Posted on October 26, 2015
Let me start this Strictly recap by stating that whatever pain meds Len “8s for everyone!” Goodman is on, I want some. Perhaps they would have enlivened a rather dreary mid-series outing, in which everyone seemed to be pacing themselves for the Halloween insanity to come. It wasn’t until the final three dances (otherwise known as “X Factor overlap o’clock”) that the show kicked into gear with strong performances from three overt ringers – a risky strategy up there with the climactic hand of every terrible movie poker sequence. Top tip: saving the best for last only works if we haven’t already been broken by Andre’s rumba and left sobbing into a cushion some hours earlier.
Other hits and misses:
Best in Show
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Too much material trailing from your pink sack? Never mind! You can always hack off a slab to cover the bite chomped out of the neckline. Claudia: safe in a slinky LBD.
Georgia and Giovanni – D-I-S-C-O
Apparently we’re now at full Family prop points deployment. A handful earned by Georgia’s mum’s dubious sausage analogy, and the entire family bouncing in wearing sombreros, really capturing the cultural sensitivity of this performance. Cute, bouncy, good body rolls and decent rhythm, but transitions need work – yes, the lifts were tough, but they LOOKED tough. Would get more hip action dancing into the floor, and lines often unfinished, though understandable in a fast, action-packed disco routine. Yeah, that’s right – I will not sully this with “salsa”. It’s beneath all of us to do so. Fun, if necessarily limited.
Song: “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”, Sylvester
Judges’ comments: Len said it was a great disco salsa (sigh), full of vim and vigour. Bruno praised the ambitious lifts, but stalled on the dismount. Craig agreed preparation and exits from lifts need work, but underarm turns incredible. Darcey loved the Seventies style. Of the disco. So there’s that.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31
Carol and Pasha – The lady’s not for turning
Right. Strap in. The “comedy” VTs cometh. Carol’s: theme park visit to counter dizziness during turns. Annoyance level: 5. Slightly redeemed by Pasha’s line reading of “What do horses do? THEY SPIN!” This Viennese was a well-calculated charm-fest: Carol in a lovely frock, Pasha in tails, crooning music, gentle air of Disney wish fulfilment. Non-ringer Carol has improved – fewer overt mistakes, better performance level and a decent stab at proper content, but it’s all rather (and here’s a word you don’t often associate with Strictly) subtle. Hold needs far more shaping and clearer head position, and not enough commitment to footwork, meaning no drive and lacks details. Benign in hold, problematic out, though I rather enjoyed her whispering arms – like directing traffic at a monastic retreat.
Song: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Seal
Judges’ comments: Bruno praised the content, but too bland. Craig said she’s safer in hold, though turns a bit wobbly. Darcey gave a very Darcey-ish explanation of expressive arms. Len said for no dance training she’s doing well – a nice performance.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21
Anita and Gleb – The final frontier
Family prop points: a healthy 10 for Anita’s mum, who should definitely choreograph pro Bollywood numbers should horror film villain Around the World Week ever regenerate. Now, this performance was a loony Heston mishmash of competing elements that work in isolation, not so much together. If you could separate the tango from the horrifying cover of “Sweet Disposition” and Flash Gordon: The Musical! styling…well, then you deserve a medal. Credit to Gleb for some interesting if mixed choreography, and to focussed Anita for finding her way through a fog of eye make-up and producing strong, crisp movement, a promising hold and some good lines.
Song: “Sweet Disposition”, The Temper Trap
Judges’ comments: Craig loved the choreography, and thought it was sharp, staccato and powerful, but she lost balance. Darcey enjoyed the “Star Trek contemporary feel”. So there’s that. Len liked the darkness and menace, and praised her footwork. Bruno loved the withheld aggression, though a little incident.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Peter and Janette – Loud and clear
VT: Photographic studio, a (snort) hitherto unfamiliar environment for Andre. Annoyance level: 9. In contrast to Carol, this couple cannot let a single accent or emotional beat go unpunctuated, which has grown very wearing – it’s like throwing an operatic tantrum every time you forget to buy milk or run out of paper clips. In his rumba, it meant spiky, jerky movement and that godawful literal beating heart moment. (Which I can only imagine was inspired by this.) Needed much more flow and light and shade, and hip action was forced rather than coming from straightening legs, plus his usual OTT performance level. Less embarrassed than most male celeb rumbas, but not much less embarrassing.
Song: “Thinking Out Loud”, Ed Sheeran
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised the emotion, but needed to keep it moving. Len noted stompy heel leads, but he did well with a hard dance. Bruno loved the commitment to character, but too clipped. Craig thought it lacked resistance and foot pressure, and salsa hips crept in, but he presented Janette well.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 7 – 29
Kirsty and Brendan – Labour of love
Ooh ooh training footage alert, though it did come with a side order of melodramatic “THERE’S NO PLACE TO HIDE” commentary. This Viennese took about three hours to get going, with Kirsty making a slower descent down the stairs than a mark 1 Dalek, but showed enormous improvement once they actually got to the dancing bit. Still some awkwardness and tension showing in topline, and had to be nudged back into position a couple of times, but moved well round the floor, decent footwork and a nice fleckerl. Good example of hard work paying off. Sidenote: a blatant illegal lift, in case anyone was interested.
Song: “This Year’s Love”, David Gray (COPYCAT KLAXON: Harry Judd and Aliona)
Judges’ comments: Len praised the content and called it her best dance. Bruno said there was a big improvement in the musicality. Craig: “You were actually dancing tonight.” Her left shoulder came up, and needs to soften the hand on Brendan’s shoulder. Darcey thought it was a wonderful surprise.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 8, 7 – 29
Ainsley and Natalie – The last laugh
VT: A new torture device from Nat. Annoyance level: 7. Comedy Penguin Ainsley is back, with a chef outfit put through the wash with a red sock and approximately three Jim Carrey Mask faces per second, merging alarmingly with Uncle Fester towards the end. Fun, musical and a dash of Elvis, but a long way from jive. Basics, yes, but rendered unrecognisable by incredibly flat feet, shambolic posture and legs like Silly Putty. Still entertaining, but only just.
Song: “Shake Rattle and Roll”, Bill Haley and the Comets (COPYCAT KLAXON: Matt Di Angelo and Flavia)
Judges’ comments: Bruno enjoyed his impersonation of the dance, but kicks and flicks were indistinguishable and weight too far back. Craig agreed it was technically lacking and haphazard. Darcey thought it was overtaken by character, and needed to be cleaner. Len called it “Shake n’ Vac” and he got off time, but fun.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21
Jamelia and Tristan – War horse
Family prop points for very cute daughters, there to counteract the looming disaster of foxtrot. Not helping: ghastly pink highlighter dress, random horse-less carriage and massacring of already dire Celine Dion track. Few redeeming features here, in fact, as we return to the clunky, antagonistic awkwardness of Jamelia and Tristan’s regular programming: ginormous gapping, fudged footwork, troubled posture, (relatively minor) illegal lift, and a mistake that threw them off for the entire second half. Major problem is she still tries to step around Tristan, rather than driving through him. Seemed a little less nervy, glaring error aside, otherwise not a particularly pleasant watch.
Song: “Because You Loved Me”, Celine Dion
Judges’ comments: Craig noted it went horribly wrong after the illegal lift, and needs to bring her feet together – looked like she’d just jumped off a horse. Darcey said she’d worked on the topline, but lost it when she came out of hold. Len said she’s more comfortable in Latin. (So apparently Charleston is now Latin.) Bruno advised covering up mistakes better.
Judges’ scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 – 26
Katie and Anton – On the sauce
VT: Salsa club. Annoyance level: 6, as it featured Anton teaching others how to dance Latin. Really, du Beke? I’m not sure where to start with this utter catastrophe. Perhaps with Anton’s “Off to visit the Empire in 1922” styling, reflective of the dodgy colonial theming, or the general air of both choreographing and performing the wrong side of an entire cocktail menu. Far too upright, lifts a complete mess, no hip action, awful transitions and seemed completely reliant on the power of a shimmy. Now, the big question is, which came first: the chicken or the egg? Er, I mean Katie’s dire Latin or her partner? In other words – might she actually have a shot with an all-rounder pro? If so, we must mourn her sacrifice upon the Altar of Anton.
Song: “It Had Better Be Tonight”, Michael Bublé
Judges’ comments: Darcey said it lacked spice. Latin isn’t her (his?) strength. Len wanted more hip action and control. Bruno she lost timing, and needed grounding. Craig thought the armography was sticky, falling out of turns and no hip action in basic. “Dreadful, dreadful salsa.”
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21
Jeremy and Karen – A tall order
VT: Elvis Costello asks Jeremy not to take risks with his song. Annoyance level: 6. We’re just pretending this is Elvis’s song now, are we? This was a gimmick-free waltz, which meant Jeremy’s flaws were glaringly obvious, from the lack of heel leads and drive to the stiff, boxy upper body, copious gapping and distracting habit of licking his lips when concentrating. They still have a sweet chemistry and Jeremy sells performances decently, but not much to get excited about. In fairness, the hold and gapping problems are exacerbated by the insane height difference. Time to recruit some taller female pros? Or a stepladder?
Song: “She”, Charles Aznavour (COPYCAT KLAXON: Patsy Palmer and Anton)
Judges’ comments: Len said he maintained his height. Bruno found it lifeless and lacking drive. Craig called it shapeless and ploddy, too much gapping, leaning over Karen and looked like he was dragging a log. Darcey thought it was charming, but needs to soften knees.
Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 6, 4 – 18
Helen and Aljaž – Full steam ahead
VT: Hurdles. Annoyance level: 8. You can’t play Chariots of Fire music and not balance Champagne glasses on them. Aggravating Strictly train station dance intro, too, keeping us waiting longer than the Circle Line at weekends. Once they actually got going, great movement, nice fluidity and bright, breezy delivery, though some gapping, tended to grip onto him and the hold doesn’t quite hold up under pressure. Could do without the floor spin, which looked rather like Aljaž preparing to throw a shot put, otherwise a lovely performance – welcome in a sea of mediocrity.
Song: “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Diana Ross and the Supremes (COPYCAT KLAXON: Will Thorpe and Hanna, Dani Harmer and Vincent)
Judges’ comments: Bruno said she’s on the fast track to the top. Craig: “Fab-u-lous.” Darcey praised the beautiful details and transitions. Len noted the gapping and could extend out of her waist more, but right on track.
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 8, 9 – 35
Jay and Aliona – Bull’s-eye
VT: Visit from table tennis-loving former bandmate Nathan. Annoyance level: 7. Probably reduced if I remotely cared about The Wanted. But hey, apparently the table tennis did the trick, as Jay returned with a sharp, powerful paso featuring excellent partnering, slick delivery of tricky content and impressive control. Yes, not exactly the meanest of matadors – more a second-year student working himself up to face BT Broadband customer services – and could emphasise the shaping more, especially in the hips, but got a great balance of strength and finesse. If he can lift the emotional performance level to that technical standard, and project outwards rather than focussing entirely on Aliona, he’ll be unbeatable.
Song: “It’s My Life”, Bon Jovi (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ray Fearon and Camilla)
Judges’ comments: Craig wanted more menace, but great lines, control and shaping. Darcey praised his strength and best male celeb arms EVER, but wants more in the face. Len disputed the arms hyperbole, but it was great. Bruno said he lost his stance occasionally, otherwise it was “the bull’s bollocks”. (Cue Tess coronary.)
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 – 33
Kellie and Kevin – Fast and furious
More training footage! Whoop whoop! Although here a side order of “OMG feeling the pressure because it’s SO FAST.” And fast it was. Far too fast. But first, another idiotic intro and theming that almost sabotaged the performance, as it kept dragging attention away from Kellie’s potentially fantastic jive and over to whatever the hell “comedy” spy caper was going on at the back. If it’s the producers, for shame. But if this is Kevin’s doing, it’s part of a worrying pattern – he risks squandering a talented partner through cutesy shtick. Uncomfortable music choice too, forcing a tempo that made it more of a race than a dance, and inexplicable Chicago styling. High energy, crisp kicks, decent bounce and strong content, including some basics, but necessarily unvaried – all attack, no breath. Ditching the gimmicks and slowing it down would allow for finishing and finesse.
Song: “One Way Or Another”, Blondie (COPYCAT KLAXON: Esther Rantzen and Anton)
Judges’ comments: Darcey said she delivered all the goods. Len wanted the clocks to go back immediately so he could see it again. Bruno made some sort of confused Wellington reference. Craig wanted more retraction, but clean and sharp.
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35
Helen and Aljaž – 35
Kellie and Kevin – 35
Jay and Aliona – 33
Anita and Gleb – 32
Georgia and Giovanni – 31
Peter and Janette – 29
Kirsty and Brendan – 29
Jamelia and Tristan – 26
Carol and Pasha – 21
Ainsley and Natalie – 21
Katie and Anton – 21
Jeremy and Karen – 18
It’s all change, with Helen, Jay, Anita and Kirsty improving, at the expense of Katie, Peter and Jamelia.
A song lauding sunshine in late October, and a dodgy CGI version of Busby Berkeley. Fail. (Thankfully no Bruno to comment on the, er, giant balls.)
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Safe in conservative navy. Claud providing a risqué riff on librarian.
Bryan Adams arrived to sing for superfan Carol, and her alone. Pasha and Ola paso-ed, for extra random points.
(No) Len’s lens highlights:
In the dance-off: Jamelia and Tristan, and Ainsley and Natalie. Everyone saved Jamelia, who marginally improved. The Ringer 4 Nat 2016 campaign starts now.
What did you think of this week’s performances? Who impressed you? And were the right celebs in the dance-off? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
See you next week for Halloween. God help us. In the meantime…keep dancing!