Posted on November 30, 2020
A rather mediocre performance week, with some improvement in scoring, and alas still some glaring biases. However, poor Clara Amfo really doomed herself with an error-strewn jive that was actually marked quite kindly, yet cemented her place in the dance-off. Though I still think she got a raw deal overall this series, we never really saw her deliver on that potential, other than in Charleston.
However, Maisie finally got her due from the judges – and voters. She deserved to be top of the leaderboard this week. Instead, Couple’s Choice (eternal groan) handed HRVY a thoroughly unconvincing perfect score. It felt like the equivalent of giving one person a silver medal for their careful critiqued synchronised dive, and giving someone else a gold medal for wearing colourful goggles.
Couple’s Choice has always been a horrendous blight on the show, but even more so this series. We’ve got a much shorter run, so it feels unnecessarily dominant and affects eliminations, and also they’ve now entirely giving up on even pegging it to one dance genre. It’s just a muddy blend of movement-feelings, like a brown leftovers casserole, with a godawful VT and a free pass. BAN IT NOW.
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Oh dear. Dressed as the set. Claud in chic black trousers and blouse.
Clara! We were all rooting for you! This Tina Turner jive had such great potential, and she was clearly fired up by the concept. There was a strong foundation, too: a nice back lean on the basics, springy bounce and fun performance. Yet mistake followed mistake, and, despite Aljaž’s best wrangling attempts, they lost the short connection, Clara’s steps got bigger and heavier, and her timing went to pot. Also: more wretched trainers, WHY??? The whole point of proper dance shoes is they help you get your weight in the right place and use the correct part of your foot. Wear big clumpy trainers and you’ll get big clumpy flat-footed steps.
Song: “River Deep – Mountain High”, Tina Turner (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alex Jones and James, Peter Andre and Janette)
Judges’ comments: Shirley said the parts she did well were outstanding, but mistakes. Motsi agreed and praised the recovery. Craig wanted more up on her toes, but better than last week.
Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7 – 19
Hurrah, a proper tango track and good moody drama to accompany it. Having just hoovered up The Queen’s Gambit, I loved the sexy chess framing – particularly as it didn’t over-dominate. It was great to see Jamie focused and taking a ballroom dance seriously, compared with all the shenanigans of recent weeks. (Yes, I know, I am turning into Len.) Technique-wise, needed to soften the knees more to get better drive; that would have helped him stay with Karen, too, instead of creating gapping. Also his kicks were bit feeble and sickled. However, a much-improved frame, crisp staccato, and, most impressively, real control. (Well, until the post-performance screeching began.)
Song: “Tanguera”, Sexteto Mayor (COPYCAT KLAXON: Mark Foster and Hayley, Louise Redknapp and Kevin)
Judges’ comments: Motsi called him infectious – er, not like that. Better shoulder line, focus and attack, but sometimes too late with his weight transfer. Craig wanted more drive, but great concept. Shirley praised the drama, storytelling and power. Now needs more precise musicality.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8 – 24
Must I? Oof. Well, once again, it felt like Couple’s Choice was operating in a completely different show – here, the finale of an inspirational tween drama. Don’t do drugs, kids, and you too can wear these tie-dye pyjama atrocities while marvelling at pretend stars! If one were to attempt an analysis of this in specific dance terms (and god knows the judges didn’t), it nodded at contemporary without engaging with the difficult technique that underpins it, slouched toward street but lacked the vital impact, and encapsulated a vapid VT in its “point and pretend-emote” dancing without any real point. The timing was good, not perfect. The lifts were strong. However, it was basically all freestyle stuff HRVY could do pre-Strictly.
Song: “A Sky Full of Stars”, Coldplay
Judges’ comments: Craig had a crack at GOAT, bless him. Shirley praised the details and lifts. Motsi felt the music through him.
Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10 – 30
Must American smooth be razzle-dazzle? Arguably, you can have style and pizzazz in subtler ways. However, I think this routine lent too heavily on just how delightful they are as 1950s sweethearts. I love Ranvir’s improved confidence, nailing her solo opening, the grace and ease, good footwork, fabulous wide hold, and how smoothly they covered the floor. She does need to work on finishing lines out of hold and hitting accents with authority – at this stage, you can’t hold back. As for the lifts, if that’s not their thing, maybe they should have just ditched them entirely, as Bill and Oti did. I’m more interested in them delivering a great dance.
Song: “I Say a Little Prayer”, Aretha Franklin (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Dawson and Lilia)
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised the solo, getting her weight in the right place, and the best female frame so far. Motsi loved the connection, but wants more surprises. Craig didn’t like the lifts, but maintained body contact and outstanding acting.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8 – 24
We’ve yet to find something that Ballroom Bill can’t handle, but jive was definitely his biggest test yet. The painting concept, though absurd, was a good ruse to give him a breather mid-dance, since Oti otherwise didn’t hold back with this routine. Shout out also to her amazing pleather fringe. Like Clara, Bill was sometimes flat-footed and took over-large steps on his basics, although he got away with some stompiness since it went with the punk theme. Great swivel kicks, but needed crisper retraction. His weight sometimes tipped back, making it harder to control the quick movements, and we saw some uncharacteristic mistakes. However, his musicality covers a multitude of sins.
Song: “One Way or Another”, Blondie (COPYCAT KLAXON: Esther Rantzen and Anton, Kellie Bright and Kevin)
Judges’ comments: Motsi praised the energy, hard work and different rhythms, but mistakes. Craig found it stompy, but great style. Shirley loves that he’s taking it seriously.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8 – 24
Industrial levels of pandering yet again, this time making a naked (well, who knows what’s under that kilt) bid for the Scottish vote. Bizarrely, JJ’s schtick also seems to bamboozle the judges. Yes, he’s a nice, good-looking guy with an impressive backstory, but we’re now over halfway through what’s meant to be a dance competition, and he gave us a Viennese waltz mostly concealed by the smoke monster and Amy’s 600 petticoats, soggy with sentiment, and strewn with technical errors. Head position awkward, arms expressionless out of hold, skippy because lots was up on his toes, and content-light. Also: if Ranvir needs to deliver more wow and surprises, why does JJ get away with delivering the same “understated” performance week after week?
Song: “Rescue”, Lauren Daigle
Judges’ comments: Craig said it was elegant and classy. Shirley liked the calm, and good fleckerl. Motsi said he moved well across the floor.
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8 – 25
Thank god for Maisie, rescuing the show at the last minute with this thrilling quickstep. Personally, I thought there was too much faffing about on the bench (again, yes, channelling Len) – simply because the dance in hold was so strong and I would have liked more of it, without constant resets. That said, I can see that it added a playfulness which potentially made Maisie more (sigh) “likeable” and added to the storytelling. Her quickstep was gorgeously light, with buoyant movement across the floor, delightful details, well-maintained frame and lovely musicality. The odd bit of gapping, and, as miserly Craig noted, she missed one Charleston swivel on the bench – though that means, fingers crossed, they can aim for perfection with this one in the final.
Song: “When You’re Smiling”, Andy Williams (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jan Raven and Anton, Claudia Fragapane and AJ)
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised her mix of power and femininity. Beautiful arms and footwork. Motsi loved the Charleston elements with the skips and hops, the stamina and the softness. Craig noted the missing swivel, but absolutely incredible.
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10 – 39
HRVY and Janette – 30
Maisie and Gorka – 29
JJ and Amy – 25
Jamie and Karen – 24
Ranvir and Giovanni – 24
Bill and Oti – 24
Clara and Aljaž – 19
HRVY and JJ are up, Jamie and Ranvir down.
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Truly insane white top with ribbon neck brace. Claud safer in lacy black.
Clara and Aljaž, inevitably, versus Jamie and Karen. This is actually the week I thought Jamie deserved to go straight through, but then I’m glad Maisie got a dance-off reprieve, and that Ranvir and Bill weren’t scuppered by a strange leaderboard with lots of ties.
The dance-off was an opportunity for Clara to redeem herself, and she did manage to cut out lots of the mistakes, but it was still a clompy jive. I’m blaming the trainers. Jamie did a good repeat performance of his tango.
We had an interesting split decision, with Craig opting for Clara, but Motsi and Shirley saving Jamie. Ultimately, that felt fair, if sad. In a longer series, Clara might have had a chance to connect, but there just wasn’t time in this brief run.
What did you think of the judges’ decision? Did the right couple go home? Who’s looking like a finalist? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
See you again soon for Musicals Week. In the meantime… keep dancing!
Photographs: Guy Levy, courtesy of the BBC.