On 17th March 1915 Henry Pitts Brown was born in Kennington, London, the son of Harry (Pitts Brown), an American entertainer and a Russian Jew called Eva Rosenthal, no relation to our Jim. Brought up as an orthodox Jew himself he would remind you, in looks, of Sammy Davis Jnr’s healthier, older brother. Henry went on to become a singer, a drummer and a band leader, a prominent feature in The Goon Show in the fifties, and a man who worked a lot with our Brucie during the sixties and seventies.
In the music world he was known as Ray Ellington.
Ray – Henry had two kids, Nina and Lance.
On Saturday, sitting (not sat) on my own as Strictly kicked in, the country still on a hazy high after the exploits of Wembley Arena, I watched and listened and as Bruce introduced the singers, again by name – there is eighty minutes to fill now and only eight dances – I waited. Andrea, Tommy, Hayley . . . and Chris.
Chris? Who the heck is Chris?
And, more’s to the point, where was Lance?
Earlier this year I went to see Anthony Smith of Bristol and Erin doing a gig at the local pally and there was Lance, perfectly clad, hosting, compering, singing, dancing, blasting out the majestic velvet that delves right down to the core of his soulful voice. He has been around a while Lance but not oft known to the GBP. He has been on Strictly forever.
So where was he?
We knew where we were, back to HQ, that pesky autocue and the countdown to Christmas, each cupple having completed eight dances now, the eventual winner surely a lady. Tonight we witnessed four scores of 34 or over, four of 27 or less; it was a veritable curate’s egg of a show. The lowest score was 21. In week 8!!!!! Four strugglers, off the pace, four charging for the tape, a newcomer bursting forth from the pack. But is this burst a mistimed sprint, a last gasp hurrah, or the start of a sustained attack?
I talk not of family favourite Louis, his star diminishing fast as the weeks go by, nor of “New Vaughan, New Vaughan“, but of Nicky Byrne, the one-time waltzing baboon from Westlife, now the high-flying master of the Charleston, 36, a score that will definitely cause a nose bleed or two. Three weeks ago he almost Rumba-ed us to death. Then he was nearly asked to Fox Trot Oscar. His Jive was a Damascene moment.
Bring on then Hottie looking like Coventry City’s new striker and Nicky in a matching shirt, white braces, silver tie and black and white shoes. The scene was set in a Mac Sennett fashion, a silent movie, Hottie tied to a rail line, a veritable damsel in distress, not dissimilar to her first six weeks in the show, the steam engine fast approaching. Oh no! But what is that? Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s Nicky to the rescue and the fun began, the tune ‘Doop’, by Doop, I think. You’ll know it. It’s the only song anyone should Charleston to. Say eight doops in pairs, doop-doop, doop-doop, doop-doop, doop-doop, smile like you’re high on Valium and Mackeson like my gran, and you’re away.
The pace was frantic, the ham as hammed as ham can be, the routine energy sapping, Nicky easing into the role of someone as daft as a brush all too easily. With great timing, gusto and imagination, lest alone performance, the judggies were at one with their plaudits and Nicky was catapulted up the leader board faster than you could say Buster Keaton.
On the same score was Dani who dispelled the myth that is Death by Samba, her last three efforts producing ten nines and two eights, her consistency beginning to mould her chance and expectation.
Wearing a lemon dress with a pink lattice back, and with someone else’s hair, ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)’ was the song, Beyoncé an unlikely Samba partner. The music itself was too slow, nothing to do with Rio and because of the pace, very safe, giving Dani the chance to dance at her leisure, unchallenged by a higher tempo, by a challenge that is more than the steps.
This isn’t to undermine her at all. It was a great, clean performance, the musicality smart and there were neat syncopations to the music, but the start was slow, the rhythm was slow and it lacked Kimberley’s pizazz of last week. And scored more too. Mmmmmmmm. A surreal world.
With the air time to be filled the show was dominated by the host, no one knowing if he was winging it or looking for his Valium and Mackeson. Other black stouts are also available. We were treated to a striptease, thankfully nothing more than a bow tie removed, and then came one of those TV highlights, the host overtaken by a verbal slippage from Juddge Ebenezer of Oz.
Let’s put it into context. Birthday girl Kimberley (31) had just provided the evening with great sophistication, almost immaculate conception, in a Tango to ‘When Doves Cry’. She scored 34.
In the real world this is what is called harsh, way too low, and you sense that a top-two dancer is more rigorously juddged than those flagging. This wasn’t perfect. One juddge spotted a lack of heel leads, another a small issue with her top line and body contact, and there may have been a wobble, the studio benefiting from seeing more than the TV viewers. But this was class, filled with intensity and content. Total class. Maybe if the scoring system was more finicky, like they used to have in ice skating, Kimberley would have scored an 8.9 rather than two 8s and two 9s.
Back to Ebenezer. Whilst offering critique and love for the drama and the story he mentioned Kimberley’s left hand. Traditionally the thumb is placed under the right bicep of the gent, shaped with the knuckles skyward. And then he said, ‘The thumb was nicely placed in the crack . . . of his ar . . . arm pit.’ By the time he completed the sentence the damage was done. Humour is all about context. And maybe a little visualisation.
The marvellous thing about Denise is that she and James danced an American Smooth to Eva Cassidy’s version of ‘Imagine’, only recently described (opening of The Olympics) as an anti-Christian song. ‘Imagine there’s no heaven, imagine there’s no hell.’ Some people really are over sensitive; it’s just a song.
The marvel is that they keep finding records recorded by the late great Eva, discovered by Sir Terry Wogan, if I remember. Eva passed away over sixteen years ago; one wonders where they keep getting the new songs from?
Either way another ten in 37 points keeps Denise out in front as December beckons. The routine was full of grace, effortless, beguiling, as smooth as silk, her frock taking on a peach hue when in reality it was white, I think. The lighting in the studio was orangey, made for James and The Giant, lanterns adding an oriental feel that once bedecked student digs all over the country.
The grace was joined by charm, swanlike, with three lifts, the last gravity defying, worthy of an award in itself. Ebenezer called the routine ‘perfect, another triumph,’ and scored just nine. He has accorded just twenty-four tens in ten series, Lord Len over seventy.
They were the highs in terms of dance, on then to the Diadora Division Four of Dancing. Lisa and Louis shared a 27, Vaughany a point less and Vic, back to using stabilisers, that 21, previously mentioned.
Lisa had to Rumba to ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye,’ from Sunset Boulevard and after a short while we got the hint as to why the Rumba had been locked away so long. The song just about worked, her red frock flowed, but the mood and seduction were still back in the locker in spite of Robin the Russian flashing his chest again, something highlighted by Juddge Hills as ‘nothing short of pewky’. Maybe Lisa felt the same. It was nice in a gentle way, there was a lovely one-footed roundabout, pinched from the Argie Tango handbook, and the mirror was back for its turn as a prop. But it didn’t woo the juddgies.
Louis was the same, flattering to deceive, dancing a Paso to Wacko Jacko, the track ‘Dirty Diana’, not someone I have been introduced to. Louis looked the part, coal black pants, a red braided cropped waistcoat, a cape in Man City’s changed strip colours of black and red. Used to love that kit.
Last week Louis was nearly physically sick such were his nerves prior to the dance and this week this may have been true too. Whatever it was the performance lacked connection with the matador, the arrogance missing, the killer instinct killed off and the bull having more chance of a walk in the park rather than ending up medium rare with a béarnaise sauce.
The routine had pivots, the good old fashioned mop throw step and a nice reverse jump but the arching of the back, the poetic dominance, the knowledge that there is just one winner were nowhere to be seen.
And the theme continued with Vaughany, a great work ethic in the training room, but maybe not enough time spent watching Argentine Tango videos; or reading the history books and studying Heinrich Band and the ladies of the night of Buenos Aires.
This Tango is about male dominance, a strong lead, the girl the client, the conclusion inevitable. Funny that the music was ‘Bust Your Windows’ by Jazmine Sullivan, a song filled with lyrics of female violence and revenge, a great rhythm but a sentiment misplaced for this tale. And with it there was no story.
Nat looked stunning, again, the hair and frock of the night, like an Amazon in a papal claret body cloth, but this couldn’t overcome his concentration. ‘Like passing a kidney stone,’ said birthday boy Bruno, 57. And this concentration overcame the performance, something that threw Vaughany into the dance off and possibly onto the first plane out to India to work with the also curate’s egg of an English crickit team.
As is, Vaughany could relax because in the dance off he drew on his sporting heritage and nailed a courageous effort, dancing second, knowing what he had to beat. These days DBS has passed its baton on, from Samba to Salsa, from Richard to Vic, two Salsa deaths in eight days. Who chose Salsa? Who chose ‘Candy’ by Robbie Williams to dance to? Yikes. Gladly the GBP chose Vic to exit stage left leaving a more mature, father-to-be Brendan, probably glad it was all over. What crime did he ever commit to have to endure the last eight weeks? Something that he publicly stated that he always enjoyed. It was Bruno who delivered the hammer blow and which triggered Vic’s tears. There were none elsewhere.
Brendan would have enjoyed dancing with a gorgeous girl, or even pulling her around the dance floor. The lifts went well and she followed most leads though fought a few.
But there was no oomph, no sex, no sauce, no fluidity and next week there will be no Vic.
And now, can anyone tell us, ‘Where was Lance?’
November 30th 2012