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Strictly Speaking: Week 2

Posted on September 30, 2019

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Ah, the Strictly Week 2 comedown – very much the morning after to Week 1’s revelry. It didn’t help that the show was frontloaded with… let’s say imperfect performances, meaning viewers really had to hang on in there before finally getting to ballroom boys Kelvin and Karim, plus Michelle Visage Wears, Dances, Eats, Loves, IS Italy (also does a Viennese waltz).

Still, we got a clearer idea of everyone’s capabilities in ballroom and Latin – and, sigh, Charleston – as well as the merciful release of James Cracknell. And the poor man didn’t even get to dance with the oar! For shame, Italian entry into this year’s Nigel Farage Cultural Sensitivity Awards!

At least the judges were on excellent form – from Craig’s panto pouts and Motsi’s accidental burns to Bruno’s, er, entirely natural hyper energy and Shirley edging ever closer to an Arlene Phillips “I just want raw sex” moment.


Other hits and misses:
  • Transmission issues at the start of Saturday’s broadcast, giving every viewer a mini heart attack as they lunged for the TV remote. In retrospect, perhaps they were trying to spare us Mike Bushell in the Wild West… MISS
  • Eh, do we need more Ts & Cs randos? Not sure Tony Hadley is worth the extra minute of faff in a show already lasting a good five years. MISS
  • Topless Gorka emoting while everyone worships Oti, plus proper flamenco? A busy but pleasing pro number. HIT
  • Lewis Capaldi warbled. Aljaž and Janette contempo-wafted. A nation went off for a cup of tea. MISS

Best in Show
  • Best performance: Karim’s foxtrot Smooth. Moves.
  • Best costume: Anneka, pretty in pink A clichéd makeover, but she really did look – and feel – lovely.
  • Best move: Bruno miming Kelvin’s mighty physique Runner-up: Johannes’s slinky samba intro.
  • Best line: Johannes’s “Every time you step forward on a heel, a puppy gets sad” So does Marianka.

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

Blinding silver vs blinding gold: the foil frock face-off.


Saffron and AJ – Touch and go

Saffron Barker and AJ Pritchard. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Family prop points already in Week 2, with Saffron getting AJ round for Sunday roast and a free group dance lesson. Canny, though, given her uncertainty in this cha cha – Saffron kept looking to AJ, who did more shoving her into place in another overloaded routine. Would much prefer he kept it simpler so she could get a feel for the dance, rather than sticking her limbs into various positions just because she’s been told to; that’s why she kept losing the music and going off time. Also needed straighter legs and more hip action, but good spins and she did hang in there.

Song: “One Touch”, Jess Glynne and Jax Jones

Judges’ comments: Shirley wanted more musicality and for her to concentrate on the fundamentals. Bruno noted she lost timing, but did well with a complex routine. Craig found it stiff of hip and wooden, but amazing spins. Motsi liked the energy.

Judges’ scores: 5, 5, 6, 7 – 23


Anneka and Kevin – Dressing the part

Anneka Rice and Kevin Clifton. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Yes, we’ve had the whole “I’ve never worn a dress before, my god now I’m a Strictly princess!” narrative about 3,008 times by this point, but Anneka’s transformation was nevertheless touching – probably because she really responded to the whole dance with such genuine emotion. Still loads of technical bits to work on, including getting stronger heel leads and clear rise and fall, plus hunched shoulders in hold – but a simpler routine from Kevin meant she could feel confident with it and perform. Bonus points for the oh-so-literal runs to match the lyric – never change, Strictly choreo…

Song: “Run to You”, Whitney Houston (COPYCAT KLAXON: Willie Thorne and Erin, Vanessa Feltz and James, Naga Munchetty and Pasha)

Judges’ comments: Bruno noted she’d worked hard on the footwork, but a tense topline. Craig wanted more rise and fall and flow, but big improvement. Motsi agreed – simply beautiful. Shirley wants improvement in footwork and frame, but miraculous.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 5 – 19


Dev and Dianne – Education, education, education

Dianne Buswell and Dev Griffin. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

American high school lockers and a rather unfortunate cardigan situation for Dianne. Other than that, a very likeable jive, with Dev once again showing a natural feel for the music and maintaining his ease of movement – all of which makes for a relaxing viewer experience. However, some issues with sickled kicks, plus almost too light on his feet. Might help if he pitches his weight forward more towards Dianne and also pulls up from the centre, so he gets up on his toes and has more power to retract, get strong, sharp movement, and hit those accents even at speed. But another promising performance.

Song: “Dance With Me Tonight”, Olly Murs (COPYCAT KLAXON: Dani Harmer and Vincent)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted his flat feet, and the toe heel swivels needed to be tighter, but great energy. Motsi praised his musicality and partnering. Shirley thought he was light on his feet, but too turned in. Bruno wanted more polish, but decent pump action.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27


Emma W and Aljaž – Playing it cool

Aljaž Skorjanec and Viscountess Emma Weymouth. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

The Viscountess was determined to show her fire this week. Instead, we got ice queen – which can also work for tango, though her versatility remains theoretical. Also confused by her semi-ripped-bodice situation, and one of the cameras going AWOL (maybe it spotted a hungry rhino). She’s still too upright, so lacked the grounded feel of tango and firm staccato, but flashes of real purpose in the beginning. Needs to hold onto the frame though – it collapsed like a bad soufflé in the pivots, and she started gripping onto Aljaž. Sidenote: loved that the dance was dedicated to her tiger cubs; makes a change from the parade of nans.

Song: “Sucker”, Jonas Brothers

Judges’ comments: Motsi praised her intensity, but needs to sustain it. Shirley agreed it was outstanding initially, though she needs to work on stamina. Bruno told her to hold onto the character. Craig wanted more aggression, plus feet not closing.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22


Chris and Karen – Head first

Karen Hauer and Chris Ramsay. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

More Family prop points, with Chris deploying his cute child AND setting his wife up with Karen. Really not wild about their Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamhouse theming – looked like a unicorn had vomited up six packs of crayons – but his genial goofiness definitely suited Charleston, and he did well with both the basic swivel and the lifts. However, some rather ugly kicks and cartwheels, arms look lost, not quite in sync with Karen when side by side, and I agree with Craig he needed to change up the expression (which was the same as last week’s). Fun, though still not sure how he’ll handle actual ballroom.

Song: “Out of Our Heads”, Take That

Judges’ comments: Shirley loved the personality. Bruno enjoyed the Lindy hop and entertainment. Craig wanted more craziness and criticised the cartwheel, but there is some hope. Motsi agreed on the personality.

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26


Emma B and Anton – Outfoxed

Emma Barton and Anton Du Beke. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Well this was painful. A really difficult foxtrot routine from Du Beke, which reduced his poor partner to tears in training and left her exposed in performance, having to be nudged back into position constantly. God knows I love proper ballroom content, in hold, but there’s still a balance – and it’s only Week 2. Anyhow. Promising moments, like heel turns, strong pivots and hit some lovely lines, but lots of gapping, too upright and wonky frame, fudged footwork, and Emma just didn’t look comfortable. Still think she could be great, but Anton has yet to showcase her effectively, and she needs to project confidence, even if doesn’t feel it.

Song: “Sunshine of Your Love”, Ella Fitzgerald, Ernie Heckscher Big Band and Tommy Flanagan (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ricky Whittle and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised her potential, but hard to make that choreo look effortless – it went skippy. Craig wants improvement in her topline and head position, but real talent. Motsi does see a dancing queen. (Also Emma.) Shirley loved the heel turns and suggested work on timing and musicality.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 6 – 24


James and Luba – Out of the frying pan…

James Cracknell OBE and Luba Mushtuk. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Well, at least this week James had some fun. Yes, it was a dropped pancake of a jive – and we’ve finally found something Luba can’t do! – with stompy flat feet, only the vaguest of steps, and some classic Strictly standing still while the female pro becomes distraction incarnate – but it was nice to see him smiling and going out on a cheery note. Producers, please: take note of how good and patient Luba was with him and reward her with a brilliant ringer next year. She deserves it. And she’ll work on the pancake tossing…

Song: “Tutti Frutti”, Little Richard (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ali Bastian and Brian, Denise Van Outen and James)

Judges’ comments: Craig though he looked like a bucking bull, but personality better. Motsi noted he had fun. Shirley said he could improve if he keeps working. Bruno agreed he’s moving in the right direction.

Judges’ scores: 3, 3, 3, 4 – 13


Catherine and Johannes – … Into the fire

Catherine Tyldesley and Johannes Radebe. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Viennese followed by samba is a crazy intro to Strictly. And to Catherine’s credit, she had a good go, adding a bit more performance value than last week. But the difference between her skittering her way through the samba steps with a determined fixed grin and the moment when she could just release and shimmy was pretty sizeable. Still, the latter definitely bodes well for future dances – particularly when she has more time to work into the floor to get better rhythm and hip action. And this is definitely a fun pair to watch. Sidenote: who really wants to go clubbing with Johannes? *raises hand*

Song: “Let the Groove Get In”, Justin Timberlake

Judges’ comments: Motsi called it hot, but lacked earthiness. Shirley enjoyed the free moment. Lots of good technical content, but needs to do a proper side-cross in voltas. Bruno said it had the right feeling, but lost the rhythm. Craig said it looked more like salsa.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 5 – 19


Michelle and Giovanni – Pizza, with extra cheese

Giovanni Pernice and Michelle Visage. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Hello, RuPaul! Might you have a show coming over here? I do wish someone had mentioned it. So, this was the most Italian number in Strictly history. It was Da Vinci eating spaghetti while listening to Puccini and making Don Corleone an offer he can’t refuse. The offer, in this case, being another layer of flag couture and some oarsome paddle-ography. But, thanks to Michelle’s superlative characterisation and already amazing partnership with Gio, it kind of worked. I know! Yes, it needed more Viennese in hold, and better heel leads powering the rotation, but slick, musical and weirdly irresistible. (Italy: we can only apologise.)

Song: “That’s Amore”, Dean Martin (COPYCAT KLAXON: Louisa Lytton and Vincent, Dani Harmer and Vincent)

Judges’ comments: Shirley said she went from sassy to classy. Great job keeping her own balance, timing and footwork – keep working on technique. Bruno loved the storytelling and quality of movement. Craig called it incredible. Motsi praised the detail.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


David and Nadiya – A load of bull

David James and Nadiya Bychkova. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

And now we need to apologise to Spain for this mangled mess of a paso doble. Usually having proper trad music and styling is a bonus, but here it just further exposed a struggling male celeb. The capework was more like David showing how easy it is to get tangled in your kite on a windy day, there was no discernible shaping or Spanish line, no drama (other than the usual tension of open flames in a studio where the air is 70 per cent hairspray) – and the fact that David kept grinning inanely didn’t help. Er, on the positive side… I liked Nadiya’s ankle boots?

Song: “Espana Cani”, Pascual Marquina Narro (COPYCAT KLAXON: Claire Sweeney and John, Jill Halfpenny and Darren, Austin Healey and Erin, Fern Brittain and Anton, Carol Kirkwood and Pasha)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said he’d seen better shaping in safety demos on aircraft. Craig: “Limp, lame, lacklustre.” Motsi: “If the dancing isn’t there yet, you need to find something else to cover it up.” Shirley suggested turning up the volume.

Judges’ scores: 2, 3, 2, 3 – 10


Karim and Amy – A star is born

Amy Dowden and Karim Zeroual. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Some Family prop points via Karim’s mum. Now, I feared this foxtrot would be too spiky and uncontrolled, but Amy worked wonders in training, channelling Karim’s energy into the little breakout moments but keeping him in check while in hold. And the resulting foxtrot was really impressive for this stage: lots of strong footwork, meaning nice rise and fall, smooth transitions, promising frame, and Karim maintained his musicality and performance quality while in hold. A nice connection building – would love to see more of that – and also Karim could extend and hold his lines. But kudos to Amy for the most effectively balanced number of the night.

Song: “The Way You Look Tonight”, Frank Sinatra (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christine Bleakley and Matthew, Sunetra Sarker and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Craig called it brilliant. Motsi said it was like Hollywood – magnificent. Shirley turned her box-ticking into pure filth. Bruno loved that it was both elegant and had an agile physicality, like Gene Kelly.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


Mike and Katya – Wild horses

Katya Jones and Mike Bushell. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Well. I can certainly understand Katya’s thinking: Mike, bless him, is not the Second Coming of Gene Kelly, so the comedy route is tempting – and a “theme” like Wild West likely to be memorable for voters. She also seems to have a penchant for insane lifts – or perhaps is betting against her own health, like some kind of evil Brexit tycoon betting against the market. Spam rationing and broken limbs for everyone! In the foxtrot of this (I guess) American smooth, Mike was stodgy and plodding. Elsewhere, the lifts were pure horror, and the styling like a migraine and stomach virus made flesh. Just… no.

Song: “Rhinestone Cowboy”, Glen Campbell

Judges’ comments: Motsi noted he had no personality in hold, but he went for it. Shirley said it was more like line dancing. Bruno likened it to a drama with psychotic, murderous cliffhangers. Craig: “Odd, darling. Very, very, odd.”

Judges’ scores: 3, 4, 3, 4 – 14


Alex and Neil – Chemistry lesson

Neil Jones and Alex Scott MBE. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

The good news: Alex showed no fear in Latin, producing a big, bright performance that played off the audience and, in particular, off Ginger Neil (tabloid rumours, reporting for duty). Her confidence and commitment to storytelling will be key assets going forward, and shows improvement from last week. The bad news: flat feet, too casually placed, which meant we lost the cha cha style and rhythm, and limited leg and hip action. Taking smaller steps might help retain definition when moving at speed – and no heel leads! But she’s got the athlete mentality, so who knows what they can accomplish in training…

Song: “What I Did for Love”, David Guetta feat. Emeli Sande

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised the performance and chemistry, but needs better foot and leg action. Bruno loved the party feel, but agreed on foot placement. Craig thought it was more Saturday Night Fever (BECAUSE WE NEVER REWARD DISCO LATIN ON THE SHOW, RIGHT???). Motsi mocked his pronunciation of “char char char”, which we all enjoyed.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22


Kelvin and Oti – This is a man’s world

Oti Mabuse, Kelvin Fletcher. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

I’m not saying playing bingo with Kelvin’s nan in Oldham isn’t a scintillating outing, but it’s not quite feeding posh giraffes now, is it? Still, Kelvin is handily stacking up the “normal bloke” points, while simultaneously impressing on the dancefloor. Yes, thankfully, our hunk with a heart of gold shows great potential in ballroom as well as Latin. More tense in hold, and will need to work on swing and sway, greater rise and fall, plus his frame – driving through Oti to keep his bottom in, and not leading with the arms, which twisted him up on the turns. But a lovely routine, beautifully delivered. And welcome back, smoke monster!

Song: “What the World Needs Now”, Burt Bacharach (COPYCAT KLAXON: Bill Turnball and Karen, Ben Cohen and Kristina)

Judges’ comments: Bruno felt it, but some rushed footwork. Craig noted spatulistic hands and bottom sticking out. Motsi loved the atmosphere and musicality – watch the stress held in the shoulders. Shirley criticised the footwork on his own, and arms are behind his body in hold.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28


Will and Janette – Hit me baby one more time

Will Bayley, Janette Manrara. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Well, you know my feelings about props. So as far as I’m concerned, the 40-second shtick with sparkly ping pong bats was at least 40 seconds too long. The actual dance was scrappy and skippy in the basics – Will had good hip action in isolation, not created by the steps themselves – and it was more of a club-y feel than real salsa (see above re: Craig’s critique of Alex…). BUT Will is incredibly endearing, and his enthusiasm for dancing is infectious – loved all the shimmies and air punches. Plus he took good care of Janette in the lifts. A fun closer to a looooooooong show.

Song: “1-2-3”, Gloria Estefan (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alex Jones and James)

Judges’ comments: Craig praised the lifts and hips, but he got ahead of the beat. Motsi said he gave it everything. Shirley agreed on the commitment. Bruno loved the energy and passion.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 6 – 24


Leaderboard

Karim and Amy – 31 + 32 = 63

Michelle and Giovanni – 30 + 32 = 62

Kelvin and Oti – 32 + 28 = 60

Dev and Dianne – 30 + 27 = 57

Saffron and AJ – 27 + 23 = 50

Will and Janette – 26 + 24 = 50

Emma B and Anton – 23 + 24 = 47

Alex and Neil – 21 + 22 = 43

Emma W and Aljaž – 19 + 22 = 41

Chris and Karen – 13 + 26 = 39

Catherine and Johannes – 20 + 19 = 39

Mike and Katya – 22 + 14 = 36

Anneka and Kevin – 14 + 19 = 33

David and Nadiya – 17 + 10 = 27

James and Luba – 11 + 13 = 24

The top and bottom halves of the leaderboard are still distinct, but some movement: Karim nabs the lead from Kelvin, while Chris and Emma W rise and Mike falls.


Sunday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Claudia Winkleman, Tess Daly. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Weird Frankenstein LBD. Claud in VERY SPARKLY TROUSERS.


Dance-off

A sportsbloke-off, with James vs David – not the most exciting viewing. At least Luba caught her pancake this time! But the judges all saved David.

Who impressed you in Week 2? Do you think the right couple went home? And what are your hopes for Movie Week? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for our visit to the big screen. 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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