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Strictly Speaking: Week 11

Posted on December 2, 2019

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Ah, Musicals Week – AKA Dressing-up Box Explosion 2: Wig Warz!. Pretty unsubtle work here from the Strictly producers and judges, with a clear division between sensible theme/dance matches and bizarre combos, and between sky-high quarter-final scores and mediocre ones. Add in bias in the show’s running order, plus the online system going down for a chunk of the voting time, and let those conspiracy theories run riot!

Of course, you can choose an unconventional route and succeed – and god knows we didn’t need a FOURTH Hairspray jive on this show – but you need some logic to it. “Consider Yourself” just does not scream “refined foxtrot”, and though distracting from the cursed samba is a sound plan, muddling it with street, gospel, niche nostalgia and music actively working against the dance’s rhythm is asking for trouble.

We also got yet more pros “singing”, because apparently this is now Strictly Come Karaoke. Guys, you’re no Bruno – don’t even try it. Though it did seem a more comfortable fit for Anton than this dancing lark; surely it’s time for him to be shuttled off to some teatime variety show, so that those who actually want to seriously teach, compete, and grow as dancers and choreographers can take his place?

It would truly be an injustice for him to make the final after such a concerted lack of effort and a cavalier attitude towards his partner, but can Chris recover his fanbase? If so, it could be a close call – and if there’s one thing we know this series, it’s that you really can’t bet on anything week to week…


Other hits and misses:
  • Craig dragged up, because… Craig. Welcome back, those 200 viewers who found the show a bit gay! HIT
  • Choirmaster supreme/guy who invades your workplace and makes you cry Gareth Malone was our Ts and Cs rando. HIT
  • Beverley Knight gave us her best “Memory” (no nightmarish Cats movie effects thankfully) while our pros contempowafted, because heaven forbid we get a full Viennese waltz… HIT/MISS
  • More excitingly, musical theatre goddess Idina Menzel popped by to plug her Christmas album and sing “Seasons of Love” from Rent. Proper goosebumps moment. HIT

Best in Show
  • Best performance: Karim’s jive And accompanying Bruno stirring about the best ever Strictly jive. Personally, I’m Team St Jill’s Holy Jive Forever.
  • Best costume: Kelvin’s Gaston wig Oti looked Disney princess lovely too.
  • Best move: Kelvin swinging by the chandelier Yes, I yelped.
  • Best line: Craig’s “I quite like weird positions” Runner-up: Shirley grappling with “hip-hoppy”

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly. Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Fringed and sequinned rainbow, because yes, this show CAN get more camp! Plus Claud as Christmas tinsel come to life!


Chris and Karen – What the Dickens
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Karen Hauer and Chris Ramsay. Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Well, there was slightly more foxtrot in here than I was expecting, but very sad foxtrot – foxtrot as punishment, as mutinously eating your vegetables before the sugary treats. Chris was incapable of disguising his glee at the musical theatre sections out of hold versus the glum imprisonment of ballroom, giving us constant mood swings. Actual foxtrot was lumpy with no flow, swing or sway – if they hadn’t studiously avoided so many ballroom dances, he would surely have something better to contribute to the quarter-final. But entertaining around the edges, and he maintained a good partnership connection with Karen (which others struggled to do in Musicals Week).

Song: “Consider Yourself”, from Oliver!

Judges’ comments: Shirley loved the theatricality, but needed more swing and stride. Bruno agreed the character was great, but foxtrot felt like intermission – needed refinement. Craig noted a lack of movement and too placed, but the polka was great. Motsi agreed the open parts were good.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 7 – 28


Alex and Neil – Thoughts and prayers
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Alex Scott MBE and Neil Jones. Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Similar issue here, with the dance battling the theme. So, if samba is the party dance, I did at least want to join this (er, ironically awful fancy dress?) party, but sticking Alex in trainers told us it would err more on the street side – and though lord knows enough people have gotten through their Latin dances this series by drowning them in disco etc, the judges chose to care about it this time. The samba content we got was actually decent, and delivered with more ease than Saffron last week, but feet too flat, leg action fudged, and lacked the specific double bounce through the body.

Song: “Joyful, Joyful” from Sister Act 2 (i.e. the film, not the musical)

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the hybrid, but the rhythm worked against the samba bounce. Craig decided he quite likes weird positions. Motsi said Alex had the time of her life, but needed more body motion. Shirley said her performance has improved.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27


Kelvin and Oti – Belle of the ball
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Oti Mabuse and Kelvin Fletcher. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

First of all: yes, Kelvin was slightly behind the music – though this was an ambitious choice for their Viennese-based American smooth. However, his Viennese definitely improved from last time: much stronger and flatter, with more purposeful drive in the rotations and a well-maintained wide frame. This routine itself was also a brilliant balance of ballroom and musical theatre entertainment, with great characterisation throughout, a super lift, an inventive section on the table, and that swashbuckling swing from the chandelier. Oti really nailed it here, giving us some light and shade, fun little accents, and strong work as an ensemble without detracting from their core partnership.

Song: “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast

Judges’ comments: Craig noted timing issues, but beautiful smooth rotation and excellent characterisation. Motsi praised the topline, timing, acting and elegance. Shirley thought the timing was spot on, plus lovely footwork. Bruno loved the storytelling and the Viennese.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39


Karim and Amy – Good hair day
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Karim Zeroual and Amy Dowden. Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

A quick grumble first: this was another example of how Karim still operates best as a soloist. There was barely any connection with Amy – she was really just another backing dancer – and it instead made glaringly obvious use of Karim’s pre-Strictly, ringer-tastic experience (hello, fouettés…), plus the manic performance that’s become his signature. However, in this instance the full-on attack fitted perfectly with the character and the number, which demanded over-the-top. And though the actual jive action could have been crisper – the steps were sometimes too big and the retraction loose – the energy, flair and dynamism were all fantastic, as was the sheer bravado of this non-stop routine.

Song: “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray (COPYCAT KLAXON: Austin Healey and Erin, Anita Dobson and Robin, Mark Benton and Iveta)

Judges’ comments: Motsi: “Come to Mama!”. Shirley praised the high quality of his technique – inspirational. Bruno said it was mind-blowing. Craig succumbed and gave it a standing ovation.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40


Emma B and Anton – In a flap
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Emma Barton and Anton Du Beke. Photograph Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

A return of the Flavia Memorial Wig, and arguably the easiest task this Musicals Week: the less-scrutinised Charleston, and a dance that’s actually the core vocabulary of said show. It also became clear that Emma’s crazy faces have all been in preparation for wild-eyed Charleston gurning! Like Karim’s, this did feel rather stage school end-of-term solo showcase, with Anton in his usual suit doing the bare minimum and no connection between them. It also lost energy towards the end, as the routine meandered, and her lifts still require shaky preparation and a terrifying fixed grin, but lots of great 1920s style and movement from Emma. Still wonder what her Strictly might have been like with someone else…

Song: “Thoroughly Modern Millie” from Thoroughly Modern Millie

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised her personality and swivels. Bruno said she captured the high-class flapper. Craig: “Fab-u-lous”. Motsi liked the subtle female power.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39


Leaderboard

Karim and Amy – 40

Kelvin and Oti – 39

Emma B and Anton – 39

Chris and Karen – 28

Alex and Neil – 27

Emma and Chris swap places, otherwise no change.


Sunday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly. Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Some sort of red torture device. Claud safer in her LBD.

Dance-off

Going with the leaderboard: Chris and Karen versus Alex and Neil. Very close in marks, and a split judges’ decision, with Craig and Motsi opting for Alex, Bruno and Shirley (with her casting vote) saving Chris.

What did you think of Musicals Week? Did the right people end up in the dance-off? And who do you want to see in the final? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for two dances apiece – eek. 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 mkmswain.com.

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