A few Novembers ago I was driving through South Wales on Remembrance Sunday, no Satnav. Not knowing my way I took in the signs and the countryside. At 11:00am, out of total respect I kept schtumm, didn’t ask . . . and missed the junction.
It was funny and no big deal but it is important to see where this occasion stands in the value system of the individual and of the nation. Poppies are worn with pride as we choose to honour the fallen, inspired by the Fields of Flanders. Of course you could be just tipping your hat to the Afghan drug trade.
Back in the day taking Laudanum, an alcoholic tincture of opium (10%), was common, especially amidst the literary classes. I guess it was the cool thing of the day. Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dickens all used it, mixing the morphine with the codeine with the heroine. Its impact was no more prevalent than in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ series. Some hallucination that was.
Anyhow, with the BBC at its tasteful best, the poppies were out on Saturday, the dignity and respect laud(anum)able. You can buy all sorts of tributes to our servicemen and women: paper poppies, pin badges, another to commemorate The Somme, necklaces, other jewellery, clothing, bags, you name it. As a nation this is one of our fortes. I’m sure the UK football industry will support this stance next weekend in the England vs. Scotland game. A nice V sign, for Victory obviously, aimed at world football’s governing body.
But who will garner victory at Elstree come Christmas? For things are hotting up more than Saturday’s bonfires, 32 being second bottom, 34 third from top in a packed mid-table, the average dancer becoming accomplished, the accomplished becoming excellent but still there are dances that test, where the stars teeter, where the one time firecracker can easily become a damp squib. Salsa sorts out the men from the boys, Samba the wheat from the chaff.
Sadly, we start with DBS (Death by Samba), and the demise of the amiable Laura, a girl who has had a bye, who has been in the dance off and who’s also been top of the table. Now she’s had a bye bye too.
The Samba is about bounce, energy and vibrancy and Laura was given every opportunity to exhibit these attributes to the song ‘Bamboleo’ but as soon as the music started you sensed unease, like a poacher at a gamekeepers’ convention. Her very first step was out of time and then they added basics, bota fogos, a volta and they threw in some runs and pivots and opening outs but the music was super-fast and Laura’s exposed legs showed that this wasn’t her dance. Her face in the dance off told the full story, the inevitability of exit shouting at you. There was a solo section where she turned on the spot as Gigi showed off with some electrifying batucadas. Not a good sign. At the end Gigi again took centre stage and ripped out nine turns as Laura did just the one.
Last week Natalie was slated for this, for covering for her partner, but Gigi seemed to be let off. Judgge Aggie watched in disgust. As World Samba Champion she would have smashed it. A ridiculously high 32, nearer 22, wasn’t enuff to save Laura, last week’s fabulous Tango just a distant memory.
It’s funny the tag of World Champion. The dance world is full of the ‘UK’s finest DJ’, ‘Europe’s best teacher’, (and he can’t even speak English), ‘World Stars’, ‘The Galaxy’s Greatest’ but you sense that most titles are missing something. Could be ‘Under Ten’s’. Or ‘Amateur’. Or ‘In My Living Room’. I hear that Oxi‘s husband is World Salsa Champion. Well, there was a World’s best comp at Weston last Saturday and he wasn’t there, so how does that work? The World Champion was.
All hope has gone for Salsa on Strictly. We go to sleep each night praying that one day they will put some steps in the routines but this is a genuine case of don’t hold your breath. I mention it because Laura’s partner in crime in the dance off was none other than The Kleenex Kid, Ore, who scored 34. The GBP were having none of it and quite right too.
He was also given a chance to shine but for the first twenty-five seconds he didn’t dance a step in spite of Miami’s Finest, Gloria Estefan, pumping out ‘Turn the Beat Around’. Maybe Ore was worried about his white pants, the waist nearly at his chin? Or perhaps he was stunned by JFG‘s frock, a frilly FAB lolly (second of the series), yellow, red, blue? Or it could have been that he was thinking about the lifts? Which, were well dunn, or it might have been that he was wondering if any steps were coming. We were. There were two curious occasions when he tip-toed towards her as if his daps were stuck to the floor by chewing gum. Who dances in daps anyway?
There were a cupple of points that stood out apart from the above. Firstly, one juddge counting the beat, one and two, which leads to a staccato Salsa, not good. Try one, two, three, four. The other was that little smug look on Ore’s face as he dipped JFG at the finish. That smugness will do for him. The GBP just don’t like it.
The GBP have plenty of time for Ed though who, for the seventh week in a row, was given the Charleston. How lucky is that? The only dance that he can do and he gets it every week! Brilliant! What a concept. What are you doing next week Ed? The Charle . . .
The thing about the pros is that they soon suss out what their celeb can and can’t do. If it’s pivots, stick ’em in everything. If it’s tenderness, use it every week. If it’s a great memory for choreography fill the floor with it. Ed can do slapstick. He can mess around with the best of them. His timing is impeccable and he is desperate to be seen as an entertainer. And he is. He just can’t dance anything else because no one lets him.
This week’s Charleston was a Quick Step to ‘Help’ where the theme was the Silent Movies, more Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle than The Artist (five Oscars in 2012) and he and Katya were dressed as Laurel and Hardy in tribute, bowler hat, waistcoat, him in a tie, her a bow tie, no jackets required. After messing around, nearly hitting her with a plank, they took to the floor, and here’s the catch, they danced a nice Quick Step for thirty seconds with some light skips and smart pendulums only for the comedy to kick in again. There was a few more bars in hold before the inevitable humorous exit. 27 is his best yet. You suspect that next week will be his last opportunity to improve on that. The only chance he has of getting to Blackpool is if the Labour Party hold their annual conference there again.
When Daisy (fifth and last use on this page) emerged it looked like she was late for her own wedding, a beautiful full length white dress highlighting her shapely frame. Ali-Ash was serving on a fruit and veg stall dressed in his favourite brown and white shoes, we’ve seen those before, and I thought at one moment that he was going to break out into ‘Who Will Buy?’ from Oliver. Instead we were treated to a gentle delight of a routine that contained just two sets of Viennese eights, a Fleckerl or two, and more basic Waltz steps than we have seen all series. I guess Ali-Ash didn’t read the instruction card with the name of the dance on it. In terms of speed had this been performed in Austria they would have been lapped.
Occasionally the BBC introduce emotional bribery to the show. You know, my gran’s not well, voat for me. My mum would have luvved this, voat for me. This week we met Greg‘s son Milo, a cute little fella, one year old, and of course his dad dotes on him. Voat for me . . .
I suppose you would but who names their kid after one of the Tweenies?
It took Greg and Nat twenty seconds to get off a beautiful maroon chaise longue before they deigned to dance. Personally I’d have kept her there me old mate. When he stood up the only thing that came to mind was ‘give him a jacket’. He looked underdressed. Apart from that there was plenty of contnnt, after last week there was bound to be, and that meant a chance to look at Greg’s exposed technique, not half bad though his left arm dropped lower the longer they danced, the energy sapped along with his strength. He is used to running for a few seconds not over a minute. That said, there is a chemistry between this cupple that shines and you write him off at your peril. It also looked like Craig had been given a producers’ talking to and was ultra-nice to Natalie gushing about her ‘exceptional choreography’. That’s what you get for being naughty but right.
A good dancer will leave before Blackpool. It could be Ed but equally likely to be convicted to weekends at home are Rob and Oxi who hit another personal best of 33, his first 9, dancing a Quick Step to ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)’, one of Sir Brucie‘s favourites.
It is curious, isn’t it, that when a beginner puts together a smart performance like this that the main talking point of the routine is his mouth. Forget the razzle, the dazzle, his white tie and tails, his glamourous belle, the superb band and all the contnnt you can think of, just focus on the gob. It is not pretty, wide enuff to house four sets of teeth, and always open. Of course you could argue that he was just having a good time, and I’m sure he was in a routine that edged from Albert Square towards Berkeley Square without really reaching its destination. You could also argue that with a tad more sophistication Rob could upset the pecking order. Perhaps if he studied Gene Kelly?
Now then, a telling off. AJ (Ahmed Javier) take a look at yourself.
In 2010 Lodewicus Theodorus ‘Louis’ Oosthuizen won The Open. (Golf in case you’ve been living under a rock for half a century.) Going into the final round he was four shots clear but the talk was that he would blow up, lose his mind, that the occasion would get to him, the biggest prize of all at stake. You see Louis was known as a hot-head of a player, a risk taker, a man to challenge the impossible, to push the envelope. His brain was dominated by the amygdala, the spontaneous part of the brain that regrets it the morning after. His coach changed this by getting him to focus on the practical, the obvious, the simple, the right option. He did it by drawing a red point on Louis’s white golf glove, a red dot that said, focus, every time he held the club, every time that he looked at his hands. He won by seven shots. AJ (Arnold Jermaine) needs a red dot.
Dancing what was promised as a genuine Paso to the music from hell there was just too much wapatumba for Cloudier and her fella to cope with. They practiced locally, at Henbury Leisure Centre, but they must have gone to a boxing gym too because this was a dance full of rage and flurry, the artistry suffering for the passion. If only he’d reined it in, a little. 33 was fine but tens were beckoning. That music? ‘Shut Up and Dance’. How to destroy a dance in one fell swoop. How about shut up and play a proper tune?
Danny Mac Pro scored his first tens of the series (apart from the sixteen that should have been awarded in weeks one to four) dancing a Jive to ‘Long Tall Sally’, Little Richard’s homage to women of five feet eight inches or more. His 38 points, second on the leader board, led to minor criticism of his retraction and flicks, his posture apparently the cause.
Of course this was very picky for this was a sensation of a Jive set in a pool hall, this fella the real deal, no Hustler. In a routine that contained pace, bounce, an unbelievable tempo, Danny filled the room with style, tricks, splits, control, leadership and even a jump onto the pool table to launch himself off over his lime clad partner touching his toes mid-flight. The last time we saw that was when Colin Jackson did it in a . . . Quick Step. Danny may not win, he may, but he will get lots of offers of work for 2017, perhaps the role of Danny Zuko in Grease? As long as he’s not offered Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. That would do me out of a job.
Top of the shop this week with the first Argentine (tine not tean) Tango of the series was Louise and KFG, a scintillating effort to the music ‘Tanguera’, a tune bristling with violins and the sound of a bandoneon. Heinrich (Band) would have been so proud, at last some authenticity. It works so well every time so why the producers prat about spoiling dances is beyond me.
Our favourite lamp post lit the stage, on loan from the ‘Singin’ In the Rain’ set, a suited and booted KFG looking for his lady of the night, and Louise fitted the bill almost perfectly, her grasp of the choreography, lifts and musicality stupendous. There was just a split second when she lost the mood, a little smile – see, I can be picky too – she does this when she knows a step has gone well – but it was but a pimple on the moon. What a marker to put down with Blackpool beckoning, 39, equalling the top score of the series to date, only Juddge Grumpy still hiding his ten paddle. Surely this was worthy?
So, the tension mounts as the final qualifier for Blackpool moves ever closer. Who will be going? Who will miss the charabanc?
To lighten the mood a little note of joy. Aliona Vilani has announced that she is pregnant and Antony Smith of Bristol has joined in the jubilation. His partner, Hannah Summers, is expecting twins.
Lovely that, just lovely.
11th November 2016