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Strictly Speaking – Week 4

Posted on October 16, 2017

Strictly judges BBC Guy Levy e1508147006602

No theme this week, thank the Strictly gods, unless you count the tidal wave of emotion that saw a nation reaching for more Kleenex. If an overcome Alexandra wishing her late mother could have seen her 10s-scoring jive didn’t get you, how about Jonnie’s shoutout to the surgeon who saved his life, or Susan acing a jubilant number set to her wedding dance music in front of her parents? If none of the above worked, you may be a replicant.

Of course, it’s rather a high-risk strategy to hold all the goodies back for the end of the show (we also had Gemma’s steady rise resulting in a fab paso). It meant an hour or so of mediocrity before that – I nearly lost the will to live somewhere around Aston’s wilting quickstep. Too many couples this year? And if so, might an earlier double elimination be welcome? Or are there enough “J word”s to keep you going?


Other hits and misses:

  • Scores less insane this week (other than Darcey marking Debbie and Brian the same). A cautious hurrah. HIT
  • Welcome, new singer Jamie. You seem unusually competent. HIT
  • When VTs Go Bad: “You need to look up more in paso. To the Royal Observatory!!!” MISS
  • Game of Thrones­ (at a stretch)-themed pro dance. Bleurgh. Enough conceptual nonsense. DANCE BALLROOM. MISS
  • Gregory Porter crooned. Pasha and Dianne wafted. Pleasant if similarly ballroom-lite. HIT/MISS


Best in Show

  • Best performance: Alexandra’s Tina-channelling jive Runner-up: Susan’s utterly joyful quickstep.
  • Best costume: Red-hot Oti Also rather liked Gemma kom Strictlykru’s The 100 tribute.
  • Best move: Susan nearly felling Claudia with a hug I may have had something in my eye.
  • Best line: Claud to Aston re: his pregnant wife affecting his sleep: “You’re not making a human.” Quite.



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

Had a bad run-in with an asymmetric shredder. Claud not much better in a car upholstery peplum.


Debbie and Giovanni – Signed, sealed, delivered

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

A quick reminder of Ye Olde Ten Second Rule, which doth appear in the Domesday Book and scrawled on the side of Stonehenge. So, this cha cha was built around deliveryman Giovanni and his, err, large package (look, I don’t write this stuff). It was also the first week to demonstrate that – dubious though it may sound – past dance experience can actually be a hindrance, as balletic Debbie struggled to bend her legs and work into the floor to get hip action. Still neat, musical and confident delivery, but a few chinks in the armour.

Song: “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)”, Cher (COPYCAT KLAXON: Dominic Littlewood and Lilia)

Judges’ comments: Shirley found it too balletic – needs to be earthier. Bruno praised her timing and flexibility. Craig agreed with Shirley on the stiffness. Darcey liked the focus, but make it more natural.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 8 – 27





Brian and Amy – Rock bottom

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




























I guess Brian wants to stay here, so Family prop points ahoy. Honestly, it’s hard to tell – he switches between terrifying gurning and gradually powering down like an unplugged laptop. Anyhow, he’s a rock star in his paso (read: guyliner, scarf – well, more Goth Grannie), so we had annoying faff with a mic stand and plenty of strutting around aimlessly. If he was hoping to irritate the bull into submission, it probably worked. Mistakes, attempt at shaping but inconsistent, and basically the same style as all his previous dances.

Song: “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, The Darkness (COPYCAT KLAXON: Chris Hollins and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the rock star swagger, but it went to pieces. Craig found it stompy and placed, but saw effort. Darcey praised his improvement. Shirley noted mistakes, but some shaping.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 7 – 21





Mollie and AJ – Raise the alarm

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

A “surprise” visit from fellow Saturday and Strictly alum Frankie. Mainly serving to remind us that this was not the world’s most inspired casting. So, the good news is Mollie has EPIC fringe. The bad news…lifts. So many lifts. One deflates, another looks like AJ’s juggling with jelly, and finally a broken roller blind – all alarming. Mollie still lacks the strength to properly hit a line, hold a shape or control lifts, so AJ’s choreographic ambition at this point seems frankly A&E-baiting. Steps far too big, dodgy transitions, minimal hip action, and chasing the music.

Song: “Súbeme La Radio”, Enrique Iglesias

Judges’ comments: Craig saw sloppy footwork and basics needed hip rotation, but loved the lifts. Darcey noted balance issues, but agreed on lifts. Shirley liked her commitment, but lacked quality in dance content. Bruno wanted more flow.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27





Davood and Natalya – Ill at ease

Nadiya Bychkova, Davood Ghadami – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Poor, suffering Davood has motion sickness. This has never happened before in the history of the show and he must have all our sympathy. In related news: Nadiya’s choreo still clinging to MELODRAMA. Frustrating, as always, since Davood continues to show potential – needed more fluidity, sway and drive in this Viennese, but not helped by the breaks of hold, illegal lift and general panting over each other. Otherwise his frame was fairly decent and he’s certainly capable of delivering a performance – if his partner could pull back on the routines, he might actually do well.

Song: “Say You Love Me”, Jessie Ware

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked the intensity and control. Shirley praised the sophistication and frame. Bruno enjoyed their smoulder and he led with conviction. Craig thought they were out of hold too long and didn’t need the floor spin or lift.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 8 – 29





Charlotte and Brendan – Shotgun wedding

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

Ugh, Brendan. Going from patronising your partner and every other woman in the vicinity to asking her husband if you can fake marry her is…not a good look. Overlong, schmaltzy intro and ending – though you could see why he might want to limit the jive. Charlotte was flat-footed and stompy, with no control in the upper body and weight pitched too far back – her kicks were more flung out desperately than pumped from the knee. Sidenote: wardrobe clearly Team Shirley, sticking Brendan in Barbie pink and Charlotte in an ombre dress that illustrated her creeping dread.

Song: “Marry You”, Bruno Mars

Judges’ comments: Shirley thought the opening was too long and mistakes, but improvement. Bruno said she was more active, but footwork too fuzzy. Craig found it laboured. Darcey praised her confidence.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 5 – 19





Joe and Katya – Shutting the stable door

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

So, this couple continue their frustrating inability to string two good dances together, backsliding with a cha cha that had tantalising strong moments in both practice and performance – the odd body ripple, well-connected piece of partnering, crisply timed accent or good line. But when it was bad… Oof. Lots of awkward bopping, stiff or unnatural positions, clumpy heel leads, and Joe staggering around like he’d just ridden a horse in from Glasgow. Also ripped off this So You Think You Can Dance number. Never has a door become so disillusioned by the biz.

Song: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, Human Nature

Judges’ comments: Bruno found it too frantic. Craig noted struggles in leg and hip action. Darcey thought he managed a tough routine. Shirley wants him to focus on fundamentals.

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 6, 6 – 24





Ruth and Anton – New and improved

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

A visit to Loose Women. Well, at least we’ve dodged Eamonn for one week. This was definitely a stronger dance for Ruth – she’s happier in hold, and better suited to tango’s steady rhythm than some of the more lyrical dances. Still some technical issues, like gapping, a slightly loose frame, head too square, and some bobbing up and down. But good intensity throughout, fuelled by a strong music choice (so rare and so precious for late-Strictly tangos), and a nice breakthrough moment for a less experienced dancer.

Song: “Allegretto”, Bond (COPYCAT KLAXON: Scott Maslen and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: Craig noted gapping, but progress. Darcey liked her determination, just loose frame. Shirley loved the improvement. Bruno praised the lack of mistakes.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 6 – 24





Aston and Janette – On the back foot

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

Another dancer falling victim to faff, with a neverending intro to this quickstep pummelling a meet-cute into our brains. Time better spent on the basics; though still confidently performed, Aston struggled to keep control of this one. Gapping, variable drive, didn’t straighten legs or point toes enough, back to turning his feet in, and some odd transitions. This isn’t a style where his previous experience helps as much, but he’d endear himself to the Strictly audience by working more on the unfamiliar, not attempting to distract from it.

Song: “Mr Blue Sky”, ELO

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it was light and cheeky, but disappointed in the footwork. Shirley agreed on flat feet, but good attempt at frame. Bruno loved the ease and timing. Craig wanted more elegance, but praised the energy and agility.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 9 – 32





Simon and Karen – No show

Simon Rimmer, Karen Clifton – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Sigh. I suppose Simon donning an eyesore Hawaiian shirt for his samba was inevitable – Karen in a relatively restrained showgirl outfit less so. His willingness to have a go is certainly admirable, but we’re not seeing much in the way of improvement. Still flat-footed and stompy, and an awful lot of staying glued to the spot while Karen twirls around him, like a knackered parent watching a toddler wear themselves out. Also: I was not prepared for those…I think they were shimmies? One of too many dad dancers this year.

Song: “Copacabana”, Barry Manilow (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jill Halfpenny and Darren, Patsy Kensit and Robin, Patrick Robinson and Anya)

Judges’ comments: Shirley liked all the basics, but mistakes. Bruno found it more Benidorm than Brazil. Craig said he lost balance and it became a mess. Darcey was disappointed.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 5 – 19





Gemma and Aljaž – Power couple

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

Highlight of the absurdly tenuous Royal Observatory VT was clearly Gemma’s “It’s like we’re in a space film!” comment. Bless. Adding to the list of Series 15’s fantastic female pasos was this dynamic performance: strong, committed, powerful, and with a good blend of basics and styling. Could have made the shaping more extreme with better resistance and curve through the back, but this pair are really growing and building a great connection. And who doesn’t love bonus glitter clapping? It’s like normal clapping, only releasing a shower of angel dandruff. LIKE THE MATADORS DO.

Song: “Viva La Vida”, Coldplay

Judges’ comments: Bruno thinks she’s getting better every week. Craig wants her to command the space when she’s by herself, but loved it. Darcey loved the shaping, but keep her chin up. Shirley said it was powerful and sensual.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35





Alexandra and Gorka – One good Turner

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














I had high hopes for this jive, and the current pack leader absolutely delivered with a blistering routine. Not so much imitating Tina Turner as summoning her soul and then using it to levitate off the Strictly stage, Alexandra kept the intensity up throughout a fast and furious number from Gorka, with propulsive kicks and flicks and a fierce performance. A tiny wobble on the through-the-legs trick, and similarly on the splits, but otherwise an impressive display of stamina and full-throttle commitment. The only question now is: has she peaked too soon?

Song: “Proud Mary”, Tina Turner (COPYCAT KLAXON: Verona Joseph and Paul, Natalie Gumede and Artem)

Judges’ comments: Craig said it was incredible. Darcey loved that she gave her all. Shirley enjoyed the combination of swing and jive. Bruno took the opportunity to share that he worked with Tina Turner – Alexandra did her proud.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39





Jonnie and Oti – Nighthawks

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

Well, I’m not saying a black-and-white fantasy sequence with Jonnie once more sporting a rakishly angled hat is unwelcome, but oh for an actual training VT. Not least because it would be interesting to have more insight into the particular challenges he’s overcoming here, both physically and in performance terms. To help with the latter in this smooth, Oti cleverly cast him as cool and suave, and took care of the drama side of things herself (which…wow). His frame still needs work and the Viennese rotations were a bit sticky, but spectacular lifts and nice connection between them.

Song: “Cry Me a River”, Michael Bublé (COPYCAT KLAXON: Kara Tointon and Artem)

Judges’ comments: Darcey loved the daring lifts, just moments of hunching in hold. Shirley said it was lumpy in reverse turns, but good footwork and spins. Bruno liked the cool dude character and phrasing. Craig wants character maintained in hold.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31





Susan and Kevin – So much joy

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

This was the dance equivalent of a baby smiling at a kitten while cuddling a rainbow. Just LOVELY. And not only because of the emotion behind it, or Susan’s adorable performance – there was a genuinely good quickstep in here too, as Kevin superbly balanced nods to Morecambe and Wise with strong ballroom content. The top hat and canes section was nicely in sync, hold pretty well maintained, light and bright footwork, even some sway, and gloriously euphoric kicks to end. The jumps went haywire and the odd bit of gapping, otherwise fantastic.

Song: “Bring Me Sunshine”, The Jive Aces (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lisa Riley and Robin)

Judges’ comments: Shirley thought frame could have had a lift, but so light on her feet. Bruno liked the balance of quickstep and tribute to Morecombe and Wise. Craig said it’s her personal best. Darcey found it gorgeous.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30






Alexandra and Gorka – 39

Gemma and Aljaž – 35

Aston and Janette – 35

Jonnie and Oti – 30

Susan and Kevin – 30

Davood and Nadiya – 29

Debbie and Giovanni – 27

Mollie and AJ – 27

Joe and Katya – 24

Ruth and Anton – 24

Brian and Amy – 21

Charlotte and Brendan – 19

Simon and Karen – 19


Alexandra dethrones Aston, and quite a shake-up: Gemma, Jonnie, Susan, Davood and Ruth rise, while Mollie, Joe and Debbie drop.



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

Alarmingly ruffled strawberry. Claud safer in stripes.



Brendan Cole, Charlotte Hawkins, Davood Ghadami, Nadiya Bychkova – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

Davood and Nadiya (slightly surprising) versus Charlotte and Brendan (definitely not). The judges thankfully put Charlotte – and us – out of her misery. Shirley didn’t get to officially cast a vote against her vanquished foe, but the message is still clear: you come at the Queen, you best not miss.

Who impressed you this week? Did you agree with the result? And who’s on borrowed time? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for more shenanigans. 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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