The joys of parenthood.
Within minutes of being born a child assumes a special place, one of privilege and honour, there to be protected, nurtured, given the greatest chance to make the best of everything that life has to offer. Babies are pampered and kids are lauded but when they hit a certain age they then test the bond, not out of malice, just pure intrigue and investigation. These are the Kevin years, monosyllabic, rebellious. But you love them just the same.
For the parent and the child replace them with the Strictly fan and the producers. The dance world (parent) begs the TV channels to put on a dance show (child) and they do, sequins and satin, music and performance, stars and celebs. And each year the show grows, the popularity increases and the key factors are similar if not the same. You get a guy who is brilliant without an autocue forced to read one. You get people who can and people who can’t, dance. You get amazing musicians and singers, jokes, sycophantic audiences, and viewers who scratch their heads at the foibles.
In the Kevin years the producers crack open the champers, line up the extras and think seriously hard about how they can mess up the fans. It’ll be okay, they’ll love me in the morning. You can imagine the meeting.
Boss: Right, first upp, the Fox Trot.
Underling: Smashing. Which song boss?
Boss: ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’… Michael Bublé.
Underling: Will that work boss?
Boss: Who cares?
Underling: But boss, that will destroy the beauty of the dance. It’s too fast, too boppy, too . . . pop.
Boss: No worries, no one will know, and anyway he needs to sell a few more records . . . and I owe him a favour. . .
Underling: Oh. What about the Paso? Shall we go for something Spanish?
Boss: What on earth for? We’re going with ‘You Got the Love’ by Florence and The Machine.
Underling: Florence? That’s Italy, not Spain.
Boss: And for the Tango we’ll use ‘Where Have You Been’. That should get them going.
Underling: Is that the song by Rihanna?
Boss: Yes, that’s the one.
Underling: I didn’t know she did classical stuff?
Boss: She doesn’t but everyone loves her, that’ll bag some viewers, that will. There’s no point in using that Comparseeta thing that you suggested.
Underling: It’s La Cumparsita, the most famous piece of Tango music in the world, they’d love that.
Boss: No, the GBP don’t want that sort of rubbish.
Underling: Oh, I get it now boss. Can we use Alvin and the Chipmunks or Pinky and Perky for next week’s Waltz?
And so it went on, the producers also instructing the juddgies to get tuff, to get nasty, something that reduced the average score of the night by a full three points. All gone were the wacky baccy tens from Blackpool where the average was 34.6. Instead this week it was 31.6. All the dancers have regressed.
Boss: And Craig, wind people up a bit will you, tell them they’re rubbish and then mark them high. No one will get it.
And Craig duly obliged; let’s start with Natalie Pro back on the dance floor having recovered from three heart attacks, a stroke and an overdose of sincerity. ‘Your left hand was facing up, wrong, the pivots didn’t work and it lacked drama.’ Expecting a seven he awarded a nine. What on earth was happening?
Apart from the music there was much to admire in this Tango, things not to, namely the singing or gurning that took place throughout from Natalie. Perhaps she thought she was auditioning for next year’s Eurovision? It was unsightly, like finding a supermodel smoking.
Nat, in purple, R-Tem, in black, the scene of mauves, blacks and blues cast a great colour, darkness, shadows, the perfect set up. And of course her dancing was spot on, his too, he is a master of his craft, her left hand fine, a minor stumble in the pivots. But the reason there was no drama, in spite of 37 points, Bruno offering the only ten of the night, was the music. Appalling. Might be Jiving to Chopin next week.
That haunting Dolly Parton creation ‘I Will Always Love You’ produced the singing performance of the night, Dave Arch and his team again, always hitting the greatest accents and timing. The beneficiary was Ashley TD who bagged another 35 points for his Waltz, his third consecutive 35, a man on a mission, his quality assured and improving.
The blue lights remained, the purples softened to a lighter shade to equal Ola’s soft pastel dress, he in tails with a tie and shirt to match her. When the outfits are spot on, when the music is right, when the ambience is perfect, it is hard for the dance to go wrong if you have any semblance of talent and Ash stepped up to the mark, gliding, elegant, covering the floor with an unseen panache. He was poked with a cocktail stick by the judggies, ‘Your head is inclining’, ‘You’re tensing your neck on a turn’, but his control and delivery sent a message to all contenders that he is girding his loins for a big tilt in December. What is against him? As an actor in Hollyoaks he won’t get many popular voats. No one watches it. Most folk I know have never even heard of it. And he still has to hurdle the barrier that is Salsa, the downfall of many, a dance not seen since Week Five, a dance where the average score so far is 23.5.
Amidst the juddging re-shuffle Susanna, Abbey, Pat and Sophie EB dropped 8, 5, 3 and 3 points respectively from the highs of Blackpool scoring 31, 32, 32 and 31. If you were being unkind you might use a phrase like ‘Lord Mayor’s show and muck cart’ but that would be harsh. Maybe instead it was just the dances that didn’t quite click and in one case it was just about artistic interpretation, something that nearly brought the first tantrum of the series from the Kiwi Gob, a justified one, one that nearly produced tears. More in a minute.
Once you have mastered the timing of the Cha, (it is the easiest dance to teach) the hardest piece of technique to grasp is the leg action, the straightening that forces the hip to move. Without this the dance is passable, nice even, but not extraordinary and that is where Susanna found herself.
Young KFG wore a black shirt and pants, a gold tie, the antidote to her glimmering gold mid-thigh length frock, tassels tickling, tempting, ‘Hound Dog’, a version thereof, the song of choice. And tempt and tease she did in a playful brother/sister way, one juddge calling it ‘mumsy’. And it was, safe, placed, funn, nice, technique tested. You were left content but dissatisfied, like choosing rump steak instead of fillet.
Another on the verge of a pop career is Abbey, happily singing her way through a Paso, as annoying as Radio 2 DJs talking over the music. (Please address all complaints to Bob Shennan at Broadcasting House.) Someone has to get to Abbey and stop the howling, maybe infiltrate her inner circle, surely as easy as getting into the changing rooms at the Tower Ballroom last week and stealing her iPad and iPhone.
It was an unmemorable dance, Ali Ash in a shrunken waistcoat, tits, tats and midriff out, Abbey’s turn next week, the immediacy of the fouling launched with the song. Add in the lip synching and it was lost in spite of a nice routine. Would you really sing ‘You Got the Love’ to the animal that you are about to execute and distribute to Waitrose and Morrison’s. Doesn’t work does it?
Pat dances with a girl called Anya. She does the teaching and the choreography, this week given ‘A New Day Has Come’, Celine Dion I think, with which to Viennese Waltz. It is her job to get the best out of him, to sell him to the studio audience, the GBP and the panel of four. She got away with it this week but if she’s not careful his skilled performance may not, one day, be enough. This was slow, lacking VW content and full of much waft.
Whilst we all appreciate that the dance has to tell a story, that there has to be a beginning and an end, it is primarily meant to contain natural turns and reverse crosses. There were a few, not many, half a minute disappearing as they took their positions, clad splendidly, not matching the choreography. If you were expecting speed there was none. I think the Fleckerl was on holiday. Eleven reverse crosses in ninety seconds is unfathomable. That left no pace, little sway, criticism from the juddgies for his standing steps and her splits. Luckily it nicked four eights.
On then to the tears.
The Rumba is the dance of love and it is as intimate as any. There are a few ways of dancing it, like doing a demo to pupils, with art, with love, with lust, without steps. Sophie EB and the Kiwi Gob selected options two and five, artistic and stepless. Oh, and they added a few smiles amidst the shapes, probably the biggest sin.
They looked great, he impersonating Jack Palance, her an advert for Scottish Widows. And the song, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ offered the opportunity for great cadence. And the routine was full of art, a clean connection, another sibling dance, no lust nor smut. And sometimes that is okay, a purity spoiled a little just by the smiles, no intensity demanded by love.
And then the attacks came about the lack of chemistry, it needing more raunch, it being cold. Brendan railed and hit back his bottom lip aquiver, why would anyone want it filthy? He was catering to his partner and that is totally right; dance to her level and to her emotional capacity. Just because not everyone wants to smoulder and sex it up, this is no reason to criticise. The smiling, yes.
All the top six made it through and that just left our Ben and Mark to fight it out in the dance off, Ben bottom for the night on 27, Mark, miraculously a point higher. The dance off was a funny affair. Both dancers spoke like it would be their last dance, relief in their voices and body language, and cometh the result, the surprising departure of Big Ben, he spoke of ‘being on borrowed time’ for a while. He took his departure with elegance and stoicism. Having had a life full of ups and downs, he used to work for Express Lifts in Northampton, he knew that it was just a game show, not life and death. His dad died trying to protect a fight victim thirteen years ago not having seen his son dance or win the Rugby World Cup though he watched Ben’s uncle win the 1966 World Cup alongside the Charltons and Bobby Moore. Oh, and Geoff Hurst.
I liked Ben’s Charleston to ‘No Diggity’, the theme a strong man in a sports hall-cum-gym, a pommel horse and free weights adorning the floor. He lifted well, of course he did, Kristina flirted beautifully with the dance in her sky blue cheer leaders outfit, fresh from Dallas, and between them they produced a nice dance, a little slow but with smart timing.
The dance was a little tepid in terms of speed, electricity and deliverance and that, apart from a cupple of mistakes, was what did for Ben. As I have mentioned before Ben is super-fast on his feet so why not make the dance fast? Everything looked slow because he was holding back his natural tendency to rip up the turf in front of him. If they had started in 6th gear not second, and then slowed to 4th, it would have worked better and Mark would now be home.
As is Mark survived the producers’ last googly, that music, in a Fox Trot that was described as funn, jolly and Vaudeville, surely that says it all, as he trundled into his third dance off, now a veteran thereof. The routine began with Mark in bed. On the sound of the alarm he whipped off his jimmies and stood resplendent in a traditional dark suit with white tie, looking like a combination of Terry Scott and my step-dad Mike. I’veMetHer wore a gorgeous pinky peach, full length frock that would look great in my wardrobe.Having faffed for forty seconds, some pigeon toed oversways, a few blats and some patter cake featuring, they actually started to dance and somehow he found the music and the rhythm as the projectors flooded the floor with white poppies, surely the opiate used by the producers this week. Bless Mark for being a great trier; his stock has risen much since September.
And so we are left with the Magnificent Seven, or should that be the Super Six?
And as a parent desperate to parent well I hope that my child slept well on Sunday night and woke up feeling better in a different frame of mind on Monday morning. If not it could soon be up for adoption.
November 28th 2013