I was called to the production meeting of this week’s show when a message whistled at me from my new mobile phone. That’s right, a whistle. When there’s an email it rings like a doorbell. When the phone itself rings you can set a ringtone or even a pop song. Imagine that! Anyway, the car arrived, the journey was smooth and the end result was that we agreed that the dancers would showcase just two dances between them, giving the celebs a level of equality, no hiding places, allowing the audience the chance to juddge like for like.
Imagine the shock when the show arrived and there were nine dances to cram in, all different styles, plenty of variety for the punters but nine get out clauses for the pros, the chance to pick the dance more suited to their celeb. It was at this stage that I stood up from the sofa, mildly enraged, ready to give someone a piece of my mind when I was dragged back down to my seat by two of Dani Harmer’s bouncers – they had an ankle each.
‘They’d better go for the theme I suggested,’ I whispered as I sulked with a glass of warm milk.
And so, week three already in Series 10 of Strictly and the first themed weekend of many, Hollywood, the movies rather than the French chewing gum manufacturer. That just wouldn’t have worked. What could the dancers have worked with? Bubbles? Mintiness? Wrappers? Shoes stuck to the floor? No, instead, we were treated to mostly mainstream movies though you might have to rack the old grey cells to find ‘Summer Stock’ (1950, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.) You could add ‘The Full Monty’ to that list. Not sure which part of Sheffield qualifies as Hollywood.
There were plenty of unspellable words too, like ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, the song choice for the dapper R-Tem and his squeeze, the flirty Fern, from the 1964 film ‘Mary Poppins’, something that I saw all the way through once but not in my living memory. It was all about a nanny and a cold-hearted banker, daydreams and fantasy and, of course, a happy ending.
The original book was by P L Travers. How on earth do you invent the word ‘Supercali . . . ?’ A kid at school invented the word ‘perfumigate’, to fumigate with perfume. Someone coined Austin Healey as ‘rugbilicious’. Many other liciouses followed. ‘Sexilicious’, being one. But one with 34 letters?
As I remember the song in the movie was full of bounce and speed so when Fern and Artie stepped up I was expecting, well, bounce and speed, and instead, in magnificent outfits, we got a slow, wofting, restrained effort. The punch was pulled, 23 points leaving Fern at the edge of the trapdoor, her next role in a ‘Tale of Two Cities.’
There is a joke about Dolly Parton that could be applied, nearly, to the aforementioned Dickens novel, so how apt was it that Richard should Quick Step to ‘Nine To Five’ the song from the same named movie. The Quick Step is a safe dance. You can add risk but it lacks the technique of the Fox Trot, the technicality of an Argentine Tango and the subtlety and soft skills of Salsa. Little wonder that four cupples opted for it.
Richard scored a well-earned 25 with one juddge sevening to the others’ sixes. Princess Darcey was back, at odds with Lord Len in the scoring stakes. She went high, he low. He went high, her low. It was the tale of the day. At least she has binned the ‘Yah’ so soon having been gently admonished since week one. It took Juddge Alice two years to conjugate ‘to be’ properly.
Having survived the dance off last week Richard offered more style and improvement as he moved away from that dark precipice. Kimberley scored 29, her best yet, capturing the spirit of the Quick Step to ‘Pack Up Your Troubles Get Happy’ from ‘Summer Stock’, Pasha packing the routine with content as he did last year with Chelsa Heala. Remember her? The bench was back as a prop. So too a newspaper. She is lovely and light on her feet but her left shoulder worries me. I normally get into trubble for looking at a girl’s feet . . .
Nicky looked brilliant made up like Jim Carrey in ‘The Mask’, his green face doubling for roles in ‘The Hulk’ and ‘Shrek’ and although he scored 27 this was unconvincing and Nicky is destined to have plenty of time on his hands in November.
Of course, gutsy that he is, he was prepared to foight for survival and he did, the content was fine, but the Quick Step is about grace and speed, about dancing tall, legs to straighten. Hunching with bent knees nearly got him a lead role in ‘Tarzan of the Apes’. And it wasn’t as Tarzan.
The fourth QS was Jerry and Anthony Smith of Bristol, a clever story using a screen to inspire shadows and imagination, like believing she wanted to, or could, dance. 18 points was low, the same score she has achieved in each of her three weeks on the dance floor. Consistent.
She danced on a smaller heel, a good idea and well spotted by Juddge Aggie, her feet were neat and tidy, but her top line was savagely soft, her arms again dropped and he pulled her along well. They danced with recalcitrance to ‘Here’s To You Mrs Robinson’ from ‘The Graduate’. Gladly the dance off was her last foray. Here’s not to you Ms Hall.
Vaughany, 19, did his best to exit the show too, his Cha, ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘Full Monty’, Sheffield, but only one dancer a week is asked to go. The Cha is the easiest dance for non-dancers to pick up; it’s like posh aerobics. Technique can be added early but this was amiss, Natalie trying to distract the audience away from his feet by doing a ‘strip reveal’, ripping off his shirt and trousers. Underneath was another shirt and trousers much to the disappointment of the baying hordes. The routine needed substance and musicality. Bruno implored him to listen to the music. Always a good place to start.
Dressed like the native American Cochise, headband and Cher wig, Sid floundered through an ill thought out Tango to ‘Here We Go Again’ from the film ‘Rock of Ages’. Never heard of it. Not exactly ‘Spartacus’ is it? He used a guitar to dance with even though his partner was in an amazing outfit, the highlight of the routine. There wasn’t much Tango, little staccato, just modicums of aggression. When he amassed 17 there were genuine tears in Sid’s eyes.
Someone who didn’t cry, and she has every previous Saturday, was Vic, who, to be fair to her, this week, had every reason to reach for the Kleenex. It was all going well. She looked gorgeous in her blue frock; Brendan, dressed like Richard Gere from ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’, looked like a male stripper at a hen night. It was all going so well. This Rumba to the 1983 Oscar winning song ‘Up Where We Belong’ had style and class, she nearly burst out laffing but didn’t, and then there were two major wardrobe malfunctions.
Brendan acted like a gentleman trying to free cloth from her shoes but in doing so he lifted her and the frock giving the world a mighty fine view of her rear, something only her racing competitors ever experienced in the past. The second time she nearly strangled herself and hung him with loose fabric on her arms. Len topped the juddgies with a seven in just 22 points. There’s plenty more to come here.
So too from Double O Salmon, if only he was given some steps. We were told that he had been, with Kristina, to Canada to do a movie shoot. You’d have thought that would have given them time to sort out some choreography rather than Colin just posing like a Black Bond in the making.
They opted for an Argentine Tango to ‘Golden Eye’. Not sure which movie that was from. And he looked great, got into character and was believable as a secret agent but not as a Gaucho, fresh from the docks looking for some company. He got the company, the lifts were strong and left nothing to the imagination. The only thing we couldn’t imagine were ganchos, salidas and ochos. Because there weren’t any. Still, 26 was his best to date.
So too Dani with her 29 for a delightful Fox Trot, that was probably the best dance of the night. Darcey Six was a little off kilter as the diminutive dance demon dazzled with grace and control, heel turns, a slow, polished routine to ‘Over The Rainbow’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It sets her up well for December, her nerves dissipating, the belief getting stronger. The only weird bit was when some random dog ran onto the dance floor at the end. What was that all about?
Another a point shy of 30 was Lisa dancing the Jive to ‘Hanky Panky’ from the movie ‘Dick Tracy’. Her partner was awash with colour: blue hat, yellow braces, red tie, white shirt, black and white shoes. With another pantomime style performance Lisa again committed herself to entertaining and that she did, again, with relish. She knows how to do this.
Her partner knows how to hide her failings without detriment to the dance and he did it brilliantly. Looking like a mama from a brothel it took sixteen seconds for them to get it on. Then there was skilful armography, standing on the spot, walking with an occasional lock-step and when it came time to jive she danced on a one and two beat, like Le Roc if you know it, whilst Robin danced faster. Smoke, mirror, disguise. But brilliant.
Louis the Hair produced one or two moments of brilliance too as he and Flav replicated some of the routine from Dirty Dancing to ‘Time of My Life’ scoring 30 points, nearly the best in show. Billed as Salsa, Salsa it wasn’t. Patrick Swayze in the movie dances a Mambo, on two, if I remember; this was nearer to that. Because of that it was a little clunky, more mechanical than motivational, more textbook than from the soul.
In terms of mimicking the movie they did well. The camera angles worked especially when Louis did a leap from the stage, his toes higher than his eyes, spotting the landing, obviously, and glaring with a simmering swagger at the lens. And he nailed the lift – why wouldn’t he, a man of his strength? – without the use of the trampette that was hidden on the film.
And that leaves Denise Kathleen, or van Eight-en as she is now known having scored 8 eights in her last two dances, 32 for this week’s Fox Trot. In a twee but subtly delivered routine she dressed like Jesse, James like Woody, and Toy Story was reborn. The brilliant Randy Newman supplied the sound track, ‘You Got A Friend In Me’, they Hammed it up, were Slinky not Stinky, there was a Buzz in the crowd, they aimed for a Bullseye and ended, almost, Light Years in front of anyone else. One day maybe she will be the queen of dance. If so, he will be her Rex.
Denise and James are bonding into a formidable pairing; there is a natural symbiosis born from his expertise and from her . . . er . . . expertise.
So, as Jerry slow foots it back to her ranch and Anthony begs the producers for a viable partner next year we can relax now having seen some truly movie magic from Tinsel Town. Each week the dancers improve and the stakes get higher; it’s Halloween next week.
As for the movies we have seen ‘The Great Escape’ from Sid and Vaughany. We saw Len’s ‘Magnificent Seven’.
We didn’t see Robin lift Lisa.
That really would have been ‘Mission Impossible’.Dave Schofield
October 25th 2012