It is the morning after the night before, a long night when you bless the person who invented pause TV, just the 135 minutes of live telly to navigate. Time then for drinks, natural breaks, a fetch of the hankies, a chance to shout into a pillow at the incredulity of the show, the bad and the good, the special, the spectacular, the astounding, for it was a night like no other, 27 tens from a possible 36, Lord Len desperate to score everyone with a maximum, this has never happened before, only, surprisingly, Danny Mac Pro Greene spoiling his night, his last night as Head Juddge, just the two standing ovations for him, Lord Len, both thoroughly deserved.
Twenty-two years ago he was just about broke. He had paid off one marriage and another long-term relationship and all that he had left was a dance school in Dartford, of all places. Ten years later the former footballer, welder, dance champion, was seconded onto a new TV show, just a trial, eight celebrities learning to dance with unheard of professional dancers. Lord Len, a West Ham supporter, had been a mod in Muswell Hill, he’d hung around with the Kinks, was a mate of Ray Davies, and as a juddge of TV dance he was asked to add expertise to his natural eye for detail, to be warm and generous as he spotted tricks of the trade. He knew, he knows, how to smell a rat.
It is fair to say that the show will not be the same without Lord Len. As the pros saluted him with one last dance to Andy Williams’ ‘May Each Day’ he stood tall, he is a big fella, proud, tearless, somehow. And the audience stood as one, the noise a crescendo, last heard when Alec Stewart played his last Test Match for England at The Oval in 2003. It was that precious.
The contest for The Glitter Ball Trophy was anyone’s for the taking and in many ways the scoring was irrelevant because the GBP held all destiny in its hands, not always the best thing when you check out what people actually voat for: General Elections, Brexit, MEPs. Well, ‘all destiny’ isn’t strictly true, not until the Strictly voats are made public. Until then the producers can create any result they want.
Throughout the series Danny Mac Pro has been the greatest male celeb ever, even the greatest celeb dancer of all time given his under scoring. Only Natalie Gumede averages higher in the show’s history. In sixteen dances he could easily have scored twelve 40s had the juddgies been true to themselves. He is miles out there, a gnat’s width away from being a pro. He has delighted, outshone, starred and led from the front. Had this been a foot race he would have won it by the end of October and then taken a two month holiday.
However, we all know that the best dancers, across the board, not just the one-offs, don’t always win because ultimately it is about the GBP and/or the BBC.
To give the GBP a hand Danny made two mistakes in the Quick Step, the dance that the juddgies wanted to see again and he scored just 36 to ‘I Won’t Dance’. All the finalists were given a dance to re-do along with a Show Dance and one of their own choice. In the case of the latter Danny and Oti went for their sextastic Samba.
Back to the errors, a routine that began with Danny conducting the orchestra before taking to the floor to wow the audience. His dubble mistake disappointed; an air of disbelief swept through Elstree. The routine started at a helter skelter pace, too hectic, the conductor’s baton getting in the way. Perhaps it was nerves or pure adrenalin but a pendulum section was out of kilter and with just a few bars to go, after Danny had calmed the storm in his head, Oti leapt like a gazelle in a fast promenade section as Danny forgot to join in. He got the look from hell as the judggies tried to paper over it. She really wanted that Glitter Ball Trophy.
Danny’s other two dances both maxed out at 40; he even had the final dance, the salesman’s slot, the last one that the audience remember, to perform his great Samba to ‘Magalenha’, the same song used by Karen Hardy and Brian Watson in Japan in 1996. (Brian was World Latin Champion nine years on the trot.) In truth, Danny’s two dances trumped anything else the night had to offer but without the chance to offer a 15 paddle, or even a 12, the juddgement was the same as many others. There is no degree of difference in such a basic scoring system. Would it have mattered? Or had the GBP already decided? Had they gone for the novice anyway? Louise was never really in the mix which is a little bizarre given that she sits at fifth in the all-time listings, ahead of Ore.
So, the Show Dance, no rules, anything goes.
Danny wore black. The mood was dark. ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ is an angry song, Adele in one of her lighter moods, and after the Quick Step Oti needed no help to get into character, her skirt like a mane, dark navy, red and silver grey strips, split to free her legs, the studded bodice matching, her eyes burning.
There was a giant picture frame on the dance floor standing vertically and they fought to see who would have the right to take it to auction at ‘Flog It!’ They turned the upright frame to the left, pushed and pulled, somehow it didn’t topple, and Danny let her have it, diving away with the aid of a one-handed cartwheel, commonly known as a ‘Blackpool’, where it was first aired, but she chased and forced some Paso. Then he grabbed her and took control moving seamlessly into Argentine Tango. They jumped together through the frame and back reverting to Paso, Oti wishing he’d dunn that in the Quick Step.
The congruency of Danny’s delivery was stunning. Before you knew it he leapt through the frame again, nearly catching his head, and they roughly jostled for it, swapping sides and before you could say ‘Shazam’ she was on his shoulders, her legs straight, pointed at twenty to four, hoisted high. After a turn, in a nanosecond, she fell forwards, her head straight for the floor, only for her to roll to safety as Danny did the same.
Back on their feet she launched herself at him like a pro-wrestler, her body aiming for the head and a count of three submission. Who would win this bout? Instead of being floored, he caught her and whipped her into a sexy yet elegant pose. The battle for the picture frame continued as did the relentless pace. In the end they both decided they wanted each other and Oti launched herself for one final straddle at the same time as Danny slammed the picture frame down to the ground behind her. More drama than Eastenders, more class than Mayfair. Danny had given his all, Latin, Ballroom, Show Time. He wanted to win for Oti, ‘for all that she has given me, this is the only thing I can give back.’ It wasn’t to be.
Here’s a list of ladies whose average is lower than Louise. Rachel Stevens, Kara Tointon, Abbey Clancy, Denise van Outen. It just goes to show not only her quality but also what might have been had she garnered a smidge more desire and ambition. She was so good she never got a se-ven from Lord Len, nothing less than an eight.
Louise’s judggies’ choice was the Cha from Flashdance to ‘What a Feeling’ and her 38 matched that of her later Show Dance, same judggies, same scores, 9, 9, 10, 10, as sharp as previously but with more natural confidence, crisper, Redknapp hot, the only thing missing, a camera angle that showed the straightening of the legs. Either that or it didn’t happen. Smoke and mirrors? There was a little unmentioned wobble too. And of course she smiled her head off. Course she did.
‘One Moment in Time’ is the perfect way to describe a Show Dance, the chance to do what you like, how you like, so when Whitney’s song hit the airwaves we were all expecting rockets and whistles, bells and fanfares, fireworks and passion from Louise and KFG. It transpired to be more like Jay McGuinness’s disappointing effort from last year.
The fog reached knee high as Louise sat in her calf length silver nightie, like a damsel in distress, waiting for her knight in shining armour. Instead KFG emerged in his sleeping gear, jogging bottoms, an opened shirt on a vest, barefoot, having lost his slippers. He reached her releasing her from those mental bonds and then turned her to right, something that obviously shocked her given the amount of wobble in the movement. Within seconds though KFG was behind her, lifting her, and spinning half a dozen times. The smile was back on her face where it remained for the rest of the performance, a smile of joy knowing that soon she would be back at home with the family. Smiling didn’t go with the dance. It rarely does.
In her ballet daps Louise delivered a performance a la Kate Bush, lyrical, ethereal, her arms extending beautifully as KFG led a Robin Cousins, a sack of spuds carry, honest, that’s what it was, a fall, pivots, an around the world, a baby lift and a jump to his hip. Whilst scoring highly for its overall quality it was never going to push the leaders and Louise bowed out with dignity and relief. KFG now has to come to terms with the fact that he has lost in four finals in as many years – Susanna Reid, Frankie Bridge and Kellie Bright to add to Louise – and he has to accept that his little sister has a fifty percent success rate, not bad given that her first partner was the talentless lummox Scott Mills.
It has been said that Ore was lucky on Saturday night, lucky to get the voats, lucky that he was asked to dance the Smooth again, you remember, his favourite, the Gene Kelly tribute dance from Singin’ in the Rain, Gene’s widow Patricia Ward Kelly in the audience, a dance that he smashed in Week Three, a dance he smashed again with 39 on Saturday, lucky that he had a World Champion Show Dance Champion as his partner. Lucky that the Show Dance was also another Smooth . . .
Well, if you wanted one choreographer to choose for a Show Dance it would be Joanne from Grimsby but there was no luck in this result, Ore winning the night, 119 from 120, his talent shining as bright as any star at this time of the year. Of course Danny was a better dancer overall, and Cloudier won the dance off last week only to be black balled. And five out of the six top dancers ever on the show have stage school backgrounds, including Danny and Louise.
Ore had nothing. From zero to hero.
His Show Dance was to The Gershwins’ ‘I Got Rhythm’ and that is certainly true. Ore stood halfway down the stairs in his white tie and tails, JFG lurked at the bottom in a silver blue flapper’s dress, the shoulder straps a ruff, like the seatbelt on a fair ground ride buckling her in for the journey. After twenty seconds of posturing they were ready on the floor. That is her worst quality, mirrored by many others. They could have started ready.
As the tempo eventually cracked there was a nice side by side section, Ore the dance man, a little lift, and then the chance to play on six kettle drums that had spilt over at the far end of the studio, two large ones, two medium, two small. They settled on the mid-section, picked up canes and she went first into a bit of tap. And then him. They joined together on the top tier and did some Charleston, they bounced after each other like the Bounding Basques, then chased and descended down their own fireman’s poles. Great jeopardy. With a sprint to the stairs Ore slid down like a kid on the bannister at home to join JFG for a one-armed jump and catch and a standing turn. Thank goodness there were no Fleckerls; we’d still be watching them today. And to complete they went back to the drums and jumped to the middle again Ore nearly missing, teetering near the edge but retaining his cool and his balance. No one else noticed. Lord Len stood in his own personal tribute.
The standing ovation was as justified as the title but it would have been nice to have had more variety from the winners; we all knew that he could do a Smooth, let alone do it twice. His Jive to ‘Runaway Baby’ was greeted with comments of ‘virtuostic’, ‘The Spirit of Strictly’, a man with no dance history but plenty of future for the young sportscaster.
What a whirl!
What a series!
This year’s top three graduates finished in the all-time top ten of the averages. Now, maybe that’s because the marking was a little less controlled and more zealous, but never take it away from these three. For all their foibles they have been truly magnificent and they set the bar for next year.
Before then JFG goes on tour starring in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Ali-Ash and Janette follow in a show that is a tribute to Fred Astaire and Danny Mac Pro will be appearing in Sleepless the Musical with his fiancee Carley Stenson in April. Ian Waite, star of It Takes Two, is getting married, no idea what his wife to be’s name is, and Gorka Marquez returns to the dentist to check out his new teeth and maybe to re-jig his memory of what really happened that night. He might have a new girlfriend by then; he split with Lauren Sheridan in November, dash, not that curse again!
Did you know that last Saturday was Pope Francis’s birthday? He’s a specialist in the Argentine Tango and was 80. He shares the day with Judgge Hils a cupple of years less, a former local Cha Cha Champion. She can’t dance, I just have a stutter. Many more happy returns to them both.
So that’s it folks, it’s all over, the spray tan has been put away for now; I never know which bits to do anyway, top half, bottom half, left side, right side. I mean, what happens if you pull, looking like a chess board?
Some thanks and a final word.
To all my teachers and juddgies, Hils, Aggie, Lulu, Lewis, Magnum, you have been integral to these reviews. It wouldn’t have happened without your wit, insight, honesty and humour. To all other contributors, whether you knew it or not, many thanks. To the wonderful Goodmans, for Blackpool, truly the highlight of the year, my humble gratitude. Great stuff Lady Sue and Lord Len! To the BBC, the band, to costume, to make-up, to the warm-up guy, to the floor controller, to the fabulous hostesses, you are the Kings and Queens of TV. Just need to sort the music out now, eh Louise (Rainbow)? Fancy a meet?
And finally, it is fitting to have one last word from Lord Len. Back in August I wrote to him and asked for a quote for this season’s reviews. It is verbatim below:
“Looking forward to my last series and I’m sure it will be a good one. I will miss many things one of which will be no longer receiving your brilliantly written report each week.”
Well, that made me smile, laffed me head off.
Of course you can’t get away that easy my old friend . . .
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. And remember . . . Keep Dancing!
22nd December 2016