The look on Chris Hollins’ face said it all. He thought I was a debt collector and when I marched directly towards him he moved shiftily towards the exit of the corporate entertainment suite, St George’s at Twickenham, on Saturday. Chris was the MC, the entertainment, he really had nowhere to run so he sighed, resigned to his fate and then looked at me in hope.
‘How much? And please, don’t hurt me.’
‘Can we talk about Strictly, Chris?’ I asked.
The relief was palpable, he relaxed and he filled me in.
Chris won Strictly back in 2009, Ola Jordan his partner, and he freely admitted to me that learning a new dance every week was impossible for him, so all Ola did was include all the bits he could do, the universal steps that are interchangeable; you may remember his pivots and throwaway. And those pivots. Again. And again. And again. Then he rode his luck and surfed the wave of popularity that his BBC job gave him. Walking down the line of the audience waiting outside the live shows handing out leaflets saying ‘VOAT CHRIS’ also helped. His tip for this year is Jay McGuiness though Chris says he hasn’t seen much of the show.
‘Not even last week’s Jive?’ I teased.
Chris was a great sport.
One of the issues facing the professionals is where to pitch the dance. If the dancer is bobbins, say a Daniel O’Donnell, you don’t have much to play with, so you go safe. In Jay’s case, his talent overflowing, you cram a Quick Step full of pace, masses of conntnnt, light and airy Charleston steps, and a degree of difficulty right at the top of the scale. But, in education parlance, he goofed.
The theme was a graduation, mortar board et al, and if Aliona wants to be my Mrs Robinson, I’d run with that. I wouldn’t run around the floor for twenty-five seconds though, high fiving the audience before getting into hold. What on earth was that about? The same question can be levied at the song, ‘My Generation’ by The Who, a tune with as much sophistication as a bag of gob stoppers. Because of the ambition this was too much for Jay. He lost balance, he slipped, he made mistakes, he played catch up and 25 points saw him lower than Ainsley. Now I never thought that would be a sentence I’d ever write.
Ainsley was a joy, a Waltz to ‘What a Wonderful World’, matching his 26 when he danced Salsa a cupple of weeks ago. If the big fella can play it straight more often and embrace the spirit of the dance rather than mess about he might get to the entrée not just the canapés and the hors d’oeuvres. He wasn’t totally straight, there is a comic desperate to escape the chef’s constraints, but in a proper tail suit, a pink tie and shirt combo and matching belle on his arm, he was almost there, the rise and fall and control a gentle example. It was a bit of a shame that his belle led the last three turns. Sometimes the pros just have to let go.
There were a few victims at the weekend apart from the Scottish rugby team, denied history because of human incompetence, Craig Joubert the South African referee last seen heading to his new farm in Sydney, Australia. Bring on Kirsty and Jezza, one suffering due to the absence of the BBC Musical Director and the other being tortured by the choreography.
Poor Kirsty, last seen drowning her sorrows at a late bar in the town of Virginia Water, was asked to dance a Paso, so too Carol, but when Carol heard she was dancing to ‘Espana Cani’, a belter of a traditional tune, perfect for the dance, there was a smile. This was Carol’s best dance by far even though this was less of a day at the abattoir, more a parade at a village show.
Kirsty’s run sheet said song: ‘Beautiful Day’, a U2 classic more famous from its use on Match of the Day, as far away from a Paso as Holst’s planets. Her heart dropped and so too the performance. Twice she said, ‘How am I supposed to dance to that?’ And she has a point. She finds the art a challenge. Why make it harder? Poor girl. She scored 21, Carol, soon for the day job, in spite of a half decent dance, a point more. At least Carol avoided the dance off; Kirsty didn’t.
I’m not sure what your expectation of a Jive is. Is it a dancer in a shower, pink bath cap, fully clothed in blue, shoes on, pretending to wash? Or is it an electrocuted giraffe doing the twist high on meths? With the musical director AWOL again in came Bobby Darin’s ‘Splish Splash’ and Karen in a tasselled FAB lolly outfit. And the next thing we knew Jezza is lying on his back on the floor and copying a move called the Clock Face done by Donald O’Connor in ‘Singing in the Rain’ during his peerless performance to ‘Make ‘Em Laff’, where he pretended to be the clock hands and move in a circle on the floor, as traditional a Jive move as there is. The routine included some air guitar, a pecking chicken, more padding. The daft thing is that Jezza is looking more and more comfortable dancing traditional steps so why all the gimmicks? The realisation may be too late. 20 points placed him at the bottom of the table in the relegation zone.
Apart from Anita’s brave Samba, both Judgge Aggie’s favourites, the first of the series, and 27 points, the remaining six dancers, except one, were split by just two points, 31 – 33. Never has it been so close.
We know that the Samba is tricky and that ninety seconds are allocated to the dance but shaving that down to sixty, just by faffing, using props, in this case giant speakers and Gleb doing an R-Tem, getting his top out, and trying to escape from Anita, sliding backwards on the floor before a gymnastic spring back to his feet, is nearly as bad watching Daniel for the full given period.
Anita was dressed as a tassel clad cheer leader whilst Gleb wore white pants and a sky blue silk pyjama top, no vest. Imagine the chill he gets in the winter once he gets a sweat on? And apart from the roughness of some of the shapes this had bounce, attitude and great effort. But had he hid his body would that have meant that Anita was watched more? The smoke and mirrors are not subtle. The ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ was the song. The magic tricks do.
Having been garrotted by Lord Len last week the pressure was on Georgia-Gigi to add some substance to their Quick Step to ‘Reach’ by S Club Something or Other and in the main that pressure was dissipated as they ran like miniature cricket players in white, almost a seventeenth century conquistador and his honey, using the floor, covering every inch with runs, scatter chassées and scatter chassées and runs, going further than Iwan Thomas on race day. The song was hard, hard work, but they combatted the obstacle in heroic fashion with crisp and vibrant figures; they finished the routine exhausted but exhilarated really adding ‘some spring to me Quick Step’. 9 from Lord Len meant they were back in his good books. 31 points is their best ever. So far.
The second best performance of the night came from a surprise package as Jamelia broke all her own records and hit four eights, her twelve previous marks being anything from four to seven, that being just one seven in that little bundle.
Now, I know that you think in pictures. Visualise Jamelia in a white frill frock, like a mixture of an ostrich and Big Bird from Sesame Street. Got it? Now get her to do a reverse somersault over her partner’s arm. Amazed? Yup, me too. This Charleston to Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’ was Jamelia’s dance, there was swivel, funn, a quirkiness that was missing from last week’s Battlestar Galactica effort from Kellie and KFG. It had style and you had to remain intrigued. You never knew what was going to happen next. The only downside was her reaction to the points awarded. You’d think she’d just won the World Cup. Let’s keep things real here, it’s only a game show.
Kellie matched the reaction too, something as dislikeable as footballers diving or hyenas celebrating a kill. She too hit 32, sharing second spot with Jamelia, Pete, and Helen. Never mind two fat ladies, 88, these guys had sixteen.
‘Dream a Little Dream’ was Kellie’s Fox Trot song, the theme a saccharine filled tribute to her grandparents, an unfair sympathy voat in the making. We could all do that, couldn’t we? I mean you should hear about my great grandad at Rorke’s Drift. And there was no need because we know that Kellie can dance, her technique sharp, as if she learnt it twenty years ago. This was calm, gracious, a nostalgic throwback to when everyone danced, a genuine tribute. She even wore her hair like Hilda Ogden.
When Pete started his Tango there was a card table in the middle of the floor and rather than push it to one side he and Janette decided on a quick game of Gin Rummy. When he lost the first hand he’d had enuff and he decided to dance instead. Lucky then that she there ready, flashing her midriff with a full length skirt bellowing tantalisingly from her hips. Not lucky was the fact that ‘Blue Monday’ was on the juke box. Most people I know will have never heard it. For the record, it’s a pop song.
Thereafter, Pete smashed it, strong, dominant, if a little hunched still, until he decided on another hand of cards. He lost that too and in a strop he threw the cards all over the place. He walked off sulking with Janette dragging from his neck. After a turn or two that she led she went to jump on him from the table in a typical Bristolian show of domestic violence (Pete is an honorary Bristolian; his wife studied medicine here) only to slip and end on the table on her back. Good job he caught her by the neck.
Each week Ali-Ash appears in an audition for a porn movie, this time playing a doctor to Helen’s nurse. I’m sure you’ve all seen the film. Coy nurse suddenly rips off doctor’s shirt? Happens all the time down at the Logan Road surgery. Coincidentally the music was ‘Doctor Beat’, see what they did there, and the raunch that followed was Salsa, plenty of steps but lacking the sex appeal and Latin spirit. Maybe it was too medically sterile in spite of all the moves, a splits, from her, a reverse somersault from a natural top, from her, and a daring last lift where her body did move like clock hands, her head nearly hitting the floor at half past six. You need a strong fella to do that, deep core strength.
Perhaps what Helen needs is a dapper gentleman rather than a male model to dance with, a man perhaps who practices dancing wearing a tie and sweater, who prefers golf to Emmanuel? Ah, there you are Antony Smith of Bristol, getting a nose bleed for topping the scoreboard for only the fourth time in his long career, 33 points for a whizz bang fizz of a Viennese Waltz with the beautiful Katie Derham. Full-sized cardboard cut outs will be available for Christmas. Of her, not him.
Next week they will be crucified doing Salsa, poor lamb, but this week, Antony was back in his world, a world without peer. This is the Don of the Ballroom, the master of the Quick Step, the King of the Fox Trot, the Lord of the Waltz, the Managing Director of VW. Doh! Not the last one.
This Viennese Waltz was spectacular even though Elvis appeared singing ‘If I Can Dream’. Antony was in his best bib and tucker and Katie was dressed like an ethereal swan, all grace and fine-tuned. At the offset Katie was nervous and her feet closure a bit lax but as the tempo rose so too her spirit and thereafter what made this routine remarkable wasn’t the great conttnnt, the reverse turns, the slip chassées, the natural turns, the command and the follow, but the fact that with twenty-five seconds to go Antony started to freestyle. Four pivots were replaced by eleven, four bars of Fleckerl by eight. And it rightly brought the house down. Terrific. Worth the entrance fee on its own.
By now you may have guessed who’s on his home flight to Southern Ireland, the relief never more seen than at Mafeking in 1900. A gentle soul, a man full of grace and charm, Daniel didn’t quite take to dancing and his departure wasn’t totally unexpected. Dancing an American Smooth to ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ this plane, Flight 7 on Strictly Air, might just have made it to the ozone layer.
The first worry was the record forty seconds it took to get into hold. Once there the Fox Trot sections were smooth and smart but in isolation Daniel was looking for a microphone for solace and magic dust to give this some wow; none were available even with his partner dressed as a stunning trolley dolly. You’d have thought it would be straight forward but the two lifts were easy, gentle and dainty, just like him and this didn’t entrance or beguile. When Kristina introduced her number one filler move, the drag, you knew that things were getting desperate. Daniel scored 23 points, he wasn’t the worst of the night, but the 4-0 verdict in the dance offf condemned him to peace and tranquillity in the run to Christmas.
Kristina burst into tears of pain.
Daniel cried tears of joy.
October 21st 2015
Happy Birthday Mr Boycott, 75 today