It began on Saturday Kitchen with James Martin at the helm. Then it spread to Dan Walker on Football Focus. And of course, like the measles, there it was on Strictly, like superstores already playing Christmas songs, the first premature appearance of the poppy, the symbol of remembrance and hope. And also the source of opium. Other Yves St Laurent perfumes are available.
When to wear a poppy is something often discussed because there is no real rule. We can do what we want, law permitting, adults consenting. The British Army say it is a no-no in October, they have their strict regulation. Some say it should only be worn in the week before Remembrance Sunday, this year on November 8th. The last day is November 11th. Thereafter, just take pleasure, if you have one, in the beautiful ceramic created by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, those exhibited at the Tower of London last year. For me the early appearance of the poppies irked like Slade’s yule time ballad, like the search for a basic step, for a traditional tune, like a forward pass gifting a try, like the histrionic reaction to scoring paddles, like the use on non-gender specific nouns, hosts, not hostesses. When did Tess ‘Twice’ Daly, and Claudia Anne become men?
Of the seven men who began the show there are just three remaining, the other four bowing out in unprecedented fashion, last week, if you remember saw the demise of Val Doonican’s grandson. All the women who began are still standing. The good news for the male species is that two of the three survivors will make the final and one will win; Georgia is no longer on my mind. Over the coming months Jay and Pete will get better and better, they will master the process and what’s more, both are more likeable than the leading lady contenders, save for Anita. The men have humility, voatability and a great fan base.
Ainsley’s face is all over the supermarket aisles. If it’s croutons, soup, cous cous, rice, risotto or grains that you’re after, Ainsley is your man. He’s in all good book shops too, sales topping two million. Where you won’t be able to see him is on the dance floor after losing the dance offf to Jamelia, his Jive to ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ not cutting the mustard. He scored 21 points, along with Katie and Carol, all three points higher than Jezza who found the bottom of the leader board for the second week on the trot.
In training Ainsley looked fine, he was hitting basics, his timing was smart and his side close sides were spot on. For some reason they were removed from the real dance, Ainsley again sporting pink, a slick silky number this time with matching peakless cap, as Natalie did her best impression of Olivia Neutron Bomb, midriff out, pigtail tempting. Hot is an understatement. Sadly the dance wasn’t, a weird combination of pot washing (it was set in a diner), flicks and kicks, wobbly Elvis legs, rock and roll and the usual few ounces of funn. They even threw in a toe, heel, toe combo but it lacked bounce, sharpness and sophistication, more Little Chef than Michelin Star.
I’m sure that Antony Smith of Bristol had a chat with Katie Derham on Monday. ‘Listen up KD, we’ve got Salsa and everyone knows I can’t do it, you’ll be better than me, so let’s just put in some laffs and we’ll get through because everyone loves you. Remember that VW last week? God, you were great, babe.’
And so it turned out to be.
Katie wore a stunning red frock with just a hint of thigh. He wore a beige suit like a tourist in Havana, hiding a Hawaiian shirt but this dance was more Honolulu than Cuba. Katie wrapped her leg around his and stroked tantalisingly. She shook her chest in his face, pushed her butt at his waist and still he pretended he was in the ballroom not the barroom. She was there for the taking, ready to sizzle, but like a bottle of fizz they couldn’t quite get the cork out. The song was ‘It Had Better Be Tonight’. It should have read ‘it had to be better tonight’.
Whilst Carol looked stupendous in a floor length frock with a jewelled bust, heavily jewelled, and her beau suitably attired, her Viennese Waltz to ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ was the closest VW ever seen to a saunter in the park. Having taken twenty seconds to descend the stairs what followed was gentle, soft and slow and there was something missing, a feeling that affected some of the other dances during the evening. It is difficult to explain what; maybe it’s like a margarita without the tequila? Perhaps it was relief rather than commitment? When a dancer feels the music you can see it and vice versa. The slow speed made this look like a dress rehearsal, not the real thing.
Jezza was the victim of the same lurgy as he Waltzed to ‘She’, the Elvis Costello version rather than the beautiful Charles Aznavour original. For the record Charles is 91 and going strong. Jezza is a huge fan of Elvis, so much so that he has his number in his phone but he is scared to call him. True that. So imagine Jezza’a pulse rate when he got a special VT message from his hero?
Sadly this didn’t translate into the dance which left you wondering what they have been doing all week. His partner looked beautiful as she sneaked up on him down the fire escape that miraculously appeared on the dance floor but there was an awkwardness to this routine, the song too slow, the conntnnt unexciting. The dancer has to believe that this is the most stunning dance there is, the sexiest – it is – that he is the white knight, that she is his princess, and that ultimately this dance is about romance and what will happen next. As courtships go this was like dating your sister.
For Jamelia’s Fox Trot the fire escape had disappeared and by magic in its place was an old fashioned gig, (cart), but no horse, no coachman nor an ostler. She sat there stranded but along came Tristan who volunteered to be the driver of the rickshaw after they’d had a little dance and a spot of dinner. The table was set for two, champers on ice and a little black ring box. Surely he wasn’t going to propose in front of the nation? Given that he’s already married that would have been awkward.
For the first minute or so things went well. There was grace and a lovely feel as ‘Because You Loved Me’ was piped through the speakers. But then it all went wrong. Some ladies who dance don’t like the control their partner has of their hands and arms. At times there is a wrestle. The lady should just allow it and follow. Twice there was a battle for Tristan, two fights he eventually won, but the squabble spoiled her balance and rhythm and twice she wobbled. 26 points could easily have been less. In the dance off there was just one arm issue but it is a malady only cured by time and trust.
There were two major surprises of the evening, one relating to a juddge, later, the other was Kirsty’s meteoric rise to 29 points for a Viennese Waltz to ‘This Year’s Love’. Apart from the thirty four seconds it took for her to hit the dance floor, no surprise there, the remainder, except an occasional worrying left arm, was sumptuous. Seven pivots, Fleckerls both ways, a frock that made her look like a tangerine Angel Delight, who could ask for more. Let’s hope her confidence is boosted for next week.
On the same points was Pete, the first male celeb asked to Rumba, the chosen song Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’, a lovely tune. Check out the video where Ed himself dances a mix of Rumba and contemporary. Quite nice. Brittany Cherry is the hottie and she moves really well. It has had over 783 million hits!
Last week Lord Len had a knee replacement and one can only assume that the Valium had kicked in when he didn’t slam dunk the conntnnt of this dance and throw it into the waste management system. As ever Pete’s musicality was spot on, the musical accents used perfectly, the routine pretty, set in a photographer’s dark room. But in terms of steps it was appalling. There was a cucaracha or two, a rope spin and a pigeon toed walk. But that was it. Janette is the master magician, her smoke and mirrors infamous. Maybe next week she can surprise us all and add some steps?
Every now and then they say a dance is going to be Salsa and it isn’t. Don’t know why they don’t call it something else. Georgia and Gigi danced to ‘You Make Me Feel’ like screaming at the telly as they created a new dance. There were two cartwheels, one that led to a shoulder lift, a straight press from him to launch her skywards and five underarm turns to right with no spotting. She wobbles on turns. There was some occasional Salsa steps but this was a disco dance, not a Hustle, no fear for Johnny T, but a disco dance, Saturday night at Rockerfella’s, most of it clunky and too much solo. Her isolation work could easily lead her to a career with a pole and blokes with twenty pound notes to burn. But Salsa? Perhaps they don’t have it in Italy?
Her 31 points was tipped by one by Anita, the last of the amateurs – the pros filled positions three, two and one – a woman who is top of the pops with Juddge Aggie, not in a girl crush sort of way but in a ‘what a great attitude and approach’ sort of way, and who could disagree? The make-up team did a great job with Anita taking guidance from Cloud Atlas/Star Trek/Space 1999, delete as applicable. The mood was black, the outfits matched with a hint of chain mail, and the song ‘Sweet Disposition’, I checked, was written by Astor Piazzolla in his local boozer The Tender Trap.
Before you ask it was a Tango. I know, at times you wouldn’t be sure, but it was, hundreds of fallaways, flicks and kicks, a boleyo thrown in, plenty of attack, sharpness and a crispness to the moves and the choreography. If Gleb created it, good on him. Smart, watchable if not a tad contemporary for the purist.
Helen’s Quick Step featured Strictly Station and Platform 7 which should really have been re-named Platform 9 such was her expertise. Or Platform 30 given the time it took them to get into hold. It was the best QS of the series to date though as they ran around the floor, skipped and chasséed to ‘Can’t Hurry Love’, a slight change to the normal Saturday night song sung by men across the country, ‘Can’t You Hurry Up Love?’ Her control and command of the small details is extraordinary and the perfect reason why she should be asked to leave the show now. The Charleston syncopations were so smart. How can a pure amateur be asked to compete with that?
So too Kellie Jiving her heart out to ‘One Way or Another’ by Blondie. Their theme was secret agents, the fight for a mysterious suitcase, both wearing trilbies, like real spies, Kellie in a black leotard with a tight frock stuck to it. Perhaps if she’d just shot him, like a real spy, she could have danced on her own? It was super-fast, masses of conntnnt, all delivered with aplomb, the reaction again too much. Surely she knows that 8s and 9s are in the offing? Tess described her as a dark horse, a bizarre thing to say about someone who has been one of the favourites from the start. She too can be asked to do a Will Young and ‘Leave Right Now’.
And finally, big Jay, The Wanted, posters up at your local jail or on Tinder. His Paso to ‘It’s My Life’ was accomplished and masterful, full of brutality and menace, his professional past giving him a good lead. He started dance school at the age of 13 and as said in previous weeks it shows, his lines are clean, his skill set high. What was missing though was artistry, serious shaping and the arrogance of the matador knowing that he was the man with the steel sword, the banderillas. Perhaps he didn’t fancy the kill? He can join the girls in their own show too.
And that final surprise? The studio was rocked when, following words of praise, Bruno forgot that he was on national TV and blurted out his assessment of Jay and the luscious Aliona. ‘The bull’s bollocks’. The audience gasped, the other juddgies giggled, Tess’s face dropped, she nearly fainted, later apologising to the nation.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said on behalf of the eccentric Italian, blushing. ‘We all know that the phrase is “the dog’s bollocks”, not the bull’s. Sorry for the confusion.’
October 27th 2015