I’m not sure when the day was, the day that I grew up and started avoiding 18 cert films. I’d seen plenty, gratuitous violence, gore, movies where the value of life was zero, where murder was an everyday occurrence, mass murder on weekends, any method you choose to use, just like living in The Mead. Sleeping well became an issue and funnily enough, as I graduated to 15s, 12s, PGs and Us, sleep returned, no nightmares from a RomCom.
I guess this is why I hedged towards the more gentle nature of musicals, Oliver, Evita, Spamalot, a real joy, playfully violent, Superstar, Cats, Les Mis and Blood Brothers, to name a few. The Rat Pack movies had an attraction, Tommy Steele’s innocence sold the screen, Disney dazzled, Grease grabbed, Dirty Dancing opened many doors, but the catcher, the biggest draw of them all, was big H, Harry Clifford Keel, better known as Howard, or Clayton Farlow when he sold his soul in Dallas. In concert his basso cantante voice purred like the softest velvet, the power, the energy, the heart transforming the simplest of lyric. On Broadway his frame filled many a stage, his debut in the West End in 1947 in front of Elizabeth Windsor.
Bring on then Week Ten with Musicals the theme. With last week’s debacle a distant memory here was a day of opportunity, the shows of choice being Saturday Night Fever, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dreamgirls, The Sound of Music, Aladdin, Singin’ in the Rain and The Lion King. No one did Mr Bumble from Oliver, ‘Trounce him, trounce him, pick him up and bounce him’. That would have been funn.
Back in 1977 a twenty-three year old John Travolta got his big screen break in Saturday Night Fever playing a Brooklyn kid who thought that his only chance of fame, fortune and girls was to become the King of Disco. His trade mark outfit was a white suit with a black shirt something copied by Ali Ash, though his black shoes didn’t really go. Abbey dressed in burning red matching Travolta’s on screen female lead, Stephanie. She had a perm too, a bit Kevin Keegan, very fetching. And then the music started ‘You Should be Dancing’ by the Bee Gees and Abbey was in her element, alcopop in one hand, hand bag on the floor, Saturday night on the razz.
Everything was going so well until the announcer said the magic word, Salsa. This should be interesting, I thought, Salsa to the Bee Gees. And it was. There was a huge glitter ball on the multi-coloured chequered dance floor, some random people from the audience joined in, four in all, two boys, two girls, and then they all did some strutting, doing Travolta circles with their hands. Security was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure there’ll be some Salsa soon, I thought, but nope, not a sausage. Abbey hit some nice lines, her tempo fluid, though her spare arm was a little limp and unemployed. And they danced too, what looked like a Hustle, but no Salsa, though there were turns and an occasional Pretzel, and three lifts, her light frame made for such. As Cuba and Latin America groaned at a flagrant misuse of its finest dance the judggies, all of them, reached for the perfect paddle in spite of a wobble on an early turn, the ending being off time and the dance being no reflection of the title.
Last week Big Ben bowed out with a slow Charleston, an athlete underused. Fifteen years or so his senior, and no international sportsman, Pat was given the same dance, the song named after the car, named after the show, ‘Chitty Chitty’, with added speed, more bang bang, this a great test of his aerobic capacity, and hers, once they got going that is, Pat descending from the gods in a vintage car, wasting the first eighteen seconds. Thereafter it was a blur, his grey flannels on overdrive, the pastel yellow shirt, black and white waistcoat and bronze neckerchief hiding any hint of perspiration. At the offset it looked like Pat was doing a wobbly leg dance, on purpose. It was only after a while that it became clear that he wasn’t, that was just his legs.
In a week where the juddgies threatened to be tuffer than ever, the tuffest yet, they dished out eight 10s and Pat was the gleeful recipient of three, one juddge who called it spectacular offering an eight. Eh? It was spectacular, as fast as they come, three smart lifts highlighting Anya’s amazing core and Pat’s willingness to trust his teacher, the roll over lift being the pick. 38 gave Pat his highest score of the series so far, another marker down, the tuff tests behind him. Having excelled at Salsa perhaps he could spend a few spare minutes next week teaching Abbey a few steps?
Natalie and Artem did a Fox Trot American Smooth, or rather they didn’t, the dance penalised by Lord Len for its content. I saw Artie dance last summer and he is as fine an exponent as there is. He is precise, lifts his game when challenged by any other dancers who have the temerity and his artistry is uncommon, bordering on the genius. But sometimes he doesn’t play by the rules and thankfully Lord Len spotted it and Artie copped a telling off.
The Smooth is supposed to be at least 40% in hold with two lifts allowed. The pros sometimes swing it; Artie did 5% and three, the first, a reverse crucifix, brilliant and courageous, starting with a hand stand off his right thigh. Natalie’s control and lines as she descended were stunning, the second a simple lift that mesmerizingly always brings gasps and cheers from the audience, the third showing her core strength too as Artie put his right arm behind her back and held her vertically. The song ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ was terrific, the scenes of blues and purples perfect, his check jacket, full of sparkles, outstanding. If only there had been more content and some steps in hold
Natalie scored 36, her average now nearly as high as Juddge Alice.
Also on 36 and with a dance overflowing with content was Sophie EB dancing a Viennese Waltz to ‘My Favourite Things’. As this dance began, as they played along to the lyrics, the dance world hoped and prayed that we would get a proper routine, a real VW without all the gimmicks and faff. As it unfolded and delivered you were left delighted yet frustrated. ‘About time,’ said Juddge Lulu. ‘Why aren’t they all like this?’ added Juddge Aggie. It really does beg the question.
On a bad day for New Zealand rugby league God bless the Kiwi Gob for his choreography. With Sophie in all white she looked angelic, he resplendent in full tails, a neat red and white tie offsetting beautifully. The beauty continued in hold as he took control with basic steps, reverse turns, half a Fleckerl, more natural turns, Viennese crosses, a full Fleckerl, oversways here and there and nine pivots to finish proving to the world that it’s not just Kevin from Grimsby who has the exclusivity on that step. If you add in sway, tempo, her elegance and her ability to maintain focused in a dizzying world, the entire product was a thing of joy, the best dance of the night by a street length. Great for her and her confidence.
Earlier on this year I went to Cardiff to watch the South of England Universities Ballroom Championships. Never before had I seen so much fake tan. And that was just the blokes. Bring on then Ashley TD looking like an Umpa Lumpa who had escaped the chocolate factory. He wore white Arab breaches, a red cummerbund, a purple waistcoat and no shirt, just the orange of a Jaffa cake. To match Pat’s entrance on a car Ash wafted in on a magic carpet, thirty feet high above the floor, no safety net in site. Juddge Lulu voiced everyone’s thoughts. ‘I hope he falls off.’
Had he he would have started his Rumba with Princess Jasmine far earlier, a full thirty seconds wasted. That should have cost him a cupple of points but he still got to 35 for the fourth week on the trot. I’m not sure how.
She looked cutesy in her beaming sky blue outfit and raven coloured wig and she coped well at the end when the leg of her outfit snagged her shoe. But this was a routine without content, half a dozen Rumba steps at most, even a knee slide, his arms blatty on extension and in a different place when free, new from a few weeks ago. They are a problem, so too such weak choreography. As the song ‘A Whole New World’ ended you prayed that they would land near a magic lamp that could be rubbed to produce an improvement next week. He scraped through the dance off against Mark.
As Christmas beckons the big guns will be cut down from six and there will be genuine tension in the dance offs, talent equally shared, a fag paper between them all. So far Darwinism has worked remarkably well. Get rid of the old, the talentless, the nearly girls, the almost men. Now, as Mark bathes in his glory of reaching December before exiting the show (the dance off was on Sunday!) each week will provide a shock and it will be the dance choice that decides. Those who haven’t done the Samba or Salsa please be ready, they are the two to die to.
Trying her hardest to get into the dance off this week was Susanna, who has been the darling of the show so far, no previous, a great learning curve to match her own new svelte look. Asked to Quick Step to ‘Good Morning’ KFG produced a routine that included a sofa, that was fast and furious and a little out of Susanna’s range and comfort zone. They looked great in purple and once they had shooed off two strangers intent on joining in they went at it, scatter chasses for leather.
When Susanna makes mistakes her face shows it and her frame drops a little. This happened at least three times, all on Charleston syncopations. She carried on regardless; what option did she have? At least with the Quick Step they are soon forgotten as a new section rapidly approaches. On the straights she redeemed herself and she still managed to score 33, 0.3 above her average, surely not enough to win even though it is higher than previous winner Chris Hollins.
When Juddge Lulu was little I took her to the zoo and it was after that visit that she told me that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, just like those ladies who painted my face like a lion today. For a minute I thought I had a Picasso in the family.
Unbelievably Mark dressed up as a lion, his face painted too as he attempted to Simba to ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’. Sorry Samba, just trying to be Simbathetic. He wore the full costume, mane, tail and all, even though in the film this was sung when Simba was a cub not full grown. IveMeta wore a hot Amazonian outfit, just to mix my continents or it could have been Jane? If that’s the case, me Tarzan.Four groupies emerged on the stage with Mark all dressed in black and white like penguins. No, I get it, zebras! Not sure why they were there, truth be told? To distract you from Mark, labelled the ‘cheeky king of the show’? Maybe. Perhaps it was to hide any double bounce movement. A single would have been hard to find. Mark shimmied, he did a couple of whisks, back steps and walks, but that was it though I did see the opening for a Bota Fogo and also the first few steps of a Volta. As ever Mark captured the spirit of the dance, a painfully slow tempo, but his face exuded pleasure, his timing always on the money, you could say Simba-otic. He scored twenty nine, that’s twenty-nine, not twenny, just in case Ms Daly is reading. Don’t the BBC teach pronunciation anymore? It equalled his best ever but here his journey ended. He will be ripe now to be on our screens for years to come, a talented actor, even a panto beckoning. Another one.
Maybe next December he can switch channels and try and become the real King of the Jungle?
P.S. Interesting fact of the day. Howard Keel’s dad was called Homer.
December 6th 2013