Dedicated to dance
since 1910.

Buy Latest Issue

Strictly Speaking – Week 1

Posted on September 24, 2018

Strictly week 1 BBC Guy Levy e1537869738784

Hello, new young people viewers to Strictly Come Dancing! Snapchat this on your Tide Pod slime, amiright? Yes, in Joe Sugg’s honour, the BBC has – I’m sorry to say – decided it must become hip to the kids of today. Please God let the try-hard shower of emojis that accompanied Joe’s dance never appear again, nor Auntie Tess yelp out “Trending! Likes! Am I doing it right? I hit the button but it took a picture of my ear!”.

That horror aside, this was a delightfully engaging Week 1 show, with only one contestant visibly plagued by nerves, and plenty of fun performances – plus a few surprises. This may not be the most well-known cast in Strictly history, but it’s setting up an intriguing mix of contenders.

Sadly, not all the pros honoured their partners’ potential, with our new Italian Stallion creating a trick-filled jive that was way too much about him, Karen choreographing disco rather than cha cha, and Anton making the decision for Susannah that she WILL be a comedy contestant, never mind if she came in with a genuine desire to learn to dance – or maintain a shred of dignity. Has the latter pro, at least, outstayed his welcome?


Other hits and misses:

  • “I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind, turning off that tap…” A rather nice group ballroom opening, marred only by inexplicably bringing those fountains into the studio. HIT
  • Did you know the BBC have a hit drama called Bodyguard? WELL THEY DO! Some of the most painful cross-promotion in recent memory – though I would 100% watch a second series with Bruno as the Home Secretary. MISS
  • Why so many montages, trailers and sideline interviews in an already packed show? At least jam them all together and give us a decent tea break. MISS
  • Guys, please stop gaslighting us. LOADS of celebs have had quickstep as their first dance (four in each of Series 4 and 5 – technically in ‘Week 2’ because the group was split over two weeks, but it was their first dance). Plus it’s nowhere near the technical nightmare of samba. MISS
  • Similarly – what happened to Ye Olde Ten Second Rule, never to be disobeyed as long as we live, amen? Plenty of long sections out of hold in the ballroom routines… MISS
  • With yet another new male pro disappointing, I ask again: why not give Ginger Neil a shot? MISS


Best in Show

  • Best performance: Dr Ranj and Janette A camp, sunshine-y joy of a cha cha. Runners-up: the dual surprises of Lauren and Joe.
  • Best costume: Oti makes cricket cool Who knew such a thing was possible?
  • Best move: Seann’s “chuck” Seriously, Katya has NO FEAR. Or GREAT INSURANCE.
  • Best line: Shirley calling out the invasive species that is disco Attagirl.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

The asymmetry love, it will never end, this time paired with Simon Cowell-level high trousers. Claud: LBD with sparkles.


Danny and Amy – Cool cat

Amy Dowden, Danny John-Jules – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Who knew Danny was also the Pink Power Ranger? He combined his effortless mastery of the hue with the Cat’s suavity, and – via some encouragingly strict training from Amy – produced a promising foxtrot. Definitely more comfortable out of hold, exhibiting his dance background via confident turns, fleet footwork and balletic leaps. In hold, frame looked tense, lacked drive and gapping – plus needs to develop more of a connection with his partner. But great jazzy musicality, presentation and confidence, so there’s a strong foundation there. Sidenote: will we eventually learn something about Amy other than “Welsh”?

Song: “Top Cat Theme”, Hoyt Curtin

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised his shoulder line and dapper touches, but work on the feet. Bruno loved the showmanship, but tightened up in hold. Craig found it spiky and too American smooth, but impeccable timing. Darcey was impressed by his agility and flair.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27




Kate and Aljaž – Breaking news

Aljaž Skorjanec, Kate Silverton – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Ah, the traditional “Here’s my CV in dance form” Week 1 routine. Aljaž visited the newsroom and apparently intuited some serious sexual tension between presenters and camera crew, resulting in this entertainingly vampy number (more the kind of thing Susannah had in mind when she signed on, one imagines). Cha cha wise, Kate didn’t work through the floor to get the leg action, so soft, no dynamics and bent legs, and some awkward arm placement. But good timing, and they both sold the hell of out it, cementing a fun pairing – plus a bonus point for Aljaž’s “serious” glasses.

Song: “Kiss”, Tom Jones (COPYCAT KLAXON: Spoony and Ola,Lulu and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the saucy performance, but she didn’t finish movements. Craig found it stompy, no hip action, but fantastic personality. Darcey agreed on the performance. Shirley wanted more body rotation and working through the foot, but plenty of promise.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 4, 6 – 20




Lauren and AJ – A fine romance

AJ Pritchard, Lauren Steadman – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

My expectations for this one were basically nil, what with Lauren competing in Australia for most of the training time. But this was actually a very charming waltz. Sickly-sweet framing aside – and AJ von Trapp, please burn that flowery curtain shirt immediately – it was a routine with plenty of breathing room, demonstrating Lauren’s ease with the basics. Time apart might actually have helped, as she held her own frame and generated power, rather than clinging to her pro. Though history suggests not, I really hope AJ keeps their numbers on the serene side; she doesn’t need frantic content to impress.

Song: “I’m Kissing You”, Des’ree (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ricky Whittle and Natalie, Abbey Clancy and Aljaž)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted a raised left shoulder, but impressive. Darcey praised her control and serenity, but find a grander frame. Shirley wants improved footwork, though loved their chemistry. Bruno called them Romeo and Juliet (ah, that famously happy tale).

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 – 25




Seann and Katya – Battle of the sexes

Katya Jones, Seann Walsh – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Well, Seann’s certainly bringing SOMETHING back. Not so much sexy as a bone-deep rage at the tango, which clearly wronged him in a past life. Or possibly poor Katya, yanked around like an unruly kite on a blustery hill. Pretty flat-footed and stompy, dancing a lot with his hair and teeth, and entirely bypassing finesse, plus not much in hold. However, he actually had good timing, focussed (/homicidal) partnering, a fearlessness to match Katya’s, and stuck the landing better than Bodyguard in my view. Safe to say their Latin will be An Event.

Song: “SexyBack”, Justin Timberlake

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked the fierce performance, but too much grabbing. Shirley noted the illegal lift (/chuck), told him to tidy himself up hair wise. Bruno praised the passion, but needs control. Craig found it OTT.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 4, 6 – 18




Vick and Graziano – Catch me if you can

Graziano Di Prima, Vick Hope – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Well, this was just maddening. No offence to Capital FM, but Vick isn’t exactly a household name, so we really need her delivering on the dance front. And – ugh – a weird routine from “Gosh, no shirt buttons!” new boy Graziano. Might work for an established competitive couple doing cabaret, but not a novice celeb, as it put focus on the tricks (mainly from him) and breaking the flow to play to the crowd, rather than supporting her and letting her get into the rhythm of the basics. Which were shoddy – dubious timing, no spring, weak kicks. Do better, Graziano.

Song: “Feel It Still”, Portugal. The Man

Judges’ comments: Shirley noted technical issues and missed chasses. Bruno said it lacked precision, but she kept up with him (so not the point of the show…). Craig thought it was too Graziano-focussed. Darcey agreed she struggled to keep up.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 4, 6 – 18




Susannah and Anton – What not to wear

Susannah Constantine, Anton Du Beke – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Also maddening. The VT suggested Susannah had gained confidence since the group dance, but we had no way of knowing in a routine that was all about Anton’s ruffles and Anton’s maracas and Anton’s tangerine bum GOOD GOD MY EYES. Now, samba is tough and Susannah isn’t exactly the Second Coming of Shirley Ballas, but nor is she a Widdy-esque lost cause – though technically inept, she did demonstrate a vague ability to hear music and match steps to it. Strictly’s message has always been that everyone can learn to dance; her teacher making her an instant punchline negates that. Do better, Anton.

Song: “Tico-Tico No Fubá”, Carmen Miranda

Judges’ comments: Bruno called it “Car crash Miranda”. Craig thought she looked lost. Darcey said she enjoys entertainment, but Susannah can actually dance. Shirley noted some basics in there.

Judges’ scores: 1, 4, 3, 4 – 12




Charles and Karen – D-I-S-C-NO

Karen Clifton, Charles Venn – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Maddening x3. Charles (who BTW was much hotter dancing in his Casualty scrubs than that weird tomato blouse) has loads of promise, so there’s absolutely no need to skip past the technical Latin and take the easy, crowd-pleasing disco route. The actual cha cha basics were too casual – flat feet, turned in, no hip action, and lacked the characterisation of the style. Though hardly surprising, as they were snuck in amidst the (yes, very confidently delivered) disco. Patience will soon wear thin if they keep straying this far from the dance. Do better, Karen.

Song: “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)”, Sub Sub feat. Melanie Williams

Judges’ comments: Craig praised his confidence, but hips too tight. Darcey noted it wasn’t a typical cha cha, but great rhythm and relaxed. Shirley called it disco, not cha cha. Bruno…did some disco.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 – 25




Ashley and Pasha – Practically perfect

Ashley Roberts, Pasha Kovalev – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Yes yes, your previous dance experience is a terrible handicap, because it’s VERY DIFFERENT dancing. If they really want to sell that one, Pasha probably shouldn’t choreograph so much out of hold, as it just lets us see Ashley in familiar territory – much better to keep to strict ballroom and really show how that’s a challenge. Or, you know, just give up and revel in her pure, unadulterated ringer-dom. Enjoy it while it lasts, Pash! Ah yes, so this was a dry ice-soaked Viennese, not quite flat enough and lacked heel leads, but beautifully controlled, lyrical and lovely partnering.

Song: “Perfect”, Ed Sheeran feat. Beyoncé

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her artistry, but raised shoulder in hold. Shirley loved the musicality and some nice footwork, but told her to keep her centre up. Bruno thought it was seamlessly beautiful. Craig noted too much rise and fall, but gorgeous.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 7 – 29




Dr Ranj and Janette – Here comes the sun

Janette Manrara, Dr Ranj Singh – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Is Dr Ranj a doctor? I do wish they’d mention it more. So, this was the Carry On of cha chas, the waggled eyebrow, the smirk to camera, the camp-stravaganza of all our Strictly dreams. I mean, the patently phallic thermometer actually exploded in excitement. Cha cha wise, picked his feet up rather than working through the floor and steps too big on basics, which in turn hampered hip action, but at least there was cha cha (AHEM), plus impeccable timing, great partnering, and a big, bright hug of a performance. Can they translate this enthusiasm into controlled ballroom? We shall see…

Song: “How Will I Know”, Whitney Houston (COPYCAT KLAXON: Danny Mac and Oti)

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised the fun performance and cha cha content. Bruno thought it was neat, sharp and crisp. Craig was felled by the sheer campness – loved it. Darcey agreed.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 8, 7 – 27




Katie and Gorka – War of nerves

Katie Piper, Gorka Marquez – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Some actual challenges now (rather than “My dance training might get in the way of my other dance training!”), as Katie handled the limitations of her injuries, plus evident nerves. Gorka shrewdly choreographed a sweet, sincere waltz that made a virtue of her tentativeness, though they’ll need to find another solution for Latin – preferably without the sodding Feelings Bench. Some promising footwork and the beginnings of a nice frame, but needs to finish moves and find more strength and balance on her own, plus iron out bumpy transitions and start selling the dance – this felt more marked than performed.

Song: “When We Were Young”, Adele

Judges’ comments: Bruno told her to relax and not overthink. Craig noted balance problems and topline too close, but good hand placement out of hold. Darcey praised her lines, but think of a narrative to give the moves purpose. Shirley said there were mistakes, but great promise.

Judges’ scores: 4, 4, 4, 5 – 17




Graeme and Oti – Right off the bat

Oti Mabuse, Graeme Swann – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

“Nottingham-themed samba” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, nor a dance beginning with Graeme mounting a giant cricket bat. And yes, some definite dorky dad dancing elements here – the floss, the spatulistic hands, the lower lip biting, that end pose. BUT actual hip rotation, a good stab at the different samba rhythms, attentive partnering, and a much more assured performance than I was expecting. If Oti keeps tailoring routines this well, they could well, er, knock us for six, bowl us over, is that the lot? Sidenote: of course Oti is casually brilliant at cricket, Oti is a goddess.

Song: “Soul Limbo”, Booker T and The M.G.’s (AKA the Test Match Special theme tune)

Judges’ comments: Craig said his hands were flat as cricket bats, but immense energy. Darcey thought his rhythm was exceptional and he’s put the work in. Shirley was impressed with his basics and personality. Bruno celebrated Graeme’s forward hip thrust by launching his own groin at the camera in alarming fashion.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 5 – 22




Stacey and Kevin – First impression

Kevin Clifton, Stacey Dooley – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

As discussed, this whole “No one has ever dared look quickstep in the eye before the semi-finals!” thing is nonsense – plus it’s arguably an easier style for the nervy first week than something that requires more varied technique, like samba, or more control, like the slower dances. Also unnecessary, since Stacey was impressive without the extra boost. A bit too much out of hold and out of style, though she was confident and had great timing on her own. In hold, moved really well round the floor, but gapping and too square – will need to work on the frame. Excited to see her Latin.

Song: “Dancing”, Kylie Minogue

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her enjoyment and light on her feet, but some messy moments. Shirley noted good placement and footwork, but dropped her arms. Bruno agreed. Craig found it floppy, but enjoyed it.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 6 – 24




Lee and Nadiya – Off limits

Nadiya Bychkova, Lee Ryan – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

So, Lee is hoping to follow bandmate Simon into the final, which…hmm. Not on this evidence. A perfectly OK waltz, but yet another routine suffering from copious breaks of hold – this time resulting in a rather disjointed feel. Too many theatrics from Nadiya, plus endless spins, and, in hold, gapping, timing issues and lacked shape and drive. Also took a while to recover from a slip. On the plus side, nice pivots and definite potential, but, given that Lee is a somewhat divisive personality, they might have been better off going for more classic and more endearing.

Song: “Take It to the Limit”, The Eagles (COPYCAT KLAXON: Peter Shilton and Erin, Dave Myers and Karen)

Judges’ comments: Shirley forgave the trip, but footwork and timing both need work. Bruno praised his leading. Craig wanted rise and fall through the feet, not knees, and lacked driving heel leads. Darcey found it too lustful – and then the judges all collapsed into giggles, because the show had lasted around 46 hours by this point.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22




Joe and Dianne – Surprise package

Diane Buswell, Joe Sugg – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

I’m trying to take Joe seriously, honestly I am, but then you get a VT line like “Joe is known for his pranks!” and I just want to throw things at the screen. So, all the social media framing of the routine was Theresa May dancing levels of cringe-worthy, but the actual jive was…really rather good. I know!! Nice toe heel swivels (despite the hi-tops), punchy kicks, precise side-by-side sync, good timing and seriously impressive energy. Could have done without the leapfrog and clapping games (yes, we get it, he’s young, the rest of us are picking out gravestones), but surprise of the night.

Song: “Take On Me”, A-ha

Judges’ comments: Bruno, too was pleasantly surprised. Craig didn’t have high hopes after the launch show, but great. Darcey said his stamina was amazing. Shirley played the nan card AND invoked the ghost of Len, so you know she loved it.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27




Faye and Giovanni – First steps

Giovanni Pernice, Faye Tozer – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

On the one hand, yay, you get to close the show. On the other…by this point, we were all becoming one with the sofa, plus Faye’s decent pop-y Latin – from the pop star, gasp – suffered from following the genuinely stunning live moment of Joe somehow nailing that jive. The Steps moves didn’t help, feeling more obligatory than inspired, and reminding us of her ringer status. Actual cha cha: good timing, crisp movement, nice interaction with Giovanni and great turns, but actually straightened her legs too much, or at odd times, throwing her off balance and stunting the hip action. Still, clearly a strong contender.

Song: “Lullaby”, Sigala featuring Paloma Faith

Judges’ comments: Craig wants her to work on the hips, but amazing. Darcey thought it was cheeky, fun and dynamic finishes. Shirley called it “relatively musical” (LOL), but leg action issues and didn’t like the stop/start elements. Bruno called it polished, and praised the night’s performance level.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 7 – 29





Ashley and Pasha – 29

Faye and Giovanni – 29

Danny and Amy – 27

Dr Ranj and Janette – 27

Joe and Dianne – 27

Lauren and AJ – 25

Charles and Karen – 25

Stacey and Kevin – 24

Graeme and Oti – 22

Lee and Nadiya – 22

Kate and Aljaž – 20

Seann and Katya – 18

Vick and Graziano – 18

Katie and Gorka – 17

Susannah and Anton – 12


As expected, our ringers top the leaderboard, but plenty of contenders in that middle section.


Who impressed you in Week 1? Did you have a favourite number? And who’s in danger of going home? 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

Connect with Dancing Times: