As upsets go, it is upp there.
Ali should never have knocked Foreman out. Hereford shouldn’t have beaten Newcastle United in the FA Cup in 1972 but Ricky George and Ronnie Radford had other ideas. Blyth Spartans have been cup killers twice, Sunderland once. These things happen. But few would have predicted the demise and exit of Pixie Lott from this year’s Strictly.
This is not about the dancing though, even if she lost the dance off, which, to be fair, was as controversial as her being there in the first place.
The GBP love the underdog but they also hate arrogance and it is that that did for Pixie, not hers, she has always come across as sweet and charming, but that of her partner, however slight and playful. During this week’s dance there were three illegal lifts and this was pointed out strongly by Lord Len. ‘I’m quite happy to score you a 6 instead of a 9.’ But Trent’s nonchalance at the warning, and the ‘we’ll be alright next week mate, we’ve got Salsa, lifts allowed, and the American Smooth, lifts also allowed,’ attitude cast a dark spell on the GBP. When asked if he was going to break the rules again there was hesitation and indifference. Who says you’re going to be here next week, cobber? And of course, he won’t be. In fact, they aren’t. The GBP did it to Carol Smillie a few years ago too. Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble . . . but you have to be to survive on Strictly.
The dance itself, the first Cha for six weeks, scored 35, just above her average, to the track ‘Love Shack’, never my favourite. The song lacked resonance and congruity and I sat wondering when they were going to use ‘Going Loco Down in Acapulco’, probably the greatest Cha song in history.
Pixie wore pink, like a stick of rock, the costume department getting their weeks wrong; Blackpool was ages ago. Trent’s top matched, nicely offset by his black pants. That said, he would have looked a bit daft in pink kecks. The dance was set in someone’s lounge, a bottle of champers chilling, a sofa at the other side, this sofa served as a trampette for a balletic jump, and was twice used to cushion Trent as he was pushed away in a violent fit of pique, too often used by this pair. It was supposed to be a love shack not a wrestling ring.
During the routine the accents were spot on, Pixie as happy alone as in hold, her timing impeccable, her pop princess past priceless. But three juddgies picked up on her legs straightening too much, being inconsistent and a distraction. Again the judggies were attacking her for being too good, looking for Pixie Perfection. Other dancers are allowed indiscretions of the hands and feet but not Pixie, always there to be shot at. It is a sad indictment that they have had to do this. Week after week she has been over-criticised and under-scored compared to others, as opposed to the opposite. Anyway, we won’t have to worry about that next week.
Pixie’s departure has really thrown a spanner in the works down at the bookies. Who will win now? Frankie’s average is now the highest (33.9), Mark’s the lowest (30.9), down in the realms of Chris Hollins, a previous winner whose only dance move was a pivot. But we all know, during the run in, that the juddgies get over-excited and mark high, that the dancers get better, and that 40s are handed out like confetti. But who will have their mitts on the Glitter Ball Trophy?
Caroline topped the dance chart on Saturday with 39 points for a mesmeric Argentine Tango (there was a Waltz-a-thon too; more of that later), so she must have a good chance. She too has a dance school pedigree and her all round game suits multi-dimensional dancing and a widening need for a real skill set. She hasn’t dunn the Viennese Waltz yet nor Salsa, the latter having knocked one or two from many a high perch, so who knows.
When the music is right, when the lights are perfect and when the outfits match the demand for intensity, any dance becomes more credible, more true to itself. One wonders why the producers don’t do this all the time for it is clear that the formula really works. Caroline danced her Argentine Tango to a tune called ‘The Compost Eater’, a genuine piece of music that cries to you with violins and a Bandoneon. Me old mate Heinrich Band would be smiling now, his squeeze box dusted down and used for the first time in an eternity.
The lights were set to dark, mysterious, intriguing, shadows aplenty, Pasta in a navy combo, no jacket required, Caroline in her standard midriff hugging frock, navy too, frills reaching her knees but split at the waist freeing her legs, opaque sleeves ending at her wrists. You can only assume the zip was at the back.
At times it was difficult to say who the professional was and who the celeb as Caroline cut lines sharper than a machete, her extensions controlled, her turns snappy, her pirouettes and lifts perfectly executed. Apparently she lost her balance twice and thus the first 40 eluded her but this was clearly a statement of intent. Beat that if you can.
Nearly there with 38 points was Jake, back on the rails with a cheeky Charleston following last week’s Greek tragedy. People say that Jake is a good actor. That might be the case but following this exposé he might have a chance at the annual Cumbrian Gurning Championships. Never before have we seen faces pulled like it, mouth open, mouth closed, open again, fly catching, at times looking like Dobby from Harry Potter. He really does put the lug into lugubrious.
They danced to ‘Entry of the Gladiators’ by Julius Fucik, careful how you spell that one, a tune better suited to clowns than gladiators. Not sure this would have got Russell Crowe going but it did allow for a whacky dance where Janette again became the master magician, tricks and sleight of hand taking the focus away from Jake wearing just a dunn upp waist coat and trolleys. No chance of chest out here.
Janette entered on a trapeze circle and did a cartwheel that could have been straighter. She did a back somersault, a forward roll down his body, and she missed the ending by a second after a lift. She also introduced mini-umbrellas and a graphic that made them look like they were balancing on a giant ball each. They weren’t, it was just a graphic. Honest. Amidst this Jake kept time, played his roll of support artiste and he applied great timing to a clever skip section. He wasn’t asked for much more but he will be next week, two dances beckoning. Maybe next week he’ll lead?
Along with him, in what has now become a dance version of Russian Roulette where only the fortunate survive, will be Mark who scraped to 35 points for a Fox Trot to ‘L.O.V.E’, a Nat King Cole classic. We knew it was called that because someone had opened up a giant tin of alphabet spaghetti and left some of the letters on the dance floor. Hottie even sat on the ‘L’. You couldn’t be sure that it was a Fox Trot though because there were just three bars of dancing in the first forty-five seconds. Sure he looked dapper in his posh suit and white bow and her in a full length ball gown, backless, a sandy ruff caressing the floor. He even clicked his heels à la Bojangles but I could have dunn a week’s work before they actually started to dance which is a shame because once in hold he was more than capable.
Once more Mark was Hottie’s victim. Perhaps she doesn’t know the title of the show? Is it really called ‘Strictly Faffing’? If so, she would win every week. Thirty seconds of genuine dancing does the show a disservice however nice and twee it looks.
Another dance that tingled the wrong buttons was Frankie’s Salsa to a Kelly Rowland song entitled ‘Work’ that amassed 34 points. With ‘work’ being the theme Kevin from Grimsby sat at his desk in pinstripe trousers and a work shirt from Burton’s. Frankie was pictured in a sparkling silver welding helmet, welding away, obviously. I should add that she wore a pink frock and a purple bodice too just in case you were fantasising. This is where the routine should have stopped.
As mentioned the right song makes the dance. So that was the first issue. The second was clunky transitions, the third, the connttnt, a mixture of ballroom steps, Salsa arms, lifts and dips, the final drop spectacular, KFG ready to play air guitar with Frankie, or the piano on her midriff, shimmies all over, a mix of Samba and solo prancing. Frankie did a reverse somersault over KFG’s right arm. She did a forward roll over his shoulder. It all sounds good but the look wasn’t. There were giant steps and KFG did a limbo dancing shoulder roll like a clerk at the Christmas do after too many Sherries. The end result was a limp and lifeless, unconvincing exposé. ‘Rough around the edges,’ said Lord Len. Not so great in the middle either.
Webby, a past master of the art of the dance off, didn’t exactly jump for joy when it was announced that it was his turn again to try and convince the panel of his worth. He and Kristina must have thought their time was upp even though they had danced with style and swish in their American Smooth. They had scored the same as Pixie in the main dance, 35, but this was Pixie they were upp against now. Time for BFH, bus fare home.
He looked weird did Webby, black pants and shirt with a white blazer, red bow and hanky. The lapels were black too. It was odd, nearly as odd as the song ‘Heartache Tonight’, something only suffered by listening to the sound track of the night. Kristina wore a blood red frock that said all it had to say.
Both dancers descended the stairs from opposite ends, stylish, comfortable, performing though Simon’s tucked elbows looked totally unnatural, another cupple taking more than thirty seconds to get in hold. They can be forgiven, just, this was a Smooth. In hold the mix was nice, an up and over lift, good height, Kristina even walking in the air as Webby cushioned her back. He smiled, she smiled, all was going well until the last transition when Kristina’s foot caught in her dress prior to the final lift. Once extricated they turned, her legs resting on his arms as he held both hands, Kristina’s head forward like the figurehead of a ship. As they both descended to the floor Webby released his left hand and pulled her towards his bosom with his right. And why wouldn’t you?
It was a smart routine; in the dance off even the final transition was perfect but would it be good enough?
The leader board went Caroline, Pixie, Jake, Simon, Frankie, Mark, that was after further points were allocated after what was called a Waltz-a-thon, won by Pixie. The name Waltz-a-thon seems to imply a test of longevity. It was in fact just a Waltz with six cupples on the floor at the same time, all dancing anti-clockwise, like an athletics track, where floor craft and technique were tested to the full. Of course the celeb girls had a huge advantage being driven and guided by male pros, though Webby broke that mould beating Caroline and Pasta into fourth place.
In the end though the Waltz-a-thon and the leader board were irrelevant as the GBP went for their favourites and focused on the arrogant Aussie. That said, Pixie still had a chance, at 2-1 in front on the panel she was almost through, but the casting voat was worth dubble and the headlines spoke volumes:
‘Lord Len Kills Pixie’.
Sounds like something from Tolkien.
And finally I am told that the tune ‘The Compost Eater’ is apparently called ‘La Campursita’.
Never knew that.
Okay, I did.
December 9th 2014