Posted on October 26, 2010
“Tangos will take off and Charlestons will flap,” thundered Tess’s voiceover. But that’s not the focus of this evening’s show. Oh no. We have teaser footage of Ann…in a harness! Has Widdy found her wings? Just when you thought “Strictly” couldn’t get any more exciting. And it’s only week 4…
Pity Tess. While Bruce fumbles his way around punchlines and gets to be the fun parent, it’s up to her to bore us with exposition and chivvy us to do our homework. She recapped the night’s dances for us with her usual alliterative flair (“They’ll be tantalising us with their tangos and charming us with their Charlestons!”), which led me to wonder – does this particular speech tic follow her home? Does she nag Vernon about his rampant remote-hogging, strident snoring and troublesome texting? Tess was also ill-served by her demure, voluminous black dress, which was in stark contrast to the wacky array of Charleston costumes. Speaking of which…
Jimi and Flavia – Desperate (househusbands and) Housewives
Song: “Do Your Thing”, Basement Jaxx
Judges’ comments: Len praised Jimi for providing great entertainment, but noted he didn’t get the swivel action, and our traditional judge was dubious about the use of window props. (Picky, picky) Bruno disagreed, called the props “Wisteria Lane meets the Tardis”, and liked that Jimi went into character, but noted he lost timing on the cane section. Craig suggested he straighten his legs and point his feet during cartwheels and thought it flat-footed, but liked the energy, facial expressions and storytelling.
Judges’ scores: 6, seh-ven, 7, 7 – 27
Boo. I love Jimi’s puppy-dog excitement, but the judges seem determined to wipe the smile off the face of our Most Enthusiastic Contestant. The Charleston was certainly a great outlet for his crazy energy, resulting in cheery training sessions, and Jimi even found time to go “back to the day job” – ie walk the red carpet at a film premiere. It’s a hard life. I enjoyed the cheeky sitcom story of the routine, with the pair starting off in neighbouring houses and ending up in the same one (ooh er), and liked that Jimi performed it with gusto throughout. I agree that his timing and accuracy need work, but I felt this was slightly undermarked, perhaps suffering from being the first out, and was hampered by the music, which stopped it feeling like “a proper Charleston”, as the judges branded later routines. Do you agree?
Overall: Jimi is still one of the strongest performers, but needs to match that with controlled technical skill.
Side note: should we rename the series “Strictly Come Cartwheeling”? In this show, we had cartwheels from Jimi, Tina and Matt, and last week we had one from Kara. I’m waiting for Ann and Anton’s progressive cartwheel section…
Scott and Natalie – Hot for Scotttt-T
Song: “Allegretto” from “Palladio”, Karl Jenkins
Judges’ comments: Len pointed out “a slight incident in the corner”, but was in “a devil-may-care mood”, so labelled it the best dance so far this series, and Alesha added that he oozed confidence and meant business (Bruce then took a potshot at her admittedly ridiculous snake collar). A gasping Bruno squeezed about ten syllables out of “tango beast Sssscccotttt-T!”, saying he was “masterful, with bit of arrogance, yet slick and stealthy”, and echoing Len in saying it was the best this season. Both he and Craig loved the gear change from power to romance in the mid section, and Craig thumbed through his thesaurus before adding it was full of “machismo and hootspa”.
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35 (Jinxed by Tess asking if they’re aiming for 10s)
Could Scott be any more wonderful? Yes, he’s pleased that he nailed his quickstep and got two 9s, but he feels guilty for neglecting his wife and son, Zack, who apparently is getting teased at school about “Scotttt-T”. Wait till you’re older, Zack. You’ll wish you could get the level of female adoration our modest actor is now enjoying (and yes, the tight shirts ARE necessary). But back to the dancing: despite being dressed like Big Bird, Natalie created a strong opening with her and Scott stalking one another before launching into a dynamic tango routine with excellent movement. Yet more superb musicality from Natalie in hitting the accents beautifully and creating a lyrical mid section. Well-deserved standing O from the audience.
Overall: I agree with the judges – best dance of the series so far.
Tina and Jared – Cute doesn’t quite cut it
Song: “Bad Guys” from Bugsy Malone
Judges’ comments: Alesha liked that Tina showed her goofy side and called it her best dance so far. Bruno thought she made a cute little flapper, but at times she needed more energy, precision and strength. Craig loved the progressive cartwheels but thought her sloppy footwork and timing let her down. Bruce admires her “glitter pox” (only on “Strictly”).
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 7 – 29 (Rather kind marks I thought, particularly the 8)
Cue SAD MUSIC for Tina (“How To Save A Life” – slightly melodramatic), who missed last week’s show due to chicken pox. However, she’s raring to go with the Charleston, channelling Bugsy Malone’s Tallulah. Their routine was supercute, but there were lots of timing problems and Tina seemed to run out of steam partway through. Great lifts and cartwheels, and Jared managed to pull off The Highest Trousers Ever, but slightly underwhelming.
Overall: Still resting on their adorable laurels, though props to Tina for bouncing back so soon after her illness.
Felicity and Vincent – Do you come here often?
Song: “Czardas”, Monti
Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the story of “the mystery lady and the gigolo – I’m not going to give it to him, will I give it, will I not give it, will I give it, will I not give it, and then a smackeroni at the end”. Craig drawled: “If your idea of a lonely woman sitting at the bar drinking cocktails and being seduced by a hairy, short Italian is a good one, then I suppose one might like it…and I did,” but added that she was too up on her toes and needed more pow in her kicks. Len liked the strumpet at the bar and Italian “oiling his way across”, but thought it lacked fire and attack.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29
Bendy Felicity is struggling with left and right, so Vincent finds a logical solution – he puts an apple and a banana in each of her socks. Ooooo-kay. Their deliciously seductive routine opened with Felicity nursing a cocktail at the bar (AKA the judges’ desk) and Vincent in a glittery hat oozing his way over to her and planting kisses along her arm. Loved the Argentine elements, which Felicity slinked and spun her way through with great character, hitting some beautiful lines, but the actual ballroom tango was much weaker. However, superb eyebrow-ography from the Italian stallion and quite a smooch at the end.
Overall: X-rated entertainment.
Patsy and Robin – Razzle dazzle ’em
Song: “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago
Judges’ comments: Craig thought it got off to an amazing start but became heavy and sluggish towards the end. “I’m middle-aged, darling,” gasped Patsy. Continuing the horse theme, Len called her a thoroughbred, producing an entertaining performance from beginning to end. Bruno labelled her “Catherine Zeta-Jenkins” (a hybrid of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Katherine Jenkins, apparently), and said she produced a proper Charleston, though she didn’t keep the engine running. “Fancy a little West End musical now?” asked Tess. Patsy candidly explained that she’s tone-deaf, and thus won’t be following in Jill Halfpenny’s footsteps.
Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 7, 7 – 28
Tired of being referred to as various animals, Patsy refused to give the judges easy ammunition by attempting a move called “the peck”. She received some expert advice from none other than Pineapple’s Louie Spence, who told her to watch the facial acrobatics, and ribbing from Jonathan Ross and Chris Moyles. Patsy certainly looked the part in her black
Overall: Fantastic spirit – needs consistent technique to match it.
Gavin and Katya – He can talk the talk…
Song: “Toxic”, Britney Spears
Judges’ comments: Len praised the posture and body contact, but thought Gavin looked too nervous and anxious. Alesha advised him to “believe in yourself more, babe”. Bruno explained that the judges are criticising him because they see moments where it comes together (“they’re very short!”), but then it all crumbles. Craig drawled that he’s tired of “the Botox advertisement” and wants some new facial expressions. Gavin came us a new one when he talked to Tess – crestfallen little boy. Awww.
Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23
Gavin (Team Peter!) revealed his secret love for Peter Andre’s beautiful body in “Mysterious Girl”. No wonder Katya’s struggling to get him to flirt with her. He then jinxed himself to a seriously remarkable degree by talking up his tango performance and declaring himself a threat to Scott and Matt – after all, “I’m better looking than them, and I’m in better shape than them”. Sadly, it’s not a modelling or fitness competition, Gavin. There is some DANCING involved. Once more, he went to pieces during his performance, looking wooden and scared throughout. Lots of the steps were there, but no real conviction or leading.
Overall: Frustrating. Gavin is this series’ Royal Mail – just can’t deliver.
Peter and Erin – Red card, old chum
Song: “Cabaret” from Cabaret
Judges’ comments: Alesha praised his lifts, but pointed out that his body “doesn’t understand what the Charleston is all about”. Bruno called him “a penguin stuck in the mud”. When Peter replied that he’d had a good time, Craig countered: “I’m glad you did. I couldn’t wait for it to finish. The white gloves were a big mistake – they magnified every detail that was wrong with it.”
Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 6, 4 – 17
Peter was delighted by his quickstep success and is enjoying the “Strictly” team spirit, exemplified by “having a kick-about with the lads”. Speaking of which, here’s Gary Lineker popping in with some tea during their Charleston training. Hmm. Perhaps Peter should have spent more time on the dancing. Erin pulled an Ola and drew as much attention away from him as possible in her top hat, waistcoat, super-short skirt and stockings, but Peter’s painful awkwardness was car-crash compelling. His top hat/kicks section looked like a bad am-dram chorus line in the local village hall.
Overall: No one wants to come to this cabaret.
Pamela and James – The feline of the species
Song: “Love Is The Drug”, Roxy Music
Judges’ comments: Bruno thought she looked “like cat woman” and enjoyed her precision, but warned her about getting tight between the shoulders. Craig loved the attack and style but would have liked more theatricality. Len praised her for doing four dances to a really high level.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34
Bruce embarrassed himself, his subject and all of us by attempting to do an impression of Billy Connolly, who was in the audience to cheer on feisty Pamela. Our resident psychologist was busy analysing the tango in training – “an outlet for negative emotions” – and thought it would suit her and James perfectly. (Worrying to see Billy taking notes on how to “handle Pamela”.) Unfortunately, their performance lacked some of the fire we’ve come to expect from Pamela, and I agree with Craig that it wasn’t as theatrical as it could have been (perhaps the uninspiring music contributed to that?), but it was still technically strong and majestic. Points for Pamela’s wowza leopard-print and purple dress; points deducted for James’s Russian-thug beard and slicked-back hair.
Overall: Another great performance, but slightly less electrifying than past weeks.
Matt and Aliona – Roll up, roll up
Song: “42nd Street” from 42nd Street
Judges’ comments: Craig pointed out a little slip and some timing issues, but still loved it. (Almost as much as he loves a man in a moustache – TMI.) Len called it the best Charleston of the night so far. Bruno loved the “showmanship in the tradition of the great Barnum”, and said the mistakes were due to it being the most difficult routine attempted.
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 8 – 35
After recovering from his intense quickstep, Matt took Aliona back to his farm, where she swapped body glitter and heels for driving a quad and a tractor and feeding sheep. They also enjoyed the soft landing of the hay barn while practising their Charleston lifts. Matt sported the most disturbing moustache in “Strictly” history – somewhere between a circus strong man and an oily gangster. And Aliona was dressed as a little girl in a tutu. Once we got past that disturbing combination, Matt wowed us with unicycle-riding (is there no end to this man’s talents? What’s next, piloting a jet into the studio? A Hendrix-esque guitar solo? Origami?), great lifts, sync floor work, more cartwheels and fun characterisation. A few errors, but an entertaining number. Perhaps slightly overmarked given the imperfections, even if the choreography was ambitious.
Overall: All the fun of the fair.
Michelle and Ian – Partner swapping
Song: “Killer”, Seal
Judges’ comments: Alesha thought it was full of character and intent and that Michelle had coped well with the partner change. Craig noted balance is still a problem and there were a few mistakes. Ian jumped in to apologise for his mistake. “But she’s meant to follow,” countered Craig. Len said it was very gallant of Ian to admit to it – “I’m sure Brendan wouldn’t have done that!” He thought Ian’s height helped Michelle’s posture and that she looked comfortable with him.
Judges’ scores: 6, seh-ven, seh-ven, seh-ven with a screech – 27 (her highest to date)
My thoughts and best wishes are with Brendan and his family, and it was sad to lose him this week, but if we had to have a replacement, it was definitely nice to see Ian back. Along with Darren and Lilia, it’s been strange not having him around this series. Michelle wanted to fight back after being in the bottom two and Ian did a very nice job with her. She looked less awkward in hold and technically slightly more secure, although she still hasn’t gained full control of her limbs, resulting in the odd sticky moment or balance problem. Fab-u-lous sparkly silver dress and pink gloves.
Overall: Improving slowly but surely.
Kara and Artem – Jazz babe and le jazz man
Song: “Put a Lid on It”, Squirrel Nut Zippers
Judges’ comments: Bruno called her a “jazz hot babe” and liked the Cotton Club feel to it, but wanted “a bit more welly” (Len’s rubbing off on him), more intention, more fire and more sex. Craig loved the Josephine Baker references and said Kara got the swivel, but would have liked more quirk and extreme line. Len called it very competent, but it lacked a bit of impact.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Kara loved having her family in the audience during her quickstep, so she took a step forward in her (dance relationship) this week and brought Artem home to meet her parents. Now, if these two aren’t an off-the-floor item, someone really needs to tell Kara’s parents – her mum got the baby photos, and her dad assessed him as a “really nice bloke, welcome back anytime”. Kara rocked her teeny-tiny fringed top and skirt, producing a fun, feisty performance that was technically sound, and Artem wore a sparkly beret – come on! A cool, sexy, jazzy routine, but perhaps not as extrovert and dynamic as the Charleston could be.
Overall: Another solid dance, though lacking a bit of character.
Ann and Anton – Flight of fancy
Song: “La Cumparsita”, Gerardo Matos Rodríguez
Judges’ comments: Ann got in there first: “You do realise that the Ark Royal has been decommissioned, so I thought I’d give you the flying fortress.” Craig countered: “I thought it was more like the dancing hippos, darling.” He did enjoy the flying entrance, which he called ethereal and beautiful, “but then you landed”. Len said the flight was worth “50 per cent of the TV licence”, and appreciated that she did a lot of basic steps. “Did you see our double swivels?” asked Ann. Bruno called it “truly out of this world. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it’s Starship Widdecombe!” However, he thought she tangoed “like ET’s mum”. Bruce quipped that the Red Arrows have been on the phone. Ann finished with “I thought it was like Dumbo – even elephants fly”. Turns out she’s scared stiff of heights, but was prepared to fly down to Anton – bless.
Judges’ scores: 3, seh-ven “for entertainment”, 6, 5 – 21 Ann was thrilled, as she’s been “aiming at 19!” Tess: “How are you going to top it next week?” Anton: “Bungee jump.”
Oh yes. It’s really happening. Step aside, Matt and his unicycle, Jimi and his windows and Felicity and her dirty martini. The wow factor of the night went to Ann, taking to the sky for “Strictly”’s first-ever flying entrance. Anton set the tone by dashing down the stairs with a rose between his teeth, and then, like a majestic bird of prey, down swooped Ann, still looking faintly disapproving at all this nonsense and dressed (in trousers and a pink cardie) as though she was really off to lunch party and got diverted at Heathrow. Particularly loved her half-hearted arm-flapping. Priceless. Their tango was competent, if technically dubious, as usual, but enjoyed watching Anton trying it on and Ann kneeing him. Widdy’s definitely on top.
Overall: Just keeps getting better and better. (The comedy, not the dancing.)
Bit of a shake-up, with Scott and Matt knocking Pamela off the top spot and Peter landing below Ann. Looking at the final line-up, my feeling is that Jimi should have been slightly higher and Matt didn’t quite match Scott.
“Our pros” (confusingly, not the pro team, who were absent this evening) did a super-cute retro jive in 1940s uniforms to a medley of “In the Mood”, “Candyman” and “Rock The Joint” that drew an “Oh yes” from Len – clearly, this is his era. More shoulder pads from Tess, this time uncomfortably perched in a white sofa-cover dress, in stark contrast “our Claudia” in sexy black.
Once again, we had a recap with the judges’ thoughts:
Peter: Craig: “That was not good”
Ann: Craig: “Technically, it’s appalling.” Len: “The more I see her, the more I’m starting to fancy her” (!)
Gavin: Alesha “When he hits the dancefloor, he crumbles”
Jimi: Alesha huffed: “Saying the technical side isn’t important is ridiculous!”
Michelle: Len: “Holding back on the performance.” Bruno warbled: “She’s a suuuurvivor!”
Patsy: Bruno: “When she lets her hair down, she has a wonderful wild-child quality”
Tina: Len snidely summarised: “Stage school end-of-term’”(in that case, rather kindly marked?)
Felicity: Bruno treated us to another rendition of his “smackeroni” performance
Kara: Len “We’re not getting it from the heart”
Pamela: Bruno: “She can do it all!”
Matt: Alesha: “100 per cent deserved the top of the leaderboard”
Scott: Bruno gasped out his love for Scottt-T again
Tess then announced some safe couples: Gavin and Katya, Scott and Natalie, Matt and Aliona, Tina and Jared, Patsy and Robin (another great reaction from her). First couple in the bottom two: Michelle and Ian. Felt a bit sorry for her, as she’s definitely worked hard and improved this week, and has had to cope with a change of partner, but I can understand why the public aren’t warming to her.
Claudia (who was deeply unnerved by Matt’s moustache – quite) introduced the pros for an Argentine demo to “Santa Maria” by the Gotan Project, choreographed by Matthew Cutler. Flavia, Katya and Kristina began by gyrating on boxes in a tango version of Flashdance and were joined by Vincent, Robin and Artem. Gorgeous leans off the boxes, otherwise I found the sync work slightly soulless – would have preferred one couple giving an emotional performance to three doing something flashy. Flavia and Vincent showed their tango dominance in a lovely series of ganchos and an elegant lift, followed by the other two couples doing some nice but rather uninspiring tango, livened up by wow lifts. Odd moment when the guys batted the girls’ legs back and forth, like they were softening up dough.
Tess announced some more safe couples: Ann and Anton, Pamela and James, Kara and Artem, Felicity and Vincent and Jimi and Flavia, leaving Peter and Erin in the bottom two, thankfully. When asked for his opinion, Craig “waves a dance flag, darling” and said he thought Ann should be in the bottom two with Peter. True in dance terms, but I can’t see the public dropping Ann for a while yet.
Our musical guest was Neil Diamond (because he fits in with “Strictly”’s sparkly aesthetic?). He reminded me somewhat of William Shatner in his static, self-indulgent performance, striking a jazz-club pose in his crushed velvet jacket, hand stuck in his pocket. Pleasant rumba by Robin and Kristina, again notable mainly for the great lifts.
We then had the usual VT of why our celebs in danger don’t want to leave: Michelle, rather sweetly, wanted to stay in for Brendan. Peter, who still views “Strictly” as an offshoot of his football career, confidently said that he’d “been in a few relegation battles” and come out on top. Thankfully, The Moment of Truth resulted in Peter being sent off. (And that’s officially my last bit of football lingo used up – phew.) He had his last dance to Abba’s “Name of the Game” (boom boom), which induced a fabulous sync sway/clap movement from the judges. Seh-ven!
Our two presenters managed a half-decent exchange at the end – Tess: “Claudia, my partner in crime!” Claudia: “Bagsy Poirot.” Tess: “I’ll not be Miss Marple” – and warned us that something wicked this way comes…next week’s Halloween special! Will there be some kind of Ann/pumpkin gag? Will we have a flying broomstick or manic overuse of “atmospheric” smoke machines? Will the judges maul gags out of “trick or treat” in their critiques? Tune in next week…