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Strictly Speaking: Week 7

Posted on November 4, 2019

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Right, hands up if you know how to perform an exorcism? For clearly the evil spirit is still in possession of this series of Strictly, keeping Ginger Neil on the bench, taking poor Will Bayley out of the competition altogether, even cursing Manly Bloke Kelvin with sickness – and yet somehow still keeping Mike Bushell dancing on, possibly forever, the Brexit of contestants. Also: Gyles Brandreth pitched up in a crossword jumper. These are weird times, people.

An oddly paced show, too, frontloaded with good numbers and then gradually sinking into the slough of despond. To the producers “saving” Mike for last: STOP TRYING TO MAKE MIKE HAPPEN. The British public has a pleasingly anarchic streak; tell us what to do or think, and we’ll likely do the opposite (#BoatyMcBoatface). Mind, he did prevent an all-Emma dance-off, which may well have caused the universe to implode.

Once again, the judges vastly overscored our dad-dancers – not just Mike, but also Chris’s oh-so-white-boy hip hop. Yes, it was fun, but Couple’s Choice is such a dispiriting waste of those actual dance styles; it’s just waft soppily, jump amusingly, or jazz-hand eagerly. And in contrast to someone actually attempting, say, proper foxtrot or samba technique, it feels increasingly unfair.

Other hits and misses:
  • Our pros bopped to Elton John. There was much glitter and feathers. Also a glimmer of jive, woo. HIT
  • Emeli Sandé sang, I think, her mic was not cooperating. More important, we got our much-hyped same-sex dance performance from Johannes and Graziano, hurrah! It was a really lovely, heartfelt number – if shorter than I’d have liked, and I also would have preferred to see them alone (fab though Aljaž and Luba are), since this is such a LOOOOOONG overdue moment of representation on the show. Bring on the first same-sex partnership already! HIT

Best in Show
  • Best performance: Karim’s quickstep Shockingly, he performs better when not dressed as a panda/dancing to wildly inappropriate music. Who knew!
  • Best costume: Alex’s red-hot dress Less so… Kevin’s shirt. Clearly Wardrobe is Team Gorka.
  • Best move: Michelle’s skirt reveal She really is Queen of Drama.
  • Best line: Craig’s Ginger Neil/Kevin stirring Perhaps we’re building to dance-fight for Alex’s love.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Stretchy quality street wrapper. Claud safer in a tux.

Karim and Amy – Suits you, sir
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Amy Dowden and Karim Zeroual. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

First of all: yes, there was some gapping, and wearing eye-wateringly bright red outfits does make that more obvious. Could also have done without the tape measure faff. Yet otherwise a blissfully strange theme/fuzzy costume/stupid music-free dance for these two, meaning we could just concentrate on a talented celeb executing a strong ballroom routine. Really nice mix of crisply executed jazzy flourishes and smooth movement round the floor, with an improved frame, lovely musicality, and energy well channelled into exciting dynamics. Karim could maybe drive through Amy a bit more – one gapping moment came from her stretching back and him not filling that space enough – otherwise fab.

Song: “Mr. Pinstripe Suit”, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jodie Kidd and Ian, Jimi Mistry and Flavia)

Judges’ comments: Shirley praised the frame, footwork and control. Bruno said every detail was perfect. Craig noted gapping, otherwise precise and even some swing and sway. Motsi was wowed by his lightness.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39

Michelle and Giovanni – Both sides now
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Giovanni Pernice and Michelle Visage. Photograph: Guy Levy.

I loved the concept here of Michelle mixing and matching paso roles, though I did think she looked overly encumbered by clothing layers initially, which detracted from some of the elegance. Also agree with the judges that she could have found more extremes in the shaping, so that it didn’t feel boxy. However, it was a thrill to see loads of proper paso basics delivered cleanly and seriously, with beautiful posture, precise footwork and timing, and clever differentiation between the flowing cape role – with nice use of the skirt – and taking on the leader’s figures with the right sense of matador authority and pride.

Song: “Another One Bites the Dust”, Queen

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was strong and menacing, though wanted more shaping. Craig agreed on the latter, but praised the content, purpose and passion. Motsi adored the intensity and different variations. Shirley loved the basics executed with exquisite timing.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 8 – 34

Emma W and Aljaž – Devil-may-care
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Aljaž Skorjanec, Viscountess Emma Weymouth. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Oh dear. A definite “trying to manoeuvre the floppy drunk girl out of the bar at closing time” vibe here. She did at least throw herself into it, and lots of good samba content, but there were parts that lost the rhythm and technique so much that the dance style became hazy. She needed to actually bend and straighten her legs to get the bounce and proper hip action, not take her feet off the floor; in fact, the bounce was mainly in her loose top half and bobbing shoulders. But bonus points for lounge lizard Aljaž’s unbuttoned shirt and medallion distraction technique.

Song: “I Don’t Care”, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber

Judges’ comments: Craig found it messy – lacking in tone and bounce. Motsi felt the end of each step wasn’t made clear enough. Shirley praised Aljaž for cannily keeping her in closed hold, and saw some bounce, but work on posture. Bruno thought she did have bounce, but inconsistent.

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26

Kelvin and Oti – Can you feel it?
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Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse. Photograph: Guy Levy.

These two definitely win the prize for most emotive routines this year – and that’s with rich, deeply felt storytelling through movement and partnering, not just chucking in a nan reference. On this occasion, the technique didn’t quite match up, though still a decent Viennese attempt. A strong, wide frame, well maintained, but the basics were a bit skippy – Kelvin needed to drive more with clear heel leads and keep the knees soft, as well as getting round Oti faster in the rotations so he could maintain the fluidity. Plus the fleckerl got stuck, but he continues to grow in ballroom – look forward to seeing more.

Song: “Say Something”, A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera

Judges’ comments: Motsi loved the mood they captured. Shirley did too, but excess rise and fall. Bruno thought it was “soft as a caress”. Craig agreed on the rise and fall, but praised their grace and storytelling.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 9 – 34

Saffron and AJ – New balls, please
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Saffron Burrows and AJ Pritchard. Photograph: Guy Levy.

The usual issue here: a super-frantic routine, to less than helpful music, meaning Saffron essentially survived it rather than dancing it. The fact that AJ takes pride in that is… worrisome. Especially as the judges keep giving them the same feedback about details and finishing moves cleanly. This salsa needed to be far more grounded, with smaller steps, clearer differentiation between closed and open feet, and thus much stronger hip and body action. I love Saffron’s fearlessness – those lifts were impressive – but pulling back just a tad would help her enormously. Also: no one has ever said “Gosh, I wish there were basketballs in this salsa!”

Song: “Instruction”, Jax Jones feat. Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don

Judges’ comments: Shirley noted her feet were parallel or turned in, hampering hip rotation. Bruno praised the energy, but lost balance and timing. Craig saw dynamic moments, but not seamless. Motsi liked that she went for it, but clean it up.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Alex and Kevin – Guess who’s back
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Alex Scott MBE and Kevin Clifton. Photograph: Guy Levy.

Hurrah, Alex does seem to have found her groove. I suspect that’s less the magical influence of Kevin, more because she hit a run of suitable styles that built her self-belief, plus the dramatic partner-swapping forced her to become strong and independent. Anyhow, it’s a joy to see her performing with such confidence now, and this American smooth had lovely moments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she looked more comfortable out of hold; in hold, needs to work on shaping her frame, getting her shoulders down and her head in the right place, and maintaining flow. Also balance issues in the pivots and when exiting lifts. But charming.

Song: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Baker and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Bruno said she sold it, though work on musical phrasing. Craig thinks the accidental partnership is “working wonders”. Motsi noted a huge improvement in quality of movement, performance and posture, but keep it consistent. Shirley noted a mistake, but agreed on improvement.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Chris and Karen – Er, psyche
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Chris Ramsay and Karen Hauer. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Some Family prop points for Chris with parents, wife and cute kid, but… well. It has to be said that Will has kind of ruined the Couple’s Choice stirring sob story for the rest of the pack. Chris’s big reveal: CHILDHOOD ACNE! So. As above, I’ve kind of given up on this being anywhere close to actual street dance, though points for replicating a very particular retro reference with almost alarming commitment. While very much Not My Thing, I appreciated how much fun they had with it, and also gave the audience – though does that really equal 9s for a number closer to Let’s Dance for Comic Relief than Strictly?

Song: “Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble”, PJ and Duncan

Judges’ comments: Craig called it “sick”. Motsi said it was his best dance. Shirley found it entertaining. Bruno wondered who was PJ and who was Duncan.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 8 – 34

Emma B and Anton – Judgement day
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Anton Du Beke and Emma Barton. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Lots of debate about whether Shirley was too “mean” here. I completely agree it was a poor rumba – bar the odd nice moment like Emma’s développé, muddy timing, too much being hurled around or stilted posing, not earthy and so off-balance, bent legs, skittering footwork, lacked hip action. Anton also sarcastically overegged the accents, as though still playing Austin Powers, plus Emma’s wig summoned the Curse of Vorderumba. Arguably, this is all mainly down to Anton, not Emma, so the critique might seem harsh for her, BUT that’s the show’s fault for keeping him on and hampering a potentially good celeb – the judges can only be honest about the end result. Anton’s backtalk was snarky and disrespectful.

Song: “Woman in Love”, Barbra Streisand

Judges’ comments: Motsi liked the intention, but she needs to keep pushing (…into a nervous breakdown). Shirley couldn’t see the rhythm of rumba at all. Bruno agreed it lacked perpetual Cuban motion. Craig noted free arm placement and balance issues.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 5, 6 – 22

Mike and Katya – Hot air
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Katya Jones and Mike Bushell. Photograph by Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

My Twitter timeline was full of “Hasn’t Mike already done Charleston?”, which… yes, that’s pretty much the problem with this pair, who keep doing “comedy” numbers with lots of side by side and risky tricks. Their approach was at least more in line with the dance this week, so yay for that I guess. Mike still stompy and inexact with the footwork, plus mistakes. Some good swivel, if pigeon-toed. Another big, trying-to-please performance. Which…clearly not, given the voting. I don’t know. He did OK for Mike, which seems to be the only criteria he’s interested in, but my heart sinks at the prospect of another week of this.

Song: “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines”, the Ron Goodwin Orchestra (COPYCAT KLAXON: Kimberley Walsh and Pasha)

Judges’ comments: Shirley said it suited him, but errors. Bruno agreed – he nearly dropped Katya. Craig said he got out of time. Motsi thought he looked on top of it, but lost the posture as he got tired.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30


Karim and Amy – 39

Michelle and Giovanni – 34

Kelvin and Oti – 34

Chris and Karen – 34

Alex and Neil – 31

Mike and Katya – 30

Saffron and AJ – 27

Emma W and Aljaž – 26

Emma B and Anton – 22

Karim, Chris and Mike rise, Saffron and the Emmas fall.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

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Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly. Photograph courtesy of The BBC.

Bacofoil in a peculiar silhouette. Claud a gorgeous red skirt.

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Emma Weymouth, Aljaž Skorjanec, Katya Jones and Mike Bushell. Photograph: Guy Levy courtesy of The BBC.

Two returnees here: Mike and Katya versus Emma W and Aljaž. It’s a difficult one to judge head to head – Emma tackling a Latin dance with especially complex technique, while Mike gets the style that the show has basically boiled down to “swivel” and “character”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mike was saved yet again – in what’s becoming warfare between the judges and voters…

Who was your favourite this week? Did the dance-off deliver the right result? And are you Team Anton or Team Shirley? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for MORE MIKE BUSHELL (and others). 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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