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Strictly Speaking – Week 4

Posted on October 17, 2016

Judges BBC Guy Levy

Ringers vs comedians, simmering drama and a soaring jive: Marianka Swain on Strictly Come Dancing

True to form, there was something of a post-theme comedown in this week’s show – at least until that climatic flurry of 10s. Is Week 4 too soon for such a high score? Was the sudden mano a mano rivalry a tad forced? Or were the judges simply overcome by the appearance of Boris Becker in the ballroom? (A mystery that went unexplained.)

At least it was a respite from Strictly Does Life Stages!, with relentless patronising at either end of the spectrum: ickle wickle pink and fluffy Claudia and “Isn’t she doing well for someone at death’s door?” Lesley. The brilliant latter doesn’t need any qualifiers, and the former would benefit from being treated like an adult human, rather than a stuffed toy unicorn.

In other news, following Will’s sad departure, the simmering dramatics of the series continued, with Brendan being rushed to hospital with a lung infection on Friday night and Jumpin’ Greg injuring his wrist in training. Not to mention Len summoning the wrath of the St Jay Army by daring to rank Ore’s jive higher. Beware the superfans, Goodman. They fight dirty…

Other hits and misses:

  • I didn’t think I needed a barbershop quartet warbling terms and conditions. How wrong I was. HIT
  • Ah, the return of the annual Strictly debate – Rumba: Pure Filth Or Pure As The Driven Snow? The former does tend to be more entertaining, whether genuinely smouldering or unintentionally hilarious. HIT
  • Also back: ye olde “How comic do we want our celebs?” conundrum. I doubt playing it straight will work for Judge Rinder in this year of a thousand ringers – even if his face weren’t possessed by the demonic spirit of a ventriloquist’s dummy. MISS
  • Speaking of which, has Kevin ever set a routine in the present? Did he actually die in 1962 and is sporadically visiting us in spectral form? MISS
  • Anton the hairy-chested lounge lizard. Just NO. Retinas singed. MISS
  • Madness = zzzzz. But stellar work from Neil and Katya to enliven their droning. HIT


Best in Show

  • Best performance: Ore’s jive The 10s are debatable, but this was impressive – see what we can achieve when we ditch the props…
  • Best costume: Anastacia’s dress Like a particularly sexy oil slick
  • Best move: Ed’s nervous breakdown in paso form Supported by Katya’s “What in the actual hell, dude?” facial expressions
  • Best line: Len calling out Craig for inconsistent judging To paraphrase Buffy, “At this point you’re just abusing irony”



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

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

Melted-down glitterball fused with bacofoil. Meanwhile, the moths got at Claudia’s.


Greg and Natalie – Shacking up

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

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

Literally adding insult to injury, Greg’s wrist issues were followed by Natalie pretending that a visit from Olly Murs was the BEST THING EVER. Get this girl an Oscar. Appalling music choice for salsa (RIP salsa) and a bit too much random bopping around from Greg, plus heavy and flat-footed on the basics. But marginal improvement on timing, nice shimmies, good partner work – including powerful lifts – and bonus points for rocking out that bloomin’ marvellous flowery blouse. Continues to hold his own as a non-ringer. Sidenote: is the Shimmy Shack on the way to the Love Shack?

Song: “Wrapped Up”, Olly Murs

Judges’ comments: Len noted some footwork issues, but his bum was going to town. Bruno praised the effort, though agreed the footwork was off. Craig wanted more hip rotation and wasn’t wild about the bottom grind, but brilliant lifts and isolations. Darcey loved the energy and thought he was in control of the lifts.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28





Laura and Giovanni

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

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

Oof. This was a long, long, long way to go for a terrible joke about Laura’s dog. Please, next week just hold up a sign saying “We’re out of ideas and for some reason refuse to show training footage”. This quickstep never paused for breath, though could have done with more light and shade – it lacked dynamics. Also needed more drive from the standing leg, rather than skipping, and some strange things going on with Laura’s head position and raised left shoulder. Decent (if overmarked) post-bottom two effort.

Song: “Ballroom Blitz”, The Sweet

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought she coped well with a fast, complicated routine. Craig said she covered the floor well, but sometimes fought Giovanni in hold. Darcey noted her shoulder issue. Len thought her head was strained, but plenty of action.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33





Anastacia and Brendan – Major Barbra

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

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

Anastacia serenaded Brendan in an empty club, which was marvellously uncomfortable – think Mary J Blige singing at Hillary Clinton. All hail Anastacia’s stunning dress and a nice (relatively chaste) routine from Brendan, though a few strange sections, like the awkward kneeling “Did I drop a contact lens?” moment. Lost balance a few times, and needed to straighten her legs and settle fully into her hips, but gorgeous lyrical arms and hit some good lines – just needed to carry that lyricism through every transition and fill out the music.

Song: “The Way We Were”, Barbra Streisand (COPYCAT KLAXON: Emma Bunton and Darren)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted it was stilted at times, but strong ronde and exquisite hand shaping. Darcey loved her arms, but needed body undulation. Len wanted more rumba content, but good light and shade. Bruno thought it was glamorous, but lacked continuous flow.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27





Claudia and AJ – Education, education, education

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

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

We get it – Claudia is young. We don’t need a school trip. (Also: how exactly did her Head of RE contribute to her gymnastics career?) This was a routine guaranteed to make your fillings tingle, with rainbow lockers, pink costumes, ghastly music and cutesy theming. Too much out of hold, though you can understand the temptation given their problematic height difference. Despite that, some strong footwork from Claudia and a well-sustained hold. Still tends to punch out each move like separate acrobatic tricks, rather than seamlessly linking them, but great potential.

Song: “I Really Like You”, Carly Rae Jepsen

Judges’ comments: Darcey was impressed by her glide and topline. Len thought it was more American smooth than foxtrot, but terrific footwork. Bruno praised her technique, but too angular and she shows the hard work. Craig noted gapping and lacked grace – the parts out of hold misrepresented foxtrot. (Unlike the Bollywalsa. Ahem.)

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 8 – 30





Ed and Katya – Zero to hero

Ed Balls MP, Katya Jones - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Ed Balls MP, Katya Jones – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Knight training for Ed, so he could rescue his damsel in distress (ah, progressive Strictly). But this was more Spamalot than Camelot – camp-tastic chaos, with Ed prancing like a show pony and forgetting about 80% of the steps, while poor Katya tried frantically to employ the first rule of improv. In short, it was fabulous. Paso-wise, nothing in the way of shaping, steps too timid, and the cape section was like a tussle over how best to fold a duvet cover. A hot mess, but undeniably entertaining.

Song: “Holding Out For a Hero”, Bonnie Tyler (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alesha Dixon and Matthew)

Judges’ comments: Len: “I was holding out for a paso.” Bruno thought he was waving his arms like a demented traffic warden. Craig said he was mincing and terrible shaping, plus riddled with mistakes. Darcey praised his performance – shame about the balls-up.

Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 5, 4 – 16





Naga and Pasha – All at sea

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

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

Another useless field trip, with Pasha introducing his partner to his fishy friends. Just when you thought he couldn’t be any more of a loveable Disney character. Naga, meanwhile, was handed yet another insane wig – have wardrobe mixed her up with Sydney Bristow? Slight improvement, simply because Charleston forced her to add a semblance of performance, but still very forced and teeth-gritting – essentially someone bullied into a “fun” group party game when she’d really rather be necking red wine in the corner. Chasing the music and choreography, no swivel and far too stilted.

Song: “Minnie the Mermaid”, Firehouse Five Plus Two

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was a “bit slippery on dry land”. Craig said the timing was off and the lift looked like she’d been harpooned. Darcey praised the characterisation. Len moaned at Craig.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 6 – 24





Louise and Kevin – Natural woman

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

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




























No time-wasting for lucky Louise – she just gets a “Gosh, aren’t I practising hard!” VT. Some time-wasting in the routine intro though (this wasn’t too American smooth for anybody?), but, once into hold, a nice flow and engaging performance. Some frame issues and footwork variable – missing a few heel leads and tended to lift feet rather than driving through continuously. Also still too pretty and placed. As Darcey noted, we need to see her pushing harder and taking risks, rather than relying on past ringer-y experience. No transformative moment as yet.

Song: “Tears Dry On Their Own”, Amy Winehouse (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lisa Snowden and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Craig loved the musicality. Darcey thought it was almost too comfortable and “natural” – she needs to show off more. Len pointed out the position problems, but good footwork. Bruno enjoyed the storytelling and grace.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33





Danny and Oti – Astaireway to heaven

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

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

Danny’s training: pretending to conduct an orchestra. Oti, naturally, did it far better, because she is living her best life right now. Again, an overlong intro, but otherwise this was a phenomenal quickstep – particularly for a male celeb. Tiny bit of gapping, but consistent frame, gorgeous swing and sway, lovely accents, and light, bright, effervescent movement. Lots of talk this year about being too natural vs. not natural enough – this one, for me, got the balance spot on. Plus one of the most connected partnerships in the competition.

Song: “I Won’t Dance”, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Judges’ comments: Darcey called it “pure class” – a real classic quickstep. Len loved the sway and little touches, though a bit too long to get going. Bruno thought it was old school and yet exciting. Craig: “You are on fire.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36





Daisy and Aljaz – Candle in the wind

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

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

Daisy also escaped the time-wasting outing, though I’m not sure what they would have done here. Played Chinese whispers? This rumba was a slightly odd mix of forced sexuality and casual, thrown away moments, though lots of positives too: nice foot pressure, decent hip action and good musicality. Could have done without the mouth hanging open, stopped dead a few times and looked down too much, but she follows Aljaz’s lead well and made an exposing dance look relatively comfortable.

Song: “Careless Whisper”, George Michael

Judges’ comments: Len praised her hard work. Bruno was apparently “panting to the point of turning”. (Really, with Aljaz RIGHT THERE?) Craig said the free arm needs work and lacked a bit of chemistry. Darcey thought she used her whole body to express emotion.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31





Judge Rinder and Oksana – Oktoberfest

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

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

Again, a very solemn VT for Judge Rinder, and then they stuck him in lederhosen and dressed Oksana as a tribute to that infamous milkmaid Eurovision entry. And made him waltz to Lulu. The actual Viennese was a tad skippy – needed stronger heel leads – and a few errors, but an improving frame, decent flow and good timing. Do we want a serious Judge Rinder? He definitely has the potential, but might well drop off voters’ radar without help from “Oh yeah, don’t forget that one with the cow and hearty knee-slapping”.

Song: “Boom Bang A Bang”, Lulu

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised the proper Viennese content, though he swung his arms like cowbells. Craig said the face went goofy in the second half, but there’s a delicious dancer hidden under all of that. Darcey wants him to exaggerate less and not show the preparation. Len thought it had good rotation and enjoyed the comic elements.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27





Lesley and Anton – Fearless flapper

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

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

Lesley’s hanging out in Malta, occasionally filming Birds of a Feather, because she too is living her best life. This Charleston was especially impressive given that their training time must have been limited – we’ll even overlook the radioactive Christmas tree getup. Bouncy, crisp, supremely musical, lovely style and characterisation throughout, good tricks and lots of fun details. Let this also be a lesson that you can do slapstick and invite the audience in without resorting to cartoonish gurning. One of the most enjoyable numbers of the night.

Song: “Won’t You Charleston With Me” from The Boy Friend

Judges’ comments: Craig found it shockingly good – just ran out of steam a bit towards the end. Darcey thought it was cheeky and confident, with great high kicks. Len said it was definitely her best dance to date. Bruno praised her timing and high performance value all the way through.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31





Ore and Joanne – Runaway success

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

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

Ore visited a football stadium and…I don’t know, I lost the will to live. Anyhow, this jive. Up there with Our Lady of Perpetual Halfpenny and Jay “No Encore” McGuinness? It certainly had terrific energy, strong retraction, great confidence negotiating the stairs and excellent timing. Being picky (because of course) it was slightly flat-footed and heavy in places. Could do with pointing his feet more on kicks and needed to tip his weight forward on the basics – would have helped generate more spring by pushing out of the floor. But a fantastic performance.

Song: “Runaway Baby”, Bruno Mars (COPYCAT KLAXON: Holly Valance and Artem, Patrick Robinson and Anya)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his stamina and attack – outstanding. Len, throwing caution to the wind: “Move over, Jay.” Bruno loved the Swinging Sixties touches, precision and momentum. Craig said he’s now the one to beat; Danny Mac has serious competition.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39






Ore and Joanne – 39

Danny and Oti – 36

Laura and Giovanni – 33

Louise and Kevin – 33

Daisy and Aljaz – 31

Lesley and Anton – 31

Claudia and AJ – 30

Greg and Natalie – 38

Anastacia and Brendan – 27

Judge Rinder and Oksana – 27

Naga and Pasha – 24

Ed and Katya – 16


More movement this week: Ore hits the top spot, while Louise, Laura and Lesley rise at the expense of Greg and Claudia.



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

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

Another funeral doily special. Claud favoured an eye-watering stripey jumper.


The cast of Strictly say goodbye to Naga Munchetty - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

The cast of Strictly say goodbye to Naga Munchetty – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

In the dance-off: Anastacia and Brendan, and Naga and Pasha. A strong performance from Anastacia under pressure (with bonus hairography), more teeth-gritting from Naga. The judges unanimously saved Anastacia.


What did you think of the performances? Were you calling for a 10? And who’s in danger next week? Come say hi on Twitter: @mkmswain


See you soon for more spills and thrills. 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

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