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Strictly Speaking

Posted on December 6, 2010

Strictly Speaking Week 10

Saturday

“Strictly” Strikes Back with a wonderfully hammy Star Wars opening to movie night, complete with Brucie enacting the MGM lion struck down by tonsillitis. ‘Our pros’ kicked off proceedings with their film fest: Grease (Kristina, naturally, in Olivia Newton-John’s leathers and Robin rocking out as Danny), Top Gun (poser Aviators and minimal clothing – who else but the Jordans?), Easter Parade (Anton and Erin in their preferred era) and Pulp Fiction (Artem attempting to do a serious paso with Katya, despite their outfits, plus elements of the classic Pulp Fiction dance moves – but not, as done brilliantly on Dancing with the Starstwice  – to “You Never Can Tell”, but to “Pump It”, which was rather jarring).

Bruce and Tess walked the red carpet, although the latter’s outfit really wasn’t worthy of it – shiny grey jumpsuit? Why, Tess, why? And, in a HILARIOUS tribute to the weather, Bruce intoned “It’s ICE to see you, to see you…” Phew. In other news, returning celebs Gethin Jones and Kelly Brook upped the level of hotness in the front row.


Scott and Natalie – Licence to strip

0009_scottstrictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “James Bond Theme”, John Barry

Judges’ comments: Len wished Natalie was wearing something even more revealing. Steady, Goodman. “Double oh seh-ven!” he crowed, praising Scott’s posture and performance. He pointed out a few mistakes, but said he’d coped very well with hard music and hard choreography. Bruno: “Scotttt-T, licence to thrill! You have such rugged masculinity, you can play rough or play soft!” Steady, Bruno. He noted that it was difficult to produce Spanish lines with that music, but Scott managed it. Craig, in contrast, wanted more shaping but loved the theme, choreography and role reversal, and called it “red-blooded, virile and hot”.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35 (With the scoreboard playing up and saying 10 for Alesha and Bruno – what a tease)

Scott was horrified that he zoned out during his last performance and is determined to make up for it this week. He’s enjoying getting into character, and Natalie has turned into a “Bond baddie”, pushing him harder with the choreography and insisting he gets his kit off. Well, if he must… She followed her own advice with her Ursula Andress bikini paso outfit, which Ola must be salivating over. Their routine was a nice mix of showy – floor spins, back somersault – and classic paso, with great intent and drama. I agree with Craig that there could have been more shaping, but a big step up from last week. Also loved the musicality, particularly the kicks to the bluesy horn section, and, of course, Nat tearing off his shirt at the end in a moment of passion. Bond always gets the girl.

Overall: Could this book him a semi-final place?


Ann and Anton – Trolley dolly

 

0009_ann_2simply_so_so
Sequin-o-meter:
2

Song: “Hello, Dolly”, Carol Channing

Judges’ comments: Alesha recognised that there was more dance content and liked the lifts, but said her posture was terrible and she showed zero emotion – “The honeymoon’s over.” Bruno snorted: “It was more like ‘Hello, Trolley’!” and added that Ann looked like “a dalek in drag”. Ouch. “Apart from that, how was it?” quipped Ann. Craig, unusually, went for positives – the lifts were “all right”, one chassé was “passable” and one polka “I didn’t mind”. Len: “Dancing in its basic form is moving to music – there was movement and there was music.” But he likened Ann to the snow – fun to start with, but eventually you want it to go away.

Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 4, 3 – 14 (Lowest ever for American smooth – Ann’s now broken five low-score records. Ann notes she’s also made Craig laughed and flown – “I break a record every week!”)

Ann was pleased that the audience enjoyed her rumba and said the judges were “lost in the Atlantic” and only interested in “their own clever remarks”. She’s finding the American smooth lifts challenging but is enjoying proving people – and the bookies – wrong by surviving this long in the competition. Her outfit this week was particularly tragic – Quality Street-gold jumpsuit, tasselled leggings and a Barbie-pink jumper with mini tasselled shoulder pads, somewhere between Sergeant Pepper and The Saturdays – and their routine wasn’t as hilarious as usual. The lifts were OK and they did put in some dance content, which was nice to see, but the quality of movement compared to the other contestants is now so far off that unless they go for riotously awful, as they did with the rumba, the audience will surely tire of them.

Overall: Might this be their final shuffle?


Matt and Aliona – Oh, behave!

0009_mattstrictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

 

Song: “Soul Bossa Nova”, Quincy Jones

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Groovy, baby! Jive with a swinging Sixties flavour.” Craig loved the back somersault, said the characterisation was flawless and called the jive clean and precise, but noted they lost timing on the kicks. The “backflip thing” worried Len, as he thought the table might break, and he also said Matt was too light on his feet, but he enjoyed it overall.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Matt loved their controversial smooth and was gutted that Alesha criticised his facial expressions – he says he wants to try difficult steps, so that’s why his face is sometimes forced. He can’t smile AND dance, can he? HONESTLY! No more smiling this week, as he and Aliona are training in a community hall in the Outer Hebrides. Who said “Strictly” isn’t glamorous? However, cheery Matt finds goofy Austin Powers a natural fit, although Aliona is determined to ramp up the sex appeal (as always). She made her contribution by borrowing Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack mini dress and raising the hemline by a few inches. Matt opened with a daring back somersault off the judges’ desk and then gave us some wonderful physical comedy while Aliona, bizarrely, gyrated around him like a stripper. Matt’s Austin impersonation was spot on, and it was great to see his adorably geeky persona coming out (with less limelight-hogging from Aliona than in past weeks), but his actual jive was too light, skimming the floor rather than putting pressure into it for a proper bounce. Aliona, please teach him ballroom technique. He’s clearly one of the most naturally talented celebs we’ve ever had, so it shouldn’t be too taxing.

Overall: Great fun but could do better.


Pamela and James – Perfect package
0009_pamelastrictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter:
3

Song: “Unchained Melody”, Righteous Brothers

 

Judges’ comments: Craig: “Graceful, elegant, stylish, tasteful, full of emotion, gorgeous.” Len: “Tonight is all about who should get through to next week. On that performance, I’ll see you next week.” Alesha: “These are the moments I look forward to on ‘Strictly’ – perfect song, perfect dress, perfect choreography, perfectly danced.”

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40 (“I’m dreaming!” gasped Pamela.)

Pamela was pleased that their risky Charleston came off – her daughters were ready to rush onto the stage with paramedics (oh ye of little faith). She’s proud to be representing women of a certain age, although James, the charmer, delights in winding her up about her 61st birthday – can’t put candles on the cake or it’ll be a fire hazard! Hahaha! Given all the ageism controversy the show has gone through, is it really appropriate to have someone making old lady jokes? Just a thought… Their routine ticked all the “emotional performance” boxes: fluffy Disney dress (with Pamela’s usual décolletage), classic song and decent Viennese waltz movement bookended with heartstring-tugging lost-love mime and staring soulfully into each other’s eyes. I still think their performances tend towards cheesy, and this wasn’t technical perfection by any means, but it was an assured and canny performance that will see them through to next week. Pamela should be commended for both selling the dance beautifully and putting up with James.

Overall: Lovely to watch.


Gavin and Katya – Foxy trot
0009_gavinsimply_so_soSequin-o-meter:
2

Song: “Minnie the Moocher”, Cab Calloway

Judges’ comments: Len: “Your best dance. Well done!” Alesha loved watching the “sexy, hot couple” and said Gavin had confidence oozing out of him. (Her crush is now rivalling the Bruno/Scott love affair.) Bruno liked the “two for the price of one” factor, with elements of foxtrot and quickstep, and called Gavin “much improved”.

Judges’ scores: 7, 9, 9, 8 – 33

Gavin still doesn’t understand why the judges didn’t like his jive – he enjoyed doing it and it felt good to him! Tsk, what do they know anyway? He’s a top sportsman! They can’t stand in his way! He thrives on big games, don’t you know. Anyway, this is all about the tortoise and the hare – “I haven’t peaked too early.” He’s going to “unleash it” now and hope that other people flounder so he can come out on top. That’s the spirit. Given all his fighting talk, I found the routine rather underwhelming. His topline has definitely improved and there was some nice musicality, but their performance was disjointed – we began with Blues Brothers shades and suits, then stripped off and lost all emotional connection while Gavin concentrated on being in hold and Katya worked very hard to produce enough sex appeal for the pair of them before being thrown through his legs. Um, why? Was this meant to be a seduction foxtrot? Did Gavin’s six layers of tangerine fake tan cover up his animated facial expressions and storytelling?

Overall: Still all talk – he’ll have to bring more to the table to compete with the top four.


Kara and Artem – Chemistry lesson

0009_karastrictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

 

Song: “El Tango de Roxanne”, Sting

Judges’ comments: Alesha: “I’m absolutely blown away. Together you are mesmerising. The best tango I’ve seen on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.” Bruno roared “Spectacular, spectacular! A tango full of theatrical magic.” He then nearly fell off his chair in excitement. Craig: “One word: phan-tas-ma-gorical!” (Did someone get a thesaurus?) Len thought the heel leads were too strong and didn’t like that every closed promenade was a stamp, but overall he loved it.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38 (The 9s were heartily booed by the audience)

Kara felt very unsure about the jive and doesn’t want to be in that position again. She’s thrilled to be doing a tango to music from her favourite film – Moulin Rouge – and there may have been some training footage for that, but all I could really concentrate on was Artem (with his serious face) explaining that THE RUMOURS ARE TRUE, but mixing a personal relationship with training is too complicated, so they’re waiting until the show finishes before they actually go out. Ahhh. That suppressed passion was evident in their simmering performance (if you chose to read into it like that – I definitely did), which had beautiful shaping, great musicality, staccato movement (yes, Len, sometimes too forceful), gorgeous lines and sustained drama. Bonus points for slick and challenging chairography and Kara’s amazing purple dress. Points detracted for Artem’s painted-on facial hair.

Overall: Fab-u-lous!


Leaderboard

Pamela 40

Kara 38

Scott/Matt 35

Gavin 33

Ann 14

Still can’t call it between the top four, which should make it a fiercely competitive semi-final if they all get through to next week. Ann is now on a completely different leaderboard. In the third division. In competitive cardigan-wearing.


Sunday

“Who’ll be a blockbuster and who’ll be left on the cutting-room floor?” Thank you, Tess.

They’re back! But the poor showdancers drew the short straw this week. Just when you thought “Strictly” couldn’t get any more camp, here’s a Mama Mia medley! Ouch. I admired Ian for still putting on a serious tango face, given the costuming and musical accompaniment, and all the boys trying to be uber-macho in the paso. Fact: you just can’t pull off uber-macho in primary-coloured trousers or floral shirts. The samba to “Take A Chance On Me” was the least jarring combination, but overall a cringeworthy experience unfortunately. Loved the judges’ disturbed expressions.

And keep them on as we catch sight of Tess! Why, Tess, why? Joan Collins called – she wants her S&M-spiked-shoulder-pad dress back. Actually, no – on second thoughts, she says you can keep it. Meanwhile, Claudia went for puffy white peasant sleeves, a high ponytail and a rapper’s oversized bling necklace. Suddenly the sequinned dungarees in the showdancers’ number don’t look so bad. Well, no. That’s a lie. Sequinned dungarees are hard to beat.

Judges’ recap

Scott: Bruno: Scott is back! Job well done

Ann: Len: She’s a record-breaker. Alesha: We salute you!

Matt: Alesha: He played Austin Powers brilliantly. Bruno: Shame he missed the kicks, I wanted to give him 10s

Pamela: Len: She was incredible. Dance of the night. Pamela: Best birthday ever!

Gavin: Alesha:  I was very proud of him. Len: The more you sweat, the better you get

Kara: Alesha: I wish I had a 20. Len: Pamela may have got the top score, but Kara is the one to beat

Tess announced the first safe couples: Gavin and Katya (surprising) and Kara and Artem. In the bottom two: Scott and Natalie. Real shame, but he was in a dangerous position in the middle of the leaderboard and he didn’t put in the most dramatic or entertaining dance of the night. Bruno was truly outraged that anyone might jeopardise Scotttt-T’s position. “This guy is a potential winner!” he roared. “And NO ONE can take him away from me!” (I may have added that last bit.)

Anton and Erin then treated us to a waltz to “Moon River”, which will be familiar to any unfortunate viewers who saw their stage show. I liked Erin’s Audrey look, but the routine was rather dull and old-fashioned – more of a technical demo than a true performance, with zero emotion between them, and a comedown from the excitement of movie week.

Tess announced the final safe couples: Pamela and James and Matt and Aliona. And in the bottom two: Ann and Anton, breaking their long run of audience appreciation. It was bound to happen eventually, after the audience for That Other Saturday-Night Show gave up on Wagner last week.

Len gave us a preview of the semi-final excitement: in addition to their two individual dances, the couples will partake of a swingathon (steady), dancing at the same time and being removed from the floor one by one. We’ve also got a double elimination, for anyone concerned about the maths this series (five couples down to three for the final).

Ann cheerily gave thanks to the viewers for a tremendous ten weeks, adding that the “four icebergs” would have got rid of her much sooner if they could. Dejected Scott wasn’t hugely surprised by the result after their tricky few weeks, but really wants to get through for a Charleston and an Argentine tango.

The Manic Street Preachers treated us to their new single “Some Kind of Nothingness”. Well, I say treated… And where was the dance performance? The juxtaposition between angsty, serious musical guests and cheesy mini routines is one of my favourite parts of the show! Yes, this was a nice, classic Manics song, but think how much better it would have been with an X-rated Jordans rumba in front of it! Those catsuits won’t wear themselves! Meanwhile, over on another channel, the Glee cast made their British TV debut. Come on, “Strictly”, we can do better than this.

0009_annThen it was time for the ‘Please, sir, let me have some more dancing’ VT – Scott doesn’t want to fall at the last hurdle, while Ann would love to do jive and Argentine tango (God preserve us), but is cheery whatever happens.

The Moment of Truth TM gave us an interesting visual contrast, with Ann fully and garishly covered and Natalie clad in fake tan and snippets of white lycra. And it was finally time to say farewell to Ann! It’s been a wonderfully entertaining ride, but now the Ark Royal must sail into the sunset after defeating the daleks, or some other Bruno mixed metaphor. The departing politician got a huge standing O from the audience and gave a smiling speech, saving some bile for the judges. She praised Anton and he praised her – it was a love fest. Relief all round. The British public do generally make the right choice in the end. Yes, some joke contestants have made it all the way to the final in past years (notably dance-challenged Christopher Parker back in series one), but we knew the time had come to let Ann go.

Now it’s down to the best of the best (and Gavin) – who will make it to what promises to be a seriously high-standard final? Will our couples manage three dances? Can “Strictly” really fill three nights of semi-finals? We’ll find out next wee

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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