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Strictly speaking

Posted on October 15, 2012


Week 2

2fullcastWeek 2 of Strictly saw a leaderboard shake-up, pick‘n’mix dances (because it’s always easy to compare a foxtrot and a salsa with Viennese and a jive, ya? OK?), and the reappearance of something more hated than Jaws, Piers Morgan and George Osborne combined: the dreaded dance-off.


If you survived the two-hour dance marathon, congratulations! Collect your endurance medal at reception. Bonus points if you had “farm equipment”, “Queen Vic”, “lamppost” and “winter pansies” in your Strictly bingo. 


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Ever wondered what Morticia Addams wore on her wedding night? WONDER NO MORE!

Nicky and Karen – Two strikes

2nickystruggles_sparkle“I won’t make that mistake again!” chirruped “Liftgate” Karen, before further antagonising the judges with a club-style cha cha significantly lacking in cha. Also lacking: her ability to play to Nicky’s (admittedly well-hidden) strengths. For future reference, an MTV interpretation of Cameron’s “hug a hoodie” campaign is not among them.

Song: “Dynamite”, Taio Cruz

Judges’ comments: Len, a cup of tea in a world of lattes, a carrier pigeon in a world of Twitter, disliked the boy band dancing, though Bruno enjoyed the “Take That circa 1995” vibe. However, Nicky lost timing and didn’t straighten his legs. Craig compared it with a “Zumba exercise class” and thought Nicky’s hip rotation disappeared as soon as he started to move. (Note to Karen: choreograph more standing around. Anton can help.) Darcey liked the confidence and “funky isolations”, but wanted more cha. And indeed cha.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 4, 5 – 18

Overall: An inauspicious start.

Colin and Kristina – A tall order

2colinsimply_so_soThe height difference in this partnership is truly baffling. Perhaps the producers feared Cool Colin would be TOO amazing and needed a handicap? (You just know Ian’s waiting hopefully in the Green Room, in full drag.) He had decent movement in his Viennese and created elegant lines out of hold, but as an epic romance, it felt disappointingly casual, as did his half-dressed-for-a-wedding attire. Obviously he’s never had to woo someone before – “My good friend Pierce Brosnan…” seals the deal.

Song: “Kiss from a Rose”, Seal

Judges’ comments: Carry On Bruno noted he has “plenty of LENGTH to work with”, but needed more drive. Craig liked his lines, but was vexed (vexed!) by the “double hand flicking”. Darcey praised his frame, though warned him not to stoop. Len loved his ability to get into character and actually thought he danced to his height, though he can travel more – “Kristina will keep up!”

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6,6 – 24

Overall: Charming, if low-key.

Dani and Vincent – Sticking the landing

2danisimply_so_soDani spent training “trying to find the dance way to jump on a man”. Aren’t we all. Her ghastly frilly salsa dress had a mauled midsection, but she looked far more comfortable in Latin, hitting some great tricks and keeping pace with another Vincent routine on fast-forward. Unfortunately there was a lack of hip action and chemistry, and one ungainly lift ended with her on the ground – I hoped she might give us her worm, but it was not to be.

Song: “Mama Do The Hump”, Rizzle Kicks

Judges’ comments: Craig liked her energy, finishes and brave tricks, though was dubious about the lift dismount. Darcey praised her upper-body isolations, but wanted more hip action. Len was thrilled “the little munchkin” danced “full-on and flat out”. Bruno thought she did well with the arm passes, but needs saucier hips.

Judges’ scores: 7, 6, 7, 7 – 27

Overall: Promising start.



Fern and Artem – Cougar Town

2fernsimply_so_soI adore deadpan, super-serious Coach Artem. Wouldn’t it be great if he did incongruous books on tape? Enid Blyton, maybe, or Katie Price’s autobiography. He and smiley Fern (wearing a tomato-red embroidery project) put in another graceful, oddly charming performance. Their Viennese was solid in hold with decent movement, more precarious out of hold, but quietly elegant throughout. If her confidence grows, they could be a force in ballroom.

Song: “She’s Always A Woman”, Billy Joel

Judges’ comments: Darcey was delighted to see them travelling, but wants Fern to follow through when hitting lines. Len noted more controversial wafting and asked for stronger posture, but it was an improvement. Bruno compared her movement to “casual dusting”, but she “comes alive in the arms of her strapping young man”. Funny that. Craig loved the flow round the floor, but suggested pulling up through her back and tucking her thumb under.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 6, 6 – 24

Overall: Pleasant viewing.

Richard and Erin – Pitch the tents

2richardsimply_so_soAfter receiving the shocking news that he bordered on butch, Richard and Erin were on a Camp Mission. Unfortunately, their grim determination resulted in the dance equivalent of screaming “IS THIS CAMP ENOUGH FOR YOU?!” while hammering on the judges’ desk with Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Perhaps Queen Russell set too high a standard (short of coming out with a bowl of fruit on his head, waving Julian Clary’s maracas, Richard really couldn’t top him), but such contestants charm us when that camp energy is natural and fun. This cha cha and Richard’s radioactive floral shirt and There’s Something About Mary hair were downright scary.

Song: “Love Shack”, The B-52’s

Judges’ comments: Bruno called it “blissfully barmy – somewhere between a cockatoo, a live wire and a Vegas showgirl with a trout pout. But in a sick way, I enjoyed it.” Craig wasn’t convinced he wanted to take Erin to a love shack and thought his cha cha walks belonged in a drag show. Darcey said this was the Richard she wanted to see (?!), but wanted more tension in his arms so he could lead Erin. Ha. Len: “Loud and proud, and that’s just your shirt. Your arm hung down like a bit of cotton from a knicker leg. You’re a better dancer than that.”

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 5, 5 – 19

Overall: Unforgettable, darling.

Victoria and Brendan – Spin cycle

2victoriasimply_so_soIronically for someone who spent her career pedalling in circles, Victoria is allergic to turns. I fear this may limit Brendan’s choreographic choices somewhat. However, as long as he kept her firmly in hold, her foxtrot was passable – decent flow, promising frame and noticeably less naked fear (though we’re a long way from actual performance). Unfortunately, the wardrobe department punished her with a purple froth explosion and giant flowers glued on at random, somewhere between Strictly Ballroom and a kindergarten craft project.

Song: “Moondance”, Van Morrison

Judges’ comments: Len: “Clean, classy and confident.” Unstable transitions, but fantastic improvement – “Queen Vic is back”. Bruno wants her to learn to spot, but it was decent in hold. Craig: “You remembered it; that’s a good start.” Darcey was pleased her nerves were gone, but wants her to watch the splayed fingers.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26

Overall: Huge improvement.

Michael and Natalie – Barmy farming

2michaelstruggles_sparkleHave you ever wondered what The Archers: Murder at The Old Barn: The Musical! would look like? WONDER NO MORE! Clearly there was a point in jive training when Natalie realised just how much she would have to conceal and starting adding props and concepts for every one of Michael’s mistakes. What kind of farm features Daisy Duke on speed, bedazzled Brokeback, wheelbarrow rides AND AN AXE? A nightmare farm. That’s what.

Song: “This Ole House”, Shakin’ Stevens

Judges’ comments: Bruno, always one to sugar coat bad news, howled that he’d never seen such bad footwork and timing: “It’s so bad it’s good! You couldn’t do it worse!” Craig added it was one of the oddest jives he’s ever witnessed. “Your hips seem to have a mind of their own. It looked like you were busting for a wee.” Len (catching sight of axe-wielding Natalie) liked the, err, gusto and enthusiasm.

Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 4, 4 – 15

Overall: Ye gods. Makes Tuffers look like Ramps.

Louis and Flavia – Down with love

2louisstrictly_sensationalFlavia also had a trying week – her attempts to wring smiley romance out of Louis failed miserably. So, she (over)compensated in the production: heart-shaped trees, cutesy cream puff dress and the most saccharine song ever recorded. Louis managed a technically solid Viennese with great movement, decent frame and nice accents, but gave the impression that wooing Flavia was some form of torture. Like Colin, perhaps this is new to him. One imagines “Olympic gymnast” pretty much does the trick.

Song: “Puppy Love”, Donny Osmond

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised his posture and grace, but wanted more emotional connection. Len loved the fleckerls, saw “more turns than the Government” and called it the best dance of the first two weeks. (Until the next dance, that is.) Bruno thought it was “a Valentine’s postcard brought to life”.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30

Overall: Beautiful, if cold.

Denise and James – Ain’t that a kick in the head

2denisestrictly_sensationalDenise has a pain in the neck. HE’S CALLED JAMES. (I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitresses.) No, seriously, in a rather Fifty Shades turn of events, she managed to get whiplash, but it was all worth it for this not-at-all-professional-looking jive! Her facial spasms were a tad wild and her basics could be punchier and more grounded, but overall this was in a different league to the other celebs. You know, despite her lack of training.

Song: “Tutti Frutti”, Little Richard

Judges’ comments: Darcey loved the style and kicks, but thought she used her shoulders too much. Len: “Tutti Frutti, what a booty!” It was his cup of tea (in a world of lattes). Bruno hailed “Denise the goer” and asked if the doctor fitted her with a twin turbo. Craig, with full panto drawl: “And now for the truth, darling… Fab-u-lous!”

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32

Overall: Impressive for Week 2.

Johnny and Iveta – Silver fox

2johnnystruggles_sparkleShe’s new to the show, but she caught on quickly. Iveta used the patented female pro distraction technique by literally personifying “Look over here, something shiny!” in her lilac glitter meringue. Johnny, wearing the puzzled expression of someone trying to remember what he came in here for, bumbled along amiably while she backseat-drove him through a perfectly nice Sergeant-esque foxtrot.

Song: “Everything”, Michael Bublé

Judges’ comments: Len: “What you do, you do with enthusiasm.” Though his posture and footwork could be better. Bruno thought he hit some nice lines but stiffened up in hold. Craig noted his splayed hands and gapping. Darcey wanted him to work on his topline, because “Iveta needs your support”. Um…

Judges’ scores: 5, 5, 5, 5 – 20

Overall: Well. There we are.

Sid and Ola – Anger management

2sidsimply_so_soOla, with impeccable logic, demanded acrobatics from Sid because Louis does them. Fine, but can he shout abuse across a crowded pub?! Their salsa was notable for Sid’s erratic timing, angry energy and limp handstand, and for Ola’s costume consisting entirely of an unsupportive spangly bra and fringe miniskirt. The latter may have cancelled out the former in the eyes of male viewers.

Song: “Hips Don’t Lie”, Shakira

Judges’ comments: Bruno was perplexed by the “Sid Vicious attitude”, though it disguised “an incredible amount of mistakes”. Craig the Thesaurus called it “haphazard, bitty, fragmented and lacking connectivity”, but loved the packed routine. Darcey thought the energy died, but he partnered Ola well in the lifts. Len, straining, declared salsa the dance of Kingston, Jamaica so he could describe Sid’s as coming from Kingston-upon-Thames. Hmm.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 5, 5 – 22

Overall: Odd, but good attempt.

Kimberley and Pasha – Back to black

2kimberleysimply_so_soThe wobbly lamppost returns! We haven’t seen you since Jason’s Singin’ in the Rain, Holly’s Viennese obstacle course and Chelsee’s obligatory moodily lit tango. Ah, good times. Nimble Kimble, gradually consumed by a whirlpool of black tulle, hit some nice lyrical lines in her foxtrot but was skippy and stumbled in places. She was also manifestly more nervous, though her anxiety fit the melancholy number. Cunning, Pasha.

Song: “Someone Like You”, Adele

Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was gorgeous, though noted her protruding jaw. Darcey loved the mood and lines, but warned against gapping. Len thought it was limp and lacked conviction – good enough, but he expects more. Bruno adored style, but wants better body contact.

Judges’ scores: 7, 6, 6, 7 – 26

Overall: Decent start to her ballroom.

Jerry and Anton – Stuck on you

2jerrystruggles_sparkleI can’t help loving Jerry’s stylish sloth. “I don’t want to be too good in the beginning, because I want to give the others a chance,” she quipped, as Anton practically begged her to do more. She made a patchy dress hemmed with a family of swans look almost chic (frankly, that alone is worth votes), and her collapsed frame and Nancy-esque stumbling could not detract from her effortless glamour. If she actually bothered to learn some steps, she’d be the next Ginger.

Song: “Pennies From Heaven”, Bing Crosby

Judges’ comments: Darcey sighed that she lost her posture. Len liked the content, but she needs to stretch away in hold. “We don’t like to give you everything in one go,” bleated Anton. Bruno said she was stuck on him like Velcro and she’s happy to let the man do the work. Craig thought she looked like Mr Burns, with the posture of a praying mantis. It should be noted that neither he nor Bruno can do an American accent. At all.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 5 – 18

Overall: Err…less is more?

Lisa and Robin – Fairytale romance

2lisasimply_so_soLast week’s golden couple felt the pressure to stay on top, and had a good go with this charming Viennese. They have by far the best chemistry and storytelling ability (seriously, Bruce, the clock chiming midnight didn’t clue you in to Cinderella?), though, with their song choice, I was expecting a nod to the baffling John Lewis Time Traveller’s Wife ad. Lisa’s frame was too square and she skipped to keep up, but still captivating.

Song: “Never Tear Us Apart”, Paloma Faith

Judges’ comments: Len loved the panto story and thought she was fabulous out of hold. In hold…he’ll explain it to her after the show, nudge nudge wink wink. Um. Really, Len? Bruno loved the “full-on entertainment, like a miniseries”, but she was almost leading. Craig praised her dexterity, lightness and grace. Darcey liked her focus and energy, but she grabbed at Robin in the transitions.

Judges’ scores: 7, 6, 6, 6 – 25

Overall: Great potential.

Week 2 Leaderboard

Denise and James – 32

Louis and Flavia – 30

Dani and Vincent – 27

Kimberley and Pasha – 26

Victoria and Brendan – 26

Lisa and Robin – 25

Fern and Artem – 24

Colin and Kristina – 24

Sid and Ola – 22

Johnny and Iveta – 20

Richard and Erin – 19

Jerry and Anton – 18

Nicky and Karen – 18

Michael and Natalie – 15

A more expected top half this week, with a slight drop from Lisa and big catch-up from Victoria. Interestingly Johnny managed to beat four celebs, with a sportsman and a pop star languishing at the bottom.

Overall Leaderboard

Louis and Flavia – 57

Denise and James – 57

Lisa and Robin – 55

Kimberley and Pasha – 54

Dani and Vincent – 48

Sid and Ola – 48

Colin and Kristina – 47

Fern and Artem – 43

Victoria and Brendan – 42

Richard and Erin – 41

Johnny and Iveta – 37

Jerry and Anton – 36

Nicky and Karen – 35

Michael and Natalie – 35 


It was Latin (black mesh) versus ballroom (pink fluff) in the pros’ number to “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” as we geared up for the dance-off. This wasn’t exactly West Side Story – half the group ended up standing around randomly, Jerry Hall style – but fun concept and bonus points for chairography.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Ack. Skin-tight satin with bright pink squiggles, like a Rorschach test bleeding onto a sundress. Claudia stuck with her standard black lace number.

Claudia’s back! Oh, I’ve missed Claudia. We need someone fully aware of the absurdity of this whole enterprise, yet witty and charismatic enough to keep us engaged. Unfortunately she was saddled with “poking around backstage” duties as a lead-in to the interminable recap. Of stuff that happened 24 hours ago. For those goldfish viewers.

Tess announced some safe couples: Nicky and Karen, Denise and James, Lisa and Robin, Louis and Flavia, Fern and Artem, and Kimberley and Pasha. In the dance-off: Johnny and Iveta.

Claudia and the judges…and Len’s lens!


  • Len miming to “Tutti Frutti” – Craig will dock marks for that
  • Momma Darcey licking a hankie to wipe lipstick off Craig
  • An agonising slo-mo of Richard’s Exorcist face-pulling
  • Bruno’s growing horror watching the farm jive
  • Ventriloquist Artem instructing Fern through a frozen smile, which, naturally, made Bruno break into Chicago’s “We Both Reached For The Gun

More safe couples: Colin and Kristina, Victoria and Brendan, Dani and Vincent, Sid and Ola, Jerry and Anton, and…Michael and Natalie. In the dance-off: Richard and Erin. Either the public felt sorry for Michael, or we’re all genuinely afraid of Natalie and her axe. Next week: samba with a shotgun.

The Scissor Sisters and their new single united Britain in asking what the hell is a kiki (keekee? Keykey?), and do I care enough to Google it? (If you didn’t: it’s drag queen slang for a good time. Channel that, Richard.)

Dance-off time, ooh! In truth, this was a woeful climax. Richard camped it up again in a passable cha cha. Johnny gurned again in a passable foxtrot. Both were slightly worse. We all knew who was going home.

Craig saved Richard for dance content.

Darcey saved Richard for content and confidence.

Bruno saved Richard for content.

Len agreed.

This essentially means they saved Erin’s choreography rather than Richard’s dancing. Ouch. And also means we could have been spared the dance-off altogether.

Honestly, I’ll feel the loss of Iveta more than Johnny. Hope she sticks around for some pro dances.

What do you think? Did the right couple go home? Did Richard and Erin deserve to be in danger? Did you hail or bemoan the return of the dance-off?

Next week: we’re going to Hollywood! (Not literally. We don’t even have the budget to go to Blackpool this series.) Which films would you like to see? What are the odds that Colin picks a Bond? And how will Karen antagonise the judges in cinematic form? See you then for even more crazy costuming and “hilarious” VTs. In the meantime…keep dancing!

In the October issue of Dance Today, Marianka Swain writes on floorcraft and dance etiquette, while Lee Knights speaks to Strictly‘s Anton Du Beke.

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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