Strictly 2016 Series 14 â€“ Week XX
STRICTLY COME DANCING – 2016
So, how has your year been?
It’s been a while hasn’t it? In the last nine months we’ve acquired a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, Conservative, diabetic, awful hair, we lost the old one and his sidekick, now the leads in the new West End show ‘Millionaires R Us’, the Lib Dems still exist, points if you can name the leader, the Labour Party have fought and scrapped, still fight and scrap, the Scots are two-nil down in referendums, or referenda if you please, we’ve voated to leave Europe even though no one knows how to, Jimmy Young has turned 95, and the England football team exited Euro 2016 after losing to the footballing super power that is Iceland. Good job they didn’t have to face the Farm Foods Xl. Did pretty well at both Olympics though, didn’t we?
In the world of celebrity we have been shorn of some substantial talent. Here’s just a sample. David Bowie, Sir Terry, Alan Rickman, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker (R2 D2), Caroline Aherne, Carla Lane and Paul Daniels have all left us. There will be no Oak Antiques grown from Acorns, the fabulous Victoria Wood adding to the list. We now have no Ronnies, we lost a Prince and The King of the Ring. Thankfully we still have a Queen.
And so too this year’s Strictly, a few more than normal.
There have been some departures from the show, others have joined during the transfer window, yet the show still looks and feels the same. There is still brightness, bling, sequins, colour, fake tan, hyperbole, audiences on acid, genuine amateurs, a few ringers, sexual tension, the odd straying hand, lingering looks, celebs being ever so ‘umble, some juddgies caricaturing themselves, the hostesses a hottie, Tess ‘Twice’ Daly and a comic, Clordia Winkleman. Feels ever so good. And we are still blessed with the fantastic Dave Arch, his band and singers, Lance Ellington, Tommy Blaize, Hayley Sanderson and Andrea Grant.
Five pro dancers have gone elsewhere, officially with BBC thanks, unofficially with a sigh or two of relief. Ola Jordan is now the new face, sorry body of Ann Summers, James tags along too somehow, and she has also recently, coincidentally, released her autobiography. Tristan McManus, son of the wrestler Mick, has moved to the States, Gleb Savchenko is mysteriously spending time with the family (grounded for being naughty?), Aliona Vilani, last year’s winner, was going to start a family – please form a queue for that audition – but it is rumoured she may be back if and when someone gets injured, and Kristina Rihanoff is busy with a column in The Mirror and mothering her first child, Milena, along with her beau Ben Cohen, her Strictly partner from 2013. Whilst we are talking about babies, Iveta Lukosiute has also just given birth to her first child, in New York, and she’s called it . . . Dave.
In their place we have been introduced to four newcomers so far, Katya Jones, Neil‘s wife, Oksana Platero, AJ Pritchard and Gorka Marquez. Chloe Hewitt (AJ‘s professional partner) and Neil Jones, Katya‘s husband, will be part of the support team.
Katya’s pedigree (and Neil’s) is stunning, undefeated in the last four British Championships she hails from Petrograd, or is it Leningrad, or is it Saint-Petersburg? She is also the World Pro Latin Show Dance Champion, along with Neil. Oksana is a Ukrainian who made her name in the USA in Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. AJ, born in Stoke, has three British titles to his name, one European and he made the semi-final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2013. Gorka isn’t quite the corker that Glebby Glebby Glebby was according to my lady friends but his years of experience in the world championships and Burn the Floor will hold him in good stead.
What then of the juddgies I can hear you asking? Well, much the same really. Lord Len Goodman still heads the troop, Bruno Tonioli is back with his exaggerated exuberance, Darcey Bussell remains the true glamour and Craig Revel Horwood survives the slagging he gets in Ola’s book – drunk, negative, aggressive, verbally mean to previous juddgies . . .
And there is also a new Juddge. More later.
It was announced earlier this year that this would be Lord Len‘s last season, the time has come for him to relax and put his feet up. The show will not be the same without his wisdom, humour, warmth, eye for detail and, of course, his pickled walnuts. The number seven paddle will be withdrawn as a tribute. One can only hope that his replacement will come from the proper world of dancing rather than that of video and stage. The show needs authenticity and to remain true to the world of dancing. So who’s in this bun fight? Craig? Brendan Cole? Anton du Beke, real name Antony Smith of Bristol? Or someone else. Maybe Karen Hardy? Or Erin Boag? To be honest it has garnered more interest over the last few months than Brexit and the American Presidency combined. Here’s a shot from left field. Derek Hough. Look him up.
Which sets us up beautifully for the class of 16, four of which had to be looked up. We have one actor, two actresses, one DJ, an ex-MP, a gymnast, the best long jumper the UK has ever produced, a model, three singers, three TV presenters and a barrister, nearly a juddge. Pretty eclectic. The cast’s ages range from 18 to 70, there are three real ringers, three others with acting and performance backgrounds and nine total amateurs who should have no chance at all but you never know. The show is about their journey not about ringers who have already had 90% of theirs. Their inclusion is the show’s greatest failing bar none.
So, over a two night launch, 150 minutes of telly, we were treated to six Chas, two Jives, one Paso, two Tangos, obviously, it takes two to Tango, and four Waltzes.
Let’s kick off with the Chas then from the bottom to the top. Can I introduce you to Melvin Odoom. Me neither. Apparently he’s a comedian, a DJ and TV star, appearing in Sweat the Small Stuff and The Xtra Factor. He spins discs on Kiss 100, whatever that is. By the look of his dance he will be back there soon. Partnered by the best male lead in the show, Janette Manrara, they limped through probably the best Cha record on the planet, ‘Loco in Acapulco’, scoring just 22 points. When you get a mop roll, maracas and bunny hops in the first week you know there is trubble ahead. Nice pink trousers though. Not sure they go with black shoes.
Apparently Laura Whitmore is friends with Georgia May Foote, last seen dating and then splitting up from Giovanni Pernice, who by chance is Laura‘s dance partner for the duration of her stay in the show. Intriguing that one. Naughty producers. I should have said that she is another TV presenter that I’d never heard of. She is Irish and has worked on MTV and RTE and a spin off to I’m A Celebrity so no surprise that she is new to me. She is also new to dance, a novice looking resplendent in a white flailing outfit as they danced to ‘Venus’, Giovanni the first to get his chest out. Already? In week one? Voat winner or fetch a bucket time, you choose. With the hem of her frock so short there was a minor issue, as far as dance goes, her legs being exposed and with that so too the shortage of technique. Her dance was like an It Girl in a night club, bubbly and full of promise and gained her 25 points.
So too barrister Rob Rinder, the shy and retiring TV star that is Juddge Rinder. He is not a real juddge, just to clear that up, but a highly qualified (Double First at the University of Manchester) barrister who specialises in international fraud. And he does his TV show. In his younger days he was part of the National Youth Theatre and you can see from his first effort that he is desperate to perform, he in the hands of new girl Oksana. It’s almost as if he’s realised that he made the wrong career choice. His dance to ‘Mercy’ was full on, expressive, out there, lacking technique, obviously, showed pigeon toes, bent knees, a twerk or two, three Chaines (pronounced chenay) turns, it included a waxed chest and gurning, or fly catching, either way you look at it. Do you know I think he could be gay? Great effort though. We can look forward to much more underselling from this fella.
Now I had heard of Cloudier Fragapane (hard G), the artistic gymnast from Bristol (we have a mutual friend), a winner of a world bronze medal, three European silvers and four Commonwealth golds. She is paired with new boy AJ; together they look like they’ve just walked off a wedding cake. Her Cha to ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’, 26 points, contained a cartwheel, a leap frog, a back flip and a splits, a sure sign that she will be doing a Louis Smith and gymnastisising everything if allowed. Lord Len marked her card. You can only hope she listens. In the dance world flick flacks are a gimmick not a pre-requisite. She did though show plenty of promise, her years of training for the floor exercise will prove vital.
How would you cope? Crohn’s disease at the age of 13, then breast cancer, cured, then breast cancer again, and cured. Nightmare really. Bring on Anastacia Lyn Newkirk, Chicago’s finest, a pop star with sales of over fifty million records, her best known hits being ‘Left Outside Alone’ and ‘I’m Outta Love.’ Brendan Cole got the lucky ticket, ‘Lady Marmalade’ their song. Truth be told she was petrified having never done this before. Pop videos yes, dance hall no, and it showed a little but her effort was gutsy, measured, sexed up and, once started, fearless in spite of a wobble on a turn and Brendan doing the first knee slide of the show. Let it be his last. Let it be THE last. 28 nearly topped the Cha Hit Parade. Except for Danny Mac.
Who? I can hear you ask. He was in Wicked for four years, trained at Arts Educational Schools and apart from the inevitable stuff behind the bike shed he focused on dancing, so much so that it got him the part of Mark ‘Dodger’ Savage in Hollyoaks. I had to look that up. Anyhow, he is our first ringer and his Cha to ‘Cake by the Ocean’ with the sultry South African Oti Mabuse showed all you need to know. It was like he was auditioning for the lead in Dirty Dancing as he sashayed, ruffled his hips, hit tight lines, had great feet, marvellous control and the timing of a pro, even slipping in some Guapacha timing, a dubble turn to right and four proper Chaines turns. He scored 31, could easily have been 40. Best tell him to leave now. That is if he can do Ballroom too.
Ever heard of Tameka Empson? An actress of theatre and TV and film? She’s in Eastenders, a show on telly prescribed to make manic depressives feel better. Don’t know who she plays or what this week’s theme is. Conflict probably. It usually is. There was no conflict for her as she laffed and joked and prepared for the Paso Duble as in Buble with her new pal Gorka, a Spaniard using the national flag as the cape, red and yellow, Tameka‘s outfit matching. The song ‘Y Viva Espana’ spoilt what was a dynamic exposition. Tameka is a larger lady, no lifts here, but she coped with the changes of pace well, she went with the routine and apart from a bit of under shaping she acted brilliantly. When she was given 27 she ran and jumped and straddled Gorka to celebrate. That would have been a shock. Did well to stay on his feet really.
Our second ringer is Louise Redknapp, wife of footballer Jamie, daughter-in-law of Harry, a distant relative of the Lampards. Her latter career has been on TV, she was a juddge on So You Think You Can Dance, but prior to that she was a singer in the girl group Eternal, famous for the songs . . . okay, I’ll look them up . . . ‘So Good’, ‘I Am Blessed’, ‘Stay’. Need I carry on? Not exactly The Nolans is it? Anyway, our Louise went to the Italia Conti School from the age of eleven, one of the highest profile performing arts schools in the country where she learned how to perform, how to sing and how to dance, a proper Fame Academy. Her Jive with Kevin Clifton, still from Grimsby and dressed like a sailor to prove it, to ‘Jump, Jive and Wail’, was full of tempo and clean flicks only spoiled by dancing in daps. It got 31 points, ten of which should have been deducted following Kevin‘s ridiculous overreaction to the score. You’d have thought he’d just won an Olympic gold medal . . .
Which Greg Rutherford did in the long jump in London 2012, on Super Saturday. This year he came third blighting a perfect record. Prior to Rio he was Olympic champion, European champion, Commonwealth champion and World champion. Pretty good for a lad from Milton Keynes. Greg also struck gold with his partner, the stunning beautician that is Natalie Lowe, and they too were asked to Jive. I was expecting Greg to wear his Team GB outfit or at least a Union Jack but no, blue lycra clung to another waxed chest. He did start the routine with a long jump though – how many more of those to come? Perhaps in the Waltz? – as they romped through ‘Get Ready’ at the tempo you’d expect from a sprinter, which he is (10.26 seconds for the 100m.) Being picky I would say spare arm, pigeon toes, agricultural flicks, less leap frog and more sophistication, but that would be mean.
He scored 27 points, the same as TV and radio presenter Ore Oduba who did one of the Tangos. You might have seen Ore (hip, hip, Oray) reporting from Rio ore on BBC Breakfast, ore on the Lottery, but he is most famous for causing the BBC to retire John Craven from Newsround. Unforgiveable. His reward was Joanne Clifton as a partner, one of the Clifton sisters, and a dance to ‘Geronimo’, a song not the Apache warrior. Joanne, looking suspiciously dressed like Kristina, managed to delay the start for thirty seconds – already? – and then they were off, the star being Ore’s pants, not his pink and blue check short-sleeved Tango shirt. The trousers were so tight it’s a good job he didn’t pass wind.
The trouser theme continued in the other Tango of the night performed by Will Young, winner of Pop Idol in 2002, now a proper singer, two Brits to his name, eight million albums sold, a degree in politics and someone who also spent time studying at an Arts Educational School. He has acted in the West End, danced there too, some advantage. Will is partnered by the other Clifton sister, Karen, better known to her mates as Hottie Hauer, and their dance to Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ was full of quality and potential. He has talent but those trousers . . . too short, too tight at the ankle, tightened by bicycle clips but no bike. Bizarre. I am told that he was in a fight with Rob Rinder to see who would get to dance with Anton.
Ah, Antony Smith of Bristol, renowned for reaching the final last year, for being an ever present since the launch of the show and for getting lumbered with lame ducks. There is no need to name them. What chance does he have then with Lesley Joseph, the eldest of the cast, a diminutive Jewess of a lady famed for her role as Dorien Green in Birds of a Feather? Well, Lesley can act, that will be helpful. She knows how to work a stage. That too. But the Jive might be interesting, or the Samba, or the Quick Step. They danced to ‘What’ll I Do?’, the theme from Birds of a Feather, a beautiful Waltz delivered with aplomb by Antony Smith of Bristol, one of his fortes. It was gentle and sophisticated, they dressed accordingly, the only problem being the height disparity. She could have head butted his belly button.
Her score of 23 was matched by Naga Munchetty, also Waltzing, to ‘Run to You’. Naga graduated from the University of Leeds. This makes her a favourite already. She plays golf (handicap of 9), jazz trumpet and piano, her husband’s name is Haggar so she could be called Naga Haggar. Bet her mates had funn with that name at college. Nowadays you will find her on the sofa of BBC Breakfast.
There is a beauty about Naga, she is of Tamil and Mauritian descent, has beguiling eyes, and dressed in a lime green outfit with a splash of pastel yellow she did very well for a novice in the arms of Siberian Pasta Kovalev. She has elegance and grace and she benefited from a real dance, a proper routine. Oh, for that to continue.
You spend your life trying to become the Prime Minister or at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer. You get a first at Keble College, Oxford. You go to Harvard and study economics. You become a Teaching Fellow. You write for the Financial Times. You get elected as an MP. You become Shadow Chancellor. And then you get dumped by the electorate. So what next? Well, Ed Balls has written his autobiography, ‘Speaking Out’, coincidentally out now, and he has become chairman of Norwich City Football Club, the city where he was born. And he was invited to do Strictly. And accepted.
Ed had some fortune being paired with Katya Jones, another great male lead, perhaps less when asked to Waltz to Elvis’s ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’. It is a slow dance, hard to control, and you can’t help but sing along, but Ed did very well, there were few mistakes and he maintained his elegance in spite of a dodgy suit, a red Labour tie and a bit of a tummy. He was once part of a drinking group called The Steamers. Says enough. 21 points was an underscore. Can’t wait for his Charleston next week.Finally, (at last, I hear you gasp) Daisy Lowe, a model by profession, tall and rangy, 5′ 10″, whose dad is Gavin Rossdale, a rock singer with a band called Bush who was married to Gwen Stefani. If the names mean nothing welcome aboard. Her mum was in the audience too. That was an interesting Google. I’ve never seen Daisy before let alone heard of her. After watching her Waltz with Aljaz Skorjanec to ‘Unforgettable’ I’d like to see more. On watching she must have danced before, must have. The theme was twee, the costumes white, the delivery a touch sickly – that is Ali-Ash, soon to hit the stage with Janette in a Fred Astaire tribute show (April 2017) – but it worked and it showed true potential. The top line needs a tweak but 32 points gave her the top of the first leader board of the series.
The new term at the School of Glamour and Sparkle has re-opened with a bang like a new term at Hogwarts. Who will be this year’s Harry Potter? We all know who Lord Voldemort is.
September 27th 2016