Have you ever wondered what you have to do or where you have to go to find a girlfriend/boyfriend? Once you have left school or university you are thrust into the wilderness of luck and occasion, work, the supermarket, pubs and clubs the only viable directions to take, or there’s lonely hearts ads or the Internet. A few friends of mine created a list, not exhaustive, and came up with the following: seminars, book clubs, charity dinners, museums, art galleries, music recitals, training courses, self-help groups, lobbies of posh hotels, book readings, council meetings, public gallery in the Crown Court, pop concerts or watching a band, any function where there is a chance to have a drink and a biscuit afterwards, dog walking in the park, anywhere where there are nurses, join Weight Watchers if you like bigger people, do The Alpha Course, weddings, singles’ events, speed dating.
No one said go to a dance class. If only they knew.
Locally, dance classes are the well-disguised dating agencies of our time, hundreds of people I know looking, finding and then they don’t dance much thereafter, unless they become single again.
Strictly is the same.
Brendan was engaged to Camilla Dallerup, and then they split, rumours including Natasha Kaplinsky the supposed cause. Flavia left Vincent to date Matt Di Angelo. And then Jimi Mistry. Vincent dated Kristina Rihanoff, so too Joe Calzaghe, though those relationships were not concurrent. Ali Bastian dated Brian Fortuna. Rachel Riley split from her husband recently something predicted in this column on October 4th. And Artie whisked Kara Tointon off her feet only for Natalie Gumede to be her alleged substitute. It’s the intimacy.
There was a different vibe in the Natalie Pro camp on Saturday, an air of ease, comfort, her relaxed, like a kid in a candy store with the key, an ease that tilted her towards a perfect 40 in her Salsa, Artie’s first ever, and a sizzling 38 in her Argentine Tango. As a Pro she averages 36.2 and as we have said every week, she ought to given her history. She is now in a battle with Abbey, the real star of the show, her average of 34.9 including fourteen 10s, the most in the show. The other three shouldn’t feature, 33, 32.8 and 32.6 for Susanna, Sophie and Pat. That said, because the world loves Susanna she was the bookies’ favourite before Saturday, her odds of 6/4.
It was semi-final night, the precursor to The Grand Finale, not any old final this, with just one cupple eliminated, a staggering four going through to next week, one to be eliminated after dance one, another after dance two, the last two pairs standing having to pull out all the stops one last time before the GBP flood the telegraph wires and the ether with their voats. Yup, you can voat on t’Tinterweb if you fancy but don’t count on being able to see the number of voats cast, very private this publicly financed institute. They could even decide the winner with a lucky pin; you’d never know.
So a semi-final with four girls and one bloke, my sort of numbers, but would the bloke manage to remain with the harem? The dance-off would feature him and a stunned Natalie Pro, stunned yet smug, probably why she was there. The GBP can see through most facades.
The cupples did two dances, two proper dances, Pat taking the Waltz and the Paso where he scored 36 and 33, the first to ‘Unchained Melody’ (try Barry Manilow’s version if you get the chance, fabulous), the second to ‘Because the Night’ written by that famous Spaniard, Bruce Springsteen. Oh, and talking of Brucie, the boy was back and on fine form.
Pat and Anya’s Waltz started on the dais and remained there for thirty full seconds before condescending to reach the dance floor and to get in hold. She wore a classical champagne coloured frock, he, white tie and tails, at a different function he could easily have been carrying a tray of the aforementioned fizz. In the main the dance delighted with its elegance and subtlety though he was doing Rumba leads with his feet, a week late, and the floor mop roll has no place in any Waltz.
The Paso though was a struggle. The music didn’t cut it; that didn’t help. Neither the smiling; you’re supposed to kill the animal not tickle its belly. Nor her leading as desperation took over. The routine began with a drag and then another floor mop roll, this one more elegant, circular, then they did some Salsa arms, a sombrero. And then she began to lead. The scene was set but the dance wasn’t. His shaping disappointed but not as much as the attitude. Maybe they didn’t teach you how to become a trained killer at RADA. You’d have thought so though, wouldn’t you? Not quite matador this, more Matalan.
One point higher in the aggregates of the night with 70 was Susanna, a high flying 38 in her Fox Trot balanced by a humbling 32 in her Salsa. The FT may have been awarded two tens but really, it wasn’t for the purist, a park bench the star, used four times, along with Kevin from Grimsby’s specs, that gave him an air of Clark Kent. Don’t know if the glass was plaino or prescription.
‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ was the song and to be honest, maybe I should have, Susanna’s gurning now almost as offensive as Abbey’s singing. Every turn was greeted with a gleeful look, an open mouth, half a smile, a full smile, an ooh, an ahh, a Cantona, as KFG attempted to woo her with chocolates and his dance skills, something that, to be fair, normally works. Once in hold, a fifteen second moratorium, things went well, KFG even whacked in seven pivots on a nice accent. But when he walked around the bench after a few bars of open hold, hand to hand, I lost interest. When he walked onto the bench I felt short changed. ‘Stay in hold, chap, it’s a Fox Trot not a Smooth.’ And when they sat down at the end the clock still had a few seconds to run. Thankfully they didn’t get up again.
‘Move Your Feet’ by Danish duo Junior Senior reached number 3 in the UK Hit Parade a decade ago and this was the song that was given to Susanna for her Salsa. The routine did give her lots of opportunities to do just that and this included a few Salsa steps, lots of strutting and walking and lots of pogoing, not seen since Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious launched Punk Rock back in the seventies. Could have been the Masai out there. The song also gave her the chance to shimmy, at the last count, three hundred and fifty two in total. Boundless energy this girl, great funn in a disco.
The problem came not with Susanna but with KFG, after all he was the choreographer. But it wasn’t just the lame content or her gurning again. It was KFG’s legs. You couldn’t take your eyes off them. He wore skinny jeans, dark grey to black with a blue belt. And that just emphasised his legs, a wee bandy, knees crossing of their own volition, a mind of their own. They were mesmeric and not made for Salsa. One wonders how he manages to walk. As the panto season is with us, perhaps the perfect opportunity to add two coconut shells . . .
There are two key factors for any dancer who is intent on winning this competition. Firstly, there must be a swell of popularity with the GBP and secondly a dancer has to peak. There is little point in scoring heavily too early; there really is advantage in saving the best for last.
After a fragile first cupple of months where she averaged less than 32 Sophie is now consistently hitting 35s and 36s this week even sneaking in a ten, her first, onto the scoreboard. Will this be enough?
She danced a Paso and a Smooth, 35 and 36, the latter to ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’, the former to ‘Dance of the Knights’ by Prokofiev, also known as ‘Montagues and Capulets’, taken from the 1935 ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’. It is a stirring tune, evocative, powerful, haunting and Sophie delivered. Starting crouched on the floor on the ball of her foot, the other leg extended, Brendan, tall, led seven turns to her right, each accent perfect. Thereafter he dominated knowing her fate but she was never a junior partner in this relationship, her shaping strong, her face and attitude determined and purposeful. Her shocking blue frock with noir flash perfectly complementing Brendan’s all black, very Jack Palance. This was the dance where she came of age. Fabulous.
Thankfully that continued in her Smooth, a traditional, proper Smooth, he in tails, her in a ball gown, a cupple of lifts, plenty of grace, a genuine face, smiles and enjoyment, like that moment when you bite into your favourite food. There was one little wobble on a walk and her spare arm, at times, had a mind of its own, but her class showed, rising to the top in preparation for next week.
Natalie Pro made it through the dance off, sorry to disappoint, Pat condemned once more to the wards of Holby General Hospital. Well she did score 78 points. Michael Jackson got a look in again (is someone on commission?) as they Salsaed to ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’, a song with an apt title given their potential relationship status, a routine full of smugness, more singing – when will these dancers shut up? – great timing, huge steps from the male pro and twelve turns to left from her at the finish, her spotting exemplary, something that hasn’t been learned in the last three months. Try doing two. Or three. Mmmmmnnn.
Their Argie Tango to ‘Montserrat’, another haunting tune, was stunning. She wore blood red. He wore blood red, pants and shirt though why he didn’t have matching shoes is anyone’s guess. They were black and white, straight from the golf shop. The key to this dance, apart from it supposedly being freestyle which it never is, is the rapport between the two dancers. He is on the money, she the game. And there was plenty of rapport, so much so, that she could have been described as like a rash and you sense that she would have done it for free such was her enthusiasm. In the midst of this lust fest there was plenty of precision, beautiful lines and intensity.
The people’s champion is Abbey and if justice prevails next week she will be taking the Glitter Ball Trophy home to the Crouch household, the only chance of that house seeing any silverware this season. In her last seven dances she has averaged over 37 and there is no real weakness in her armoury, her Latin strong, her ballroom refined, this week scoring 39 for a sensational Samba and the same for a succulent Smooth.
The Samba, the carnival dance from Rio, the city where George Michael wrote ‘Faith’. True that, honest. Thinking he was the Fonz Ali Ash started the routine next to the juke box wearing jeans, vest and shirt. Must be cold in that studio. In truth he looked like the ‘plumber’ in a porn movie. Abbey wore sky blue and she fizzed all the way through in spite of the producers not using the duck tape I posted for her mouth.
Her tempo is natural, her timing smart, her funn infectious, so much so that Bruno gushed and gushed and gushed, almost sending him back in the closet. Craig decided that the dance was ‘really, truly amazing’. Why then only a nine? He did it again when she Smoothed someone really taking the biscuit by putting ‘Sweet Caroline’ on the play list. How much duck tape can a man need, this song better suited to a bar full of revellers pretending that they like Neil Diamond?
The dance began with both dancers beneath an arch of pink balloons, the first nervous dance at the High School Prom. We didn’t have a prom just an end of term disco. We never had anyone as stunning as that at school either. If we had I’d have organised the prom meself.Of course Abbey danced with style though juddgies picked up on her sickle feet during the lifts. Couldn’t see that from my vantage point. But just remember the style. The choreography wasn’t desperately challenging but she matched it all with aplomb, her beaming face, her beautiful smile, oh, for that tape. This Smooth was that, a nice standing turn, some steps a bit chintzy, and her core during the lifts proved invaluable, four turns to left reversed to the right without her feet touching the ground, truly spectacular.
Shame the song wasn’t called ‘Sweet Abbey’.
Better write to Neil Diamond and get him onto it.
December 18th 2013