Posted on October 8, 2018
Ah, Movie Week – two words about as likely to deliver satisfaction as “Southern Rail”, “Theresa May” or “Topshop feminism”. So, it comes as little surprise (though sinking disappointment) to see couples slathered in Minions yellow or trying to jam a paso down the throat of hagiographic nonsense The Greatest Showman.
And yet! A few successes snatched from the dressing-up box, and rather an interesting episode in competitive terms, with plenty of leaderboard movement and the odd breakthrough. Other than the Battle of the Blonde Ringers, this series so far is proving gripping in its unpredictability.
Of course, the big drama was occurring off-screen, with the tabloid splash of Seann and Katya’s early enacting of the Strictly Curse (carefully coordinated apology Tweets from both on Sunday evening calling it a “one-off mistake”). Should certainly make for interesting viewing going forwards – plus it gave us the joy of a retrospectively awkward marital rumba…
Barbie goes to Prom – with Angelina Jolie leg. Claud: odd white dress vomiting pleats.
Vick conquered her Latin terror (based on only one dance, but my did the VT build a whole Oscar-bait drama out of it) with this salsa, though it’s yet another number that makes me dubious about Graziano. We learned more about him than Vick here really – he can pratfall! What a guy! – and the number of props was slightly baffling given her aversion to them. Why not just…take some out? Salsa, when it finally got going, was rhythmical and fun, with Vick confident both solo and in hold, but big steps on basics and skittish footwork (in trainers) meant it lacked proper leg and hip action.
Song: “Take a Chance on Me” from Mamma Mia!
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised the lifts, but work on rotation and body action. Bruno thought they captured the feel-good spirit. Craig wanted more energy, cleaner turns and more salsa generally, but lifts spectacular. Darcey thought it was fun.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27
A visit to Aladdin in the West End to help Dr Ranj with his dream role – and his joy was certainly apparent in another upbeat number from this pair. However, the transition to ballroom was far less smooth – gapping you could drive an elephant through, no drive because of the lack of heel leads, wandering frame, and (my eternal grumble this series) too many breaks of hold. If you need to keep stopping your quickstep and shimmying to create impact, you’re doing something wrong. Still tons of potential – musical, great performance, nice partnership connection – but needs the technical fundamentals to stay competitive.
Song: “Prince Ali” from Aladdin
Judges’ comments: Bruno said it lacked continuous lightness. Craig noted posture issues, poor Charleston kicks and didn’t cover the floor. Darcey thought it was cheeky, but dropped his left elbow. Shirley said it was magic only when out of hold.
Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 6 – 20
How movies lie to us. Instead of hoverboards, we have Russian bots and democratic crisis. Anyhow, the alarm bells sounded early here: Nadiya’s “sexy Doc Brown” (huh?!), the whitest moonwalk ever recorded, Lee recreating Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes, and a fog monster up to their knees. But even the latter – and a confident presentation – couldn’t hide dodgy technique: Lee still struggling with turned-in feet, plus not straightening his legs (and getting hip action) because he stayed up on his toes or tapped the floor rather than actually transferring his weight. He also – wrongly – took possession of Dr Ranj’s missing heel leads. A misfire.
Song: “The Power of Love” from Back to the Future
Judges’ comments: Craig labelled it “mincing around”. Darcey liked the attitude, but no straight leg action and wild free arm. Shirley praised his rhythm, but lacked weight transfer. Bruno said it needs refining.
Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 6 – 19
Wig taming: the next Strictly frontier. In fact, stairs turned out to be the greater challenge, with Kate stumbling early on, but this was still a deliciously sultry foxtrot. I’m with Darcey – let’s get her on the cabaret circuit, stat. Unlike some other routines this (and every) week, it didn’t divide performance and ballroom, but sustained characterisation and style throughout, using beautifully controlled movement, an elongated frame, clear dynamics and connected partnering as a means of expression. Elements to work on, like missed heel leads, gapping and a bit of frame tug of war, but this pair continue to impress.
Song: “Why Don’t You Do Right?” from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (COPYCAT KLAXON: Roger Black and Camilla, Jason Donovan and Kristina)
Judges’ comments: Darcey called it divine, praising the control and flow, but use Aljaž more (cue audience giggles). Shirley loved the combination of steps and sensuality. Bruno said it was hypnotising. Craig wanted a prettier throwaway oversway, but great storytelling.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 8 – 29
I do wish there was a mute button for costuming – took me a few goes to properly see past the Minions nonsense to the actual dance here. Which is a shame, because Stacey produced a confident, high-energy jive that didn’t need gimmicks. Great timing, spring, strong kicks and clear delivery, though also ginormous steps on basics and flat-footed in places (trainers, once more, not helping), which detracted from the lightness. Could also have done without yet another break for that more casual, club-like movement – Stacey’s talented enough to leave her comfort zone and fully embrace each ballroom style. But a big, bright, spirited performance.
Song: “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jennifer Gibney and Tristan)
Judges’ comments: Shirley called it a major breakthrough. Bruno said she was on it. Craig agreed. Darcey loved her carefree action.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Back to school for Joe – who may look about 12, but is actually 27. With an American smooth, we FINALLY got to see him doing ballroom, and also a slower dance…yielding mixed results. His natural charisma and feel for music is still a pleasant surprise (seemingly to him as much as anyone), and he partners with care. But his posterior was cartoonishly protruding, with the bent-over-double backwards steps looking like he was trying to squeeze through a narrow tunnel bum first, and the lift where Dianne hunted him down was unintentionally amusing. Still decent, but footwork and frame need major attention for future dances.
Song: “Breaking Free” from High School Musical
Judges’ comments: Bruno praised his lyrical phrasing, but his bum stuck out. Craig said his posture let him down and should be smoother. Darcey liked the topline and long strides, but not finishing lines. Shirley wanted better floor coverage and footwork.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 7 – 26
Abseiling field trip, because…heights. Anyhow, some inspired work from Oti here, getting Graeme back on track after last week’s dip with a crowd- and judge-pleasing Charleston. As with the Minions, the whole Spiderman look was a lot, but the routine itself was true to style – great swivel, jazzy phrasing, sharp kicks – with thankfully few arachnid touches. The odd bit of loose footwork from Graeme, like not fully closing his feet or differentiating enough between steps, but big, impactful lifts, impressive sync, improved arm placement, and a thoroughly enjoyable performance. Sidenote: would happily watch an expanded version of Oti’s fabulous flapper solo.
Song: “Spider-Man Theme” from Spider-Man
Judges’ comments: Craig: “Welcome back to the competition.” Darcey agreed, praising the characterisation, swivel and lifts. Shirley thought he came back fighting. Bruno: “From zero to superhero.”
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31
Pool training for these two, though Pasha bucking the recent male pro trend with relative modesty. So, if we’re honest, Ashley is more Penny than plucked-from-the-corner Baby, and salsa continues to be Strictly’s most-maligned dance style – this was really all about hitting the familiar beats of the movie routine and, of course, The Lift, rather than authentic salsa grounding and hip action. But, as karaoke numbers go, extremely slick: immaculate timing, sophisticated partnering, crisp turns and armography, and great lifts – including the big one, actually made more effective by visible effort. Sidenote: Pasha is living his best Swayze life, you go Pash.
Song: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan, Pamela Stephenson and James, Louis Smith and Flavia)
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her fearlessness. Shirley loved the lifts, rotation and timing. Bruno thought they made it their own. Craig wanted more hip rotation. He also recalled trying the lift in Austria and ending up with a hernia (which…full story and re-enactment, please).
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35
Staying in the training room, hurrah, with Gorka using resistance bands to help Katie ahead of their foxtrot. And it paid off, with another dance showing marked improvement in several areas. The La La Land framing – plus Wobbly Lamppost and fog monster – gave it a gentle charm and boosted Katie’s performance, though the clunky shoes didn’t do much for her (but at least no one mansplained jazz, so swings and roundabouts). Foxtrot wise, a few tentative moments, especially transitions, but good footwork and some really nice partnering and lines. Now just needs to exaggerate everything, from the shaping and breadth of movement to the storytelling.
Song:“City of Stars” from La La Land
Judges’ comments: Shirley saw a big improvement – she can push herself more. Bruno loved the dreamy quality. Craig noted timing issues at the start, but a breakthrough with her musicality. Darcey said Katie enjoyed it, so we did.
Judges’ scores:5, 5, 6, 6 – 22
Well, this was quite the roller coaster. A nation went from “Oh, that funny Seann Walsh” to “Surely I can’t fancy Seann Walsh?” to “OMG! Bad Seann Walsh!” in 24 hours. In the midst of all that was Katya working choreographic wonders, bolstering Seann’s paso with creative tricks that (take note, Graziano et al) made him look incredible, even though most of them were down to her insane core strength. Superbly maintained intensity, strong movement and good partnering, though the shaping was a bit square – Spanish line sacrificed for kung fu. But a slick, exciting number, and Seann one-upping the other harnessed celebs by actually doing a flip.
Song: “Matrix Theme” from The Matrix
Judges’ comments: Bruno loved how they incorporated the slo mo. Craig found it powerful and (again awkward in retrospect) hot. Darcey praised the drama and purpose. Shirley said the chorography was sheer brilliance, and Seann is a dark horse.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30
Lauren noted in her VT that she lacks confidence as a performer, so naturally this cha cha began with her doing an enforced solo on a car – supposedly getting those Fame vibes going, actually looking like a stranded flood victim. Top marks for Eighties costuming, otherwise nothing really worked – the steps were just about there, and in the right time, but placed rather than fully performed, with AJ once again wildly out-dancing his partner. While La La Land worked for Katie’s understatement, the theme here showed up Lauren’s relative lack of power and conviction. Not terrible, but – on this OTT theme night especially – underwhelming.
Song: “Fame” from Fame (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna)
Judges’ comments: Craig noted hip and leg action problems, and lacklustre. Darcey praised the content, but she needs to over-exaggerate. Shirley liked the youthful vibe, but needs to point her feet and transfer weight. Bruno agreed she has to sell it.
Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 6 – 20
Gotta love Charles’s mum. While her third-person-referencing son is brimming with luvvie self-regard, she refused to give him more than a 5 in training. Which proved almost prescient, as what should have been a slam dunk – Charles in naval uniform, a gauzily romantic American smooth theme – instead saw them making no progress on their first and second week scores; they’re stuck at the “potential” stage. Eye candy aside, this was distinctly unmemorable: some stolid foxtrot with gapping and variable footwork, lots of spins, and good if unambitious lifts. Not quite delivering on either real power and passion, or the camp genius of Julian and Erin.
Song: “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman (COPYCAT KLAXON: Victoria Pendleton and Brendan)
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his balance. Shirley liked the open choreography and lift, but not defining the quicks and slows. Bruno called him a convincing leading man. Craig noted timing issues – their partnership not quite gelling.
Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 – 25
Giovanni’s sassy Sandy in training was by far the most revelatory aspect here – otherwise, another adept but as expected karaoke rendition, with all the movie beats present and correct. However, quickstep wise, Faye did incredibly well to cope with this super-fast number, keeping her footwork light and bright, staying completely in sync and making it all look fairly effortless. She did lose connection in hold occasionally and not much lowering – though the latter less an issue in a routine with all the chasses but no basics. Sidenote: Faye as Sandy is apparently a double whammy fantasy wise for Joe, which…is TMI really.
Song: “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna)
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised her placement and chasses. Bruno…lost control. Craig: “Fab-u-lous.” Darcey said she did well to cope with the speed.
Judges’ scores: 9. 9, 9, 9 – 36
Quick film club here, just to really ensure we had Hugh Jackman as a comparison point. Which, er, is a choice. So, I still feel Danny is a great soloist who has yet to adapt to partnership – physically and mentally. On his own, he has precision and pizzazz, but there’s a discomfort with Amy (and their VTs haven’t really sold us on a flourishing partnership backstage either). His former dance life also continues to hinder, making this paso too wooden and upright, with occasionally awkward shaping. He’s still an adept, musical and eminently watchable performer, but not yet delivering on that early promise.
Song: “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman
Judges’ comments: Bruno thought he sold it. Craig said it lacked Spanish line. Darcey praised his flexibility, but needs to work on partnering. Shirley liked his showmanship, but several glitches.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 8 – 28
Faye and Giovanni – 36
Ashley and Pasha – 35
Stacey and Kevin – 32
Graeme and Oti – 31
Seann and Katya – 30
Kate and Aljaž – 29
Danny and Amy – 28
Vick and Graziano – 27
Joe and Dianne – 26
Charles and Karen – 25
Katie and Gorka – 22
Dr Ranj and Janette – 20
Lauren and AJ – 20
Lee and Nadiya – 19
Faye takes back the top spot from arch-rival Ashley. Elsewhere, plenty of movement: Graeme, Seann, Stacey and Vick up, at the expense of Lee, Lauren, Dr Ranj, Charles and Joe.
Better-than-usual navy, Claud jazzing up an LBD with fab red heels.
Lee and Nadiya, pretty much as expected, plus Charles and Karen dropping down. Charles Venn isn’t angry that the rest of us don’t appreciate the genius of Charles Venn – he’s just disappointed.
Lee signalled his readiness to leave (or perhaps to book a beach holiday, stat) by just dancing in a T-shirt this time. Neither number offered great technique, with more stutters from Charles, but he squeaked through – only Shirley giving her vote to Lee. The Shirley: Pro Feud 2018 is still on.
So, another series where Nadiya hasn’t really convinced as a Strictly pro. She’s a charismatic performer in her own right, but struggles to showcase her partners effectively – or instil the technical basics. (Admittedly, she’s not alone there.) I wouldn’t mind seeing someone else, like new standby pro Luba, given a chance instead.
What did you make of Movie Week? Who impressed you? And were the right couples in the dance-off? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
See you next week for blessedly theme-free action. In the meantime…keep dancing!