Last week Victoria Lopyreva hit our TV screens, her job, to sell Russia as a quiet, retiring, safe place to host a world football competition in a nation where being a football hooligan is like having a second job. She had been employed by the Kremlin in an old style cold war strategy; get a smart, sexy babe, add an eyelid flutter, a pout full of promise and be provocative. What could possibly go wrong? Like The Sirens in Jason and the Argonauts all would be well. Wouldn’t it?
In 2012 Victoria appeared as the face of Playboy so you can imagine her assets. Apart from her talents in the beauty pageant department she works in Russian TV, she has a degree from the Rostov University of Economics and she plays the piano.
But I thought it worth a mention because the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy passed away last week; the sexist purveyor and exploiter of female flesh Hugh Hefner was laid to rest in a plot next to the Hollywood icon, Marilyn Monroe, his first nude cover girl. He was 91.
With all that going on let me introduce you to Nadiya Bychkova, a 28 year old Ukrainian, now dancing out of Slovenia, tall, slinky, occasionally seen on the nudist beaches of the Adriatic though, I must confess, she wasn’t around when I cruised through there a month ago. In 2015 she too was the face and body of Playboy. I’ve seen the photos . . .
Anyhow, Nadiya just happens to be a two time World Ballroom Dance Champion, and along with Dianne ‘Reddo’ Buswell, Australian Champion and the accent to match, and Amy Dowden, the first Welsh professional the show has ever seen, and British Champion, they are the new pros for this year’s jamboree. Oxana ‘Oxi’ Platero, last season’s partner of Juddge Rinder, is nowhere to be seen.
Nadiya teams up with Davood (Daverd not Davooood) Ghadami a highly successful British TV actor seen in Taggart, Dr Who, Silent Witness, Spooks, The Bill and more recently in Eastenders as Kush Kazemi. Never heard of him. A British Iranian you could describe him as swarthy, pumped, guns (biceps not firearms), a great foil for the Eastern European temptress. Paired as the Steam Team in their Cha, a vain, inauthentic, nervy opener we learnt, like many others, that he was good at pointing, and in his Quick Step that he could dance in spite of a lack of grace and sophistication. Perhaps Fred Astaire movies never reached Kiev? And why were they dressed as lumberjacks?
Also from the world of TV acting amongst the cast are Joe McFadden dancing with the delectable Katya Jones, Juddge Aggie’s new girl crush, and Chizzy Akodulo, Pasta Kovalev getting the honour. Both have appeared in Holby, I think at the same time; Joe has been on screens north of the border for over two decades starting in Take the High Road and Taggart, moving south to Heartbeat and then further to The Bill and eventually to our favourite hospital, should such a thing exist. His dad Gene wrote and sang the disco classic ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’.
Joe’s Tango in week two was a direct contrast to his opening Jive, the latter lively, bouncy, spritely, smart. At that stage you were forgiven for thinking he had danced before. His Tango proved he hadn’t.
I met Andrea Chizoba Akudolu on the wards at Holby as I was doing my rounds as a cardiovascular consultant, Tuesday nights only. When I asked where her name originated from I suggested a connection to Nigeria. ‘No, love, Harlesden,’ she replied. I think that’s in London somewhere.
Starring as the clever sister Mo Effanga – her sibling is just a nurse, if ever ‘just’ could be applied to our finest carers – Chizzy has appeared in Eastenders too, the Roman Empire, Dead Set and Jinx, the product of the BBC’s talent hunt initiative in the early noughties. Sporting a Kevin Keegan perm her Cha morphed into a Fox Trot a week later. Not a lot of Cha in the former – one wonders why the pros do this? – and plenty of sass, defying the norm, in the latter. Ditto.
2007 was a great year for Gemma Atkinson, fondly known locally as the girl from Ipa . . . Bury. In that year she appeared in I’m a Celebrity, Soapstar Superstar and Masterchef, all on the back of a five year stint in Hollyoaks. You’d have thought I’d have remembered, wouldn’t you? Tall, rangy, hot, twenty something, all over the glam mags, silicon appendages, lingerie adverts? Must have slept through that. She lives in Emmerdale now.
Ali-Ash, another tall fella, got the pleasure which must have been a change for him; his normal partner is a foot shorter. They too did a Cha and a Waltz, the latter which included a mop roll, a move never seen at the local pally, already out of the locker. Ye gads! And I can’t wait for the knee slides. Both should be banned forever and all exponents executed at dawn. The daft thing is that someone, somewhere, thinks that these moves are okay.
Charlotte Hawkins stars on TV on a show called Good Morning Britain. She’s a graduate from the University of Manchester, English Literature, and did ballet as a small child. Neither her degree nor her nursery steps proved a lot of help as her frame almost folded in a Fox Trot and her legs provided nearly the worst Cha of all time. Quentin Wilson smiled knowingly. Brendan Cole purred about his protégé, protective, blaming the nerves. Nothing to do with an over-complicated routine for a novice then or lack of ability?
One daytime TV lady you might know is Ruth Langsford with over two decades of experience and exposure including Loose Women. You may also know her also as Eamonn Holmes’ other half. Along with Charlotte I wouldn’t know her if she walked into my front lounge though her husband supports Man U and was too heavy to get on the cast of Strictly. You have to skydive in, don’t you, and the top limit is fifteen stones?
Ruth, of a certain age, partners Anthony Smith of Bristol, of a certain age, his chances of victory gone forever, Little Lord Fauntleroy never growing to be an adult. There is a bet open to see who survives the longest in the show, Anthony or Brendan. And I mean as a dancer, not in 2017. After watching a Waltz and a Charleston this won’t be a long partnership.
Another asked to Charleston – if you can’t dance do something funny – was Susan Calman a comedienne from Glasgow. She went to Glasgow Uni where her dad, Sir Ken, is chancellor. No nepotism there then. If you don’t watch CBBC or watch BBC3 or listen to Radio 4, like me, you may never have heard of her. Smooth and Radio 2 in Travolta Towers as long as the DJ doesn’t talk over the records or isn’t an ex winner of Strictly.
Every lady’s delight, even one married to another lady, Kevin from Grimsby, was allocated Susan and by her reaction I thought she’d turned or was certainly b-curious. It was her dream come true but probably not his. Having lost three finals he has the blessing knowing that he won’t reach this year’s. With a 52 second intro to their Viennese Waltz, looking like Clark Gable, KFG not Susan, you could be forgiven for thinking that she was Susan Boyle’s lovechild having a whale of a time.
Simon Rimmer runs two renowned restaurants where he is the head chef, Green, and Earle, and as a result he was catapulted onto the TV a decade or so ago, first on the BBC and then he took the independent dollar of Channel 4 just like the Bake Off team. Simon is a genuine beginner and Karen Clifton née Hottie Hauer will have the same comfort as her husband of not needing to worry about the closing stages of the show.
Which is a shame because Simon starts from scratch, is keen and has a big heart. His Paso was shorn of shape, his Waltz devilishly hard to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the tune so slow. Holding your shape and timing at that pace is tough. So too the song, the profound anthem of Merseyside. He earned a hug from Dame Shirley; they are from the same town and went to school together.
In Northants there is a small town called Finedon that dates back to the Doomsday Book (1086) and there resides the former keyboard player of The Communards and Bronski Beat, an eighties combo that hold an iconic place in the history of pop music. This keyboard player, a fella called Richard Coles, had a tuff time coping with the success and he decided to study theology instead and thereafter he fluctuated from Catholicism to Anglicanism. He’s a vicar now, of Finedon. He’s also all over Radios 3 and 4, Sky TV, Songs of Praise, Have I Got News For You and Pause for Thought. Slightly irreverent for a Reverend he is popular, likeable and has a great ear though that doesn’t automatically translate to his feet. As a dancer he is a trier, his partner Reddo has her work cut out having done a Cha and a Smooth already. On Saturday nights the Rev stars as Rory in Mrs Brown’s Boys.
And talking of Saturdays Mollie King, one of that pop group, The Saturdays, songs like . . . and . . . er . . . oh, I don’t know, (who are they?), has been paired with the devastating young dance upstart Angelo Jermaine Pritchard though his professional partner Chloe is still, frustratingly in the wings. Once a champion skier and a member of the British Alpine team Mollie’s claims to fame include her mum being called Jo, her dad Stephen and her brother, Juan.
AJ has dropped lucky here. Young, talented and funky, well that’s enough about me, a Jive and a Tango, the latter full of content, at last, Mollie has shown enough potential to worry the other players and she will only get better. She knows live telly, has done the X Factor a cupple of times and she really did dance to ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, the producers showing startling dexterity so early in the series.
The X Factor, 2008 to be specific, offers two contenders, both with a great chance of winning this year’s Glitter Ball Trophy. One has dunn the West End starring in The Bodyguard and Sister Act, the latter directed by little known impresario Craig Revel Horwood, and the other is a pro dancer. I know. I’m told that the show is inclusive of dance ability and background but having these two in the show is like asking Wayne Rooney to take part in a keepy-uppy contest. It is bonkers at best. And there is more to come later, an unlikely ringer to be named.
I’ve seen The Bodyguard and Alexandra Burke, black, beautiful and magnificent, stole the show. Her voice is a gift that the Rev Richard will confirm comes from elsewhere and she can move too. Her Waltz was undermarked and her Paso, danced with the Spaniard, Gorka Marquez, (remember that fight in Blackpool, no bodyguard for him), scored a massive 36 in just week two. Her sense of drama, shape and art left everyone spellbound.
Aston Merryweather is the grandson of Buster, the bloke who played Grandad in Only Fools and Horses. An England youth footballer, he was destined for fame and fortune only for his band JLS to be tipped at the post by Alexandra on the X Factor. Hallelujah to that. Since those heady days of youth Aston has become a singer, a songwriter, has appeared on TV and has become an accomplished dancer, so much so that he was a juddge on Got to Dance on Sky TV in 2013.
It wasn’t a shock when we saw that he could move. Like a young Sammy Davis Jnr his Fox Trot was full of aplomb and talent doing things that the others would never dream of. Seems daft to have him on board really. Dancing a fairly raggedy Salsa to the hit of the year ‘Despacito’, his gleeful partner, hotels already booked for the final, decided to make it the Janette Manrara show. She did it with Jake Wood years ago, ditto here. Wasteful really. One great lift sequence couldn’t hide Aston’s ambiguity in this dance. Time for Janette to remember that it’s not all about her.
When Amy Dowden approached Brian Conley for his Tango, his last Tango, thankfully, her deep red bodice showed off a richly pretty version of Morticia Addams. ‘I wish I had Amy’s body,’ sighed Juddge Aggie. ‘So do I,’ I said.
After that I focused on Brian, a comedian, a presenter, an actor, a singer, a star of the West End, Barnum and Jolson, Olivier nominated, a regular Buttons in Cinderella, a teacher in The Grimleys on TV. In 2012 he left I’m A Celebrity for medical reasons. He won’t need that as an excuse here unless he cops on and takes it semi-seriously. Every breath stifles a gag. Every step offers a laff. And it shouldn’t. His Cha entertained like a drunk dad at a wedding. Come on Bri, your fans want more.
Two to go.
There is no such thing as an ugly millionaire as was alluded to by the late great Caroline Aherne when interviewing the wife of master magician, the late great Paul Daniels. The lovely Debbie McGee is well known to most folks of a certain vintage. Paul was an everyday staple for years on telly; Debbie assisted, herself a member of the Magic Circle.
But what isn’t generally known about Debbie is that in her words ‘she did a bit of ballet’ when she was younger. In fact she won a place at the Royal Ballet School at the age of 16 and went on to be a soloist in the Iranian National Ballet only leaving when the wotsit hit the fan in 1979. The Ayatollah revolted and the world hasn’t been the same since. Debbie came home and joined the Second Generation Dance Troupe for four years. She joins Wayne Rooney in the keepy-uppy contest, her Paso full of spotting, chenai turns, a developpé here and there. Her Viennese Waltz with Giovanni Pernice was so comfortable for them both I thought it was a demo. Lovely lyrical arms, but she ought to have, didn’t she?
And then there was Jonnie Peacock, MBE, a man who got his gong for running fast, which I thought a little unfair given that I didn’t get any award for having slow twitch muscles. Jonnie only has one foot, he lost his right one to meningitis as a child, yet he’s still managed to be a dubble Olympic Gold medallist and a dubble World Champion in spite of needing a haircut and a shave.
He is paired with dominatrix Oti Mabuse still cursing last year’s final. Together they danced a genteel Waltz and a dynamic Jive to Johnny B Goode, I know, ‘O’ level in planning for that one, the latter with Jonnie sporting a blade rather than his normal prosthetic. At times it looked like he would slice her in half such was his pace, intent and proximity. Jonnie was good, very good and will get better. He has the sportsman’s steel in his eyes. When the hoki-cokey comes he’ll be ingenious and committed putting both legs in. When he plays a pirate in film week he will have as much of an advantage as the celebrity ringers.
So Week Two closed with the first exit, tears and shock, someone leaving the party so early. Chizzy had the displeasure, it really is a lottery at this stage and it hurt. Nearly as much as Dame Shirley being dressed like my gran in the opener. What on earth were wardrobe doing there?
October 6th 2017