Posted on November 30, 2015
Ah, post-Blackpool Week – Strictly’s annual hangover show. Lower the lights, pass the Berocca, and for god’s sake don’t make too much noise. Not generally a vintage night, and so it proved, with several celebs stuck with styles that didn’t suit and the judges’ scoring closer to sober than usual – except for Bruno, who is a manic, MANIAC on the floor (with his 9).
Now for some good news and some bad news. The good news: training footage! Training footage for everyone! Bad news: it seems all the celebs are having a simultaneous nervous breakdown. Some dancing, yes, but quite a lot of it resembled the case notes of an overworked shrink. Still, any respite from rictus grins at karaoke night must be taken as a win.
Other hits and misses:
Best in Show
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Apparently this week’s memo read “More shoulders!” Strapless white bed linen for Tess, off-the-shoulder repurposed parasol for Claud.
Kellie and Kevin – Back against the wall
Training update: Kellie is BROKEN. Not just physically, psychologically – check out those manic home movies. The exhaustion unfortunately carried over into a grimly forced salsa, Kellie visibly muscling through the movement and their downright peculiar lifts. Let’s have a moratorium on sweeping the floor with our partners, shall we? Good timing, accomplished presentation and furious energy, as usual, but a laboured quality that sapped the dance of fun and organic sensuality. Also problematic: too much side-by-side work; the pair once again styled as a migraine; and that godawful down with da kidz opening graphic, showing the BBC bigwigs have recently discovered a) texts and b) emojis. Just NO.
Song: “I Want You Back”, The Jackson 5 (COPYCAT KLAXON: Michael Vaughn and Natalie)
Judges’ comments: Len called it “G-R-8” (kill me now) and full of attack. Bruno thought it was fast and difficult, but a wobbly dismount. Craig praised her energy. Darcey told her to let Kevin do more of the work in lifts, but liked the flirting.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34
Katie and Anton – One for the road
Training update: foot injury and some intense late-night sessions. No, not like that – it’s Anton, after all. Love that their Argentine tango opened with Katie at the bar and that she’s dressed as the Absinthe Fairy (with red-wine lips), but nothing else felt particularly comfortable for either of them. Loose, baggy hold, lots of Anton yanking her into the right place or dragging her off-balance, lifts arduous, and a few stumbles, including one where she stabbed him in the foot. Good characterisation from Katie, and you may have heard it mentioned that she has great legs, so some nice lines, otherwise tentative, lacked intimacy, and problems in both his lead and her follow.
Song: “Libertango”, Ástor Piazzolla (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan, Austin Healey and Erin, Dani Harmer and Vincent)
Judges’ comments: Bruno praised her legs, but wanted sharper hooks. Craig referred to Anton’s inner thighs and I’m still dry heaving, plus she wobbled out of spins and picked feet up too much. Darcey wanted more clarity. Len noticed the work they’d put in, but lacked compactness.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 9 – 32
Helen and Aljaž – Dream world
Training update: Helen is struggling to remember all the technique, and desperate not to let Aljaž down. Helens 2, 3 and 4 agree. But now let us enter Helen 1’s mind, where we find a flatteringly sepia-toned paradise, where a beautiful socialite sits by her gramophone. Oh, and debs’ delight Aljaž. Back in technicolour, let’s all wince at the random tinsel strands stuck to her feast of froth dress, and a few technical issues – some missed heel leads, needs to emphasise head position more, occasionally chasing the music – otherwise a classic, elegant number. Lovely wide hold, good fleckerl, fluid movement and dreamy storytelling. I concur with Craig’s “GAWJUS”.
Song: “At Last”, Etta James (COPYCAT KLAXON: Natalie Cassidy and Vincent)
Judges’ comments: Craig praised the beautiful movement and maintaining the story in and out of hold. Darcey loved the gliding feel and how she used the floor. Len: “Dancing is a marriage between music and movement. This is a match made in Heaven.” Bruno called it her breakthrough dance.
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39
Jay and Aliona – Birds of a feather
Training update: despite having the celeb with exceptional musicality, Aliona spends half the week teaching him without music. Curiouser and curiouser. This number was stylish glam rock – flames! Red dress! A thousand drops! – but lacking in continuous pure tango content. Also too upright, meaning not many heel leads from Jay, and he could exaggerate lines more. On the upside, superb unified partnering, slick synchronicity, sharp, staccato movement and fantastic musicality, hitting every accent precisely and coping well with some intricate rhythmic choices. I’m still waiting for more performance in the face (this week: puppy playing poker, licking its chops when it gets dealt an ace), but the ginormous bouffant hair will have to do.
Song: “When Doves Cry”, Prince (COPYCAT KLAXON: Rachel Stevens and Vincent, Kimberley Walsh and Pasha)
Judges’ comments: Darcey said they worked as one and loved the modern choreography. Len noted the missed heel leads, but every move carefully placed. Bruno thought it was compelling and focussed, and praised his musicality. Craig agreed, though didn’t like the hitch kick.
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 9, 10 – 38
Peter and Janette – Sickly sweet
Training update: Peter’s drowning his sorrows in cupcakes. We’ve all been there. This American smooth was way too over-calculated to be likeable and garner votes, from the cutesy bakery setting and Janette’s polka dot and beribboned styling to the lovey-dovey ham acting. I had raging toothache from two seconds in. The treacly presentation couldn’t disguise a multitude of technical sins – clunky, fudged footwork, which meant lumpy transitions rather than a smooth flow, and, for the few seconds they were in hold, some fairly awkward posture. More comfortable, as per usual, romping about making OTT faces, but not nearly enough to earn redemption.
Song: “I Get the Sweetest Feeling”, Jackie Wilson (COPYCAT KLAXON: Darren Gough and Lilia, Michael Vaughn and Natalie)
Judges’ comments: Len said it was joyful, but too hunched. Bruno said he interpreted the theme well, but not smooth enough and problems with hold. Craig wanted longer lines and it lacked swing and sway, but good performance. Darcey loved the charm, but looked too careful.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31
Anita and Gleb – Cooking the books
Training update: Anita’s struggling with the exposing rumba, particularly its overt sensuality. Gleb is still Strict Russian Teacher Gleb, which seems to work for everyone. However, his contemporary routine really wasn’t to my taste – instead of tackling basics, it was packed with tricks and posing, again too much floorwork, and what I’ll generously call an accidental lift. Anita did a great job with the characterisation and performance, but some obvious issues with footwork and legs, and not fluid enough. I think also lacked hip action, but who knows what was going on beneath that voluminous shroud. Sidenote: was the gigantic page of Persuasion the most literal prop we’ve ever had on this show?
Song: “Read All About It”, Emeli Sande
Judges’ comments: Bruno said they spoke to each other with every move, but wanted more hip action. Craig found it spiky, and needed more foot pressure and straight legs, but she’s turned into a fine actress. Darcey thought it was polished and focussed, but needed more resistance and feet turned in. Len didn’t enjoy it, and pointed out the illegal lift.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 7, 9 – 31
Georgia and Giovanni – Rock on
Training update: Georgia is (stop me if you’ve heard this before) too nice to paso, but not too nice to wear a skirt that looks like a shredded crow apparently. Brave solo to start while Giovanni faffed about on the drums, and then a routine packed with moody teen strop drama but – as with Gleb’s rumba – prioritising poses over continuous authentic movement. Would have liked to see more in hold, and that might have helped with some of the balance issues, plus Georgia a tad stompy, needed to articulate shaping more, and her shoulders swallowed her neck entirely. But confident, committed, good timing, and a decent effort in a style that didn’t suit her remotely.
Song: “The Final Countdown”, Europe (COPYCAT KLAXON: Rachel Stevens and Vincent)
Judges’ comments: Craig said she needed to get her shoulders back for better Spanish line, but dynamic. Darcey praised the drama and energy, but a bit soft in the arms. Len thought there was too much “breast wafting” (really, Len?), and it was almost too aggressive. Bruno agreed on the shoulders, but loved the Mad Max vibe.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33
Leaderboard before Quickstep-a-thon
Helen and Aljaž – 39
Jay and Aliona – 38
Kellie and Kevin – 34
Georgia and Giovanni – 33
Katie and Anton – 32
Peter and Janette – 31
Anita and Gleb – 31
From last week, Helen makes a big leap, while Anita and Georgia tumble.
Len went through the rules, most of which should really apply to all ballroom on the show (stay in hold, no lifts, penalties for bad footwork and floorcraft), and then began the annual viewer challenge to discern what the hell is going on. It didn’t help that everyone was dressed the same – tails for the guys, THANK YOU, and frocks inspired by Nana’s hankie collection for the girls – and that the restless camerawork would be better suited to Jason Bourne in a rooftop chase.
From what I could glean by squinting repeatedly, it looked like Kellie was leaden, Peter hunched, Jay slick, Anita and Katie strong but had wandering frames, Georgia light and bright, and Helen easily the most consistent. There may well be things we couldn’t see that the judges could, otherwise I’d say Jay was perhaps under-ranked (especially given the whole “IT’S HARDER FOR MEN” thing), and Katie got a tad lucky. Precious little for disaaaaahster fans, as everyone played safe by staying fairly static, but it also showed the skill level of this year’s batch.
7. Peter and Janette
6. Kellie and Kevin
5. Jay and Aliona
4. Anita and Gleb
3. Katie and Anton
2. Georgia and Giovanni
1. Helen and Aljaž
Leaderboard after Quickstep-a-thon
Helen and Aljaž – 39 + 7 = 46
Jay and Aliona – 38 + 3 = 41
Georgia and Giovanni – 33 + 6 = 39
Katie and Anton – 32 + 5 = 37
Kellie and Kevin – 34 + 2 = 36
Anita and Gleb – 31 + 4 = 35
Peter and Janette – 31 + 1 = 32
Post-Quickstep-a-thon, Kellie drops below Georgia and Katie, and Peter below Anita. Helen is queen of all she surveys.
How to best showcase our female professional ballroom dancers? That’s right –suggestive vamping while doing the boys’ laundry, culminating in some unfunny mugging from trouser-less Kevin. In even more alarming news, a tabloid splash appears to have been correct for once, which is the first sign of the impending apocalypse.
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Oof. Like the site of some environmental disaster: tar-covered rubbish bag frock and oil slick hair. Claud arrived with visible sports bra and pants on her head, and still looked more put together.
Adam Lambert yelped. Kevin and Karen contempo-wafted. I made tea.
Len’s lens highlights:
Il Divo crooned. Natalie and Gleb did some super-fierce semi-tango. Lifts, basically. This must be the most airborne series so far.
In the dance-off: Kellie and Kevin, and Peter and Janette. Oh, for a split screen showing Jamelia cackling for days. The judges (with lengthy explanations as a result of Jameliagate) all saved Kellie.
Who was your favourite this week? Did you enjoy the Quickstep-a-thon? And were the right couples in the dance-off? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
Coming soon: break out your jazz hands for Musicals Week. In the meantime…keep dancing!