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Strictly Speaking – Week 3

Posted on October 10, 2016

Marianka Swain on the popcorn and drama of Movie Week

Theme weeks are normally a horror-fest of props and cartoonish presentation, but – miracle of miracles – this was actually a strong Movie Week, with mercifully little faff in the actual dances (VTs were another story) and plenty of room for celeb improvement. Once again, the biggest drama was in the dance-off, which featured the surprising combo of Laura (mid-leaderboard and no help from established fanbase, big personality or sympathetic J word) and Tameka (either assumed safe or scuppered by a dubious tango theme).

I’m really sad to see Tameka go so soon – I would have loved to see her last a few more weeks, tackling some less manic styles and lifting her dancing to the level of her performance. Laura is definitely strong, but not the most exciting to watch and pretty much destined to be a runner-up. They were fairly evenly matched in the dance-off – did the judges make the right call? In this ringer-heavy series, I might have gone for the entertainment value and potential to grow instead.

In other news, the assault on salsa continues. Why do we have it in the programme if no one wants to dance it? It’s been colonised by disco and hip hop, and now Bollywood. But if the judges mark a non-salsa number (Will) higher than salsa (Laura), there’s no incentive for the pros to do trad routines – or for celebs to actually learn the technique. Let’s either get strict about what salsa actually is, or ditch it altogether.

 

Other hits and misses:

  • The Terrible Tango Song Choices continue, this week claiming an elimination victim. Make. It. Stop. MISS
  • Lots of wirework this week – it started to lose impact after the 20th flying celeb. Less is more, guys. MISS
  • Another beige musical performance, courtesy of Michael Ball and Alfie Boe – unusual casting for the leads in West Side Story… MISS
  • More fun from the group numbers, with the delights of Natalie Von Trapp, cackling nuns, Anton having a sit down, and Giovanni dancing with a mop. Well, the pros have had more challenging partners. HIT

 

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Claudia’s Charleston Their strongest by far, even if AJ somehow looked younger than ever in that suit
  • Best costume: Officer Gorka Runner-up: the yellow and green wonder that was Ed “The Mask” Balls
  • Best move: Judge Rinder’s bottom bongos With bonus upside down Oksana leg waving
  • Best line: Ed Balls’s “I perform, therefore I am.” Swiftly followed by a million terrible Jim Carrey impressions

 


Saturday

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

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

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

“Which shoulder shall we show off tonight, Tess?”

“Gotta be the right one, Claud.”

 


Daisy and Aljaž – Supernanny

Aljaž Skorjanec, Daisy Lowe - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Aljaž Skorjanec, Daisy Lowe – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Which came first: the Mary Poppins theme choice, or a rehearsal room in need of tidying? Her VT did have a “Might as well get our money’s worth with these celebs” feel to it. But this was a light, buoyant, charming quickstep, Daisy coping well with plenty of content and travelling decently. Lacked swivel in the Charleston, a couple of small errors and lost her neck in frame, but another strong performance from this consistent couple. Bonus points for Aljaž in a flat cap.

Song: “Spoonful of Sugar” (from Mary Poppins)

Judges’ comments: Len praised her hold, posture and movement round the floor. Bruno thought it had supreme elegance. Craig wanted more precision in the Charleston and she raised her left shoulder, but followed brilliantly. Darcey said her upper body could be more taut, but beautiful work.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

3_glitterball

 

 

 


Anastacia and Brendan – Comeback queen

Brendan Cole, Anastacia - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Brendan Cole, Anastacia – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

A VT with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it coverage of the injury drama, which either suggested the BBC were anxious to push past the controversy or Anastacia didn’t want to go after sympathy votes. She finally got to do a gentle ballroom with this Viennese waltz – nicely understated, though ran the risk of being somewhat forgettable. A tad skippy and lacked heel leads, and hunched over in hold, but some good rotation and a lovely performance. Sidenote: did they have to make Vampire Brendan look like he was on day three of a food poisoning bout?

Song: “A Thousand Years”, Christina Perri (from Twilight)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought there were some unsteady moments, but sweet and simple. Craig noted her raised shoulders and balance losses, but she came back with enormous confidence. Darcey admired both her neck AND her shoulders (Naga must be fuming). Len was pleased to see her feeling and dancing better.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Danny and Oti – En garde

Oti Mabuse, Danny Mac - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Oti Mabuse, Danny Mac – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Danny got a chance to practise his fencing – handy since that particular skill appeared in their routine a grand total of zero times. This was another super-fast routine that could perhaps have used a bit more breathing space. He looked very comfortable in the choreography, but it would have been nice to see some more extreme shaping in places, more definition in foot placement, and variation in the dynamics – though the latter may be down to the samey music. Otherwise excellent partnering and timing, a nice grasp of the style, and confident delivery.

Song: “The Train” by James Horner/“El Sombero Blanco” (from The Mask of Zorro)

Judges’ comments: Craig called it a virtuoso performance. Darcey agreed it was amazing for Week 3. Len liked the mix of artistry and power. Bruno compared him with both Antonio Banderas and Carlos Acosta, praising the flamenco.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

3_glitterball

 

 

 


Lesley and Anton – A swell time

Anton Du Beke, Lesley Joseph - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Anton Du Beke, Lesley Joseph – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Who was dying to see Anton doing yoga in a suit? Congratulations! For the rest of us, it was like watching a lunchtime corporate bonding exercise. This was another charming quickstep, with Lesley – drawing the short straw with a fright wig and blacked-out teeth – managing to inject plenty of character into a brisk routine. Ginormous gapping, posture issues and she was sometimes long jumping to keep pace, but continues to impress.

Song: “A Couple of Swells”, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire (from Easter Parade)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her cheeky character and plenty of dance content, but loose technique. Len particularly liked seeing a fishtail. Bruno loved the quirkiness, but a few errors. Craig said the footwork wasn’t compact enough, hence the gapping, but brilliant characterisation and energy.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Will and Karen – Fusion confusion

Karen Clifton, Will Young - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Karen Clifton, Will Young – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

It’s telling that the training we were privy to involved learning Bollywood. This wasn’t so much a themed salsa as a Bollywalsa, with one dance completely subsumed by another. Practically no salsa at all, and what little there was lacked hip action (though hard to tell with the harem pants) and distinct styling – you can’t just chuck in a few steps and completely abandon the character of the dance. Will danced the Bollywood sections very well, but as a salsa, this was a fail.

Song: “Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)”, by A.R. Rahman and the Pussycat Dolls (from Slumdog Millionaire)

Judges’ comments: Len wanted more salsa, which led to a spat. Bruno said it reminded him of a Matthew Bourne contemporary piece, because we needed yet another style in there. Craig adored the mix and praised his isolations. Darcey agreed and thought he handled the lifts well.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 8 – 31

1_glitterball

 

 

 


Naga and Pasha – Will self-destruct in five seconds

Naga Munchetty, Pasha Kovalev - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Naga Munchetty, Pasha Kovalev – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Naga is haunted by the Mission Impossible theme song in her VT. After the show, I imagine she’s more haunted by the seemingly endless 10 seconds it took to untangle her from the harness at the start. Fewer errors than last week, but still very stiff and skittish – she seems to lock into one position and then unbalance herself when she has to transition into another. Also still lacking performance, though the grim determination was at least more appropriate in tango, and she was handicapped by the unhelpful 5/4 time signature.

Song: “Theme from Mission Impossible”, Lalo Schifrin (from Mission Impossible)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said she needs to work on her focus. Craig thought it was sloppy and needed more extreme lines, but loved the concept. Darcey praised the improvement. Len called it her best dance, but needs to be sharper and get past the nerves.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 7 – 25

1_glitterball

 

 

 


Judge Rinder and Oksana – Bedrock and roll

 

Oksana Platero, Judge Robert Rinder - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Oksana Platero, Judge Robert Rinder – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Another haunting, with Rinder getting ghostly advice from Fred Flintstone. None needed for this Charleston, which – like Tameka last week – suited his big personality and even bigger facial expressions. Another dodgy wig as well (this episode was basically Strictly meets American Hustle). Great energy and fun characterisation, plus an impressive handspring, but some alarming lift moments and ungainly footwork, with the swivel a bit too casual. As with a few celebs this year, he needs to differentiate dance styles more clearly.

Song: “Meet The Flintstones” (from The Flintstones)

Judges’ comments: Craig thought the ghastly facial expressions came into their own. Mistimed a lift and tight swivel, but loved the routine. Darcey continued their, err, niche flirtation by praising his crazy caveman antics. Len noted a few mistakes. Bruno thought the timing went extinct, but fun to watch.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 6, 6 – 27

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Ore and Joanne – Saving it for a rainy day

Ore Oduba, Joanne Clifton - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Ore Oduba, Joanne Clifton – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Ore can now dance in a fountain, so that’s handy. Might have been better off practising foxtrot, which was decidedly weak in this American smooth: rushed, major posture issues (including Rutherford Rear syndrome) and some sloppy footwork – he was up on his tiptoes far too much. Out of hold, some strange hand shaping and could have done with smoother transitions, but they were given the week’s best theme and delivered it nicely – if somewhat overhyped by the judges, this was still a definite step up.

Song: “Singin’ In the Rain”, Gene Kelly (from Singin’ In The Rain)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his timing and Gene Kelly homage. Len was astounded by how good he was. Bruno thought he retained his personality within it. Craig wanted him up on his toes more during the smooth sections, but a proper showman.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Laura and Giovanni – Ooh la la

Giovanni Pernice, Laura Whitmore - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Giovanni Pernice, Laura Whitmore – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Another airborne celeb, so we were subjected to flying practice, and more tabloid bait in this raunchy salsa, though the highlight was definitely Giovanni shamelessly flirting with Bruno. (Hey, it paid off.) Laura really threw herself into this routine, shaking her flamingo bustle, shimmying like mad and giving her most committed performance yet, though the speed and packed number did mean some awkward moments and unfinished moves – needs to work on her free arm, lift transitions and foot pressure. Still slightly bland, but a good effort.

Song: “Rhythm of the Night”, Valeria (from Moulin Rouge)

Judges’ comments: Len found it too raunchy, though she’s a great dancer. Bruno loved the showgirl vibe and sexy energy. Craig thought it was a bit out of control and lacked fluidity, but great spins. Darcey praised her isolations, but needs to iron out lift preparations.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 9 – 30

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Greg and Natalie – The outlaw

Natalie Lowe, Greg Rutherford - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Natalie Lowe, Greg Rutherford – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Archery practice for Greg so he could shoot flaming arrows at the audience – or, you know, near them. Either way, it seemed risky in a room with that much hairspray. While Laura was tentative with lifts, we almost had the opposite problem in this American smooth, as Natalie launched herself at Greg like a laser-guided missile. However, he did look confident with them, and much improved in frame, posture and footwork. Still gets ahead of the beat sometimes, dashing onto the next step rather than filling out the music, but good storytelling and a really nice partnership developing.

Song: “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”, Bryan Adams (from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised his strength and was pleasantly surprised. Craig thought it needed more swing and sway, but gorgeous storytelling. Darcey said the lifts were almost too powerful, lacking the smooth quality of the rest of the dance. Len thought they got the right balance of in/out of hold, and no sign of an errant bum.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Claudia and AJ – Roaring Twenties

Claudia Fragapane, AJ Pritchard - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Claudia Fragapane, AJ Pritchard – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

The custard pie training didn’t quite pay off, with Claudia managing to spray Len’s notes (he was Not Pleased) and wreck half the set. Tsk, kids today. Speaking of which, Baby Pro AJ looked like he was interning at Uncle Bob’s law firm. As a big fan of Bugsy Malone (the Lyric Hammersmith’s version, with fab Drew McOnie choreography, is pure joy), I was inclined to love this one, and it didn’t disappoint: fantastic swivel from Claudia, crisp tricks, excellent timing and lovely style. Her performance still flatlines on occasion, but great fun to watch.

Song: “You Give a Little Love”, Paul Williams (from Bugsy Malone)

Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was technically brilliant. Darcey called it absolutely outstanding. Len loved the combination of choreography, tricks and slapstick. Bruno praised her acting.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36

3_glitterball

 

 

 


Tameka and Gorka – Hot fuzz

Tameka Empson, Gorka Marquez - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Tameka Empson, Gorka Marquez – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Tameka took her lucky, lucky partner to “the Oscars of the soap world”. Oh, bless. He returned the favour by dressing as a policeman, which was much appreciated, although the jiggling handcuffs were a tad distracting. Another tango scuppered by an unhelpful song, though Tameka did manage both a strong performance and sharp, staccato movement. The posture was variable, with her head dropping and left shoulder hunching, and occasional loss of body contact, but a decent number; if she was hampered by the knee injury, she covered it well.

Song: “The Heat Is On”, Glen Frey (from Beverly Hills Cop)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her intent and attack, but wanted crisper transitions. Len noted some posture issues. Bruno loved the commitment. Craig said her left elbow collapsed and needed a clear V shape, but covered the floor aggressively.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 8 – 28

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Ed and Katya – Smokin’!

Ed Balls - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Ed Balls – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Who knew Ed Balls would be this year’s VT star? Also a pleasant surprise: our former shadow chancellor transformed into the campest banana in all the land. Samba wise, no hip or bounce action, too upright and lacked shaping, but he did at least attempt a variety of basics – Katya’s doing an excellent job of giving us comedy celeb entertainment while still making glancing references to the actual dance. And Glitter Balls delivered the routine with the kind of boundless amateur enthusiasm that makes Strictly so beloved.

Song: “Cuban Pete” (from The Mask)

Judges’ comments: Len congratulated Katya on her choreography. Bruno: “I know it’s crazy, but I liked it.” Craig said it was devoid of samba bounce. Darcey thought it was crazy and fabulous, and he embodied the character.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 7, 7 – 24

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Louise and Kevin – Return of the leg warmers

Kevin Clifton, Louise Redknapp - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Kevin Clifton, Louise Redknapp – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

A few family prop points courtesy of Louise’s kids. This routine was pure pastiche, and enjoyable on those grounds, though she’s no Robert Webb. The cha cha was too fast and frantic for her to do much in the way of technique – no hip action and lacked straight legs. She also tends to mark dances prettily rather than really commit and project them out, which is noticeable in a number like this that needs to be blissfully OTT to really wow. But it was all worth it for Bruno’s Eighties reverie.

Song: “Flashdance…What A Feeling”, Irene Cara (from Flashdance)

Judges’ comments: Bruno waxed lyrical about his nostalgia trip. Craig praised her timing, but needs to work on hip action. Darcey thought it really suited her. Len said it had great rhythm.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

2_glitterball

 

 

 


Leaderboard

Danny and Oti – 36

Claudia and AJ – 36

Ore and Joanne – 35

Greg and Natalie – 32

Daisy and Aljaz – 31

Will and Karen – 31

Louise and Kevin – 31

Laura and Giovanni – 30

Tameka and Gorka – 28

Anastacia and Brendan – 27

Judge Rinder and Oksana – 27

Lesley and Anton – 27

Naga and Pasha – 25

Ed and Katya – 24

 

A redemptive week for Claudia and Ore, Greg rises and Louise falls.

 


Sunday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

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

Decent LBD with a slightly wandering neckline. Claud was late for a toga party.

 


Len’s lens

  • Bruno’s “Flashdance” dancing was far more animated than Louise’s
  • Len got excited, again, about a coup de pique and a fishtail
  • Craig demonstrated that his face does in fact move, if mainly via the left eyebrow

Tess Daly, Gorka Marquez, Tameka Empson - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Tess Daly, Gorka Marquez, Tameka Empson – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Following a dance-off – which, surprisingly, featured neither Naga (is it the Breakfast bloc or Pasha fans?) nor Anastacia – Darcey voted for Tameka, and Craig, Bruno and Len all saved Laura. Tameka made a polite exit speech, but then got in a fantastic rebuke by whipping up her skirt to show her knee brace. The Dance-off Injury Controversy rumbles on.

 

What did you make of Movie Week? Do you agree with the elimination? And who do you think will leave next? Come say hi on Twitter: @mkmswain

 

See you next week for more fun and games. 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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