When was the last time you took a trip by charabanc?
It used to be the highlight of the year for many. Before the planet shrank. Before the air became flooded with Sir Frank Whittle’s finest. Before the country became covered with tarmac, self-combusting engines and individuals.
Maybe it was the visit to the seaside, a crate of brown ale occupying the most important seat? Or a school trip? Or that Youth Club excursion? I did one of those and went to Blackpool, to the home of The Illuminations, ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats, The Tangerines, trams, RIP Alan Bradley, the Pleasure Beach, the police beat of Big Wade and the scariest Roller Coaster in the world, one never to be ridden again, by me at least.
There’s also a Tower there, ginormous, there has been since 1894, just the 158 metres high, 518 feet and 9 inches if you prefer, the place where Grace Jones filmed that scene in the Bond movie, ‘A View To A Kill’.
Whilst there are many attractions at The Tower there is one main advantage over its Gallic cousin across the water. Whilst it’s easy to have a champagne reception in the Parisian skies it doesn’t have a Ballroom, a floor made from blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut, a dance floor that measures 37 metres square, a vast expanse, worthy as the host venue for this year’s Strictla Final, one that the contestants arrived at . . . by charabanc.
I kid you not; I was there in London to count them on and I was there in the car park at Bloomfield Road, to count them off. Brendan and Robbie took the back seat, Vincent caving in easily. Len sat with Alice, itching to get the card school going again. Bruce took the mike and led a sing song. Bruno was missing, locked in the hold like Nick Nack in another Bond movie, ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. Jason sat reading his Ballroom Technique book, Chelsa had her hand up the whole way, waiting to be granted a time to use the loo. Harry, adorned with purple headphones, played imaginary bongos never missing a beat.
And the rest slept dreamily. ‘Blackpool! Blackpool! The Home of Ballroom!’
Only Nancy was missing.
It was rumoured that she would be taking a chopper for the ride, no First Class on a charabanc love. And sadly it was true. And sadly she too made it.
When the show actually kicked off after what can only be said is quite a lot of hype we were themed again for this golden year, gladiators aplenty, chariots in a Ben Hur sort of way, all gold, for this colossal battle, an evening when the GBP would give the thumbs up or the thumbs down to our remaining cupples, the juddgies’ scores mere guidance.
The pros kicked off the night dancing to Bon Jovi, ‘Living On A Prayer’, a routine including sword fights, netting shields called iaculum and Anton and Vincent amongst the fighters, fresh from duties as bouncers at Mothercare.
We didn’t see the theme again.
The celebs then danced their best dance, Harry’s fleet-footed Quick Step perfect with 40, Chelsa’s Shrek Jive a point less and Jason held up the rear, another point shy for a Tango that reminded you of Austin Powers. It was performed well, no doubt, but as an exposé of the Tango it was hammy and hideous. He should have been fed to the lions in an instant even though they might have choked on the pink feathers in his boa.
As is, his illimmination was to come at half time in spite of Jase fighting back to max out with his Show Dance, Harry’s netting one ten in his 37 and Chelsa hitting four nines.
They are curious affairs Show Dances; they are the ultimate in exposure and normally the pros litter the performance with tricks, lifts and dips and that is what we duly got, three totally different dances, all high tempo and energy, all pushing the limits, all fantastic, amazing.
Harry did a Jive and Rock and Roll hybrid to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ that included four lifts, three from the same set-up, just variations, taking off his jacket, ripping off the sleeves of his shirt, running, a splits, a hand spring, pointless drumming and that annoying thing he does with his hair, you know the sweep from front to back with the palm of the hand as if he’s The Fonz. Urgh!
Jason, Quick Stepping with Charleston to ‘Dancing Fool’ began his routine wearing a pin stripe suit, Kristina also, but by the end he was down to his trousers and shirt, her just a lamp shade. There were three lifts in the first twenty seconds of dancing, another routine with smoke and mirrors, time spent and wasted distracting the audience, but still high quality. Looks like he could have a career on the stage this lad.
When you wobble on the first step you’re never going to get a ten are you? Bring on then Chelsa Wobberla, her back leg nearly slipping as she posed on the dais. What followed was a badge of courage, lifts and straddles and a bit of dancing, ‘One Night Only’ the song. Anyone know who sang it? B something . . .
The most dangerous lift seen in this series was carried off with aplomb. Her legs were around his neck, her head scootered backwards, near the floor, his arms out, the hands grabbing air. Brilliant. There was some Rock and Roll, Salsa, Samba, Cha and Hustle in this chutney of excellence.
At the half way stage Jason was at the top of the leader board in this show, second overall throughout the series but the GBP duly elected to voat for youth, the McFly tribe voating for Harry, Waterloo Road fanatic’s for Chelsa. It was a tight call but hey-ho-ho-ho, someone had to go.
The stats, if you want them are:
Harry – 491 points, average 35.1, 18 tens
Jason – 487 points, average 34.8, 12 tens
Chelsa – 496 points, average 34.7, 12 tens.
Couldn’t get a fag paper between them.
Five minutes into the last Strictla session of the series Jason knew that his time had come and he spent the next hour bidding an emotional farewell, thanking his family, his partner, his dog, his cat. Just bear this in mind for later. Of course he got a standing ovation . . . for coming third.
This cleared the floor for the big two to dance twice more, a new dance and their favourite, Harry given an American Smooth and Chelsa a Rumby. Sorra, Rumba.
Harry floated on first with a sublime Viennese Waltz Smooth to ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’. There was a romantic jump, rotating spins, subtle changes of pace and sincerity. Mostly all that was seen was beauty, 39 adding to his bludgeoning portfolio.
When I first saw Chelsa’s Rumba I thought the song, ‘Because of You’ was perfect, her lines smooth, some transitions edgy, her performance less than captivating or believable. I’m told you had to be there. And then came the end when she walked off in a strop – part of the dance I should add. And this destroyed it for me. In the Rumba, the guy always gets the girl. Always. It is a dance of love and seduction, not that of a tantrum.
Still got 39 though, a score she mirrored when she did her Quick Step, the repeat of week 4, the one where Pash was a passenger at an airport, where she worked for Ryan Air, when she scored 36 points.
Harry’s last dance selection was what is fondly known as the 18-Bar Argie Tango because that’s how much he actually danced. 37 first time out, the ten paddles were wafted for fun this time. Well it was the final and 40 was a great way to finish.
But would it be enough? A few years ago Lisa Snowden scored three forties in her last three dances and was binned before she had the chance to even think about winning The Glitter Ball Trophy. During this evening Harry led 156 to 153. He was 25 to 18 up on tens. He had to win didn’t he? I voated, just in case it came down to one voat, figures that are bizarrely never in the public domain.
Anyone hard of hearing watching the announcement would have known easily that Harry was the victor, a worthy one, because his band members invaded the dance floor to celebrate much to the annoyance of our host who shooed them like ducklings. Even Harry’s dad popped on to the floor for a hug and a kiss. Either that or some random bloke from the audience.
Amidst the joy and elation Chelsa stood proud with her fella, Pasha, knowing she had given her all and it just wasn’t enough on the day. Then she was ushered off to the side after the applause for her died down. No farewell speech for her. No tribute to her mam and family. No chance for Pash to pass on his plaudits to her and vice versa. Just, ‘Sorry love, you’re second, shift it over there.’
It wasn’t the producer’s finest hour.
Hopefulla, next year, this disrespectful afterthought will have been overcome.
Honestla, you couldn’t make it up.
It’s all over now and for the dance fraternity this is a sad time of year. As Princesses Aggie and Apeth both said recently, ‘I hate this time of year . . . the end of Strictly!’, even though there is a Christmas Special on the telly the day after my gran’s birthday, a mere stocking filler after the smorgasbord of the last three and a half months.
But more than that what about the new fans, those who have thronged to TVs in their millions, the young, the old, the men and women who have been stung by the Strictla bug for the first time?
Apart from the glitz, glam and the amazing Su Judd wardrobes, the fine dancing, the brilliant musical arrangements from Dave Arch and his equally brilliant singers – Tommy Blaize, Priscilla Jones Campbell, Hayley Sanderson, Lance Ellington – they have been enticed by the idiotic and the buffoonery. They have been attracted by gimmicks and gismos aplenty, whosits and wotsits galore, themes and themes and themes, Wemberley (Arena not Stadium), Blackpool, 3D and the show broadcast in proper cinemas up and down the land. Not sure the last one would have tolerated the shouts and screams from Travolta Towers, and I’m not sure where I’d have served the chilli prawns, Thai green curry and Chardonnay but the effort was appreciated nonetheless.
To finish . . . a random woman approached me in a supermarket and said how wonderful they all were on the floor.
Children have swooned at the beauty that the show has brought the nation; many have signed up for classes.
And grown men have come up to me in the street saying how fantastic the series was, how they luvved it, all in a surprising tone, indicating that they thought it wouldn’t be up to much.
One even quipped that the last five remaining girls all had large upper bodies: Alex, Holly, Kristina, Chelsa and Aliona. He asked if that was a prerequisite to be being a brilliant dancer.
With a chest of 52 inches, natural, I can only confirm that in one word.
December 23rd 2011