Posted on October 1, 2018
After the electrifying opening show, a Strictly comedown was inevitable, but even so, Week 2 was quite the slump. A combination of overambitious routines, daft concepts, erratic judging and all the nerves so happily absent last week – the latter probably due to a looming elimination – made for a show, in Steps terminology, better best forgotten.
Speaking of which, the duelling blonde ringers continued to vie for leaderboard dominance, but that may all be irrelevant if Joe’s ginormous YouTube views translate into consistent votes. Whether or not he can actually dance ballroom is yet to be determined, as we got another routine from him that was more impressive as relentless cardio than mastering a specific dance style.
As for that elimination, it was the mercy release of Susannah, whose foxtrot was a woeful but marginally more dignified affair – at least, until her oh-so-chivalrous partner started making “Isn’t it hilarious how wrong she’s going?” faces to camera. There’s no clearer indication that Series 16 should be du Beke’s last. Let 2019 be the year of Ginger Neil or Johannes, and of all the professionals making at least a minimal effort in showing their partners (and students) respect.
Tess in a plunging LBD, Claud a slightly weird navy jumpsuit.
Stacey showed Kevin how tough her day job is by…shoving a microphone in his face and asking inane questions. He’s had five years of Tess, love – you’ll have to do better than that. So, this cha cha was oddly similar to her quickstep (gasp, that monstrous Week 1 dance!), in that it had a club vibe and was too casual technically – Stacey taking huge steps, on flat feet and with bent knees, and not working into the floor, making her unsteady. Still definite potential, as she has natural confidence and musicality, but needs to develop in each specific ballroom style.
Song: “Came Here For Love”, Sigala feat. Ella Eyre
Judges’ comments: Shirley told her to avoid heel leads and work on posture. Bruno found it inconsistent. Craig thought it was stiff and upper body unruly. Darcey said her energy is infectious, but clean up the technique.
Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 6 – 20
A riveting VT here, notable mainly for Charles and His Adventures In Hats. Lots of strange choices in this quickstep number, from using an obvious samba song to chopping the (already small) dancefloor in half purely to accommodate a lame trumpet segment and prove that Charles can do the splits. Again, similar issues to their Week 1 number, in that more attention was paid to elements outside of the actual style – here, jazzy flourishes instead of ballroom. Quickstep wise, tons of gapping, frame and timing issues, skippy footwork and errors. And again, Charles’s potential is still apparent, but we’re not seeing clear progress.
Song: “Sir Duke”, Stevie Wonder (COPYCAT KLAXON: John Barnes and Nicole, Lulu and Brendan)
Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was suave and light-footed, but went wrong. Craig noted he was ahead of Karen, wobbly topline and no heel leads, but stylish. Darcey liked the jazzy details. Shirley suggested it was Karen who went wrong.
Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 7 – 25
Has there ever been a more on-the-nose song choice in Strictly history? I appreciate that’s a crowded field. So, in case you missed it, Katie is trying to be CONFIDENT in her dancing – and she definitely began with more intent. Unfortunately, this was more of an angry kitten paso (the pink didn’t help), with clear mistakes, skittering steps instead of stomps, jerky shaping, and skirt work like someone wringing out a wet towel. Definite kudos for improving the performance level this much in a week, but a long way to go with everything else. Sidenote: I think we all take solace from Gorka’s sympathetic pecs.
Song: “Confident”, Demi Lovato
Judges’ comments: Craig wanted more shaping – very plank-ish. Darcey praised her lack of nerves. Shirley saw more strength, but got on the wrong foot and lacked flamenco. Bruno agreed on the determination, but timing off and needs to play the part.
Judges’ scores: 2, 4, 3, 4 – 13
Graeme spent his VT singing, which…I know we’re a rotten nation headed for self-imposed economic ruin, but did we really deserve that? Anyhow, this was a puzzler: were they stuck with the inappropriate song choice and tried (in vain) to fit an American smooth to it, or did Graeme’s apparent foxtrot allergy cause last-minute panic, or WAS IT THE DEEP STATE? The result was a Jekyll and Hyde number: cheery groove out of hold, just about making sense of the song, if not the style, then dropped like a stone when it went into hold – posture issues, barely moved, general cognitive dissonance. Hmm.
Song: “Try A Little Tenderness”, Otis Redding
Judges’ comments: Darcey was…confused. More so than usual. Shirley thought it wasn’t smooth enough. Bruno ditto. Craig said he was fantastic at the “boppy stuff” (technical term), but fell apart in hold.
Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 3, 4 – 15
Well, thank the dance gods. Was this the best ever tango? No, but it was at least a) clearly a tango, b) danced like a tango, and c) performed rather well. A low bar I know, but welcome to Week 2. Oh, and some decent Family prop points with a school visit. SIGH at the contempo-mirror, but thankfully it didn’t feature much. Great moody tone, well-maintained frame (though head position a bit exaggerated), travelled nicely, and fab storytelling from this magnetic pair. Needed stronger heel leads, more staccato accents, and less rise and fall, but a welcome number that actually delivered.
Song: “No Roots”, Alice Merton
Judges’ comments: Shirley: “Breaking news – you’re in it to win it.” Bruno praised the allure of their mean tango. Craig said she was transformed. Darcey called her one cool, beautiful lady.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27
Did you know Joe is a thatcher-turned-YouTuber? Yes, he used to maintain a vital traditional skill, now he DOES PRANKS, and I am very much harrumphing about this to The Oldie while sucking on my Werther’s Originals. Anyhow, it was all an excuse for Dianne to introduce slapstick ladders and go full Pippi Longstocking. Their Charleston was fairly interchangeable with their jive – fast and furious aerobics class – so the jury’s still out on Joe’s ballroom ability, though his timing and ease remain impressive. Lifts also decent, if mainly Dianne launching herself and Joe looking faintly perplexed about her determination to wrap her feet around his ears.
Song: “Cotton Eyed Joe”, Rednex
Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was inspired. Craig said he ticks a lot of boxes. Darcey praised his natural spring and star performance. Shirley said he didn’t miss a beat.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31
A harrowing PTSD VT from Susannah, who did not get Anton’s “COMEDY!!” memo. So, this was all a bit grim. Anton theoretically afforded his partner more respect this week, with a nice old-school foxtrot, but also employed the footwork-covering fog monster and (ugh) pulled a lot of faces as if to say “I’m not really with her, wink wink – I’m laughing with you guys”. Yes, this was pretty terrible from Susannah, pretty much just pained walking, but unless your partner is in on the joke (see: Widdy, Judy Murray), it really just feels like bullying. Dire all round.
Song: “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, Frank Sinatra (COPYCAT KLAXON: Kenny Logan and Ola, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Brendan)
Judges’ comments: Craig said even smoke couldn’t hide this complete dance disaaaahster. Darcey thought Susannah looked stunning, but soften knees. Shirley noted improvement, but mistakes. Bruno said Anton would have gotten better movement out of a lamppost. (The notorious wobbly Strictly ones? Sure.)
Judges’ scores: 1, 4, 4, 3 – 12
Lee finds the jive tough and it takes him down a dark path, but at the end we all learn a valuable lesson: don’t do drugs, kids. So, a strong opening from Lee and his broom buddy (what do you mean, the other guys from Blue won’t call him back?!), and some decent content here, like good toe heel swivels, confident turns and nice partnering. But lots of problems too, especially as he ran out of steam – very turned in on kicks and flicks, flat-footed on basics, started to drag on the timing. Plus the inevitable, tired Elvis tropes.
Song: “Blue Suede Shoes”, Elvis Presley (COPYCAT KLAXON: Mark Ramprakash and Karen)
Judges’ comments: Darcey said it was great, but turned in on kicks. Shirley thought he couldn’t sustain it. Bruno agreed it was inconsistent. Craig found it heavy and laboured, but good musicality.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 7 – 26
These two still have all the chemistry of strangers forced into proximity on a crowded Tube, resulting in weird, snarky VT edits like “Amy talks too much!”. A more interesting story is surely how Danny’s past dance experience does actually impact on Latin here (I know!! But really), since this cha cha had a balletic stiffness to it – needed to work into the floor more and let knees soften to get hip action. He also still feels more like a soloist than a comfortable partner dancer. On the positive side, superb timing, great presentation, and calm upper body despite lightning-fast movement down below.
Song: “Beggin’”, Madcon (COPYCAT KLAXON: Chelsee Healey and Pasha, Fiona Fullerton and Anton)
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised his shoulders, but work on rhythmical action. Bruno noted the packed content, and sharp as a razor. Craig said it was fantastic. Darcey thought it was extraordinary with the speed.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28
Lots of Family prop points, yes times are that bad already. Well, this was better than their jive in that Vick was allowed to play, and the determined deployment of princess dress, fog monster, passionate air-stroking and West Side Story did combine to create something of a moment. But dig through all the smoke and this was again rather dubious choreo – a teasing glimmer of waltz, and then it was all standing spins, dips, sticky pivots and angsty faces. Just stay in hold, fix the gapping, inject some actual rise and fall, and earn praise because Vick is a potentially great dancer, not because she looks pretty.
Song: “Somewhere” from West Side Story
Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was classic. Craig saw pivot problems, but she owned it. Darcey praised her graceful limbs. Shirley noted core, frame and footwork issues.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 6, 7 – 27
OMG these two are already totes BFFs, and this won’t at all get annoying by Week 5! Well, let’s take a moment to savour Dr Ranj’s…court jester fetish wear? The outfit that took a look at last week’s camp-a-rama and said “Hold my Cosmo. Then fetch me all the frills in the land!”. Salsa wise? Meh. A couple of flat-footed basics with no hip action, otherwise more general boogieing and full-on lip syncing – disappointing after he showed technical promise last week. Lifts quite tame by Janette standards (though stressful moment with the skirt-caught-in-heel). Another enjoyable performance; no new information.
Song: “Fireball”, Pitbull feat. John Ryan
Judges’ comments: Craig wanted more salsa, but tremendous. Darcey agreed he was missing the hip action, but a million dollar performance. Shirley noted the basics were off, but great personality. Bruno loved the energy, but lacked hips.
Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 6 – 24
More Family prop points. And then…suddenly we’ve cloned Giovanni, buried the lede there. Was this the first ever Strictly Viennese with a moody feel? Good God no. Does it gradually feel like this show is trying to erase the past, and who knows, maybe we’ll be next, maybe it’s simpler in the void… Ahem. Viennese. Again, STAY IN HOLD EVERYONE, especially if you’re an uber-ringer more than capable of handling it, but great storytelling, clearly defined movements, the beginnings of a strong frame, and lovely fleckerl. Heel leads: not a crazy request, they do kind of crop up in all the ballroom dances #TeamShirley.
Song: “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, Seal (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jade Johnson and Ian)
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her conviction and quality of movement. Shirley loved the drama, but should be doing heel leads. Bruno brought up Bodyguard again. Craig suddenly decided that technique is for SQUARES, he’s a COOL DAD now.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 8 – 31
Lauren struggled with balance and was worried about the lifts, so AJ toned down the routine to make her feel more safe and confident. HAHA JUST KIDDING. Yes, Old AJ is back, chucking in dangerous tricks, over-choreographing like crazy, and out-performing his celeb rather than showcasing them, what joys. Lauren (inheriting the Flavia Wig) still acquitted herself fairly well, with good timing, decent characterisation and high energy, but lacked consistent swivel, too frantic, and some of the lifts looked distinctly…kidnap-y. Sidenote: this song cover is a crime against humanity, I’ve already started an Amnesty letter writing campaign.
Song: “New Rules”, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox cover
Judges’ comments: Shirley noted the ambition, but a little mishap. Bruno wanted more swivel. Craig thought it lacked attack, but the lifts were spectacular. Darcey wanted cleaner transitions.
Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 5, 6 – 22
Holy wonders, ’tis St Jill of Jivepenny walking amongst us mere mortals! And doing more jive in one casual demo than most celebs in the modern era! Yes, we faced the “Using a song that invites dangerous comparisons” thing head on, although…with mixed results. This was BIZARRE. On the one hand, Seann can really move, and there was some ambitious content here. But wildly, in a different time zone off-time, his feet weren’t so much flat as pointed towards his knees, and an insane trick even by Katya’s standards saw him nearly pretzel her leg through her spine before dragging it out of the socket. Yikes.
Song: “I’m Still Standing”, Elton John (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jill Halfpenny and Darren, Harry Judd and Aliona, Jake Wood and Janette)
Judges’ comments: Bruno said he did the right steps at the wrong time. Craig: “It all went horribly wrong.” Darcey criticised the timing. Shirley: “I liked your hair.”
Judges’ scores: 2, 4, 4, 5 – 15
And so we came to the end, with yet more Family prop points and the sheer relief of a ringer delivering – yes, they’re a ringer, but we need some certainties in this crazy world. Also: hurrah for Pasha not succumbing to the disco fever and actually choreographing a cha cha; Ashley’s giant hair was more than enough. Slick, controlled, musical and great partnering, but like Charles, she needed to soften into the legs as well to flow through transitions and get organic hip action. Sidenote: Happy Pasha grooving away is just a joy to behold. Look at that little head waggle!
Song: “Boogie Wonderland”, Earth, Wind and Fire (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ainsley Harriott and Natalie)
Judges’ comments: Craig: “You are good, darling.” Darcey said Ashley must be a fast learner, oh bless. Shirley wants better foot and leg action, but her upper body is outstanding. Bruno called her a disco dazzler.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 9 – 32
Ashley and Pasha – 29 + 32 = 61
Faye and Giovanni – 29 + 31 = 60
Joe and Dianne – 27 + 31 = 58
Danny and Amy – 27 + 28 = 55
Dr Ranj and Janette – 27 + 24 = 51
Charles and Karen – 25 + 25 = 50
Lee and Nadiya – 22 + 26 = 48
Kate and Aljaž – 20 + 27 = 47
Lauren and AJ – 25 + 22 = 47
Vick and Graziano – 18 + 27 = 45
Stacey and Kevin – 24 + 20 = 44
Graeme and Oti – 22 + 15 = 37
Seann and Katya – 18 + 15 = 33
Katie and Gorka – 17 + 13 = 30
Susannah and Anton – 12 + 12 = 24
Ashley just holds off Faye up top, and there’s plenty of mid-table movement: Joe, Lee, Kate and Vick rising, while Lauren, Stacey and Graeme fall.
Misappropriated bed sheet and shoelaces, Claud in eye-watering foil fail.
Susannah and Anton (naturally) versus – OOH – Lee and Nadiya. Suffering from mid-table mediocrity, perhaps, or does the rest of the nation share my petty dislike?
Oh right. And obvs the judges all ditched Susannah. WHAT TENSION. WHAT TELEVISION.
What did you make of Week 2? Who impressed you? And did Susannah deserve to go home? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
See you soon for (hmmm) Movie Week. In the meantime…keep dancing!