I’m not sure if you’ve ever done any mind reading? If someone is in front of you just copy them, everything, the physiology, the breathing, the eye shape, the tilt of the head, hand movements, then put on their skin and be where they are, looking at you. Experience their planet and the mind read will come. I did the same when I met a BBC executive last week and so, on Saturday morning, I went to the fancy dress shop to get my outfit for the evening. It was obvious. With the show having been marked by Movie Nights, Hollywood, Broadway, Halloween and Love it was a flip of a coin between Bonfire Night, Poppy Day, or the eventual choice, one I heard rumoured on the grapevine, Country and Western.
C & W offers a multitude of music, some great artists, stories and history; it even has its own dances. So I hired a Stetson, bought some boots, flashed on a waistcoat and rodeo chaps and tied my neckerchief gently. The horse looked a trifle worried as I approached; its gait sank.
Imagine my surprise when half past six came. Not a cowboy or Injun in sight. Nor Sir Brucie, taking a pre-arranged rest, and therefore no welcome to the children, poor kids suffering again, neglected. And also no Natalie Pro who fainted twice during dress rehearsals; she gets a bye to next week, her seat on the charabanc to Blackpool secured in absentia. Maybe this malady was just God telling her off for being on the show?
If the Big Fella works in such mysterious ways perhaps he can have a word with some of the other miscreants, a cupple of dancers, the producers and the occasional choreographer, our Cold War friends surprising us with lacklustre and misplaced routines.
During the week Kristina smashed her foot into a wall as she practiced with our Ben. As a result she hobbled up the stairs after their Jive, 26, her flat shoes helping but not the full remedy. They danced to ‘Jump, Jive an’ Wail’. There was one jump, Ben somersaulting backwards in spectacular fashion from a trampette. There wasn’t much Jive. And plenty of reasons to wail.
The easiest place to start is with the outfits, he a matelot in dashing blue and white, her, her midriff on offer. The problem came with the daps, hers to support, his soft, nicked from the changing rooms at Wimbledon. This immediately changed the dance from a Jive to a bounce about, a bounce not akin to the Jive. The knee lift was minimal, the pace slow and Ben’s forward tilt, or hunch if I was being unkind, didn’t give him the chance to perform. The bloke is superfast on his toes so why not use that? Teach him technique and then add some speed. And get him to stand straight. And try doing a few steps in hold. The lack of speed made it look laboured and it underused him and undersold the dance. It was disappointing, very much like one juddgie’s double entendre that I won’t repeat. It has to be remembered that this is a family show not a medium for shock.
That said, watching Mark’s Rumba was enough to induce an anaphylactic shock in anyone, this time Iveta guilty of underuse and underselling, 23 points leaving Mark teetering on the edge of the exit and in the dance off. The Rumba is the dance of love, the man controls his destiny, he pushes her away, he pulls her back, the result inevitable. The sensuous nature of the music, combined with alluring hip movements, creates grace, beauty and art.
Well, that’s the theory. Mark was brilliantly made up as Blofeld from the Bond movies, grey Eastern Bloc suit jacket buttoned to the neck, head bald. That’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld, not Henry. They even had a cat for him to stroke. Note to self: do not engage with joke from Are You Being Served. And they danced to ‘Goldfinger’, ironically not one of the six movies that Blofeld appeared in. Iveta had gold everything, her tight cat suit clinging to all that it should.
Mark sat on his throne for twenty seconds and then stood up. As she paraded and showed off he hit an occasional line, the arms fine if not sometimes blatty, his hands like shovels. After four Rumba steps the dance was over, the night shorn of the simplest basic step. No steps, no lead, no drive, no love, no romance.
It was a night of two Tangos, one European, one from Argentina. Can I clear up something? The word ‘Argenteen’ does not exist and should not be applied to the Tango. Try Argentinian. Or Argentine.
So let’s stay with Buenos Aires and Sophie looking beautiful, enticing in her scarlet prostitute’s frock, Brendan in skinny jeans and black and white winkle pickers doing a grand imitation of Max Wall. They danced to ‘Sweet Dreams’ from the Eurythmics, the sound Tangoed up with strings and an accordion. Heinrich Band turned in his grave. Why on earth didn’t they just play a traditional tune? Why re-work a pop song?
The routine contained everything you would expect save for a few basics in hold. There were lifts, great lines, smart use of a chair, ganchos, flicks, kicks and drama. What was missing was passion and conviction, this dance a routine being performed rather than a dance being danced. This may be her confidence, it may be her shyness, it maybe her reticence. Sophie is still not in it.
That’s said she scored 32, a mere 12 points higher than Dave and Hottie, their theme the home of Tango, Scotland, Edinburgh Castle the backdrop, The Proclaimers ‘I Will Be (500 Miles)’ the song. I know, you couldn’t make it up. He wore a kilt, her tartan plaid, very hottie indeed. You expected Mel Gibson to spring out of the audience at one stage with his band of marauders. Sadly not; that would have spiced things up a bit. You’d need a brave heart to watch this one again. Stomps were aplenty, technique nil. Towards the end he wore her like a cape and marched, all the sophistication of a deep fried Mars bar. Lord Len said it was unforgettable. Thankfully that is not the case. They stomped into the dance off and Dave was allowed to indulge in his last Waltz as the nation heaved a sigh of relief as he was voated home.
Talking of forgetting things, occasionally dancers black out. I don’t mean they do a Natalie Pro, I mean they forget the routine just like mere mortals do. James Jordan did it last year. This season up stepped Antony Smith of Bristol mixing Alzheimer’s and dementia at the end of Fiona’s Paso, another bizarre music choice, ‘Song 2’ by Blur. Perhaps it was the shock of the song? Was he still recovering from his knee slide, pretending he’d scored the winner at Wembley? Maybe it was the knee walk? Could it be his search for shapes and styling, the inner Flamenco desperate to escape? Either way, Fiona carried on regardless, her spare arm hidden and protected by holding her frock. Clever that.
One wonders what would happen one day if a celeb stood up and said, ‘I say old chap, any chance of a traditional Paso, proper music, good old-fashioned dancing? What a jape that would be.’ Jape? Surprise of the century more like. Like a junkie searching for a line I confess to being a matador searching for a bull. God bring me shape, energy, attack, aggression and fire. As I said to a girl once, ‘any chance of an appel?’
26 points left Fiona mid to bottom of the table, the top slots really shaping beautifully, 35, 36, 36 and 37, setting a great high bar, there being no coincidence that all four dances were traditionally performed, properly danced, gimmickless. Note to producers: Think on!
In a routine that could have been called ‘The Return of the Scatter Chasse’, Ash TD, black collar and tie, white shirt, dark suit, Ola in a pink candy floss of a frock, he still looked a little like one of the lads who wasn’t used to getting his Sunday best on.
This was a real, full on Quick Step to ‘Are You Going to Be My Girl’ and it totally merited his 35 points, his best of the series so far. If you were going to be picky there was a bit of gapping, his head coming forward brings his chin and frame down (stand tall!) and maybe, just maybe, it was too fast. The pace was breathless and this sometimes relieves the dance of grace and it can border on the frantic. But, that said, he met the challenge full on, determined to get back in the race. The Charleston sections were funky, the trotting nearly a canter, the confidence high. It was a dance worth the wait.
So too Susanna’s Waltz, KFG (Kevin from Grimsby) dressed immaculately in a formal tail suit, her in a champagne coloured dress that caressed the dance floor. As ‘You Light up My Life,’ filled the arena the lights lowered and her love affair with dance began once again. KFG strode over to her and on the accent of the song they Waltzed off at a pace, serene enjoyment on both faces, a feeling that filtered into the crowd as they completed a full circle of pivots, just the nine right leg leads from KFG, utterly spectacular.
They scored 36 and many a juddge was asking why not 40. The only guide on offer is that maybe Susanna isn’t quite delivering in terms of performance. She is indeed lost in music, transfixed in hold and her satisfaction oozes through her feet. Technically she is smart and she loves dancing with KFG. Maybe that isn’t enough. Maybe now she has to think about that extra 1%, the delivery.
The only thing that need happen with Abbey is an accent transplant. I can’t help but think of the safety of my car every time she talks. Apart from that she has everything going for her: a new boy to the show desperate to impress, great looks, lovely timing, a model’s physique but more than that she has a commodity that is in very short supply, genuine talent.
Although she only scored 36 for her Charleston to ‘Cabaret’ this was a dance of real class; Natalie Pro has competition. A black bobbed wig topped her pretty head. They dressed in pink and black, the pair, they used bowler hats as props, palm trees in the background, this, a cocktail bar of champagne and sugar, ham and cheese, a great variety and pace aplenty. Abbey doesn’t and didn’t hold back, every cent of her body guided towards the performance, a veritable gem. There’s no way that she would be in the dance off this week, not with such ‘Vy – Vass – ity’.
Bruno. It’s VIV mate, VIVacity.
Nor the top act of the night, a surprising ten given by a punch drunk Darcey to Patrick for a near perfect Smooth, 37, the only blemish the final five seconds. I went to a wedding last year and I was the best man. Well, I thought I was. That is where Pat is, the top male celeb, the rest hanging on to his tails. He oozes confidence and performance does our Pat, the actor leading, dominating, working the stage, his face and the audience. At the age of fifty he has a real chance to become the oldest winner of The Glitter Ball Trophy.
So what happened in those last five seconds? His partner guilty of being slightly too elaborate, too ambitious. Sometimes you have to know when to stop; there is a gut instinct in all of us. You start the choreography, you practice, you assess. If it is perfect you stop. If it isn’t you go back to the start, tweak it, practice, assess and if it’s perfect you stop. If it isn’t then you repeat until your gut tells you it’s fine.
In a full tail suit and yellow tie, a bit like my graduation outfit (that still fits me), Pat nicked Brendan’s black and white golf shoes, and he dominated the dance with beautiful timing, slows and quicks blended with ease, style and subtlety. Anya, that’s his partner by the way, Ruskie from NYC, friend of Pasta, looked stunning in her split frock, as he threw her around, as she did a hand spring over his shoulders, as they bounced brilliantly up the steps as if they, the steps, were molten hot.To finale, a new verb, Pat hoisted her onto his shoulder into a swallow lift. There it should have ended but she descended, on purpose, as he turned, and he dusted the floor with her, all a little clunky and unnecessary before he stood tall to pull her up to finish. It just didn’t work, they missed the end of the music and as such 36 would have been perfect. You can’t give 10 unless it’s perfect. Star of the night though. ‘It Had to be You,’ the band chorused. And indeed, Pat, it was.
And finally, how heartening to hear that Vincent Simone is due to appear in the jungle on ITV soon as a late drop in, the mighty dollar talking. I suspect there are some bush tucker trials awaiting.
November 14th 2013