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Strictly Speaking – Week 3

Posted on October 9, 2017

Movie Week BBC Guy Levy e1507817220394

Ah, Movie Week, AKA Can You Remotely Recognise The Dance Under Ten Layers of Theming Week. This was no exception – I had to keep checking my notes to see which dance was supposedly being represented. Also: Trolls. I’m just leaving that there.

Worse, theme weeks tend to exacerbate judging inconsistency, with the producers’ choices dictating more than usual, and rules applied arbitrarily or not at all. Even so – The Ten Second Rule. Oh, we all know The Ten Second Rule. Not a day goes by without the judges applying The Ten Second Rule. To everyone. Without fail.

However, Craig’s gaslighting was merely infuriating. Shirley’s escalating war with Brendan is JUICY. I fully expect this to end with Shirley pot stirring him by his ear, roaring “RISE AND FALL, MISTER!” on every rotation.

But amidst all the madness, we had another genuinely sad elimination of an entertaining contestant who loved being on the show. As opposed to others (ahem Brian, Simon and Charlotte) who are already radiating “Quite knackered TBH, can someone call my cab now?”, and who may soon resort to “accidentally” dropping an iron on their foot. Farewell, lovely Rev. Your skipping around in a Flash Gordon costume to Dirty Dancing music will not soon be forgotten.


Other hits and misses:

  • I haven’t been able to take La La Land seriously since that SNL skit. Also, you know, The Great Envelope Snafu. MISS
  • And really, more Disney? When our nation is, according to the five minutes of Pointless I accidentally watched, shockingly remiss in its knowledge of Gypsy? MISS
  • So we’re sticking with (embarrassed mumble) dance debrief. What a creative triumph. MISS
  • The comedy VTs returned in full force. For the purposes of this recap they did not happen, else I shall descend into endless screaming. MISS
  • Sheridan Smith! Actual welcome musical guest! Never leave us, Sheridan. HIT
  • Disco, on the other hand, must go and never return. Begone, foul demon! MISS


Best in Show

  • Best performance: Alexandra’s luvverly smooth Bonus points for clutching that celery to her heart.
  • Best costume: Aljaž as buff Aladdin Almost made up for drowning him in the bear/mouse costume.
  • Best move: WonderSusan’s running promenades Came closer to taking flight than any of the celebs with rocket ships.
  • Best line: Claud to Jonnie: “This is all…hair down…working.” She’s not wrong.



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

SPARKLY SPARKLY again. Claud in flamenco ruffles.


Simon and Karen – Failure to launch

Karen Clifton, SIMON RIMMER – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Wondering how this song equals quickstep? The answer is “musical torture”. We also got Simon in knock-off Buzz Lightyear attire, including a purple hoodie and frankly alarming make-up. Oh yes, and somewhere under all of that a quickstep. Well, a mediumstep. Well, a step. Plodding, gapping, awkward frame, and a dance break in the middle that in NO WAY challenged the long-established, frankly overly familiar Ten Second Rule. Plus a flying climax easily topped by your local village panto. In 1982. An inauspicious opening.

Song: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story (COPYCAT KLAXON: Denise Van Outen and James)

Judges’ comments: Shirley liked his frame and basics. Bruno thought his upper body had too much movement. Craig said it was lumpy and lacked swing and sway. Darcey praised his effort.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 6, 5 – 19




Ruth and Anton – Holy smoke

Ruth Langsford, Anton Du Beke – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Seriously: NO MORE EAMONN HOLMES. On the plus side, Ruth was resplendent in Ola’s leftover hair and a nice frock, and the returning smoke monster hid pretty much everything below the waist. And yet: Anton rumba. Bent legs throughout so no hip action, lots of semi-ironic posing, and the general air of two embarrassed strangers forced into close proximity in a crowded Tube carriage. Ruth and her wig had more chemistry. Those two are going STRONG. This rumba…was not.

Song: “Diamonds Are Forever” from Diamonds Are Forever

Judges’ comments: Bruno said her hips need defrosting. Craig found it stilted, and needed foot pressure, resistance and acting. Darcey liked her look, but balance issues. Shirley noted the bent legs.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 3, 4 – 15





Mollie and AJ – The major lift

AJ Pritchard, Mollie King – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Well, not all wigs are created equal. This was more “one of post-shaming Cersei Lannister’s copycat minions”. Also: Mollie in a Maria apron, dancing a romantic American smooth to number sung by an Austrian nun. Because MOVIE WEEK. (AJ came as…I don’t know, the Nazi delivery boy’s much-younger brother?) I said after the launch show that Mollie looked best when her feet weren’t actually touching the floor, and so it proved, with lifts that went on for basically the ENTIRE routine. When actually dancing, frame still wobbly and transitions clunky.

Song: “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music

Judges’ comments: Craig loved the lifts, but not the landings. Darcey agreed, but beautiful. Shirley praised her footwork. Bruno is enjoying their partnership.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30





Rev Richard and Dianne – Not flash, just Gordon

Dianne Buswell, Reverend Richard Coles – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Comedy acts sometimes struggle on theme weeks, when basically EVERYONE becomes a comic turn – like it or not. So it proved for the Rev, still valiantly weird doing Flash Gordon in a Princess Di wig and Hillary Clinton pantsuit. Also occasionally some paso. A leap that made me giggle, ditto a tangled cape moment, and the pair of them managing to keep a straight face added to the entertainment value, but no shaping and wound up getting lost in the mix.

Song: “Flash’s Theme” from Flash Gordon

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his conviction, but spiky. Shirley said the flamenco arms were like knitting, and wanted rotation in the body. Bruno said it was paso in alien form. Craig found the hand shaping peculiar and jeté disastrous.

Judges’ scores: 2, 4, 4, 4 – 14





Debbie and Giovanni – You say rule change

Debbie McGee, Giovanni Pernice – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

OK, so The Ten Second Rule is obviously an absurd thing to pretend has always been with us, our guiding light, praise be, but I do agree that someone as great as Debbie doesn’t need filler – get in hold and stay there. Yes, she struggled with stamina in training, but the faff looked equally draining. Also occasional issues with head positioning, and could do with lowering to get proper driving heel leads. But still in a different league to everyone else thus far – poised, elegant, musical, gorgeously light and crisp.

Song: “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” from Shall We Dance?

Judges’ comments: Shirley found the intro too long and movement in upper body, but great scatter chasses and performance. Bruno praised the Ginger mannerisms. Craig monologued like a Bond villain about The Ten Second Rule. Darcey loves the way she hides preparation.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 7, 8 – 29





Brian and Amy – Clutching at straws

Amy Dowden, Brian Conley – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

It’s hard to tell whether Brian’s made a conscious effort to tone down his shtick or is just…gently drifting off. Mentally going over his contract fine print while wardrobe sticks straw to his scalp. Because toddler-costumed, theme-explosion Movie Week is a strange time to decide you’re all about the character’s rich interior life. It did lend a vague pleasant sensation to this (consults notes) smooth, like succumbing to general anaesthetic. But the minimal foxtrot was plodding and shapeless, and the lifts had the impact of a paper clip dropped onto thick carpeting.

Song: “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz

Judges’ comments: Bruno wanted more expression and energy. Craig said it needed drive. Darcey thought it was too safe. Shirley said he came back stronger.

Judges’ scores: 5, 5, 6, 6 – 22





Gemma and Aljaž – Party animals

Gemma Atkinson, Aljaž Skorjanec – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Ah, the age-old debate: is Halloween a time for goofy costumes or, er, attention-seeking ones? Exhibit A – Gemma in curve-hugging catsuit reclining provocatively. Exhibit B – Aljaž the pregnant bear/mouse scratching his bottom on a tree. Nevertheless, this was unexpectedly charming. Gemma benefitted hugely from having an OTT character to play, giving her a much bigger performance, and good timing, high energy, nice splits, and cute chemistry. Charleston wise…oh god, it’s Jungle Book. I guess there was Charleston? Some recognisable steps certainly, not so much swivel or style. But great fun.

Song: “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book

Judges’ comments: Craig wanted more basics, but full of character. Darcey praised the lifts and splits, but wanted a sustained performance. Shirley was surprised by the amount of energy. Bruno liked the jazz elements.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31





Charlotte and Brendan – War of words

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

Well, the judging here was a million times more dramatic than the routine – a standard Brendan Eighties fantasia with painful motorcycle miming and tango that involved him shoving his partner around like a mannequin. Also mistakes, an illegal lift, and Charlotte radiating bone-deep unhappiness. As for the rise and fall debate? She didn’t stay down in her knees enough, so I’m Team Shirley there. And if you want to prove your good guy creds by heroically defending a woman, maybe try not patronisingly sneering “My dear” at another woman…

Song: “Danger Zone” from Top Gun

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her lines, but needs to make transitions clear. Shirley pointed out rise and fall, Brendan argued, we all got out the popcorn. Bruno told him to be respectful, because even Bruno has a line. Craig said she’s safer in hold.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 4, 4 – 17





Jonnie and Oti – The way you wear your hat

Oti Mabuse, Jonnie Peacock – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Well, after all that drama, we desperately needed Jonnie swinging in on a vine in rakish hat (again) and, um, close-fitting trousers to save us. Also Oti giving “Kickass jungle explorer stopping by the Met Gala” for good measure. Jonnie’s intense focus was much better suited to paso – performance variations will hopefully develop further into his Strictly Sportsman Journey – and his strength was well showcased by a dynamic routine. Definite lack of shaping and Spanish line, stompy on occasion and needs to complete moves, but gradual improvement.

Song: “The Raiders March” from Indiana Jones

Judges’ comments: Shirley wants him to work on the hip line, but great routine. Bruno praised the determination – just keep the butt tucked under. Craig found it square, otherwise brilliant job. Darcey wants him to lift the rib cage and think character, but amazing commitment.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26





Susan and Kevin – The Eighth Wonder of the World

Susan Calman, Kevin Clifton – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Hurrah, this was pure joy. The not insignificant gender role reversal on what is still a conservative show. WonderSusan marching down the steps in her red boots with matter-of-fact swagger: “Yeah, just off to save a guy, what of it?” The Beyoncé pumps. The floor spin. The utter camp, delivered with full-throttle conviction. Susan’s proud wife in the audience wearing a matching tiara. Samba wise…well. Content yes, technique not so much. But it’s sodding Movie Week. And this made me smile.

Song: “Wonder Woman (Theme)” from Wonder Woman

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved that she was in charge. Craig thought it lacked bounce, but a lot of fun. Darcey said she needs to straighten her back leg, but great performance. Shirley noted she did use lots of different samba timings, and commitment.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 6 – 20





Joe and Katya – From Russia with love

Katya Jones, Joe McFadden – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

I’m getting whiplash with these two. Definitely back on form this week after that wardrobe mess, with a kitsch but delightful routine that featured Joe’s fetching moustache and Katya combining fur trimmings with a backless dress. It’s a very localised sort of cold. Really nice musicality and flow in this, er, Russian Viennese waltz, with good drive from Joe and lovely connection between them. Sometimes too square and hunched in hold, and the odd skippy moment, particularly in transitions, otherwise very charming.

Song: “Somewhere, My Love” from Doctor Zhivago

Judges’ comments: Craig gave it a thumbs up. Darcey thought it was beautifully traditional, with great travel and rotation. Shirley said he brought it. Bruno was swept away.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32





Aston and Janette – Stirring the pot

Janette Manrara, Aston Merrygold – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Let’s just take one more moment to contemplate that of all the movies in the history of cinema, the one we’re celebrating here is Trolls. Plus: an almighty styling headache, with our hyper pocket pair painted by a colour-blind toddler who had trouble staying inside the lines. Why oh why, when your celeb can actually dance? Confident, rhythmical cha cha that could have used sharper, more defined footwork and cleaner shaping. But great performance and strong partnering, not least in that piece of epic trolling (sorry) from Janette: an endless pot stir.

Song: “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls

Judges’ comments: Darcey loved the cleanness and control. Shirley said he’d made an effort to fix the sickled feet, and then took her sweet time praising that pot stir. You do not mess with Shirley. Bruno thought it was pin sharp and liked the hip hop touches. Craig: “You’re very good, aren’t you darling?”

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35





Alexandra and Gorka – Could have danced all night

Gorka Marquez, Alexandra Burke – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Fierce debate on my Twitter timeline about whether wardrobe had accidentally styled Alexandra as Mary Poppins instead of Eliza. Personally, I’d just thank my lucky stars I wasn’t dressed as a troll and move on. This smooth was a real pleasure: slick turns, gorgeous lifts, lovely musicality, and a complete performance. I take Shirley’s point about volume, but I thought it was pitched well for this particular story and character. Sidenote: anyone who can hold celery with that beatific of a smile has got what it takes to be a Strictly finalist.

Song: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised her pivots, but thought she could have used more volume. Bruno loves that her dancing is motivated by emotion. Craig wants her to work on the free arm, but a beautiful routine. Darcey said she’s so versatile, and great elevation.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33





Davood and Nadiya – Fever pitch

David Ghadami and the Strictly judges – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Ugh, disco. Mind, I was fearing worse when I saw the John Travolta get-up – we did actually get some samba in this. And I’m not saying Davood waving his shapely derriere in the judges’ faces is a losing strategy per se. However, this couple is STILL favouring frantic and suggestive over quality of movement and real partnership. Technically, posture issues, splayed hands, gyrations randomly generated rather than hip action through foot pressure, and every move snatched. But timing half-decent, and certainly doesn’t lack for performance.

Song: “Stayin’ Alive” from Saturday Night Fever (COPYCAT KLAXON: Kelly Brook and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it needs to be smoother. Craig agreed the hip wiggles were crowd-pleasing but not samba-related, and hands spatulistic. Darcey told him to contain the enthusiasm and not chuck Nadiya around. Shirley praised the content, but work on posture.

Judges’ scores: 4, 7, 7, 7 – 25






Aston and Janette – 35

Alexandra and Gorka – 33

Joe and Katya – 32

Gemma and Aljaž – 31

Mollie and AJ – 30

Debbie and Giovanni – 29

Jonnie and Oti – 26

Davood and Nadiya – 25

Brian and Amy – 22

Susan and Kevin – 20

Simon and Karen – 19

Charlotte and Brendan – 17

Ruth and Anton – 15

Rev Richard and Dianne – 14


Aston’s back on top, while Debbie, Davood and Ruth drop, and Joe, Gemma and Brian rise.



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

The asymmetrical nightmare continues. Claudia in hot pink.



Reverend Richard Coles and Dianne Buswell bid farewell – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Another dance-off between a celeb positively cheery at the thought of going home, and another dying to stay. But because of the wretched dance-off format (BAN THE DANCE-OFF), Simon lived to gloomily plod another day, while the lovely Rev exited too soon. He’s been great value in his short stint, and I hope we see Dianne back again next year.

What did you think of Movie Week? Who impressed you? And who do you think should have gone home? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you soon for a non-theme week, praise be. In the meantime…keep dancing!


Marianka Swain interviews Shirley Ballas in the October 2017 issue of Dancing Times.


Top: The Strictly Come Dancing contestants and professional dancers – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

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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