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Strictly Speaking week 4

Posted on October 19, 2015

It’s almost worth having bonkers Strictly theme shows just to make us really appreciate the relative sanity of a non-theme show. Well, almost. We’re into “I keep whacking myself with a hammer because it feels so good when I stop” territory, and there was still some bludgeoning to endure this weekend. For one, ludicrous music choices that handed beginners an unnecessary extra challenge (let’s at least try for the right time signature, shall we?), and then, oh then, the “comedy” VTs.

Five things I would rather watch than the godawful, time-wasting, cringingly unfunny “comedy” VTs:

  1. A graphic leg amputation.
  2. A documentary on wood chip mulch.
  3. A primary school production of Les Mis.
  4. Jeremy Corbyn romancing Diane Abbott.
  5. Cricket. (Just.)

Enough, producers. Give me training footage or give me death.

Other hits and misses:

  • Sound problems to start, picture problems to finish. Keep it together, BBC. This is no time for a nervous breakdown. MISS
  • Stop trying to make ‘The Strictly’ happen. MISS
  • Claudia’s horror at Andre touching her was the highlight of the show. Arguably the series. HIT
  • Kellie, bursting a lung whenever you’re given a decent score will not endear you to anyone. Jamelia: ditto. MISS
  • For those concerned the show was going overboard with objectifying Gleb, we had a spot of objectifying Aljaž as well. So that’s sorted. MISS
  • Last week: Len the Avenger swore he would destroy that terrible Giovanni, in this life or the next. This week: Hey, have a 9! Len’s feuds ain’t what they used to be. MISS
  • Year of the Man? Not so much. The girls ruled the leaderboard, and the third male celeb exited. But Andre remains well protected, both in scheduling (yet again towards the favoured end of the running order) and judges’ comments. How long until the bias backfires? MISS

Best in Show

  • Best performance: Katie’s Viennese Was it worth a rapturous 9? No. Did it complete the carefully crafted redemption arc in charming fashion? Yes.
  • Best costume: Helen and Aljaž playing doctors and nurses Ahem.
  • Best move: The Backwards Gleb Special Runner-up: Jeremy’s Geriatric Gleb Special. It’s a whole new franchise.
  • Best line: Claudia, as Gleb wiggles his pecs and Brendan hoves into view brandishing sausages: “Could this get any weirder?” Oh, don’t tempt them.

 


 

Friday

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

What in the world is going on here? Angelina leg, missing sleeve, wonky Morticia Addams lace inserts, cheerleader crimped ponytail, and the kind of asymmetry that makes me wonder whether her stylist has a permanent squint. Save Tess.

Anita and Gleb – Joined at the hip

anita-rani-gleb-savchenko-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Nature ramble. Annoyance level: 4. So, samba. How was our first incursion into The Dance of Death? A nicely balanced routine, and a fun, rhythmic, fearless performance from Anita, who continues to impress. Plus: Gleb the wedding disco DJ. However, some fudged footwork, lacked bounce and really needs to commit her body weight and stretch her back leg to get proper lines. Still all kinds of potential (and the judges’ relative stinginess may actually help, as they’re not peaking too soon), and a decent delivery of a notoriously difficult style.

Song: “Hips Don’t Lie”, Shakira (COPYCAT KLAXON: Rachel Stevens and Vincent, Sid Owen and Ola)

Judges’ comments: Len wanted cleaner leg action and noted a couple of mistakes, but she coped well. Bruno thought it was a bit on and off. Craig advised developing more efficient spotting, abut excellent isolation and she goes for it. Darcey praised the determination and hip action, but missing the flow.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27


 

Daniel and Kristina – Irish snooze

daniel-odonnell-kristina-rihanoff-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleVT: Flight simulator. Annoyance level: 6. Daniel’s American smooth will certainly be useful the next time I’m struggling to fall asleep. Though it may also haunt my dreams: the dead-eyed stare, the Nazi salute, the bizarre amateur ventriloquist mouth quirk when attempting – I think? – flirtation. The lifts…were not lethal. But less soaring plane, more rusty forklift. No shaping, other than hunched box, flat robot hands, and still obviously following Kristina. (Well, the likelihood of a female pro actually following her celeb partner is pretty much zero, but a little bit of fakery would be appreciated.) Once again decent timing, deadly dull. Sidenote: anyone else wishing they were watching Chelsee’s in-flight quickstep instead?

Song: “Fly Me To The Moon”, Frank Sinatra (COPYCAT KLAXON: Patsy Palmer and Anton, Scott Maslen and Natalie)

Judges’ comments: Bruno thought it lacked wow factor and wants him to ignite. (Daniel is the fire blanket of people, Bruno.) Craig said it lacked swing and sway, and he needs to take risks. Darcey suggested he used his musicality to build more. Len liked the ease, but too careful.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23


 

Kirsty and Brendan – Fight to the death

kirsty-gallacher-brenda-cole-bbc-guy-levystruggles sparkleVT: Cooking paella, WITH CARROTS. Annoyance level: 9. It’s like one of those insane Sainsbury’s ads goading you into adding horseradish to cheesecake. Speaking of which, this was a paso of weird disconnects: supposedly strong, powerful Kirsty swathed in a Barbie pink skirt and a VT (theoretically) connecting her to the dance’s Spanish roots leading into a routine danced to U2. Not helpful, clearly, but plenty of problems with the actual movement as well. Kirsty is still trying to beat dances into submission, which is admirable in its way, but seriously grim viewing. Stiff, choppy, dubious posture, lacked extension and shaping, and way too much running desperately in circles. There’s a metaphor here somewhere…

Song: “Beautiful Day”, U2

Judges’ comments: Craig said she had as much shaping as a broomstick, and it all went to pot out of hold. Darcey thought she struggled with the “physical physicality” (sigh) and needs to fix her free arm, but more confident. Len compared it unfavourably with paella. Bruno said she went for the kill, but destroyed the shaping. Needs more artistry.

Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21


 

Georgia and Giovanni – On cloud nine

georgia-may-foote-giovanni-pernice-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Trampolining for bounce action. Annoyance level: 8. Let’s try not to read too much into Georgia getting lambasted by Len last week while dancing an overtly sexy rumba and getting a gold star this week by being a pretty pure quickstep angel, shall we? In fairness, the other major change was the inclusion of actual moving content – light, fluid, decent footwork and recognisable basics. Points deducted for gapping, raised shoulders, random breaks of hold, the cutesy cotton ball cloud and Giovanni’s absurdly tiny angel wings. No wonder Georgia looked terrified. Those shoulder sprouts are still giving me the shivers.

Song: “Reach”, S Club 7 (COPYCAT KLAXON: Russell Grant and Flavia)

Judges’ comments: Darcey found it endearing, but she lost her neck towards the end. Len praised the content. Bruno agreed on the shoulder line. Craig loved the movement round the floor, but topline could be quieter and she could smile.

Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 9, 8 – 31


 

Jeremy and Karen – Fish out of water

jeremy-vine-karen-clifton-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Swimming in Thirties bathing costumes. Annoyance level: 7. In this dance, Jeremy is bathwater and Karen is a loofah pin-up girl, which is some pretty niche cosplay even for Strictly. An unabashedly madcap and charming (consults notes) JIVE?! Oh. Well. Not that. But it is inarguably fascinating to watch Jeremy’s body attempt to contort itself into some semblance of dancing, from the stuck screwdriver twist to the wet dog shaking itself dry kicks and felled tree gently keeling over. And here’s the thing: fair or not, watching Jeremy boogie badly but having a ball is just more fun than watching Kirsty miserably muscling her way through.

Song: “Splish Splash”, Bobby Darin

Judges’ comments: Len: “You’re consistently not the best dancer, but you’re consistently the most fun.” Bruno compared him with Tracey Emin. I’m not sure who that insults more. Craig: “It was like watching a stork struck by lightning.” Darcey repeated her “You make every dance your own” baffled semi-compliment.

Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 6, 5 – 20


 

Kellie and Kevin – Period drama

kellie-bright-kevin-clifton-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: “I’m doing it for my dead grandparents, Simon!” Annoyance level: 9. Save it for ITV. And it invaded the entire performance, dear God. Well, if you could look past the clumsily grasped Family prop points and the fact that Kellie’s been wearing rollers in her hair for the best part of a decade, there was a rather lovely foxtrot. Good footwork, including a well-executed heel turn, some (not all) heel leads and gentle elegance. However, a tad stiff and contained, and their performances always feel studied rather than spontaneous – not helped by such clinical deployment of reality TV tropes. A shame, as she’s got bags of talent and deserves to be liked, not just grudgingly admired.

Song: “Dream A Little Dream”, Mama Cass (COPYCAT KLAXON: Will Thorpe and Hanna)

Judges’ comments: Bruno both praised and inadvertently criticised them by comparing it with a BBC Four documentary. Craig praised her finger placement in hold. Darcey thought it had pure, clean execution, but she needs to extend more in hold. Len liked the trip down memory lane.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


 

Jamelia and Tristan – The only way is up

jamelia-tristan-macmanus-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalVT: Paula Abdul LITERALLY phoning it in to wish (“…Jamelia, is it?”) luck. Annoyance level: 0. Paula is a goddess, and her alarmed dog is my hero. The beauty of setting such low expectations: easy to exceed them. Nevertheless, this was a charming Charleston from Jamelia – great swivel action, fun characterisation, nice musicality, and answered that age-old question: “What would it look like if Nicki Minaj mated with a Christmas tree ornament?” Still rough around the edges, footwork variable and one hideous lift, but big improvement and she looked far more comfortable. If I were cruel, I would point out this is the first routine Tristan didn’t choreograph for her. If I were cruel.

Song: “Straight Up”, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox

Judges’ comments: Craig praised the swivel action. Darcey: “You played a whole different character! You brought so much of yourself to it!” Oh Darce. Stylish and improved stamina. Bruno called her the ultimate flapper.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


 

Jay and Aliona – The only way is down

jay-mcguiness-aliona-vilani-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Back to school. Though not a DANCE school, conspiracy theorists. Annoyance level: 4. It’s fair to say Aliona got a tad overexcited after last week’s wonder jive, packing about 600 things too many into this choppy, stop/start, ultimately disaaaahstrous quickstep, though the useless music choice didn’t help. Massive gapping, tons of mistakes, lacked drive and the hold disintegrated, but moments of brilliance – the slick pivots bode well. Still not much of a performance (and understandable in a routine this jam-packed), which means errors come with giant neon signs. As opposed to Jeremy’s dances, where picking out mistakes among the general genial madness is like playing Where’s Wally?

Song: “My Generation”, The Who

Judges’ comments: Darcey noted the mistakes, but it was a challenging routine. Len said he needs to keep his head to the left. Bruno thought he took off like a gazelle, but then crash-landed. Craig: “Too many mistakes.”

Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 6, 7 – 25


 

Carol and Pasha – Pasha doble

carol-kirkwood-pasha-kovalev-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Flamenco night. Hey, that’s actually close to relevant! Annoyance level: 1. Like Jamelia, Carol set herself a very low bar to clear, and the trad music gave her a much-needed assist. (Take note, producers.) Also working for her: the mesmerising sight of Pasha teaming a bolero jacket with a turtleneck, and his truly magnificent eyebrow-ography. Definitely her most committed performance so far, actually danced in close proximity to the beat and hit some almost decent lines, though still needs far more exaggeration, shaping and passion. Wouldn’t intimidate any bulls, but might agitate a sheep or two. And that’s a big step up.

Song: “Espana Cani”, Pascual Marquina Narro (COPYCAT KLAXON: Claire Sweeney and John, Jill Halfpenny and Darren, Austin Healey and Erin, Fern Brittain and Artem)

Judges’ comments: Len said she got into character. Bruno wanted more aggression and intention. “I want him and I’m going to get him!” (Inner monologue escaping there.) Craig said she finally engaged her body, but flat hands. Darcey thought she told a story and had nice detail, but needs more strength.

Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 5 – 22


 

Ainsley and Natalie – Time works wonders

ainsley-harriott-natalie-lowe-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Wearing a metal frame to improve frame. Annoyance level: 4. This waltz was cheese cheese glorious cheese, but actually less dependent on Ainsley’s personality than previous numbers. Yes, his face was still doing a dance all on its own, but the rest of him joined in: laudable attempt at rise and fall, some heel leads, nice flow, though needs much more drive and frame varied wildly. Good recovery from the penguin disco fiasco, and an enjoyable balance of zany Ainsley and some actual improved dancing. Bonus points for candy floss styling and Nat’s permanent #blessed expression. The woman is a marvel.

Song: “What a Wonderful World”, Louis Armstrong (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Dawson and Lilia)

Judges’ comments: Bruno praised his intention, though needs to extend lines. Craig said the frame and posture started well, and he enjoyed it. Darcey thought it was charming and lots of detail, but shoulders came up. Len said the hold shouldn’t change, but footwork pretty good and no mistakes.

Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 7, 6 – 26


 

Helen and Aljaž – Just what the doctor ordered

helen-george-aljaz-skrojanec-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalVT: A long way to go for a very bad joke about fear of lifts. Annoyance level: 10. This week’s addition to the Aljaž doll collection (following prince, mechanic and naval captain) is doctor, and with Helen donning an Anne Summers nurse’s outfit, there’s something for everyone here. Fab to see her embracing the camp silliness of this number, although some of the lyrical balletic training remained: legs a bit soft and needed to dance into the floor more to get sharp, rhythmic steps rather than fluffy fudging. Great musicality and ambitious lifts – two exited very awkwardly, the final one nailed. Surprisingly fun number, though competing with Pamela’s similarly themed salsa (and Claud’s reaction to The Almost Fall).

Song: “Miami Sound Machine”, Dr Beat

Judges’ comments: Craig: “Earth the grind.” (Add to list of band names…) Darcey suggested trying more plié on the lifts. Helen, receiving ballet tips from Darcey, looked like she might weep with joy. Len blathered on about his new knee. Bruno thought it was hot and saucy.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


 

Peter and Janette – House of cards

peter-andre-janette-marara-bbc-guy-levysimply so soVT: Family prop points with an inevitable visit from Andre’s wife (and kids mention). Annoyance level: 5. At this point, we should probably just set Peter and Janette loose on the set of an Eighties glam rock video and get out of their way – trying to introduce ballroom into the mix just feels like overkill. Yes, they’ve had a glut of high-intensity styles, but we’ve yet to see them transform significantly. And I can cut and paste my criticism from last week: “better drama than movement quality”. Never dull to watch, musical and committed storytelling, but stompy, lacked drive, weirdly hunched, misshapen hold, and too many breaks for card-playing. Something different next week, please. Preferably with technique. And no eyeliner.

Song: “Blue Monday”, New Order

Judges’ comments: Darcey praised Janette’s choreography. Len said it had snap, but was over-attacked and lost posture. Bruno thought he sold it. Craig said he picked up his feet too much, but intent and good staccato.

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32


 

Katie and Anton – Turnaround

katie-derham-anton-du-beke-bbc-guy-levystrictly sensationalVT: More Family prop points, this time Katie’s daughters. Annoyance level: 2. This redemptive Viennese waltz was serious Len bait, from tails and pink floats to staunch basics and Elvis, and with Anton (and Katie, ish. But mainly Anton) back in his comfort zone, a massive improvement on last week’s non-cha cha. Rather skippy as she didn’t soften her knees enough, so kept popping up, and a few footwork fudges – didn’t always close and some heel leads missed. But lovely serene topline throughout, held on in the pivots, decent fleckerl and joyful performance. Would be fab to see her looking as strong in Latin – your move, Anton.

Song: “If I Can Dream”, Elvis Presley

Judges’ comments: Len noted she kept her left hand light, rather than gripping on, wonderful neck and lovely extension. Bruno said she’s made for ballroom. Craig thought it was skippy, but incredible she learned it all in a week. Darcey praised the content.

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 – 33


 

Leaderboard

Katie and Anton – 33

Kellie and Kevin – 32

Jamelia and Tristan – 32

Helen and Aljaž – 32

Peter and Janette – 32

Georgia and Giovanni – 31

Anita and Gleb – 27

Ainsley and Natalie – 26

Jay and Aliona – 25

Daniel and Kristina – 23

Carol and Pasha – 22

Kirsty and Brendan – 21

Jeremy and Karen – 20

Anton atop the leaderboard: it’s Bizarro Strictly. Jamelia, Georgia, Peter and Ainsley improve, while Jay, Jeremy and Kirsty plummet.


 

Sunday

kristina-daniel-kirsty-brendan-bbc-guy-levyBandana central! It was alright in the Eighties. Ish. Gleb loving this throwback number a bit too much. Anton…got to bang the jukebox.

Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?

Never mind Tess. All hail Claud’s shoulder pads and magnificent mullet.

Will Young completed this week’s assault on music. Also there were balloons. And cloying contemporary. “JOOOOOY!” I still have a migraine.

Len’s lens highlights:

  • Len moaned about Jay’s head
  • Darcey moaned about Ainsley’s neck
  • Craig demonstrated spotting in sinister fashion
  • Bruno demonstrated artistry in violent fashion
  • Darcey and Len snubbed Craig and Bruno in the “Keeeep dancing”. Glorious

In the dance-off: Kirsty and Brendan, and Daniel and Kristina (where’s the army of elderly ladies when you need them?). Kirsty marginally improved, while Daniel completely went to pieces. The judges, unsurprisingly, saved Kirsty. Farewell, Danielbot. Your Danny Zuko will stay with me. No matter how hard I try to dislodge it from my damaged psyche.

What did you think of this week’s dances? Who was your favourite? And did the right couple go home? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain

See you next week for more theme-free fun and games, and 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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