During the course of history there are events that I would have liked to have witnessed and there are some eras when I am really glad to have been born in another age. For example it would have been fun to be a reporter on the trial of JC in Jerusalem all those years ago. Similarly living through the bubonic plague wouldn’t have been top of the list for entertainment value.
Let me take you to the 21st century then and the desire of people to be part of something, to witness history or just to have that beaming smugness when you can say, ‘I was there.’
There was a time when this sort of self-aggrandisement was the domain of sport, the live history unfolding before your eyes. It could have been that great Test Match like Botham at Headingley, the day that Llanelli downed the mighty All Blacks or that day when Gazza or Becks performed heroically, or the opposite.
Not satisfied that sport had it all the GBP have taken this sense of being into the realm of demonstrations, riots, movie premières, theatre nights or being seen at a certain restaurant or club. All great for self-esteem, anecdotes full of feel-good detail.
The reason I mention it is that being at a live event does give you that something extra. It might be that en masse march towards the stadium, that first taste of expectation or that trance like state that you go into when you harmonise with the events in front of your eyes.
So bring on then the semi-final of Strictla, a show bedecked with glitter, glam and standing ovations, tens thrown around like confetti, fourteen in the one show, the audience captured in the moment, the dancers surfing the tide of excitement, the juddgies sucked into the vortex of the momentum.
A ten has to be awarded for perfection and viewed from afar, watching the small screen, fourteen tens seems rather too many. More in a moment. But maybe there were things we didn’t get at home? Things we didn’t see? Because we weren’t there.
Let’s begin with one of the forties, Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff’s Argentine Tango. This was the last dance of the night, always an advantage, the tenth, everyone at the studio punch drunk by all that had gone before it, and the first plus was the genuine music, ‘Assassin’s Tango’, the Bandoneon squeezed, the strings stroked.
Straight into character, her as convincing as him, the scene was set for a bully of a man to force himself onto a reluctant and defenceless woman. This was believable, maybe too much, his dominance verging on psychopathic, but it was no gaucho and prostitute. What followed was great acting but not great dancing.
For the first half of the routine he was wooden and vertical, no lead from the chest, steps with little degree of difficulty. Yes, the lifts that followed were spectacular, the routine a credit to her brilliance, the two prime Russians, her and R-Tem, the leading lights of Strictla choreographers, the mood was intense and the delivery perfect, except for the plankiness at the outset. I’m sure they meant it but it didn’t look right either way.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a brilliant effort but the first half undermined the second.
Jase needed a big score because he was almost the victim of Death by Samba, 34 points an overscore, shouts of ‘horrible’ and ‘lame’ coming from the settees at Travolta Towers; I was on the floor. Others searched for the bounce and found it aplenty; others hips and they did not.
The Samba is a notoriously difficult dance, there are changes of tempo and technically you have to be spot on. There has to be bounce, not like Tigger, there has to be hips not just rotations and gyrations and this was not convincing from Jase. Of course, he came out and had fun, he went at it like Speedy Gonzales, Kristina slowed him down, it was like he was a top, fully wound and unleashed, and still she tried to slow him down.
The other forty came from Chelsa dancing what in Strictla parlance will forever be known as a Pasha Dobla. You will have to forgive me an indulgence here, I watched a bit of Paso on a well-known internet site on Saturday evening and the star was a bloke called Slavik Kryklyvyy. Look him up. He was fantastic, control, shapes, a master of his craft.
It was perhaps a little unfair then to watch Chelsa virtually straight afta for comparing the two routines and the standards would be like chalk and cheese. Slavik is world class.
But you have to ask, therefore, is Pasha?
Chelsa, for her part, is innocent in any comparison, but as a result this looked uninspired and it seemed like she’d given up in the last ten seconds. That’s what we saw from a distance. Mayba that was part of the performance? Mayba you just had to be there?
One thing that Chelsa did achieve, more than anything, was to get Craig to reach for his ten paddle for the first time in the series. He even called her an ‘incredible darncer.’ Must be Christmas.
On two other occasions Craig had the chance to reach for the maximum and twice he refused, Harry the victim each time, just the two 39s, first his Charleston and then his Viennese Waltz, both great, both worthy, even though Harry was an unconvincing Charleston goof, far too cool for school.
At the end of the Charleston, the opening dance of the night, Bruce went to Len for comments and before you knew it he was introducing dance two. You never know if this was Bruce’s error or that of the director but the other juddgies sat silent, ready but unused, the world wondering if they were happy with Harry, or not. This happened once more during the show when the delightful Alice sadly got the chop. Were they behind the timings or did they just forget? Or were we just to assume that it was a ‘good job’ anyway?
What was a good job was Harry’s VW danced to ‘This Year’s Love’. David Gray if you didn’t know, the famous Austrian. Starting with two Fleckerls, or was there three, the pace was dictated by the music, slow, gentle, sophisticated in a melancholic way. It was enchanting like something from a fairy tale, the prince wooing his princess. Quite beautiful.
Cyndi Lauper has sold over fifty million records worldwide since she burst onto the scene with ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ in 1984. Not once has she written a song to Fox Trot to. Not until tonight, ‘Time After Time’ winning the tombola on this occasion, Chelsa the recipient in a Smooth that scored 36, a ten from the generous Alice, a miserly eight closer to realita.
You could see throughout this routine that she is especiala talented; you could hear after and in the rushes that she also has severe elocution issues. As well as removing the ‘Y’ from the alphabet she has inherited the dictionara from Alice that the latter gladly binned during the summer. We was . . .
Don’t get me started.
That said, this girl is a brilliant dancer and maybe now she deserves something more from her partner. This routine was peppered with smart moves but also repetition, three lifts, and repetition, one not sold nor bought. If they get it right they can realla, realla, feature in the final next week.
A cupple who won’t, well two who won’t, are Holly and Alex, Alex a natural casualty given the ability of the survivors, Holly unlucky to fall, one show off the final, that charabanc trip to Blackpool, the victim of dubble illimmination.
Holly was asked to perform a Charleston and an Argentine Tango, 34 and 36, consistently high scoring, but not quite high enough. It is always a shame that someone has to leave; she has adorned this show with her smile and effort, with her uncommon genuineness.
The Charleston, danced to ‘We No Speak Americano’ by Yolanda Be Cool, was really hammy, both wearing brown and gold, the skit containing DJ mixing, light aerobics, Artie dressed like Eugene from ‘Grease’, a piggy back, a cartwheel from her, a lift where he could have done his back in and plenty of flightiness. All aerobics classes should be like that.
‘Por Una Cabeza’ is a classical Tango tune from the pen of Itzhak Perlman, meaning to win or lose by a head, either a horse race or in love. It is commonly used in the movies and it felt right at place here, adding some completion, complementing the mood and her red dress, sliced perfectly, the only thing missing a tattoo on her thigh saying, ‘Hussy For Sale.’
R-Tem, no hat nor hangman’s hoodie, crafted this two minutes, a typical seduction, not a murder, brilliant use of a revolving bar stool, as classy an Argie Tango as was seen on the night. What was missing? Where could that elusive one point have been gained? Is it because she’s not a professional actress? Or should Artie have gone in for the kill? Maybe you had to be there.
When people tell you that you are worth your place, that you deserve to be somewhere, that you have earned it, it is almost like the football manager getting the support of the club chairman. You know that trubble is ahead and sure enough Blue Peter’s finest – adult version – Alex Jones, bowed out with beauty and grace, 34 for her Waltz but just 31 for Salsa.
The juddgies extolled her improvement, it’s not where you start but where you end, almost but not quite tipped into patronisation. At this stage of the series fortune does have an impact. Getting to Waltz is a gimme, James’ lead is sublime even if she chased a little, but getting Salsa in a semi has undone far better dancers than Alex in the past. If you don’t get it, and Salsa at a high level takes years, then there isn’t much you can do to hide it.
Salsa on Strictla isn’t Salsa as the world knows it. If you visit the Internet, again, and watch the difference between club dancing and performance Salsa you will see what I mean.
Club dancing is closer, rooms packed, floor craft needed, you need to watch for elbows, idiots walking across the floor with drinks, novices with stilettos willing to pin you to the floor.
Performance Salsa hides fundamental things, things like basics, yet it promotes knee slides, shimmies to the world, gyrating, the girl straddling the guy’s thigh – always gets a whoop from the crowd this – clapping and walking around.
To be fair to Alex her routine had all the latter plus her dressed in a mac, last used on Clapham Common, some pointless solo steps, skipping, a Dirty Dancing-ish lift, a pretzel, loop holes, combs, cross bodies, and probably the best professional Salsero we’ve seen so far. He was slick and full of savvy.
James tried hard, her too, he brought her out of herself, yet time ran out to perfect some of the subtlety of the dance. No Blackpool for her.
And there you have it, the Big Five have become The Last Three Standing for what can only be a spectacular finale to a thrilling and enjoyable series. The right three are there and hopefulla we will get a show worthy, where dance is the centre of the night not pointless comedy sketches, juddgies showboating, the childish hijacking of Twice Daly’s after dance interviews or the totally misplaced sexual innuendo.
May the best man win for it will be a man.
I was the best man at a wedding once.
Well, at least I thought I was.
December 12th 2011