As the lights went out on Saturday afternoon I took a look out of the window. There, at the bottom of the garden, a little light flickered. I thought it might be a Pixie.
The absence of the overwhelming favourite still felt strange but it did create an opportunity for the five remaining contestants who had to cope with the nerves of the Semi-Final, two new dances, some weird and wacky outfits, juddgies high on emotion, scores from 7 to 10 for the same dance, the oddest of music and some of the most bizarre choreography ever seen on the show. There was dubble the pressure but who would buckle and who would fly? Who would get caught by the tuffest of dances?
Did you know that Jake has two kids, Buster and Amber? Both are redheads. Amber . . . just thought I’d throw that in, for next week Jake will be watching the final from the comfort of his front room with his family, the axe truly having fallen on his rollercoaster experience that was Strictly. With a low of 27 and a high of 38 it is clear that some dances fit some dancers. As luck would have it the only two left for Jake were the Cha and the Viennese Waltz and once we’d seen the VT of the Cha training the writing was already on the wall. This wasn’t the day to score a 30 and a 31.
Set in a bar, The Queen Stric, Janette, in a crop top and skirt combo made of pink tinsel, Jake was presented with a pair of silver ‘Boogie Shoes’, the title of the song, something that he miraculously managed to put on in a record time of twenty seconds. We were hoping that these were like Billy’s Boots, soccer boots that made you play like Georgie Best, and that Jake would morph into a Cha Cha world champ. Sadly, that wasn’t the case as the Cha again demonstrated its degree of difficulty, getting that snappy leg action ain’t as easy as it looks. Of course, Jake attacked the dance with gusto and funn but one New York basic with a most savage pigeon toe said it all. Effort 10, technique 0. Janette tried to hide the deficiencies by doing nine turns crouched in front of him, and by getting Jake to dance on a table in the bar. But even Stevie Wonder would have cringed at this one.
Jake’s chance of redemption came with his Viennese Waltz to ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ but this was nearly as underwhelming. He looked good in a tail suit with a white bow and Janette wore clothes too, a sky blue crinoline frock with a studded blue and gold bodice. She looked hot and as a result the choreography was centred on a smooch, a soft approach, rather than the driving turns that make this dance the most dizzifying of them all. Jake was on the pull, romantic, knowing that the girl was there for the taking. Amidst the gentle sexual tension there was much armography, too much, and not enough VW. Were there eight natural turns? Eight reverse turns? And a Fleckerl? In ninety seconds.
In the dance off with Jake was Essex’s finest, the man who says ‘F’ instead of ‘TH’, I fink, a victim again, another to VW, I think that’s what it was, and to Rumba. I think that’s what it was.
They played Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ as Mark and Hottie sat on a two-seater swing in a garden. He was suited and booted, grey with white bow, her another in a crop/bikini top, a pink cummerbund and layered frock. So when was the Viennese music coming on?
Up they stood and started to throw lines, smile at each other and throw some more lines. At some stage they danced four bars of Waltz and then it was more lines and skipping back to the swing. And then it was over. For those waiting for a dance from Austria with pace, drive, turns and class, the wait continues. 33 points was probably thirteen too many.
Having been hijacked by the VW the Rumba sealed Mark’s fate, although that too scored 33 points. Goodness knows how. They started lying on the floor in a corn field as ‘Fields of Gold’ began, the golden graphics stunning. When they stood he wore pants and a shirt and nothing else. Had he been mugged? Had his shoes been stolen? Hottie too was auditioning for the role of Sandy Shaw. Then the Rumba started. Or rather it didn’t. The dance was very arty, contemporary, but there wasn’t a basic to be seen. No fan, no hip twist, nothing alamana. Mark did like taking a large step to his right and blatting out his arm. But not even that is in the manual. Add in Mark looking like a horse doing dressage and you’ll get the picture. Of course there was plenty of emotion and connection. But no steps. In the dance off he did it again against Jake’s Cha managing to get Lord Len’s nod from a position of 2-1 down.
Mark now has the lowest average of the group, 31.2, compared to Webby at 31.7 and Jake at 32.1. The girls are aeons in front, 34 and 34.2, Frankie at the helm, but Mark has made it through to the Final next week.
Webby ended mid table this week and after a Samba and a Fox Trot he cemented his place in the competition even though his Samba scored 6, 9, 8 and 7. How can there be such a discrepancy?
If you’ve seen the movie ‘Madagascar’ you will know the song ‘I Like to Move It’ featuring when the habitants of New York Central Zoo arrive on the island and are greeted by a group of perky lemurs. So, the graphics, making us think fondly of Steve, were all jungle creatures, giraffes, lions, zebras, and trees, lots of greens, blues and yellows. Webby wore brown pants and a tailored waistcoat with leopard print and as soon as the dance started he was off with one cartwheel, then another, though he didn’t spot the landing and he had to correct. That cost him a point. Kristina looked like Jane to my Tarzan. Point redeemed.
It was all going so well. Promenade runs were slick, pivots followed, there was plenty of bounce and shimmies and walks, but when they got to the forward Samba rolls Webby nearly fell over, they lost sync, and the groove was gone. There was a nice knee roll, some solo moves that looked like a mating routine and they finished on the money. He kicked himself though and thought of what might have been. Having been in the dance off three times, he didn’t fancy another.
The next dance fell well for Webby. Last week he did a Fox Trot Smooth so there was little to battle with this week as he just dismissed the Smooth bit and focused on the Fox Trot to ‘My Guy’, an up tempo tune for a down town sort of guy. Webby looked like a banker, modern day, wide tie, waistcoat and pants; Kristina floated like a strawberry meringue, and together they delivered an elegant and smooth performance. It is great when a dancer becomes accomplished. It is also great when the dancer smiles from start to stop, and this exudes with each step. 38, two tens in the middle, brought Webby right back into the game and if he clicks next week the girls will have a real battle on their hands to stop his charge. His development has been relentless.
The dance that caused much controversy on the night was Frankie’s Rumba to ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, a song never knowingly undersung. The idea was that Kevin from Grimsby was a toy soldier, uniform and blushed cheeks, and that Frankie was a mannequin brought to life, I think, or they were both Christmas tree adornments. Either way KFG woke the sleeping beauty and they danced slowly and gently for forty-five seconds before KFG put Frankie into his trade mark dip, the one that he has now done thirteen times this series. That would be in every dance.
There was a lovely section when Frankie was turned balancing on one leg, and then came a drag, a move programmed to always get the crowd going. Why? Who knows? But then KFG added some stocking fillers, promenade runs, pivots, all none Rumba steps before he dragged Frankie by the leg, her sitting on the dance floor, towards the Christmas tree to close.
It is fair to say it was a tad weird, two weird Rumbas in one night. No romance, no raunch, and it split the juddgies 7, 8, 9 and 10. 10? Must have been some brandy in the pre-show coffee.
The weird continued in their Argentine Tango.
There must be a million proper Argie Tango tunes, they could even have used last week’s ‘Compost Eater’ but no, for some reason, we got Beethoven’s 5th. No, I’m not kidding. Beethoven. To someone like me this scattered the receptors in my brain, my visual, audio and kinaesthetic sensors all over the place. This feeling continued for the rest of the night. Perhaps the BBC have stakes in a Psychiatrists’ Practice, for that is where I was heading.
Of course this got the biggest standing ovation of the night thus far as 38 points eased Frankie into next week. Of course it did, second on the leader board, now with everything to play for.
The dance itself wasn’t half bad but you have to remember that the pros aren’t experts in this field so what looks good to the GBP might not always impress the two time World Champions, the much missed Flavia, and Vincent Simone, not quite so much missed. There was plenty of mood, reds and blacks, ganchos, that drop again, slightly different, facing him, but the same nonetheless, and a nice lift using her foot to keep her at waist level. But there were questions about her spare leg and her top line again. 38 points was another marker put down.
Which leaves us with Caroline and the top of the leader board for the night, 75 points in total, 35 for a Fox Trot and the first full house of the series for her Salsa.
Like most of us Caroline doesn’t like criticism, even when she’s scored highly, but Craig nearly brought a tear when he answered a direct question from our hostess.
‘Has Caroline proved herself an all-rounder?’
‘Well no, not tonight, obviously.’
You could see the pain drive through her eyes. Any ‘no’ or ‘this is the way it is’ chat is hard to take but maybe it’s a good idea to remind people that this is just a game show; it’s not real life.
The sting came after her Fox Trot to ‘Diamonds’, the room filled with graphics of the said stone. Caroline wore a silver bingo dress with a big fringe and Pasta sported a grey jacket that reminded him of his days doing national service back home in Moscow and they produced a routine laden with emotion and intensity not often seen in a Fox Trot. It was as beautiful as the night, the crowd buying the sell, something that not all the dancers do. The juddgies were picky though. Up your eye line. More arch. Head position. Well, this is the Semi-Final.
Caroline’s pent up anger and hurt all came out to play in her Salsa to ‘Maria’, a Ricky Martin number, where she totally let rip in a none flatulent manner. The scene was set; three washing lines full of hankies. I think. Perhaps this was supposed to have been set in the backyards of the North or across a ginnel? Caroline was back in her standard frock shape, pink this time, probably Pixie’s from last week, obviously with a fringe, and Pasta complemented in a pink top and blue pants. As soon as the music started on came the attack, wapatumba not seen like this for an age.
They went straight into a slick lift combo, and then Caroline bossed the floor, happy in hold, happy alone, just hitting the tempo, rhythm coursing through her veins. The surprise in this routine was the contnnnt; there was some, genuine Salsa steps, a joy to see. Juddge Aggie thought it lost a little steam as the clock counted down, and the pros turn arm is always appalling, always too high, too straight, but the smiles on the faces of the dancers, the juddgies and the audience said it all. There was no way this was a ten but then again it wasn’t a nine so what was it? Let’s call it a ten then and the resulting euphoria would have powered the national grid for a decade.
This sets up next week beautifully.
Let’s hope the nerves are absent and may the best man win. So that rules Mark out. Or the best woman. So does that. All we pray for is a genuine winner not someone who came fourth and was sneaked into the final through the back door or someone with just one move.
We can but hope.
Bring it on.
December 15th 2014