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Strictly Speaking: Week 10

Posted on November 26, 2018

17110758 low res strictly come dancing 2018

So, we could talk about the post-Blackpool hangover pervading the week (this show very much brought to you by paracetamol and Alka-Seltzer). We could talk about scoring monstrosities, or the continuing bafflement of Couple’s Choice, or how the ghost of Ramps haunts us all via every single one of his songs being nicked over the course of the series.

Or we could spend many, many happy hours savouring the absolute carnage that was the judging of the lindy hopathon. Oh, that was some good telly. I’ve been watching it on a merry loop since Saturday night, and it just gets better every time.

There’s Shirley accidentally giving away the winner right off the bat, and the tiny moment Ashley thinks it means she’s lost – and you can see the thought cross her face, all “I’ve been SUPER chill about the ringer mud you keep slinging my way, but this is going TOO FAR, BRITISH SHOW”.

There’s Bruno explaining the busted iPad situation via hand-waving interpretive dance (a thing of beauty), Shirley pairing Charles and Dianne for maximum panicked confusion (Karen’s face at that point: “Am I really here? Is this all a dream? I knew those 10s were too good to be true…”), someone’s pre-emptive cheer for Ashley putting Shirley off her stride and inducing another vengeful technology glare (when she got home, I bet she punched out six computers, and an oven clock), and Craig so physically separating himself from this mess that he winds up in Canada.

Not to mention the communal grasping of a piece of paper that gradually gains the significance of the Magna Carta, and is apparently written in partly redacted Sanskrit, the exhausted hysteria of the dancers whose efforts are now entirely overshadowed, and the yawning pauses that just scream “LIVE TELEVISION!”

Brucie would have loved it.

Other hits and misses:

  • As above, the copycat klaxon got yet another workout. Guys, you do know music didn’t stop in 2006? Like, it keeps happening? MISS
  • Ts and Cs rando: Catherine Tyldesley, much rumoured for Strictly. On the strength of this less than scintillating appearance… Well. MISS
  • Quite the music and themes lottery this week, from great choices all round doing much of the work for Stacey, through to another attempt at bashing a tango into “Eleanor Rigby” (stop trying to make fetch happen!), Joe and his, err, big balls, and ye olde classic, pool hall salsa!! Dear god. HIT/MISS
  • Shoutout to Shirley Ballas’s ginormous princess dress. She looked like an escapee from Andre Rieu’s wildly overdressed orchestra. HIT
  • Rod Stewart wheezed. Our pros contempowafted. MISS
  • In contrast, beautiful and meaningful guest number from Arlene Philips and Candoco. I would LOVE to see more like this on the results programme. Instead of the pros faffing about, actually using this platform to showcase and open people’s minds about different forms of dance. HIT

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Faye’s waltz Not exactly reinventing the wheel, but beautifully danced.
  • Best costume: Stacey’s moody look Runner-up: Ashley’s tail feathers.
  • Best move: Pashley’s samba rolls Slickly done.
  • Best line: Darcey re: the lindy hopathon judging – “It was difficult for us, as you can tell.” Masterful understatement.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

Funereal post-Blackpool black – Tess a shoulder-bearing jumpsuit, Claud LBD with wandering hem.

Graeme and Oti – Ahoy sailor

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


Even Graeme, so willingly Strictly-fied that his fake tan has exceeded Claudia’s, couldn’t help but describe their time-wasting yacht trip in sarky terms. Just let these poor, knackered people practise. So, a nice enough quickstep, enlivened with plenty of Charleston, and started well – great energy, good details, decent frame. Their ship started taking on water however, the frame became twisted and strained, Graeme’s bum started sticking out, and a noticeable stumble. As the judges noted, he recovered well, so the scores then seemed a bit harsh. Fine if you’re going to have a “Right, this is Week 10, let’s get serious” mindset – but then APPLY THAT TO EVERYONE.

Song: “Sing, Sing, Sing”, The Andrews Sisters (COPYCAT KLAXON: Denise Lewis and Ian, Ricky Whittle and Natalie, Chris Hollins and Ola, Chelsee Healey and Pasha)

Judges’ comments: Shirley noted some hiccups, but he recovered. Bruno praised the drunken sailor section, but the quickstep (/Bruno) had a hangover. Craig found it messy and lost sync. Darcey thought Oti pushed him with the routine and he accomplished a lot.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 6 – 24




Ashley and Pasha – Ready to roll

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

Samba is from a hot country, so…hothouse? SIGH. Anyhow, I very much need the Barbie-pink, light-up feathered fans in my life – by god, those ostriches did not die in vain. A slightly weirder choice: sticking Latin party sequins with beige tones. A bit like pairing a hi-vis jacket with camo gear. Proof positive that samba is a tough dance technically, with even Ashley showing moments of struggle – not always softening her knees enough to get the bounce and flow, but great attempt at lots of tricky content, including samba rolls, batucadas, rhythm changes, and some nice basics. If Charles’s hen party gyrations are samba 10-worthy, well…

Song: “Hot Hot Hot”, Arrow (COPYCAT KLAXON: Mark Ramprakash and Karen, Thom Evans and Iveta)

Judges’ comments: Bruno called her hip isolation criminally good. Craig found it too staccato, but great performance. Darcey praised her full routine, but agreed on the bounce. Shirley said the rolls were brilliant, but needed to soften her legs.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 10 – 36




Faye and Giovanni – Turnaround

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

Some family prop points for Faye’s delightfully dithering mum and dad – mind, turns out their attempts at appearing coherent on TV were just a preview… A late dance change, following Giovanni’s back injury, but it resulted in a really lovely waltz –albeit with the fog monster on the loose. Strong footwork (though moments she could drive directly through him more), beautiful frame, much improved head positioning, and gorgeous expressiveness throughout. Not sure it needed a standing spin after 300 pivots, otherwise a charming classic number. Sidenote: why was Faye’s dress so sadly drooping? It made her look alarmingly shrunken, like a Victorian heroine dying of consumption.

Song: “See the Day”, Dee C Lee (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jimmy Tarbuck and Flavia, Christine Bleakley and Matthew, Chelsee Healey and Pasha, Jay McGuiness and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Craig praised her elegance and rise and fall. Darcey noted her head rotation, continuous pivots and grace. Shirley praised her spin turn, oversway, still topline, and pivots driven by heel leads. Bruno called it regal.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39




Joe and Dianne – Great balls of fire

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

There are backstories that suit the X Factor-y Couple’s Choice weep-fest, and then there is… vlogging. Bad luck, Joe. Also on drawing this particular straw. Sure, it demonstrated his facility with props, excellent timing, strength in floorwork, and avoided being too exposed dance wise by constantly tidying the gym, but still some spindly moments (with The Little Mermaid: Sporty Spice Edition rather showing him up in this, the whitest ever hip hop). Fun in parts, but the bizarre scoring spread shows, once more, that no one knows how to judge this against the ballroom styles – and there’s very much a feel of some couples having to make the most of whatever randomness they’re given. Scrap it, please.

Song: “Jump Around”, House of Pain

Judges’ comments: Darcey enjoyed the tricks and floorwork, but his weight could have been more forward. Shirley thought it was spot on. Bruno loved the invention and spontaneous feel. Craig thought it was too concentrated, out of sync, and needed (deep breath) more grunge, earth and homeboy. Someone’s been at the Google…

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 10, 10 – 35




Charles and Karen – A rough time

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

Charles Venn gives good soap. Anyone who’s watched his VTs or interviews will be well aware of that. So, finding a good snooty, melodramatic tango was…not a stretch. Technique wise? OOF. If this is the week we’re coming down hard on Graeme and Lauren, and getting persnickety with Ashley, then how on earth are we tossing around 8s for this horrific frame? HUGE gapping throughout, leading not with his centre but with his wrenching arms and protruding chin, also not lowering into the knees enough or driving, feet still too flat… Oh and out of time a bunch too. Really, judges??

Song: “Eleanor Rigby”, Big Country version (COPYCAT KLAXON: Mark Ramprakash and Karen)

Judges’ comments: Shirley thought it had some good moments, but lost timing. Bruno liked the leading man performance, but lacked glide and light and shade. Craig noted the lack of drive, feet turned in, thumb sticking up, and more a paso than tango frame. Darcey agreed on the dramatic performance and timing issues.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 8 – 30




Lauren and AJ – New balls, please

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

Salsa in a pool hall, because Strictly is now just mad libs. Next week it’ll be a [can-can] with [squirrels] set [during the Spanish Armada] danced to [“Andante Andante”] with added [trampolines]. Anyhow, party Latin not exactly Lauren’s happy place – as evidenced by the literal cries for help. Her performance has improved enormously, so she definitely sold it better than she would have done earlier in the series, plus some OK basics, a good lift, and handled the armography well. However, feet too skittering and inexact, legs not strong enough, some awkward transitions and drops, and a rather ungainly “escaping burning building” leap. Earnest attempt, but too studied.

Song: “Familiar”, Liam Payne and J Balvin

Judges’ comments: Darcey noted the intricacy of the choreography and lift, but feet messy. Shirley said she needed to be grounded to get body rhythm, but great arm work. Bruno agreed on the difficult routine and lack of grounding. Craig called it lacklustre.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23




Stacey and Kevin – Drama queen

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

Kudos to Kevin for the sheer theatricality of this number – from the styling and performance to great use of a powerful song. Loved the build, the accents, and the intensity. However, I’m in two minds about what they actually presented content wise. We saw the same steps repeated a fair bit, and while the flamenco touches were fantastic, it was light on ballroom paso – both in steps and particularly in shaping. Stacey was too straight up and down a lot of the time, plus off-balance, meaning a lack of resistance in the frame. Great fun to watch, not sure it earned those scores as an actual paso.

Song: “Malaguena”, Brian Setzer (COPYCAT KLAXON: Aled Jones and Lilia, Natalie Cassidy and Vincent, Chelsee Healey and Pasha, Anita Rani and Gleb)

Judges’ comments: Craig said Kevin made Stacey look stunning. Darcey thought it was fierce. Shirley loved the power, and the quieter moments too. Bruno said she captured the feel of the dance.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39




Leaderboard before lindy hopathon

Faye and Giovanni – 39
Stacey and Kevin – 39
Ashley and Pasha – 36
Joe and Dianne – 35
Charles and Karen – 30
Graeme and Oti – 24
Lauren and AJ – 23

A slight dip from Ashley, and Stacey rises.

Lindy hopathon

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

As always, the actual hopathon was appalling television – impossible to really judge any individuals, or see them against one another, with the camera leaping around like a toddler high on gummy worms. I glimpsed some nice work from Ashley and Faye, Stacey seemed to be up in the air a lot, and Lauren looked slightly pained.

Lindy hop rankings:

7. Lauren
6. Graeme
5. Charles
4. Stacey
3. Joe
2. Faye
1. Ashley

Never mind that – let us glory once more in the glorious slo-mo judging car crash. In which we learned that Shirley’s strict librarian reading glasses do not, in fact, have magic properties.

Of course, it’s the exact scenario in which your presenter should step in and take charge, yes? Alas, not the Tessbot – short-circuited entirely by the unexpected. All hail Claudia, who clarified the final tally, with added wit, and with help from entirely unlikely quarters: BRUNO, discovering a coherence that’s evaded him since his Elton John days.

A shoutout also to Lauren and AJ, in fits of giggles when they were meant to be VERY SAD about their last place ranking, and to Ashley, too emotionally whiplashed to do more than grimace while mentally speed-dialling her therapist.

Leaderboard after lindy hopathon

Faye and Giovanni – 39 + 6 = 45
Stacey and Kevin – 39 + 4 = 43
Ashley and Pasha – 36 + 7 = 43
Joe and Dianne – 35 + 5 = 40
Charles and Karen – 30 + 3 = 33
Graeme and Oti – 24 + 2 = 26
Lauren and AJ – 23 + 1 = 24

So that neverending carnage results in… no change to the running order! It separates the top two, and boosts Ashley’s score slightly, otherwise was entirely pointless – and didn’t even deliver on the promise of couples smashing into each other. I know we’re hardly short of Brexit metaphors these days, but still… *waves hands*


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

Violent shade of orangey-red. Claud dressed as a yeti’s sneeze.


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

Graeme and Oti, and (yikes) Ashley and Pasha. The judges’ critique probably didn’t help the latter any, even though their scores were actually great, coupled with all the ringer talk.

For my money, Ashley’s working like crazy and providing great entertainment every week, so she’s more than earned her place. Everyone has some advantage, whether sportsperson competitive instinct and training stamina, actor ability to project characters, entertainment or newsperson’s comfort on camera. The important thing is whether they contribute to the show and demonstrate a willingness to learn new skills.

So, obviously the dance-off was a foregone conclusion, but a lovely exit from Graeme and Oti – this year’s spirit of Strictly couple. It’s been such a pleasure seeing them grow every week, as teacher/student, as friends, as a partnership. A full-on ringer for Goddess Oti next year, please.

Who impressed you this week? Did you enjoy the lindy hopathon, and were the right couples in the dance-off? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you again soon for Musicals Week. 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

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