Posted on October 3, 2016
It wasn’t just The Fall that suddenly resembled a particularly well-styled episode of Casualty this week. We had (in retrospect fairly insensitive) muscle-pulling jokes from Will Young, and – more significantly – the series’ first elimination notching a solid five on the Strictly Controversy Scale through Anastacia’s dance-off-skipping injury.
Suddenly, we became a nation of armchair physicians. (Get me three units of O-neg and page McDreamy, stat!) When exactly did the injury occur? Should she have danced at all this week? Will she be fit enough to manage next week? And, in the case of a few rather cruel commenters, should she have been forced to do the dance-off, against medical advice, under threat of instant elimination?
Now, I certainly think Odoomed Melvin was the right first boot, but the show could perhaps have given voters more information: told us more about the injury last night (she tore the scar tissue from her mastectomy, which OUCH), and been clearer about the rules – apparently there are rules! – as regards reverting to the public vote in the event of no dance-off.
Let’s hope Anastacia recovers, and embrace the small silver lining: this week made a solid case, if it were needed, for scrapping the dance-off altogether…
Other hits and misses:
Best in Show
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Err, Tess. Think your dress is on backwards. Claudia: faring marginally better with an off-the-shoulder jumpsuit.
Ore and Joanne – Crash and burn
Time-wasting field trip: fire brigade visit. And yet another time-wasting routine, with far too much Amateur Night pole-dancing, suspender-plucking and faffing around with props. Frantic, overstuffed and entirely unnecessary, given that Ore actually has potential. However, the actual cha cha was out of time, with bent legs and thus no hip action, despite the confident performance. Ditch the trappings, Jo, and let’s see what he can actually do. I’m really trying with this pair, but…oof.
Song: “Hot Stuff”, Donna Summer (COPYCAT KLAXON: Darren Gough and Lilia, Michael Vaughn and Natalie)
Judges’ comments: Len wanted more polish, but excellent performance. Bruno liked the energy and sauciness, but it was too clipped and needs to be cleaner. Craig thought he was good at busting his own moves, but stiff in the hip department. Darcey said he sold it, but watch the frilly hands.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27
Claudia and AJ – Leading light
Time-wasting field trip: AJ tries to learn gymnastics, while being laughed at by tiny humans in leotards. This forbidden love waltz was a definite improvement on last week, but they still aren’t quite gelling as a partnership – looks like Claudia’s too used to generating her own power, so she’s either anticipating or leading AJ, and doesn’t quite link moves. But lovely lyrical arms, fewer acro distractions, some good footwork, and the beginnings of a decent hold – just need to sort out the gapping. Sidenote: let’s burn that shirt, AJ. Find yourself some big boy clothes.
Song: “You Light Up My Life”, Whitney Houston (COPYCAT KLAXON: Julian Clary and Erin, Gavin Henson and Katya, Susanna Reid and Kevin)
Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the West Side Story-esque drama. Craig noted she spots the floor on her turns and hyperextends in the upper body. Darcey praised her fluidity and control. Len thought she had good hold and technique.
Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 8 – 30
Will and Karen – On the rocks
Time-wasting field trip: drive-in with Fifties classic car, and this meta line from Karen: “We don’t have time. Cue the training footage!” Oh, if only. Here’s my first of many rants about footwear: wouldn’t Will have produced crisper footwork in proper Latin shoes, rather than sloppy Converse? This was a genial swing, but lacked the dynamics and energy of a jive, even one with rock’n’roll theming – the steps were casually marked rather than sharply delivered. Enjoyable performance and looked comfortable with the routine, but (as with last week) not clearly inhabiting this specific style.
Song: “Rock Around The Clock”, Bill Haley & His Comets
Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was flat-footed and laboured, and he made a mistake in the side-by-side section. Darcey liked the rock’n’roll feel, but lacked sharp kicks and flicks. Len enjoyed the mix of styles. Bruno thought the character was great, but there was an incident.
Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 8, 7 – 27
Lesley and Anton – Fine dining
Time-wasting field trip: ooh, no, Lesley got to stay in the studio and practising being a diva. That’s…something, I guess. Against all odds, I wound up really enjoying this number – an ANTON LATIN. (I know. Send help.) Yes, there were alarming oil-slick trousers and bum-rubbing, but Lesley was having so much damn fun bossing around Waiter Anton. Cha cha wise, bent legs, free arm whipping around like a clothesline caught in a gale, and a few stumbles, but decent rhythm and musicality, and coherent characterisation the whole way through.
Song: “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, Pussycat Dolls (COPYCAT KLAXON: Bill Turnbull and Karen, Pamela Stephenson and James)
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her “hot little body”, though some balance issues. Len enjoyed the performance and lots of content. Bruno said her legs were excellent, but she threw away her top. (That’s the Champagne for you.) Craig wasn’t pleasantly surprised.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 6 – 26
Greg and Natalie – It’s behind you
Time-wasting field trip: into the wind tunnel to crack that ballroom frame. And welcome back to Terrible Tango Song Choices – this one chosen solely to provide a long jump gag. However, we did get a strong routine with plenty of proper content, no props and patented Natalie head rolls. As discussed at length, Greg stuck his bum out, which caused major posture problems, plus still slightly pigeon-toed, and needs to smooth out the movement. But in this year of rampant ringerdom, he’s faring pretty well for a Week 2 novice – plenty of promise.
Song: “Jump”, Van Halen
Judges’ comments: Len noted the bum issue, but liked the fire and staccato movement. Bruno praised his strength and commitment, though needs to glide more. Craig like the intent and aggression. Darcey thought it was powerful.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 7 – 26
Tameka and Gorka – Just keep swimming
Time-wasting field trip: chillaxing on Brighton Pier. You can’t go too far wrong with Tameka, basically Charleston in human form, getting to do this “Personality first!” style (at least in Strictly’s interpretation), and it was indeed jolly holidays fun, though once again feels like something they could have scored better with if they’d saved it for Week 6. Also: again with the inappropriate shoes, which exacerbated some of her flat-footedness and lack of swivel, but hey. We got adorable bathing suits, good sync work, cheeky characterisation and air-swimming, so it’s generally a win.
Song: “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby”, Firehouse Five Plus Two
Judges’ comments: Bruno called her “the queen of slapstick”. Craig loved that it was so character-driven, but she got stuck getting up after going through his legs. Darcey liked all the detail. Len chucked in a tide gag. (Len really is on autopilot now, if that wasn’t clear…)
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29
Laura and Giovanni – Loved up
Time-wasting field trip: climbing The O2. Can’t even remember why. This waltz had lovely fluidity and simmering romance, with all kinds of stroking, clinging and heavy petting (hi, tabloids). A few snatched transitions and needed a bit more drive, plus more in hold, but good body contact, decent frame and nice musicality. Sidenote: it’s a good night to waltz, with the three one-two-threes sharing top spot on this week’s leaderboard. I found this the most forgettable of the trio, but that’s an issue I have with Laura generally, good though she certainly is.
Song: “If I Ain’t Got You”, Alicia Keys (COPYCAT KLAXON: Pamela Stephenson and James, Natalie Gumede and Artem)
Judges’ comments: Craig noted she skipped out of the standing spin, but absolutely gorgeous – romantic without being soppy. Darcey loved the emotion, elegance and extended back. Len praised her frame, throwaway oversway, and mix of light and shade. Bruno thought it was sophisticated and passionate.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Melvin and Janette – Going down
Time-wasting field trip: Janette gets up at the crack of dawn to visit Melvin at the radio station. WHAT FUN. And now we return to Terrible Tango Song Choices, with bonus terrible theming: they’re lift attendants because moving on UP, yeah? This was pretty painful: stodgy, stuttering, forced movement, shoulders swallowing his neck and somehow leading with his earlobe, plus far too upright, so stomping feet, lacked contact and no drive. On the positive side…plenty of attack. On our retinas, mainly.
Song: “Moving On Up”, M People
Judges’ comments: Darcey noted tension in his shoulder, but improvement. Len found it stompy, but enjoyed the attitude. Bruno thought it was keen but clumsy. Craig criticised his posture, frame and lack of V shape.
Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23
Louise and Kevin – Light bulb moment
Time-wasting field trip: into the woods, it’s time to go, I have to leave, and zorbing go. Now, I’m not sure any girl dreams of a dress that randomly blows up around the midsection like a puffer fish – is this a strange wardrobe request, or does the feud continue? Also distracting: all the lights in the BBC seconded for an OTT opening. But some proper embracing of ringer status with a defiantly balletic start, which is certainly more enjoyable than the false modesty. In hold, a tad skippy and clinging to Kevin, but good musicality and nice connection.
Song: “Hallelujah”, kd lang
Judges’ comments: Len enjoyed his first fleckerl of the year, but got a bit lumpy. Bruno praised her exquisitely lyrical arms and spins. Craig said too much rise and fall, otherwise gorgeous. Darcey said she filled out every beat of the music.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Anastacia and Brendan – Medic
Really sad about the injury, because this VT – featuring the birth of Latinstacia – was great fun. Apparently some planned lifts were dropped (and might this be an argument against styles with lifts early on in the competition?), and it unfortunately looked like a hastily changed routine, with stalled transitions and awkward errors. Although, even if she’d been able to deliver it, it would still have been pretty close to her Week 1 cha cha – a shame not to show two different characters, even if we’re not doing one Latin/one ballroom. Let’s hope she recovers and gets the chance next week.
Song: “Sax”, Fleur East
Judges’ comments: Bruno said it needed more hip action, but a good performance considering. Craig said it was clunky and haphazard, lacked hips and the armography wasn’t fluid. Darcey found it hot and spicy. Len said she gave it her all.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22
Ed and Katya – Amazeballs
Almost training footage, with Cowboy Ed learning his performance faces. And boy does that pay off, as he cruised into People’s Champion-ville with this gloriously goofy (and surprisingly well-delivered) hoedown Charleston. Where to start… Well, with the picnic blanket shirt and banjo – banjo! – followed by bonus air banjo, penguin runs, demented chicken flapping and “What am I like?” shrug. Needed more swivel, but mainly kept in time during all the side by side work and solid in lifts and tricks. Kudos to Katya for her coaching and a smartly constructed, charming routine.
Song: “The Banjo’s Back in Town”, Alma Cogan
Judges’ comments: Craig thought it had an air of desperation. Darcey was impressed by his musicality and hard work. Len said it had a standing ovation because it was so much fun. Bruno: “It’s good to see the funny side of Balls.” But also a proper dance.
Judges’ scores: 3, 7, 6, 7 – 23
Naga and Pasha – Hair-raising
Time-wasting field trip: we didn’t leave the studio, but there was a visit from a hula hoopist – which is apparently a job title. Millennials, eh? The best thing about this number was Naga’s Tina Turner getup, but as this is Strictly, not She’s All That, there are no points for makeovers. Cha cha wise, pretty much a damp squib – boxy, hesitant, mistakes, posture problems and rather dull. She seems determined to get everything right, which means she’s holding back, and each error makes her stiffen up more. I fear this may be beyond the magic of Pasha.
Song: “Fool In Love”, Tina Turner
Judges’ comments: Darcey thought she was disconnected. Len pointed out the mistakes, but liked the sultry look. Bruno wanted more intensity through her body. Craig found it spiky and flat-footed, balance issues and riddled with mistakes.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 7 – 23
Judge Rinder and Oksana – Lift off
Last week Rinder was wilfully and wonderfully strange; this week, we had grandparents and an attempt at actual human sentiment. Even weirder, a slightly saccharine American smooth was still accompanied by the wild flapping mouth, which made it look a bit like Oksana had invited a venus fly trap to prom. He made the challenging lifts look incredibly easy, and confident both in and out of a promising hold, but it seems the show – and/or his partner – hasn’t quite decided whether he’s a bizarro comedy act or actual contender. The current combo is disconcerting.
Song: “Marvin Gaye”, Charlie Puth ft. Meghan Trainor
Judges’ comments: Len thought he had elegance and style, but “got obsessed with all the heel leads”. THAT IS NOT A NEGATIVE, LEN. Oh, we should all be so obsessed with heel leads. Bruno said he can actually dance. Craig criticised his hands and facial expressions. (Rinder burn: “You’re just jealous I can smile this broadly.”) Darcey praised the impressive présages lifts.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27
Daisy and Aljaz – Sweet tooth
Time-wasting field trip: Fifties bowling trip. Strictly is now at least 60% Len’s Golden Years. So, we all envy the woman in the audience who gets both Aljaz AND a sundae, yes? We do not envy Daisy’s Minnie Mouse/princess party cupcake Halloween outfit, which even the professional model struggles to style out. This was a decent but safe cha cha, with Daisy mainly walking through it rather than fully committing and risking obvious errors. Legs a bit soft and bent, arms too casual and lacked Latin hip action, but cute and sexy delivery.
Song: “Forget You”, Cee-Lo Green (COPYCAT KLAXON: Louis Smith and Flavia)
Judges’ comments: Bruno said it was hot. Craig thought her upper body lacked attack and she lost the straight leg, but enjoyed it. Darcey thought it was sassy and flirty. Len said she’s at home in both ballroom and Latin, but did an illegal lift.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 8 – 30
Danny and Oti – She’s leaving home
No field trip! Instead, Danny got the torturous posture bar to help with his frame. This was more of an American smooth Viennese, and as with last week more on the fast and furious stagey side of things, but again pretty irresistible. Promising and well-sustained topline (just needs to adjust his arm height slightly), superb musicality, some heel leads, though bit too much rise and fall, good sway and fantastic domestic drama storytelling through a connected partnership – Oti is producing fantastic work. Perhaps they’ll suffer from early success, but right now they’re delivering the most complete performances by far.
Song: “Never Tear Us Apart”, INXS (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lisa Riley and Robin)
Judges’ comments: Craig loved the American smooth elements. A bit skippy, but fantastic. Darcey praised his elegant topline. Len surprised us all by enjoying the modern twist on a traditional dance, but should keep his head to the left in hold. Bruno adored the drama.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Louise and Kevin – 31 + 32 = 63
Danny and Oti – 31 + 32 = 63
Daisy and Aljaz – 32 + 30 = 62
Will and Karen – 30 + 27 = 57
Laura and Giovanni – 25 + 32 = 57
Claudia and AJ – 26 + 30 = 56
Tameka and Gorka – 26 + 29 = 55
Ore and Joanne – 27 + 27 = 54
Greg and Natalie – 27 + 26 = 53
Judge Rinder and Oksana – 25 + 27 = 52
Anastacia and Brendan – 28 + 22 = 50
Lesley and Anton – 23 + 26 = 49
Naga and Pasha – 23 + 23 = 46
Melvin and Janette – 22 + 23 = 45
Ed and Katya – 21 + 23 = 44
Laura, Claudia and Tameka rise, while Anastacia tumbles.
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
One-shoulder LBD with alarming plunge and incongruous frill. Claudia just about making her blue doily dress work.
Two performances: one wildly OTT, the other eminently skippable. Barry Gibb…I don’t know, I completely tuned out, while the pros opened proceedings with a moody Romeo and Juliet tango in which chaperone Brendan ensured there was room left for God between Gorka and Oksana. NO STRICTLY CURSE FOR YOU. Also: we’ve now blown the entire glitter budget for the series.
Will this be retired when Goodman leaves us? Hey, how about we use the time for actual ballroom, or guest dancers? Anyhow, this week:
And so we came to the dance-off that wasn’t, with Melvin and Janette losing out to Anastacia and Brendan in the public vote, and tears all round.
What did you make of Week 2? Do you agree with the elimination decision? And who’s looking like a finalist to you? Come say hi on Twitter: @mkmswain
Coming soon: it’s (sigh) Movie Week. In the meantime…keep dancing!