I’m sure that you’ve heard of PopMaster, Ken Bruce’s poptastic quiz, half ten, ish, week days, Radio 2, 39 points available, 3 for each standard question, 6 for a bonus (there are 3), the winner given the chance to do 3 in 10, the prizes a ‘One Year Out’ t-shirt, a blue tooth speaker or a DAB digital radio. Or just kudos. PopMaster is one of the few remaining bastions of the Corinthian Spirit, the gentleman’s fair play standard created by the British in the nineteenth century.
You can hear it at the end of the quiz.
‘Well done Syd, you did really well, especially with those questions, very tuff.’
‘No, yours were harder than mine Gertrude. I only scored 3 anyway. Well dunn to you, you deserved it.’
You are begging someone to say, ‘You jammy wazzock! I got 39 then! What a fix! You sleeping with the producer? Blinking nepotism!’
Or, ‘Yer thicket! Me moom would have scored more than that, get off the radio, yer a disgrace.’
It’s getting a bit like that on Saturday nights and it’s starting to grate. ‘He’s trained so hard.’ ‘She’s the best teacher.’ ‘He’s so supportive.’ ‘She’s an amazing individual.’ ‘He’s learned so much.’ ‘She’s developed brilliantly as a dancer.’ ‘We will be friends forever.’ All accompanied with a little squeeze, the comfort anchor.
Can we have a moratorium on this self-enclosed love in?
Either that, or ‘the prat can’t do a Fleckerl’, ‘God, her free arm’s a nightmare’, ‘I wish he’d stop touching my butt off camera’, ‘Crikey, brush yer teeth, mate!’
The thing about being Corinthian is that it’s okay to lose if someone is better than you and if you do lose you have to lose with grace and dignity. I get that. Touch of class. But when someone who hasn’t topped 27 points goes through, someone who averages just 22.5, and a better dancer averaging 31.75 is eliminated, it is hard to create the Corinthian state.
Poor Daisy, the youngest of the Lowe Sisters, out having had to go against her Antipodean sibling in the dance off.
Daisy knew that she was in trubble as soon as her Salsa had finished, 31 to ‘Groove is in The Heart’ by Deee-Lite, when she said, ‘Thanks for having me’ in the post dance interview. Not a clever statement, she should never show her hand, but she knew it wasn’t her best, not much of a Sunny D here, more of a misty moment.
It shouldn’t have been. I’m not sure if this was set in the psychedelic sixties, the flower power era, or the crystal meth mayhem of the seventies, but apart from the dodgy track, all was set for her to Salsa her heart away, to go beyond the Rubicon, the safety and extravagance of Blackpool waiting for her. Having been in two dance offs, having never been lower than 30, Strictly was the only rollercoaster she wanted to be part of, not that monster of evil at the Pleasure Beach.
Dressed in red with a kaleidoscopic blouse, Ali-Ash wore a shirt made from curtains from the era, Daisy emerged from a stationery motor home (in the day only a VW or a Comma were available) and proceeded to stun us with those legs, her shapely form and a little look of wickedness in her eyes. The issue, apart from the music, was the choreography, underwhelming, slow, too much disco, Saturday Night Fever meaning sweats of worry not joy and in spite of her legs being wrapped everywhere like a human python the class was squeezed from something with such potential.
Ed also got to Salsa but I’m sure when Alan Dedicoat said, ‘Release the Balls!’ he didn’t mean this.
I say Salsa, obviously not strictly true. This was Ed performing and the producers getting him do what they wanted. I was praying for a Louis Prima number, or the classic ‘Vehicle’ by The Ides of March but instead we got ‘Gangnam Style’ by a demented Dartmoor in-patient call Psy. Suffice to say this is not the greatest track in the world to Salsa to, though my mate, the brilliant Paul Jefferies, does do a great team aerobics version.
The world has gone crazy reporting about this performance; I understand that Obama and Trump discussed it this morning, and as a viewing it is worthy of that. As an exposition of Salsa I wouldn’t waste your breath; if you are interested in the technicalities just look at his feet. The foot should extend from the knee, ball of the foot first, pointed to five to one to turn the hips. Then push it into the floor to reverse. It is not danced like a psychotic Jersey heifer skipping through a field on its tippy toes trying to miss the cow clap. Had this simple point of technique been achieved (what has Katya been doing all week?) this could have scored fifty.
Because away from the flawed approach Ed delivered in terms of entertainment and the Galaxy, the Milky Way and the Interstellar communities all luvved it. He wore a blue blazer, black pants, black and white shoes and a tie akin to that worn in the Wild West, though not as wild as his feet. Foster Grants were discarded very early on. And he showed exemplary timing again, funn, a no fear attitude, something matched by his partner, fortunately, as, at one stage he bunny hopped on to her chest only for her to fall backwards into the horizontal and then they hit the chorus of the song. Katya was lifted in the air with a clumpy lack of ease, later she launched herself on his back and found herself in front of him, an Around the World, and they crabbed sideways and back on their toes, and at the end he dived through her legs sliding towards a well-place camera scoring a try, no need for the TMO (Television Match Official). ‘It’s Salsa Jim, but not as we know it.’
25 should have sent back Ed back to Norwich to nurse his off colour football team, but no, he heads to the seaside next week along with other worthy guests.
Blackpool, sand, Greg, all seem to go together don’t they? You can’t have a man who spends his life jumping into a sand pit for a living not going to Blackpool can you? But that was so close.
Looking more and more like Prince Harry’s elder brother (has anyone checked the lineage?) Greg danced a Paso to ‘Tamacun’, a song that apparently shares some melodic elements with Britney’s ‘Oops! . . . I did it Again’. His 31 matched Daisy’s in a complex routine full of power, virility, attack, aggression and no little skill.
This is a difficult dance, make no mistake, and mastering the technique is only half the battle. The Spanish shaping is vital, the spirit essential, the delivery important and Greg coped well with all three. An athlete, a sportsman, will defend his honour before anyone else’s but the thing that was missing was the empathy with the essence of the dance. Remember this is about killing, sacrificing a bull. It’s not just a dance. At the end of the day the bull dies. Sorry, you can’t dress it up and say that it is flown to Switzerland to be euthanised by Dignitas. The bull is killed. And with that the matador is the key. He knows he is the assassin and that was all that held this back from this being jaw-dropping. The character of the dance is so, so important. Just slow down, throw in the big jumps (whoops from the crowd), but know, know with arrogance, that there is just one winner. Bit like 2012 Greg, me old son.
The emotional bribery was back. In a weekend of national sensitivity, of tributes to heroes, to the fallen, to the founders of our country, only three generations ago, Rob wheeled out his grandparents, saviours of that era. True enuff. It would have been great if my gran had been in the audience too. I’ve never seen a ghost before.
Everything was going so well. He looked a treat, her a nicer one, him in a blazer and light sand coloured slacks, her a floral frock ready for a romp in the meadow. His dancing was smart, placed, controlled, all so lovely. And then, on 49 seconds, the duck tape came off, the mouth opened, he pranced like someone who’d got his first ‘Like’ on FaceBook, and the mood was destroyed. Rob, Rob, Rob, Rob, Rob! Why? It was like missing an open goal at the Cup Final. Everything was right and he hit the corner flag. The gushing was too much, the volte face unnecessary. Yet still he gets sent to The Tower. Blackpool is the wrong one.
I have joked a little about our friendly BBC TV presenter over the last few weeks but patience is running thin with Ore, The Kleenex Kid. When, oh, when, is he going to stop crying? I mean it’s not like he’s watching the history of England’s Ashes wins, the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final or Daley Thompson’s two Olympic golds. He cries when he wakes up (‘I’m just so happy to be here’), when he’s had breakfast, after PopMaster, if his shoes are bright and shiny (‘Oh my gosh, look at them, perfect.’ – tissue), if a wannabee is on instead of Steve Wright in the Afternoon. It is getting too much.
He danced a Rumba to ‘Ordinary People’ and by the look of it he got dressed in the dark, no jacket, no tie, the first shirt available chucked on, not tucked in. JFG had obviously been waiting for him for hours; she was impeccable. And so too, for the most part, the dance. Lyrical, tender, lightly romantic. At one stage we got a clunky drag and that smug look again, and JFG smiled, not sure why they would want to break the mood, but the overall delivery would have melted the coldest of hearts.
Ore‘s 35 was topped by Cloudier scoring her third 36 so far dancing a Viennese Waltz to ‘Breakaway’. I say Viennese Waltz, it wasn’t really and for that reason AJ (Achilles Jude) may be joining Rob in court on Monday morning accused of cheating and defiling the art.
This looked like newlyweds, white lilies floating on a light pastel green of a frock, a front porch swing housing the young groom. With the certainty of the wedding night to come he approached his wife and for a full thirty-six seconds they swayed, they held each other, they looked cutesy and they threw sensual lines. Would have been handy to dance. Less than two (two!) sets of eights later, just the forty-five Fleckerls, pivots aplenty and a near lift and throw away and we were dunn. Dunn is the word. There is one unanswered question. Does Cloudier drive a white Audi? If so I may have overtaken her on the M4 on Sunday.
As Christmas hurtles towards us at a rate of knots Louise and Danny Mac Pro are really upping their game, something that you would expect with their pedigrees. That said, they both still have to deliver, and they did just that, 37 and 38 respectively, a Smooth, and an Argentine Tango to Marvin Gaye. Yup, that’s not a typo. Difficult to believe, eh? Marvin Gaye . . . ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’, a song last used to sell jeans and Californian raisins.
Louise‘s confidence has been highlighted many times, she has an inbuilt, yet removable, barrier that says ‘I don’t want to look stupid, I look just like a ninny.’ The thing with dancing or any performing art is that the opposite applies. If you don’t embrace it you look daft. If you go at it half-cocked it insults the dance and the audience. And you look daft. If you grab it by the scruff and give it attention, detail and TLC then we will all be winners and that was the Louise that showed up this week, her Smooth to ‘Big Spender’ taken from the show ‘Sweet Charity’, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, the book by the inimitable Neil Simon, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.
Originally ‘Sweet Charity’ was an adaptation of Federico Fellini’s ‘Nights of Calabria’, the romantic tale of a sex worker. On Broadway this became the life of a dancer, a chorus girl, and with that, in stepped Louise, gorgeous gold dress, ruff at the hem, her hands doing semaphore with two giant black feather fans. KFG was dressed to the nines, white tie and tails, and with that we knew that this would be great. Got the combo. Music, setting, outfits. And KFG‘s mastery of choreography. Boom! Off they went, hitting musical accents for funn, beautifully timed leap to his chest, Louise clearly the star, the cheeky, the sassy, the classy. In the teaching world you have to remember that the session is about the client, it is their moment, and KFG embraced this showing her off for all she was worth. A cupple of Robin Cousins’ jumps flared her gown to finish before they canoodled behind the feathered screen. Fabulous.
So, bring on Marvin. On the face of it this was a cretinous choice of song. At second glance it was still cretinous. At a third, ditto. We get Brexit, Trump and Marvin. Who’d have forecast that?
Even dafter is the fact that Danny Mac Pro was stupendous again in spite of the music not because of it. Not his fault. What he also can’t be held to account for is the story, something a little weird.
Let’s take the clock back, Buenos Aires, 165 years ago, immigrant dockers jostling with each other to pay for the pleasures of the local ladies of the night. The Argentine Tango is led from the chest, the result inevitable if you have the money. It is not about some young stud answering a phone to discover that his bird has ditched him. Weird. It’s also not about the fight when he finds out.
As fights go this was brutal, intense, more Ali-Frazier than Simone-Cacace, a frantic and traumatic expose, where clearly this wasn’t about the sex industry. Twice Oti did the splits, those limbs long, pointed, like giant darts, the second occasion her right inner thigh resting on his left shoulder as he aimed for treble twenty. Danny’s precision, courage, timing and skill made this a spectacle of the highest quality, there was light, shade, fire, ice, anger and victory as Danny eventually threw his fierce partner to the floor. I think he’s better off without her personally. Can do without that sort of conflict in a relationship.
This time last year I missed this review as I jetted off to New York, Blackpool mere highlights on YouTube and eventually the iPlayer. This year the remaining Magnificent Seven head north looking for sand, rock, candyfloss, donkeys, Kiss Me Quick hats and performances that will push them closer to The Glitter Ball.
And, do you know, I might just join them.
17th November 2016
P.S. RIP the great Leonard Cohen. No wonder when your grandson scored all those tries for England we all shouted ‘Hallelujah!’