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Strictly Speaking 2016 – Week 1

Posted on September 26, 2016

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Marianka Swain on the first competitive week of Strictly Come Dancing 2016

And we’re off! Another series of ringer debates, capricious scoring and Great British Triers, the latter group represented this year by, well, pretty much just Ed Balls. Is the 2016 crop a bit too good too soon? I did some highly scientific research (AKA chucked out a poll on Twitter), and viewers mostly seemed happy to watch a high-standard lot, but I do wonder if we’ll miss a few J words and inspirational moments when we’re already at 8s and a 9(!) in Week 1.

Still, it’s definitely a cast with great entertainment value, and if the standard is this high, maybe – oh, maybe – we can ease back on the mistakes-concealing themes and props. A girl can dream…

Speaking of scoring, we’ve got a sparkly new addition to the blog: our sequinometer is joining Len in retirement, replaced by Strictly glitter balls. (In homage to Ed, naturally.) Three balls for standout performances, down to one for those that must do better.

Other hits and misses:

  • Bless Craig. Since that hip op, he’s been spinning more determinedly than Malcolm Tucker. HIT
  • The copycat klaxon, it wearies. A depressing nine repeated songs this week. MISS
  • Do we like the pick’n’mix styles, or pine for the days of Week 1 waltzes and cha chas? The latter does mean it’s easier to compare contestants, though not in the tied score-awarding judges’ eyes, clearly… HIT/MISS
  • It bears repeating: put down the dressing-up box. Move away from the props table. No one has ever criticised a tango for its lack of bicycles. MISS
  • So, the scoring. It does seem mad to go above, say, a 7 in the first week – Len’s got nowhere to go now other than, err, the golf course. It can also be a hazard to celebs already suspected of having a stage school advantage. MISS
  • Actual training footage! Yes, also some random field trips (sigh), but this was a welcome return. HIT
  • Darcey’s accidental burns are joyous. Less so: multiple “The boys are right” proclamations. HIT/MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Danny’s cha cha Fast, fun and superhumanly assured. Expect great things.
  • Best costume: Gorka’s attire I mean, if anything was going to convince us of the wisdom of a Week 1 paso…
  • Best move: Judge Rinder’s Craig-mocking chaîné turns Inspired dance trolling.
  • Best line: Claudia’s “I hope you can hear me over the noise of Melvin’s shirt” A shout-out to the elf bit as well. Sublimely silly.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Claudia Winkleman, Tess Daly - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Claudia Winkleman, Tess Daly – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Fairly inoffensive white number, if a tad “Serena Williams loves fashion, you guys!” with the shoulder cutouts. Claudia: one dress eating another, and then dying of indigestion.

Laura and Giovanni – Are you there, god?

Giovanni Pernice, Laura Whitmore - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Giovanni Pernice, Laura Whitmore – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Well, this pair seems happy enough with their budding showmance plotline. Just as well, as there isn’t much else of note. Laura taught Giovanni some Irish dancing. He, being a professional dancer, picked it up quickly. So…yes. Their cha cha – involving statues come to life – was a perfectly decent Week 1 effort, with good rhythm and musicality and a confident delivery, but a fair bit to work on: arms either floppy or accidental Fosse, legs bent, some awkward transitions, and the distraction of The Fringe That Ate Laura. Definite potential, but on the lukewarm side.

Song: “Venus”, Bananarama (COPYCAT KLAXON: Russell Grant and Flavia)

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was fun and rhythmic, but lost timing and needs to straighten her legs. Bruno enjoyed the love goddess storyline and she worked the stage well, but needs better foot placement to get hip action and arms thrown away. Craig agreed on flexed knees, shoulders raised and unstable, but clean turns. Darcey thought it was sweet and sassy.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 7 – 25

Our new glitter ball rating:


Naga and Pasha – Let it go

Pasha Kovalev, Naga Munchetty - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Pasha Kovalev, Naga Munchetty – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Naga has already adopted several Strictly strategies: she’s the Type A student who just wants to do well, and she’s the tomboy who wants to turn into a pretty pretty princess. Both were evident in a Whitney waltz (billowing drapes, natch) that was precise but far too studied, hampering the flow. Naga clung to Pasha as…well, we all might in that situation, meaning she hunched into him, even more so after an error. But another one with potential if she can relax into the performance. And the mint-green cloud dress was a definite winner.

Song: “Run To You”, Whitney Houston (COPYCAT KLAXON: Willie Thorne and Erin, Vanessa Feltz and James)

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised her elegance and poise, but a mistake in the middle. Also, this gem: “If you drag, drag well – ask Craig.” Craig said it lacked rise and fall. Darcey, queen of the accidental burn, said Naga’s best attribute is her neck – she needs to use it more and lower her shoulders. Len agreed it was elegant.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23


Judge Rinder and Oksana – Smooth criminal

Judge Rinder, Oksana Platero - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Judge Rinder, Oksana Platero – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

When did Judge Rinder become my new favourite? When he denounced the hyperbolic “giving it 150%?” When he happily related his Fifty Shades of Grey dynamic with strict Ukrainian Oksana? Or when he turned in the most shocking performance of the weekend? This was the kind of gloriously bonkers cha cha we’re all here for: a judge stripping off his robes to reveal spray-tanned pecs, arms flung so far back they nearly took out the front row, knee spins, wildly exaggerated characterisation, and mouth flapping like a permanently astonished goldfish. Yes, messy footwork and lacked control, but pure joy after two tentative performances.

Song: “Mercy”, Duffy (COPYCAT KLAXON: Andrew Castle and Ola, Patrick Robinson and Anya)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted the trout pout and Rinder’s take on his signature chaîné turns, but does have rhythm. Darcey found it extraordinary and praised the detail. Len thought it was a bit wild, but “if entertainment’s a crime, you’re guilty”. Bruno loved the gusto and personality.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 6 – 25



Lesley and Anton – The way we were

Anton Du Beke, Lesley Joseph - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Anton Du Beke, Lesley Joseph – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

If in doubt, pile on the sentiment. A waltz, to the Birds of a Feather theme song, with black and white opening, Anton appearing as a ghost (no pottery, though), and Linda Robson weeping buckets in the front row. Otherwise a soporific number that had the misfortunate to follow Rinder. Posture issues, not helped by the height difference, giant gapping and Anton handling her like a sideboard full of very breakable glasses, though some nice glimpses of musicality and performance. Let’s hope we get something more engaging with the Latin, otherwise could be a short run.

Song: “What’ll I Do”, Alison Krauss (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ricky Groves and Erin, Tony Jacklin and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it was sophisticated and romantic, but she got lost in Anton’s chest and the shoulders went up. Len gave his fashion tips (basically “It’s all gone downhill since women started wearing trousers”) and praised her clean footwork. Bruno thought it was touching, but she got stuck in the rug of Anton’s chest (SHUDDER). Craig said the posture let her down, but nice ease and flow.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23


Ore and Joanne – On yer bike

Joanne Clifton, Ore Oduba - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Joanne Clifton, Ore Oduba – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Ore introduced his partner to his wife, who is Joanne’s exact doppelganger, in a VT designed to creep us all out. Also, he’s afraid of birds. Now you know. This tango was everything I detest about the modern era: theming throttling the style. It was like a hipster unicorn vomited on the stage. We had bikes and balloons and faffing about on a bench and Joanne wearing a colour wheel and Ore’s geek chic and GOOD GOD SO MUCH SUGAR. The tiny bit of tango was decently danced, if slight gapping due to hold issues, but this was a wasted opportunity with a promising celeb.

Song: “Geronimo”, Sheppard

Judges’ comments: Len: “Tango is thunder and lightning, not lollypops and roses.” Took too long to get going – he wants to see a full routine. Bruno thought it was a cheeky spin on tango and praised his acting. Craig liked the storytelling. Darcey thought it had good attack and focus – lots of potential.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 6, 7 – 27



Greg and Natalie – Jump for joy

Natalie Lowe, Greg Rutherford - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Natalie Lowe, Greg Rutherford – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Natalie may not have stopped smiling in three weeks. She even made “Going to watch Greg do more long jumping” sound like the best outing in the world. And no wonder: he is not, thank goodness, another Pendleton. A really decent jive, given that he’s a big guy and this was pretty unnatural (small steps, addressing the pigeon toes etc.). Still needs to work on getting up on his toes and finding more control, but light on his feet, fantastic energy, good turns and infectious joy. If he can utilise those long limbs in ballroom, he’ll go far.

Song: “Get Ready”, The Temptations

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it wasn’t precise, but he has talent and an amazing presence. Craig thought it was flat-footed, needed more retraction in kicks and free arm was loose, but enjoyed it. Darcey, with another Darcey compliment, called him a blue frog. Len said they’re a dynamic duo, great attack, just lost it a bit towards the end.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27



The Strictly Come Dancing professionals, judges, presenters and Grimsby dancers - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

The Strictly Come Dancing professionals, judges, presenters and Grimsby dancers – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

No joke: I saw the kiddie dancers at the beginning of this number and for a moment thought “Is that our new pros?” But no – we had the ghosts of Strictly past and future before the pros joined in, plus a choir, and a whole lot of group hugging. Is this the beginning of the Labour healing process? I fear it may take more than one dance…


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Claudia Winkleman, Tess Daly - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Claudia Winkleman, Tess Daly – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Back to repurposing sofa covers. Claud: a slightly confused black strapless number with both fringe and a slit.


Louise and Kevin – Shore leave

Kevin Clifton, Louise Redknapp - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Kevin Clifton, Louise Redknapp – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

More ringer denials, and lacklustre boat dancing. If you’re not bringing out Channing Tatum, frankly you’re wasting everyone’s time. Another retro special from Kevin, and another sack for poor Louise – someone in wardrobe is not an Eternal fan. Easy jive action, lithe kicks, smooth turns and a sunny performance, though could have used more bounce, especially as she was in trainers. Given the standard this year, she’ll also need to choose one of two paths moving forward: do a better job of masking past experience, or really lean into the Italia Conti and up the dynamism. This was a tad muted in places.

Song: “Jump, Jive and Wail”, Brian Setzer Orchestra (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan, Ben Cohen and Kristina)

Judges’ comments: Len said high performance level means high expectations in future. Bruno thought she followed in the family tradition by scoring big (shouldn’t that be immediately injuring herself?), though a few errors. Craig said it was clean and crisp, needed more retraction in kicks, but outstanding. Darcey praised her kick ball changes.

Judges’ scores: 8, 7, 8, 8 – 31


Melvin and Janette – Holiday from hell

Janette Manrara, Melvin Odoom - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Janette Manrara, Melvin Odoom – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Janette’s basically a Ronseal choreographer. The song is “Loco in Acapulco”, so they’ll be going loco in Acapulco! First, a chance for Melvin to use all his Family prop points in one hit. And speaking of props…ye gods. We’ve got signs, maps, maracas, sombreros, a piñata, and less cultural sensitivity than you’d find at the average Trump rally. There’s also the tiniest glimmer of cha cha, poorly danced – blocky, no hip action, no flow and flat feet. But perhaps the biggest crime: Melvin’s shirt and hot pink trousers. MY EYES, THEY BURN.

Song: “Loco In Acapulco”, the Four Tops

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it was festive, but forgot the hips. Craig found it stiff and square – not his dance. Darcey liked the cheeky chappy, and said (accidental Darcey burn) the hips were fine when he stood still. Len thought it was fun.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22


Daisy and Aljaz – Blood ties

Aljaž Skorjanec, Daisy Lowe - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Aljaž Skorjanec, Daisy Lowe – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy


I call foul. We are not the ruddy X Factor, and we do not manacle dances to dead grandparents. Especially not in Week 1. Choreography wise, we’re back to perfume ad Aljaz – all model posing and the faint suggestion that these are the beautiful people chosen to repopulate post-apocalyptic Earth – and it was certainly a graceful waltz, with a lovely continuous flow and elegant lines, though head position needs work, but the rampant emotional manipulation rather ruined it for me. Sidenote: Daisy’s princess wedding dress definitely a keeper. Wardrobe IS a fan of…whatever it is she does.

Song: “Unforgettable” Nat King Cole

Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was saccharine and mawkish, but beautifully danced. Darcey praised the romantic feel, but needs to use her long limbs to extend further. Len said it’s the best Week 1 dance he’s ever seen, which…OK. Bruno thought she made it look easy.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 9, 8 – 32


Danny and Oti – Thriller

Danny Mac, Oti Mabuse - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Danny Mac, Oti Mabuse – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Well, here’s someone who’s not shy about his training. This routine screamed past experience, but was so much fun to watch that you forgave it – at least there was no false modesty attached. (That’s not really Danny’s style, false or otherwise). Pin-sharp footwork, great hip action, good arm placement, assured performance and outstanding partnering. Fantastic routine from Oti, who also sported the weekend’s hottest dress. As it was so action-packed, didn’t always settle his weight fully, and there was a stage school end-of-term cabaret vibe, but thoroughly entertaining. If he can translate this technical level into other styles, he’ll be the one to beat.

Song: “Cake by the Ocean”, DNCE

Judges’ comments: Darcey was in shock. Len said he’s a contender, though wanted less stage dancing. Bruno thought he had incredible performance power, and loved the Michael Jackson moves mixed in with the cha cha, plus great hip action.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 8 – 31



Tameka and Gorka – Ole!

Gorka Marquez, Tameka Empson - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Gorka Marquez, Tameka Empson – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Poor Gorka. His Strictly characteristics are still 1. Spanish and 2. Gleb replacement. Ah well. If that means he wears eye-wateringly tight trousers and a tiny jacket while doing thrusting paso leaps, I guess we’ll have to live with it. As expected, a confident, dramatic turn from Tameka, though it wasn’t entirely clear whether they intended an OTT comedy element – the judges certainly seemed to read that. Shoulders up and needed much clearer shaping, but strong both in and out of hold, which bodes well. Enjoyable, though might have been a high-scoring style for them if they’d held it a few weeks.

Song: “Y Viva Espana”, Sylvia and “El Gato Montes”, Ramon Cortez (COPYCAT KLAXON: Dominic Littlewood and Lila, Ali Bastian and Brian, Natalie Gumede and Artem)

Judges’ comments: Len said it was (sigh) a corker and full of impact. Bruno wanted better shaping, but loved the run at the end. Craig said she owned the stage, though more matador than cape. Darcey called her a dramatic, moody senorita, but wanted exaggeration in the arms.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26


Anastacia and Brendan – Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Anastacia, Brendan Cole - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Anastacia, Brendan Cole – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Nothing says birthday like sitting on a London tour bus while Brendan fares about as well with facts as he did on Celebrity Pointless. (Seriously – Dirty Dancing failures should get your ballroom dancer card revoked). Still, Anastacia recovered enough to channel her inner MTV girl (or quite possibly saloon wench) with a diva-tastic performance – splits, hip-stroking, lip-licking and smouldering down the camera lens. Unfortunately an early mistake seemed to put her off, so the actual cha cha was full of stumbles and errors, but if she can’t nail the routine, she can certainly sell it.

Song: “Lady Marmalade”, Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim and Pink (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was hot and sexy, but she went wrong. Craig: “It was absolute filth and bordering on indecency, which I loved.” He and Darcey then praised/argued over her splits. (“Dance Geek-off! To the West Side Story garage!”) Len said he saw her rocky mountains, which…ick. NO, LEN.

Judges’ scores: 8, 7, 7, 6 – 28


Ed and Katya – Laboured

Katya Jones, Ed Balls - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Katya Jones, Ed Balls – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

And finally, we come to Glitter Balls. A trip to the House of Commons mid-training, but does waltz really mean waltz? This was a slightly mournful number (and who could blame Ed, given the smoking pile of ash that is his Party right now), but almost charming in that very Strictly out-of-comfort-zone way. Shoulders up and stodgy, though some half decent footwork, and Katya almost made it look dynamic with some impressive flourishes towards the end. Let’s also enjoy Ed’s tiny concession to sequins, which made it look like a fairy had sneezed on a bank manager’s suit, and hope for hilarious Latin next week.

Song: “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, Elvis Presley (COPYCAT KLAXON: Kenny Logan and Ola, Dan Lobb and Katya)

Judges’ comments: Craig called it “ex-council and pedestrian” – lacked rise and fall, needs hand shaping and went wrong. Darcey said there were glimmers of an elegant gentleman, and he should find a character to help with nerves. Len said Ed’s what the show is all about. Bruno thought he was “surprisingly conservative”, letting her do too much work.

Judges’ scores: 5, 5, 6, 5 – 21


Claudia and AJ – Flipping out

Claudia Fragapane, AJ Pritchard - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Claudia Fragapane, AJ Pritchard – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Blimey. We’re already at meeting the parents stage (though did AJ tell his mum he was going to Claudia’s house for tea?), but haven’t progressed much in terms of taking Claudia from gymnast to dancer. Well, it didn’t help that this cha cha was packed with tricks, but she pretty much used the dancing sections as preparation for the next death-defying move (in heels!). Plus, overenthusiastic AJ very nearly broke her neck with his pelvis at the end, which would have been awkward in this year of our glorious Olympians. AJ needs to bring his performance way down and/or bring hers way up.

Song: “What Makes You Beautiful”, One Direction (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ashley Taylor Dawson and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Darcey wants the dynamics of her tricks in the dancing. Len isn’t keen on gymnastifying (cue AJ mentally revising every single routine). Bruno cooed over them as though they’re a basket of puppies, and said she has to keep the flow, not stop for tricks. Craig found it stompy and square, lacking hip action, but loved the acrobatics.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26


Will and Karen – Seeing red

Karen Clifton, Will Young - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Karen Clifton, Will Young – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

All hail Will’s rehearsal attire – those suspenders are a keeper, as are the denim cut-offs. Also quite enjoyed his mock annoyance at Karen not knowing his songs. If we’re going to endure terrible skits, at least he can act them. The actual tango was a mixed bag fashion wise (I was transfixed by the large expanse of red sock), but a decent performance: strong, well-acted, promising hold if some issues with head position, and good delivery, though a bit too skippy and light in places – needed to stay down in the knees. Should suit the lyricism of the other ballroom styles better.

Song: “Let’s Dance”, David Bowie (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jo Wood and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Len noted the hold was too wide, but excellent performance. Bruno loved the acting and interpretation, but needed to retain the style and technique of tango more. Craig said his feet were turned out, but great drama, intent and sharp staccato. Darcey agreed on topline, but good potential.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 7 – 30



Daisy and Aljaz – 32

Louise and Kevin – 31

Danny and Oti – 31

Will and Karen – 30

Anastacia and Brendan – 28

Ore and Joanne – 27

Greg and Natalie – 27

Tameka and Gorka – 26

Claudia and AJ – 26

Laura and Giovanni – 25

Judge Rinder and Oksana – 25

Naga and Pasha – 23

Lesley and Anton – 23

Melvin and Janette – 22

Ed and Katya – 21

Who impressed you? Do you agree with the marks? And who do you think will be first to go? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for our first elimination. In the meantime…keep dancing!

Marianka Swain is a freelance writer and social dancer at several London venues. You can find more of her work at

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