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Strictly Speaking: Week 4

Posted on October 18, 2021

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Ah, the theme week hangover. Saturday’s Strictly Come Dancing was very much the bleary, old contact lenses stuck to eyelids, two Alka-Seltzers dissolved in ginger ale, nibbling at cold leftover pizza while moaning softly morning-after to Movie Week’s night of ecstatic clubbing. No one was dishing out points for mistakes. Craig all but set his 10 paddle on fire – and yelled at Motsi’s jumper. Basically, all the judges acted like cranky toddlers who’d missed their nap. 

Things weren’t much better on the dance floor, with several celebs tackling an unfriendly style or having an off week. Yes, no one was dressed as Shrek or a murder pig, thank the Strictly gods, but we still got two groan-worthy nostalgia numbers, several that lost the actual dance entirely, and a beret. Hold me.

Other hits and misses:

  • A sad farewell to Robert Webb, who left the series on health grounds, and Ugo was out this week with back problems. I’m not saying the disgruntled evictees are making voodoo dolls, but maybe someone should check in on Ginger Neil just in case. MISS
  • Anton. Sigh. The Len babble is getting worse, and creepier (telling AJ she looks good? Just… no), and yet more references to himself. Stop putting on an act and just judge – you do actually have some useful expertise to share. Well, in ballroom anyway. MISS
  • The VTs are so training-focused this year – I keep pinching myself, though I’ve probably just jinxed it, so prepare for a swathe of “I’m getting over my fear of fleckerls by skydiving!” ones. HIT
  • The family prop points were really piling up this week. There won’t be a single nan left by Blackpool. MISS
  • Jamie Biscuits was back AGAIN for the Ts and Cs. He’s like that guy who keeps returning to his old school, asking what the cool kids are listening to. MISS
  • Also back: Westlife. Are they still a thing? Apparently so. Air grabs for life. HIT
  • A funky group number from our pros, with Giovanni blissfully happy looking at his reflection in several mirrors, but was there any ballroom? There was not. MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Sara’s brilliant tango A heroine for strivers everywhere.
  • Best costume: Motsi’s controversial jumper Who knew shoulder pads would break Craig’s spirit?
  • Best move: World-class tango dancers solemnly dancing around an empty pool Someone planned this, and filmed it, and put it on television.
  • Best line: Craig telling Aljaž he could now understand “why Janette married you” Yes, it was his tango choreography. Nothing else. Nada. Zilch.

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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The semi-animated corpse of a velvet cushion cover. Claud in a memorial Ola Jordan “Don’t look at my partner’s feet” lace catsuit. 


Rose and Giovanni – You can leave your hat on

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My, there was a lot going on here. Gio’s immediately covetable velvet jacket. Gio’s guyliner. Rose’s hilariously literal beret. Rose’s hypnotic purple carwash trousers. I’m tired just thinking about it. Anyway. More impressive timing from Rose, who started completely solo, and a good, crisp cha cha on the whole with some promising hip action and playful moments. Her footwork is improved, though still needs to be more exact, and everything could have been sold more – it felt a little timid, and the steps weren’t differentiated enough, but she still has a great natural feel for these dances.

Song: “Raspberry Beret”, Prince

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised her contained steps and rhythm, though noted the mistakes. Anton said her foot action is stronger. Craig wanted more extension in her lines, but loved the solo start. Motsi saw a gain in confidence.

Judges’ scores: 7, 6, 6, 8 – 27 


Tom and Amy – Birds of a feather

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Tom’s first ever ballroom dance, in Week 4 – madness. Though in fairness he was due to do one in his week away. Anyway, a very good opening effort with a super-trad, Fred and Ginger-esque foxtrot: Tom in tails, Amy sporting several lakes’ worth of swans. That styling helped a lot here, but it was also great to see a prop-free number from them after last week’s irritating guitar-clutching. Definitely lots to work on: not much drive, some dubious footwork and frame too constricted. He also needs to hide the palpable relief whenever he escapes the hold, but cool confidence and charm, and great musicality and fluidity.

Song: “Fly Me to the Moon”, Dean Martin (COPYCAT KLAXON: Patsy Palmer and Anton, Scott Maslen and Natalie, Daniel O’Donnell and Kristina)

Judges’ comments: Anton praised the elegance, but work on the feet and arm line. Craig wanted more leading and swing and sway. Motsi said he made it look easy, but work on driving from the standing leg. Shirley agreed, but great potential.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 7 – 29 


Tilly and Nikita – Turning up the heat

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Can we just pause to acknowledge Nikita’s marvellously camp intro to paso, posing in front of several mirrors, waxing lyrical about bull-battling while his boyband locks whip around like a shampoo commercial. Now, I had very low expectations for this – as did the judges, which led to some excitable overmarking. Tilly absolutely had some great intent and aggression, and she coped well with a jam-packed routine (which Nikita over-danced, instead of matching his partner). I particularly loved her back bends. However, her posture was variable – her lines lack extension, her shoulders swallow her neck, and she needed to breathe to stop it looking blocky, but, hey, Danny Dyer liked it.

Song: “Diablo Rojo”, Rodrigo y Gabriela (COPYCAT KLAXON: Joe McFadden and Katya)

Judges’ comments: Craig wanted more tone and drama. Motsi praised the determination and hard work. Shirley loved the skirt work and flamenco. Anton said it was her best dance. 

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 9, 9 – 32 


Greg and Karen – Frills and spills

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Oh no. No, no, no. This was just appalling in every possible way. First, we must talk about The Shirt. It looked like a stained 1970s pastel tablecloth with coffee filters stacked on top of one another to form hideous ruffled sleeves. Greg’s opening wheeze into a conch shell was clearly a cry for help. Add in the distracting song choice, and then a samba that started off with a big mistake and just flatlined: bad timing, weight in the wrong place, no bounce or hip action, a shimmy that looked like a duck nursing a broken wing, some random front crawl, embarrassing bottom wiggles, and a crotch thrust that nearly put the cameraman’s eye out. Oof. 

Song: “Macarena”, Los Del Rio (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jake Wood and Janette)

Judges’ comments: Motsi said his face had a party, but his body didn’t. Shirley liked the personality, but it was awkward-looking and uncoordinated. Anton said it was flamboyant. Craig thought it looked like he’d just had a double hip replacement.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 6 – 19 


John and Johannes – Heaven knows

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A brief hiatus for John to complete his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition. (I still have nightmarish flashbacks to mine: getting very lost, in the rain, in Wales, and getting yelled at by a farmer.) In fact, it was Johannes who had the emotional arc this week as he faced the alarming prospect of being lifted. Like the judges, I had mixed feelings about this American smooth. These two have wonderful chemistry, and there were lovely expressive moments out of hold, but the song just felt at odds with the dance. Technical issues too: lots of gapping in hold and lacked drive – and then it just… ended. Not my favourite of theirs.

Song: “I Knew You Were Waiting”, George Michael and Aretha Franklin

Judges’ comments: Shirley liked the balanced routine, but use the standing leg. Anton praised his grace and lifts. Craig thought it had too many different ideas, including a trip to Heaven. Motsi said it was joyful.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 8 – 29 


Rhys and Nancy – Spot the salsa

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Karim, whose routines were always too frantic, popped up to offer advice to Rhys… whose routines are always too frantic – and guess what? This salsa was too frantic! In a way, Rhys’s physical ability is actually a hindrance: he managed to pack in most of this busy number and keep up with the timing because he’s so energetic and buoyant, not because he was doing any of the correct salsa technique whatsoever. The steps were ginormous, flat and messy, no control or varied dynamics, and it was basically a repeat of his street dance. Enough now: Strictly is about learning new styles, not doing the same thing again and again. Also: NO MORE PHONE HANDS.

Song: “Butter”, BTS

Judges’ comments: Anton found it too brisk and frenetic, but great energy. Craig said it was refreshing. In that it was not a salsa, presumably. Motsi said it was rhythmical but needed a smaller base. Shirley agreed.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 8 – 31 


Sara and Aljaž – Ahead of the pack

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Ooh, that’s more like it. This was a great production number, starting in black and white with just Sara’s purple dress picked out, fab traditional music (if slightly more Argentine than ballroom tango), and no distractions. As everyone said, Sara’s head position was weird, some gapping, and it was slightly too understated, but so much intricate detail and beautiful technique in there – and so much work to give it that ease and cohesion as a partnership. They really did move as one, and the simmering drama all came from the dance style: the body position and footwork, the change of pace, the accents and lines, the absolute focus. Brava! 

Song: “Por Una Cabeza”, Carlos Gardel (COPYCAT KLAXON: Diarmuid Gavin and Nicole, Tom Chambers and Camilla, Holly Valance and Artem, Debbie McGee and Giovanni)

Judges’ comments: Craig said it was spectacular. Motsi appreciated the respect it showed for dance. Shirley said she’s a phenomenal student. Anton said it was a 12 (sigh) other than the head.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36 


Dan and Nadiya – Class clown

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This week, Dan inflicted his dancing upon unsuspecting schoolchildren. As if the youth of today didn’t have enough inherited burdens. So… hmm. My issue here is that there’s a difference between personal journey and competitive performance. Great for Dan that he’s gradually getting past his debilitating trauma of being, you know, quite tall, and he certainly gave his all, but that doesn’t make it a comparatively good cha cha. His lips moved far more than his hips, he didn’t close his feet or straighten his legs, the placement was snatched and scrappy, and his free arm looked lost. Also, the MC Hammer stuff was pure cringe-worthy dad-dancing. Not for me.

Song: “U Can’t Touch This”, MC Hammer (COPYCAT KLAXON: Mark Benton and Iveta)

Judges’ comments: Motsi said it was fun, but needs more leg and hip action. Shirley praised his self-belief, just work on flexibility. Anton agreed. Craig enjoyed the performance if not the MC Hammer moves.

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26 (er, what?!)


Judi and Graziano – Heart and soul

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A very different Judi this week, as she dedicated this emotional number to her late parents. The smoke monster was out in force too. So, I appreciated her heartfelt sincerity and it was great to see a softer performance, but you know I’m uncomfortable with the X Factor-isation of Strictly: sob stories over substance. Just judging this as a waltz, it was very limited. Nice musicality and timing, but teeny-tiny steps nearly all on tiptoe, so absolutely no drive, lots of gapping, lacked flow, and she needs to stretch her back to get a more elegant frame. Oddly, it seemed tentative, which is the last word I’d associate with Judi. 

Song: “Hero”, Mariah Carey (COPYCAT KLAXON: Martin Offiah and Erin)

Judges’ comments: Shirley felt the emotion. Anton praised the sentiment, but too hesitant. Craig skipped his list of technical issues. Motsi loved the vulnerability, but push it more.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 7, 7 – 24 


Adam and Katya – In the deep end

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“This dance is set in an abandoned swimming pool.” Let’s just take a moment to savour that. A bit longer. Bit longer. There we go. That means it’s once more unto the augmented reality breach for these two, plus several moves where Katya attempted to embody a diving board. So, the insane lift sequence was pretty jaw-dropping – it looked like someone having a fight with a demonically possessed feather boa. Great smouldering intensity; I do love Adam’s commitment. However, it was too light on actual tango content and technique. He became a pole for Katya to twirl round, and we lost the foundation of the dance: two bodies, particularly the feet, connecting and communicating. Also: annoying music choice.

Song: “Tango in the Night”, Fleetwood Mac 

Judges’ comments: Anton said it was a hit. Craig thought it was too blocky but brilliantly theatrical. Motsi loved the risk-taking. Shirley praised the lifts, but work on flexibility and musicality.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


AJ and Kai – Legging it

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Ah, AJ is human after all. She’s been so outstanding that it’s easy to forget she’s not a trained dancer. Now, this samba wasn’t terrible by any means – she did really well with the difficult changing rhythms, had great isolation and accents, and kept the performance up despite the mistakes, but this was the first time where she got tangled up in her long legs, taking huge steps and not getting her weight in the right place, fudging the footwork and chasing the routine. It looked like she was trying to run away from the dance. However, a good effort, and unlike some, this was packed with proper Latin content. 

Song: “Don’t Go Yet”, Camila Cabello

Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was lacking technically. Motsi liked the conviction. Shirley praised her attitude and body rhythm, but work on the leg action. Anton said she looked good. 

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 8, 8 – 28 


Leaderboard

Sara and Aljaž – 36

Tilly and Nikita – 32

Adam and Katya – 32

Rhys and Nancy – 31

Tom and Amy – 29

John and Johannes – 29

AJ and Kai – 28

Rose and Giovanni – 27

Dan and Nadiya – 26

Judi and Graziano – 24

Greg and Karen – 19

It’s all change: Sara, Tilly, Adam and Tom are up, AJ, John, Rose and Greg are down.


Sunday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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I mean, I despair. Upside-down toga? Who even knows. Claud in LBD with cute collar.

Dance-off

The bottom pair on the leaderboard landed in the dance-off, giving us Greg versus Judi – aka audience whiplash as we slammed straight into gloomy waltz from mad loofah-armed samba. Both made mistakes, but the first three judges voted Judi through, with only Shirley (who, last week, handed out POINTS for mistakes) sniffing that she’d totted it up and by her reckoning Greg should have stayed. 

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Who did you enjoy this week? Did the right couple go home? Who’s looking like a real contender? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for more performances and hopefully fewer dropouts. 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.

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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