Dedicated to dance
since 1910.

Buy Latest Issue

Strictly speaking

Posted on December 20, 2010


Week 12 

00000_final_countdownIt’s official: “Strictly” addiction is a dangerous virus, like mad cow disease or swine flu. Do you need a ballroom flu friend? In other news, Bruce has been set loose on the glitterball with a hammer and chisel. Hope the BBC has good insurance.

Show 1

What a start! No holding back in final week. We’ve got to top Halloween madness and Widdy taking flight, after all. Our pro boys did some macho beckoning from the stairs (which Anton should never do again) to “Eye of the Tiger” while Kristina and Ola had a “vamp-off”. Vote for your favourite now. Then we had some group posing, Zoolander fashion, and about three bars of cha cha cha. But wait! What’s this? It’s our finalists, entering the ring! Do Matt’s sparkly sleeves and James’s white tie detract from this fierce image at all? Of course not! And here’s Len to cap off the Rocky tribute: “Let’s get ready to rumba!” Ding ding!

Bruce and Tess’s intro was rather anticlimactic after this knockout opening, and Brucie fluffed his opening joke in all the excitement. Egyptian mummy Tess wrapped herself in white bandages and stuck slabs of glitterball to her neck and arm in final-appropriate accessorising.

Highest-scoring dances

Matt and Aliona – Hot hot hot




Sequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Young Hearts Run Free”, Candi Staton

Judges’ comments: Alesha (in a red dress with a giant shoulder adornment – the wardrobe department GOT HER) called it the best samba of the series. Bruno: “There is nothing better than a hot Latin samba to get you going in a cold snap!” He one-upped Alesha, saying it was one of the best male sambas ever on “Strictly”. Craig thought it was “all good, I’m afraid”, with “torrid” hip action.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38 (Same as last time)

Matt had an emotional weekend, with his salsa savaged and tango triumphing. He thought “Strictly” would be “fluffy” (foolish boy!), but has discovered it’s seriously intense. He felt the pressure of excelling early on and was thrilled to finally get a 10 in Blackpool with his samba, after weeks of needling. So, here it is again. Aliona, surprisingly, went for a far more conservative version of her samba outfit, with an actual skirt! Fantastic performance again, from the confident batucadas to the smooth samba rolls and backflips, plus cheesy faces galore to match the cheesy music.

Overall: Excellent start to the show.

Kara and Artem – Liftgate



strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song:Samba Pa Ti”, Carlos Santana

Judges’ comments: Alesha: “I need a tissue!” She pulled out a string of reality-show clichés – journey, emotional rollercoaster, raising the bar from last week… Bruno found it “hypnotic, sensuous, romantic” and technically daring, with stunning extensions and phrasing, which Craig agreed with, but still couldn’t get past “the illegal lift”. Len: “Reminds me of myself – the more you see it, the better it gets!”

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 (Same as last week)

Making it to the final is one of Kara’s biggest achievements EVER. Shockingly, she revealed she actually wanted James or Anton as a partner (really??), but she’s pretty pleased with Artem now. She found it hard to let go at the start, but managed it for their paso and then the “emotional rollercoaster” of Blackpool. It’s been so special meeting Artem. So emotional. Cue tears. LOTS of tears. From both of them. (Why are there candles behind them? Are we interrupting something?) Their rumba was even more technically assured than last week, with less hesitation from Kara and more dynamic transitions. Her foot only came off the floor about a millimetre, so BOO to Craig for being so picky. For me, this is the dance of the series – technical excellence combined with tenderness and extraordinary lyricism.

Overall: A-maz-ing!

Pamela and James – Beauty and the beast



strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Unchained Melody”, Righteous Brothers

Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Beautiful acting, beautiful dancing, completely focussed, simply brilliant.” Craig called it “simple and effective” and likes that they “play by the rules”. Really? Aren’t the judges always telling people to take risks, push it to the limit, he who dares wins? Len observed that the right three are in the final and teased Pamela that she’ll have to wait to find out if she’s earned another 10 from him.


Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40

Blimey, lots of crying tonight. James welled up when they got their quickstep perfect score and made it to the final. Pamela’s found it strange going from a serious job to being back in the limelight, and James admits he didn’t think they’d go far when they were first paired. (Some kind of SuBo “Don’t judge on appearances” lesson there, kids.) Another replay of her glorious teetering salsa moment. Pamela says people of a certain age can feel invisible and “Strictly” has reignited her. James wells up again. Their Viennese carried on in the emotional vein; again, not technically perfect (and Pamela’s neck disappeared completely into her shoulders), but the judges seem reluctant to penalise them in this dance. Take your foot off the floor for one second? BAD. Lose your posture and miss heel leads? PERFECTION. On the upside, Pamela committed fully to the performance, as she has done throughout the series, no matter how dodgy the material.

Overall: Beautiful but cheesy.


Huh? Why are we having the showdance now? We’re only halfway through! Surely it loses the wow factor if it’s not the final, decisive dance? Yes, it’s nice to see all three routines, but we could have the third-place couple performing theirs as their farewell dance, as we’ve done in previous years.

Matt and Aliona – I like the way you move, but not the way you choreograph



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2


Song: “I Like The Way You Move”, Bodyrockers

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was “entertaining and full-on”, but had too many stunts and tricks rather than dancing. Bruno: “Gymnastic extravaganza!” But it was too jam-packed and the links between sequences weren’t slick enough. Craig agreed it was too static and the concept wasn’t cohesive.

Judges’ scores: 7, 9, 9, 9 – 34

Matt’s has been the most-anticipated showdance – what will our super-talented gymnast do when he’s let off the leash? Unfortunately, Aliona’s choreography limited him once again. The routine had zero storytelling, resembling an impressive but soulless gymnastic display with a dash of street dance, awkwardly jumping from one trick to the next. Such a waste, given that Matt can tackle any ballroom dance and, as seen in his Austin Powers jive, has the ability to act when given a clear character. And why have sequinned hay bales and ghastly faux-country outfits, but no reference to this setting whatsoever in the routine?

Overall: Not quite as shocking as Colin and “the dolls”, but pretty close.

Kara and Artem – What a feeling



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Queen

Judges’ comments: Craig noted they missed a lift and got off timing but praised Kara’s courage in tackling such difficult material. Alesha thought the routine showcased her ability brilliantly and called her a “true athlete”. Bruno compared their lifts with the Bolshoi and labelled her work “splendid”.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

Wow, more interesting costumes. Artem and Kara went for a Queen tribute, sadly without the Freddie moustache. (Borrow Matt’s!) Gorgeous lyrical opening, with bonus points for the rotating lift matching “floating around in ecstasy”. Kara took on Matt with her impressive cartwheel and flip, then launched into frenetic armography, lifts, sync work, knee slides, jive kicks WHILE AIR GUITARING and finally a


Overall: I’m exhausted just watching.


Pamela and James – I carried a watermelon



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Judges’ comments: Alesha called James’s cynical song choice “brilliant”, liked the high dance content and thought it was perfect for Pamela. Bruno thought it was “an uplifting tribute to a movie classic” and that Pamela and James will be hard to beat. (Jinx.) Len liked all the ballroom elements – waltz, salsa, foxtrot – and called it “charming”.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 10 – 37

James kindly pointed out that Pamela is older than Kara and Matt combined. Have we got that yet, people? Pamela is OLDER and married to BILLY CONNOLLY. As an ardent Dirty Dancing fan, I was slightly dubious about this performance, which began with the original choreography and then broke into pivots, a floor spin (sadly, without teetering) and a nice lift, but not THE lift – false advertising. Yet more smoke machines and faux-emotion from the pair, who just can’t keep their hands off the cheese. If you’re going to tug on voters’ heartstrings, at least make it subtle.


Overall: I’ll have some brie, please.


Pamela 77

Kara 75

Matt 72

Too close to call, but of course, these scores are only a guide. Who will get through to the second half? The lovebirds? The flag-flying older woman? The Blue Peter tumbler? Warship Widdy? Oh, wait…

Show 2

Millions of votes. Just one trophy. Boom boom, boom boom. TENSION.


Remember that show you watched about two minutes ago? No? Never mind: here’s a recap! Ooh and backstage news – poor Kara injured her arm doing her backflip. It’s dangerous taking on that Matt Baker. Will she recover in time?

The Moment Of Truth TM, mark one: the couple leaving is…Pamela and James. Pamela gave him an earnest Oscar thank-you speech. I guess her “I’m bringing the sex to the final” press campaign didn’t pay off.

New dance

Matt and Aliona – Passe paso



Sequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, The Animals (Matt’s stolen Darren Gough’s paso music – hoping for a similar result?)

Judges’ comments: Len didn’t like the “funny shapes” and jerkiness. Alesha, in contrast, thought the paso was MADE for Matt. (That’s some forward-thinking Spaniards.) Bruno agreed with Len, but Craig, astonishingly, agreed with Alesha, although he still thought Matt’s thumbs were “an issue”.


Judges’ scores: 9, 8, 9, 9 – 35

Matt is sad that it’s the last week of training (cue shot of him standing at the door, looking around the training room, before Aliona turns off the lights – SYMBOLIC, eh?), but wants it to be a celebration. He’ll miss Aliona’s spanking, shouting and swearing – won’t we all? Matt’s lines were strong, but he moved awkwardly from shape to shape and I agree with Bruno that his posture wasn’t quite right. Again, zero storytelling or chemistry – he could have been directing traffic while Aliona auditioned for Carmen on a completely different show.


Overall: Solid, but not title-winning.

Kara and Artem – Another dance of luuuurve



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

Judges’ comments: Alesha called it “a very understated performance full of romance”, and thinks Kara is “a great example of what can be achieved with hard work and dedication”. Bruno praised her quality of movement – “You can’t top that.” Guess it’s going to be a short final, then. Craig noted the “occasional wobble”, missing heel leads and lack of spotting, but called her “the most amazing dancer I’ve ever seen.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38

What will Kara miss about training? The coffee breaks. And what won’t Artem miss? Kara constantly changing her hairstyle, changing her clothes, having little sit-downs. Yes, none of that will carry over into your burgeoning relationship. Kara managed to make her purple and yellow dress look serene and gorgeous (but still…purple and yellow??), and their waltz was unashamedly romantic and weepy, the dance equivalent of a Meg Ryan marathon. Some beautiful lines and lyricism, but a few stumbles and mistakes. Kara explained her arm is hurting. Artem cried again.

Overall: Not perfect, but lovely to watch.

We were treated to a VT of our past couples before Tess did a speedy group interview. Jimi is glad to be back in sequins. Felicity does the splits every day. Ann claimed their showdance would have involved flying in together and dancing in the air. Gavin’s glad to be playing rugby again. Michelle has REALLY been enjoying watching. Patsy’s still in touch with Robin, evoking whoops and wolf whistles. Loving the drunken office-party atmosphere.

Favourite dance

Matt and Aliona – Back in the swing of things



simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Where The Wild Roses Grow”, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue

Judges’ comments: Bruno called Matt “very dashing and elegant” and said he led with conviction. Craig: “Thank you for those thumbs, gorgeous! Unlike your head placement in hold.” He giveth and he taketh away. Len called Matt “an excellent ballroom dancer, lovely wide elbows and flat back”, but he “got into a pickle with the fleckerl”.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 9 – 37 (Better than the 35 last time)

Ah, it’s the giant swing again. No, it hasn’t grown on me. Beautiful movement around the floor, although Matt’s still missing some heel leads and gets into trouble in the fleckerl. Superb musicality and frame, but lacking a layer of performance – they just don’t connect as a partnership.

Overall: Technically assured, but will that be enough?

Kara and Artem – Crying buckets



strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Cry Me A River”, Ella Fitzgerald

Judges’ comments: Craig: “I would kill to be able to dance like that!” Len liked the elements of tango and foxtrot and the lyricism, but can’t get over them being out of hold. Bruno roared: “Whatever happens, this was an inspired performance, creatively superb, the blend incredible, moving from drama to romance to passion and danced to a level we hardly ever see here.” I think he liked it.


Judges’ scores: 10 (FINALLY!), 7, 10, 10 – 37 (Again, up two from 35)

What have we learned this series? Robin has an endless supply of slutty vests, Claudia hates The Machine and Artem is a seriously talented choreographer. Their American smooth was dramatic, musical and risky, more technically sound than last time and with a stronger emotional connection. Yes, it’s breaking rules, but the final is all about wow factor, and this definitely tops “the swing”. Artem applauded Kara. He cried AGAIN. And the pair were abused by their fellow dancers about going out on a date. Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!


Overall: Breathtaking.


Kara 150

Matt 144

Kara is the judges’ choice, but will the public agree?

VT of some of the best moments of the series, as chosen by viewers: Widdy’s lifts, flying and judge-baiting, Bruno and Gavin’s kiss, Gavin stripping off, Scott stripping off, the Bruno/Scott lovin’, bendy Felicity, Halloween madness, Craig labelling Patsy “cha cha chavvy”, Jimi’s shock elimination, the Artem/Kara romance, Matt’s gymnastics and unicycle-riding, James mooning in his kilt and Pamela’s teetering – we just can’t get enough of that clip.

00000_winningThe returning couples accompanied Paloma Faith’s “Upside Down”, putting on a marginally better group number than the first one, barring Scott’s stool malfunction. Fun mix of good dancing, chest-flashing, Ann’s antics, lifts and general mayhem, with everyone finishing at a slightly different time.

Another ‘journey’ VT for Matt and Kara, which I won’t bore you with.

AND it’s the final Moment Of Truth TM. The winners are…Kara and Artem! More tears from them. I hope they have shares in Kleenex. Matt graciously congratulated them. Aliona looked murderous. Kara: “It’s the most special thing I’ve ever achieved.” She praised Matt for achieving so much with all his work commitments. Artem gasped out: “You’re amazing.” AND THEY KISSED!

They’re worthy winners of a fantastic series, which rebooted the show and added some interesting new elements, such as theme weeks, props and the swingathon. Great to see three strong dancers in the final, which really became a battle of choreography; James’s cheese and Aliona’s gimmicks were topped by Artem’s musicality and perfectly pitched routines. And Kara and Artem’s luuuurve story didn’t hurt them, either.

So, that’s it for another year. (I’m going into mourning.) Don’t forget to catch Vince Cable on the Christmas special, and, until next time…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.

Connect with Dancing Times: