Posted on November 22, 2010
Just in case we were IN ANY WAY unclear, after the million-and-one references during last week’s show and the many dedicated segments on “It Takes Two”, this week “Strictly” is coming to you live from Vegas! Or, rather, Blackpool. SO easy to get those two confused. “Everyone wants to ILLUMINATE the dance floor with TOWERING performances!” Thank you, Tess.
Ooh. This is no ordinary show. The mirrorball “Strictly” logo has been transformed into a casino-style graphic that had me heading for the nearest slot machine. And here come our pros – the girls dressed as Vegas’s finest, adorned in feathers and not much else, and the guys doing their best to pull off all-white and ruffles, reminiscent of the after-party at an Essex wedding. Fun opening number (choreographed by salsa champs Chris Marques and Jacqui Spencer), getting the already-manic crowd to the hysterical-screaming stage and setting the tone for the night. And please welcome our hostess, whose Vegas look is…oh… an unfortunate red jumpsuit and “Charlie’s Angels” hair. O-kay. Bruce, quick, distract us with a sexual-harassment gag! There we go.
Patsy and Robin – She was a showgirl
Song: “Copacabana”, Barry Manilow
Judges’ comments: Len thought Patsy’s energy and flair matched that of Blackpool and praised her basics, but noted she “got on the wrong trotter” in all the excitement. Bruno called her “a true Vegas strumpet” and thought she brought the fun and is willing to “give it all”, but missed some steps and timing. An unimpressed Craig said it lacked hip action, needed more life in the free arm and that the zigzag was stompy, but she did look like a showgirl.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8, 7 – 28 (Scary. Accompanying the scores is some kind of weird casino-style Bruce, nodding sadly in the background. Feels like we’re back in Halloween week.)
Despite last week’s praise, Patsy refuses to consider herself a contender and is nervous about taking on the samba. Robin (in a particularly self-sacrificing gesture) brings some scantily clad samba girls into training room to inspire her, and they both totally pull off the headdresses. Patsy definitely brought that spirit and costuming to the Blackpool floor (sorry, Mrs Swan. And sorry, kids, no tinsel for the tree this Christmas – it’s all on Patsy’s shoulders), and I loved her commitment and obvious enjoyment, but the technical aspects were hit and miss and there were a few unsteady moments, particularly in transitions between steps and rhythm changes. Her wild exuberance extended to her post-dance Tess interview, which was essentially Patsy on speed. Fab.
Overall: Not her best, but fun.
Kara and Artem – Big Boys Don’t Cry
Song: “Cry Me A River”, Ella Fitzgerald
Judges’ comments: Alesha called it “seductive, smooth, intense” and was drawn into the story. She thought Kara had the elegance of a professional and praised Artem for working her so hard. Bruno found it “inspired and inspiring” and loved the blending of styles, including paso doble to “ice skater” fluid lines. It reminded Craig of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, which was a problem for Len, who was “as confused as a baby in a topless bar”. He was furious that they didn’t take up hold and do more foxtrot.
Judges’ scores: 9, 6, 10, 10 – 35
Kara’s on a high after getting two 10s and is now aiming for three, but their rehearsals hit a rocky patch when Artem injures his shoulder during their lift practice. However, our stalwart Russian puts on his best (brooding) brave face and the couple deliver a dramatic smooth. Loved the storytelling and atmosphere, spot-on sync work and mix of old Hollywood glamour and fresh, exciting choreography, including risky lifts. I take Len’s point that there wasn’t as much in hold as the smooth rules stipulate, but given that it took him seven weeks to notice illegal lifts, is this really the series in which to lay down the law so aggressively? Kara, meanwhile, fuelled tabloid speculation when Tess asked if she and Artem had enjoyed their “first romantic weekend away together”: “Oh, we’ve loved it. Wait. I probably shouldn’t have said that.”
Overall: Daring, dramatic and controversial.
Matt and Aliona – Bending over backwards to please
Song: “Young Hearts Run Free”, Candi Staton
Judges’ comments: Bruno was transfixed by Matt’s batucadas – “I’ve never seen a celebrity moving his bum with such precision!” – and called it “the best Brazilian to date”. Craig praised his hip and bounce action, acrobatic ending and improving thumbs. Grumpy Len didn’t like the “flipflops”, adding, graphically: “A boy at my school could fart ‘God Save the Queen’, but it was nothing to do with the samba.”
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38 (Equalling Zoe Ball, the highest-ever “Strictly” samba scorer)
Matt’s gutted that Craig felt “uncomfortable” during his sexy rumba, and is frustrated that people keep asking him when he’ll get a 10. He’s determined to nail the samba, even going over his routine on the fun bus (and getting loser signs from Kara and Artem for his trouble). Aliona, who (weirdly) seems equally determined to distract attention away from her talented partner, worked her jewelled bikini, but Matt held his own, showing impressive rhythm, body rolls, hip action, precise footwork and even samba rolls, ending in three back flips. Not the most inspiring routine from Aliona, and I still don’t see much connection between them on the floor, but Matt rose above that to deliver a seriously impressive performance.
Overall: Absolutely worthy of his first 10s.
Felicity and Vincent – I’m ready for my close-up
Song: “Me and My Shadow”, Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr
Judges’ comments: Craig wants more rise and fall, better spotting and a stronger final position, but thought her transitions were good. Len liked the feel of it and thought the lifts were excellent but it lacked movement. Alesha echoed their comments but added it was delicate, classy and her best dance.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30
Last week, Felicity got carried away by Vincent’s pink shirt during their salsa. Vincent, meanwhile, was doing some sterling voter recruitment: “Where are my women? Hello? They should be voting for me! Are they doing the dishes?” Yup, that’ll have them flocking. Their “Italian smooth” training was rather bumpy – as Vincent put it, “like shares, going up and down”. Fun opening, with Felicity working the red carpet and Vincent photographing her. The classy, jazzy feel of the dance suited the pair perfectly, and Felicity maintained the story element of it throughout, but the big Blackpool floor showed up their lack of drive and movement. Nice musical accents and superb lifts – she has real elegance in the air.
Overall: A solid performance, but will it be enough?
Gavin and Katya – Dropped the ball
Song: “She’s A Lady”, Tom Jones
Judges’ comments: Bruno (still smitten after last week), gasped: “You’re so big and so strong, so powerful. Why do you get nervous?” He sighed that Gavin was good in hold but lost self-confidence and didn’t drive the dance. Craig labelled it “lame and lacklustre”. (But not “limp”. Could be worse. When he pulls out “all the Ls”, you know you’re in trouble.) Alesha told him not to let it knock his confidence.
Judges’ scores: 4, 7, 8, 8 – 27
Gavin got emotional last week, seeing his kids in the VT, which led to him messing up his timing at the start of their quickstep. Nice to feature something other than muscles, hair and rugby for a change. But it didn’t last long, as we were back to his super-human strength in lifting Katya, even crashing her into the ceiling! And back to Gavin’s gormless comments: “The floor’s quite springy, so if I do drop her, she’ll be all right.” Katya confused Blackpool with Ascot, obscuring most of her person with a giant hat, and Gavin lamely pretended to sing at the top. The lifts didn’t quite go to plan, with Katya rocking and reeling in the one-arm opener, and parts of it felt rushed and panicked – shame, as Gavin’s frame was strong and his foxtrot sections looked good in training footage. Also distracted by his finger-in-socket hair and the fact that they were trying to dance a smooth to Jill Halfpenny’s cha cha track.
Overall: A missed opportunity.
Scott and Natalie – Brazil nut
Song: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”, Jackie Wilson
Judges’ comments: Alesha said he gave it a good go and obviously worked very hard to master it. Bruno: “Scotttt-T, super Brazil nut, you always come out, always perform, always deliver.” Craig said he tried hard but without success and that he didn’t like it at all, but didn’t elaborate.
Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 9, 9 – 32
Scott was pleased to come back strong with their jive and enjoyed a smug moment with Gavin. However, the samba presents some difficulties: “It ain’t a party dance in Woolwich.” Quite. He got over his inhibitions by their performance, giving the dance a sexy ease and throwing himself into the choreography, but he didn’t nail all the technique, particularly consistent hip action and free arm, and had a bumpy moment coming out of the samba rolls. Another strong routine from Nat, using the big floor well and showing off Scott’s zany personality. Not quite so sure about her dress, which was decorated with parts of a bohemian door curtain. Also a shame to see (or rather hear) more song recycling – this one was used for the series four judges’ choice segment in the final (Matt Dawson quickstep, Mark Ramprakash samba).
Overall: A step down from the jive, but respectable.
Pamela and James – American frisky
Song: “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, Doris Day
Judges’ comments: Bruno: “Ooh, come up and see me some time.” He labelled it “American frisky” and added that it was “fantastically danced, absolutely beautiful”. Craig called it “a very-well-structured routine, danced extremely well”, but wants Pamela to keep her shoulders down and lengthen her neck. Len thought it was the best American smooth of the night and Alesha called her “the queen of Blackpool”.
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 10, 10 – 37 (James’s first 10! Oh, and Pamela’s.)
Pamela is thrilled to be asked to bring more hanky panky and risk-taking, although their lifts are almost TOO risky in practice – one real heart-in-mouth moment. Loved their opening, with Pamela the Jessica Rabbit vamp working her feather boa and drooling over James. She combined comedy with technique superbly, holding her frame nicely in hold and transitioning in and out of lifts extremely well. Particularly well handled given their microphone malfunction (another Mark Ramprakash flashback).
Overall: Back in the game.
Ann and Anton – Failure to launch
Song: “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel”, Tavares
Judges’ comments: Craig: “Overwhelmingly awful.” Len: “It’s like haemorrhoids – keep coming back more painful than ever. I’ve learned the mystery of crop circles, you must be practising in a cornfield.” Bruno likened her to “a lame canary flapping around the floor, unable to take flight”.
Judges’ scores: 1, 5, 4, 3 – 13 (Lowest score in samba history, beating Jo Woods’ 14, Christopher Parker’s 15 and Kate Garraway’s and John Sergeant’s 16.)
Ann was pleased with her performance last week, but is suspicious of the samba – or, as Anton calls it, “saarmba” – which she thinks will be a “disaaaster”. Her mild horror at Anton’s attempt to add any mildly flirtatious moves is always hilarious – once this dancing lark’s over, they should start a sitcom. Truly appalling outfits, with Ann in Big Bird yellow and sporting wings on her back, eclipsed by Anton in blinding sweet-wrapper trousers and scarf and gold shoes. OMG. Anton gamely guided Ann through some basics, counting aloud, while Ann lurched from one place to another, gazing at him with a charmingly mystified expression. A step in which Anton held her leg while she hopped looked more like a form of abuse, and their airplane spin was grounded, with Ann desperately trying to preserve her modesty.
Overall: Gloriously awful.
A real battle for supremacy, with four strong couples fighting it out – exactly what we want in the final weeks. Let’s hope they all keep up the standard and the public allows the best to face off.
“Who will be leaving on that last tram home?” No fun bus for you.
The “Strictly” professionals (or, rather, the girls) did their best to make bright blue and lime green sexy while gyrating to Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious” (rub it in Michelle’s face, why don’t you?). Their voluminous skirts came off to reveal feathered minis (can’t even tell you what kind of bird that was – I’m sure it would disown anything that colour). They were upstaged by the judges – Craig’s snaps, Bruno puckering up (he must be wearing Lynx) and Len grinning with sheer delight as the girls cosied up to him. Fun opening, but seems a shame not to have any partner dancing in a show about…well, partner dancing. Yes, a lot of the time it’s really more about the girls strutting their stuff while wearing as little as they can pre-watershed, but let’s at least keep up the pretence.
Meanwhile, Tess sourced a tacky skin-tight mirrorball silver dress, while Claudia dressed down in an oversized white jumper, but fake-tanned up, just for Blackpool!
Patsy: Len: The atmosphere is so electric that you go overboard and make mistakes
Kara: Craig loved that 1,200 people booed Len
Matt: Len: They know I don’t like it [tricks], so they must put it in just to annoy me. Craig: I’d do 17 back flips just to annoy Len
Felicity: Len: She moved like she had both legs down one knicker hole
Gavin: Alesha: If he makes a mistake, he’s got to move on and blag it – queen of blag, me!
Scott: Apparently he messed up but covered it well, although Craig saw it in his face
Pamela: Bruno: She went for it like never before
Ann: Len: She’s a game old girl
Tess announced the first safe couples: Kara and Artem, Scott and Natalie (big whoop from him) and Pamela and James. In the bottom two: Felicity and Vincent (Vincent: “No, no, no!”). What went wrong for Felicity? “It’s the nature of the beast, it’s the way the cookie crumbles,” clichéd Alesha sagely.
Elvis is in the building in the form of Cirque du Soleil’s “Viva Elvis” show. Not quite sure what to make of this. The individual elements were great – sync retro rock ’n’ roll and impressive acrobatic wirework – but they went together about as well as prawns and jelly, as Mr Goodman might say.
Tess announced the other safe couples: Matt and Aliona, Ann and Anton and Gavin and Katya, leaving Patsy and Robin in the bottom two. A real shame, as she’d been gradually gaining confidence over the past few weeks, but the standard was high last night and she did slip down a bit. Plus, she doesn’t have the Action Man physical appeal of Gavin.
The bottom two girls both cheerily talked themselves out of the show and Claudia had to break up a self-deprecation catfight before she could introduce Duffy, performing her new single “Well, Well, Well” while dressed in a sparkly jumper – very “Strictly”. No need for our pros, as she brought her own matching monochrome dancers, performing some kind of jazz-cum-hip-hop. Rather repetitive track, with a “Mercy”-esque catchy hook – enjoyable, but not really in keeping with the Blackpool cheesy pizzazz theme of the night.
And, finally, The Moment of Truth TM. The couple leaving us is…Felicity and Vincent. Ahhh. Right decision, she’s gone as far as she can and only suits some of the dance styles, while Patsy definitely has more to give. Lovely farewell speech from her and a final dirty laugh. “I will love you forever,” intoned a mournful Vincent, who then proceeded to weep openly. Adorable last dance from them with a final graceful lift – a classy exit by a classy lady.
Who will be on top next week? Will Ann set another record for lowest-ever score? And will the elusive showdancers be allowed back into the party? Keep…watching!