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Strictly speaking

Posted on October 20, 2014


Week 4

Last week on Strictly we drank deep from the well of insanity that was a histrionic theme show combined with the terrorising presence of He Who Must Not Be Named, Baby! This week, it was the inevitable comedown. The debilitating hangover. The throbbing migraine. The constant threat of impending nausea.

This malaise was fairly universal, but most pronounced among our PTSD-stricken judges. (Did the BBC offer post-You-Know-Who counselling?) Len seemed a heartbeat away from calling a halt to proceedings and demanding Alka-Seltzer and a darkened room, while Craig’s high-gloss bitch veneer started to crack.

Now, if I can put on my serious hat for a moment (it’s a rather swanky tricorn), I’d like to address his comment about Scott: “You prove the exception to the rule that anyone can learn to dance.” Oh, Craig. Do you really think pulling together a competition-standard, performance-style routine in four days and debuting it in front of the nation is equivalent to learning how to do, say, a feather step in a low-pressure social class over several weeks? Just to be clear: it is not.

Yes, Scott isn’t exactly the second coming of Gene Kelly, but making a comment like that while addressing millions of potential dancers is downright irresponsible. If anything, that routine was evidence that not everyone is a natural teacher – or, more accurately, immediately understands the demands of this particular environment – but Joanne will hopefully become more adept at choreographing to her celeb’s skillset (or lack thereof). Out of the Strictly realm, of course anyone can learn to dance, and they shouldn’t be discouraged from trying.

Other hits and misses:

  • You-Know-Who has left the building. This joyous news is worth repeating, often and loudly. The judges’ desk could have caught fire and it would still be the BEST WEEK EVER after that train wreck. HIT
  • Argh! Spoke too soon. Like a horror movie villain coming back from the dead, that creepy glow-in-the-dark grin reappeared via the magic of VT. Shudder. MISS
  • Tess attempted humour again. The audience didn’t even bother to feign amusement. You could practically see the sequinned tumbleweed. MISS
  • A rash of bizarre over-scoring made the fairly reasonable Scott marks look terribly draconian. Also confusing: barrage of criticism followed by a row of 8s. MISS
  • Welcome to Unnecessary Props Week! Either use them to actually enhance your performance or return them to the charity shop from whence they came. MISS
  • New rule: viewers should be able to tell which dance you’re doing just by watching you DANCE it. I should not have to look from my notes to the screen multiple times during a routine in sheer bewilderment. MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Jake and Janette’s jive Needed more trad content, but a welcome wake-up call at the end of a soporific evening.
  • Best costume: Tim the confused matador Brocaded jacket, yes, but also mortician tie and hat dangerously close to Mickey Mouse ears. Truly special.
  • Best move: Natalie’s manic fanning Either WILLING Tim into character or trying to smack a particularly persistent mosquito.
  • Best line: Claudia calling a You-Know-Who 10 “half a normal 10” She is wise in all things.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Black column festooned with an invasive bindweed-cum-negative Rorschach test horror.

WinkleFringe Watch

Like the whole show, slightly morning-after.

Frankie and Kevin – Phoning it in

frankie 7329716-low res- 1simply so soIs Kevin from Grimsby? I do wish someone had mentioned it. Hard to gauge this VT’s exact level of patronising, given that it went through some kind of bleak Ken Loach filter. Unnecessary prop 1: wall of records. Welcome to 2014. Frankie, cursed with an electric-blue fringe explosion that made her look like the love child of Cookie Monster and a car wash roller, coped decently with a fast cha cha, but the combination of Kevin’s bland, pop-y choreo and Frankie’s distinct lack of charisma made this the first of many ho-hum performances. Plus marked lack of hip action – another running theme…

Song: “Call Me Maybe”, Carly Rae Jepsen

Judges’ comments: Len noted loose footwork. Bruno enjoyed the cheekiness and rhythm, but wants her to press through the floor to get sharper leg action. Craig called her right arm unplaced and agreed on the legs, but expressive. Darcey loved the accents.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Mark and Karen – Raining cats and nans

mark 7329781-low res-simply so soMark had a visit from not so much a person as a handy reality-TV-ready construction: Nanny Pat, bearing sausage plait. Dr Seuss would be proud. Oh and Family props points. Sadly, Karen ditched quickstep in favour of pre-football match warm-ups (jogging! More jogging!) and bizarre wedding styling. I mean, seriously, what is it with these two and their adherence to Surrealist numbers? Frame and body position need major work and very muddy footwork, but enthusiastic and just about in time.

Song: “Tiger Feet”, Mud

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the intricacy and sporty delivery, but he leans over Karen in hold. Craig called his arabesque “rather sweet”, though flat hands and lost the frame. Darcey noted he kept in sync. Len complained about the “mincified” trotting and topline issues, but good job.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29

Judy and Anton – Mummy’s boy

judy 7329090-low res-struggles sparkleThis week, Judy played both Famous Son and Other Son cards. We’ve now seen Andy casually abusing her over a dodgy Skype line, which is surely all the producers could hope for. Their bizarre tango featured Anton molesting an audience member before hurling Judy like a bowling ball (please note: I made this joke before Craig. I am now ready for my seat on the judging panel). Judy, uncomfortable in a “sexy” frilly bib, was her usual clunky, hesitant self, topped off by jumping at Anton as though escaping a burning building. Lucky Judy – we’re still in it.

Song: “Jealousy”, Billy Fury (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alesha Dixon and Matthew)

Judges’ comments: Craig said she looked lobotomised and needed more aggression. Darcey praised her attack (huh?), but wants her upper body to open up. Len said it was her best so far. Bruno thought the lifts read as desperation, but at least they took risks.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22

Simon and Kristina – Right royal knees-up

simon 7330063-low res-simply so soAfter a trip to the East End to meet a real Pearly King and Queen (which… how is this still a thing?), similarly but more awkwardly blinged-up Simon and Kristina launched into a fun, light Charleston with strong if slightly untidy lifts and Unnecessary prop 2: vintage car supplied solely for confused ending. Rather too much goldfish mouthing and occasionally out of sync, otherwise strong number. So, going forward, as long as Simon acts like a completely different person and Kristina doesn’t choreograph, they’ll be totally fine. Problem solved!

Song: “My Old Man (Said Follow The Van)”, Marie Lloyd

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it really suited him, and it put a smile on Len’s face. Bruno said he delivered a performance. Craig praised his swivel, birdy flap and trucking steps, and liked the quirkiness.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Alison and Aljaž – Sasha Fierce

alison 7330131-low res-simply so soAljaž’s VT narrative involved him being jealous of Beyoncé-aping Alison’s love for her cardboard Jay-Z, though I would imagine he’d be relieved about the transfer of her rather intense affections. Anyhow, this samba was, as expected, a raucous, confident shimmy-fest with fab musicality and zero technique below the waist. Lacked bounce, rise and fall and precision, and that aborted samba roll should have been excised on Day 1, plus Unnecessary prop 3: sofa. Still, like a newsreaders’ Children in Need number, enormous fun in a karaoke way.

Song: “Bootylicious”, Destiny’s Child

Judges’ comments: Len and Bruno said the footwork was suspect, but great energy and performance. Craig found it flat-footed, with the upper body doing all the work. Darcey said the rhythm was “cool” (which is not a word she should ever use again) and she got her hips working.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Scott and Joanne – American nightmare

scott 7330332-low res-struggles sparkleTaking a break from The Continued Adventures of Scott Mills and his More-famous Friends, Scott earned Family prop points via rather too cutesy niece Emily – it had a ring of “Hug Uncle Scott on camera or you’ll get Dolly’s arm in the post” about it. Still, no amount of adorableness could salvage this loony American smooth, the dance equivalent of Barbie having a nervous breakdown. Scott, cursed with clashing pink tie and salmon waistcoat, fought his way through gauzy drapes and candles (Unnecessary prop 4 and clear fire hazard), before ruffle-smothered Joanne hurled herself at him like a fly colliding with a windscreen. Very disjointed, both in movement and idea. Why didn’t big brother Kevin point out the insanity of this number? Payback for the time Joanne stole his Farley’s Rusks? So. Many. Questions.

Song: “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, Bonnie Tyler (COPYCAT KLAXON: Chris Hollins and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it was like a puzzle where none of the pieces fit. Craig was concerned for Joanne’s safety. Darcey did see topline improvement, but advised him to watch the male pros. Len said it looked paint-by-numbers.

Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 4, 4 – 15

Steve and Ola – Hip replacement

steve-low res-simply so soTaking You-Know-Who’s “expert” advice, Ola dragged Steve to a club. It did not help. Their salsa had studied shimmying, pasted-on smiles and frequent pauses for strongman lifts, but lacked musicality, fluidity and hip action. Still, Ola ensured votes by demanding Steve unleash his chest with an open shirt (it’ll be a thong by Week 7), even if her outfit comprised clashing scraps, repurposed gypsy scarf and seatbelt straps – rejected entry to The Great British Sewing Bee? Oh, and Unnecessary prop 5: sparkly cocktail.

Song: “Jump in the Line”, Harry Belafonte (COPYCAT KLAXON: Anita Dobson and Robin)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted lack of hips and smooth transitions, but lifts and energy great. Darcey praised his hard work. Len said the tricks were great and he’s watchable, though no rhythm in the hips. Bruno enjoyed the “pecs appeal” and positivity, but no hip action.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Pixie and Trent – Waxing lyrical

pixie 7330602-low res-simply so soPixie has a family. They earned some Family prop points. On with the twincest! In fact, the Lannister erotica wasn’t as disturbing as it might have been (despite Unnecessary prop 6: ginormous bed), as this was much closer to light, balletic lyrical than earthy rumba. Pretty, expressive, fluid tricks and showed off Pixie’s Amazing Lifting Legs again, but Trent has fallen into the ringer trap: relying on what the celeb could do BEFORE they started Strictly. Tedious for the viewer, and does not endear them to voters. Nor will Pixie’s “tears”.

Song: “Stay With Me”, Sam Smith

Judges’ comments: Darcey wanted more tension, but beautiful lines. Len wanted more fundamental rumba and less posing, otherwise lovely. Bruno liked their interpretation, though lacked resistance and hip action. Craig praised the split drag and exquisite performance, but it needed more pressure through the floor.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Tim and Natalie – Giving up the goat

tim 7330628-low res-struggles sparkleIn his dreams, Tim is a master matador. In reality, his capework is so slow I thought there was a problem with my Sky feed. Another hilarious disconnect between Nat going into overdrive (if she could will him into brilliance, she would) and Tim’s solemn plodding, which had more than a hint of John Sergeant about it. Dubious posture, marked lack of paso style and completely one-sided drama, but weirdly compelling, mainly thanks to a fun routine. God, does Natalie deserve someone amazing next year. The campaign starts here…

Song: “The Best”, Tina Turner

Judges’ comments: Len said he brought cape wafting to a new level, and at least had a go. Bruno thought he was less raging bull, more “mildly irritated goat”. Craig called it “limp, lame, lacklustre”. Darcey saw improvement and he kept in character, but lacked shaping.

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 5, 5 – 19

Sunetra and Brendan – On the sauce

sunetra 7330914-low res-simply so soSo, you can have a professional salsa band in rehearsal, but in performance you get a half-hearted disco cover? Suspect. This clearly wasn’t Sunetra’s favourite dance, given her general air of sufferance, and several issues: flat feet, wild transitions, unstable lifts, and the fact that her highlighter-pink tinsel clashed terribly with Brendan’s (ripping) red trousers. Also Unnecessary prop 6: spurting bongos. But tipsy vagueness aside, a decent, musical effort.

Song: “Turn the Beat Around”, Vicki Sue Robinson

Judges’ comments: Bruno noted confident performance covers a multitude of sins. Craig said she should be stiffer in lifts and needs to work on turns, plus lacked fluidity, but enjoyable. Darcey praised her energy and arms, just make steps smaller to stay in control. Len: “Wasn’t your best, but wasn’t your worst.”

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Thom and Iveta – Sweet nothings

thom 7330940-low res-simply so soIveta’s rehearsal wear continues to astound. This week, a flouncy two-piece clearly von Trapp-ed out of Liberace’s curtains. Thom challenged her to a rugby face-off, because he still hasn’t figured out who he’s dealing with. Look into those eyes, Thom. You don’t stand a chance. In contrast, their saccharine foxtrot actually gave me toothache, with cupcake florals galore and tableaux in place of drive. Stronger if inconsistent topline, enjoyable vitality and dodgy footwork. Overall, too safe.

Song: “Build Me Up Buttercup”, The Foundations (COPYCAT KLAXON: Gloria Hunniford and Darren, Edwina Currie and Vincent)

Judges’ comments: Craig said he didn’t straighten his legs and right arm was too high, but sweet. Darcey likes that he doesn’t stoop and improves every week. Len found it “blooming lovely”. (Thank you. Thank you. He’ll be here all week. Try the veal.) Bruno said he’s getting better as both dancer and performer.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 8 – 30

Jake and Janette – Long live the King

jake 7330979-low res-strictly sensationalIs there always karaoke in the BBC bar? I’ve now got a wonderful image of Jeremys Paxman and Clarkson duetting on “Islands in the Stream”. Anyhow, Jake put his Elvis prep to good use in a fast and furious jive that featured strong, sharp, rhythmical movement, punchy kicks and generally impressive sync. A couple of stumbles and messy transitions, due to the ambitious speed, and could have used more trad jive, less Elvis – Janette should make the most of his phenomenal ability.

Song: “All Shook Up”, Elvis Presley

Judges’ comments: Darcey found it entertaining and praised the strong leg action and dynamics. Len noted a lost free arm and troubling pivots, but full-on. Bruno compared him with a prizefighter, though needs to make sure his upper body matches his strong lower body. Craig agreed, but loved the energy and performance.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 – 33

Caroline and Pasha – Grin and bear it

caroline 7328999-low res-strictly sensationalHurrah, more terrible Pasha acting! And the fitness training Karen used as inspiration for Mark’s routine. In less happy news… Oof. Yet another hideous outfit for Caroline. Also egregious: the Unnecessary prop overload, with funfair stalls, giant bear and carousel horse all distracting from an otherwise strong, nimble quickstep. Lovely hold, tiny bit of gapping, slightly uncertain in footwork and a couple of missteps, but on the whole coped well with a packed, interesting routine.

Song: “We Go Together” from Grease (COPYCAT KLAXON: Rav Wilding and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Len saw a couple of mistakes, but “best dance tonight”. Bruno likes how she takes on a new character for each dance, and noted how hard this one was. Craig found it gorgeous, bar the errors. Darcey said she never disappoints and loved the spirit.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 8 – 33


Jake and Janette – 33

Caroline and Pasha – 33

Frankie and Kevin – 32

Pixie and Trent – 32

Simon and Kristina – 31

Thom and Iveta – 30

Mark and Karen – 29

Alison and Aljaž – 27

Steve and Ola – 27

Sunetra and Brendan – 27

Judy and Anton – 22

Tim and Natalie – 19

Scott and Joanne – 15

Jake back on top, Simon improves, Sunetra tumbles, and Scott returns to the bottom. Still, our four finalists seem pretty much a lock, yes?


sunday 7331539-low res-The theatrical opening pro number, featuring door drama, glimpses of tango and Janette falling off a swing, made a real STATEMENT. Even if that statement was “Ate too much cheese and had a weird, weird dream.” Oh, and the poor pro girls must have fallen asleep near a cruel toddler and a box of felt tips. Unfortunate.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

White marquee with wing-flap sleeves and uncomfortably low-cut neckline. Somehow both slutty and frumpy. It’s quite a talent.

WinkleFringe Watch

Like everyone in the results show, bravely rallying.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, dressed as a Halloween Cher drag act, gave us a quick crooning medley accompanied by Natalie and Trent vaulting over a set of invisible hurdles. Tony’s still got it, Gaga… was also there.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Tim cape-swirling while musing on the thorny issue of English votes for English laws
  • Steve’s amazing lifts AKA Ola coming within inches of losing an eye
  • Everyone tutting over poor Brendan’s wardrobe malfunction while the camera zoomed in on it like the Mail complaining about raunchy costumes while publishing giant lurid pictures of them

In the dance-off: Tim and Natalie, and Mark and Karen – the latter slightly surprising, though Mark did fall into that “Probably safe and neither memorably good nor memorably terrible” group. Clean sweep for Mark, despite his timing deserting him. A lovely classy exit speech from Tim and the best last dance we’ve seen in 11 series.

What was your favourite routine? Were the right couples in the bottom two? And who do you think will go next? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for another show without You-Know-Who. Seriously – keep repeating it. In the meantime… keep dancing!

Simon Oliver has been production editor of Dancing Times since 2010 and is highly experienced in design across print and online magazine production. Throughout his career, Simon has worked on a diverse range of subjects including music, family history, book collecting and poker.

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