Did you know that humans are only born with two innate fears? Loud noise and falling. Little wonder that plane crashes aren’t popular.
As life develops fears are taught, survival triggers other instincts (this is why some animals run away from an approaching car, others are less lucky) and our experience tells us what to avoid should the end result be not that pleasant. We are choosy of which foods to eat, places to visit or even what to say to whom. We know to shudder when the name of the babysitter comes from the company Savile, Jackson and Glitter.
But some people like being scared, they actually enjoy it in an S & M sort of way, so they go on rollercoasters, they bungee jump or they have parties to celebrate fright night, Halloween the date of choice, purely a coincidence to most folk. To me fright night was what happened when my dad got in after I’d been naughty but these days some people get dressed up as ghouls, zombies, the living dead, vampires or dark lords and they watch movies like The Shining, The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street or Carrie. Having issued laxative chocolates as part of ‘Trick or Treat’, and balanced a pan full of boiling oil on the window ledge to scare the little blighters off, I did the obvious and went for a dance.
Strictly took to the theme and decided to employ every scare tactic or fearsome word they could to add authenticity to their effort. Bruno had a spider on his lapel, not really Halloween given that creepy crawlies outnumber humans by 1.5 million to one on the planet on every day of the year. The judgges’ paddles were shaped like little Caspers, a pumpkin replaced the glitter ball, the abominable snowman got a mention and everything was ghoulish if not goulash.
Scarier was the juddging, the scores artificially high, and also the producers’ choice to change this from a real dance show, the dancers simply dancing what they want to whatever music they want. The essence of the show has been destroyed in a bid to court non-believers, something that is defamatory to the dance world and something that was, and is, totally unnecessary.
There is no more obvious place to start than with Natalie Pro, the contestant who removed the words ‘professional dancer’ from her CV back in June should it ever blight her future, on Strictly.
I have to tell you that the dance that scored Natalie 38 points, the first two tens of the series, was a Viennese Waltz. I have to because, if you watched it, you wouldn’t have a Scooby Doo what it was. The VW contains three moves and should be danced at 60 pbm. This didn’t and wasn’t.
The dance floor filled with dry ice, a scene from Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen, as ‘The Devil in Me’ opened the musical ensemble for the evening. Having been caught asleep on the floor Natalie emerged from the smoke like a Mediaeval queen reaching for her King Arthur, well, King R-Tem. For 49 seconds they threw some shapes, hit beautiful lines but did little else. Their opening actual step was a perfect Fleckerl. Then they stayed in hold for a full ten bars, and that was it, back to shaping, a lovely rondé spin on her knee the only highlight.
The world then gushed at her confidence.
Of course it did.
Oh, to see a real dance.
Abbey’s Rumba (34) to the hypnotic ‘Stay’ began with a twenty metre train on her frock drifting from the floor to the stands. Ali Ash, very pale if not white in the face, looked ill, like he was mid-food poisoning or hangover. His shirt had shrunk in the wash too; and the washing machine had snipped off all his buttons. I’m sure that the costume department could have found him some Velcro.
After thirty seconds of more shapes and gyrating Ali Ash eventually opened the buttons and the train fell away. This seemed to be a problem. Maybe he’s not done that before? And then came a few steps, just a few, before Abbey stretched and elongated, nice lines, inviting midriff, transitions a little clunky. It gives her something to aim at, an area to improve in the absence of steps.
On the same 34 points Patrick was asked to Quick Step to ‘The Man with the Hex’, voodoo now being snatched as a Halloween gimmick, our Pat dressed in a black tail suit, a bowler hat and with someone’s red fingers on his left shoulder. Oh, how we wished that he’d dressed up like Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die.
With no evidence that his right hand was damaged at all Pat produced a Slow Step with superfast Charleston sections, cleverly choreographed to give him the chance to breath, to recover and to shine, this, his best dance so far by a mile, more evidence that RADA and LAMDA have paid off. He reminds me of Ben Vereen (Chicken George for those who go back that far) does Pat, great in hold, sharp of attitude, ready to turn his hand to everything, a career in the West End beckoning.
Also on 34 points . . . don’t worry, 33 is next . . . was Susanna, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ the song for a Charleston, Kevin from Grimsby supposedly dressed on the cusp of being a werewolf when in fact he might have been a troll or a mad leprechaun such were the whiskers, as much hair on his head as his chin, cheeks and eyebrows. Now he did look scary. Imagine that coming home with your daughter. The hair extended to the back of his hands, the nails needing a manicure.
Susanna, on the other hand, continues to delight. She is what you want to find in any forty something, a lust for life, the courage to attack each dance with gusto, a go for it attitude, unperturbed by being on show and total trust in her partner, even when he gets her to run around the dance floor, goofing it up. Apart from Natalie Pro Susanna is the only female dancer who is starting to equip herself for all dances rather than just Latin, or just Ballroom.
The jury is still out for Ashley TD dancing a Tango (33) to ‘Beautiful Monster’. No, never heard it before either. Perhaps I should check my Tango play list.
The smoke was back and it must have got into Ash’s eyes because as he walked through the cemetery he went past a gravestone and a few seconds later out popped Ola from exactly where he had walked, dressed like an Eighties Vixen ready for a parteee. He must have seen her but he looked surprised anyway. I think he was supposed to be a zombie but don’t quote me on it. I guess it must be the new baby, you know, sleep patterns and all that.
As an actor Ash convinces every week; as a dancer he is just out of the reckoning but he is well-placed now for a strategic attack on December. He has timing and he hears the music. At times though his frame sags, the top line weakens and, as in his Jive last week, there is a lack of crispness to his feet. This is a good thing; it bears opportunity.
As for baring all, this brings us nicely on to our Ben and a night that could be daubed the battle of the Pasos. No, not really, not when one, Ben (32) was clad like a gladiator-cum-Chippendale, no clothes higher than his waist, and when the other, Mark (25), was dressed like a giant silver vibrator.
This was the day that Ben came to the party, his body out Lewising Lewis Smith, his power enough to distract three of the juddgies, only Lord Len clicking back the years to when his torso was an exact replica of Ben’s. To the track ‘Supermassive Black Hole’, a proper Halloween song, Ben strutted with confidence, dynamism adding presence and some credibility. Kristina used his frame to an exemplary level; now is the time to add some finesse, shaping and soft skills. If so Ben will be there at Christmas and we all know how sportsmen compete.
Someone who won’t be is Mark, best described as Russell Grant with talent. Apparently I do him a disservice, he wasn’t a vibrator; he was actually a spaceman, winched in on a wire, a very strong wire, it should be added, dancing to ‘I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper’. You see what I mean about the BBC losing the plot? This was as far away from a Paso as you could get and someone at the Beeb thinks this is ok.
The routine even included some Travolta disco steps.
Can someone please return the matador to the building?
If I ever said that Rachel would score more points than Sophie EB you’d think I’d been on the wacky backy but lo and behold Rachel’s Viennese Waltz Smooth (30) trounced Sophie’s Jive (28) by two points.
It is always intriguing to see how the pros attack a Smooth and Pasta upped the ante for Rachel this week introducing the VW, an interesting concept, one that worked rather well. Both dancers began the routine as portraits in picture frames, she like a fake tanned Miss Haversham, the bronze tint shining. And that tint continued into the routine, a full routine with steps, a Fleckerl, a cupple of lifts, a niceness. ‘I Put a Spell on You’, sang Tommy Blaize, and indeed Pasta did, the comfort of the hold helping; this would have caused Rachel no nightmares at all.
As for Sophie, well, what can you say? She was decked out in red, a real vamp, like Angelica Houston in The Addams Family, her full body suit trimmed with a skirt at her waist, mascara matching, frozen crimson tears atop her cheeks. They played on the stairs for a quarter of the dance and then they hit the dance floor.
I say hit. More a gentle caress.
The song was ‘Maneater’ and that was the plot, her chasing him, him the main course of her dinner. He tried to get away. Watching the pivots where she nearly fell over he might have made a good call. He ran towards the juddgies for help, pleading for the torture to stop. Sophie pulled him back on to the floor.
His flicks and kicks were razor sharp. Hers lacked edge and precision. His bounce was bouncy. Hers was punctured. He led well to try and get them out of trubble. She followed, clinging on. She did a handstand over his shoulder. He lifted her illegally. As the song died he dived theatrically behind a fence (on to cushions), one last effort to escape. She copied and caught him, out of sight, delighted to have come to the end. In spite of the make-up her face told the story.
I never thought that we’d ever see Wurzel Gummidge on Strictly but there was Fiona playing a scarecrow that comes to life; her partner was Wurzel, either that or the fella from The Wizard of Oz looking for a brain, a role that Anton took to too well. Antony luvved this dance, totally in his element, having a lovely time, great timing, and hamming up a Charleston to ‘Jeepers Creepers’.
Fiona, on the other hand, delivered a safe routine with a few timing errors, unfinished lines and not enough ham though there were pumpkins aplenty, each Chinese lantern in the background orange and spooky, offset by the green spotlights. Okay, they weren’t spooky. As an actress, rather than a lady, Fiona could have, and should, have walloped this dance with more wapatumba than a bride’s wedding night but she didn’t, more of a dainty day out on the farm, the scarecrows cuddling the crows into submission. Her 28 was respectable but not enough to keep her out of the dance off . . . with . . . sorry, only joking and wishful thinking.
Any band that is called Bobby (Boris) Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers deserves a mention once a year and as the creator of the song ‘Monster Mash’ this too was seconded for Halloween. In truth it derived from a singer impersonating Dracula, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff but you can’t have it all can you?
The song should have been the swansong for Dave and Hottie, finally, the joke very thin now, but sadly the GBP are at it again. When will they learn? Dancing a Jive (19), well, you say that, there was a smidgen, a bit of Cha, some chasing around, a bit of the Mashed Potato rather than the Monster Mash, (the same moves but the dancers pretending to be Frankenstein.)
Dave appeared from behind a giant vampire bat, the nutty professor, dark eyes, black glasses, pink ruff and blue jacket. At first glance I thought it was Danny Baker. Then he scared Hottie though not as much as the producers did this week following her spat with Ola. The rest was a cavalier blur, better timing, a beginners dance, the same funn but the same quality as the first five weeks; not a lot. It was a good time to leave. He didn’t, somehow the dance off featuring a terrified Abbey and an unfortunate Rachel.And in spite of her best yet Rachel knew that her countdown had begun.
And then there were ten.
And finally, my thanks to Brucie for my personal mention when he said ‘Dave’ instead of Darcey when getting comments on Fiona. Nice to be on his mind. Glad he reads the reviews.
November 8th 2013