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Strictly speaking

Posted on December 11, 2012


nicky-farewellThis week’s Strictly caused almighty (con)fusion. Did the gimmick bring something new to the show? Yes. Did it work? Um…not exactly.

Here’s why:

  • Mission impossible Fusion just about fit Dancing with the Stars because it was introduced in their all-stars season – i.e. the celebs had done all the dances already and could cope with the challenge of blending them. With our less experienced celebs, it meant watered-down technique and errors galore for the most part, plus we’ve missed out on seeing whole dances
  • It’s not fair! Some had two repeat styles (Kimberley, Lisa), some one repeat (Denise, Louis, Dani), and Nicky two new ones, ish – he’d had a go at the foxtrot part of his smooth at least. Some had sensible fusions (Denise, Dani), some ker-azy (Nicky again. D’you know, it’s almost as if the producers decided Nicky should go this week!)
  • What is a fusion? Two distinct mini-dances stuck together or the creation of a Frankenstein Latin/ballroom/angry/happy/frowning/pouting hybrid? The pros were split on this and so were the judges. Lisa and Robin’s two-dance approach was too predictable for Len, but no complaints when Louis did the same thing. Denise was criticised for technical issues in her quickstep and Nicky’s non-technique was savaged, but Dani and Kimberley both grabbed 10s despite less-than-perfect technique
  • Scoring madness Let’s say each of the two dances is worth roughly half the marks. Denise’s quickstep technique was lacking (at least 1 off) and she went wrong (at least 1 off), plus she over-span. How does that equal 9? If she’d done the dances separately, would they really have been perfect 10 and 9? Dani got 10s despite still not doing heel leads – if she’d just done a quickstep with that technique, would she really be scored as perfect, or does fusion mean the technique of each dance can be less good as long as they’re good together? IS THERE ANY SENSE IN THIS MAD, MAD, MAD FUSION WORLD?


The fusion concept was “clearly” “explained” by a mad scientist “comedy” VT. Oh, you know how I feel about those. If you wanted further clarification, you could always try Nancy and Anton on the red button! No, really!!!

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

A halter-neck ridged cushion cover conjoined with a dirty-pink pleated skirt – fusion of granny fashion and wall mouldings.


Denise and James – Speeding fine

denise-jamessimply_so_soAnother VT about James going wrong. We’re laughing with you, James! (We’re not.) The theme of their dance was “Vincent visits a seedy singles bar…at Christmas!” – breakneck-speed quickstep and jive against a backdrop of leather sofas and cocktails, with Denise in festive red and gold cobwebs and James dipped in mustard. Denise did a nice job on the jive sections, though they were suspiciously similar to her previous routine, but the quickstep was far less convincing and a mistake (and/or wardrobe malfunction) messed up the second half. I would also love it if their performances featured approximately 98% less Denise-does-awesome-spins-points-please!

Song: “Reet Petite”, Jackie Wilson (COPYCAT KLAXON: John Barnes and Nicole)

Judges’ comments: Len: “The quickstep had go and the jive had show”, but her quickstep technique was lacking and there was a slip-up. Bruno thought it was superb apart from the mistake, praising her precision in the jive. Craig called the jive incredible, but the quickstep needed to be smoother and they finished after the music.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35

Overall: Impressive effort, but messy.

Lisa and Robin – Same difference

lisa-robinstruggles_sparkleApparently tango + cha cha = camp (see also: Kimberley and Pasha). This was great fun as a performance, but a technical shambles – pretty much the opposite of the VT mission statement. Lisa’s ballroom hold was marginally better but inconsistent, there were a surprising number of errors, particularly in her signature side-by-side disco sections, and I wasn’t a fan of the two mini-dances with cheesy skirt rip transition. This is basically the same performance we’ve seen week on week – is that enough for a finalist?

Song: “Voulez-Vous”, ABBA

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought she sparkled “like a glitterball under a search light” and her topline has improved, but the cha cha was stronger. Craig said her topline failed her and she anticipated the steps, but “the dance took off when your clothes came off”. Darcey liked the attack in her tango, but thought her cha cha was too loose. Len applauded the enthusiasm, but pointed out errors and found it too predictable.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 8 – 30

Overall: Fun. Just fun.

Nicky and Karen – Double trouble

nicky-karenstruggles_sparkleThis week, the producers essentially packed Nicky’s bags, ordered him a cab and called his children to tell them Daddy’s coming home. He had monumentally ill-fitting fusion dances, one of which was the samba (the samba!) and a dreary Olly Murs track. Now, Karen didn’t exactly help matters by adding an inexplicable Brighton backdrop, executive call girl styling and awkward lap dancing to this unholy mess, but one could sympathise with her obvious desperation. On the upside, the performance was certainly unique, and I played a gripping game of “What the hell dance is Nicky doing now?!” throughout. (Tango, 1980s jazz and speed skating definitely featured.)

Song: “Troublemaker”, Olly Murs feat. Flo Rida

Judges’ comments: Craig said there was no bounce in the samba and his posture in the smooth was truly dreadful – “I suspect we’re going to be seeing that dance again.” Darcey liked the choreography and lifts, but not his overextended arms and flexed legs. Bruno noted the two dances really don’t fit and it was a heroic effort – “I command [sic] you for it.”

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 8, 7 – 27

Overall: Well. That happened.

Dani and Vincent – If you’re happy and you know it…

dani-vincentstrictly_sensationalAt the other end of the spectrum, Dani and Vincent lucked out with a fusion that was pretty much one style, given how much Charleston finds its way into Strictly quicksteps anyhow. I would have liked more quickstep and more differentiation between the two, but this was a totally adorable performance – precise, sweetly character-driven and delivered with wit and ease. The only major issue was the complete lack of drive. What gives you drive? Say it with me: HEEL LEADS.

Song: “Happy Feet”, Cab Calloway

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it was extraordinary – she upped her technical level and the transitions were seamless. Len, because he has eyes, wanted some heel leads, but “yum yum, pig’s bum, that was fun!” (Nope, me neither.) Bruno said it was “like watching a flapper’s greatest hits”, and Craig praised the brilliant choreography.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 9, 10 – 38

Overall: Wonderfully enjoyable.

Louis and Flavia – Arms and the man

louis-flaviasimply_so_soI shall ignore the heinous VT about Louis being completely oblivious to the effect he has on women because he’s SO MODEST. He didn’t even realise it when he made the VT! THAT’S HOW AWESOME HE IS! Ahem. Louis drew rumba, curse of male celebs, and his freakishly long arms (ah, Claud) did get a tad wild – this was part rumba, part urgent interpretative dance – but he hit some nice lyrical lines and his repeated tango was slick. However, the two were basically separate and there was only a faint semblance of emotion in the rumba, none in the tango; in place of feelings, we had Louis’s gun show and Flavia wearing the skin of a Muppet.

Song: “With or Without You”, U2

Judges’ comments: Len said he had two dances at either end of the spectrum and he pulled it off. Bruno loved “the build-up from soft and sensuous to passionate and hot – oh yes, you’re masterful!” Craig praised the “effortless dexterity”, but bemoaned his rogue thumb in the tango. Darcey, currently in the love part of her love-hate relationship with Louis, panted over his “beautiful” arms.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 10 – 37

Overall: Two clean, unconnected dances. Make of that what you will.

Kimberley and Pasha – It’s raining 10s

kimberley-pashastrictly_sensationalWhat trumps ABBA in the cha cha/tango campery stakes? The Weather Girls, of course! Kimberley set the tone for this routine by shimmying and “angry pouting” amidst a sea of white umbrellas, unfazed by her monstrous mullet dress (tinsel fringe in front, half a ballroom skirt at the back). She was strong and confident in both styles, including the solo sections, though she didn’t straighten her legs in the cha cha and thus her hip action was lacking. Loved Pasha’s interesting, musical choreography, but I have a rules quibble: didn’t they do two lifts, when only one is allowed in the fusion bylaws?

Song: “It’s Raining Men”, The Weather Girls (COPYCAT KLAXON: Austin Healey and Erin)

Judges’ comments: Bruno loved the combination of cha cha sexy kitten and tango mischievous mistress. “You’ve started a nuclear fusion! The dance of the season so far!” Craig: “Now that is dancing.” Darcey thought it suited her perfectly and she made it her own. Len joined the audience in a standing O.

Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40

Overall: Fabulous? Yes. Perfect? No. DISCUSS.


Kimberley and Pasha – 40

Dani and Vincent – 38

Louis and Flavia – 37

Denise and James – 35

Lisa and Robin – 30

Nicky and Karen – 27

Kimberley grabs the top spot, Denise slides down and Lisa and Nicky remain at the bottom.


ola-keyOla in pigtails? Has the Dad section of the Strictly viewership been writing in? I presume this was a loose Alice reference, with James as the Mad Hatter/Ronald McDonald on a bad trip, but it could just have been an average day in the Jordan household. Who knows? (I’m not sure what the producers are on, but I feel we should all join them if we are to carry on watching this show.)


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Skin-tight red-lace control wear with shoulder growths. Ack. Claudia went for the world’s teeniest LBD, for that clothed/naked fusion.

Safe couples: Kimberley and Pasha, and Dani and Vincent. In the dance-off: Nicky and Karen.

Michael Bublé thinks it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Not sure that’s true of the Strictly studio, which splashed out on four bare trees and a snow screensaver, but Anton and Erin perfectly matched the Classic FM vibe with a tasteful, old-fashioned foxtrot. At no point did it fuse with anything.

Claudia, the judges and Len’s lens highlights

  • Darcey’s shock when Craig got his 10 out
  • Slo mo of Kimberley’s hip action-less Cuban breaks
  • Darcey gushing over Louis’s beautiful arms. “They’re very long. But very TENDER.” Ahem
  • Denise’s wardrobe malfunction (Coincidentally, very similar to Jill’s in the jive, which did not faze her for a second. Just saying)

Also safe: Lisa and Robin, and Louis and Flavia. In the dance-off: Denise and James. Not that unexpected, but she looked utterly devastated.

James “class act” Jordan then upped their likeability factor majorly by explaining they work harder than everyone else and it’s really unfair because the others are cheating too and she only went to stage school for an hour and SHE HAS A CHILD, GODDAMIT! Just sit back and wait for those votes to come flooding in, James.

There was a dance-off. It was, like, seriously tense. I made tea.

Craig saved Denise, without bothering to give any reasons.

Darcey praised two strong performances and saved Denise.

Bruno said both improved, but saved “outstanding” Denise.

Len agreed.

Ah, farewell Nicky. I rise from my stool during the key change and salute your efforts. The big question is, will Karen join the ranks of the forgotten pros (hey there, Hayley!) or return to redeem herself with more-appropriate choreography?

Next week, we’re up to two actual dances and we decide which three celebs make it to the final! Oh. No, we don’t. Four go through. Those the public want and/or certain Olympians and Girls Aloud who were cast with great care all those weeks ago to stick it to ITV. You know, whatevs. It’s all down to our votes!

What do you think? Did you enjoy fusion? Was it a fair show? And who’s heading home one week before the final? See you soon for double dances. 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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