The BBC propaganda machine had a pre-show meeting, all those present educated at Oxbridge, (Oxford and Cambridge), an occasional graduate from Durham sneaking in under the wire. They chatted amiably until the entrance of Le Grand Fromage, the Big Cheese, then there was hush, expectancy, nerves frayed a little.
‘Right team, it’s December now, we’ve had movies and Halloween, what we need is a theme.’
The team scratched their heads and then began the brainstorming session, though they never called it that. Apparently it’s detrimental to epileptics.
‘Why don’t we do The Magnificent Seven?’ There were seven dancers left.
‘Did that in 2010.’
‘What about the Seven Deadly Sins?’
‘Or the colours of the rainbow?’
‘Wonders of the World?’
‘Hey, this is good,’ said Le Grand Fromage, ‘associations with seven. I like it.’
‘We could always just get them to dance,’ said a young guy in the corner, ‘you know, proper dances, traditional music . . .’
Before he could continue he was dismissed by a withering look that would have melted ice.
The end result was that ‘Around the World’ was the theme that won the day. Why? No idea. However, what an opportunity. A real Argentine Tango, reeking of melancholia and sex, Salsa from Havana, Barons at the ready for the Viennese Waltz. What could possibly go wrong?
Pixie was first upp after the juddgies had taken their seats, each wearing an international hat, a sombrero for one, a fedora for another and a cork slouch hat for Craig, that’s the one with corks dangling from it to keep the flies off, these days fashioned with screw tops. Lord Len wore a flat red French hat and when the intro ended he launched it into the crowd doing his first impression of the night. Chuck Berry.
We were told that Pixie was going to dance a Viennese Waltz so immediately thoughts went to Heidi milking the goats in the Austrian mountains, bluebells and edelweiss scattered in the meadow. But what was that on the floor? A windmill, an old-fashioned one, you know Donkey Hoety, (Don Quixote), not the balletic modern versions that adorn our countryside. And what was that next to it? Four chaps in cravats, waistcoats, tailored shorts and clogs, socks pulled up, like golfers in the summer. We were going to get a clog dance? The band started upp, ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’ and I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really here. I had to do it again when Pixie appeared looking like she’d just stepped off a music box, her midriff a cummerbund of purple sparkle, her frock flared like puff pastry, carrying a basket full of tulips.
As the right and left brain had their own battle trying to work out what was going on Pixie and Trent messed around for half a minute and then danced together. Yes, it was a Viennese Waltz. I could tell. There were reverse turns, naturals and a Fleckerl where the cameraman actually showed the feet. Glad he’s listening. But after another forty-five seconds the dudes were back enticing Trent away from his girl. The guys linked arms and danced in a line, a horizontal conga leaving Pixie to turn on her own like a ballerina. And turn she did. Then two of the lads lifted Trent up, like a gazelle, chasing Pixie. He caught her, the fellas skipped off, delighted. After a cupple more bars Trent ended up on the wrong end of mop roll and he finished flat out on the floor. This bizarre exposé scored 38 points. I went to a Christmas Fete once. That was bazaar. Don’t panic though, there was plenty more to come.
If I said Las Vegas, what would be the images that came to mind? Casinos? Elvis? Dodgy marriages? André Agassi? (It’s where he’s from.) Or Prince Harry playing pool naked with call girls? Would you think Salsa? No, me neither. Bring on the emaciated figure of Mark looking thinner now than when he was in ‘The Jungle’. Add the classic Salsa song ‘Viva Las Vegas’, two Samba girls with feathered headdresses, Hottie with a feather ruff the size of a giant rose on her bum and giant playing cards dominating the backdrop, so much so that I was sure that Brucie was going to come on for a game of ‘Play Your Cards Right’. Everything was set, but for what?
Two texts lit up my phone after this performance. ‘Where was the Salsa in that?’ ‘Wasn’t that supposed to be a Salsa?’ The senders, dance cognoscenti, had clearly also had a head scratching session. During the routine, Mark wearing a pink short sleeved top, at first tucked in like a boy scout, then ripped open mid orgy, there was a basic, a comb and a sombrero (Salsa move) but that was about it. Hottie straddled Mark’s back, then his front, he danced with all three girls and there were the inevitable gyrations and shimmies. At one stage Mark balanced on one arm on the floor before being dragged knee-wards to his girl. Never seen that in a Salsa pally before. Chuck in a mop roll, the same Swayze impression as last week and a hoist of a lift and this should have brought the house down. It did, of course it did, even though the conntnnt was thinner than Mark and the timing not exactly Greenwich. Somehow this scored 32 points but the GBP weren’t bamboozled and Mark rightly headed for the dance off.
When the producers decided that Sunetra would Rumba they went to Rio, the home of Samba. They’d have been better suited to use Rotherham or Romford. The Rumba is a sensual dance, romantic, love driven, where the guy always gets the girl. It is not a dance to be shared with others; this isn’t the hokey-cokey but lo and behold, there were three men to one Sunetra, all dressed in casual slacks and shirts, sleeves rolled up, far too casual, straight from the window of John Collier, really the window to watch. Or not as the case may be.
Of course Sunetra looked great, her pink and white frock floating airily, the gold sequined bodice glinting under the lights. The song worked too, just, a slowed down version of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. But setting the dance in a hotel lobby was odd, so too the girl playing hard to get, the beau going home alone. There were basic steps, a drag and an illegal lift, not mentioned, but the dance lacked presence. Next week’s show will be lacking Sunetra’s, 25 points a sad exit, her lowest score since week one.
Did you know that the Charleston originated from a town of that name in South Carolina, USA, in the early 1920s? True that, something that Lord Len informed us of after Caroline had busted her way to the top score of the series, 39 points, only Craig getting the scoring paddle wrong. ‘Fantastic,’ he said. ‘Can’t wait to see you dance that in the final.’ Nine. Bonkers.
So, with South Carolina in mind the producers decided to base this dance in Turkey.
Just thought I’d let that hang for a moment. Turkey.
Perhaps it was because Christmas is coming? Don’t know. Perhaps the producer supports Saracens Rugby, their supporters known for wearing Tommy Cooper red Fezzes, Turkey’s national hat. Either way, Turkey it was, the song ‘Istanbul’, Pasta dressed as a street trader, white pants, snazzy waistcoat, no shirt, golf shoes and a Fez, a Fez that toppled to the floor mid dance and that was skilfully kicked away by Pasta, twice. Caroline wore her standard lampshade frill frock, bright yellow with an orange hem, nice and short, no stumbles this week, the same style she always wears, matched by her headband. She looked the type of girl never seen in this capital city. Beryl the Belly Dancer maybe but not Caroline the Flapper.
At the offset Caroline danced in front of a market stall, five people selling spices and potions. These five people were to be important later. Then the funn began, more swivel than the whole series, great lines, super timing, a quirkiness to smile at, some moves a taste of Egypt, a cartwheel onto Pasta’s shoulders, walking sitting on his neck, the support team and Pasta rowing on the floor, great Jive sections, and a fabulous lift as a finale, Caroline at the head of the five others, the first two launching her upwards and over, a backwards somersault, landing firmly at the back on Pasta’s extended arms. We thought it was all over but Pasta knelt down his arms raised to his god, and Caroline was being held by two of the traders high in the sky. Spectacular, brilliant. It lit up the night, a night, that, to be fair, needed it thus far.
Webby has been sneaking up on the leaders in the last few weeks, his last four dances have averaged over 36, tonight’s 38 helping to fund that particular pot, two tens from the juddgies in the middle of the table adding to his three from his Argentine Tango a fortnight ago. He is comfortable in the Ballroom hold, his Quick Step fine and sharp, so a Waltz? Made for him.
Dress him up in a proper suit with white bow. Give him a luscious partner who looks equally gorgeous in full or half garb and the song ‘Edelweiss’; all that was missing was Julie Andrews and the von Trapps. I suppose this was Germany or Austria but the Waltz, once frowned upon because of the intimacy, is now global.
There were two cupples canoodling on balconies but don’t let them put you off for this was a dignified dance full of quality, precise technique, lovely timing, especially on the runs though there were a few too many of those for me. The ending of a standing turn with Webby holding Kristina’s back with two hands lifting her slightly, like a child might swing another in a playground, was charming, the charm coming from the union, this pair have a strong bond, something that, by the look of them, continues off the dance floor. Looks like Kristina has struck again.
Did you know that Frankie has a son called Parker? Why name a child after a pen or a sofa? You’d have thought he’d have been christened Golden Gate or Menai wouldn’t you?
Anyway, Frankie’s tour of the world went to the USA where she was asked to surf. No, that’s not it, that was just the song they were allocated, ‘Surfin’ USA’. Oh yeah, it was the Jive that must have originated in the USA, in California, on the beaches, because that was the setting for this weird interpretation.
Frankie and Kevin from Grimsby headed for the dance floor on a surf board, KFG shouting ‘Surf’s up, dude’ to get things on their way. He must have had ‘speaking part’ added to his contract recently. This surf board was tethered by a wire, the two dancers with safety belts as they cruised through Elstree’s air space like a hover board from Back to the Future. Once safely landed they unclipped only to find two more surf boards on the dance floor. Rather than picking them up and throwing them out of the way they decided to dance on them, Frankie with some trepidation. Her fears were compounded, not by her frilled red beach frock or her heavy legs, but by KFG looking like he’d just rocked up off the beach at Cleethorpes. He wore a Hawaiian shirt open to reveal his vest and red knee length speedos stolen from the set of Baywatch. All he needed was a hankie on his head. Ridiculous and a big turn off.
So too much of the conntnnt. There was plenty of good but when a Jive includes air guitar, head banging, Caroline throwing KFG at the juddgies and her swimming the front crawl, it does nothing for the appeal. At times you thought they’d become dyslexic and read Charleston instead of Jive. 36 points. Somehow.
And to finish, the calamity of the night, Jake’s Argentine Tango.
Here we have a man with talent, intent and the ability to deliver. Why do this to him? His partner is stunning, a brilliant choreographer, forever positive, but even she must have dunn a dubble take when they were given ‘Zorba the Greek’ to dance to. ‘Really? You’re not kidding? Yikes!’
The scene was set in a restaurant with two other cupples who at times danced and shaped better than Jake and Janette (not a good plan), at others were part of a none too intricate line dance, and who, at the end, smashed a plate each, behaviour very typical of downtown Buenos Aires.
Jake wearing pants, shirt and a scarf opened with clapping and stamping and then his own version of the Ministry of Silly Walks. Try and remember, this dance is about a gaucho and a prozzie. He was on his own, legs lugubrious. Janette joined him and for the next minute Jake did nothing save stand there and watch Janette perform tricks, dance tricks not those. That would have been far more interesting. There was a splits, a roundabout, a jump, a catch, a dip, splits again, a dip between his legs, an ocho, a wrap and a displacement, all genuine moves. But this was the Janette show, make no mistake.
As the tempo accelerated they danced apart, did a curious long ocho circle when Jake nearly got knocked over by one of the support dancers, and they too did a horizontal section, like actors walking forwards to take a bow at the encore of a musical. And then the plates came. It was a shocker, nothing less. Wrong setting, wrong music, wrong delivery. One can only hope that the GBP didn’t think this is what the Argentine Tango is really like. Today the producers were guilty of murdering that dance. And poor Jake? He got sold a pup. 29 points was easily nine too many. Jake lives to fight another day but if I were him I’d lead a Spartacusian revolution next time he is treated like that.
So down to six, just three shows till Christmas. For those of you needing present ideas Dave Arch and the Strictly Singers have just released a new record, forty songs are now available as a CD from Amazon and other reputable stores. It is also available on iTunes.
It sounds a lot doesn’t it, forty?
But don’t worry they’re only 90-100 seconds long.
November 30th 2014