Dedicated to dance
since 1910.

Buy Latest Issue

Strictly Speaking week 1

Posted on September 29, 2015


It wouldn’t be Strictly without the epic trolling that is the scoring. Welcome back to judgement as alarmingly random as Caligula’s hiring policies. Some celebs benefited from the Week 1 Magic 8-Ball, others have cause to grumble, with particular howlers from Darcey “Year of the Man” Bussell. Those opening the shows had kinder treatment, and there was a definite disparity between the two nights, as well as between comments and marks. Always keep them guessing, right guys? “Marvellous! 2! It made me vomit! 8!”

An added potential irritant was clearly the result of a patented BBC Ways To Talk To Da Kidz meeting, resulting in – to quote Claudia – a “Tweet Strictly paddle hoo-ha scenario”. Quite. Just a thought: leave the emojis and concentrate on finding a new joke writer.

Other hits and misses:

  • “They’ve used up all possible dreadful train puns now,” viewers proclaimed. “Have we heck!” the geriatric joke writer wheezed. MISS
  • The judges’ entrance has turned into a Pirelli calendar smoulder-off. Please make it stop. MISS
  • No longer “Let’s meet the stars of our show”, but “our Strictly stars”. Should only take six or seven years for me to stop mourning that change. MISS
  • Craig and Danny Dyer’s homoerotic cockney flirting. Return on licence fee, right there. HIT
  • In Kellie’s judging, Tess completely forgot Darcey. No one noticed. HIT
  • Ah, the return of the recaps and montages and trailers and recaps of montages of trailers. For those viewers trying to keep up with the action while juggling flaming sharks. MISS
  • Also not at all missed: illegal lifts (with confused, contradictory judging response) and “comedy” VTs. My kingdom for uninterrupted training footage. MISS
  • It’s liiiiive! Not quite a Ramps microphone tangle, but Anthony’s trouser split was decent unscripted comedy. HIT
  • Worst random prop? I’ll take votes for white picket fence, hay bales, mic stand or sparkly polling booth. MISS
  • Worst song choice pun? Has to be “Wake Me Up Before You (Anthony A) Go-Go”, but “Keep on RUNNING” and “With You I’m BORN Again” come close, exacerbated by Tess’s oh-so-spontaneous “A star is BORN!” MISS
  • Speaking of which, worst Tessbot joke? No contest: laboured (groan) intro to Helen’s dance involving a poor beleaguered audience member holding towels. Do we need an exorcism to cast out Brucie’s spirit? MISS
  • Not terribly subtle with the scheduling: Princess Helen followed by right royal clodhopper Carol; youngest contestant Georgia followed by oldest contestant Ainsley, etc. MISS
  • Aljaž to Pasha: “Remember when we were relentlessly objectified like Gleb?” Pasha: “Yes, good times.” Anton: “Me too!” Aljaž: “You are a funny man.” But seriously – how do we feel about the rampant Poldarkian Gleb-erotica? Fair game? Redressing the balance? Overkill? Unfair on his partner? See also: It’s All About Anton (and his shiny new toy Katie). MISS
  • Twice, Tess said of a lacklustre dance “Well the audience loved it!” Twice, an otherwise hen party hysterical crowd responded: “Eh.” Read the room, Tess. MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Anita’s cha cha Exciting potential that transcended the Lurpak ad set dressing.
  • Best costume: Princess Helen’s peach silk nightie, adorned with the corpses of 300 goslings Runner-up: Katie’s tinsel explosion.
  • Best move: Janette balancing a hat atop her perfectly extended leg As you do. Move over, Argentine tango hat stand-ography.
  • Best line: Claudia’s version of a teaser trailer: “Lightning, leprechauns, llamas.” Only alliterative (and SHORT, for the love of god) teasers from now on, please. Runner-up: Claud accurately describing Ainsley’s tango face as “livid, yet charming”.


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Tomato red with a plunging neckline that could only be explained by asking a near-sighted child to trace a starfish with gardening shears. Claudia: black shroud adorned with shiny loo roll.

Kellie and Kevin – Blast from the past

kellie-bright-kevin-clifton-bbc-guy-levysimply so soKellie is delighted by how well fellow EastEnder Jake did last year. DELIGHTED. Almost as pleased as Kevin is by constant references to him being Kellie’s mum’s fave. Saga cruise bookings ahoy. Naturally, grannies’ choice Kev produced yet another throwback retro number, providing the psychedelic mod sub-Austin Powers tango-mangling absolutely no one was crying out for. Kellie, stomping all over her launch show “Get to know the real me!” J word, sought refuge in a character: gimlet-eyed It Girl Mimi. Theme incoherence, mugging and interminable backbends aside, this was crisply compact and confidently delivered, but too light, fragmented and wobbly topline.

Song: Tango “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ricky Whittle and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: Len favourably compared her with/shilled for Alka-Seltzer, though too loose in hold. Bruno proclaimed his love for the SWINGING Sixties and lauded the staccato, but it didn’t link together. Craig found it marvellous, other than her “peculiar wrist scenario”. (The new Sherlock Holmes mystery, out now!) Darcey praised her daring.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Anthony and Oti – Puppy love

anthony-agogo-otlile-mabuse-bbc-guy-levysimply so soHas anyone figured out the logical progression from “My boxing career is in jeopardy due to a dislocated shoulder” to “Weeks of strenuous partner dancing”? That physio should start investing in sequinned cortisone. Also: ogling your “bendy” pro is not an appealing introduction, Anthony. Even if she is the lucky recipient of Iveta’s line of animal print and literal tail feather practice wear. However, charming jive routine, balancing cutesy date faff with solid content and playing to the strengths of an injured celeb with Mister Fantastic limbs. Basics fudged, not danced into the floor enough and a few errors, but puppyish enthusiasm and promising musicality and swagger.

Song: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, Wham! (COPYCAT KLAXON: Julian Clary and Erin, Jason Donovan and Kristina)

Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the energy and attempt at pumping action, though timing issues and needs to point his feet. Craig noticed pigeon toes and sickled feet, but “The best boxer we’ve had on Strictly” – a compliment akin to “Most honest executive at FIFA”. Darcey found it entertaining, but could be sharper. Len wants to see control and a gentler side in next week’s waltz.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 6, 6 – 21

Helen and Aljaž – On pointe

helen-george-aljaz-skorjanec-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalIt’s like the first day of school, so of course Helen arrived in a ginormous Norma Desmond fur wrap. The same one she wore when the chauffeur dropped her off at Montessori. Aljaž, a big believer in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, recreated his romantic fairy tale Abbey Clancy opening waltz, with added bitchery: “A princess closes her feet.” Princess Helen is struggling because all that ringer-tastic ballet training IS ACTUALLY A DISADVANTAGE. Except in this lyrical, balletic waltz, and when being scored by Darcey Bussell. Poised, romantic and graceful floor spin, but gapping, a few stumbles and needs to work on heel leads and stronger leg action to smooth transitions.

Song: “With You I’m Born Again”, Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan, Mark Ramprakash and Karen, Denise Van Outen and James)

Judges’ comments: Craig praised the elegance and movement, but she gripped Aljaž in the standing spin. Darcey noted raised shoulders, though still played the Ginger Rogers card. In Week 1. She’s like a child eating her entire packed lunch at 9am. Len: “Hold me upside down and smack my bottom!” TMI on the weekend plans. Bruno loved the refined balletic feel.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 – 29

Carol and Pasha – 21 pun salute

carol-kirkwood-pasha-kovalev-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleYou can’t have it both ways. Either Carol’s a NATIONAL TREASURE (Pasha: “I’ll be looking after the treasure for the next couple of months.” Try “weeks”), or a total unknown and we must be reminded of her occupation every three seconds. See: practice weather map, marvellously introduced by our best/worst pro actor, another weather map in the routine, judges leafing through the Big Book of Weather Puns. But no matter, for from this madness arose Pasha, pecs out, descending from the heavens clutching a thunderbolt. How kind of them to translate a nation’s subconscious into dance form. Noble attempt at distraction, but there was no disguising the fact that he’s dancing with the Tin Man. Carol kept a wide smile affixed throughout, like the band playing on while the Titanic sank.

Song: “Thunder in My Heart”, Leo Sayer

Judges’ comments: Darcey liked their cheeky connection. Len said she needs to be sharper and eliminate the mistakes. Bruno: “Total technical drought.” Craig: “The cold front flew in, and you did not survive it.”

Judges’ scores: 2, 5, 5, 4 – 16

Daniel and Kristina – The green green grass of home

daniel-o-donnel-kristina-rihanoff-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleIt’s not that Daniel’s terrifying, except it is. It really is. If I awoke to find him peeling off my skin while explaining in that hushed Hannibal monotone how it was for my own good and the baby Jesus told him to do it, I would not be surprised. Poor Kristina. He held her hostage in a piano bar and her eyes screamed “HELP ME”. Bathed in sickly shamrock green light (remind me – he’s Welsh, right?), their waltz was both soporific and eerily hypnotic, moving almost less than Daniel’s mask face. Lacking rise and fall, hold a bit high and floor spin flirting with disaaaahster, BUT some half decent footwork, including lesser spotted heel leads.

Song: “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”, Ruby Murray

Judges’ comments: Len liked that there was no messing about and praised the footwork. Bruno thought it was prim and proper. Craig found it uneventful bar the arm-breaking floor spin. Darcey suggested he relax his neck. He can’t, Darce. The mask would come loose.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 7, 7 – 24



Anita and Gleb – Mad about the boy

anita-rani-gleb-savchenko-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalOh Gleb, he’s so fine, he’s so fine he blows our minds, hey Gleb. And I guess some girl’s there too. Can someone wrest the editing suite away from the panting teenage superfan, please? As Anita has only had time to establish one characteristic amidst the Glebmania, she got a farm-tastic VT and interminable farm-tastic intro. Less faff next week, please. She’s got far too much potential for that. Although points for cagoule stripping AKA weirdly British burlesque. Crisp, confident, dynamic movement, excellent cheesy faces and quickly recovered from an error during the side by side, but needs to straighten legs more and finish lines.

Song: “Rather Be”, Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne

Judges’ comments: Bruno said she’s a born showgirl, but needs to stretch the back of her legs. Craig was shocked at how good it was. Darcey noted her free arm isn’t as natural as her legwork. Len said she gave it plenty of WELLY. And then waited for the inevitable standing ovation.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27


claudia tess bbc guy levyA recap montage! Glory be! Swiftly followed by a high-energy Dadaist group dance whose only uniting factor was the monochrome styling, designed to make us wonder if the BBC invested in Doctor Who just to find a way of permanently returning to the past. Highlights: Aliona’s sultry furniture removal; Nat dressed as Big Bird’s secretary; Kevin’s extremely white MJ impression; Joanne throwing a massive fit. Taking that It Takes Two relegation well, then. Amount of actual ballroom in a number set oh-so-ironically to “Shut Up and Dance”: 1% (yes, that’s counting the inevitable Dirty Dancing lift).

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

White strapless for Tess; black strapless for Claud. “We’ve done it, Doctor!”

Jay and Aliona – Fear factor

jay-mcguiness-aliona-vilani-bbc-guy-levysimply so soJay added to his dominant personality trait (“NERVES!”) with disquieting hipster training attire: shredded skinny jeans and artfully dishevelled man bun. Next week: “I couldn’t possibly do a waltz – it’s SO mainstream. Let’s nod ironically to a 19th-century Serbian folk dance instead.” Back to the Cecil the Lion tribute wig for a cha cha with irritating mic stand-ography, but promising rhythm, some nice lines and a smattering of good footwork. However, free arm thrown away, too many Aliona tricks and Jay’s expressions still range from Joey Essex told to calculate the square root of 865 to a four-year-old whose dog has just been run over. Twice.

Song: “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, The Four Tops (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alesha Dixon and Matthew)

Judges’ comments: Len decided the illegal lift was not a lift. So Aliona now has the power of flight. And he’s WANTED. (Waits for standing ovation.) Bruno praised his legwork, though needs to work on his turns. Craig agreed, so Bruno fell off his chair. Tick that off your bingo cards. Just needs to add showmanship. Darcey thought he was in control.

Judges’ scores: 5, 8, 7, 7 – 27

Kirsty and Brendan – Painted into a corner

kirsty-gallacher-brendan-cole-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleYou know they’re in trouble when a celeb plays the Mum card this early. At least Kirsty’s comes bearing healthy snacks. Family prop points: 2. Arty opening framed (literally) to look like van Gogh’s The Starry Night, warning us of a tough music choice ahead. That certainly didn’t help Kirsty, who had multiple timing issues, as well as balance problems, gradually disintegrating posture and jerky transitions due to failure to drive from her standing leg. The odd lovely moment, so potential if she can get her nerves in check, but this was largely an example of Brendan’s determined steering, like a shopper loath to abandon a trolley with a wheel missing because he’s already made it to Aisle 7.

Song: “Vincent”, Don McLean

Judges’ comments: Bruno noted Brendan placed her into nice positions, but everything in between was problematic. Craig said it was stilted and balance issues. Darcey decided it will all be wonderful next week. Len proclaimed that these poor celebrities are all beginners! (Well, some.)

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 6, 5 – 20

Jeremy and Karen – Father of the bride

jeremy-vine-karen-clifton-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleHe’s certainly game, isn’t he? Jeremy threw himself into his “Journalism as recurrent illness” VT skit, though I’m not sure you can equate Eggheads host with serious correspondent. “And now, reporting from the war-torn streets of Quizland…” That cheesiness carried over into the dad dancingest dance to ever dad dance, complete with flamboyant finger pointing and an expression that screams: “I’ve had four glasses of that cheeky Merlot, the kids are with the au pair, the DJ’s found my Seventies Best Of and I am ready to ROCK this wedding marquee!” At least halfway to panto already. Sidenote: is the sequinned polling booth the natural successor to Labour’s pink bus?

Song: “September”, Earth, Wind and Fire (COPYCAT KLAXON: Diarmuid Gavin and Nicole)

Judges’ comments: Craig suggested he enter the Dad Dancing Championships. Disjointed, flat-footed and free arm had a mind of its own. Darcey: “Strangely fabulous.” Len: “This underdog has bite.” Bruno thought he looked like a rubber spider.

Judges’ scores: 2, 6, 6, 5 – 19

Georgia and Giovanni – Mamma mia

georgia-may-foote-giovanni-pernice-bbc-guy-levysimply so soAs currently presented, Team GG (AKA Louisa and Vincent’s eerie doppelgangers) are bound to be polarising. I’m in Camp “Really? A double whammy of Funny Foreigner and Funny Regional Accent EVERY WEEK?” Adding Meghan Trainor to the mix did not help matters. Anyhow, aggravating hairdresser intro and then a decent, action-packed jive, but the prioritising of content over technique meant only the vaguest approximation of footwork, with sickled feet, sluggish kicks and stumbling turns. Cute chemistry, though I could do without Giovanni randomly yanking her skirt up, and definite potential, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the combined personality onslaught resulted in a “shock” dance-off place soon.

Song “Dear Future Husband”, Meghan Trainor

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought they worked well together, though wild at the end of turns. Len shared his enjoyment via hairdresser puns. Bruno loved the storytelling, but she ran out of steam. Craig agreed it lost dynamic, but lively performance.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27

Ainsley and Natalie – French connection

ainsley-harriott-natalie-lowe-bbc-guy-levysimply so soWell this was a giant creamy slab of le fromage. A beret-wearing, accordion-scored VT, with Nat wearing enough garlic to fell an entire continent of vampires, set the scene for a beret-wearing, moody ABBA-scored tango offering camp-tastic drama with a capital “NATALIE LOWE IS A GODDESS! GIVE HER A RINGER ALREADY!” Ainsley subsumed his entire face in one raised eyebrow and a black hole of a trout pout, bounced up and down like a pogo stick and somehow got his shoulders higher than Uncle Fester doing a charades interpretation of Atlas Shrugged, but still better dance value than many past comedy acts. I’m giddy with excitement about their salsa. Which is also a sauce! Ready steady salsa! To “Don’t Touch My Tomatoes”! COME ON.

Song: “Voulez-Vous”, Abba (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lisa Riley and Robin)

Judges’ comments: Len said he had a touch of the gallops. Is there a cream for that? Bruno, treating the dance as a Rorschach test, saw Othello, a rooster and a conflict between his id and his superego. Craig wants him to sort his posture out, but acting brilliant. Darcey agreed.

Judges’ scores: 4, 5, 6, 5 – 20

Katie and Anton – Mad about the boy (reprise)

katie-derham-anton-du-beke-bbc-guy-levysimply so soThis was at least 70% about Anton and his terrible run of partners and how he hasn’t done a jive in six years and THIS IS HIS TIME. Oh yes, and he’s dancing with Katie. Her Proms association inspired the glorious arrival of the jive harp and vaguely autobiographical tale of Anton crossly fighting the band’s desire to play that modern claptrap. Neat footwork if lacking drive and bounce, lovely long legs used to good effect, and a sunny, graceful performance, though did rely on Anton a lot. Benefited from the lowered expectations of being paired with him, but still an elegant opening that bodes well for ballroom.

Song: “Roll Over Beethoven”, Chuck Berry (COPYCAT KLAXON: Chris Hollins and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised her radiant stage presence and told Anton to make the most of it. Craig: “Anton, you’re dancing, darling.” Side by side out of sync and ropey underarm turn, but sophisticated and stylish. Darcey was amazed she’s a) tall and b) can jive, almost as if that particular narrative is total nonsense. Len said it could be Anton’s year.

Judges’ scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 – 26

Iwan and Ola – False start

iwan-thomas-ola-jordan-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleIwan is a total perfectionist, so he spent most of their training time commentating on MotoGP in Italy. Well, that’s a VT of mixed signals. Ola, grimly working with what she was handed, decided on laps of the dancefloor (reminiscent of Chris Parker, sadly without batman cape) and the producers helped by supplying incongruous music, so that every time we thought “That doesn’t look like a tango”, we might wonder “But maybe it should be a cha cha?” Terrible posture and gapping exacerbated by massive height difference, stiff, plodding, and stomping like the Hulk throwing a tantrum. Plus: that personality, nails on a chalkboard to many.

Song: “Keep on Running”, Spencer Davis Group

Judges’ comments: Craig noted raised shoulders, bad posture, head inclining to the right, protruding bottom and no story. Darcey said it started well. Huh? The running around? I swear she’s just playing Candy Crush under the desk. Len wanted more attack. Bruno thought he was like an oxen carrying a heavy load, and no character or commitment.

Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 4 – 17 (Overly generous? James Jordan gave it 3 on Twitter)

Jamelia and Tristan – No laughing matter

jamelia-tristan-macmanus-bbc-guy-levysimply so soSave Tristan. The campaign starts here. He spent most of their practices trying to wrangle his manically giggly ADHD toddler and only partially succeeded. Their waltz featured some actual heel leads and a decent frame, but massive gapping, awkward attitude turn, a few mistakes and she broke character every three seconds to grin, shrug, giggle, demand a snack or show Tristan a Vine of this like seriously cute kitten that can play the piano! In other news, Tristan is modelling Abercrombie’s new line of yachting casual wear.

Song: “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, Aretha Franklin (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ali Bastian and Brian, Viennese)

Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it was charming, but she lost concentration. Len agreed she lost it towards the end, but elegant. Bruno advised her to catch up rather than panic if she goes wrong, and fill the musical phrase. Craig noted she didn’t close her feet on the basics, unsteady and needs to extend lines, but a good audience reaction.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21

Peter and Janette – Hips don’t lie

peter-andre-janette-manrara-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalI fear this VT brought a bleak vision of the future: how long until “Nineties dance battle” becomes an actual competition style on this show? Watch out, Series 15. Andre has been a hot favourite since the celebs were announced (musical experience; reality TV veteran; fake tan level already vintage teak sideboard), and he was certainly strong, confident and totally committed in their cha cha, but also oddly jerky – perhaps a song choice with relentless staccato accents didn’t help, or the pop video dance breaks. Good storytelling and fantastic energy. Now needs to channel that into technique to get his basics less stompy and push through the floor to find connected hip action.

Song: “Ain’t No Other Man”, Christina Aguilera (COPYCAT KLAXON: Jade Johnson and Ian)

Judges’ comments: Len thought it was a bit clipped, but best dance of the two nights. Bruno loved the performance level, though wants to see smoother hip action. Craig agreed on hip action, but sharp, clean and he rocked it. Darcey enjoyed the game playing.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 7 – 30


Peter and Janette – 30

Helen and Aljaž – 29

Kellie and Kevin – 27

Anita and Gleb – 27

Jay and Aliona – 27

Georgia and Giovanni – 27

Katie and Anton – 26

Daniel and Kristina – 24

Anthony and Oti – 21

Jamelia and Tristan – 21

Kirsty and Brendan – 20

Ainsley and Natalie – 20

Jeremy and Karen – 19

Iwan and Ola – 17

Carol and Pasha – 16

As expected, Peter tops the leaderboard, closely followed by Helen. Is Carol heading home? I reckon she could outlast aggravating Iwan, especially if they pull off an endearing ballroom. And/or if Pasha has more scantily clad wirework planned.

Who’s your Week 1 favourite? Do you agree with the scoring? And what do you make of the new crop? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for our first elimination. 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.

Connect with Dancing Times: