In 1991 I won a ticket for the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham in a raffle. The joy I felt was akin to that first beer, that first solo drive, that first kiss when you realise that the girl is real, and is staying. I have not been so lucky since. Lottery wins tally to a fiver, I’ve been caught by the occasional speed cop and efforts to get books published and a game show off the ranks have failed. So I thought I’d apply to be in the audience for Strictly, six shows selected, surely there were better odds than being knocked over or being hit by lightning, rather than lightening.
And then I got an email from my pal The Tango Man who said he was going, that he was taking a folding chair because the BBC issue more tickets than seats. What’s that about? Bizarre.
As much as I searched during the show I couldn’t see his swarthy good looks or the banner that read ‘Dave, I’m over here!’ (Apparently he was in the upper level behind the juddgies.) I did snatch a glimpse of Aliona though, still on a contract in spite of slagging off the producers in the national press. Not exactly Kissingeresque our Ali. Also in the audience I spied Gloria Hunniford and Anneka Rice. Where on earth did they get their tickets from?
So, ticketless, I watched from the comfort of Travolta Towers as Brucie launched into his weekly age gag and as Craig was wheelchaired in looking like Liberace auditioning for Ironside. Anyone under the age of forty please look it up. What followed was a mix of the weird to the strange, from the unremarkable to the unmemorable, music choices that were all over the place, dances that followed suit, choreography that for once was as out of kilter as a pork pie at a Bar Mitzvah.
There is nowhere else to start than with Dave and Hottie
dancing Salsa to ‘Cuban Pete’. The clue, you would think, is in the title, but don’t let that fool you. In a blue outfit, an extra from Chelsea FC, huge ruffs on the forearms and a sky blue cummerbund, he looked funky. Hottie, with a bowl of fruit on her head, imitated Carmen Miranda. After twenty seconds of playing with his maracas on a food trolley they hit the floor, did some head rolls, Travolta fist circles, her a cart wheel, they did the Conga, a fall over walk and a spin. All danced beautifully off time with the musicality of a tin of peas. It was funn though, and if ever TV chiefs were thinking of replacing Benny Hill, here is their man. 17 points was the lowest score of the night.
There is a rumour that they are trying to talk Dave into doing the Strictly Live! Tour next spring as long as he partners Ann Widdecombe.
Contrast this to Patrick who, in a moment of madness, fell off roller skates during practice, and was obliged to dance Salsa one handed, his right wrist smashed and in a brace of sorts. Not his greatest hour, the roller skating, though he was very thankful to all the staff at Holby City Hospital.
His Salsa (28) though brought some light to the dark of the night. He has great timing, goods hips, music in his bones, and with just a left hand as a lead his efforts were commendable, so too his partner Anya, who re-choreographed the routine so as not to use the busted hand. Salsa purists would have enjoyed this, the closest effort to real Salsa we have seen on the show since Mark Ramprakash. Bruno wrongly talked about it being unfinished and loose. He said it was, ‘soft, stiff, soft, stiff’. I hope he was talking about the routine.
Also on 28 was Mark the lone Waltzer of the evening, Iveta in her Leeds United colours, a white rose of Yorksher in his lapel. That earned two points before the dancing started, the song ‘Apologise’, English spelling, from a band called OneRepublic. This was understated, delivered, deeply felt, we all know that the Waltz is the real way to a lady’s heart, the slightest of blemish being his left arm, pushing forward putting pressure on their frame. With elegance though he captured the mood and had nothing to be sorry for.
Enter, then, the dragon, Debbie, in business terms, her Viennese Waltz (27) a disastrous return on her investment. The theme was boardroom domination, the fight for supremacy, a woman thriving in a man’s world, coincidentally the song choice. For boardroom read bored room. There was no love, no romance, no Barbara Cartland novel in the waiting, and fewer steps. At the start they danced with a trolley, one on each end, the trolley a remnant from Dave’s Salsa or from the show Supermarket Sweep. Three things in life are irretrievable. An arrow from a bow, the spoken word and opportunity. Debbie would rue this miss.
Another to succumb to performing on the edge, surprisingly, was Sophie, a meagre 30 points in a Cha that teased, titillated and failed to deliver. Her eye lids were beautifully made up to match her teal outfit, the same colour as the curtains in my lounge. Her long legs were on view. And she walked like a model, strutting for twenty-five seconds, dancing solo. And the strutting continued for the rest of the dance, the audience willing her to let go, to drop her aloof façade, to become part of the music. ‘Come on Baggy, get with the beat!’ shouted Baloo in the Jungle Book. Sophie didn’t hear.
One wonders what they’ve been putting in the tea at the Beeb this week because Kristina, normally reliable and a genius of a choreographer, produced a Quick Step for our Ben that was wildly removed from expectations. It was themed like Friends, that American soap that lost all its humour on the flight over from New York. They even used the song, ‘I’ll Be There for You’. Add in popcorn, a cushion fight and thirty-three seconds of messing about and you could see that we friends were going to fall out. Lord Len lambasted the intro calling for fuller routines. Darcey was surprised that a sprinter was so light on his feet. Ben probably wished someone had taught him how to perform the Quick Step rather than just do the steps. And maybe, had the scatter chasse not been invented, he would have been asked to dance some real steps. Step, skip, skip, skip, round and round, copied by Fiona along with Antony Smith of Bristol.
Ben’s relief to be back on the sofa, the dance expunged, was palpable, 27 points a weak week.
After just three laps of scatter chasses Fiona decided to do a light-footed grapevine diagonally across the floor. Antony, of course, was in his element. Only once did he have to heave her into place, the rest, for him, was like running a heat at the Olympics when you are favourite for the gold medal. He coasted, she bought into it, he glided and floated, she glided and floated too, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ sang beautifully by Lance Ellington. 30 points is her pinnacle so far and with the Samba and Salsa still to come, you sense that may be it. Oh, and the Jive.
Even our Ashley nearly succumbed to the Jive, another wearing teal, my curtains proving popular today, another not hitting the routine until over twenty seconds had passed; prior to that he pretended to be Marty McFly playing the guitar on Johnny B Goode in ‘Back to the Future’.
Thereafter the routine claimed a knee slide, a leap frog, a slide through her legs, his long legs, agricultural flicks, little knee lift and bounce, and his arms. There’s something about his arms that isn’t right. Maybe their position, though little can be done about the attachment to his body. At waist level they look awkward. Extensions start from the back, not the shoulder. They just don’t look right. He scraped to 31 points. Somehow. On this form he is not a contender.
The top three are turning out to be girls thus far. Susanna’s Smooth copped 32 points, back in the game, Natalie Pro’s Samba 35 and Abbey, the belle of the ballroom, matching that with her Fox Trot, the only thing spoiling it the appalling choice of music.
I’ve never met Olly Murs, I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke. You can’t blame him when some numpty decides to use his song ‘Dear Darlin’’ to dance a Fox Trot to. Ali Ash looked stunning in a full tail suit with an open necked shirt. Abbey looked delicate and delicious in a figure hugging gown, light brown and black combining beautifully. And then the song started and the mood was destroyed. What could have scored full marks – she is brilliant in Ballroom – had it been slower, to the graceful backdrop of a real song, lost its undoubted charm the longer it went on. For Abbey this is a real shame. Perhaps they could have used ‘Volare’, the song choice at this year’s World Dance Sport Championship Standard Final. It is slowed down, accented for the dance, perfect.
Abbey lives to dance another day, so too Natalie Pro even though someone tried to convince us that the Samba is from Spain not Brazil. One wonders what the thought behind that was? Having checked the history books, out of pure curiosity of course, it states Rio, Brazil, as its home, nowhere near Madrid. Answers on a post card.
The Samba is a carnival dance, a dance full of bounce, rhythm and wapatumba, the latter though, controlled. Natalie has control in spades, well at least in her hips and feet, she is sensuous to watch, her curves curving when and where they should. She had a giant rose on her rump to accentuate the bounce. (I once went out with a girl who wanted to get a tattoo on her behind. It didn’t happen; the tattooist didn’t have enough ink.) What she didn’t control was her face, points lost for gurning. And was that R-Tem’s first ever Samba on Strictly?
Back in the safety of hold Susanna and Kevin paid tribute to my old rugby club, adorning themselves in purple and gold, parodying ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ using translucent umbrellas and flasher rain coats, dancing a Smooth to ‘Sunny Side of the Street’.
There is a friendly bond that exudes from this couple when dancing Ballroom. He is caring, genuine, a catch – from Grimsby! – and his sole roll is to make her feel warm and special, to look after her, protect her from the hooded claw, keep the vampires from her door. And to not drop her during lifts and spins.
Her job is to trust him, to have faith and to enjoy it. And she did, her beauty calling out to Hollywood or Elstree. Oh, that’s where they were, weren’t they? If she underplays it just one notch she can be hypnotic.
Someone that you need to be hypnotised to watch is Rachel, for ‘tis sure an uncomfortable task. That said, I’m sure she feels worse actually having to dance. Clad in red and black, the scene set more werewolf than matador, Pasta was kept at bay in a cage, preparing for his appearance on ITV’s The Cube.Unleashed from the cage they got into hold after half a minute and then produced a strange concoction, he a matador, Flamenco apparent, her, demure, more like Little Red Riding Hood, a Nelly Furtado song not aiding their cause. This dance was crying out for everything to help her, her nerves and tension dominating, and it would have been better for everyone had Pasta not been shoved back into the cage and allowed to take his kill to the abattoir.
If you dreamt this dance it would have been a nightmare. But Rachel’s torture continues as somehow she avoided the dance off.
Instead Patrick and Debbie were asked to walk the metaphoric plank. And she knew then that she was doomed, exit the dragon, a victim of circumstance and a bizarre routine. Tears flowed. Let’s hope it was the same for whoever decided on the theme of this VW.
Totally off their trolley.
October 31st 2013