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Strictly Speaking

Posted on October 11, 2010

Week 2

Two words: ballroom battle! Week 2 of “Strictly” was all about the top couples trying to retain their positions and the disappointing pairs working to redeem themselves. The leaderboard got a shake-up, with some rising (Patsy) and others plummeting (Gavin). And, of course, we had to wave farewell to one couple.


Saturday

Bruce and Tess (still boycotting the stairs) kicked things off, with Tess trying out a rather odd shiny dustbin-bag dress. And then it was time for one of the stars of our show to take to the floor…


Matt and Aliona – Putting the fox in foxtrot

web_matt_2strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “She Said”, Plan B

Judges’ comments: Matt’s getting on Len’s wick by dancing so well early on, but his heel leads (hey, at least he did some!) were over-emphasised. Bruno loved the passion: “I’m going to get her, I’m going to get her, and you got her at the end and she got you too!” Craig would like a gentler descent from the handstand (not that we’re nitpicking or anything)

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31

Could the shockingly sexy country bumpkin do it again? Matt and Aliona gave us “Strictly”’s first-ever foxtrot from a pumpkin field. (Is there some kind of Cinderella metaphor shaping up here?) On a more prosaic level, Aliona remains unimpressed by the mud. But the designer-stubble-sporting boy wonder once more brought sex appeal to the ballroom, combining impressive technique with moody (at times almost constipated) intensity, culminating with some gymnastic floor action. SCREAMS from the crowd!

Overall: Definitely the one to beat among the boys, giving complete performances in both disciplines right from the start.


Peter and Erin – Foul play

web_peter_2struggles_sparkleSequin-o-meter: 1

Song: “Mambo No 5”, Perez Prado

Judges’ comments: Len thought there was too much standing around, and Alesha doesn’t feel Latin is his strong point. Craig called it stompy and wooden, and said his “knicker-twist” move looked like he’d broken his ankle.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 4 – 17

Ah. Bad luck following Matt. Peter is trying his best to get more showbizzy and throw himself into the salsa. Unfortunately, this resulted in serious dad dancing and scary shouting. And the football on his bum: oh dear. He looked at Erin for reassurance throughout and, although he went for it more than last week, he seemed very uncomfortable.

Overall: Less nervy than his waltz, but more of an eyesore.


Tina and Jared – Not dance royalty yet

web_tina_week_2simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “On the Sunny Side of the Street”, Frankie Laine

Judges’ comments: Alesha treated us to her unique form of grammar – “You was charming throughout” – and would like to see Tina grow more in confidence. Bruno called her a little princess with a neck brace on, as she was struggling with frame. Craig advised lowering her focal point and praised her spins.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26

For this couple, as with several, Bruce didn’t bother with a joke. Has he run out of material? Have his writers given up? Tina was depressed after last week’s performance and was struggling with the foxtrot, so Jared let her out of school early and took her on a field trip to a 1940s club night. This didn’t seem to inspire much of a performance in her, nor did it help her develop movement or an elegant hold, but she was less awkward than last week and showed plenty of natural grace and charm. Stronger routine than last week, but still not wowing us.

Overall: Bags of potential, but yet to realise it.


Patsy and Robin – Bringing the heat

web_patsy_week_2simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Canned Heat”, Jamiroquai

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the “spiced-up and pumped-up Patsy – Jezebel with a killer pout”. Craig agreed (“but not with as much enthusiasm”), calling her “desk moment” unnecessary. Len agreed – “It nearly had me eye out” – but liked that she took command of the floor.

Judges’ scores: 7, seh-ven, seh-ven (a la Len), seh-ven (a la Len, in falsetto) – 28

Patsy juggled training with filming her final scenes on “Holby”, so poor Robin was left waiting in a hospital corridor. This meant they only had three hours to practise, which might explain why the routine was mainly composed of sexy strutting rather than salsa. Still, a vast improvement on her petrified waltz, some nice rhythmic movement and arm work, and much more of a performance, including vamping it up at the judges’ table (to Bruno’s visible delight). Rather overmarked though, given the lack of dance content.

Overall: If she can combine this confidence with strong technique, Patsy could be in with a shot.


Paul and Ola – Easy does it

web_paul_week_2struggles_sparkleSequin-o-meter: 1

Song: “Lady Luck”, Brian Setzer

Judges’ comments: Paul put in earplugs as he waited for the judges’ comments, but needn’t have bothered, as they gave him an easy ride. Bruno noted that some sections were actually not bad, but wondered why he turned into ET at various points, meandering along aimlessly. “Because I can’t remember it!” exclaimed Paul. Len liked the ease of the dance, though it was “a tad pedestrian”, and praised him for improving –  “that’s what the show’s all about” (for those of you playing reality-TV bingo).

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21

Paul renewed his vows to Debbie and was thrilled that he now had the confidence to get her up on the floor (even if he did have to spend his honeymoon with Ola). Once more, we opened with a magic gimmick, this time scattering a pack of cards over the stairs – why? – and once more, Ola was dressed to impress, this time in a mirror-ball-sequined gown. Paul still has oddly camp movement, but his gentle style was better suited to the foxtrot, earning him a kiss from Ola at the end.

Overall: Less excruciating than last week, but not up to the standard of the other celebs.


Scott and Natalie – Kick off your Sunday shoes

web_scott_week_2strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”, Deniece Williams

Judges’ comments: “Go on, my son!” crowed Len, admiring Scott’s great hips, high energy and rhythm. Bruno continued his love affair with “Ssssscotttt”, sighing: “So strong, so tight, so footloose, always eye on the prey because you know you’re going to get it, and after this, you’re going to get plenty!” The thought of getting it from Bruno put off Craig slightly, but he still called it “flame-grilled red-hot”.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, eightttt – 32

Week 2, and out comes the doting family member and emotional story about a relative passing away. Scott brought his grandpa in to help with his raunchy salsa training (disturbing – why not for the waltz?) and dedicated his number to his nan. Scott and Natalie win this week’s costume prize, decked out in his ’n’ hers Kevin Bacon-meets-Ken and Barbie outfits, and started with an energetic section on the top balcony, with Scott then jumping off the lower platform and doing some rather nifty floorwork. Great side-by-side sync steps and a fun vibe.

Overall: Scott’ll be challenging Matt for male celeb domination if he keeps this up.


Michelle and Brendan – The bad boy’s off the bench

web_michelle_week_2simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “It Had To Be You”, Frank Sinatra

Judges’ comments: “You was quite charming,” said Alesha, but also a bit jerky and off-balance. Craig noted her topline is too tense, her shoulders are raised and she’s occasionally pigeon-toed, but praised her for putting a lot of hard work and effort into the routine. Len liked the use of bench, but complained it was a long time before they got off it.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 6 – 26

“She deserved more than that,” seethed bad-boy Brendan. “My visa doesn’t expire for a long time,” said Michelle hopefully. (Why are visas such a theme of reality shows this year? We had Artem’s struggles, and now Gamu being deported after failing to make the “X Factor” finals. Will this be a new twist to “Strictly” – if you’re voted off, you’re voted out of the country?)

Michelle is homesick, but was cheered by ex-bandmate Kelly Rowland popping in for visit (on her way to “The Xtra Factor”). Brendan set hearts a-racing by elegantly sliding down the staircase banister while Michelle waited for him demurely on a bench. Some elegance and clear determination to get through the routine, but still moments where she was awkward and unsteady.

Overall: An improvement from last week – keep working!


Goldie and Kristina – The jazzman grooves


web_goldie simply_so_soSequin-o-meter
: 2

 Song: “This Business of Love”, Domino

 Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the jazzy opening and ending, but called the section in hold “like stepping on banana skins”. Craig qualified this by explaining that Goldie’s weight was occasionally too far back and his frame not quite right, but loved the interpretation of the routine. Len called it more brassy than golden, but liked that he was attempting to get the technique – “Some couples don’t even bother” (ouch).

 Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 6 – 26

 Goldie the joker is gone, apparently. We now have sad, self-doubting Goldie, which troubles Kristina. Less clowning around in rehearsal did however result in a stronger performance. Goldie’s natural swagger started to come back, as did his musicality – and loving the gold top hat! His hold needs a lot of work and so do his transitions, but a definite step up.

Overall: A much better routine from Kristina and some promise from Goldie.


Pamela and James – Playing doctor

web_pamela2strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Dr Beat”, Gloria Estefan

Judges’ comments: “Darling, you went off like a firecracker,” gasped Craig. He loved Pamela’s rhythm, hip action, finishes and spins, and said she claimed the floor once again. Alesha called her the best of the night (apparently, the later couples don’t count) and a force to be reckoned with. Bruno said she was the only person who managed to convey the correct balance of rhythm and fluidity in the salsa (what about Ssssscotttt-T, to whom you also gave an 8? Fickle, Bruno, fickle).

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

James is in trouble. Despite attempting to assert his authority in training, Pamela confided that the control is an illusion – she’s the one in charge. We opened with James lying on the judges’ desk and Pamela bursting open her doctor’s coat to reveal a va-va-voom red dress. PHEW! She stumbled slightly after her floor spin but recovered well and threw herself into the salsa with great natural rhythm and energy as well as solid technique.

Overall: Watch out, boys. She’s coming for you.


Felicity and Vincent – I forget

web_felicity_week_2simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Something Stupid”, Frank/Nancy Sinatra

Judges’ comments: “Everything’s OK, but needs to improve slightly,” observed Len, citing her posture, footwork and movement. Bruno thought it was classy but too stately and advised her to loosen up, while Craig liked the tango elements, such as the Spanish lines and swivels, but wants smoother transitions.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 – 25

Felicity, who has the most fabulous dirty laugh, is having trouble remembering anything that Vincent teaches her, much to the Italian stallion’s dismay. She just about managed to remember her routine on the night, which had a nice lyrical opening and gentle flow, although it lacked movement and energy. She and Vincent are supercute together, but they’re a long way from the mirror ball.

Overall: Pleasant, but, like her brown dress, underwhelming.


Ann and Anton – She’s the 1

web_ann_week_2simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 2

Song: “Mambo Italiano”, Rosemary Clooney

Judges’ comments: Bruno wasn’t sure what was more bewildering – Ann’s footwork or Anton’s chest rug (I vote for the latter). He called it “somewhere between horror and comedy, an out-of-body experience that kind of resembled a dance”. Before Craig could open his mouth, Ann quipped: “Oh, don’t bother. You haven’t got a zero, so you might as well give us 1 and have done with it” She may not be able to dance, but she can crack Craig’s Mr Nasty façade and force a smile. He came back with: “There is not one word in the English language that could describe what ten million people have just witnessed.” Len noted that this may be a dance competition, but it’s also about entertainment, and that’s what Ann brings.

Judges’ scores: 1, 4, 4, 3 – 12 (lowest score for a salsa ever in “Strictly”)

Once more, the most-anticipated dance of the night came from Ann. “You don’t need to dance the Latin as though it’s a seduction ritual,” she huffed. “We’re doing a salsa Queen Victoria could watch without blushing.” Throughout the routine, Ann wagged a disapproving finger at Anton whenever he got too raunchy, even buttoning up his shirt (thank you!) Anton gamely guided her around in a vague imitation of a salsa and hauled her up into a lift as a big finish on the stage (much to the enjoyment of the singers behind).

Overall: Bizarrely wonderful and compelling.


Kara and Artem – Neither shaken nor stirred

web_kara_week_2strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “From Russia with Love”, Matt Munro

Judges’ comments: “Mission accomplished, Mr Bond,” purred Bruno, adding that the couple’s chemistry could power a nuclear station. Craig advised sorting out her topline and relaxing her left index finger, attention to detail that put Len in a cranky mood. But he loved Kara’s heel turn and excellent technique. “We didn’t go down, and that’s good,” said Kara to Tess. Their fellow dancers snorted away in the background.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 9, 8 – 32

Kara’s had quite the week, if you believe the tabloids. After recovering from her cha cha cha fall, she’s also had to contend with ups and downs in her off-the-floor relationship with “the Russian sex god”. However, there was no sign of tension in their suave and sophisticated James Bond-style foxtrot, which combined elegance and sultry intimacy effortlessly. Points also for Kara’s back bling and Artem looking extra handsome in a tux (sigh).

Overall: Still the fiercest couple on the floor.


Gavin and Katya – The abs are hot; the dance is not

web_gav_week_2simply_so_soSequin-o-meter: 1

Song: “Please Don’t Stop the Music”, Rihanna

Judges’ comments: Craig pointed out three fundamental flaws: timing, rhythm and hips. Len wants him to have a bit of decorum – “You don’t see me exposing myself.” He felt Gavin didn’t live up to the promise of last week, and Bruno lamented that someone as good-looking as Gavin shouldn’t be that self-conscious and hesitant. “It’s the second week, we’ll work on it,” promised Katya. Gavin didn’t seem too fazed: “I probably looked good.”

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 5, 5 – 19

Buff Gavin has been working on his guns (yum) and fixing his hair (um), but he struggled with the sexiness of the salsa in training. That awkwardness spilled over into his performance, which looked more like a workout video than a dance. Katya, in desperation, ripped open Gavin’s shirt to reveals his admittedly lovely chest, and he showed off his strength by carrying her over to the judges, but such distractions weren’t enough to hide his lack of rhythm, hip action and performance.

Overall: Major disappointment. He needs to get his Latin up to scratch to survive in the competition.

 


Jimi and Flavia – Fever all through the night

web_jimi_week_2strictly_sensationalSequin-o-meter: 3

Song: “Fever”, Peggy Lee

Judges’ comments: Len disliked the “messing about on the stage”, but loved how in tune with the music the routine was. Alesha thought Jimi acted it well and created a “very, very sexy” foxtrot. Bruno thought (hoped) Jimi was going into a full monty at one point, and loved the performance, which was echoed by Craig, who was impressed by the dramatic intensity and accents.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30

Last week, Jimi was frustrated that he messed up the steps in his cha cha cha, so was determined to improve. However, he initially found the foxtrot (or moonwalk) too hilarious to learn, so Flavia took control by bringing in a disciplinary cane. Clearly, strict training is the way forward, as the resulting performance had a fantastic jazzy musicality, nice flow and sexy energy. Flavia was once again wearing fake flowers, but this time of a more moderate size.

Overall: A new contender emerges. More assured and controlled than last week – great things to come.

 


Leaderboard

Pamela 31/32 – 63

Matt 31/31 – 62

Kara 30/32 – 62

Scott 29/32 – 61

Jimi 26/30 – 56

Tina 24/26 – 50

Patsy 22/28 – 50

Michelle 24/26 – 50

Felicity 23/25 – 48

Gavin 28/19 – 47

Goldie 20/26 – 46

Peter 21/17 – 38

Paul 16/21 – 37

Ann 17/12 – 29

The bottom three are no surprise, but before the show started, I would have expected Tina, Gavin and Michelle to be higher, and Pamela and Matt’s early greatness is a big shock. Can the leaders sustain their dominance next week?


Sunday

Dum-dum. Dum-dum. Dum-dum. Scary music. Spotlights. Solemn faces. It’s results time! And the big question on everyone’s mind is…how will Claudia fare? Will she bring her special brand of quirky “It Takes Two” brilliance to the main show? Well, yes, on the whole, although it felt as if she’d been transplanted from her show to the Sunday one, rather than co-presenting with Tess, particularly as they spent the evening at opposite ends of the studio, like a warring couple. And why does she dress fabulously during the week, then raid her daughter’s wardrobe for the results show? (Claudia tweeted: “Favourite comment of the night – ‘Are you wearing overalls?’” Quite. Apparently the dress is Topshop.)

We began with a lengthy recap of the past two weeks, which was repetitive and tedious for any observant viewer. Couldn’t we have some new footage? The age-old what-the-competition-means-to-me interviews, even?

Finally, we get down to business. In no particular order, the safe couples are… Patsy and Robin (she looked completely flabbergasted), Michelle and Brendan, Pamela and James and Jimi and Flavia. The first couple in the bottom two is…Peter and Erin (not a huge shock). Bruno admired Peter’s effort and made a sterling effort himself to pronounce “differentiate”.

Then it was time for the thus far largely absent Strictly Showdancers, including much-missed pros Ian and Darren, who performed a smartly choreographed but slightly underwhelming quickstep (-cum-salsa) formation demo to Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister”.

And back to Claudia on “It Takes Two” – wait, no, still in the main studio, but taking possession of Tess’ turret (Claudia’s castle) to commiserate with Peter and Erin. After a slightly clunky link, it was over to Tess to announce some more safe couples – Tina and Jared, Scott and Natalie, Gavin and Katya and Matt and Aliona. Tess set Alesha up to justify the decision to lose the dance-off, and Claudia introduced the musical guest in her own special way. And it’s…Robbie Williams! Again! Doing “Rock DJ”! You know, from 2000! Oh well. Strictly managed one week of musical relevance. Robbie was joined by five of our pro girls strutting their stuff. (Hang on, that was a quick costume change! Oh yes. That’s right. It’s obviously pre-recorded.)

Ah, here we go – the obligatory interview montage, this week on how our celebs have caught the ballroom bug. Bless. But one will soon be cured – sad! Tess and the scary spotlights returned to announce the safe return of Felicity and Vincent, Kara and Artem, Paul and Ola and Ann and Anton, with Goldie and Kristina joining Peter and Erin in the bottom two. Again, not a huge shock. Back to the interview montage, this time on why Goldie and Peter don’t want to leave the show.

web_countdown

Now, for the moment of truth! And the couple leaving us is…Goldie and Kristina – boo. I thought he had potential and I was looking forward to seeing which other accessories he would spray-paint gold, whereas Peter is already tiresome to watch and I fear they’ve exhausted the football-related costume opportunities. Unfortunately, the result slightly fulfilled Alesha’s prediction that we’ll regret cutting the dance-off if it means losing a good dancer. What do you think? Is it worth having a dance-off to protect contestants like Goldie? Or did the public make the right call?

Tess attempted some repartee with Claudia, which fell marvellously flat. Not a natural pairing. Perhaps, over the course of their ‘journey’, they’ll develop their “chemistry”. Watch this space…

 The contestants are back next week for a quickstep or rumba. 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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