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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 16, 2010


Week 7

This week is VITALLY IMPORTANT, as our “Strictly” stars are within touching distance of Mecca…or, at any rate, Blackpool. Cue tension! Arguments! Ann flapping her hands at the camera in super-disapproving fashion! Who will miss out on this sequin-tastic trip and the “99 Bottles of Beer” singalong in the minivan?


Tess was appropriately attired in black, after last week’s ostrich incident. But wait! What’s that on her shoulders? Not more feathers? Check your nest, Mrs Crow! Oh, wait. Stand down, troops. It’s just handfuls of tulle wrenched from a screaming ballerina’s tutu. Shame Tess’s hair got so messed up in the ensuing catfight.

First up, and hoping to secure their place to the bright lights and hot chips of ‘the Vegas of the North’…

Pamela and James – Mr and Mrs Pinstripe Suit



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Money (That’s What I Want)”, Barrett Strong

Judges’ comments: Len was excited by the stripping opening, which inspired him to call Pamela “an excellent dancer”, but he wanted it “more full-on”. Steady. Bruno agreed it was precise but too careful – “we expect more oomph, more hanky panky!” Craig drawled: “Was that harassment or therapy at the beginning?” Quite. He wanted more hip action and dynamics, but praised her spins, finishes and timing.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Brucie, please stop making jokes about lingerie. It’s just wrong. Our passive-aggressive (or, at times, openly aggressive) couple had a “cha cha change of scene”, doing the Scottish tourist board a favour by experiencing the most idyllic version of Billy’s homeland imaginable – walks in the woods, cycling, visiting camera-friendly cows and adorable primary-school children and taking part in a cèilidh (for which James wore a kilt – shudder, Kenny Logan flashbacks…). Their resulting cha cha was technically sound, and Pamela worked her showgirl corset dress, but I’m finding her open-mouthed cheesiness a bit tiresome now, and James’s monstrous training technique doesn’t produce a genuine emotional connection between them. Overtly bribing the judges was the most honest moment.

Overall: Need to up their game to get back on top.



Michelle and Brendan – Spanish omelette



struggles_sparkleSequin-o-meter: 1

 Song: “American Woman”, Lenny Kravitz


Judges’ comments: “Whatever you’re going to say, I agree!” exclaimed Michelle. Alesha praised her determination and shaping, but noted she lost balance. Bruno liked her opening aggression (“I hate that dress, get it off me!”), but her lines didn’t flow and she lost balance. (Michelle: “I said I agree!” Yes, but it’s their job to critique you anyway, darling.) Craig called it “gnarled, knotty, nodulistic” (who’s been watching too much David Attenborough?) and said she confused attack with hitting the floor and locking herself into stiff Spanish lines.

 Judges’ scores: 4, seh-ven, seh-ven, 6 – 24

Michelle was shocked to go through after being in the bottom two with Jimi (weren’t we all), but is throwing herself in paso training. Unfortunately, Michelle and directions aren’t a happy combo – “Straight!” screams Brendan. Our pro is apparently tapping into his endless patience (“Come on, woman!” “You’re killing me!”). Just in case we’d forgotten Michelle’s nationality (yes, she’s a foreigner – can we move on?), she danced to “American Woman” with a giant American flag as her backdrop. Next week, if she’s still around, my money’s on “American Pie”, “Americano”, “American Girl” or, to make her more acceptable to the public, “White Cliffs of Dover”. Wearing a giant doily over a sparkly stripper bra probably didn’t help her get into the bullring mindset (plus comparisons with Natasha Kaplinsky’s paso dress didn’t help), and, despite their determination, the dance felt awkward throughout, with Brendan guiding her around by her skirt (“Straight!”) while trying to make a red see-through lace shirt look macho. He also flung her to the floor with a certain relish at the end.

Overall: Could this be their last dance?

Patsy and Robin – Queen of hearts



strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, Dusty Springfield

Judges’ comments: Craig: “Far from council, darling.” Patsy had gone from “chavvy” to “classy and confident”, “delicious and gorgeous”. He advised her to “smooth out the bumps” and extend her back-line. Len noted she hasn’t challenged for the top spot yet, she’s bubbled under – “but, like sparkling champagne, the bubbles have come to the top”. Alesha loves her vulnerability – despite being an actress, “there’s nothing fake about the way you dance”. She may not be “queen of technique”, but she dances with her heart.

Judges’ scores: 7, 9, 8, 8 – 32

Patsy compares Craig’s “chavvy” barb with “walking into a sharp instrument”. Hoping to become more graceful for her Viennese waltz, she goes through Robin’s finishing school, bettering him at carrying books on her head (“It’s because it’s so flat. You can put your pint on it!”). I love Patsy’s self-deprecating quips, and her everywoman status will stand her in good stead with the voters. She looked like a real “laaay-dy” in her soft pink dress, and danced confidently out of hold in their lyrical opening. Decent frame and smouldering acting sections throughout, with Robin making the most of her talents and providing a solid support for her throughout. Clever boy.

Overall: Moving on up.

 Gavin and Katya – And then he kissed him




Song:I Want You To Want Me”, Cheap Trick

Judges’ comments: Craig, trying to draw attention away from Bruno’s card-fanning and come-hither gaze, praised the advent of personality and called it a quantum leap forward, although it was “a shambles technically”. Len: “Everyone wants to go to Blackpool. On that performance, see you there.” Bruno was in rapture: “Am I dreaming? Let’s do it all over again, I want to be sure it’s for real. It was your strongest performance…because of me, I take the blame, let’s do it again, let’s do it together, let’s do it forever!!!”

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 9, 9 – 33

Right, cue rant. Gavin fans, look away now. Our smug Welshman is reliving taking down Scott and has now set his sights on Matt. He believes he’s become a dancing god and may have “missed my calling in life”. OMG! It’s a shame to see the show giving time to this ghastly attitude and quick-fix mentality, which Katya fuels with her gimmicks and distractions. Yes, Gavin, after a few weeks of average dancing and a couple of routines livened up by props and judge-snogging, you are now the one to beat. Good luck with that. Ahem. Back to the dancing – which was decent, but technically weak and full of errors. And yet…9??? Seriously??? The gimmicks are there to pull in viewer votes, not fool the judges – aren’t they? Otherwise, why do we have “dance experts” scoring at all? Sidenote: did Katya’s dress remind anyone else of the dancing feather duster in “Beauty and the Beast”?

Overall: What’s next – bringing a scrum on the floor and dry-humping Len?

Ann and Anton – Playing it straight



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “You Make Me Feel So Young”, Frank Sinatra


Judges’ comments: A sage Len: “I’m not going to analyse, I just sit back and enjoy it. You’ll be on this show as long as the public want to see you.” Alesha (plagued by mic problems) pointed out a subtle detail that we might have missed: “It’s hard to get the posture right with your height difference.” Bruno gasped out his admiration for “Anton Du Berk in a supersized, family-sized, Pepto-Bismol bottle” and said she tried (Ann: “Can I have half for effort?”) but kept looking between her legs (“To see where my feet are going!”).


Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 6, 5 – 20

Ann thoroughly enjoyed her Charleston, but is back to serious business this week with the foxtrot. The couple’s training ground, Newton Abbot, has honoured them by naming dishes after them – Widdy chicken is the most popular (Anton: “I demand a recount!”). Ann isn’t taking to the foxtrot – “There’s far too much going on. There’s upwards movements, and there’s sideways movements, and there’s tugging.” Anton has resorted to shoving. Best dress yet for Ann, with pink feathers (sorry, Mrs Flamingo) and a flattering line, but her pure concentration took the fun out of their performance. Amused by Anton’s benevolent smile, as though humouring a deranged toddler. Great end quip from Ann: “Did you see his toe? It ended up under my foot.”


Overall: Looking forward to her return to comedy with the samba.

Quick break for a VT of Blackpool: donkeys on the beach, fish and chips, rock, “sand, sea and samba”, the Tower Ballroom, the usual unfortunate puns (“Will it be all gravy for our stars?” accompanying gravy-pouring onto chips), and a rather creepy “lady” with her eye on “my Gavin”. Watch out…

Kara and Artem – Hats off to you



strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Los Vino”, Otros Aires

Judges’ comments: Alesha loves watching Kara and praised her footwork, lines and passion – “You’re the queen of technique!” Bruno: “Fantastic choreography, fantastic dancing, fantastic tango.” Craig’s one word: “A-maz-ing!”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38

Last week, nerves got the better of Kara, so she missed out on celebrating the fact that they topped the leaderboard. She’s had a stressful week with photoshoots and interviews (poor lamb), but is aiming to put in a big performance. That they certainly did. Loved her body-con purple dress and hat, and her opening seduction of the hatstand – inspired use of prop. Super-shiny Artem kicked things off with a flawless lift (maintained while he carried her down the stairs), and then it was into lovely sync work, intense and focused performance, precise musicality and strong end lift and pose.

Overall: The sexy couple at their best.

Felicity and Vincent – Do no arm




Sequin-o-meter: 1


Song: “All Night Long”, Lionel Ritchie

Judges’ comments: Bruno called it “a bit of a tangle”. He thought some moments were very good, but the armography was too difficult, so she lost flow. Craig said she got very stuck and thus it was “a minor disaaaster”. Len thought some parts were very good, but she got mangled with the arms, making it “squashy”.


Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26

Felicity loved doing the paso and Vincent gave something back to his “women public” by taking his clothes off. But this week’s salsa is proving challenging, especially the armography. Her grandchildren come into judge and prove to be as harsh as the real thing: “It was a diaaaaster”; “Maybe he could carry her or something?” Not bad advice. Their routine began with Felicity on the floor (like her paso), rising up to reveal the full awfulness of her junior pink dress, with its leotard top section and frilly skirt. They worked their cougar chemistry as much as they could, but the dance was awkward, sticky and confused. Vincent undid a few buttons on his pink silk shirt for his “women public”. They’ll need public support to get through.

Overall: Not their finest hour.

Matt and Aliona – Mr Lover Lover



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Too Lost In You”, Sugababes

Judges’ comments: Craig felt slightly uncomfortable watching it and said Matt throwing himself into it made the story stumble. Len agreed, but praised him for his beautiful lines and authority. Bruno thought he “switched on the raunch factor” and danced a very difficult dance beautifully.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35 (OK, Craig. Why is this an 8, and Scott a 4? WHY???? Explain yourself! Claudia, please get on it. Thank you.)

Matt loved being back in hold for last week’s Viennese, but is out of his comfort zone for the rumba, although he gives it a good go at “The One Show” with Miranda Hart (“It’s like you’re caressing yourself!”). Aliona wants him to see himself as “Mr Lover Lover”, who is presumably the Russian equivalent of John Terry. Really strong performance throughout, with Matt creating some lovely lyrical lines, although his hip action was jerky at times and he showed some tension in his face. Aliona livened up proceedings by raiding Ola’s “feat of engineering” dress collection. Now, is it just me, or was that a lift? Aren’t we penalising those now? No? Maybe that rule only applies to celebs who aren’t employed by the BBC.

Overall: A tricky dance done well, but not as strong as past weeks.

Scott and Natalie – Jack the lad



Song: “Hit the Road Jack”, Ray Charles


Judges’ comments: Len: “This is becoming the battle of the ballroom!” He loved that Scott “danced on the edge” and took risks. Alesha said he was “back in business”, incredible kicks and flicks and full of energy. Bruno (sporting a comedy lipstick mark): “Scotttt-T on fire! Ready to take on Blackpool and the world!” (In that order.) He compared it favourably with the gold standard of “Strictly” jivers, Jill Halfpenny. Craig called it simply “finger-lickin’ good”.

 Judges’ scores: 9 (booed), 10, 10, 10 – 39

Scott suffered a “rumba conundrum” with last week’s low score, but notes you “can’t expect to be brilliant at everything”. To say this guy is a good role model is a bit like saying “Strictly” occasionally features sequins. He also noted that he doesn’t want to get into competitiveness with other couples (cue VT of Gavin crowing “You’re the worst male left in here now!” with partner-in-crime Katya cackling by his side). Mr Congeniality, meanwhile, bounced back with jive training, showing his adorable mad side in the process. This routine featured THE BEST combo of dance and storytelling so far this series. Nat threw out her feckless boyfriend (how much did we love the glittery doorway?), despite his “Come on, babe!” motions, so Scott launched into a dynamic solo kick section instead. Appeased, Nat joined him for some sharp, clean, musical jive, pausing to slap him when he got too cocky and bestow her affections on Bruno instead. He thought he’d danced her way back into her good books (and house), but no – she let him in, only to present him with a suitcase of clothes.

Overall: Now THAT’S entertainment!


Scott 39

Kara 38

Matt 35

Gavin 33

Pamela/Patsy 32

Felicity 26

Michelle 24

Ann 20

Who’s the worst male now, Gavin? Strong top three and nice to see Patsy climbing up. Will Pamela get back on track next week? Let’s hope for a tight competition in the run-up to the final.



WHO will have to cancel next week’s B&B? That’s the big question tonight.

Our pro boys, looking mighty smart in their tuxes, kicked off a snazzy American smooth to “Beyond the Sea”. The pro girls joined them, in gorgeous glittery satins, and the group moved effortlessly between in-hold formation foxtrot and jazzy side-by-side action. The scissor lift wasn’t at the most flattering angle, and James killed the mood slightly by sticking his tongue out, but otherwise a great start.

Not a great night for our presenting duo, fashion wise: Tess, back to shoulder pads and keeping the mad hair, topped by Claudia, who was wearing a shroud.

Judges’ recap:


Len called it “a war on the floor”

Pamela: Len: “Chances win dances”

Michelle: Bruno: “She made a boob”

Patsy: Alesha: “You can’t help but warm to her”

Gavin: Alesha (hopefully): “Do you think we’ll all get a kiss each week now?”

Ann: Anton: “You didn’t give them a chance to say much, did you?” Ann: “You have to get in there before the enemy”

Kara: Nice footage of the ecstatic couple celebrating

Felicity: Craig: “She needed arm extensions”

Matt: Craig: “You can see he’s trying to achieve it”

Scott: Bruno: “Spot on.” Len “No. SCOTT on.” Oh yes!

Alesha observed: “We’ve got a real competition on our hands.”

Tess announced the first safe couples: Matt and Aliona, Gavin and Katya, Pamela and James and Scott and Natalie. In the bottom two: Michelle and Brendan. Not a huge shock, landing there for the fourth (and most probably last) time.

Annie Lennox sang her beautiful new single “Universal Child” – a heartfelt performance from a true legend. Students, check your rooms – there can’t be a tea light left in Britain, as they’re all on the “Strictly” floor, ensuring no dancers can possibly creep on and steal Miss Lennox’s spotlight.

Sidenote for the best Claudia-ism of the night: “Scott, you got 39, you clever rabbit!”

“Who else will be on the fun bus?” Claudia asked. (How much do we all want to go on this trip? Bags I sit with Claudia and Pamela – on the back seats, natch.) Tess announced some more safe couples: Patsy and Robin/her wonderful surprised reaction, Kara and Artem and Ann and Anton, leaving Felicity and Vincent in the bottom two. Again, not a huge surprise. Could we have Blackpool without Ann’s comedy samba? I think not.

Pause for a quick shout-out for Len’s red handkerchief, perfectly co-ordinated with his poppy. What a gent.

Ooh! “Strictly” treat coming up on “Children in Need” on Friday, apparently! According to the website, our show is going 3D – a first for the BBC – with Flavia’s “Tango Unleashed” as the pilot project. The finished film will be shown in cinemas as part of the fundraising effort.

But back to the dancing. Or not. Another two musical numbers to go. Phew! First up, our very own Alesha. The showdancers made themselves useful by doing some rumba and nice lifts in front of our girl, who was sporting a fabulous floor-length red dress. Again, nice sync work, but otherwise not wildly inspired – the pro performances tend towards lifts and pizzazz this series. And why was Ian wearing a too-small waistcoat? Did he raid Darren’s closet? Enjoyed Alesha’s performance of “Radio”, and great that she’s donating the proceeds to “Children in Need”.

a_michelle_last_danceNext up, The Soldiers singing “Letters Home”. Flavia, in one of the best dresses this series, performed a lovely hybrid number (rumba, Argentine tango, show-stopping lifts, foxtrot) with Vincent. Short and sweet, with real emotional resonance – could have had more of both the singing and the dancing, and maybe dropped one of the other numbers.

Finally, the usual “But I don’t WANNA go home” VT, and then it was time for The Moment of Truth TM – the least surprising elimination so far, after a couple of turbulent weeks. Farewell to our American girl, who never quite got into her stride, but kudos to her for fighting so hard and especially to Brendan for doing such a good job, given everything else he’s been dealing with during this series. “You brought the booty to the ballroom!” squawked Tess, with no embarrassment whatsoever. Last dance to the Beatles’ “Michelle” – YES! Excellent choice!

That’s it for another show, but hold onto your hats – next week, we’re off to Blackpool! Well, not us, obviously. But – through the power of television – off we go to the “Vegas of the North”. Chips ahoy!

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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