It all seems to have passed so quickly, the Strictly term, so soon we were struck by the sight of the Grand Final, and now that has come and gone. What a week of build up though, a week full of incident, mild stupidity, one or two awards shows and . . . what a Final!.
Incident. Ask me about The Pope later. Incident. Caroline Flack splits up with boyfriend; Rachel Riley (Pasta’s current love interest) isn’t happy. Incident. Last year’s winner Abby Clancy is pregnant again and they’re going to call it Dave.
One incident and stupidity are matched. Enter the exiled Jordan family.
Ola was due to dance at the final rather than be in it but is now injured out, much to the displeasure of the producers, ever forgiving. Ola has left Strictly officially and has signed a deal with Channel 4 alongside her hubby James. There is a reality show in the making and Ola also signed up for The Jump, the ski jumping show for novices. ‘Tis here where the stupidity comes in. I know what you’re thinking. Dancer. Ski jump. Yup, right on. As is Ola got injured on the dry slope in Hemel Hempstead during practice and won’t make it to The Alps, crutches and leg brace now taking pride of place at Jordan Towers. Sometimes there is a price to pay for the chase of celebrity.
This week we had the British Comedy Awards, the Sun Military Awards and that other classic; for 58 years the BBC called the Sports Personality of the Year just that. For some reason it has now become SPOTY, pronounced spotty, (eh?), and that show overflowed with champions, tears, smiles, grace and elegance even though the bloke that won it only drives the best car on the planet for a living in a two horse race. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland, golfer, came second having won two Majors and a Ryder Cup in a game involving pure skill and ability.
Anyway, the mention is merited because of the gallant nature of all the champions, how graciously they pledged their success to their teams, their families, their fans and how everyone realised that it was okay to be nominated, okay to come second.
No one was an Ali. ‘I won the title, I am the greatest.’
Or a Cloughie. ‘We were always going to win it, look at them, they were a shambles.’
Or an Aussie. ‘We won because they were pathetic.’
Oh, how it cried out for it. Like the Irish girl who got beaten by Nicola Adams in the boxing at the Commonwealths. ‘But I won!!!! Not her!!!! I won!!!!’
Which brings us nicely to the losers and the winner of Strictly 2014, all dignified and dignity. This year has without doubt been the best series ever in terms of production, glitz, colour, lights, graphics, singing and outfits. Here the producers may take a bow, so too Vicky Gill the head costume designer and Dave Arch, the musical maestro, and his singers Tommy Blaize, Lance Ellington, Hayley Sanderson, Andrea Grant and Tara McDonald. Phenomenal, one and all.
But, as is well chronicled, some of the themes didn’t work, musical choices were beyond despair and the dancing itself, the point of the show, was no better but a little worse than days of old. The averages at the end of the series were Mark 31.7, Webby 33.1, Caroline and Frankie both on 35.1, Caroline winning that little battle by just one point, 562 – 561. Just to give this some context last year’s finalists averaged 33.8, 35.6 and 36.9. Enough said.
So who would win? Would the GBP go mad and choose Mark, a novice in September, a true novice, a lad up for a laff, up for the lash, someone who has developed nicely as the series gathered. Simple answer. No.
Each dancer was asked to perform the judggies’ choice, in Mark’s case a Cha, and then a Show Dance and whilst each dance scored 35 points this wasn’t enough to tap into the generous reserves of the voaters. The Cha to ‘I’m Your Man’ was a dance full of performance and confidence; his presentation is exceptional but the conntnnt lacked again, the rhythm and tempo were slow, the moves too static. This scored the same as Pixie’s on the day she was asked to leave the building. Comparing apples with apples is always handy.
Each cupple got the chance to do a Show Dance and Mark was given that dainty tune ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, a crowd pleaser if ever there was one. Dressed in white slacks and a short sleeved shirt he looked like he was headed for Lords or Wimbledon, or that he had forgotten to change. Down the side of the strides was a green flash, on his shirt back similar, a triangle, maybe he’d nicked it from the Pakistan cricket team? Hottie wore a two piece in green tinsel looking a tad Amazonian if not Venezuelan.
Together they walked down the stairs until Mark couldn’t resist it and he slid down the bannister on his butt. Just had to do it. He then hoisted her onto his shoulder, dropped her to a cradle and rolled her on his knee. After thirty-five seconds they ran off and started to Jive, something that looked like it was taken from an aerobics class. A cart wheel followed, delirium from the crowd. Then he somersaulted her. Back to the PT class. After a Robin Cousins he lifted her into a reverse somersault and then came the bizarre, twenty seconds spent playing Chase Me, Chase Me as they ran up the stairs, across the dais and down again. You, like I, may have been wondering what that was about. Some limp Jive was followed by Mark using Hottie as a pommel horse, stepping over her like a gymnast. The finish was a daring drop. All said and done had this been a horse it would have been shot.
With Hottie eliminated the dynamic of dancing against her fiancé in the final ended too but Kevin from Grimsby still had a chance, Frankie on form, ready to burn the floor, and burn the floor she did, 39, 38, 39 for her Samba, Show Dance and Paso, sixteens 10s in total, but never one from the Antipodean end of the panel.
In Week 7 Frankie’s Samba ambled to 32 points. Do you remember it? The one to ‘La Bamba’ when Frankie was mauled by Craig in that ‘worst dance ever’ moment. Well, she had plenty to prove and true to form the only way to beat a bully is to smack him on the nose, figuratively of course, and she did, dancing with precision, spark and intent, totally relaxed, giving one of her best yet amidst the Brazilian donkeys and sombreros.
KFG found his old outfit, bright red pants, multi-coloured wallpaper shirt, the sort of thing my grandad would have worn for a bet post Boer War. And the smart little fella went and changed the routine a little, awkward transitions gone, moves that didn’t fit, binned. It was clever but would it be enough?
Frankie’s Show Dance strengthened her credentials, a mix of Fox Trot, Smooth and Quick Step to Judy Garland’s ‘Get Happy’, taken from her, Judy’s, last Hollywood movie Summer Stock, written by Koehler and Arlen. Having wisely opted against the toy soldier look KFG decided that Fred and Ginger would be better so he donned his Sunday best, added a white scarf, Frankie in a full length champagne coloured frock that gave her the style of a princess. Then they stood under the poshest gazebo ever seen and ‘did a bit on the spot’ as the technical cognoscenti would say. 28 seconds of posing and getting ready for the onslaught. In a movie it would have been ok, as filling, perhaps a final deserved more.
On came the scatter chassés, some nice Fox Trot and a beautifully timed jump, spot on the musical accent. Someone had left some white benches on the dance floor, decorated in ivy, and if they weren’t careful they were going to . . . and just when you pictured disaster KFG lifted Frankie on to the closest one. Now that would have hurt the shins. Instead of doing the obvious and getting back on to the floor they used the benches, on and off, catch for a drop, bit of showboating as Frankie’s crinoline ruff stole the show, somewhere it would have been easy to get lost in if you weren’t careful. KFG’s knee was used as a stepping stone and at one time you would have been mistaken for thinking that it was Monty Roberts, the Horse Whisperer, herding an unbroken stallion as she rounded him on the benches. They finished with a neat, fast side to side section and a gentle lift where Frankie extended from a cradle cuddle, stretching to add width to the vista.
As Show Dances go it was different rather than stunning, another beautifully delivered but was it spectacular enough to attack the two favourites? All that remained thereafter for Frankie was her favourite dance and for that she chose the Paso to ‘America’ adding four points to her effort in Week 3. This was the routine set against the feel of West Side Story and whilst the steps were all there alongside a sweet and polished delivery it didn’t do it for me back then and nothing has changed. The series has been crying out for a proper Paso. It is now too late to remedy that fact.
If you remove the semi-pros from the celebs, those with Fame Academy and Dance School credentials, the person who has made the biggest transition, from also ran to genuine contender, is Webby, a man now so comfortable on the floor that his future is assured in musicals, theatre and panto. His (ALL) rise has been terrific.
Gone is the meek and mild shy boy who was scared to perform, scared to admit that he luvved the dance, and in its place has grown a man of stature, dignity and class, a man whose confidence now soars higher than the wideness of his smile. Webby’s first half dozen dances yielded an average of just 27.3 points. His last ten though have scaled the North face of the Eiger to a massive 36.3. In the Final he dropped just two points, an amazing feat for a novice, 39, 39 and 40, his haul of tens reaching seventeen.
Webby’s final began with a repeat of his Pearly King Charleston to ‘My Old Man said Follow the Van’ and his final performance bore eight points more than his first effort. The routine was full of energy, was as quirky as ever, and inspired ‘a Len from ten.’
This score of 39 was repeated in his Show Dance to Elvis’s ‘A Little Less Conversation’, a routine that contained seven lifts, a strip show, and the reverse use of a medal podium. Allow me.
I know they had to get on the dance floor to finish off but it seemed bizarre to start at the highest height, the gold medal podium, and then descend down through silver and bronze. Surely they should have finished at the top?
Anyhow, on each podium they danced and stripped, the first they were in red and blacks, the next he cast away his red blazer to remain all black, Kristina, her frock now blue, tinsel and fringe, obviously. The lowest dais left her in white, tinsel and fringe, obviously, Webby in black pants and a white vest with braces. It was all nicely and naturally done, the routine containing smatterings of Jive, Salsa, Charleston and Quick Step. He cuddled her like a baby and threw her upwards so she could roll and he could catch. He took her right arm and right leg, lifted her from the floor and turned as if to throw her like a hammer thrower. To finish he launched her onto his right shoulder like a pirate’s parrot.
Many dances got the audience on their feet. Only one had the crowd stamping in approval.
Let’s get back to The Pope. It was Pope Francis’s birthday last week, 17th, same day as my mum’s so many happy returns to them both, the Pontiff a cupple of years older, and as a result 2,000 Argentine Tango dancers took over St Peter’s Square in Rome. Odd you may think but as he hails from Buenos Aires not so daft. The clips showed people of all ages, all sizes, dancing in tribute. A great spectacle and no sign of Beethoven anywhere.
When Webby first danced his Argentine Tango to ‘Roxanne’ it catapulted him to greater things; it was the tipping point for his Strictly charge. Now, more mature, wiser, smarter, he repeated the dance and it was better, sharper, more powerful, and as is oft said, ‘worth the entrance money on its own’. It was a genuine demonstration of the art. Webby was, is, the veritable King of the Celebs.
But it wasn’t enough to win.
Throughout the show Caroline has demonstrated that her three years at Dance School have been invaluable. Of course, she explains, that didn’t mean she Rumbaed for breakfast and Sambaed for tea. But it did give her musical interpretation, a performer’s eye and heart, and the savvy of what to do when. Accomplished is the byword. Her win here will take her where she has always wanted to be: in the headlights, underneath the super troupers, her career and world awash with new opportunity.
It wasn’t always thus.
Desperate to find fame and fortune she got work as a TV presenter soon after Dance School. She is a bonny girl, hits the camera photogenically and in ten years she has succeeded and moved from one show to another on the lower channels. She was searching for her purpose and on the way she befriended Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, and is said to have had more than one romance other than with Harry Styles of One Direction, fifteen years or so her junior. Nothing wrong with that. It is said that her and Prince Harry are chums. One wonders if they’ve played pool together.
But it was with Strictly that her torch was clearly lit scoring a maximum of 40 points in each dance in the Final, a Cha, her Show Dance and her Turkish Charleston making it twenty-three tens in all. Not that high scores guarantee the win. Lisa Snowden’s last three dances all scored 40 but she didn’t make the second half of the final in 2008.
Caroline’s Cha to ‘Can You Feel It’ was stunning. Dressed in a gold frilled top that made her look like a posh Afghan hound, her skirt silver, Pasta wore black and gold, complementing, she delivered a dance full of confidence, sharpness and full of emotion, positive emotion that moulded the music to the moment. Emoting does this.
In her Charleston to ‘Istanbul’ Pasta had changed to white pants, red Fez and a waistcoat showing off a very trim midriff, obviously work dunn there following some gentle criticism of his belly in this column. That wasn’t all that changed. Gone were the helpers from the previous effort so no spectacular lift to finish. Instead Pasta also launched Caroline like a pirate’s parrot onto his shoulder.
The issue of ‘emote’ and delivering a dance is vital for the congruity of the performance and in her Show Dance to ‘Angels’ Caroline did just that, the style a contemporary Rumba à la Smooth. Dressed in a white nightie she seemed high up as the dance began, four large matching sheets like giant pappardelle extending from her back, ethereal. After some seconds Pasta emerged below; she had been sitting on his shoulders facing backwards. You wondered when the little fella was going to show, again proud to show off his new tummy.
What followed were great lines, legs extended beautifully, the lushest opening outs you will ever see, a basic step made to look stunning, and Caroline running and launching herself at Pasta like a WWF wrestler going for a submission. Instead she curled her body around his head and held on for life and for love. A tear fell to my shirt as the hem of her frock nearly blinded him ready for a game of blind man’s buff. The pick of the lifts propelled her backwards as her rear leg pointed to the sky with an uncommon elegance. To finish he took her hips and turned her a foot or so off the floor, legs shaped beautifully, as lights exploded and little sparks of magic lit up the stage.
The biggest spark though came from Caroline.
She may have lost her One Direction but now she has a light that will lead her wherever she wants.
Season’s greetings to you all.
December 24th 2014