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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 29, 2010


Week 9 


Back to television centre, and this week’s “Strictly” felt like a bit of a comedown after super-exciting home-of-ballroom-dancing Blackpool. There was a general malaise and tiredness. There were more injuries. There was a painfully drawn-out Brucie joke about Ann and Anton getting it on. I rather wanted to rush into the studio with Nurofen and caffeine, and maybe a camp-bed for Scott. Ah well. Here’s our…YAWN…first couple… 

Kara and Artem – Kara von Tease

009_kara simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2 

Song: “Runaround Sue”, Dion

Judges’ comments: Len: “First out, first class, you steamed up my glasses.” He thought there were a few steps she wasn’t confident on but overall a great start to the show. Alesha used the “J” word and thought it was cute and full of personality. Bruno labelled her “Kara von Tease, the sexy jiving peanut”, which I think was a compliment. Craig liked the precision but thought it lost timing and the ending was haphazard.

Judges’ scores: 7, 9, 9, 9 – 34

Blackpool was a rollercoaster for Kara and Artem, starting off on a high (?) with donkey petting and ending on a low with Artem’s injury. The poor boy now has yet another injury AND tonsillitis, but “the Russian machine” is powering on with jive training. Loved Kara’s flapper dress and Artem’s dapper hat and sparkly braces, although the latter caused him some difficulties. Lots of personality, opening with Kara perching on the judges’ table to give Len shades, adorable chicken walks and ambitious armography that didn’t quite come off. Great tricks – assisted back flip, cartwheel and handstand ending – although slightly out of time. The 9s were generous. 

Overall: Not as spot on as we’ve come to expect, but still great fun.

Ann and Anton – You sunk my battleship

009_annsimply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2 

Song: “My Heart Will Go On”, Celine Dion

Judges’ comments: Alesha: “Kate Winslet, eat your heart out! My favourite storyline of the series. I could see the love between you. Not much content but well done for remembering the steps.” (Ouch.) Bruno: “The Ark Royal follows the Titanic and sinks the rumba into the deepest and darkest depths of dance disaster.” Craig (“Here comes the iceberg,” quipped Ann) called it frigid and passionless and thought the iceberg showed more emotion than Ann. Len, the James Bond martini, pointed out some nice basics (“admittedly off time and with the wrong footwork”) and called it “the daftest dance I’ve ever seen – I laughed from the moment you started till you came out the smog at the end”. 

Judges’ scores: 1, 5, 5, 3 – 14

Ann greatly enjoyed their madly costumed samba and felt confident in its entertainment factor getting them through. This week, her formidable streak is coming out as she puts Anton’s firmly in his place (always fun to watch). She firmly believes that she deserves to be in the show as long as the voters want her – that’s democracy in action. Their rumba really was comic gold, with Ann wincing at the wind machine while striking a Titanic pose with a shawl and Anton ringing the bell at the start, through to their naughty touching, semi-splits (that’s for you, Felicity!), marked basics and end embrace, with splashing and foghorn. Nice to see them combining some actual elements of rumba with the camp hilarity.

Overall: I nearly cried. In a good way.

Patsy and Robin – Madam Chair

009_patsysimply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “They”, Jem

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked her focus and placement but thought it lacked spunk: “You have to go for it, act the drama: give it to me, I don’t want it, give it to me!” Craig wanted more flair, attack and extreme lines but thought it had intent and purpose. Len said she captured the mood of the dance but she won’t win being careful – better to go down in flames than hold back. Alesha liked the intensity and character and thought her legs looked stunning.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 7 – 30

Patsy got a bit carried away in Blackpool. Now, week 9, the show’s starting to take its toll. She has a nagging foot injury and is grateful for the chairography in her routine, as she can have a bit of a sit-down. Honestly, Patsy seemed ready to go home about five weeks ago and the exhaustion is showing. However, I thought the judges were rather contradictory – in previous weeks, they’ve told her to dance with more precision and focus, rather than just going mad, and I thought, to a certain extent, she managed that with her tango. Really liked her intense storytelling with Robin and attempt at control, although she hadn’t mastered the technical elements enough to really pull it off.

Overall: Good intent but not quite achieved.

Scott and Natalie – Ssss-sleepyhead

009_scottsimply_so_so Sequin-o-meter: 2

 Song: “Fly Me to the Moon”, Frank Sinatra

Judges’ comments: “What a terrible, terrible shame,” sighed Craig. He loved the lifts and accents but otherwise “a complete disaaster”. Len: “You’re a class act but you didn’t do yourself justice tonight.” He advised Scott to “stay awake and come back stronger”. Bruno: “Scotttt-T, don’t worry, you’re still smoother than anybody else. You made a mistake, but some parts were excellent, your musicality is great, don’t beat yourself down.” (UP, Bruno, UP.) 

Judges’ scores: 6, seh-ven, 9, 9 – 31

Scott knew the samba wouldn’t be his finest hour, as he hadn’t had enough time to train. He had the same problem this week, with long hours at “EastEnders”, and actually fell asleep standing up in the training room. “EastEnders”, give him a break: you’ll get loads of great publicity for the show if Scott stays in “Strictly”. Their smooth had the potential to be traditional and gorgeous, but Scott’s stumbles and fudging made it edge-of-the-seat viewing sadly.

Overall: Back on track next week?

Break for a rather delightful segment about our “magnificent seh-ven” – Gavin “Big Guns”, Patsy “Blonde Buckaroo”, Kara “Queen of the Leaderboard”, Scott “More Tens”, Ann “Wild West” – “the good, the bad and the Widdy”, Matt “Tricky Dixie”, Pamela “Fun Dance Kid”. Deeply silly but great fun. More, please! “Yee-hah,” deadpanned Bruce.

Gavin and Katya – Hate on me

009_gavin_2struggles_sparkleSequin-o-meter: 1

Song: “Hey Ya!”, OutKast

Judges’ comments: Len sympathised with Gavin’s discomfort (“my mum used to put me in an angora beret”) – he gave it a go, but “you hated it, I hated it, we all hated it”. Alesha patronised: “Oh, Gavin, you look so funny.” She just wanted to give him a big hug. I bet. Bruno: “Why are you not giving it to me? You’re like Clark Kent, never quite turning into Superman.” He liked the “tight pants” but not much else. Craig moaned that the bottom wiggle “smacks of desperation” and added: “You’re giving Ann Widdecombe a run for her money.” Ooh.

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 7, 6 – 22

Gavin was annoyed with himself for messing up in Blackpool and equally annoyed that he’s fallen behind the other two boys. What’s that saying about pride and a fall…? He thought the jive would be easy after seeing Scott do it, but turns out it’s not. Katya’s version of getting Gavin to “express himself” isn’t that effective – he mainly stomps around the studio muttering “I hate the jive”, “I hate this dance”, “I hate it”. He hates it. HATES it. Almost as much as Claudia hates “The Machine”. Sadly, this was apparent throughout their lame, gimmicky jive, with Gavin in geek-chic director garb and Katya, inexplicably, in multicoloured tinsel. Weak and unconvincing throughout. Katya, quit messing about with the tricks and characters and teach him some steps!

Overall: Back to square one.

Matt and Aliona – American struggle

009_mattsimply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Empire State of Mind”, Alicia Keys

Judges’ comments: Alesha was disappointed – she could see tension in his face and thought the turns were “manic and erratic”. Bruno admired his commitment and lyricism but it was more “American psycho”. Aliona chipped in haughtily, explaining that it was all about a struggle in New York. Why? It’s a “smooth”. How often is a struggle smooth? This seems odd to me. Len muttered: “If you’re explaining what you’re trying to do, it hasn’t worked as a dance.” Quite. He thought the running steps looked like Matt was “kick-starting a motorbike”.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33

Matt was nervous about the big Blackpool audience, but ultimately loved it and was over the moon with his 10s. Hilarious, brilliantly edited VT, with Matt and Aliona earnestly explaining how in sync and understanding they are, juxtaposed with clips of Matt looking confused, Aliona snapping at him, miscommunications and Aliona swearing nastily in his face. What a sweetheart. It was brave to attempt a contemporary version of the smooth, and a nice idea in theory (plus good use of Matt’s lyrical lines), but, as Len noted, if the audience doesn’t get it, you haven’t communicated your intent properly. A performance is for the audience, not the performers (ahem, ALIONA). And, on “Strictly”, it should showcase the celebrity, not the pro (ahem, ALIONA). Not sure it helped dressing Matt as a camp Cossack or putting Aliona in a dress so tight her breasts were making a constant bid for freedom.

Overall: A wasted opportunity.

Pamela and James – School’s out

009_pamelastrictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Let’s Misbehave”, Cole Porter

 Judges’ comments: Bruno: “It was like a funny, witty mini play set to music and it’s going to get a BAFTA from me!” Craig called it risky, loved the dangerous lifts and that Pamela danced without any fear or trepidation. Len: “It tickled me fancy! You enjoyed doing it, I enjoyed watching it.” Alesha: “Best dance of the night.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38

Pamela had a wonderful time in Blackpool and James is buoyant about his (sorry, their) two 10s. Those good spirits continue in the training room, as the Charleston is the perfect showcase for their OTT personalities and facial expressions. Loved the microphone malfunction moment that resulted in Pamela getting stuck in a rather compromising position. Fun and witty performance, from the opening gag about headmistress Pamela and teacher James casting off their gowns and mortarboards for a night on the town to the superbly executed tricks and great stylisation throughout.

Overall: Effortless entertainment.


Pamela 38

Kara 34

Matt 33

Scott 31

Patsy 30

Gavin 22

Ann 14

The scores reflected this rather low-key week, with only Pamela really excelling. Disappointing results for the boys in particular. Otherwise, it’s still all to play for among the top four.


“Last night was ballroom bedlam!” crowed Tess. Staying in that vein, “our pros” gave us a rather peculiar semi-jive, beginning with Aliona, Katya and Natalie waking up from a snooze to gyrate on chairs in miniscule Latin outfits as though at a beach party. Joined by (unshaven) Jared, Brendan and Artem (poor boy, can’t he have a week off?), who all got into the spirit of it, but there wasn’t much actual jive. (Yes, I am now BECOMING Len.) It was fun, but when you have great ballroom dancers at your disposal, wouldn’t it be nice to have them doing some…you know…dancing?

Judges’ recap 

Kara: Len: Craig, how could you give her a 7? Bruno: She messed it up a bit, but they all did tonight

Ann: Alesha: I never thought I’d see Titanic on “Strictly”! Bruno: …sinking that badly

Patsy: Bruno: There was no drama! (Demonstrates by throwing himself at Craig)

Scott: Footage of him being gutted about going blank

Gavin: Len: If you go on the floor with that attitude, it shows. Gavin: We need to watch it back – was it that bad? (Bless. Yes, yes it was.)

Matt: Bruno: He pushed it too far

Pamela: Bruno: Thank god for Pamela!

Tess announced some safe couples: Matt and Aliona, Pamela and James and Ann and Anton. In the bottom two: Patsy and Robin.

009_jordans_rumbaThen it was time for James and Ola to push the pre-watershed boundaries with their rumba to Rihanna’s “Pull the Trigger”. I felt Ola should really be charging by the minute for her opening section, in which she gyrated and writhed on the floor in her skin-tight cut-out catsuit (family show!), and was then joined by James so they could… gyrate together. Once they managed to get to a standing position, I enjoyed their routine, which balanced strong lifts with some nice basics and maintained a slinky atmosphere throughout. Claudia segued beautifully into her interviews by saying it reminded her of Ann and Anton’s rumba, and then mocked Matt’s shirt, likening it to her dress. I love her. 

Next week is movie week! In a sneak-peek VT, Matt did Singing in the Rain, Kara Flashdance, Scott and Pamela Grease (“Tell me about it, Scotttt-T!”), Ann creeped me out with The Wizard of Oz, Gavin and Scott delighted female viewers with The Full Monty, although sadly not going the Full Monty. Faulty advertising.

Tess announced the remaining safe couples: Kara and Artem and Scott and Natalie, leaving Gavin and Katya in the bottom two. Hurrah! Thank you! Good to see the votes going with the scores more as we near the end (barring Ann, of course).

A disappointed Gavin mumbled away in his little-boy Welsh way – Claudia, hilariously, claimed not to understand a word. LOVE HER. Patsy happily brought out her “I’m just thrilled to get this far” speech for the 67th time.

I found James Blunt’s new single “So Far Gone” mystifying. Why was he singing “There are no lights to guide us” when surrounded by hanging lightbulbs? And where was the dance demo? If anyone needs a dance distraction, it’s James Blunt.

009_patsy_leavingAnd then it was time for The Moment of Truth TM. The couple leaving is…Patsy and Robin. Shame, but she never seemed to quite conquer her nerves, so it’s probably her time. Kudos to Robin for providing stalwart, selfless support for her throughout the series – he’s proved to be a real asset to the show, and I hope they bring him back again next year. Lovely farewell speech from Patsy (the one she’s been practising for a few years now) and nice last dance, in which she finally relaxed, but was upstaged by Craig and Len’s swaying and singing along.

Are you ready for next week’s silver-screen extravaganza? Can anything top Ann’s “Titanic”? And how many movie puns will Tess pack in? We’ll find out soon. In the meantime…keep dancing!

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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