My grandad used to say, ‘there’s only one winner, that’s the bookies. Me fatha wor a bookie, never sober for three years . . .’ And so over the following decades I was wary of the turf accountant at the top of the avenue near The Churchill pub, these the days before the lottery and the Internet. In the years that followed I made about £1.40 when Red Rum won The National for the third time, the same when Dunfermline edged the St Leger, £80 when Tim Rodber scored the first try in an England/Scotland game and £160 when Jana Novotna won Wimbledon.
So was I tempted to have a bet on Saturday, Ladbrokes offering Susanna as the odds on winner (11/10), Sophie second favourite, Abbey at 6/1 and Natalie Pro at 10/1? The only gut instincts I had were that the GBP wouldn’t voat for a ringer, and they didn’t, in spite of her impeccable dancing, and that popularity does succeed, look no further than Chris Hollins and Lewis Smith, hardly a dance step between them. I stayed away from the betting shop.
Let me clear up some details as my second guess of the structure of the evening proved to be miles off beam last week. Far from the obvious only one dancer was eliminated during the evening, Sophie, each of the foursome asked to dance the ‘Judggies’ Choice’, a dance they had done before, to improve it, and then, to sell themselves in a Show Dance. Here is where Sophie bit the dust, the remaining trio then having the chance to showcase their own favourite routine. The judggies’ would score but that was for guidance only, the result being determined solely by the GBP, over six million voats cast in this first ever all girl final.
Again I got no ticket from the BBC so I settled in for an evening of delight in front of the telly only to discover that all the past champions were there, I think, didn’t see Goughie, but Mark Ramprakash, Kara Tointon, Natasha Kaplinsky, Tom Chambers and the two aforementioned hoofers all sidled in, probably taking my seat. Every year an application, every year rejection.
It was a great night though, Brucie in fine form, the singers and band amazing, the colours and glitz adding much warmth to a fading winter, cold and wet, sporting dreams burnt to Ashes and the sad passing of David Coleman OBE, in fact the evening was, in tribute, ‘quite remarkable’. Add in an audience raised to heights of mild delirium and it all got very infectious.
Let’s look at the girls in reverse order, Sophie and her new partner Brenda, beautiful slip of the tongue from our host who also labelled them the Duke and Duchess of Dance. I’m sure he prefers that to the Kiwi Gob, who, it should be said, has been outstanding all series. He has taken the raw material of China clay and moulded Sophie into the finest porcelain, from a walker to a dancer, her stock massively high even though she probably didn’t need any boost.
Their first dance was a repeat of the Viennese Waltz to ‘My Favourite Things’ from the Musicals week where she scored 36. The judggies had picked at her top line and her neck, minor picks, and she delighted even more erasing most judgging doubts for a 39, her three tens taking her tally to four for the series, not championship winning stuff but brilliant nonetheless.
So too her Show Dance to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ in spite of meagre scoring from the panel, just 35. When they watch it back they may re-evaluate. Starting in a giant silver bauble, or a UFO, high above the stage, a purple tinsel tasselled lampshade for her dress top, a red one for her bottom, Sophie descended where she was enthusiastically greeted by Brenda imitating Patrick Swayze, all in black again. The tempo was slow but the content massive.
She jumped from the dais into his arms, he rolled her on his right thigh, promenade walks preceded a dip, outside swivels and an arm lock adding some Salsa spice to the night. After a reverse crucifix she jumped and sat on his right shoulder as he rotated to the right. Once back on the floor she was up again as he cuddled and lifted and turned. All the time she retained her poise. A grapevine was followed by what we call a ‘Robin Cousins’ in our house, the right foot comes off the ground to head height and circles, aided by the lift, the left foot following a second later. The great ice skater ended this section with a tight turn on the ice, lowering his body to a sitting position. None of that for Sophie; she attacked Brenda and did a Dirty Dancing lift supported by her hands on his shoulders, her legs, high, handsome and pointing at twenty to four, his hands on her hips. And then she let go of her arms as he circled. An amazing mix of power and precision, the only thing preventing a calamitous collision with the floor his strength and technique. As she lowered to safety she straddled him and allowed her hair to caress the floor, bodies still turning. He threw her away in a slide to finish. Brilliant.
It wasn’t enough for Sophie to get her a third dance.
The bookies’ favourite, Susanna, came third, or second, we’ll never know. You only get told who is fourth and first. Bizarre but true.
A cupple of weeks ago Susanna made a little bit of a mess in her Quick Step. Do you remember ‘Good Mornin’, also from Musicals week, very fast, syncopations all over the place, just 33? The dance was replayed and if you were looking for murder on the dance floor, this was it. She creamed it, everything right, whizz, pace, akkuracy, and amazing performance, the gurning back, the face that launched a thousand gurns. She upped the score to 37 and at the end, as they sat on the sofa, the dance prop of choice, KFG turned towards her and went to kiss her, such was the jubilation. And this was no peck, a full snog in the offing. Clicking that he was being watched by his fiancé, her partner and a few million others he somehow stopped himself. It’s the intimacy, don’t you know.
Susanna’s Show Dance scored just 36, an argument to have a 9.5 paddle. When you combine great outfits, he in white tie and tails, her in a backless white feather duster of a frock, a super set, smoke on the floor, a routine of class and style and one of the great ballads, ‘Your Song’, you are onto something special.
There is one other integral ingredient not often seen this series and that is the bond between the cupple. These two like each other, indubitable, and so visual, there is genuine feeling, an intensity, and that morphed into this dance making it the performance of the night. The routine wasn’t full of drama or kerpow, there weren’t hundreds of death defying lifts, though one was pretty special, later, but the entire combination made this more than the sum of the individual parts. Simply, it mattered to them both, it mattered to the performance, it mattered to us.
Throughout the dance there was a mix of styles, a bit of Fox Trot, a smidgen of Waltz, a nip of Salsa, the good old fashioned ‘duck’ move, promenade runs, those nine pivots again and then the set up to the finale, her arms clasped behind his neck as he lifted her, her legs off the ground, turning to his right.
As he turned, like an Olympic hammer thrower, Susanna the hammer, he held her, one turn, two turns, three. When he got to eight he let go with his hands and it was her arms and the ‘G’ force that kept her intact. On ten turns he clasped her, they recovered over the next two turns and then finished with a vertical lift and a kiss. This could have been their last dance ever and they gave it their all.
36 points left Susanna in fourth place at the end of round two but she survived and then wowed us once more in her Paso, her, their choice, a magnificent repeat of this dance from Blackpool, ‘Los Toreadors’ the music, KFG in his jack boots and red matador’s suit. In the Tower Ballroom this dance clocked 39 points, so too this effort. With it fresh in the mind of the voaters she may have thought that she had dunn enough to win but it was not to be.
If ever you get the chance to Cha, to learn, or to perform, leave Bony M well alone. It is a soulless tune and shouldn’t really grace prime time TV, not least this show. Get something with tempo, style and zuzz, something a bit sexy, something to encourage the shake of the booty. Don’t get dressed like a Cossack, plus fours, red cummerbund and no shirt.
Nat looked fine before the dance, a white frock offering thigh, shoulder and a bare back. But once the song began the smug was back, those knowing looks that say ‘Conti darling, don’t you know’ and it did rile. The dance too was a little gentle, slow and too placed, not coarse enough, surprisingly not enough sex. Perhaps Craig over-marked it?
Not so the Smooth, a max taking her ten-count to twenty-four, this four points higher than their effort a cupple of weeks ago when they were lambasted by Lord Len for not dancing enough in hold. Having watched it again there didn’t seem to be any change to the routine there still being only a cupple of bars in hold. Maybe the juddgies forgot and just went with the flow of the night? This was the dance to ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, that moody, powerful, dramatic song, matched in every phase by this dance, the scenes of blues and purples perfect, his check jacket, full of sparkles.
A few years ago I dated three girls at the same time. There was a female bouncer, a trapeze artist and a nurse. One banged your lights out, one caught you and the other gave you first aid. Enter Natalie Pro in a green bikini effect outfit, gold elbow gloves and matching shoes, high above the audience, no safety net, a pole to hold onto, white curtains underneath for decoration. Was she going to jump? Dive? No, the pole descended and maybe there was some pole dancing coming, something never seen before on this show.
Not to be, instead, as ‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ hit the airwaves, Nat and Artie, sandy suit, gold shoes too, crimson tie and waistcoat set, went into a tap section, side by side on a raised stage, this quickly followed by some cane work back at sea level, again side by side and before you knew it 45 seconds had passed. In this melange of speed, funn and frolics the Quick Step was next, two jumps, a hunched cart wheel, and then they played with the poles again, her first, then him, neither climbing, straddling or going upside down. They’ve obviously never been to the Platinum Club behind The Hippodrome. Ending with a Charleston section the mastery of technique was completed. No power lifts, no show stopper in that sense but a full-blooded, super-fast, slick routine destined for the West End or Hollywood.
On then to the champion, a cumulative total of 116 for the night, an average of 35.6 for the series but more importantly an eye catching average of 36.9 for her last thirteen dances. Abigail Marie Clancy came into the show with no credentials other than being pretty, having a successful modelling career and having a more famous husband, an England footballer called Peter Crouch. He’s called that because he’s six feet seven tall and he has to crouch every time he goes through a door or meets someone.
In the very first week we met Abigail and the new boy, Ali Ash, a winner on debut, when they scored 32 for a Waltz to the song ‘Kissing You’. Asked to make it better they whacked out a 40, Ali back in his cricket whites, including shoes, Abbey in a stunning shin length white dress with a go faster flash of gold and silver sequins from her left shoulder to her right hip.
Whilst the delivery was beautiful, and there is intimacy with the pairfect cupple too, there wasn’t enough in hold, not enough basic steps, too many unconventional spare arms and cheek to cheek short stepped sections. It was lovely though, the audience bought it, in the studio and at home, and so too the judggies.
The Waltz set Abbey up for the night and she score two thirty eights in her Show Dance and her Quick Step, Craig giving nines, obviously, but also Lord Len too who did a Craig. ‘Top of the League. Nine.’
The Show Dance was a Paso/Tango mix to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ from Guns N’ Roses, a classic guitar riff being met by Ali’s knee slide. Get up lad, you’re not at Wembley. He wore black, half a waistcoat, shrunk in the wash and someone had nicked his shirt. She wore black and gold, husband Pete upset at this obvious tribute to Wolverhampton Wanderers. He plays for Stoke.
The tempo was fiery and hot all the way through, accents good, as expected, as they fired their way through a steam cross to begin. He dipped, they walked. They added a grapevine, shaped, and he turned her to left to a dip off his right hand, a move repeated a few bars later. One lift was waist high, she did a three-quarter splits, some swivels followed. She did a one footed circle crouching. Can’t believe I got that in. He lifted her vertically her cleavage tempting at eye level but declined. A standing turn led to basics and then a lift to his shoulders like a weights bar. I swear he was going to press her skywards, but no, instead he did three turns and then they raced to a raised stage, a circle, steam pumping to the ceiling ready to teleport them. What was supposed to be a crescendo died amidst the steam; we were left guessing. A lift and a throw away on the floor concluded a performance of tempo and passion.That just left Abi to offer her Quick Step to the voating throng, ‘Walking on Sunshine’ from week eight and then it was up to the GBP. Would they, wouldn’t they? And they did, much to her delight, the right conclusion to a treat of a show. In fact, great, wasn’t it, the whole series? From the barmy to the frustrating, from the delightful to the delicate the nation bought into this game show once more, for ‘tis no more than that.
And next year? Well, The Argie Tango was underused, just the three outings. The Fox Trot didn’t get many trots either, five, the Samba seven, capped by Abbey’s brilliant 39. Maybe some Lambada or the Bachata? The Jive disappointed, not a cracker to be seen, a high of 31 from ten efforts, and the blokes were bobbins really. I hear that Graeme Swann has just retired from cricket – I played rugby and cricket with his dad – so he is available for next year. How about a bet on him winning? Must be worth a punt.
Merry Christmas to everyone and an Abbey New Year.
December 24th 2013