It has been a tense few weeks. World leaders have been gathering in summits around the globe to discuss trade, terrorism and climate change; the deal struck in Paris was hailed as the one that would ‘save the planet’. But on Sunday night the agenda took a sinister twist as the Christmas lights of social media went into overdrive. In Russia there was uncontrolled anger. In Bradford and Pakistan drums of distaste were beaten. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia even discussed it at the Star Wars convention prior to this week’s launch of the much expected ‘The Force Awakens’.
TV always courts controversy. Hype equals ratings and producers and directors aren’t particularly fussed if they ruffle a few feathers in the process and so it came to pass on Saturday, sorry, and Sunday, that Anita and Gleb were dismissed from the Semi Final, so near yet so far. What it did mean was that Katie Derham, the lowest scorer in the remaining five cupples, by a mile, sauntered into The Final on the arms of her beau, one Antony Smith of Bristol making his first final in over a decade. He came third in 2004 partnering Lesley Garrett. The following table tells all.
As a result social media went ballistic.
‘There’s no universe where Anita and Gleb don’t deserve to be in that final.’ ‘Team Glita robbed!’
‘I’m shocked. It seems like a fix to get Anton into a final.’
When a result goes against the grain there is always this clamour. Whether a boxer wins a fight because the judggies are bent (Seoul Olympics, 1988), whether the Russians open the stadium door when their javelin thrower is performing (Moscow Olympics, 1980), when a footballer is accused of throwing a game (Bruce Grobbelaar) or when a cricketer fixes matches to feather his own wallet (Salman Butt, Pakistan). I could go on. And on. What we have to accept is that sometimes things don’t go as we hope, sometimes life is not fair and that sometimes events conspire within themselves.
I’m sure that the producers have dunn everything they possibly can to get Anton into the final, as legitimately as possible, save for giving him a bye. In the last five dances he has been given a Smooth, a Fox Trot and a Waltz, three of his signature dances, no coincidence, along with an Argentine Tango and a Charleston, more in a minute. The key, as the producers know, is to get the uncomfortable, low scoring dances out of the way early when spirits are high and when the less talented dancers fall by the way side. Smoke and mirrors. Lose the Jive, Salsa, the Cha and even the Samba if possible; open the door to your favourites. The Samba remains lurking for Antony; one can only hope it doesn’t surface in The Final.
Amidst all this hype and hyperbole we must also remember that Katie has risen to great heights, a true beginner back in September, dance shoes never having seen the inside of her wardrobe. Every dance she has been given she has embraced. Each performance has been filled with effort, grace and . . . error, one a week normally if not two, and that is where she found herself on Saturday. Her Charleston to ‘Too Darn Hot’ scored 25. It wasn’t hot but it also wasn’t tepid; she only lost sync in the last twenty seconds and was unfairly, savagely punished by the judggies. It was light, breezy, funn and daring, twice she ventured over her partner’s shoulders, at one stage she was face down holding his foot as he kept her vertical. It was an enjoyable romp.
Her Waltz to ‘O Mio Babbino Caro‘ (‘Oh, My Beloved Father’, beautifully sung by Hayley Sanderson) surprisingly only scored 31 as she fumbled her way through the dry ice and the music of Puccini, again the juddgies far from empathic. A harp graced the stage, a white metal bench the dance floor, her champagne frock and his white bow tie setting a beautiful scene. But one mistake cost her four bars, wrong foot, mild panic until the chance to correct. The rest was delightful.
With other scores going against her it was obvious that the dance offf loomed and that her opponent would be the multi-talented, high scoring (compared to Katie) Anita, someone who has been consistently under-marked, someone who was also a novice at the beginning of this journey.
The judggies can only mark what they see in a dance off; history has no bearing. And what no one thought would happen did. Katie summoned up her competitive ‘A’ game, found some guts and performed the Waltz better than she ever had, faultless, something that would have scored 36 in real time competition. It is a testament to her temperament that she dug so deep and produced when it mattered. On that basis she deserves to be in The Final.
As you may have gathered the dancers were asked to perform twice in the Semi-Final, dubble trubble, twice the excitement, twice the pressure. Anita was given a proper Fox Trot, the chance to really engage and a Salsa that was a chance to do the opposite, dressed like a cheer leader, dancing to a pop tune giving Salsa a bad name. If the country thinks that that is Salsa then we have a problem, Houston.
First that Fox Trot to my new best mate ‘New York, New York’, Anita dressed beautifully, a backless number, pink based, gold crystals, purple tints, like a posh rugby league outfit, the chevrons down her torso, pink streamers at the wrists. Her partner looked and danced like a WW2 spiv, his hat too big, his charm and guile that of a lothario. He knew he could get his hands on anything and he did.
Anita began the dance lying on a grand piano, the BBC’s only chaise longue having been sold last week on eBay. For thirty seconds they preened and pouted, her playing hard to get, him laffing, knowing she was on a hiding to nothing. Then they danced beautifully for the next forty five seconds until the dance descended into a Smooth, a turn on one leg, a mop roll (the mind boggles – really?) and a one- legged drag back to the piano. What could have been, and nearly was, wasn’t.
The 32 points for her Fox Trot, one seven, was matched in her Salsa, all eights, to the song ‘Feel This Moment’ from Christina Aguilera featuring Pitbull and his entourage, Labradoodle, Cocker Spaniel, Chihuahua and Shih Tzu. I went to a Shih Tzu once. No animals.
One wonders what goes through the mind of the producers and the choreographer. Anita was dressed like a pom pom girl, short white skirt, matching knee length socks and a cropped blue jacket. Gleb matched her, darker blue, his top open, pants not a skirt, like a toy soldier on a night out. I looked for an American Football theme for our cheer leader but none was to be seen, not in Havana nor Elstree. And then the electronic boom-boom started and I prayed for a bad oyster to help me vomit. Not a great song choice.
Anyhow, twenty five seconds on a dais ended and they began to dance something, not sure what, a few basics, and then he pretended she was a wind up lawn mower and her stomach moved accordingly. I know. I’m not kidding, popular in Salsa pallies the world over. The bucket at my feet filled accordingly. Thereafter she dived and he caught her. He spun her like a Catherine wheel, she went upside down a few times, he forced his crotch towards her face, apologies, no other way of saying it, a cucaracha was spotted, so too an opening out, even a pretzel, but this was more Show Dance than Salsa and both the soldier and the producer were rightly court marshalled. They repeated it in the dance offff. Not a good thing.
Thereafter, thankfully, the night improved somewhat.
The Final will be an intriguing evening. Georgia proved to be the Queen of the Ballroom, Jay is an inch away from perfection and Kellie sparkled after a Rumba to incite celibacy. But can they beat the momentum in Katie Corner?
Georgia suffered from inflammation of the pharynx during the week so she was glad that she didn’t have to do Karaoke to ‘I Will Survive’, that old Cha Cha classic. Gigi began tarting it with two girls in the audience, his tits and tats out for discussion and investigation. She, Georgia, looked like a red lattice sausage roll, a familiar look this season. The dance thereafter was about him, Gigi clearly in his comfort zone, adding a static Samba roll in what can only be described as a lascivious fashion. He definitely thought he was down at Cinderella Rockefeller’s. He finished it with a snappy dubble turn to left and he fell to his knee. ‘Sexy little thing,’ said one juddge, not talking to Georgia.
They scraped to 33 but redemption came in the Viennese Waltz danced to that Waltz standard ‘Runaway’ by The Corrs, Austria’s finest, where 38 points bolstered their confidence for the big one. A brief synopsis. Looked pretty. Her and the dance. Gigi did a Phil Collins . . . No Jacket Required. Thirty seconds to get in hold. Charm. Quaint. Beautiful Fleckerls, love. Rope spin. Eh? Tidy. Very pretty to watch. Dunn. The Final will be determined by delivery and pizazz. Can Georgia take that step?
There was another Viennese Waltz, Jay and Aliona dancing to ‘Have you Ever Really Loved a Woman’ scoring 34 points, a really slow tempo, nice story, a few pivots and a fabulous dubble turn to right (down the line) on the tip of his right foot. Aliona looked stunning, a soft, pastel blue frock, inviting. Jay was dressed like a right scruffbag. Again. Picture a scene from any D H Lawrence novel or film. Miner with his shirt sleeves rolled up, braces holding up his pants, a quick dance before a few pints and a fight down the local.
Perhaps this is why Jay forgot a key principle of the VW. There are only three moves, a natural turn, a reverse turn and a Fleckerl, and somehow he messed one of them up. Given his pedigree this is astonishing. His crime, not closing his feet on the natural turn. Any coach would have been shouting at him from the off. ‘Close! Close! Close you numpty!’ The cries fell on deaf ears. We only managed to spot it after 55 seconds . . .
Seeing a dancer drop his partner is not a common sight. Normally, in class, you just hear the clunk. But Jay managed this in his Charleston, Aliona being launched over his shoulder like a wrestler ready to be pinned to the ground for a mandatory count of three. The recovery was dunn well; did they really mean for her to fall? But it cost them marks from three judggies; somehow one ignored it and offered a ten in a worthy 37.
The theme was Dr Who, the song ‘Dr Jazz’, Jay dressed in a brown suit, sleeves rolled up again, daps and a Tom Baker styled scarf, the best doctor. They even faffed about in a Tardis for a while. Aliona, the doctor’s assistant, wore a peroxide wig. Dancing in daps is no funn, getting swivel tuff, but Jay carried it off. Was there a touch of Jive amongst the mix? Will there be next Saturday?
Did you know that there has never been a 40 ever given for a Rumba in Strictly? (Rachel Stevens, Kara Tointon, Chelsa Heala and Jay have all scored 39.) Kellie and KFG had the perfect opportunity to break that duck to ‘Songbird’, Kellie dressed like a green Quality Street, the triangular one, KFG in classic black, an outfit that Jay should have worn last week. Longer trousers, obviously.
You see, Kellie, with her pedigree, was nearly foot perfect, her lines and extensions professional, her arms the best in show. There was a wobble, a minor correction, but apart from that, spot on. There were basics aplenty but the one thing that was missing was heart, or should I say soul, or should I say feeling, or should I say connection. This is the dance of love; the boy gets the girl. The emotion that was locked away somewhere meant that this was a brother/sister dance. And frankly that isn’t really legal. Chance gone.
Her ‘mediocre’ 34 was then supplanted by a classic American Smooth, 39 sending the competition into chaos and apoplexy. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They danced to that Morecambe & Wise, Angela Rippon classic, ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’, Kellie in a peach champagne frock, the real deal, KFG in white tie and tails. How come they got the best two outfits of the night? How come this was the fourth time that Kellie has ended the show? Those pesky producers at it again.
The gold setting mesmerised, the crowd enchanted before they started. The Fox Trot start was sublime and then, on cue, on accent, KFG lifted Kellie into four throws each more spectacular than the one before. If you can imagine an ice dancer, say Robin Cousins launching himself up and round leading with his right foot, this is what they did but without the ice. A lift followed, deliriously cheered knowing that KFG can hoist eight stones off the floor, also a standing turn, a lift to right as she held on to his shoulder and then to left, her dress fanning, something the crowd needed more than most. Did they just miss the timing at the finish?
It mattered not, clearly the dance of the night, and a great launch pad for the final. All that will be needed is some gaffer tape for her mouth to stop her singing, KFG’s too for that matter.
The excitement mounts. Toes tingle like a diabetic with neuropathy. The countdown has started.
Oh, and Happy Birthday Mum. ILY. You’re the best.
December 17th 2015