Posted on October 15, 2018
Everything’s fine, we’re all lovely, why do you ask, oh I’ve always had that twitch, silly really, just keep smiling, did I mention I rescued an orphaned puppy from a fire last week, no reason, that’s just me, and of course you know my charming children, darling where’s that smile, smile for Mummy, don’t mind the twitch, we’re all having fun, just KEEP SMILING.
So. Yes. A minor edge of hysteria in the studio this week, as a wild-eyed Tess and Claud went full Stepford and the VTs became an arms race of virtue signalling. Camera-ready families! Curing sick kids! That time Kate saved Africa! I was more on the side of “We always have scandals, Strictly basically treats its couples like reticent pandas in a mating cage”, but when it changes the tone of the whole show, it becomes a problem.
As for Sean(n) and Katya? A Charleston with more than the usual edge of “Please like me!”, firmly asexual candy cane outfits, and plenty of slapstick (because we all love a laugh!) with pizza (because we all love pizza!) (in a platonic way!) (jokes!). Still, that and some rather generous scores was enough to buy us another week of this – and the viewing figures probably didn’t hurt either…
In other news, 7s for everyone, as the judges reach the stage where potential needs to start translating into performance. Although the attempts to “fairly” separate ringers and non-ringers went slightly haywire. Aiming comments at different levels is great, but marking wise, I’d rather they score what they see and leave that distinction to voters, otherwise it starts to feel like explicit bias.
The left shoulder is the window to the soul. Apparently.
I do appreciate the work Joe’s putting into his dances; with his level of support, he could just coast and, you know, play HILARIOUS pranks. Which is not to say this was a perfect cha cha – far from it. Footwork still too flat and casual, so not getting pressure into the floor for leg/hip action, really hitting the checks, or transitioning with enough fluidity. But considering he’s shaped like a toothpick, actually got some undulation happening, good attempt at the basics, excellent timing as always, and a casual confidence that makes him fun to watch, even when the technique is variable.
Song: “Just Got Paid”, Sigala feat. Ella Eyre and Meghan Trainor
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised his timing, but work on the hips. Bruno liked the content, but needs to avoid every dance becoming angular and blurring together. Craig found it placed and lacking fluidity. Darcey liked the arm placement.
Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26
Laying it on thick this week, with Vick’s mum’s favourite song (or at least the one that works for a quickstep), plus a routine that had my teeth aching from the off: Tunnel of Love framing, candyfloss dress with frilly bib, giggly meet-cute, and the endless mugging to camera. Vick showed all kinds of promise in the quickstep, but they never stayed in hold long enough for it to develop. More time spent addressing the gapping, wobbly frame and occasional footwork issues, rather than soapy acting, and this could have been a huge breakthrough – she still has (sigh) all the potential.
Song: “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Diana Ross and the Supremes (COPYCAT KLAXON: Will Thorpe and Hanna, Dani Harmer and Vincent, Helen George and Aljaž)
Judges’ comments: Bruno noted her expression has improved. Craig said her left elbow droops and they were trotting. Darcey liked her jeté, but too much bounce. Shirley praised the basics, but need to stay to the left in hold.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29
Hey, Danny has Family prop points too! AND a personal link to the song! Yes, Sammy Davis, Jr. is his big hero, and…also we’re doing a Viennese waltz. Well, as usual, Danny was the consummate showman out of hold, excelling in a bright, jazzy opening. In hold, he is at least looking LESS alarmed by partnering, but this was a bobbly Viennese all danced up on his toes, rather than lowering into heel leads to drive it smoothly and lead his partner from the core. Same critiques from the beginning really, so would love to see him take those on board – he’s a charmer otherwise.
Song: “I’ve Gotta Be Me”, Sammy Davis, Jr.
Judges’ comments: Craig found his hands too elaborate, and Viennese skippy. Darcey wants him to relax his knees and drive, but great posture and musicality. Shirley said the footwork was sometimes good. Bruno wants him to push it further.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27
Let’s take a moment to appreciate that Faye actually called her ex-bandmate “Claire from Steps”. Claire from Steps offered the valuable contribution of humanising her ringer friend by…weeping over her perfection. Er, never mind. So, a really good attempt at the tricky rumba (FINE, SOME DANCES ARE HARD), with beautiful extensions and spins, tidy footwork and good timing. However, felt as though she was holding her breath the whole time, not relaxing into her hips or using the floor to ground her. Plus the intimacy was all in the facial expressions (esp Giovanni, the glorious ham), rather than in a physical connection guiding their movements as a partnership.
Song: “Chandelier”, Sia
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her turns, but need more physical expression. Shirley liked the balance of basics and highlights, but work on the transitions and feeling. Bruno said her lines were wonderful, but agreed it lacked fluidity. Craig wanted more push/pull resistance, but beautiful.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29
Katie sees your smiling families, and she raises you a trip to the burn rehab centre. And when you’re done revering Katie, turn your attention over here to Gorka the teacher with his GLASSES and KNITWEAR and BOWTIE, my god it’s like that Twitter account dedicated to cute baby animals. Which was no accident, as this jive was…rough. Ginormous steps from Katie, throwing her off-balance and off-time, soft kicks with sickled feet, and lost the beat entirely towards the end. BUT what an improvement since Week 1 in performance terms – they sold the hell out of it.
Song: “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (COPYCAT KLAXON: James Martin and Camilla, Louis Smith and Flavia)
Judges’ comments: Shirley noted more content, but work on timing. Bruno said they had fun together, but listen to the music more. Craig found it stompy. Darcey thought it was endearing, but needed sharper kicks.
Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 5 – 18
Yeah, I feel like these two missed the VT memo – no rescuing babies from burning buildings, just a thoroughly uneventful trip to the laundrette. (Can we not just imagine a laundrette?) Anyhow, this was a thinly veiled excuse for Charles to do a hen party striptease – though he kept the vest on, it’s not like he’s been in two dance-offs and is ready to abandon all dignity! Ahem. More of the same from this couple: natural ability, content light, lifts, no dance-specific technique. In this case, a disco-dominated salsa with steps so big and upright he could barely touch his foot down, let alone transfer weight and get hip action. Disappointing.
Song: “Use It Up and Wear It Out”, Odyssey (COPYCAT KLAXON: Peter Schmeichel and Erin) (and never mind St Jill – WHAT SHOES TO FILL)
Judges’ comments: Bruno wanted more hip action. Craig agreed, but loved the lifts. Darcey said he has natural rhythm, but steps too big. Shirley said he’s not transferring weight from foot to foot.
Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 – 25 (LOL magnificent trolling – you rascally judges)
This week in AJ Learns Things About The World: it turns out medal-winning para-triathletes are, like, really good at swimming and stuff! Tune in again soon for It’s Darker With The Lights Off and There’s A Family Of Mice Living In Your Hair. Now, plenty of mistakes in this quickstep, but all credit to them for actually staying in hold and dancing a quickstep – which shouldn’t make them crazy outliers, but this series it really does. Need to work on gapping and keeping the frame up and out, but good floor coverage, promising footwork, and a much more engaging performance from Lauren.
Song: “If You’re Over Me”, Years & Years
Judges’ comments: Craig noted mistakes, but the most energy in her body so far. Darcey said it was beautiful work. Shirley praised her personality and footwork, but mistakes. Bruno agreed.
Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 – 25
Hold on a minute while Dr Ranj saves some adorable children from certain death. Or possibly grazed knees. Either way, what a guy, what a saint, some are calling him the next Diana, but he’s just here to do a paso. While dressed as (El) Prince. So, not to sound like Auntie Tess, but this was kind of adorable. I know Dr Ranj was being VERY SERIOUS and MANLY and GRRR, but he still rolled his hips when stepping side to side, and the arms were doing the romantic poetry version of semaphore. Still, a nice committed attempt, and an enjoyable routine.
Song: “Cancion del Mariachi”, Los Lobos
Judges’ comments: Darcey told him to work on shaping, but surprisingly good. Shirley thought he showed a serious side, plus no mistakes. Bruno explained how to get better Spanish line, but liked the flamenco. Craig said it felt placed by Janette rather than danced.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27
Did Kate mention she did voluntary work in Africa? Oh, how embarrassing, that’s just a picture of her and Prince William saving the world, how did that get in there? (She’s the original Kate, you know.) So, omens weren’t great for this samba: the fog monster at full deployment, a song that – in this incarnation anyway – was vastly unsuited, and our sex kitten swamped in Lauren’s rejected Fame blouse and a shredded parrot. Apparently it went better in rehearsal – live, all a bit awkward, technique disappeared and loads of mistakes, as we could tell by Kate’s “Oh HONESTLY!” face. Not their best.
Song: “Africa”, Toto
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised her charisma, but too many accidental heel leads with her weight back. Bruno said they got stuck a few times. Craig felt it was a dance that belonged behind the news desk. (He’s had that ready for weeks!) Darcey noted she showed the struggle.
Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 5, 6 – 20
Dancing aside, I’m definitely sold on this partnership – the semi-teasing, semi-“No Oti will actually kill you now” training room dynamic is great fun, and it translates to believably connected performances. The actual routine: awkwardly timed astronaut opening, given the Soyuz rocket launch failure, better once into the actual jive – and again glorious pink, because this week’s dancewear has been chosen by Maisie, aged three. You’re lucky you’re not all dressed as Olaf. Needed much sharper retraction, not doing the rock step on basics, and not pointing or getting up onto balls of feet, but endearingly goofy performance and great use of music to boost the number.
Song: “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Queen (COPYCAT KLAXON: Penny Lancaster and Ian, Kara Tointon and Artem, Mark Wright and Karen)
Judges’ comments: Bruno said he didn’t miss a beat, but flat-footed. Craig wants more technical precision. Shirley praised his energy and timing, but kicks not sharp enough. Darcey thought he attempted the technique and performances really consistent.
Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26
Not sure why we’re getting all this contestant palling around; following Pasha coaching Joe, we now have jolly Facetiming with Dr Ranj and Janette. We’re one giant sofa pile-on away from the credits of a Nineties sitcom. So, loved everything about this Evil Queen(s) styling, and a fantastic tango routine from Pasha: slick, smouldering, creative, great use of accents, and made a statement while staying true to the dance. Ashley coped well with the ambitious content – some loss of connection in hold, which muddied the dynamics, but improving frame, great heel turn, and fab theatricality. Great to see her more in hold and committing to a new style.
Song: “Look What You Made Me Do”, Taylor Swift
Judges’ comments: Craig loved the sharp staccato. Darcey praised the intense drama and routine, but lost her neck. Shirley agreed – work on stillness – but nice footwork. Bruno said it was powerful and she held her own.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Who, us, make you watch RIGHT to the end? Course not – they’re SECOND to last. Well, we finally reached the controversial duo, and, hilariously, their entire VT was overtly chaperoned by Jenny Thomas – the usually invisible Charleston coach. Purely dance wise: great timing on the side by side, swivel good in places, and more gravity- and human anatomy-defying lifts. Too flat-footed though, and looked like he was chasing the material, plus the slapstick overly ingratiating. The awkward avoidance of a dropped pizza box also felt metaphorical; trying to respond purely on dance terms does require an arch-Brexiteer level of pretend. Will be interesting to see if they can win the audience back, or if the end is nigh.
Song: “Bills”, LunchMoney Lewis
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised the routine, attack and character, but clumsy moments. Shirley loved the energy, but mistakes. Bruno thought it was manic in a good way, but gangly. Craig said their choreographer threw everything at them.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 7 – 28
Did you know Kevin is from Grimsby??? Between that and the Sixties wish fulfilment, this was quite the birthday present for him. Plus some overmarking from the judges. I really like Stacey, but (as with Ore et al) that’s being challenged by the show’s panting promotion of her. We know she’s a non-dancer – just let us follow her J word in peace. So, foxtrot: lots to enjoy, but not enough pure content, plus frame squashed in places, footwork variable (other than – yes – the very nice opening heel lead), and Stacey sometimes stepping round Kevin rather than driving through him. But cool and stylish, and definite improvement.
Song: “Hi Ho Silver Lining”, Jeff Beck
Judges’ comments: Shirley loved the theme and improved technique. Bruno enjoyed the Sixties elements. Craig thought it was more American smooth than foxtrot. Darcey found it elegant.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33
Stacey and Kevin – 33
Ashley and Pasha – 32
Vick and Graziano – 29
Faye and Giovanni – 29
Seann and Katya – 28
Danny and Amy – 27
Dr Ranj and Janette – 27
Joe and Dianne – 26
Graeme and Oti – 26
Charles and Karen – 25
Lauren and AJ – 25
Kate and Aljaž – 20
Katie and Gorka – 18
Stacey hits the top for the first time, while Dr Ranj, Vick and Lauren rise, Kate, Faye and Graeme slide.
Tess raiding the Quality Street, Claud donning her daughter’s sparkly stars frock.
Katie and Gorka versus Charles and Karen. Charles Venn was most aggrieved. Even before the LIVE (ahem) Sunday results show was over, Charles Venn started retweeting a barrage of Charles Venn-related outrage, which I think we can all agree is Peak Charles Venn.
Oh yes. And the judges all eliminated Katie. Sad to see her leave when she just getting into it (and of course GORKA), but she seemed cheery about having a nice run and going out before things got too serious. She was a lovely addition this year, and Gorka’s sweet exit speech was a reminder of the kind Strictly we know and love.
What did you make of a dramatic Week 4? Did Sean(n) and Katya deserve another chance? And do we really need Couple’s Choice? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
See you soon for more first-class avoidance. In the meantime…keep dancing!