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Strictly Speaking week 7

Posted on November 9, 2015

Phew! A return to form following last week’s Halloween hellscape, with some great performances, the series’ first multiple 10s, and Jeremy Vine riding a horse. All that, AND copious amounts of genuinely informative training footage? You’re spoiling us, Mr Ambassador.

As we’re now at the halfway stage, it was no surprise to see genial duffer Carol finally toddle off into the sunset, but astonishing that Jamelia escaped the dance-off after an OK but by no means transformative Viennese. Is this the power of Len’s walnut-pickling threat? If so, let’s ditch Trident and use that instead.

Other hits and misses:

  • Do you really want to begin your show with a 10-scoring showstopper? Showstoppers do tend to, you know, STOP the show. Dead. Perhaps Georgia was scripted (er, predicted) to bookend with more 10s, but didn’t quite nail it. MISS
  • A shout-out to Bruno’s turtleneck and Darcey’s equally loopy belt. Was that a Thunderbirds insignia? MISS
  • The Strictly plague has struck: Tess almost reached Phoebe’s sexy sick voice levels of croakiness. On the upside, some of her jokes were barely audible. HIT
  • Training footage! It is back! This bears repeating. Though I fear it’ll be snatched away again by Blackpool… HIT
  • No overt Halloween-esque theming, but still some loopy openings to dances, like whatever the hell Tristan was doing with that guitar and Carol’s Country & Western shopping spree. MISS
  • Most random prop: the wobbly lamppost of destiny (and its friend), dancing mops, killer guitar or Jeremy’s cacti? MISS
  • Judging by the audience response, Jay has this in the bag regardless of his dance performance from now on. So much for “This is the most open series ever!” MISS
  • Len: getting randomly tetchy with both Giovanni and Gleb does not equal judging consistency. Applying established rules across ALL dances does. If you ever felt like it. MISS

 

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Georgia’s samba Mistakes, she made a few, snatching at transitions in a crazy-fast routine, but (non-literal) props for a traditional and genuinely engaging ballroom samba.
  • Best costume: Open-shirted Aljaž I mean, it might have worked for SOME people.
  • Best move: Gleb’s flying crotch jump And they wonder why Strictly begets so many affairs.
  • Best line: Claud: “Later on, Jay gets stuck into an Argentine mango.” Though that might have produced more expression. Runner-up, to cultishly smiley Carol: “I’m fascinated by how I’d make you grumpy.”

 


 

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Pile of black fabric samples joined by a sparkly dog collar. Claud rocked up in a spotty bathmat. Let’s call it a draw.

Peter and Janette – Onto a good thing

peter-andre-janette-manrara-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalAdam the vaudeville enthusiast popped in to teach Andre about exaggeration and looking in a mirror. Oh, Adam. Your talents (actual profession? Life crisis?) are so not needed here. This wasn’t really Peter changing his performance to suit a dance, rather a style popping up that completely suited him, with Charleston the perfect outlet for his manic OTT energy and cartoon characterisation. Fantastic swivel to start, variable later on, confident lifts and crisp, dynamic movement, though a couple of timing issues. Can he do as well when back in ballroom hold, or adapting to unfamiliar technique?

Song: “Do Your Thing”, Basement Jaxx (COPYCAT KLAXON: Bill Turnball and Karen, Jimi Mistry and Flavia)

Judges’ comments: Len called it an absolute showstopper and gave a standing ovation. Bruno said he embraced the character, with wonderful slapstick comedy, excellent swivel action, and an element of lindy hop. Craig noted he overbalanced in the lift at the end, but the performance was exceptional. Darcey thought he looked like a pro.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 9 – 38


 

Jamelia and Tristan – While my guitar gently weeps

jamelia-tristan-macmanus-bbc-guy-levysimply so soFinally, in WEEK 7, Jamelia focuses on learning correct footwork. OK, so we still begin a Viennese waltz with random shtick involving Tristan the busking guitarist and Jamelia the gloomy princess contemplating suicide by fountain, but then – then! – a pretty respectable performance, with decent movement and better partnering than we’ve seen from them all series. Still loads of problems to address, however, like Jamelia being completely square in hold, looking at Tristan, giggling, tipping over in pivots and only hitting the heel leads by accident, plus the whole running into the guitar incident. Ah, props. The natural predator of the dancer.

Song: “Trouble”, Ray LaMontagne (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jo Wood and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it had great flow, but she needs to extend and maintain the arch of her back to avoid gapping. Craig agreed the topline is problematic, and criticised Tristan’s floor craft in colliding with the guitar. Darcey praised her movement. Len liked the rotation and improved footwork.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28


 

Carol and Pasha – Houston, we have a problem

carol-kirkwood-pasha-kovalev-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleCarol and lifts do not mix. Even Donald the cat knows this is a bad idea. Yet here we are, finally attempting American smooth. How does it go? Not smoothly. Another bewildering intro, this time Carol in a trench coat shopping for presents (?) that she then opens in a changing room (??) so she can put on a new dress rather than just take off her coat to dance (???). Anyhow, this wasted a good six hours, so you can understand Pasha’s rationale. Disappointingly little camp hen party shenanigans, given the song choice, underwhelming foxtrot with little technique, and lifts looked like Pasha rescuing a frightened dog from a pond. Her confidence has improved, but not much else.

Song: “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”, Shania Twain (COPYCAT KLAXON: Will Thorpe and Hanna)

Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was like bumper cars and she didn’t point her feet in lifts. Darcey praised her improved lines, but she lost focus. Len wants better footwork. Bruno called her consistent. It was not a compliment.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 4 – 17


 

Helen and Aljaž – Pretty as a picture

helen-george-aljaz-skorjanec-bbc-guy-levysimply so soFor no apparent reason, we were subjected to a weirdly staged girls’ night out that played like the opening of a Wind-eze ad. If it was an attempt to make Helen relatable, it failed miserably. Speaking of which, what why and how was Helen’s mini jumpsuit and weird gauzy wrap? Is she shilling for ASOS? Another well performed but overly stiff and balletic Latin dance from her, particularly noticeable in exposed rumba. Still not getting into the floor enough and legs locked straight, so no hip action and didn’t breathe into movement – gorgeous still images, but zero flow. I disagree slightly with Len, in that it might have been nice to see more basics, but content wasn’t the major problem, so much as the technique and style underpinning it.

Song: “Hello”, Adele

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised the love story and lines. Len had a strop about the lack of basic rumba content. Bruno loved the performance, but wanted continuous hip action. Craig enjoyed the drama, and disagreed with Len on content.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 7, 8 – 31

 


 

Jay and Aliona – Not tonight, dear

jay-mcguiness-aliona-vilani-bbc-guy-levysimply so soThe fab Giraldo Escobar and Myriam Ojeda-Patiño stopped by to help with the first Argentine tango of the series. Of course, once you’ve seen what it should look like, deviation is all the more glaring. Jay can execute challenging routines with impressive precision, displaying wonderful detail and superb lifts, but his performance STILL hasn’t improved – until he learns to inhabit a character, he’s never going to be fully convincing. Aliona did all the work here, hurling herself at Jay and trying desperately to evoke some kind of sensual response through the power of her thighs, while her impassive partner pondered the politest way of saying he’s just not that into her. Or perhaps he doth protest too much after all those showmance rumours? Either way, call in the acting coach, stat.

Song: “Diferente”, Gotan Project

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was polished and sleek, with great lifts, but lacked emotion. Bruno praised his focus and precision. Craig wanted intensity – it left him wanting more. Darcey said it was executed to perfection, but agreed on performance.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 9 – 34


 

Katie and Anton – Street fight

katie-derham-anton-du-beke-bbc-guy-levysimply so so“Let’s watch a clip of an amazing ballroom dancer!” cried Anton, cueing up a video of himself. And, you know, Katie. I doubt du Beke will ever again be gifted a partner with her potential, given that he’s made the Latin too easy (and even then he can’t dance it properly), and the ballroom way too hard. This was a fiendish quickstep, and – not surprisingly – Katie quickly fell behind, chased the steps, stumbled, made a mistake, and another, and… Yeah. The beginning was fun, in a Peak Anton hats and canes kind of way, and she has lovely elegant moments, but it looks like their J word may soon be coming to an end.

Song: “42nd Street” from 42nd Street (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Baker and Aliona)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it started beautifully, but she lost both footwork and frame. Craig praised the ambition. Darcey said she was light on her feet, but too many mistakes. Len said dancing at that speed with so much content means risking a loss of control, but fantastic performance.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 6 – 26


 

Anita and Gleb – Cleaning up

anita-rani-gleb-savchenko-bbc-guy-levysimply so soA trip to a toddler jive class to work on energy revealed Anita loves kids, Gleb…loves Gleb. Slightly tiresome cleaning intro, complete with mop-ography, but once into the actual jive, great energy, into the floor, sharp kicks and committed performance. Became too wild and loose as the routine went on, with her weight tilting back – the flat shoes probably didn’t help – and one too many Gleb-centric tricks, but bonus points for dumping glitter into Darcey’s cleavage at the end. Not sure it was noticeably better than all those dances the judges scored much lower (if anything, not quite as good), but nice to see their marks catch up to the rest of the pack.

Song: “The Boy Does Nothing”, Alesha Dixon

Judges’ comments: Craig called it fast and furious, with great stylisation. Darcey praised her stamina, but wanted pointed feet. Len said it was full of fun, energy and kicks and flicks. Bruno thought she was on fire.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34


 

Kellie and Kevin – Schmaltz waltz

kellie-bright-kevin-clifton-bbc-guy-levysimply so soHas Kevin body-swapped with an 80-year-old? That would certainly explain his creative choices. This week, pottering round a tea dance before the lightsabers returned (groan) for a moving house number sticky with nostalgia. Yes yes, the past is lovely. But it leads to Kellie wearing a hideous flowery curtain dress, Kevin a spectacularly clashing flowery cushion cover shirt, and viewers reaching for a sick bag. Good movement, phenomenal double reverse spins and grimly hung onto the topline, but some strange body alignment at times. Most importantly, we’re still being asked to appreciate work rather than relax into the performance. And to accept that Kevin’s TARDIS isn’t going forward any time soon.

Song: “Love Ain’t Here Anymore”, Take That (COPYCAT KLAXON: Aled Jones and Lilia, Robbie Savage and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised her finesse and improved topline, but right shoulder problematic. Len liked the fluidity. Bruno compared it with a Julian Fellowes screenplay. What, full of holes and Maggie Smith phoning it in while wearing increasingly large hats? Craig noted she lost balance, but lovely.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


 

Jeremy and Karen – Horsing around

jeremy-vine-karen-clifton-bbc-guy-levysimply so soKaren visited Jeremy at Radio 2 to see a “serious journalist” at work. Oh, Karen. Speaking of serious… Well, on the tango side, Jeremy did manage to be slightly more compact, but footwork a complete mess, ginormous gapping, and erratic head snaps like he was trying to dislodge a fly from his ear. Did anyone care? They did not. There were giant cacti. There was cowboy cosplay. And there was Jeremy, astride a giant plastic horse. There was GO. WEST. It was totally, utterly bananas, and really should spell doom, but as long as we contain our worst crazy excesses to one comedy contestant, it’s a blast. And, you know, he can dance in time. Just about. And he’s trying. So…yeah. Go West, Jeremy. Go West.

Song: “Go West”, Village People

Judges’ comments: Len called him Woody from Toy Story. Wild, wacky, fun and he loves watching him. Bruno said it was a glorious disaster. Craig was transfixed by Jeremy’s bottom. Darcey praised his determination and improvement in topline, but he got carried away.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21


Georgia and Giovanni – La dolce vita

 

georgia-may-foote-giovanni-pernice-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalGiovanni misses gondolas and his mama’s home cooking, because he is a comedy foreigner grown in a BBC lab. Georgia took him on an Italian (um…) tour of Manchester to cheer him up. He gave excellent “McKayla Maroney is not impressed” face. Anyhow, the Italian bit was by far the weakest portion of their routine – some kind of actress/waiter thing that went on too long and made no sense whatsoever – but the actual samba was joyful, dynamic, high-energy, great mix of content, and showed hugely improved confidence. Insanely fast and so much attack she sometimes knocked herself off balance, and slightly erratic foot placement which meant hip action variable, but one of the most convincing Latin dances we’ve seen this year. Sidenote: why another week of sludge-coloured costumes? You cannot have a beige carnival, people.

Song: “Volare”, Gipsy Kings

Judges’ comments: Bruno critiqued in overexcited Italian, lest we have a repeat of the bull’s bollocks incident. Craig praised her handling of the speed, though she lost some technique, and called it incredible. Len compared them with his favourite pizza: hot and spicy (hold the anchovies).

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35


 

Leaderboard

Peter and Janette – 38

Georgia and Giovanni – 35

Jay and Aliona – 34

Anita and Gleb – 34

Kellie and Kevin – 32

Helen and Aljaž – 31

Jamelia and Tristan – 28

Katie and Anton – 26

Jeremy and Karen – 21

Carol and Pasha – 17

Peter reclaims the top spot and Helen drops, otherwise we seem pretty settled into our haves and have-nots.


 

Sunday

results-jive-bbc-guy-levyRemembrance Day pro dance, with Joanne’s painful X Factor audition and some trying Anton slapstick not quite distracting from a fantastic Neil Jones-choreographed group jive – great to see after all those weeks of contemporary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Modelling Frankenstein’s new fashion line. Claud in actual bacofoil, god love her.

Seal sang. It was not “Kiss From A Rose”. Moving on.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Kellie’s hideous flowery dress wafted agonisingly. I hid
  • Darcey’s 10-gasm, followed by a slo mo demonstrating how much Peter and Janette went out of sync
  • Craig demanding ganchos
  • Bruno reacting to Jeremy in his usual calm fashion

In the dance-off: Carol and Pasha, and – ooh – Kellie and Kevin (his first ever dance-off). Will that inspire them to change strategy? The judges, obviously, all saved Kellie, and we bid farewell to Lovely Carol and Lovely Pasha.

Who impressed you this week? Did Peter deserve the first multiple 10s? And were the right couples in the dance-off? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for more fun and games. In the meantime…keep dancing!

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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