What a bizarre day at the pit face. After the highs of Blackpool the world came down to earth with a bump as good dances went unnoticed, where others manifested themselves as something odd, when Pixie was penalised for just being Pixie and when there were standing ovations for everything. As my grandad used to say, ‘they’ll clap ‘owt.’ It was a strange affair.
To the business end of the night. There was a rollover on The Lottery and twenty people were to be made millionaires so the nation took a punt. Chelsea romped to another victory and the odds were slashed at the bookies on their chances for the championship. Surely England would beat Samoa at HQ in spite of a weird kick off time of 7:00pm, a clash with Strictly testing loyalties. And wasn’t it obvious that Steve and Sunetra were living on borrowed time and were destined to dance off with the big fella exiting stage left?
The evening began with a justified ovation for the return of our favourite newspaper editor’s daughter, Claudia, in a black sparkly jump suit that was kept very carefully away from any naked flames. It was a touching moment that could easily have induced a tear. So too the opening dance of the night, Steve’s Jive to ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’, a fifties’ R & B number. No me neither.
Steve must have been dreading the Jive and all that it entails, the pace, the bounce, the energy, given that his knees are also living on borrowed time and that his left ankle is fused following thirteen operations, his heel going through his foot when he fell thirty feet off a mountain. If you add in Steve’s lack of finesse he knew that he was up against it. When one of the producers decided to theme this dance against a backdrop of American Football Steve knew that it was time to start writing his fourth Falcon Chronicles novel. ‘You really want me to do that?’ He mused. ‘Really?’ The die was cast.
Steve burst through a paper door dressed like a line backer, no padding required, all in white, a thin green line down the side of his pants, a brazen, hopeful number ten on his back and front. He placed a silver rugby ball on a kicking tee and his foot missed the kick. A graphic showed the ball sailing successfully through the posts. But he didn’t even kick the ball? What was that about? Steve ran off to celebrate nonetheless, to be greeted by a cheerleader who jumped off the stage into his arms. Thereafter there was a full round the world, a nice somersault lift and a jump where the cheerleader ended knelt on his right shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. But that was it and 23 points was his nadir and his exit. A damp squib for such a likeable fella, another with a gracious departure speech following a cupple of songs by the magnificent Barry Manilow who must have used a chopper to get from Paul O’Grady’s Radio 2 studio in central London to Elstree in time to sing on Sunday night.
Sunetra, if form is followed, will leave next week, the top six stealing a march; December will be a real test for them and for the GBP. Will they get it right?
It is well documented that Sunetra is more comfortable dancing Ballroom rather than Latin but if you check the stats there are only two points between the genres, 29.4 versus 27.5. Bring on then a Waltz to ‘Last Request’, Casualty’s finest dressed in a sumptuous chocolate frock last seen in her Fox Trot. This time there were opaque sleeves of sophistication added, a glittering V at her cleavage, a broad matching band from her underarm to the hem. Stunning. Have a guess how many she scored? Yup, 30.
There was beauty, style, pivots aplenty, a nice rondé, a lovely glide to the dance, only spoiled by a cupple of stumbles that made her chase her beau, an understated partner, a hat and a violin case short of being a gangster. There was one moment of consternation, this was when the Scouser nearly emerged, Sunetra looking daggers at Bruno as he questioned her top line adding that maybe it was ‘too much luggage in the carriage’ that caused her frame to drop. It was definitely one of those ‘watch yersen, I know where you live’ moments. She was livid.
With Hottie dressed like a posh version of Cat Woman, gloves to her elbows, blue waves of satin flourishing like ripples on the ocean, the Tango looked promising. Mark, no jacket, no shave, scruffy face, a glistening blue lapel, oddly looked the part. Then the song ‘Love Runs Out’ began. It was definitely one of those ‘where is the ejector seat when you need one’ moments. The Ballroom world was livid.
The dance itself scored 32, a fair return for Mark’s ability to follow choreography rather than dance, once they got going, twenty-five seconds used to decide what they were actually going to do. He held his frame and did as he was told but this was a Tango not a fight outside a chippy in Southend. At one stage Mark swaggered like an Essex boy and then attacked Hottie pushing her to the floor and dragging her six steps. She got up, fought back until the finale when she hit the floor, decked, Mark leering over her, successful, thinking ‘now, where’s me lager?’ More Paso than Tango. More Asti than Champagne.
The night was crying out for some class so who to turn to? Obviously the Flack Attack herself, Caroline, a Smooth beckoning, ‘Mack the Knife’ the song, Pasta frocked up nicely in his suit, her dress black and white, broad bands like a piano keyboard. Caroline slinked down the stairs, Pasta met her at the bottom and launched her with his right arm to the centre of the floor. It was going well. What could possibly go wrong? After nineteen seconds Caroline took a back step and that was it, she was over, no, she stopped herself, a slip, a wobble, like a fighter taking a hook, her foot on her dress. She recovered and got on with it, a great save, but to say it spoiled the moment and the rest of the dance is an understatement.
Thereafter the dance went to plan but there was always that undercurrent of worry on her mind however much she smiled. Would it happen again? As she was lifted, where was the hem? In hold it was fine, solo too, but where was that hem? The stumble clearly shook her, there was polish but not the same élan. As a result her transitions became wobbly, she was clearly glad when it was all over. 33 points kept her average high. One wonders who in the wardrobe department took the flak for that one.
There are many versions of Salsa. Cuban. LA. New York. Dancing on Two. Most have the same structure though; you dance on 1, 2 and 3 and 4 is a spare beat to rest, to prepare, to move to the next bar of music. You can stop on 4 but that leaves the dance clunky and less slick. With that in mind play the track ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’ by Deniece Williams. (Yes, that is how you spell Deniece.) It is virtually impossible to pick the beat throughout the song. There are moments when it’s there, then it disappears amidst its disco tempo, then it’s back. So why pick such a track for Webby to Salsa to? Bonkers.
There is a responsibility that the producers ignore; the neglect is staggering and arrogant. They have to be true to the dance. When songs like this are played the GBP think that it is a Salsa song. Why wouldn’t they? But this misrepresents and that is fundamentally wrong. It itself this is a shame. Add in that this was Webby’s moment to shine and all you get is a wasted opportunity in spite of a score of 36. Pure waste.
Webby has turned a corner now, his confidence high, and throughout his Salsa he beamed in a comfort zone knowing that lifts and throws would wow the crowd, that his Patrick Swayze impression would impress, that Kristina would wrap her legs around his head, that when she turned six times to her right he wouldn’t have to do anything, that his knowledge of the armography was sound, that a drop finish would stun. As for Salsa? Few steps, no basics, just tricks. One day a bloke will be taught how to do this dance. It is supposed to be about the dance. Isn’t it?
‘Sparkling Diamonds’ is a song that features in the film Moulin Rouge. Well, the last time I was at the Moulin Rouge in Paris there was a horse on the stage, at times a pool filled with a crocodile, and all the dancing girls were topless, chests tastefully displayed in that French way that shrugs and says ‘sophistication’. Can you imagine the disappointment when Pixie appeared on a chaise longue wearing a full frock? A nice frock, in fact, probably the frock of the series, but it was backless not frontless. The silver bodice glistened with titillation, the frilled hem shook with invitation. Ah, well.
Pixie scored 37 for a dance that induced a Lord Len moment here at Travolta Towers. Phew. Phut. Something like that. It was spectacular – compare it to Mark’s 36 last week – where her technique starred, where her experience of pop videos came to the fore, where Italia Conti struck again. It was easily 40, if not 44, but for some reason Pixie is penalised for being too good. Her cartwheel was perfect, her somersault effortless, her spotting and three step turn to right, something that she practices in the supermarket, professional, her core in a flat lift, full of pips. But what really starred were the eight flicks of her right foot, balanced on her left as she rotated. Somehow this showgirl Charleston didn’t top the pops.
The Samba fills most dancers with dread. There are tricky changes of tempo, that old dubble bounce, whisks to cope with, runs, rolls, Voltas, Bota Fogos, an occasional corte jaca, basics, walks. So, was Jake dreading it? Not at all. And the reason why? He didn’t have to do any of those steps. No, he just had to show up, shake his hips and that was it, job dunn.
To be fair there was one Volta, one roll, in a forward position, one sequence of runs but that was it, the remainder filled with hip thrusts, gyrations, Jake on his knees, a dip here and a dip there, a stampy walk like lurch, Janette disappearing between his legs and a twerk by Jake that looked like he was getting an electric shock. Oh, and there was a failed leapfrog at the end that left Jake sitting on her chest. The song ‘Macarena’ has now found a new home, somehow this dance scored 38 points, the highlight being the dead pink ostrich that Janette wore round her waist. It got a standing ovation from the audience. God bless ‘em, poor lambs.
On the same score, up there again, were Frankie and Kevin from Grimsby, dancing a Viennese Waltz to that old Austrian classic ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ written by that famous Austrian pairing of Bacharach and David. That’s the thing about the VW, it is supposed to be a sensual, romantic experience where the music is the key factor, the glue that bonds every natural and reverse turn, every Fleckerl. When that song is asexual then so becomes the dance.
The performance itself was fine, he looked smart in his tail suit, her pretty as a picture in a red number. She started standing on a bench for some reason, two lamp posts stood as sentries as KFG lifted her to the floor. Another offering twenty-five seconds of prep before starting to dance, what followed was more saccharine than sweet, the pace gentle, there was even a Fleckerl though, for some reason, the cameraman decided not to show any feet at this point. They ended with a dip and Frankie poking KFG on the nose just as the song said ‘You and your pussycat nose!’ How twee. Which sort of sums it up really.
This score pushes Frankie to second on the leader board, her aggregate just four points shy of Pixie’s, surely a testament to her fan base and beauty rather than her talent. I’m not saying she’s bad, far from it, she is very good but she is just vulnerable and fragile in a porcelain sort of way, like your Sunday best, only brought out once a week.
Or should that be on Saturdays?
November 23rd 2014