On Tuesday the boiler was fixed. No, not the ex, but the combi in the kitchen. Sorry, couldn’t resist that but I’m sure you’ve been wondering.
Have you ever had those moments when something strange happens, when you find out something that changes your life? Only last week a friend of mine discovered that his dad was a diabetic, that discovery being made forty years ago but only just revealed. I remember that awful feeling when I learned that Man Friday was just a figment of Robinson Crusoe’s imagination. I was 37, I think. And whose were the footprints in the sand then? And do you remember that scene in Crocodile Dundee when he realised that a girl hitting on him in a bar was a bloke? Well, I found out some bad news about Hottie Hauer this week. Far from being the bookies’ favourite to do the washing up at Travolta Towers she’s actually engaged to Kevin from Grimsby; he proposed on the stage of Burn the Floor. No wonder he got on Strictly . . .
But how long will he stay, or Hottie, her destined to exit soon, he in a battle royale now, as things indeed hotted up, six cupples topping the 30 mark, he and Susanna not amongst them, the Samba, the nemesis, back to haunt, 29 points just one more than her effort in week one.
Susanna is nothing but game, willing to shake her beauty and booty, up for a shimmy or a shake, but as the show develops she will learn that this won’t be enough to get her into December. Perhaps if the dance had included a Volta or a Bota Fogo, or even a slick run, it would have helped, giving her the chance to add some technique to her determination. Set against a jungle theme, Daktari perhaps, akin to The Wild Thornberrys, the great graphics dominated the performance. It was wild, frantic even, at times the cupple fighting each other for control. She got away with it.
Another to get away with it was Mark producing the most bizarre Cha ever seen on the show, splitting the juddgies, from 3 points to 8, matching his high of 26 from last week. His theme was street dancing so he took to the stage with a ghetto blaster on his shoulder, a gold shirt and medallion, matching daps, black pants and a quiff. And then MC Hammer kicked in. Eh?
Iveta (Look! A Shooter!) dressed like a Roman goddess. Not quite street.
Mark is a talented dancer, he has great timing, and he knows how to hit an accent so why he isn’t given anything to do apart from prance about is a mystery. He had little chance to Cha, to offer technique to his clowning, everything a touch stompy and also almost anti-establishment, not one for the purist. There is a danger that Strictly is veering towards the USA where sometimes dances on their equivalent show are unrecognisable. The Great British Public is better than that and deserves more. So does Mark.
Thankfully that came to pass with my old mate the dark horse that is Patrick Robinson, Duffy’s song ‘Mercy’ providing the backdrop to a real Cha, funk, rhythm and groove. He scored 33, his highest score by five points, the routine full of content, proper stuff, God bless him, Patrick even succeeding when dancing in isolation. He could have bent his knees a little more to accentuate the straightening but a confident man will go forwards with even more assurance.
A man also going nicely on the rails of this race for the tape is our Ben, 31 points, a new high, the competitive sportsman starting to understand what the show is about. Ten years ago he was a sight to behold, the finest finisher in world rugby. Roll on a decade and he is sitting on stage dressed as a car mechanic, oily rag and all, his doll sitting in the cab, a Salsa groove in the air. Had there been no music you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was the start of a porn movie.
After 21 seconds of set up – more of this later – they eventually started dancing, the ninety seconds reduced to just over a minute. Ben was in his zone, comfortable, nice timing. He whipped off his shirt to reveal a vest and biceps, they did four tricks that were nothing to do with Salsa and before you could blink it was all over. Nice pretzel though.
There is a Salsa track that has been jazzed up from the Ides of March pop hit of 1970. Locally it is called Verkle. You may know it as ‘Vehicle’. With the mechanic theme it would have been the perfect song choice.
The issue of when the music and dancing start has been present for ever on this show. We know that if the pro can kill time it leaves them with less to do; there are fewer cracks and inadequacies to cover. Step up Natalie Pro for a Quick Step with R-Tem, the black and white outfits sumptuous, the quality of the dance high even though she suffered a bulging disc in her spine this week, an injury threatening her place in the show.
Their training was reduced by half but nonetheless, using her pedigree, she pulled off a QS as good as any you’ll ever see on Strictly. Whilst she scored 35 there was one juddge dissenter, Lord Len critical of the time it took them to get in hold, actually 26 seconds. Prior to that the content was jazz and cabaret, not QS. One wonders then why no one commented on Dave’s Waltz, something that took a massive 40 seconds to get in hold. He stood on the floor smartened up, beard trimmed, hair cut and relatively suave except for the black pudding butty he had in his back pocket. Then he kicked out the red carpet, a great graphic, and what followed, a dance of minimalism.
He scrambled to 23 points, an all time high in spite of gapping, banana hands, at one stage spinning with Hottie like two kids in a playground, and no evidence of musicality at all. Having had nearly two months to learn and attain some basic appreciation of music and movement one wonders what they have been practising. It certainly wasn’t the Waltz, undercooked.
Another surprised to score the same 23 was Julien who, coincidentally, has the same musical issues as Dave. Julien shaved his chest (his own, not Dave’s), left the cleavage on view and wore a flower arrangement instead of a blouse, sorry, shirt. Janette, dating Ali Ash, having disposed of both R-Tem and Pasta, wore a Hawaiian skirt and bikini top, rainbow in colours, glittering.
Julien did a Susanna and attacked his Salsa with gusto but with less booty. There were no steps of note, huge foot movements instead of a subtle tap or flick, and mistakes were aplenty. I’m guessing he doesn’t practice at being bad? Maybe it’s just the nerves? Julien made the dance off again, his third week on the trot and off he trotted, danced off back to the real land of sequins, ruffs and frills. If you open your window, you can probably hear him now . . . Talking of nerves, this brings us nicely to Fiona, back in the wobble department with a 22 point Rumba, the lowest score of the night. Wearing mauve wallpaper instead of a frock, the shocking non-Rumba Westlife song ‘A World of our Own’ greeted her and Antony, the latter dressed like a snooker player. And to be honest, snooker would have been a better bet for them both.
At the offset Fiona looked like she was in charge, slinking across the floor, but the pace of the dance makes it hard to hide mistakes and they multiplied the longer it went on. There was a floor spin that looked like it didn’t fancy it, a lift and transitions where a rail truck clinking would have been smoother.
On a dark night in 1981 I was found face down in a rose bed, my white shirt less white, an empty bottle of sherry my only company. The host discovered me as the party died down; he couldn’t understand the strange smile on my face, that was, until I told him, awake again, that we’d won the Eurovision Song Contest.
Only five years after ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ romped home Bucks Fizz had matched them, a funky little number called ‘Making Your Mind Up’, a pop classic.
Fast forward thirty-two years and there’s Debbie wearing a red frock and daps, Robin in white pants, a replica Bucks Fizz navy top and a wig that made him look like he was auditioning for the part of Shaggy in Scooby Doo. The Jive is a flighty little number, full of bounce, flicks and kicks, pace and energy, and whilst Debbie managed to get from one end of the routine to the other the journey was bumpy, testy and too fast.
The dance began with the cupple on the juddgies’ desk and then a slow descent to the floor where Robin ripped off his white pants to reveal silver ones. Later he whipped off her skirt to reveal . . . a silver one, almost like they’d pre-planned it. She bagged another 23 points and had some funn but enthusiasm on its own can’t always win the day. This wasn’t her dance.
Here’s a note to the ladies. If you don’t want the judggies to see your feet wear a full length frock. Or, put another way, don’t wear trousers like Rachel did during her Quick Step to ‘Johnny’s got a Boom Boom’. I suppose you could argue that getting her feet on view distracted the gaze from her core and her frame but then she decided to wear a sleeveless leopard skin top, well worth looking at.
You sense that Pasta is struggling a little with Rachel. He must have spoken to her every day about her frame and posture and yet each week the result is the same, this rag doll effect, the head and neck almost moving independently. Her 26 points rounded off her average to 25 so far in the series, but it wasn’t enough to keep her out of the dance off, an opportunity, she said, to do it right. Good for her. Here’s a question for you. If you were asked to dance the Viennese Waltz on prime time national TV what would you wear? A formal suit? A proper frock? Enter one Ashley TD wearing dress trousers, a shiny grey waistcoat and a long-sleeved vest with collar and cuffs, stolen from the changing rooms at Lords cricket ground. It looked thereafter like a wedding dance.
Sarah McLachlan’s great song ‘Angel’ was an ethereal choice, the steps were nice including the Fleckerl, but there was something missing. All the juddgies alluded to gusto, oomph and gertcha. Having checked the dictionary the correct word is actually ‘wapatumba’. The VW is perfect to woo, to boss the lady with charm. Ash had the chance but didn’t quite pull it off. To him that meant that he still scored 31 points though, so much is the expectation.
On then to the two belles of the ball, Sophie EB and Abbey, both scoring 35, the Fox Trot tamed, the Tango untangled.
Of course he got married last year, that may have calmed him down, thankful to be away from the claws of his back catalogue. The truth is, is that he is so delighted with his partner he knows that he has a genuine chance to become the first professional to win the title twice, such is her calibre.
And when a dancer has that confidence, like R-Tem with Natalie Pro, he can up the ante with the choreography, include more content, add softer, more subtle skills, and dazzle in the process. And dazzle they did, her champagne frock a portent of celebrations to come. Set to the back drop of Hollywood, the movies not the baker bloke, the fluidity, the change of tempo and the accents were spot on, ‘Cheek to Cheek’, the perfect song.
It does go to show that when the set is right, when the mood is Utopian, when the outfits are the most appropriate, when the music is perfect, that the dancers can provide something magical and special.
Bring on then the surprise package of the night, Abbey Clancy, fresh from watching England at Wembley on Tuesday night as they qualified for Rio for next year’s World Cup. Looking like a panda in a red dress, her eyes blackened by make up not a skirmish with Ali, the set, the mood and the outfits were ideal and she produced the dance of the night, only Darcey not wafting the nine paddle.
In a routine with great attack, power, drama, passion and precision, as sharp as a Boag whip, Abbey announced her intentions in this competition. Her Ballroom is right up there. Can she improve her Latin to counter this?The only thing not right about the dance was the music. I was fortunate to be sitting with two younger and trendier juddgies, Aggie and Lulu, and I was informed that it was by someone called Florence and the Machine. Has anyone a phone number for a sniper?
And finally, we are told that Craig is not going to be able to dance hip hop for a while because he is having a hip op. As that is replaced perhaps the surgeons would consider a heart transplant at the same time?
October 17th 2013