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Strictly speaking

Posted on November 17, 2014

square-openerIt’s Blackpool Week on Strictly, otherwise known as Multiple Comebacks And Rampant Score Inflation Week! For the uninitiated, the current exchange rate is about 1:1.2, meaning up here Donny would be scoring 12s and spontaneously combusting, BABY.

Fortunately, the judges did at least overmark fairly consistently, resulting in a leaderboard that made sense in order if not in scores. Already looking forward to next week’s inevitable comedown, when a 7 feels like a kick in the face with a sharpened Cuban heel.

The vote restored some semblance of sanity to this screaming sugar-high 10-rush extravaganza, with plank-like Judy finally toddling off to the great workshop in the sky. We’re now left with a genuinely competitive bunch, which should make for a strong second half of the series. You know, until Around The World theme week rocks up and I weep into a cushion while watching pros try to sell Riverdance rumbas and Bollywood tangos. It’ll be about as culturally sensitive – and artistically satisfying – as Eurovision. Can’t WAIT.

Other hits and misses:

  • Many, many VTs of people pretending that Blackpool in November is positively balmy. “Hey, let’s head to the beach and work on our tans! What’s that? Oh, no, my lips are always blue. That’s soooo in right now.” MISS
  • The judges had a crack at “Boogie Wonderland”. Darcey vaguely swayed while radiating bone-deep discomfort. It was joyous. HIT
  • Particularly irritating VTs. Yes, there’s another level of irritating. MISS
  • Apparently American smooth now requires about 5 per cent of dancing in hold. And scores will in no way reflect the standard of said dancing in hold. MISS
  • Zoe, officially inheriting Claudia’s so-bad-they’re-good punning mantle, gets better every week. Tess… was also there. HIT/MISS
  • Simon, no Oscar speeches. We get enough of that nonsense from Mark. MISS
  • Judy’s Spartacus squeak was all kinds of amazing. HIT
  • Nearly all copycatted songs. Guys, you know people are still making music? MISS
  • Ah, human props, how we haven’t missed you. Please, for the love of god, ditch the backing dancers. Yes, Blackpool’s a big floor, but through the MAGIC OF TELEVISION you can just focus on our couples without showing the entire ballroom. At best it’s distracting; at worst, plain weird. MISS
  • Speaking of which, who was smoking what when they came up with that opening number? Small child rivalling the precocious tot in the ghastly White Christmas stage show for horrifying schmaltz, much solemn wafting and knicker-flashing, and Iveta donning the only skirt length that could possibly hide Judy’s footwork. Somewhere between catalogue retailer Christmas ad and Cirque du Soleil wake. MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Pixie’s paso It’s the S&M Hunger Games party we didn’t know we wanted. Camp-tastic.
  • Best costume: Pasha the guardsman and Ginger Spice One of these worked better than the other.
  • Best move: Janette’s insane caber-toss split lift She must have one hell of a health insurance policy.
  • Best line: Bruno’s “Sometimes concept takes away from substance.” On this show? NEVER! Runner-up is Sunetra’s “We got an 8 for that?!” Welcome to Blackpool.

Saturday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

For the accountant who loves to PAR-TAY, navy drape and eye-watering bubblegum.


Frankie and Kevin – Rock steady

frankie-7531294-low res-strictly sensationalFrankie was struggling with how quick (sigh) quickstep is, so Kevin dragged her to an arcade dance mat. “This is your big idea? Really?” she huffed. That’s my reaction to every single VT. He then gave Frankie (donning bumblebee picnic rug) a rocky routine that broke hold every three seconds for group finger snaps with the beleaguered backing dancers, and, in an extra bit of copycatting, nabbed Tom’s jump off the stage. Frankie covered the floor well, if sometimes skipping or jogging more than dancing, and coped impressively with another packed number, though still needs to be more grounded and topline slipped. Not-at-all-scripted Comeback No 1.

Song: “Town Called Malice”, The Jam (COPYCAT KLAXON: Tom Chambers and Camilla)

Judges’ comments: Len dragged out the Blackpool clichés early with “kiss me quickstep” and “bright as the illuminations”. Bruno loved the rock n’ roll feeling. Craig thought they used the floor brilliantly, but her feet don’t always close and lost the frame. Darcey liked the combination of rocking quickstep and controlled topline.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 10, 10 – 37


Jake and Janette – Smooth criminal

jake-7531149-low res-simply so soJake had never been to Blackpool, so Janette led him into the Tower Ballroom slowly to best appreciate his giddy excitement. Of course, Excited Jake is barely indistinguishable from Normal Jake, which is why we love him. This was a fabulously theatrical smooth, with Janette (killer red dress) answering the age-old question: what would it look like if Fred ‘n’ Ginger got in a bar fight? Canny use of ghost dancers to create conflict and build the number, monster split lift that nearly landed Janette on the chandelier, and great sustained performances, but only a teeny glimmer of poorly danced foxtrot – stiff, stilted and too upright. Comeback No 2.

Song: “Feeling Good”, Nina Simone (COPYCAT KLAXON: Joe Calzaghe and Kristina)

Judges’ comments: Bruno found it “bad-ass and sassy” and loved the storytelling. Craig called it “Herculean”, noted the first lift nearly went wrong but Jake saved it, and praised his use of stillness. Darcey loved the tap shuffle section and combination of character and technique. Len: “You put the ‘ooh’ in moody. You’re back.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36


Sunetra and Brendan – Party piece

sunetra-7533113-low res-struggles sparkleAnother idiotic VT, but at least Sunetra got a free meal out of it while Brendan, err, “professionally” eyed up the scantily clad samba dancers. Sunetra’s Latin always looks like a crazy drunken hen party, so her partner wisely themed an entire dance around that concept: pink feather boas, gyrating on the bar, lifting your swaying friend upright just before she vomits on your shoes. Flat-footed, loose, giant steps, bent legs and reeling out of turns, but wildly enthusiastic and almost winning in its utter insanity. The second coming of Mamma Mia!

Song: “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”, Scissor Sisters (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ray Fearon and Camilla)

Judges’ comments: Craig felt she was struggling and pointed out a disaaaaahster. Darcey noted improvement and great energy, though untidy footwork. Len thought her legs could be straighter, but liked the vibrancy. Bruno: “Thank you for bringing the Playboy Club to Blackpool.” It was “flirtful” (no), but she needs to “polish the outer edges”.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 8 – 30


Simon and Kristina – Sting in the tale

simon-7533165-low res-simply so soNo comedy intro here, for we are at DEFCON 1: Argentine tango mega-stress. (As opposed to all those other weeks of Simon and Kristina’s ego-free hijinks.) The couple was also spared intrusive theming and human props, which resulted in nice intensity, if not actual emotion or passion. Kristina, as always, embodied an entire melodrama all by herself, while Simon wondered how pretty he looked in his velvet smoking jacket. However, vast improvement in physicality, much stronger and slicker, nice accents, good lifts and some lead, though still plenty of masterful Kristina back-leading – they lack consistent connection. Comeback No 3.

Song: “El Tango de Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge (COPYCAT KLAXON: Julian Clary and Erin)

Judges’ comments: Darcey said he was in charge and praised the leg action and lifts. Len (unfortunately): “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” and the much-reported muttered expletive. Bruno thought it was two predators trying to outdo each other (let’s be honest – Kristina’s thighs could snap him like a twig) and spectacular climax. Craig found it stiff, hands like ice cream scoops and ganchos needed to be looser, but loved it.

Judges’ scores: 8, 10, 10, 10 – 38


Judy and Anton – Straighten up and fly right

judystruggles sparkleAnother week, another distraction technique. In fact, the “kiteography” wasn’t entirely necessary, with Judy – shock horror! – actually attempting some Viennese steps and managing to move around the floor in almost pleasant fashion. Anton (late for punting, if the striped blazer and straw boater were any indication) still doing most of the work, but at least she wasn’t actively impeding him – more willing puppet than nailed-down doorstop. Still marked lack of technique, dodgy lifts and annoying faff with ice cream stand and Judy taking off with a bunch of balloons at the end like the house in Up!, otherwise vaguely respectable effort.

Song: “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins

Judges’ comments: Len compared it with candy floss – light and fluffy, but sticky in places. Her best dance. Bruno thought it was “more Mary slopping than Mary Poppins” (C-, Bruno), but there is hope. Craig noted the beginning went horribly wrong, posture appalling, heavy as lead getting in and out of lifts, but a good 15 seconds in there. Darcey liked seeing her become a softer lady, though still needs to work on topline.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 7, 7 – 24


Mark and Karen – Smoke and mirrors

mark-7533331-low res-struggles sparkleMark’s little cousin Sergio sauntered in to do some magic tricks. He officially has at least two more life skills than Mark. Family props points: 5. Once the magician messin’ abaht stuff was out the way, their Charleston started well, with high energy and strong execution, but lost focus pretty swiftly. Mark came in and out of sync, messy transitions and his only characterisation was the dopey grin of a patient surrendering to ether. Good swivels, still confident, but distinctly unmemorable. Certainly not high-voltage enough for Blackpool and its accompanying hysteria.

Song: “We No Speak Americano”, Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP (COPYCAT KLAXON: Holly Valance and Artem)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it was comical and energetic and liked the touch of Fosse. Craig praised the swivel and athleticism. Darcey liked the kicks and flicks and called him a “cheeky chappie showman”. Len: “Everything these have said, with knobs on.”

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36


Pixie and Trent – Circus Maximus

pixie-7533681-low res-strictly sensationalAs a reward for Pixie’s hard work, her partner took her to sample the delights of Blackpool: Ferris wheel, fish and chips, skipping around on the beach with Trent dressed in a donkey onesie. It’s possible we need to be on the same thing as Trent to truly GET this VT. Speaking of which, their gladiator fetish paso was gloriously psychedelic: Pixie in pleather shower curtain glaring through raccoon make-up, Trent rippling his breastplate like a snail doing yoga and leather tunic-clad extras hurling themselves into the orgy of high kicks. Fierce, dynamic, mesmerising drama, though lacked shaping out of hold and slightly messy footwork.

Song: “The Eve of War”, Jeff Wayne

Judges’ comments: Craig called her “an indomitable force”, admiring her focus and skill. Darcey loved the attack, but wants more refinement in the upper body. Len trotted out the old “if you were a stick of rock, you’d have talent written right through you”, and praised Trent’s choreography. Bruno: “Pixie the dominatrix triumphant over the gods of the arena, fighting to the last drop of blood!” He then asked to borrow one of her hunks. (Get in line.)

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38


Steve and Ola – Deep sleep

steve-7533759-low res-struggles sparkle“Oh, no, it’s not like that. I’m training my binoculars on lithe, semi-nude dancers as a wildlife documentary gag. Honest!” Pinstriped Steve (bank manager at Christmas party) fought his way through a vast fog of dry ice and ginormous silks hanging like damp socks on a radiator to produce a terribly limp smooth. As with Jake, the actual foxtrot very blocky, plodding and lacked shaping in frame. Out of hold, the usual strongman lifts and some rough transitions. The oversized hankies were a crafty way of creating a smaller floor, but still didn’t travel nearly enough. Most egregious, no style or feeling. Soporific.

Song: “Rolling in the Deep”, Adele

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it was controlled and clean, but suggests he mark moves to produce light and shade. Len (I apologise in advance) compared him with a small man at a urinal: he needs to get up on his toes and lift more. Bruno noted he worked hard on frame and “didn’t nearly kill her”, so that’s an improvement. Craig agreed, but he needs to get his thumbs under and it lacked flair.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31


Caroline and Pasha – Flying the flag

caroline-7533720-low res-strictly sensationalFortune-teller Pasha is my new favourite Pasha. This jive was worryingly close to UKIP: The Musical! with its Best of Britain (monarchy, Spice Girls, tourism) theming, but a fun, energetic routine with a nice mix of basics and more intricate figures. Confident performance from Caroline, with strong, sharp kicks and flicks and energy sustained throughout, but a tad messy on occasion – turns still a problem, a few balance issues and retraction could be swifter. Overall, by far the best we’ve seen from them. Comeback No 4.

Song: “Crocodile Rock”, Elton John (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lisa Snowdon and Brendan)

Judges’ comments: Len: “If you’re in the dance-off this week, I’m going to run to the end of the pier and dive off naked. Class, fast, build to last.” Bruno loved the “Rule, Britannia!” concept and it was done so well. Craig said she executed the routine with military precision – “absolute triumph”. Darcey thought she got the right balance of exact leg action and carefree delivery.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 10 – 37


Leaderboard

Simon and Kristina – 38

Pixie and Trent – 38

Frankie and Kevin – 37

Caroline and Pasha – 37

Jake and Janette – 36

Mark and Karen – 36

Steve and Ola – 31

Sunetra and Brendan – 30

Judy and Anton – 18

Simon rises to the top, Jake jumps up and Sunetra falls, otherwise not much change.


Sunday

Who knew MJ was so big in the 1920s? Our pros (and about 50 other pros – they’re breeding like rabbits) boogied to a Jackson 5 medley while dressed as Downton extras. It was as wedding disco as that sounds.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Two-for-one on navy drab. This one was attacked by the evil long-clawed boob monster.

McBusted. Right. Apparently this is some members of McFly and some of Busted. None of them should be let loose on instruments or microphones. McMute.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Slow-mo of Craig pirouetting. Possibly into a wind tunnel
  • Craig admitting he has a weak left swivel. HE’S HUMAN AFTER ALL!
  • Judy managing three pivots in a row. It’s a modern miraclegoodbye 7534840-low res-

Dame Shirley Bassey (wearing GOLD) stormed “Goldfinger” while Tristan and Aliona (GOLD) and Brendan and Iveta (GOLD) oozed their way through a sultry rumba and Pasha juggled Janette (GOLD) like a bunch of bananas.

In the dance-off: Sunetra and Brendan, and Judy and Anton. Unsurprisingly, the judges all saved Sunetra. Nice classy exit speech from Judy, forbearing to mention that Famous Son never once came to see her dance. The Beeb must be FUMING.

What did you make of Blackpool? Did you agree with the scores? And who did you want to go? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week, when we’re back in the (relative) sanity of the studio. In the meantime… keep dancing!

Simon Oliver has been production editor of Dancing Times since 2010 and is highly experienced in design across print and online magazine production. Throughout his career, Simon has worked on a diverse range of subjects including music, family history, book collecting and poker.

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