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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 8, 2010


Week 6

How will they top “Strictly”’s Halloween fright night? Will this be a display to remember (remember)? And is there a seasonal pun that Tess will refuse to say? Of course not! “Let’s light the fuse and set them off!”



Speaking of which, loved Tess’s Grecian purple frock – very nice colour, and more flattering than some of the previous weeks’ experiments. Otherwise, the opening of the show felt like rather a letdown after the psychedelic madness of the previous one. Will there be more themed nights to come this series? High viewing figures for the Halloween week might persuade the producers that it’s the way to go. In the meantime, off we go with…

Kara and Artem – Red-hot bombshell



strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Conga”, Gloria Estefan

Judges’ comments: Alesha thought it one of the best openings to a show she’d ever seen and said Kara used every part of her body superbly – “it was saucy, steamy, wicked”. Bruno called her “a little bombshell”, but pointed out a mistake. Craig said she handled an extremely ambitious routine brilliantly, but thought some of the later choreography let her down.


Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Kara and Artem were super-excited about scoring the first 10 of the series last week (Woo!), but, back in the training room, there’s trouble in paradise – Artem has discovered that his new “wife” is changeable and moody. Women, honestly! On the upside, she copes with everything he throws at her. Great opening to the routine with Artem (in a worrying white jacket that I’ll endeavour to ignore) shaking and gyrating on the stage while Kara, in a hot-red (and red-hot) dress, gave us some action on the stairs. Smart choreography from Artem, playing up their sexy image. Kara continued her Strictly Come Gymnastics run with a walkover over Artem and a cartwheel drop and upside down lift at the end. All great fun, but two big questions: firstly, are lifts now legal in all the dances, and therefore are we compromising some of the integrity of the ballroom, and secondly, what on earth will they do to impress us in the showdance? Levitate?

Overall: Sizzling start to the show.

Pamela and James – Screen siren



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Let There Be Love”, Nat King Cole

Judges’ comments: “Pamela goes to Hollywood!” cried Bruno. “The glamour of Marilyn, the equipment of Jane Mansfield and the dancing ability of Ginger Rogers.” Pointed out a few stumbles, but enjoyed it. Craig thought she coped very well and praised her heel turn, frame and pivots, but noted she lost balance on the throwaway oversway and didn’t like 1950s cheesy elements – “More cheese than a Swiss fondue.” “We love cheese!” countered Bruno heatedly. “You are from the 1950s, so we actually done it for you,” shot back James. (DID, James, DID.) “I can only take that as a compliment,” drawled Craig. Len loved it and wasn’t going to worry about “the odd little uh-uh”. He noted that it’s not as action-packed as a salsa, but impressive in its own way, perhaps attempting to guide the voters during this complicated week of different dances.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 – 33

The jive wasn’t Pamela’s finest hour. As a consequence, James thinks he can feel a difference in her, while Dr Stephenson believes he’s more upset than he’s letting on and thus, like a couple, they’re arguing about “the little things” instead. Their routine was very Fred and Ginger, although I can see where Craig’s coming from – Pamela has a tendency to head for cheese and jazz hands, so James really needs to hold her back a little and keep the emotion genuine. Beautiful flow and musicality, great heel turns, but a few errors and nerves.

Overall: Back on track.

Felicity and Vincent – Gypsy queen



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Habanera” from “Carmen”

Judges’ comments: “It had more drama than a full season at the RSC!” gasped Bruno. He liked the flamenco, but warned it wasn’t as well-placed as it should have been. Craig enjoyed the storytelling and Spanish port de bras, but said the transitions were a bit rough and she needs to use the floor more. Len said what it lacked in aggression it made up for it in expression, and called it her best dance. Alesha thought she still lacked drive and has had enough of her splits.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 7, 8 – 29

Felicity hated being in the bottom two, but Vincent sagely noted that he gets all the women’s votes and she gets all the men’s votes, so they should be fine. Cue disturbing VT of male members of ‘the Great British Public’ calling out “Phwoah, Felicity, bendy!” Our bendy lady has been trying to get into the spirit of the paso by making rather amusing bull noises. However, in performance, she was deadly serious, rising from the floor and hitting some lovely Spanish lines in a solo opening. Great shapes, burning intensity throughout and yet more lifts, including an impressive one into the splits. Have we had enough of her flexibility, or is Vincent right to keep exploiting it? Points for her fabulous senorita look, with a lace cutout dress and long plait, plus bright red lipstick to match her poppy. The girls are laying down the gauntlet tonight.

Overall: Ole!

Jimi and Flavia – Music man



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Mr Pinstripe Suit”, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Judges’ comments: Craig really liked the virtuoso section at the top, but said he was pigeon-toed on grapevine and looked heavy. “What, are you kidding?” roared Bruno. “He was walking on air!” “Darling, if I want your opinion, I will ask for it,” sniffed Craig. “Excuse me, Joan Crawford!” huffed Bruno. (Loving how wildly camp the show is this year.) Len thought it was “bright, breezy, busy”, needed to be a bit cleaner in hold and sharper in the feet, but his best dance. Bruno agreed with Len and added that he captured the jazz era feel and sustained the storyline throughout.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 9 – 32

Our Most Enthusiastic Contestant Ever was thrilled by the positive comments about his paso, and is chomping at the bit for this week’s quickstep. He went into his “proud” nine-year-old daughter’s school, which she cheerfully branded “embarrassing”, adding “It’s really nerve-racking – you don’t know if he’s going to mess up.” From the mouths of babes. Loved Flavia’s stylish, musical routine, which Jimi embodied brilliantly, hit all the accents perfectly and combining his characterisation with control – she’s doing a great job of harnessing his energy.

 Overall: Jazz hot!

Matt and Aliona – Coming up roses



Sequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Where The Wild Roses Grow”, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue

Judges’ comments: Len was a bit concerned about the garden-themed opening – “I thought Alan Titchmarsh was going to pop out!” But praised Matt’s flat back, wide elbows, lyrical movement and attempt at the fleckerl. Alesha said he led Aliona like a true gentleman, but there was tension in his face. Craig noted a few missing heel leads (aren’t there always on “Strictly”?), and said his thumbs are driving him insane.


Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Matt was pleased with their high tango scores, despite a few mishaps in their routine. He feels like he has the potential to get a 10, but the Viennese may not be the best bet – he feels sick from all the turning. He and Aliona have “a little tiff” (which, despite some hopeful editing, isn’t scintillating TV), but they’ve made up by the time they begin their rather schmaltzy routine, with Aliona on a swing surrounded by flowers. Beautiful lines and elegance from Matt, as usual, but not sure this couple can manage the emotional connection to match their technique in the same way that, say, Scott and Natalie can. Time will tell…

Overall: Beautiful and technically secure.

Ann and Anton – Let’s not do it



  1. strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Let’s Do It” from “Paris”

Judges’ comments: “The actress is emerging!” cried Alesha. She called it “more of a comedy sketch than a dance routine”, but thoroughly enjoyable. Bruno gasped that she was like “a grandmother in the Great Depression”, and asked Anton if he had a slipped disc after all that lifting and dragging. Before Craig could speak, Ann got in there first: “Don’t worry. In a couple of weeks’ time, it’s the samba.” Craig sighed: “I’m here to help you, darling.” He pointed out their missing double-bounce action, timing issues, failed fish lift (“Disaaaaster”) and said she spent more time sitting on her backside, a jibe that Ann promptly threw back at him.

Judges’ scores: (Ann: “2”) 2, (“4”) 6 (“Oooh!”), 5, 4 – 17

Ann was annoyed that the judges were rude about her paso when she really tried to get the dance element right. This week, she’s determined to stop Anton being naughty in their Charleston: “It’s not necessary to flash your knickers or turn it into mating antics.” Well, no, but with your song choice, surely it makes sense? However, this routine was comedy gold, with Ann visibly enjoying herself in the role of prudish flapper slapping Anton around and engaging in a bizarre version of the dance, complete with half-hearted knee-slapping and ungainly lifts. Great reveal that she’s been swooning over a picture of Craig.


Overall: Our comic pairing was showcased superbly in this style.

Michelle and Brendan – A little romance



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Right Here Waiting”, Richard Marx

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised her improved frame and movement, and said her body contact was so good that it looked like she was superglued to Brendan. Craig disagreed, saying it looked like Brendan was forcing her into certain positions. Len liked that they went straight into the dance and did a “proper waltz”, unlike last week’s “Time Warp” Incident. Brendan noted that she did incredibly well to dance waltz to a foxtrot beat. (True, but why didn’t they just use a waltz track? It’s not like there’s a shortage of them.)


Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 8 – 30

Michelle was delighted to stay out of the bottom two last week, and she’s getting an extra boost from the 90,000 Americans in town for the NFL match, so lots of home support for her at Wembley, where she belts out the national anthem. Very Disney routine, with Michelle in pink dress with gold sequins and a tiara, joined by her Prom King Brendan. However, while it wasn’t to my taste, I liked the flow and the fact that she’s finally using her long limbs to her advantage.

Overall: Their hard work is starting to pay off.

Patsy and Robin – The showgirl shines



struggles_sparkleSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “All The Lovers”, Kylie Minogue


Judges’ comments: Craig, hilariously, labelled it “cha cha chavvy”. He thought they didn’t need all the “bump and grind”, but more hip action, however he thought the New Yorks were very clean and she looked confident. Patsy took his comments in her stride: “It’s like a stroke and a slap.” Alesha (sounding rather like a motivational tape), called her a “sexy, confident woman”, but thought it fell flap. Bruno squawked “You’re very good at sex! You’re like a little Brigitte Bardot.” Patsy responded with an overshare. Really, people, family show!

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 7, 8 – 29

After a “crummy year”, Patsy is gaining great confidence from “Strictly”, and she’s also dropped two dress sizes from the intensive training, so she’s happier to be brave with her costume choice this week – although she does think she’ll look like “a sausage in tinsel”. Her self-deprecation would get annoying if she wasn’t so amusing, and I’m warming to her every week, particularly as she’s clearly working hard and is getting stalwart support from Robin. Far from a sausage, she looked like Kylie on the mezzanine level, oozing sex appeal, and I thought her footwork was solid. I agreed with Craig that it could have used a bit more cha cha cha and less showgirl, but still a fun, energetic and emotionally connected performance. Trying to erase from my memory Robin’s worrying brown jumpsuit with serious cleavage. Shudder.

Overall: If she maintains her confidence and keeps improving, she could be a dark horse.

Scott and Natalie – Falling star



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Wishing on a Star”, Rose Royce


Judges’ comments: Len sagely noted that no one realises what a difficult dance the rumba is for the male celebrities. (OF COURSE WE DO! YOU TELL US EVERY SERIES!) He thought that, by and large, Scott pulled it off. “Scotttt-T!” sighed Bruno. “Not as hot!” He said it wasn’t flowing enough and not up to Scott’s usual standards. Craig went further, saying it looked like Scott had come out of hospital after a double hip replacement.


Judges’ scores: 4, 9, 7, 8 – 28. WHAT? 4??? Seriously, Craig!

Scott’s getting some grief on the “EastEnders” set about his dancing malarkey, but his fellow actors all seem pretty chuffed that he’s doing so well. Unfortunately, they won’t be quite so proud this week, although I thought their rumba was far from the disaaaster Craig saw. Yes, Scott looked slightly uncomfortable in this style, but he’s a man, and he’s English, so this type of expression doesn’t come naturally. I actually thought he had a nice sincerity in his connection with Nat and hit some lovely lines, particularly on the sliding doors, plus he kept up some of the romance without bordering on camp. Hmph. Severely undermarked.

Overall: Not as perfect as some of their past dances, but still a decent performance.

Gavin and Katya – Having a ball



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Don’t Cha”, Pussycat Dolls

Judges’ comments: Alesha (visibly smitten) told him to bring the rugby ball every week if he did this well, and, bizarrely, claimed he out-danced Scott (HUH?!). Bruno snorted that he’d obviously been practising his gyrations, which “got Alesha panting” (just what we want from our professional judge). Craig said it was a bit flat-footed and there were connectivity issues, but the knee spin was good and he loved the amount of rotation in their spooning step.

Judges’ scores: 5, 8, 8, 8 – 29

Gavin’s been having a good week. He loved having his top off in the previous show, he’s signed with Saracens and he gets to knock Katya around on the rugby pitch (!) Back to the dancing, and…No, wait! Still on rugby. He’s brought his ball in for show and tell. Gavin also borrowed Artem’s Week 1 hood, while Katya was dressed in an Ola-esque male-fantasy get-off of faux-rugby crop-top and teeny-tiny fringed hotpants. They’re really going after the votes with a vengeance. I thought their cha cha cha was rather static – lots of Katya stroking him like a showroom model trying to sell a sports car. Yes, he used his hips for once, and seemed to be a bit more engaged with the dance, but I didn’t find it nearly as exciting as some of the judges. I was impressed by Len catching the ball, though. Cue joke about Len having his eye on the ball etc.

Overall: Finally, he’s getting into the spirit of the show – only took six weeks.


Kara 36

Matt 35

Pamela 33

Jimi 32

Michelle 30

Felicity/Patsy/Gavin 29

Scott 28

Ann 17

Shake-up again, with Kara taking the top spot, Pamela back up there and Scott plummeting. Guess it makes for more interesting viewing if we have variation and Scott isn’t marked highly every week, but he was definitely undermarked by Craig to a ludicrous degree. Can’t believe he’s ended up second from the bottom after delivering a strong rumba. Madness! Has the BBC asked Craig to stir up controversy? Is this a cynical bid to make it look like a tighter race than it actually is? Or did our “darling” judge eat a bad sausage during his judging week?



We opened with a fantastic 1950s rock n roll number from the showdancers – high energy, great costumes, impressive tricks and nice formation work, including a succession of assisted cartwheels and lifts. When the troupe is really showcased properly, with a theme and good performance slot, it’s definitely an asset to the show.

Some sad news. Mrs Ostrich is now alone in the world, after her husband was brutally murdered and plucked to make Tess’s dress. Claudia wore mourning black as a sign of respect.

Judges’ recap:


Kara: Len: “Plenty of welly”, deserved to top the leaderboard

Pamela: “Wham bam thank you Pam!” chorused Bruno and Alesha

Felicity: Bruno: “She was like a woman possessed!”

Jimi: Bruno to Craig: “Jimi wasn’t bad, you evil man!” Craig, in full Catherine Tate mode: “Face, bovvered, am I?”

Matt: Len told Craig it was stupid to point out a thumb. Craig: “Does he want a 10 or a 9?”


Ann: Len: “I’ve never seen anyone dragged across the floor as much as Ann”

Michelle: Alesha: “I didn’t feel as nervous watching her this week”

Patsy: Bruno labelled her “saucy Patsy”

Scott: Len told Craig the 4 was undermarked by three or four points

Gavin: Alesha: “We should talk about his hips!” Control yourself, woman. You’re meant to be a serious ballroom judge!

Tess announced the first safe couples: Felicity and Vincent, Gavin and Katya, Kara and Artem and Pamela and James. In the bottom two were…Jimi and Flavia. Ooh, shock! Tess then addressed the elephant in the room – namely, the illegal lifts. Len explained that they’d let a little one go, and the “naughty little kids” had started putting lots in. From now on, it’s back to being strict(ly) – any unauthorised lifts will be penalised. Good news! There are more ways to impress us than with acrobatics and drops. Let’s get back to the spirit of the dances.

Beautiful foxtrot demo by our pros to James Morrison’s “Wonderful World”, choreographed by Anton and Erin, but yet more feathers on display – I was waiting for a “No birds were harmed in the making of this show” disclaimer.

More safe couples: Patsy and Robin, Matt and Aliona, Ann and Anton and Scott and Natalie, leaving Michelle and Brendan in the bottom two. Phew! Scott fans (and Bruno) breathe a big sigh of relief. Not hugely surprising to see Michelle drop down – she was mid-table and she hasn’t connected with the public in past weeks.

jimi_leaving2Claudia introduced Bryan Ferry, singing his odd new single “You Can Dance”, accompanied by gyrating backing singers/dancers wearing Quality Street wrappers. Not the most exciting track in the world, so rather a dead note at this moment of high tension, and I was distracted by the fire pits – is someone running around with an Olympic torch backstage? Ooh! Wait! It’s barefoot Brendan and Natalie – are we about to get an avant garde rumba? So, it’s some sort of contemporary, consisting mainly of lifts and tricks. Tsk, what did our head judge just say? Yes, these two are sexy and expressive, and can pull off crowd-pleasing moves, but they’re also great ballroom dancers, which is why they’re on this show. Hmph! (I’m turning into Len.)

Finally, we had the always-cheery “I don’t want to leave the show because…” VT, and the Moment of Truth TM. And the couple leaving us is Jimi and Flavia – shock result! I really thought Michelle would be heading home – never expected to lose Jimi. Bizarre! He’s coming on really well, working extremely hard, performing full-out every week, and his enthusiasm has been a wonderful part of this series – it’ll be sadly missed. He had a great attitude, unlike some of the others (hmm…Gavin), and you can tell how much he’s invested in it by the fact that he was brought to tears and unable to give any last words. What do you think? Did the public make the wrong call?

Back for more drama (and fewer lifts) next week. In the meantime…say a prayer for the lost ostrich.

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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