Dedicated to dance
since 1910.

Buy Latest Issue

Strictly Speaking – week 5

Posted on October 24, 2016

Ed Balls Katya Jones BBC Guy Levy 2 e1477403978785

Has anyone checked if the Strictly studio is built on an ancient Indian burial ground? Or has a disgruntled crewmember started compiling voodoo dolls? For there is a curse afoot, and not the usual home-wrecking one, with this drama-laden series beginning to resemble And Then There Were None. Injuries befalling Anastacia, Greg, Tameka and now Laura – the latter made more alarming by Giovanni appearing in a funeral suit. Brendan struck down by a lung infection. Will’s unexplained withdrawal. The sudden presence of that creepy ventriloquist. Add in Ed very nearly killing his partner on live TV, and Strictly now has the jeopardy level of The Jump. God only knows what may happen on Halloween (other than the usual bone-chilling wardrobe choices).

Otherwise, the big news was…well, pretty much still Ed and that lift – the new go-to gif metaphor for the current state of the Labour Party. And a slightly mediocre week, with comparatively little movement on the leaderboard and celebs either running into dances that did no them no favours (Ed and cha cha, Lesley and tango) or treading water (fifty shades of beige Louise). Come on, guys – death might be right around the corner! We’re talking literal “last dance”! This is 2016. There are no guarantees.

Other hits and misses:

  • The judges’ ever-mysterious decisions continue, as they tied themselves in knots trying to differentiate between experienced and inexperienced dancers, while giving out comments and scores that bore no correlation. Do we need an official handicapping system? Or should we trust the voters to make those distinctions and the judges to just mark what they see? MISS
  • Speaking of which, if we’re going to (occasionally) call out extra lifts, how about also making it clear how much of a ballroom dance should be in hold? MISS
  • A fun Thoroughly Modern Millie number, just to remind us that the 1920s is Len’s actual definition of modern. (Also one of the pros may be in a revival, not that the BBC is promoting that AT ALL.) HIT
  • The invasive species that is disco must be stopped. This week, it throttled the life out of samba. MISS
  • Some lovely wafting from Oti and Gorka, while LeAnn Rimes warbled, in a nightie, atop a table. As you do. HIT
  • No. More. Field trips. Just let the poor endangered celebs train. MISS


Best in Show

  • Best performance: Anastasia’s quickstep Admirable given the circumstances, and a genuinely charming performance. Plus: bonus Gorka!
  • Best costume: Lesley’s gypsy cosplay Subtle, it was not
  • Best move: The Ed lift No less extraordinary on repeated viewings. I do hope Katya’s upped her insurance
  • Best line: Len’s “…and then I snapped the ball off!” There may have been more. I can’t give Len’s Lens my full attention or I start frothing at the mouth



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

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

Tess has picked up some shifts as a hostess at a mid-market bistro. Claudia is now part-doily.


Judge Rinder and Oksana – Tug of war

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

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

This week, Judge Rinder ushered his partner into “court” and dreamed about jailing her. Which…was a tad Trumpian. So, Rinder seems to think he’s in a dance competition, while the producers think he and Oksana are eccentric dress-up dolls – this week, a flamboyant GI Joe and Military Barbie. As ever, this was a beguiling combination of strong performance, glimmers of promise and downright weird. We got a one-handed cartwheel and lots of frenetic jumps, plus some flat-footed, stompy jive basics, but committed characterisation and decent timing.

Song: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” The Andrews Sisters

Judges’ comments: Len liked the range of steps, and he “put the camp into boot camp”. Bruno thought the kicks looked more like can-can, but eminently watchable. Craig wanted more precision and retraction, but loved the tricks. Darcey agreed it was a bit wild, but loved it.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 7 – 29





Lesley and Anton – Outlook not so good

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

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

Crystal ball nonsense. “I see…one of these VT gags actually being funny!” This tango, unfortunately, was a comedown after their thoroughly enjoyable Charleston, from Anton’s insane checked trousers and sickly smudged eyeliner (medic!) to a horribly scrunched frame. The height difference probably didn’t help, but even so, Lesley’s head was completely swallowed by her shoulders and her arms kept wandering. Lacked clear heel leads and sharp transitions, so felt a bit soft and skippy, and a few moments of Anton dragging her. Still good intensity, but her performance was sacrificed for a stuffed routine.

Song: “Whatever Lola Wants”, Gotan Project version (COPYCAT KLAXON: Don Warrington and Lilia)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said she was hanging on for dear life, and messed up a couple of times. Craig missed the V shape and it didn’t stay on one level. Darcey praised the amount of content, but it affected the frame. Len liked the steps, mood and musicality, but one or two incidents.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 7, 6 – 24





Greg and Natalie – Hopeless place

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

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

Yes yes, Olympics. Do we need a reminder of why we support Greg? Ah, yes we do. This cha cha was pretty painful, despite Natalie and her amazing technicolor dream-fringe. The club track might suit a really confident, high-voltage delivery, but this…was not. Greg was stiff, pigeon-toed and uncomfortable, with lots of shuffling footwork and stopping dead to lead Natalie. Points for determination and, err, styling out the spangliest shirt known to man, otherwise pretty much a miss. Let’s hope he improves for future Latin dances.

Song: “We Found Love”, Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris

Judges’ comments: Craig said he showed off Natalie, but the walks looked very awkward. Darcey said there’ll always be one dance that’s not yours. Len pointed out his relative inexperience. Didn’t look comfortable, and a blunder early on, but good content. Bruno thought he over-attacked it, which made it stompy and thus no hip action.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 7, 7 – 24





Anastacia and Gorka – New man

Gorka Marquez, Anastacia - (C) BBc - Photographer: Guy Levy

Gorka Marquez, Anastacia – (C) BBc – Photographer: Guy Levy

Get well soon, Brendan, but I did rather enjoy this new partnership – a better height match, and rather a nice temperamental one too. Bit too much out of hold, but the bench-ography was musical and engaging, and the actual quickstep light, frothy, flowed well and good detailing, though some gapping and frame occasionally wandered. Bags of old-school charm, strong accents and stayed the right side of schmaltzy. Sidenote: the ongoing war on Len’s precious notes is marvellous. From Claudia pie-ing them to Anastacia sitting on them, is no laborious song title pun safe??

Song: “My Kind of Town”, Frank Sinatra

Judges’ comments: Darcey said it was a lovely surprise she was so light on her feet. Could have been smoother, but loved the pendulum step. Len thought it was her best dance. Bruno liked the coquettish character and musicality. Craig noted the gapping, but flew across the stage.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30





Louise and Kevin – The friend zone

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

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

Seriously, Paris? I think we know who won the time-wasting VT lottery. Yet another perfectly pleasant and deathly dull number from these two – this was virtually indistinguishable from all their other performances. We know what she could do Week 1. How about improvement, growth, change, some kind of surprise? (Other than borrowing an Eiffel Tower from Spinal Tap.) Once again, lots of lyrical lines and all very neat, but no hip action and no rumba passion – it was basically Louise taking her cousin to a formal because her date fell through.

Song: “Always on My Mind”, Michael Buble version (COPYCAT KLAXON: Gavin Henson and Katya)

Judges’ comments: Len said she’s plateaued. Bruno spoke in French, just to aggravate any watching Brexiteers, and labelled it elegant. Craig agreed it lacked excitement – too safe, and needs to accentuate hips. Darcey though it had beautiful quality, but must exaggerate more.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33





Ed and Katya – The only way is down

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

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

Bless Ed. His VT was all about trying to take the technique seriously, but rucksack-toting hitchhiker doesn’t exactly scream “classic American smooth”. I can only imagine the wooden signpost arms were a character choice. In fairness, there was a glimmer of half-decent if stodgy foxtrot, some adorable polite line dancing, and two of the lifts didn’t look immediately life-threatening, but the third one…oh, it was quite something. All hail Katya’s iron core as she somehow stayed aloft while Ed juggled her limbs like a novice fishmonger wrestling eels. A Strictly moment.

Song: “(Is This The Way To) Amarillo”, Tony Christie

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised his effort, and the foxtrot showed promise, but he overstretched himself with the lift. Craig thought it was plodding and lacked style, plus an extra lift. Darcey said mistakes happen to everyone, and come back next year! (Oh, Darce.) Len agreed on the foxtrot section – shame about the lift.

Judges’ scores: 2, 6, 6, 4 – 18





Ore and Joanne – Love fest

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

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

Pro tip: don’t try to sell the excitement of being an Olympics commentator while in a series with two actual Olympians. Another ballroom number with excessive hold breaking, and a few niggles on this waltz: tiptoeing rather than strong drive, still slightly hunched over in hold, odd head position in the standing spin, and could strengthen lines more. Also fighting the music at times, though it is hard to maintain control in a slow number – perhaps could have done with a clearer build to match the song. On the upside (ish), he’s fully embraced the cheese, and confident delivery.

Song: “I Will Always Love You”, Claudia Streza version

Judges’ comments: Craig praised his phrasing, rise and fall, swing and sway, and storytelling. Darcey thought it had lovely moments of stillness, but his right shoulder popped up. Len noted a sticky turning lock, but incredible. Bruno loved their chemistry.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36





Daisy and Aljaž – Dancing in the dark

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

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

Well, at least Daisy got to eat. I mean, it’s not Paris, but… I really loved the opening of this Charleston, with just the white hands and feet visible – very arresting. However, it did then call attention to Daisy’s extremities throughout, highlighting the odd clumsy moment, like lift transitions, or a movement or line left slightly unfinished compared to Aljaž. Quirky, joyful and fun, and nice to see a creative concept, but ran out of steam and could have used more consistent style in the delivery.

Song: “Happy Feet”, Manhattan Rhythm Kings (COPYCAT KLAXON: Dani and Vincent)

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought they captured the playfulness of the silent movies, but she tired towards the end and needs to tighten her core to get round in the lifts. Len said it made everyone happy. Bruno loved the concept and Betty Boop quality. Craig agreed she was slightly late at the end, but brilliant.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32





Danny and Oti – Lover man

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

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

Danny learned to tightrope walk and…oh god, just stay in the ruddy studio. Male celebs don’t have the best track record with rumba, but this was a really nice effort. More breathing space than their previous routines, lovely understated musicality, and a good feel for the style. Yes, it was contemporary-framed, but decent Latin characterisation in the basics – with actual hip action! – and arm placement. Could do with a bit more foot pressure and straightened legs, and more resistance to fill out the music, otherwise strong delivery and another nicely connected routine from them.

Song: “How Will I Know”, Sam Smith version

Judges’ comments: Len praised his masculine performance and sliding doors. A bit staccato, but he’s consistently excellent. Bruno thought he got a great balance. Craig felt it had too much attack, so was more like jazz, but loves watching him. Darcey said his lack of inhibition paid off big time.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35





Claudia and AJ – Cut and run

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

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

A VT of focussing on technique that you will never see because this disco samba was INSANELY FAST. Really, all of the judges’ criticisms should have been directed at AJ (and/or Dave Arch), because Claudia didn’t stand a chance – she was desperately chasing the choreography throughout, and even a pro girl would have struggled to use her knees or inject hip action at that speed. Also: AJ needs to learn not to out-dance his amateur partner, but to frame his performance – and choreography – around what best showcases her. Still think Claudia is capable of more.

Song: “Young Hearts Run Free”, Candi Staton (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Baker and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought she attempted a lot, but wound up rushing. Craig found it too frenetic and lacking bounce action. Darcey said she was over-pushed to travel and lost the performance. Len agreed the technique was sacrificed for speed, but party spirit.

Judges’ scores: 8, 7, 8, 9 – 32






Ore and Joanne – 36

Danny and Oti – 35

Louise and Kevin – 33

Daisy and Aljaž – 32

Claudia and AJ – 32

Anastacia and Gorka – 30

Judge Rinder and Oksana – 29

Greg and Natalie – 24

Lesley and Anton – 24

Ed and Katya – 18


Not much movement this week, but Anastasia rises while Lesley and Greg drop.



Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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

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

Fire engine-red bondage. Claud in an LBD with a strange growth.


Lesley Joseph, Anton Du Beke, Aljaž Skorjanec, Daisy Lowe - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Lesley Joseph, Anton Du Beke, Aljaž Skorjanec, Daisy Lowe – (C) BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy

In the dance-off: Lesley and Anton, and Daisy and Aljaz. Everyone saved Daisy – one of many “Do we really have go through with this whole charade?” dance-offs. Lesley got unlucky there, and a shame to see her go – she’s been a lovely presence this year.

What did you think of the performances? Did you agree with the bottom two? And how long do you think Ed Balls can last? Come say hi on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you soon for (groan) Halloween Week. 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

Connect with Dancing Times: