There was a time when you could set your watch by the telly, when The Ten O’clock News was just that, when Crackerjack began at five, when Corrie hit the screens at 7:30pm, just the Monday and Wednesday, even now, Saturday Kitchen kicking off the weekend at 10:00am, save the odd interruption by the Lords Mayor’s Show or a Grand Prix.
With that in mind I built the day around a 6:30pm start looking forward to seeing Brucie doing his stuff in a shortened version of Strictly, gone the two hour marathons of yesteryear. Maybe, I thought, the dancers would be tested by two proper dances? Maybe the producers had listened and destroyed all the pop music. Fat chance. And maybe the pros had actually decided to dance for the full allotted time, all keeping to the rules. Of course not.
6:30pm came and went and instead on the telly was a dubble act, Zander and Rich, an amicable pair of swells talking us through a show with no raison d’etre called Pointless. Their fondness carried the show for a further forty minutes until The theme tune warmed the lounge. There was no Brucie, this not a scheduled break, his place taken by the manic Winkleman, her cheek nuzzling Tess’s left bust as they introduced the stars of the show. They didn’t tell me that was part of the deal when I auditioned, I would have tried harder to get the job.
There wasn’t many stars left, just the six, friends and foes departed, the latest to add to that list, a surprise . . .
When Susanna found out that she was going to do the Argentine Tango with a bloke who’d never danced it either she must have thought that her time was up. Add in a crass Michael Jackson track, ‘Smooth Criminal’ – I understand the producer was flogged with a cat o’ nine tails in Trafalgar Square this morning – and the first to exit the Swing-a-thon, details later, and it all pointed in one direction.
It was a strange dance, truth be told. Susanna looked steamy hot in her tight bodice and slashed skirt offering herself as a lady of the night. The effects team produced steam emulating the docks close to the bordello. Kevin from Grimsby wore a white go faster stripe down his trouser legs often seen in Buenos Aires. And in the main it worked. KFG dominated, there was passion and mood, she looked sultry, demanding. But just as it looked like they’d conquered the feeling she was dancing on her own, strutting, KFG a distant partner. For fifteen seconds she stayed alone; you really were left wondering why. Where is that in the text book? In hold Susanna was comfortable, the lifts accomplished though the ganchos a little heavy. 32 points meant a forecast of a bottom two finish. In fact it was bottom. Lord Len didn’t buy it much. Don’t blame it on the boogie Len, blame it on the song choice.
There was a Ballroom Tango that got banjaxed by the song choice too, Sophie EB dancing to ‘Material Girl’ by Madonna. In spite of some courageous choreography the dance died with the first note. This approach to the dance does nothing for anyone. The dancers suffered, the audience too, and worse than that, the dance itself was catapulted into disarray, this Tango not knowing who it was or what it had become.
Sophie was dressed like a flapper, red gloves to her elbows, wrist bling from Claire’s Accessories, her pink satin frock shoulderless, her eye lids yellow, a veritable Avatar. She began the dance as a mannequin in a shop window, silver brolley above her head. No, it wasn’t raining.
Brendan did his best to infuse the dance with staccato movements, a sharpness that she lacked, along with the tone in her upper body, no gym monkey this. But the music played. It was like a bad choice on the juke box. Shall we Tango anyway or wait for the real song? They danced, Sophie following, just about keeping things in check. There was even a cheeky bum thrust at one stage, now the Tango morphing into the Charleston. As the song kept going I offered a prayer. And on that prayer Sophie went rigid and Brendan lifted her, illegally, and carried her back to the shop window. She winked at the finish. We all just sighed with relief. Somehow it scored 34 points, the beauty of last week’s Viennese Waltz a distant memory.
Ironically the theme tune to the BBC TV series ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ is actually a traditional Tango.
Sophie scored 36 points for her VW. This week Abbey topped that by a single point but which was the better dance? Until the dancers are given the same dance, or the same choreography, in the same week, it is very much a question of taste.
I have never known the VW to be sexy or to contain Salsa but hey ho, here we go, and a week after dancing a Hustle with no Salsa that was supposed to be a Salsa, we got a VW with more Salsa than we have seen in the series so far. The VW, traditionally has three steps, but this had underarm turns, half a pretzel, arms locks, a comb, a basket and a cage. The song, a fair lick of pace, was that famous VW piece of music, er, ‘Delilah’, the theme tune of Pontypridd’s finest, Sir Tom.
The music worked, Ali dressed in a smart formal suit, Abbey in a backless full length frock, her crinkly hair finishing a stunning look, the frock hiding her feet. You’ll never know what was going on under her body. As Ali swayed, sashayed and powered his way around the floor, Abbey went with him, singing to her heart’s content. If you check out Ali’s ears you can just see the tip of yellow plugs. Between them they have formed a formidable pair, the cupple to beat, Bruno offering a ten to tip the three nines towards 37 points and the top score of the night.
As soon as it was discovered that Ashley was doing Salsa, not Solsa, Tessa, he was doomed, the dance off and eviction looming. It always happens. But hang on, here comes Ashley playing the bongos, black pants, black T, pink shirt, buttonless, sans Velcro. He strutted towards an equally pink clad Ola who shook her booty as if a fifty pence piece had got stuck. He pulled her in, did a dip and a lift and then, after 25 seconds they decided to get in hold, the song ‘Conga’ already on verse three. (Don’t be fooled by the BBC website that lists the song as ‘Congo’. Can’t remember that one in Gloria Estefan’s back catalogue.)
They stayed in hold for a full twelve bars, basic steps, huge steps, massive even, before she let him go and they did shines and struts for a full twenty bars. Put simply they danced alone, apart, until Ashley ran straight at Ola and tried a move not seen since the porn movie, Athletes in Action. He jumped straight at her, groin first, her head getting stuck between his legs. Mercifully her neck remained unbroken. There must be easier ways to get the girl?
Having playfully kicked her in the head with his ankle along came the ubiquitous knee slide, a handstand from her, over him, a few basics, a lift that left her prone on his neck, some rubbish on his knees and a lift at the end that demonstrated her athleticism; she ended sitting on his shoulder from a standing jump. Of course, this dance scored 35, his fifth in a row. As a dance it was spectacular. It was Salsa, but not as we know it and sure enough Ash wound up in the dance off. But against who?
On then to the Paso and the storm that raged throughout the night. It’s bad enough when the producers give a dancer a duff song, what then if the pro offers the same in terms of choreography? Bring on Natalie Pro and Artie in the most spectacular outfits ever seen on the show, his in particular, a proper matador’s suit, black but with ten inch ornate gold pattern embroidered down the side of his jacket and pants, the waistline up to his ribs, very Simon Cowell. Of course, his waxed chest was on display as Natalie dressed like a female gladiator, sword and shield left in the changing room. The music was perfect, ‘El Gato Montes’ (Cat Mountains), so what could possibly go wrong?
For fifteen seconds Artie was majestic with his cape but, then, the next seventy-five seconds contained strutting, marching, walking, shaping, bits of Flamenco, nice lines though maybe she could have done with a stronger arch and more tone in her arms. What irked was that there were a total of eight bars of actual dancing. Whilst three juddgies bleated tolerance Lord Len let rip into a shocked Natalie Pro.
‘Too much faffing.’ Couldn’t agree more.
‘You’re in jeopardy!’ That would be a shock to the system. Artie took the beating before sulking as he walked off the stage; if you were to apportion blame look no further. He should know better. 35 points was an overmark and another missed opportunity disappears into the ether.
The pick of the night was Pat who was asked to Rumba to ‘When I Was Your Man’, a song by Bruno Mars. (Anyone named after a chocolate bar can’t be all bad.) The song tells of a man pining for his ex, a gut wrenching hurt chewing at his stomach, the regrets of things he didn’t do, ruing the empty space in his bed, their favourite song now a hurtful memory each time it is played on the radio. This is not good news for the man in a Rumba, he is supposed to get the girl not have her run off with another bloke.
And so that set the scene for Pat, all in black, Anya in canary yellow, for what could have been described as a fight, real tension, RADA proving its worth, Pat’s acting and grasp of the story terrific. Amidst the battle there were a few steps, not enough simple feet to give him the chance to move his hips or to use the ball of his foot. Maybe next week?
But, anyway, back to the story.
He didn’t want to let her go, he needed her, why had he been such a berk to lose her? The dance exchanges, as a result, were aggressive, powerful, intense, passion switching slickly to desperation, as it does. This was no traditional romance, it was a split. ‘In the Rumba the guy always gets the girl,’ shouted Juddge Aggie. I felt sad for the old lad, torn apart, dying inside, 36 points a just reward, Darcey’s ten balancing Craig’s eight.
And with that . . . straight into the dance off.
This was the quarter final, two more shows to Christmas, and to jig it up a bit all the remaining cast were asked to take part in a Swing-a-thon, a Lindy-Jive-Swing concoction, everyone on the floor together, the first one tapped on the shoulder, after a full ten seconds, scoring one point, the last man standing, six. You can fill the other spaces yourself. The scores were then added to the real dances. As said, Susanna was off first followed by Ash, Abbey, Sophie, Pat and the winner Natalie. To be honest it bore no relevance to the night. You can’t watch six cupples all at once, pointless trying.
So the dance off left the last remaining lads fighting for survival. Ash listened to his mentors and his steps were smaller, more controlled. Pat reacted too, the fight softer. The first three juddgies pushed Ashley into dance oblivion only Lord Len supporting the young fella as he freely lambasted Pat’s heel leads. The camera didn’t really show much, there goes the benefit of sitting in the best seat in the house.Next week Brucie will be back, we are down to five, Sophie will bite the dust, Natalie will cry, Abbey will sing her way to the final and the Saturday after, the crown. Maybe.
And finally, my TV listings said Robbie Williams was supposed to be on the results show. He was a no show, some girl group called The Saturdays making up the numbers. Wonder what happened there? No great loss.
And really finally, didn’t Len do well on Sunday night?
At the Radio 2 studios from 5:00 – 7:00pm and then on the Strictly set for 7:20pm. Must have been a superfast courier to get him to Elstree on time.
December 11th 2013