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Strictly Speaking: Week 3

Posted on October 11, 2021

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Ah, Strictly theme weeks: synonymous with high drama, rampant scoring inflation, and a heady mix of glamour and the dredges of a three-year-old’s dressing-up box. This Movie Week was no exception: we got 10s; we got tears; and we got costumes that are so psychologically scarring that they will actually be the last thing I picture before I die. 

We also got all kinds of judging shenanigans from our giddy panel. Shirley is now apparently forgiving all mistakes, and actually giving extra points for recovery – er, what?! So there’s now actually a disincentive to doing everything right? Utterly bizarre. Also, love how the judges spend all theme week noting that the dances which are simple and unhampered by distractions are best, as though that’s some major revelation – and again, what are the poor couples drenched in green paint meant to do? Emote subtly through their prosthetics?

Other hits and misses:

  • Len Goodman is now this close to suing Anton for nicking his act. Get a lawyer stat, me old copycat sausage! MISS 
  • Johannes finding true love with Kai on the dance floor and ushering in a new royal era of same-sex partnerships and social tolerance? My, how far Strictly has come. Also: our pros doing actual ballroom! Miracle. HIT
  • Reading the Ts and Cs on Movie Week: Emilia Fox, best known for a TV series. Righto. MISS
  • Hello, Sean Paul, welcome to this year’s random musicians cameo collection. HIT
  • A fab In the Heights number from our pros. Good to see Jowita inheriting the Janette mantle of Throw Me Higher, Tiny Dancer. HIT
  • Ben Platt, the Tony-winning star of musical Dear Evan Hansen, who convinces no one that he’s a teenager in the movie version, popped by to sing from a… magic pond? Is he searching for some sort of age-elixir-type Excalibur? MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: John’s pirate paso A perfect balance of theme and dance, and a thrilling finish to a turbulent night.
  • Best costume: AJ the silver goddess. Runner-up: Ugo’s divine wig.
  • Best move: Anton demonstrating Latin hips I think he actually broke irony.
  • Best line: Craig’s “Thank you, Gorka, for barking at me, darling” He speaks for a nation. 

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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Rumpled lilac gown with the usual slit, Claud in a strapless black sack.


Judi and Graziano – Partners in crime

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First off, if Judi can sing, I would 100 per cent watch her play Mama Morton. And I thought she did a brilliant job of combining that characterisation with a heightened Charleston performance, at once sensual, dangerous and comical. Dance-wise, good timing and musicality, but needed to push it far more in terms of crisp delivery, energy, precision in the foot placement, and more varied content and dynamics – it started to feel samey. The routine did play to her strengths, but that only gets you so far on Strictly. Sidenote: Shirley saying Judi “actually really quite sexy” was utter nonsense – her samba was one of the sexiest performances we’ve ever seen on the show. 

Song: “When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago

Judges’ comments: Shirley loved how she executed the choreography. Anton thought she portrayed the character. Craig wanted right foot swivel, more content and more extreme lines. Motsi said she showed a range of personality and improved technique.

Judges’ scores: 4, 7, 7, 6 – 24 


Dan and Nadiya – Sleeping on the job

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Ouch! Sorry, just recovering from Dan’s massive princely namedrops. Shame William and Harry couldn’t help him out when he went horribly, horribly wrong right at the start of this syrupy foxtrot. That seemed to obliterate his confidence – he looked less like a dashing hero, more like a dancing hostage. Stodgy and floppy when in hold with a wandering frame, all of his lines were thrown away, and some really weird footwork: not just pigeon-toed but actually rolling over his ankles altogether as though hoping a minor sprain might get him out of this nightmare. Even the plastic horse started to look embarrassed. All of this, and we still haven’t seen his Latin hips – does not bode well… 

Song: “Once Upon A Dream” from Sleeping Beauty (COPYCAT KLAXON: Anita Rani and Gleb)

Judges’ comments: Anton was disappointed he went wrong. Craig said he made big mistakes and his arms had no resistance. Motsi got lost in an inspiration-hashtag word salad. Shirley said she’d given him an extra point for recovering from his mistakes. Sigh.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 7, 6 – 21 


Sara and Aljaž – Draining the swamp

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Well, I was expecting much worse, and I imagine the judges were too – hence the somewhat overgenerous scores. Yes, the theme was infantile and demeaning, and yes, it’s an actual crime to turn Aljaž into a pregnant goblin, but Sara showed huge improvement in performance from that weak Week 1 cha cha, perhaps thanks to the acting coach (what a retro Strictly VT, you guys!). She embraced the whole sickly-green thing, and, unlike Dan, delivered the routine with good timing, good humour and no obvious errors. However, it was rather stompy (those shoes probably didn’t help) and needed much more leg straightening, bounce and bold lines.

Song: “Best Years of Our Lives” from Shrek (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lisa Riley and Robin)

Judges’ comments: Craig loved the content, energy and performance. Motsi agreed. Shirley praised her timing. Anton… attempted another joke.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28 


AJ and Kai – Sweet nothings

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I don’t know if there’s a more thrilling Strictly discovery than a true natural dance talent like AJ – except perhaps the introduction of an incredible new pro like Kai. His routines are just so perfectly pitched; this one felt like a full-on dance drama with operatic dimensions. It’s not just that it told a story through movement, without cumbersome props or literal mime, but that the story fuelled the dynamics of the dance, bursting into those expressive lifts and then breathing into the moments of stillness. Also: fleckerl! A tad skippy in the Viennese, otherwise sensational.

Song: “I Have Nothing” from The Bodyguard (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna, Phil Daniels and Flavia, Georgia May Foote and Giovanni)

Judges’ comments: Motsi called it movie magic with pure quality. Shirley felt the love story and praised their frame. Anton loved the fleckerl. Craig said if she’d started dancing as a child, she’d be a pro.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35 


Robert and Dianne – Mad as a box of frogs

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Oh god. Where to start. How about the felt bike helmet, which looked like someone had murdered Kermit, hollowed out his skull and rammed it on Robert’s head – then added a drop of blood to each cheek and finished it with a puke-green suit and assassin gloves? Actually, add in Dianne’s creepy porcine cheek fillers and giant snout, and they could well be an eccentric pair of serial killers in a Tarantino movie. The Strictly singers doing squeaky Muppet voices just added to the chaotic murder vibes. Somewhere in all of that was a quickstep – one with variable footwork, mistakes, and a wandering frame. Not for me. Sidenote: after declaring her love of collecting frogs, how many will Shirley get given this Christmas?

Song: The Muppet Show theme tune

Judges’ comments: Shirley found it entertaining, and decided to forgive the mistakes. Anton agreed there were mistakes, but improvement. Craig noted the frame wasn’t maintained, but good timing. Motsi suggested working on the concentration. 

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 6 – 25 


Greg and Karen – No time to dance

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James Bond on Strictly: what a notion! This is only, what, our 4,356th crossover? One more and we get a free invisible car. Anyway, at least we diverged from the tux here: Greg’s was a snowmobile-riding Bond, although surely that meant Karen’s backless-dress-wearing Bond girl would have frozen to death. Greg’s strength is characterisation and focus on his partner, but he can’t yet translate that intensity to his body. Conspicuously lacking in paso posture and resistance; it almost looked comical when Karen acted like he was throwing her around while he just stood there – like a footballer diving in the penalty box. On the other hand, he played his Emma Thompson joker card, which surely helped. Dame Emma for Strictly 2022, please.

Song: James Bond theme tune (COPYCAT KLAXON: Scott Maslen and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26 

Judges’ scores: Anton said his top half was super, but work the legs more. Craig found it too placed, but good Spanish port de bras. Motsi liked the storytelling, but needed more paso. Shirley wanted more engagement in the body.


Tilly and Nikita – Nice is different than good

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Field trip for the blonde twins to visit the Hairspray cast at the Curve, from which Tilly’s main takeaway was “I should just be me, not a character.” So… that’s one way to embrace Movie Week. Also: Nikita, do you really not own a jumper without holes? Are you in a feud with a swarm of moths? Anyway, the dance. Tilly just about kept up with this busy routine, had good energy and a fun delivery of the 1960s elements, but the jive was flat-footed and clunky, lacked bounce and retraction in the kicks, plus she fell behind the music a few times and made mistakes. Worked better as a school talent show-esque theatrical performance than a competitive dance. 

Song: “The Nicest Kids in Town” from Hairspray

Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was heavy of foot and haphazard. Motsi felt the nerves, but good concentration. Shirley is forgiving all mistakes! Anton enjoyed the performance.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27 


Rose and Giovanni – Still waters run deep

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A new challenge for Rose: she can’t lip-read Giovanni when turned away from him in ballroom hold, but, as she explained to Claudia afterwards, she can feel and follow the music through his body – which is a truly lovely expression of partnership. Although Rose was in giggles in rehearsal at the thought of playing a romance with him, the sweet sincerity of their routine was just gorgeous. These two have a wonderful chemistry, build on trust and mutual respect, and they really did move as one here. Ooh and what lovely foxtrot technique, too: good footwork and timing, and a really promising frame, though Rose could stretch through the spine and find more expressiveness, but, like the judges, I loved the emotive simplicity.

Song: “Rose’s Theme” from Titanic (COPYCAT KLAXON: Denise Lewis and Ian, Ann Widdecombe and Anton)

Judges’ comments: Motsi said it was simply beautiful. Shirley called it exquisite and praised the timing. Anton recalled his Ann Widdicombe nightmare. Craig (with BSL): “A-maze-ing, darling.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36 


Ugo and Oti – Heaven knows

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It’s Family prop points galore for Ugo’s extremely cute daughters and their leopard-print headbands – though I still despair of the cartoon takeover of Movie Week. Mind, Ugo brought something for the grown-ups too: in channelling The Rock’s demigod Maui, he wore nothing but a bunch of leaves strapped to his midsection and a fabulous wig. This was an athletic Couple’s Choice number, with big lifts, big acrobatic tricks, and a big, engaging performance from Ugo, who has improved massively in that respect. That said, it’s basically impossible to recognise or evaluate it as a specific dance compared with the others, other than obvious issues like snatched moves in the fast section. Couple’s Choice strikes again.

Song: “You’re Welcome” from Moana

Judges’ comments: Shirley said he’s progressing week by week, and great timing and lifts. Anton agreed. Craig wanted more musicality, but loved the acrobatics and character. Motsi (styled like a disco hedgehog) wants her wig back.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31 


Tom and Amy – Rocking all over the world

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It was great to have this pair back following their isolation, and particularly with a movie theme that had genuine meaning for Tom, but Amy went way too literal in first part of their dance, saddling them with a guitar for what felt like hours and limiting Tom’s movement. Much stronger once they’d finally ditched it, and Tom also looked happier dancing solo – he needs to work out how to keep that energy up when in hold. Kicks and flicks generally strong, though sometimes floating rather than snapped back, and could get up onto the balls of his feet more, but a fun comeback.

Song: “Johnny B. Goode” from Back to the Future (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ashley Taylor Dawson and Ola, Jonnie Peacock and Oti)

Judges’ comments: Anton said it was great side by side, flatter in hold. Craig found it flat-footed at the beginning, but it got better. Motsi praised their connection. Shirley thought he executed everything well, and good leading skills.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32 


Adam and Katya – I got the blues

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Well. At least they attempted the rumba – it’s becoming the leper of the Strictly dances. Yet there’s a reason why: it’s difficult and it’s very exposed, even if you do introduce distractions like a bare torso slathered unevenly in blue paint, stripey kitten make-up, the hair of hippie cult leader, a pro dancer wearing a body stocking that somehow looks twice as naked, and a tree haunted by radioactive jellyfish. I love Adam’s commitment, but this was forced and jerky, more like an 1980s aerobics class with an emphasis on lunges. The hip action didn’t come through foot pressure and leg action, and the lines were great but not joined together. Also: for all the flesh on display, oddly sexless.

Song: “I See You” from Avatar

Judges’ comments: Craig found it awkward. Motsi praised the effort, but he needs more experience. Shirley said he hit some exquisite lines, but it doesn’t breathe. Anton agreed he has quality of line.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 6 – 20 


Katie and Gorka – Bring me that puppy

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So, it took me a few watches to actually see what Katie was doing in this number because…well, I’m only human, and Gorka was not only wearing a dalmatian suit but crawling around on all fours and wagging his tail. However, that’s indicative of a bigger problem here: Katie the actress should really shine when given this larger-than-life character, and she just couldn’t get on top of it. The entrance was fun, though even then the sloppy posture felt wrong for Cruella, and it only got worse with the skittering turns, shoulders up around her ears, and then the messy foxtrot, lacking in that smooth glide because Katie kept picking her feet up. A dog’s dinner.

Song: “Cruella De Vil” from 101 Dalmatians (COPYCAT KLAXON: Judy Murray and Anton)

Judges’ comments: Motsi found it entertaining, but wanted better footwork. Shirley liked the jazzy accents, but agreed on the footwork. Anton thought she fared better out of hold. Craig wanted more finesse and grace.

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 6, 6 – 24 


Rhys and Nancy – What a tangled web we weave

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Sigh, yet more Couple’s Choice. This one gave Rhys the chance to live out his boyhood dream of playing Spider-Man, which doesn’t help with the whole hyperactive CBBC issue. He looked very comfortable in the largely side-by-side street routine, which likewise doesn’t help at all with the core content of Strictly: ballroom partner dancing. Nancy… less so (and I respect her for that.) They went out of sync multiple times, though I can’t say for sure who was at fault, and not much performance beyond the energetic movement. Rhys did well with what he was given. I just don’t know what the point of it is on this show.

Song: Spider-Man theme tune (COPYCAT KLAXON: Graeme Swann and Oti)

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised his athleticism. Anton said his children would love it. Craig called it professional standard. Motsi’s patience was rewarded.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 9, 9 – 37 


John and Johannes – Treasure island

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OH. YES. This goes right up there with my favourite ever Strictly pasos. Johannes did an outstanding job incorporating just enough of the pirate element, but not so much that it intruded on a pure, powerful and incredibly exciting paso doble. It had a fantastic balance of strength and style, impact (those leaps!) and quieter interludes, so that you could feel the drama ebbing and flowing between the two men. This specifically felt like a dance that was heightened by its all-male pairing: the way that they worked with each other to create superb shaping, and also had a simmering rivalry in play. It proves beyond doubt that same-sex dance is a thrilling creative addition to the show.

Song: “He’s A Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean (COPYCAT KLAXON: Peter Andre and Janette)

Judges’ comments: Anton: “I thought it might be a bit camp” (er, really?!), but it was “the best thing I’ve seen all night.” Craig: “Seriously hot. That was unbelievable.” Motsi: “You’re getting that 10, OK?” (Poker: not Motsi’s game.) Shirley was pleased that they stayed in closed hold. “I haven’t seen anything like that.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 


Leaderboard

John and Johannes – 39

Rhys and Nancy – 37

Rose and Giovanni – 36

AJ and Kai – 35

Tom and Amy – 32

Ugo and Oti – 31

Sara and Aljaž – 28

Tilly and Nikita – 27

Greg and Karen – 26

Robert and Dianne – 25

Judi and Graziano – 24

Katie and Gorka – 24

Dan and Nadiya – 21

Adam and Katya – 20

John and Rhys leapfrog AJ, while Rose, Tom and Ugo are up, Tilly, Dan and Adam are down.


Sunday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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Tess in a strange tux jacket-turned-dress, Claud in even more bizarre sparkly cardigan over bike shorts.


Dance-off

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A second dance-off appearance for Katie, this time up against Judi. They were fairly evenly matched: both stronger in performance than in dance content or technique, and both scored 24 first time around, but I definitely think Judi edged it. Katie and Gorka just haven’t clicked as a pairing, and it sounds like she’s been struggling to find training time around her Hollyoaks filming, so this all seems fair.

What did you make of Movie Week? Are you a fan of the themes? Were the right pair in the dance-off Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for more ballroom action. In the meantime… keep dancing!

Photographs: Guy Levy, courtesy of the BBC.

 

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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