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Strictly Speaking: Week 3

Posted on October 7, 2019

Sigh. A theme week. The triumph of the dressing-up box and the selling of Strictly’s soul to Disney. This Movie Week had its particularly trying moments (Pokémon, I ask you), although a few couples transcended, or even utilised, their themes to produce some box office triumphs.

Did that warrant the first 10s of the series, in Week 3? I’m not sure it did, much as I love Kelvin and Oti. Have I instead given a mental 10 to the whole “Craig accidentally insults Anton’s teeth on national television, then his slo-mo reactions are deliciously savoured over a few hysterical minutes, during which the Tessbot melts down entirely and Craig weeps off all of his make-up”? YES, YES I HAVE.

It was certainly a more inspired moment of drama than most of the numbers – which skewed irritatingly towards the juvenile (from all of world cinema, we select… Kung Fu Panda) or the downright bizarre (Anneka grinning her way through a Charleston themed around murderous vengeance???).


Other hits and misses:
  • The pros medley-ed – with yet more Disney, that mouse had better be paying for all this product placement. The best of the bunch was a tiny glimpse of Black Panther. MISS
  • Hayley Mills!! An actual exciting Ts and Cs guest #ParentTrap4Life HIT
  • The copycat klaxon, once more it wearies. MISS
  • So do the Family prop points. If you didn’t have a child two years ago so that you could wheel them out in a Strictly VT, you’re just not committed! MISS
  • The smoke monster was really on the rampage – the true antagonist in this blog’s Movie Week anyhow. MISS
  • Harry Connick Jr had a good old battle with the band about who was in charge of tempo. No one won. Anton and Nadiya actually had a crack at foxtrot! HIT/MISS

Best in Show
  • Best performance: Michelle’s quickstep GOING LIKE ELSIE.
  • Best costume: Queen Motsi Runner-up: Karen’s 3,000-swans-did-not-die-in-vain dress.
  • Best move: Katya’s pratfall Runner-up: Claudia skilfully evading Dev’s body paint tsunami.
  • Best line: Motsi to Anton and Emma: “You’re great, the teeth are beautiful, bye bye!” Damehood for Motsi!

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Floaty rainbow beach attire vs Claud’s tortured, one-sleeved winter formal. Huh?


Michelle and Giovanni – Life is a cabaret

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

I love that Gio trusted Michelle to hold the stage on her own in this intro – and boy, did she. We then got a superb combination of theming and ballroom, with Michelle’s musicality and attention to detail coming through in the quickstep as well as the Liza vamping. Her topline is definitely improving, though she could keep her shoulders down and stretch her neck more, as well as shape the upper body, now that she has a good steady hold. Would also like to see her extend her legs more to travel further, especially when going backwards. But another accomplished, thoroughly entertaining number.

Song: “Cabaret”, Liza Minnelli, from Cabaret (COPYCAT KLAXON: Aled Jones and Lilia, Peter Shilton and Erin, Abbey Clancy and Aljaž)

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised everything from her basics and frame to scatter chassés and characterisation. Bruno called it “divine decadence, darling”. Craig noted a superfluous step, otherwise a-maze-ing. Motsi said she made it her own.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35


Alex and Neil – A way to go

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

The first of many, many, many Family prop points for Alex’s niece, here to teach us about the nuances of Moana. And also to explain why Alex is wearing flats in a rumba when one of her major issues is flat feet and accidental heel leads, I MEAN HONESTLY. Neil’s choreo again capitalised on their easy chemistry, but again pushed them too far out of the dance style – this was more contemporary, especially with the tricks and floorwork. Alex actually did well with the rumba steps, but not the technique, which lacked movement through the body and hip action. However, I still think these two have potential…

Song: “How Far I’ll Go”, Auli’I Cravalho, from Moana

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the warmth, but it was too contained. Craig found it stilted and off-time. Motsi wants her to fill the music. Shirley liked the fusion.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23


Chris and Karen – Hang on to your hat

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

So, setting up a comparison with Fred Astaire was never going to work out well for Chris, BUT he didn’t disgrace himself in this American smooth – mostly kept up with the routine, and even made the side-by-side sections rather engaging. However, he’s still staring at Karen like a panicked student tracking his teacher, rather than (even theoretically) leading the dance, and the energy drops off in hold – too stolid, not driving the movement, hold inconsistent, and no swing or sway. I do appreciate him playing it straight here, and if he can work on the technical fundamentals, he might be able to express through – not despite – the ballroom.

Song: “Cheek to Cheek”, Frank Sinatra, from Top Hat (COPYCAT KLAXON: Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted his chin’s forward, feet not pointed during the leap, and his hands and hold need work. Motsi praised a huge improvement, but keep working on the dancing. Shirley agreed on the posture issues, but no mistakes. Bruno thought he made progress.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22


Karim and Amy – A losing battle

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

Bleurgh. I would so love to see Karim attempt samba without all the fuzzy distractions and kung fu nonsense; it quite literally got in the way of the dance, with any possible hip action hidden by panda fur, and made him look even younger, which doesn’t help their cause. The actual samba – from what I could discern from multiple (shudder) viewings – was ambitious in content but breathless, so he didn’t soften fully into the knees to get the bounce or finish his lines, and the distinctive rhythms were too hazy. Also: it had the creepy sexual confusion of the Cats movie trailer. Just… NO.

Song: “Kung Fu Fighting”, Carl Douglas, from Kung Fu Panda

Judges’ comments: Motsi suggested coordinating his upper and lower body more. Shirley wanted more rhythm, and too stiff. Bruno praised the isolations, but too much energy – lost the softness of the bounce. Craig thought it was clean and sharp, but too spiky.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 7 – 26


Catherine and Johannes – While my guitar gently weeps

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

More Family prop points. So, rumba is generally a nightmare for celebs, but the slower pace actually gave Catherine a chance to feel more confident with the material, show vastly improved technique, and to do some capital-a ACTING – that lovely connection with Johannes really paying off here. Could have done without the guitar-ography, otherwise really nice focus on the steps and partnering. Felt like Catherine was more in control of her own movement, and then reacting to Johannes, rather than overly relying on him. Lovely extensions, decent hip action – particularly the figure of eight in her cucarachas – and really expressing not just through her face, but her whole body.

Song: “Shallow”, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, from A Star Is Born

Judges’ comments: Shirley thought it was well executed and had magnificent feeling. Bruno said each movement had intention and wonderful fluidity. Craig noted an accidental lift, and could use more resistance, but stunning. Motsi said Catherine’s whole body was alive.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32 (Johannes’ reaction = JOY. Now really hope they get a 10.)


Will and Janette

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

I’ll say this for Will – whatever he’s given to do, he totally commits. And yet… let’s maybe stop giving him quite so many insane things to do? It’s hard enough to stay solemn and focused in a paso without your partner being dressed as an off-brand children’s entertainer who’s been demonically possessed by a bowl of banana custard. Definitely good intent and strong movement, but still awkwardness in hold, sickled feet, and lacked shaping – needs to tuck his bottom in and get the hips forward, and make the arms expressive, not just aggressive. Will’s determination is admirable, but their routines feel too similar, and really need light and shade.

Song: “Gotta Catch ’Em All”, Jason Paige, from Pokémon

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the fire, but lacked artistry. Craig needed shaping in the arms and shoulder line, but had purpose. Motsi said he had good tension in his body, but needs to listen to the music. Shirley thought it had power, but too staccato.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 5, 6 – 23


Kelvin and Oti – Bright lights

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

Family props points via Kelvin’s cute daughter. So, we had not one but TWO Strictly Wobbly Lampposts, a very much lesser Poppins song, and it wasn’t a clean routine – one of the lifts fell apart, another lacked grace on the dismount, and Kelvin got out of sync in the fast section at the end. But, if not quite a perfect 10, oh impatient judges, it was still irresistibly entertaining – great characterisation, bundles of energy, fab side-by-side work, and decent Charleston swivels. Perhaps closer to musical theatre (though see: Dev’s “street” later on…), but by the standards of a theme week, great fun.

Song: “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”, Lin-Manuel Miranda, from Mary Poppins Returns

Judges’ comments: Craig called it “fab-u-lous”. Motsi loved the athleticism, charm and details. Shirley said he made it look easy. Bruno compared it with the best of West End and Broadway (that sound you hear is Kelvin’s agent rubbing his hands in glee).

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38


Emma W and Aljaž – Upstairs, downstairs

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

Hello Mrs Hughes from Downton, thank you for placing your royal blessing upon this foxtrot, shame you didn’t also bring the traditional small child to sacrifice to the Strictly gods. So, Emma’s elegance is very much established by this point – the question is whether she can do anything beyond that. And this routine didn’t really answer the question either way. Yes, we had some tranquil movement and glimmers of excellence, but we also had a missed heel leads, loads of gapping, a hunched left shoulder and strange head position. Plus I wasn’t convinced by the whole “checking your glands” hold. Redeeming feature: Aljaž the sexy butler.

Song: “Downton Abbey”, John Lunn, from Downton Abbey

Judges’ comments: Motsi thought it was beautiful, but she wanted more in hold. Shirley advised fixing her shoulders and neck, but great timing. Bruno suggested working on her core. Craig noted some wobbles and gapping, but loved the concept.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28


Anneka and Kevin – Kill me now

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

Well. This definitely was… a thing that happened. What might Anneka have done with a more traditional Charleston? Who knows, maybe not much better, but given her gutsy attitude and general enthusiasm about learning to dance, I bet it would have been more engaging than this godawful number. I mean, cheeky characterisation versus brandishing a javelin while running in circles like a very confused heptathlete? Kevin, meanwhile, was over-dancing like a loon, which just showed up his partner’s, er, minimalist approach all the more, and the actual Charleston was pretty much missing in action. Not their best.

Song: “Woo Hoo”, The 5.6.7.8’s, from Kill Bill

Judges’ comments: Shirley said she was good with the props, but work on timing and changing weight from foot to foot. Bruno howled that they’d slaughtered the Charleston. Craig criticised the stopping and starting. Motsi, queen of the accidental burn, said she must have had lots of energy for all that running.

Judges’ scores: 2, 3, 3, 3 – 11


Saffron and AJ – Playing to win

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

A slightly more helpful theme for Saffron here, Hunger Games vaguely meshing with paso and providing atmospheric framing, although the song also left lots of space for her to fill. Definitely needs to work on keeping her own balance and creating resistance in her connection with AJ, rather than him shoving her into place – though I mainly blame AJ for that, as it’s his usual pattern. Also needed much clearer paso shaping. But another confident performance from Saffron, and bonus points for her making a little “Pfft” sound when she shot her imaginary arrow. That’s method acting for you, just ask Daniel Day-Lewis.

Song: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, Lorde, from The Hunger Games (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ore Oduba and Joanne)

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the content and characterisation, but lost the Spanish flavour. Craig criticised her footwork and lost centre, though loved the reverse attitude turn. Motsi praised her intensity, but needed to breathe. Shirley wants better balance and timing.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28


Mike and Katya – In free fall

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

So. This could have been worse. The Magic Mike aspect was thankfully confined to the fireman’s pole entrance, and clothes ripped off to reveal…more clothes. We then got so much work from Katya that she knocked herself over, though that was also indicative of Mike’s absent partnering skills being – Katya’s tricks this week were mainly things she could do around him, rather than relying on him. Cha cha wise, there were indeed some recognisable steps, some of them on time, though slapdash and without any hip action. So… progress, of a kind? Truly, by this point of the show, I had lost the will to live.

Song: “It’s Raining Men”, The Weather Girls, from Magic Mike (COPYCAT KLAXON: Austin Healey and Erin, Kimberley Walsh and Pasha)

Judges’ comments: Craig criticised the lack of hip action. Motsi said it was fun but over too fast. Shirley praised the commitment, but get the midsection moving. Bruno noted the errors.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 5 – 18


David and Nadiya – Sleeping giant

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

Online consternation that if Nadiya was indeed playing Poison Ivy, then a) she lacked the red hair, b) she didn’t even remotely channel the character, and c) it’s the wrong film. To which I say: yes, but we still have David to worry about. David, who looked like an overgrown toddler in his Batman outfit, and still has yet to improve on a woefully hunched and sinking hold, stilted movement, incorrect head position and soporific performance. The teeny-tiny Viennese part of their (hmm) smooth bobbed up and down like a pogo stick, and what the judges kindly read as sensitivity, I’m afraid I just saw as the same dazed detachment we’ve had from the start.

Song: “Kiss from a Rose”, Seal, from Batman Forever (COPYCAT KLAXON: Emma Bunton and Darren, Colin Salmon and Kristina)

Judges’ comments: Motsi liked the softness. Shirley said the lifts were good. Bruno wanted more musicality. Craig noted too much rise and fall, needs expression in his arms, strange hand shaping, and effortful transitions.

Judges’ scores: 4, 4, 4, 4 – 16


Emma B and Anton – A kick in the teeth

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

First and foremost: WHERE WAS THE SALSA? We got a couple of steps with skittering footwork, no rhythm, no hip action, basically all armography – and that was it. Everything else was lazy Sixties pastiche, with Emma at least trying to inject some character, while Anton relied on the wig, glasses and (snort) teeth. SURELY we’ve worn out the whole Austin Powers shtick by now (see copycat klaxon below), and this song isn’t remotely helpful for salsa – nor does it seem that Anton was much concerned about including it anyway. So why didn’t the judges call them out? Even for a theme week, this was poor.

Song: “Soul Bossa Nova”, Quincy Jones from Austin Powers (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna, Matt Baker and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Shirley enjoyed it. Bruno liked the Swinging Sixties style, but need to sell it more. Craig agreed it was under-danced. Motsi wants more energy. And also we had Teethgate, which was WAY more entertaining than anything that happened in their actual routine.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27


Dev and Dianne – As you wish

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

Couple’s Choice, which means the irritating X Factor-y backstory and Family prop points shoved down our throats. In short: Dev has nice sisters, this is for them. Because of course it’s their dream to see him drip blue paint on someone while dancing to the inferior remake of a Disney film. Since Strictly refuses to properly define (or judge) Couple’s Choice, it’s hard to say whether this fit their remit for street commercial; it certainly didn’t do much for me, unless that street was Laidback Musical Theatre Boulevard. But Dev handled all the lifts and tricks well enough, and produced an entertaining performance, so… yay for Dev? We got to the end of the show, points for that.

Song: “Friend Like Me”, Will Smith, from Aladdin (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alison Hammond and Aljaž)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said it was fresh and told a story. Craig thought he danced it brilliantly. Motsi called it epic. Shirley found the footwork and timing fantastic.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36


Leaderboard

Kelvin and Oti – 38

Dev and Dianne – 36

Michelle and Giovanni – 35

Catherine and Johannes – 32

Emma W and Aljaž – 28

Saffron and AJ – 28

Emma B and Anton – 27

Karim and Amy – 26

Alex and Neil – 23

Will and Janette – 23

Chris and Karen – 22

Mike and Katya – 18

David and Nadiya – 16

Anneka and Kevin – 11

Kelvin’s back on top, while Dev, Catherine and Emma W rise, Karim and Will drop.


Sunday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Alarming oversized Gothic LBD, Claud in glittery sack.


Dance-off

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

Anneka’s not-Charleston versus David’s sleepy smooth – oh, what riveting telly – with the judges all saving the latter.

I’d probably rather have had another week of Anneka, but impossible to defend that terrible Kill Bill number (and she pointedly gave up in the dance-off). Also means an unusually early exit for Kevin, which…is probably fair, all things considered.

What did you make of Movie Week? Did you agree with the judges’ comments and scores? And did the right couple go home? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for blessedly theme-free competition. 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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