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Strictly Speaking week 11

Posted on December 7, 2015


What’s worse than a limp theme show? A limp theme show at a crucial stage of the competition. We might arguably have had the same quarter-final elimination without it – paso was always going to expose Princess Helen’s lack of versatility – but at least it would have resulted from a fair test of ballroom ability. Also: why not two dances? Katie is probably even less versatile than Helen, but lucked out with safe foxtrot rather than Latin. 

It’s no coincidence that the night’s best performance (Jay’s rumba) had the least interference from Musicals Week trappings – OTT production and, ye gods, Human Props. Low point: a giant, waddling teapot blocking first Bruno’s view of Georgia and then ours. Even lower point: Helen’s Les Mis epic STRUGGLE…to break free of her 300 backing dancers. Producers – if you’re dying to do West End, pop, hip hop etc. routines, go forth and have another crack at So You Think You Can Dance. Please leave Strictly alone.

Other hits and misses:

  • Enough with the black-and-white appeal videos. You’re in a dance competition, not rescuing puppies. MISS
  • Once again, our pros got the chance to show off their ballroom training by…doing some chorus line high kicks. Oh for the days of a pro couple actually demonstrating ballroom to inspire the celebs. MISS
  • Farewell, training footage, we hardly knew ye. MISS
  • This week it was Anita’s turn to don the Flavia wig. That thing’s had more screen time than most of the pros. HIT
  • Jodie Prenger. Well. A little goes a long, long way. MISS
  • Consistency, please, for the love of God. You can’t criticise just one couple for a lengthy intro when they all had one, nor decide on a whim to discount Kellie’s illegal lifts after laying into Anita and Gleb last week. Bad judges. MISS
  • Also: leaderboard fixing has never, ever worked. Audiences will save those they feel have been unfairly penalised, and take against the teachers’ pets. When will the judges learn? MISS
  • Craig Beard Report: third day of rehab scruff. MISS

 Best in Show

  • Best performance: Jay’s rumba Actual basics well danced.  
  • Best costume: Georgia as Belle We have now reached peak Disney cosplay.
  • Best move: Gleb wielding a truncheon For…dance reasons.
  • Best line: “It was like a cowpat.” Another Len compliment there. Runner-up: After Len hailed “Giovanna”, Claudia dreamed of meeting “Aliano”. 


Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?


Morticia from The Addams Family: The Musical Sellout! Claud safe in a black jumpsuit.







Georgia and Giovanni – Beauty queen

georgia-may-foote-giovanni-pernice-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalIrrelevant VT: Georgia holds a princess party with her camera-friendly, pint-sized cousins and nephews. Some Family prop points, and some vague entertainment value from Giovanni’s obvious suffering. Speaking of which, how did he escape the indignity of Beastly face paint? It meant that the Human Props – as well as being intrusive, distracting and giving the whole thing the look of an badly funded touring show – made NO NARRATIVE SENSE. If the Beast has transformed back into a prince, why are the servants still enchanted household objects? The actual foxtrot was smooth and well controlled, with beautiful frame, expression and musicality, though a lack of heel leads and thus drive. Still one of the best of the night, and – by comparison – undermarked.

Song: “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast

Judges’ comments: Len liked the charm and ease, but missed heel leads. Bruno praised her control and improved posture, though she lifted her shoulders on the side extensions. Craig found it enchanting, with spectacular phrasing. Darcey loved the hovering in every transition.

Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36


Anita and Gleb – Crime doesn’t pay

anita-rani-gleb-savchenko-bbc-guy-levysimply so soIrrelevant VT: glamorous prison visit. Now, I’m not sure it was necessary to style Gleb as a stripper prison guard in see-through shirt, but no one’s complaining. What we are complaining about is another over-cluttered, tricks galore routine. Fantastic commitment and characterisation from Anita, and brave lifts, but struggled to keep up with the (unhelpful) music and really needed to work on footwork and leg action. Plus Gleb not at all comfortable with Argentine hold. Either they reached a technical limit or the Musicals distractions meant less time to focus on actual tango – perhaps both. Also: inherent contradiction between an intimate dance and full-out, big cast production number. Entertaining, but ill-conceived.

Song: “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago (COPYCAT KLAXON: Aled Jones and Lilia, Holly Valance and Artem)

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised her for taking on an iconic number, though footwork sloppy. Craig said it exposed her weak points, but great sense of drama. Darcey loved her attitude and courage, but needs to work on lines. Len thought she did well dancing to difficult music.

Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 9, 8 – 31


Kellie and Kevin – Pub crawl 

kellie-bright-kevin-clifton-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleIrrelevant VT: Operation Make People Like Mummy, courtesy of Kellie’s son. A token Family prop point. Well. Perhaps it was those drinks she shoved at the judges before she started, but I felt like I was watching a completely different performance to them: am dram Oliver! sucking the soul out of ballroom. The few Viennese steps they did throw in were leaden, technically variable and showed none of the style or character of the dance, plus two – count them, TWO – illegal lifts and yet more cavorting mindlessly on the table. We learned Kellie (the trained actress) could do an outlandish Nancy impression, but not enough of a dance showcase for a quarter-final. Also: the singing along. Oof.

Song: “Oom-Pah-Pah” from Oliver!

Judges’ comments: Craig said it had no elegance, class or grace, but he loved it. Darcey praised the combination of characterisation and lyricism. Len agreed. Bruno said it was “by the people, for the people”, perhaps getting ahead of himself with a Les Mis critique.

 Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36


Jay and Aliona – Falling in love 

jay-mcguiness-aliona-vilani-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalIrrelevant VT: acting tips from, er, Ronan Keating. Righto. Learning from Tristan’s guitar woes, Jay ditched his as soon as the music started, emerging as the lovelorn lumberjack of Darcey’s dreams. Mercifully free of distractions, and this was a lovely routine from Aliona – great mix of basic content and showier figures. I don’t buy Jay’s supposed transformation into super-performer, though this number (as Craig pointed out) suited him naturally, so he could be his tentative self without it impeding the dance. And still waiting to see him take control of the lead and sell the moves emphatically. He’s got great technique and musicality, but it’s slightly apologetic – here, hip action too restrained. However, a welcome respite from jazz hands overkill.

Song: “Falling Slowly” from Once

Judges’ comments: Darcey was brought to tears, and loved the floor stroking, rotation and continuous movement. Len is now convinced Jay’s a terrific dancer. Bruno thought it was a pitch-perfect interpretation, and he used his feet like hands. Craig praised the hip action, but needs to dance through the 4/1 more.

Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 (Highest ever male rumba score) 


Katie and Anton – Aunt Sally 

katie-derham-anton-du-beke-bbc-guy-levysimply so soIrrelevant VT: Katie’s daughter was in Cabaret. Have some Family prop points. Also weirdly apt as Katie ended up looking less Sally Bowles, more Sally’s kindly relative filling in last minute. This was another perfectly pleasant dance from her, with fairly smooth and classy foxtrot, but she looked stiff and unsure in the intro, balance issues, some missed heel leads, gapping and too upright. As the judges keep exclaiming, she looks naturally graceful and elegant, but that doesn’t really extend to the specific movement and characterisation of each dance style. At this stage of the competition, it would be great to see more growth. Still, the Anton Army seems determined to get him to the final, so…I guess we’ll be seeing if she can transform in a showdance.

Song: “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret

Judges’ comments: Len said it took too long to get started, but beautiful lines. Bruno agreed – stunning when she got going. Craig wanted more sass, but lovely. Darcey said she oozed confidence, though needs to work on her extensions.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35 


Helen and Aljaž – Day of reckoning 

helen-george-aljaz-skorjanec-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleIrrelevant VT: trip to meet the Les Mis cast members. “I’ve never thought of ‘At the End of the Day’ as a paso,” remarked one. FUNNY THAT. Far too many people on the floor, meaning Helen was barely visible for half the routine, and the battle to sell a paso in the midst of a musical theatre chorus (and totally unsuitable music) was well and truly lost. Also: basically the opposite problem to Jay, in that she was overacting magnificently through the face but body too soft and dainty. Her upright balletic posture meant she didn’t generate nearly enough physical power for either paso or French revolutionary. But the bigger problem was the total overwhelming of the dance by the theming.

Song: “At the End of the Day” from Les Misérables

Judges’ comments: Bruno said there was so much going on he felt punch drunk. Lacked strength. Craig noted balance issues, but feisty and sharp. Darcey said she wasn’t quite on top of the insane amount of content, and performed more in the face than body. Len loved the facial expressions.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34 



Jay and Aliona – 39

Georgia and Giovanni – 36

Kellie and Kevin – 36

Katie and Anton – 35

Helen and Aljaž – 34

Anita and Gleb – 31

Jay’s back on top, Georgia and Kellie inch up, and Helen tumbles.




lion-king-bbc-guy-levyJolly if squished performance from the fab Lion King cast, plus extraneous bit of wafting from our pros, styled as background grass.









Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

claudia-tess-bbc-guy-levyHelp, help! I’m being attacked by a giant red octopus! Claud…in black.












Josh Groban yowled through “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Anton and Joanne did some ACTUAL BALLROOM. I know!

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Bruno and Darcey did their best to blind Len
  • Len praised Jay’s rumba footwork
  • Darcey wanted more shaping from Helen
  • Craig nitpicked Georgia’s hand placement
  • Those of you who’d only just managed to dislodge “Oom Pah Pah” from your brain… It’s back. Fetch the bleach.

In the dance-off: Helen and Aljaž, and Georgia and Giovanni. The latter rather surprising, but perhaps a leaderboard tie and/or the assumption that she was safe worked against her. Or let’s blame the bloody teapot. All the judges saved Georgia, with Craig blaming the public. Um, Helen was in the bottom two on your leaderboard, Craig.

Did you enjoy Musicals Week? Would you rather see two dances in the quarter-final? And did the right couples up end in the dance-off? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for a (relatively) normal semi-final. 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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