of salsa content, salsa technique and salsa performance, but any change will enrage a Dirty Dancing-loving public. Good luck with that, Flavia! In the end, she elected to add a teeny smidgeon of salsa to what Len called “parody choreography” on It Takes Two, but at least Louis managed more hip action and some mesmerising Zoolander faces. Clean semi-salsa-showdance plagiarism? Yes. Nearing the emotional power of the original? No.

Song: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked that it was less safe and controlled, enjoying the added armography and Louis’s upper-body work. Len praised “Flavulous” for apparently adding loads of salsa but keeping the Dirty Dancing essence. Also Louis has gone from a budgie to an eagle, whatever that means. Bruno panted over his snake hips, and Craig liked everything but the pouting shoulder roll.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 (Up from 8, 8, 6, 8  30)

Overall: A decent cover version.


Denise and James  – Your love keeps lifting me

02 denisesimply_so_soShowdance time! The combative pair aimed to pack in so many crazy rotating lifts that the earth would fall off its axis and votes would tumble down into their whirling vortex of untrained brilliance. Plus they put in that bit of choreography James forgot, as a reminder of their humanity. You guys, they’re just like us! Good points: impressive lifts. Bad points: practically no dancing. Also hideously unflattering muddy catsuit in place of iconic legwarmers, which is actually unforgivable.

Song: “Flashdance…What A Feeling”, Irene Cara (COPYCAT KLAXON: Rachel Stevens and Vincent’s showdance)

Judges’ comments: Len: “If that dance was a game of poker,you just went all in.” Reiterated that she totally deserved to be in the final,in case we were unclear about that in any way. Bruno adored the gravity-defying lifts, as did Craig, who thought she rivalled Hanna Karttunen. (Um…) Darcey said she almost made it look too easy, which is basically their downfall this series.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10  – 40

Overall: She’s good, but she’s no Robert Webb.

Dani and Vincent  Very, very frightening

02 danisimply_so_soI was desperately willing this to be better, but sadly it was a confused mishmash. I’m inclined to place the blame at Vincent’s door, as the major problem was the routine’s clunky, awkward transitions; Dani executed the fragments of content well, coping with a range of styles and some interesting lifts. So, either Vincent fell short (BOOM BOOM!) or the song choice screwed them. It may be a radical view, but I must now state that experimental rock/pop/opera and ballroom just might not go together. I KNOW! Also, Dani spent half the dance in a tea towel and the other half in a tween leotard. Just FYI.

Song: “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Queen

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked their ambition, but felt Dani was nervous and it wasn’t slick enough. Craig called the transitions lumpy, but she delivered the content well. Darcey agreed the choreography was difficult and transitions awkward, but praised Dani’s musicality. Len: “You may be small,but your talent is huge.” He kindly offered a jolly dance cocktail simile instead of a full critique.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9  – 35

Overall: Disappointing.

Kimberley and Pasha   Mad hot ballroom

02 kimberleystrictly_sensationalIs it a giant sun? A message of hope to the South-West? A symbol of Pagan prayer? No, it’s a truly outstanding prop! The opening left a lot to be desired (frantic lifts, Kimberley swathed in a hideous black jumpsuit from the Tess Dress Mess collection), but once she broke into her silhouette shimmying and the mysterious screen revealed its purpose as a FIREBALL OF AWESOMENESS, their dance really took off. Good points: fabulous mix of Latin and lifts and non-stop performance. Bad points: said performance was that of an excitable child who saved up a week’s worth of advent calendar chocolate and just went to town.

Song: “Crazy In Love”, Beyoncé (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alesha Dixon and Matthew)

Judges’ comments: Craig: “Indecent, improper, absolute filth… and I loved it!” Darcey said she burned up the floor and loved the wildness. Len enjoyed Kimberley’s greatest hits – “full on, flat out, fabulous!” Bruno thought it was “deliriously sexy” and a “Latin-flavoured stun-a-rama!”

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39

Overall: Electrifying.

Louis and Flavia  – Art attack

02 louissimply_so_soFreddie Mercury called – he wants his meggings back. I’m still not sure if Flavia is a crazy genius or just reached a point of exhausted mania; either way, this did indeed open with topless Louis doing a handstand on a giant globe (because he RULES THE WOOO-ORLD), before giving us the most emo showdance ever performed. Good points: insane lifts, slow enough to appreciate two specimens of physical perfection. Bad points: all emotion sucked out of both rumba and Argentine tango, rendering the whole thing somewhat meaningless.

Song: “Rule the World”, Take That (COPYCAT KLAXON: Laila Rouass and Anton)

Judges’ comments: Darcey was blown away and praised Flavia for doing something calm and artistic. Len: “If this show goes on for another 20 years, I don’t think we’ll ever see a showdance as magical as that.” Bruno:”You’ve been waiting to REVEAL yourself, and nobody’s disappointed.” Craig offered two words: “fab-u-lous” and “a-maze-ing”.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40

Overall: Uber-pretentious Turner Prize entry in dance form.Woo!

Leaderboard (for guidance only)

Denise and James  39 + 40 = 79

Louis and Flavia  39 + 40 = 79

Kimberley and Pasha  39 + 39 = 78

Dani and Vincent  36 + 35 = 71

And another montage. It is a night of montages. Everyone wants to win. Dani points out again that Vincent never has, which now feels slightly cruel.

Saturday: Episode II

Recap. Of course a recap.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

This was at least four outfits (navy body armour; bizarre mini; Morticia see-through train; Dynasty glitterball shoulder pads), and none of them were kind.

And the fourth-placed couple is…Dani and Vincent. Not surprising, but still a shame – they didn’t do themselves justice. Extensive recap of their time together. (Sidenote: their jive costumes weren’t the most elegant of exit outfits.)

Denise and James The ministry of silly walks

03 denisesimply_so_soAnother recap and much luvvie love. Highs: everything! Lows: evil dress and mean public. Their favourite dance, inexplicably, is the Wembley Charleston that actually gave me nightmares. It was still skin-crawlingly weird, but again brilliantly executed, so… there we are. If Tim Burton-meets-Carry On is your thing, fill yer boots.

Song: “Walk Like An Egyptian”, Puppini Sisters

Judges’ comments: Len will never forget this dance. Neither will I, Len. Neither will I. Bruno called it world class and gave her a “You should be proud even if/when you don’t win” speech. Craig reiterated it’s the best Charleston ever. (Better than Kimberley’s? DISCUSS.) Darcey loved the attention to detail.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40 (Up from 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39)

Overall: Still confused. Anyone? Anyone?

Kimberley and Pasha – I’m in the mood for dancing

03 kimberleystrictly_sensationalRecap recap. Len and his many names (Nimble Kimble! Kimberley Waltz!), bottom two, perfect scores. In fairness, she has had a good “J word” with lots of ups and downs. Their fave is the fabulously pouty Week 8 tango, which was even more moodily camp second time around and also had the best ballroom technique we’ve seen from her, or arguably anyone, all series – exquisite topline and staccato action and vastly improved footwork.

Song: Tango “When Doves Cry”, Prince

Judges’ comments: Bruno called it “strictly irresistible” and praised her blossoming not just as a dancer, but as a performer: “You make us forget where the technique finishes and the performance starts.” Preach! Craig thought it was ten times better than before – she annihilated the dancefloor. Darcey loved the moodiness and called it “supremely perfect”, while Len thanked her for providing some of the most spectacular highlights of Series 10.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40 (Up from 8, 9, 8, 9 – 34)

Overall: My dance of the series.

Louis and Flavia The doctor is in

03 louissimply_so_soLouis has learned that he can’t take the show half-heartedly, so that’s good. Flavia has learned that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, celeb partner-wise. Anyhow, yet another Charleston (joy!),this one scripted as Louis’s “performance breakthrough dance” in Week 9. That translates into slick tricks accompanied by goldfish mouth and dead eyes,obligingly regurgitated with an added flip. On the upside, Louis has learned to disguise his general apathy better and Flavia clearly could not want this more.

Song: “Dr Wanna Do”, Caro Emerald

Judges’ comments: Craig praised his hard work and loved the added back somersault. Darcey enjoyed “cheeky Louis”. Len has never doubted his potential, and was thrilled by this “gold medal performance”. Bruno: “Just what the doctor ordered! An uplifting tonic to finish off this incredible night.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 (Up from 8, 10, 9, 10 – 37)

Overall: An accomplished number.

Leaderboard (for guidance only) (bad luck, Denise!)

Denise and James – 39 + 40 + 40 = 119

Louis and Flavia – 39 + 40 + 39 = 118

Kimberley and Pasha – 39 + 39 + 40 = 118

Recap of the long-forgotten celebs. Victoria was actually twitching with terror at the memory of her time on the show. Good times.

Robbie Williams appeared in a nice funeral suit to warble an unknown song. The wonderfully unimpressed audience cheered over him the second Artem (wearing a whole shirt, tsk tsk!) and Aliona appeared for a baffling physical assault rumba, though in their defence, the song was not a) a hit in the making, b) an obvious ballroom accompaniment or c) remotely celebratory or Christmassy.

Another recap, this one via Joe public. All you need to know is that I briefly got to wield the TOPLESS ARTEM KLAXON, and the whole thing was approximately 720 per cent too long. Filler? Us?

group shotCar crash time! The always glorious group dance did not disappoint, featuring jiving cocktail waitresses in giant shorts, Jerry vamping spectacularly, Michael and Nicky putting their bromance into dance form and even a judges’ cameo (which Craig took VERY seriously – 9!).

Christmas special trailer. I won’t be blogging this I’m afraid, but I will be shouting snark at the screen through a mouthful of leftover goose while my family offers sarcastic interjections.

Oh, for the love of god. Another recap, this one showing off our finalists. It went on for so long that I started to wonder if we were still live or if time had actually stopped. If the world had ended yesterday. If we were stuck in a merciless Groundhog Day of recaps in a Peter Jackson director’s cut.

FINALLY, the big reveal. And this year’s champions are… Louis and Flavia! Louis: “I can finally say I won something here at London 2012.” He praised his partner’s endless patience, and Flavia laughed while her eyes drifted off to a dark, haunted place.

We never learned who was second and third, because we had to give the time up to all that highly necessary recapping.

What do you think? Did the right couple take the title? Did the four-contestant final work? Will we ever learn who came in second? And who are you looking forward to seeing in the Christmas special?

That’s it from me until Series 11, unless you’re desperate for my company and pick up a copy of the fabulous Dance Today magazine. See you next year for more tears, tantrums and triumphs. In the meantime, have a great Christmas and keep dancing!

The January issue of Dance Today is out now, featuring Marianka Swain’s feature, “We are the champions”, on what it takes to reach the top in dancesport. We have a HALF PRICE offer for new subscribers – get 12 issues for the price of six (£11.70) if you subscribe before January 31. Call 020 7250 3006 from January 2 to subscribe.


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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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