In 2014 Damien Chazelle, a product of Harvard and Princeton High School, directed a movie called Whiplash. It won three Oscars. At the time he was just 29. A cupple of years later he got the top prize himself, Best Director for the film La La Land though it didn’t win best movie. Remember that? (Give Me the) Moonlight romped home amidst much controversy. That said it helped Emma Stones’ bank balance, Ryan Gosling’s credibility and J K Simmons’ filmography; he already has a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and one Oscar.
La La Land was billed as a musical but it wasn’t really; there were bits, the male lead was a jazz pianist and John Legend did a set but it wasn’t exactly Seven Brides or Oklahoma. We were sold it as a love story. It was but there was no happy ending. Pointless really. Who wants all that build up and then the final shots being of ‘Here’s one you could have won’, ‘I married someone else’, ‘I didn’t really love you anyway’, ‘Your sister is hotter than you’? More Corrie or Enders than the theatre of dreams.
The movie did provide the fabulous opening sequence to the much lauded Movie Week though, a TV spectacular where all thoughts of dance went out of the window and the producers and wardrobe were given carte blanche to do what they liked. And they did. We had originals, features and sequels though no prequels like the film Two Spotty Dogs the original concept for 101 Dalmatians.
On a plus the girls looked magnificent, even Dame Shirley, and was that an Amanda Thompson outfit sported by our blonde hostess? I prefer to shop at Marx and Engels meself. The scene was set for perfection, for a Gene Kelly number or Syd Charisse or Al Pacino in ‘The Scent of a Woman’, or the princesses from Kismet. Instead someone under the influence of hallucinogenics opted for dancers to be dressed like a troll, a scarecrow, a panther and Buzz Lightyear.
Let’s start with Buzz, a loyal and brave friend, a romantic space toy, dressed all in white, lime green trims, with a goldfish bowl for his helmet. He’ll do anything to save his pals, a great team player, a man of honour. At no stage during the Toy Story trilogy did he hop into bed with Woody’s girl, the yodelling cowgirl, Jessie, yet here he was Quick Stepping his way into her heart. Separated from his owner Andy in heartbreak, his girl and best mate then do the dirty. Ouch. Big hug for Woody. Simon, wearing a fetching purple Gregory Porter balaclava-hat got the part and off he sprinted, to the dance off and beyond.
The lovely Debbie McGee took the lead for a Quick Step from the movie Shall We Dance, Giovanni dressed in spats and a pin stripe, like a Mafioso from Sicily. No type casting there then but there was a little controversy as they were marked down for breaking the ten second rule, which is dancing apart or side by side mid-dance, not in hold. In truth it was 19 seconds. They were also castigated for a slow opening. Not the first but of the many. This was almost a Smooth, without the lifts, and though the ten-second rule has never been mentioned since the inception of the show in 2004 it was a welcome intervention.
Perhaps the time has come to issue yellow and red cards to disrespectful professionals too? With James Jordan sacked/kicked off/redundant some years ago, never one shy with the lip, the Kiwi Gob is destined for the same should he continue showing flagrant petulance. Unwisely he questioned Dame Shirley’s savvy judgement. There is a book called The Chimp Paradox written by Schnorbitz, Dr Steve Peters, that talks about controlling the knee-jerk part of the brain, the powerful anti-response, the instinct that makes humans act like dipsticks. Brendan’s chimp had a free for all after a Tango where the dutiful Charlotte bobbed her frame up and down like a buoy in the Solent. It wasn’t pleasant watching especially when he addressed the new star juddge as ‘My Dear’. They danced to ‘Danger Zone’ from the film Top Gun, somewhere where he is inevitably heading. As a Kiwi he knows that you don’t talk back to the ref!
As La La Land missed the chance of a proper Hollywood ending the three Smooths also came short of the word smooth, the glitz and the glam still in a drawer waiting to be unleashed, Alexandra auditioning for Oliver via My Fair Lady, Mollie wandering around the Alps in The Sound of Music and Brian looking for a brain on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Alexandra is West End through and through now, her stage presence and craft whilst mesmerising not yet transferable to the silver screen, Mollie, great core and lines, is waltzing towards the final with Antoine Jerome and if not careful we will soon be looking for a Brian, his panto Smooth full of slow but perfect timing, twee panto looks, twee panto musicality and a twee choreographed panto fall over a wall to finish. More Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally than Fred and Ginger but very tw . . . nice.
Men of a certain age will remember a TV series starring Lynda Carter, the Miss World America winner of 1972, a feisty, busty superheroine clad in blues and reds with a gold tiara and knee high boots, a pin up on a teenage wall if not a life sized cardboard cut-out. Apart from Farah Fawcett this was the dream girl of the era. Bring on Susan and KFG, the former looking more like the younger sister of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson than the luscious Lynda and a Samba to the Wonder Woman theme. Susan went off like a bat out of hell, pacey, pulling, dominating, saving the world but not the dance. No villain stood a chance and neither will she be the poster of choice any time soon.
Daverd, dressed like Travolta, white suit, black shirt, was the same in his Samba from the movie Saturday Night Fever, plenty of gyrating but an optional dismissal of the dance even when he humped fresh air standing on the juddgies’ desk. Had he focused on the bounce, the basic moves and nicer arms rather than acting like an aggressive version my mate The Beakster in a Gloucester night club he would have fared better. Nadiya upped the ante, a new sultry, sexy temptress, driving the Steam Team. Her hair flicked and intoxicated. Now which night club is she at next?
In the world of congruity (Buzz & Jessie) it was a surprise to see Bagheera, the Black Panther from the Jungle Book, dancing a Charleston with Baloo the Bear. In the movie, a great Saturday morning venture, on the undercard, The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, Roddy McDowell, they weren’t exactly bosom buddies, Bagheera and Baloo, more reluctant relatives. It was the man cub Mowgli who featured in the duet . . .
Anyhow, Gemma was the one in the cat suit, skimpy, tight, see-through black lace, one for the dads, and her credibility rose to its highest so far as her energy, determination and application in this jungle aerobic session certainly got the attention.
This was a stark contrast to Ruthie Langsford, the ice queen of the Rumba, the first of the season. Diamonds are Forever rang through the speakers, if only for twenty seconds we all wished. Maybe it was her Bond that terrified her, her Milk Tray Man? Perhaps the occasion or even the opportunity to be sexy and sultry under the lights and in public? Either way her nerves destroyed any hopes of being rescued by a gang of field mice let alone the world’s top secret agent. Licensed to Freeze. If only the dry ice had been waist high to hide her feet and legs.
The David Lean classic Dr Zhivago is the eighth best grossing movie of all time. It tells of a love story in the USSR before and during the First World War so why not pick a genuine Russian to dance to the film score, ‘Joe’s Theme’. Katya Sokolova (Jones) hails from St Petersburg and looks dandy in a Russian fur hat so the options were a Kalinka, a Plyaska or a traditional squat dance favoured by the Cossacks. We got an Austrian Viennese Waltz instead . . . oh, well . . . Joe from Holby obliged, back to form, swing, turns, a Fleckerl and speed, no skipping and a delivery full of empathy something lacked by many of his co-stars in the show.
I’m not sure how you get a job as a voice over actor for a cartoon film but what a gig, pretending to talk to imaginary people, doing silly voices and feigning emotion. Bit like being in the office. The Disney version of Robin Hood was my all-time favourite though The Incredibles was okay and Zootopia was quaint. All happy endings there, no La La Land in sight. I’ve never seen Trolls so when Buster’s grandson Aston appeared dressed in a sky blue body sock and his partner in matching pink they could have been auditioning for Smurfs on a bad day. I suppose his blueish vertical afro would have been covered by a white hat?
What followed was a Cha, sort of, Aston never finishing through his body lines such was the tempo of the music. Extensions weren’t . . . extended. And hip-hop replaced the funky, classy nature of the most elegant of Latin dances. Of course, as a pro, he was super-confident and spectacular but the connection with the Cha itself was weak. And you know what they say? Never trust a man who can get up off the floor without using his hands.
For the last fortnight the producers have dressed Jonnie like Owen Wilson, an ‘A’ list Hollywood actor if you didn’t know, first as a cowboy, fawn brown top, Stetson and brown pants, the second as Indiana Jones, same shirt, switch of pants, hat and a whip. Below, which one’s Jonnie?
Surely he deserves more? A bit of invention and thought? He flew through the air and dropped on to the dance floor having swung Tarzanesque on a rope and he spotted the landing. Dodgy foot? Hardly. Thereafter his Paso overshadowed his partner’s audition to be a Bond girl and to be fair you’d need three or four matadors to control that particular bull. Or a few shots of tranquiliser. Jonnie’s approach defied his beginner’s status with great control, power and intent. If only he’d been in a bull ring? There must be a movie about that? One thing that didn’t go unnoticed though was the illness he carries with him in his arms. OBD, old blatting disease as it is commonly known.
The Rev Richard had the Scott Mills moment of the series so far. Remember when the DJ was dressed like a crab/lobster? Well the Rev was asked to dance a Paso to Flashers’ Theme from Flesh Gordon. Sorry Flash’s theme from Flash Gordon. He wore a full red suit, cape, a blonde Rory Brown wig, black shoes, all capped with a Gorbachev birth mark on his left cheek. I’m not sure whether he was supposed to be Flash, the Emperor Ming or Prince Vultan. It looked like the producers had been saving this one up since last year. Who can we really humiliate this season? Reddo wore black.
Once the dance began the Rev had ninety seconds not fourteen hours to save the dance. He tried a Jon Sergeant drag (Santa pulling a bag of prezzies over his shoulder), Morris dancing, the praying mantis move, a bit of stamping, a skip around the Maypole and other pagan tributes. At the end of the dance off the ‘Rev was alive’ but he had been sacrificed for the common good. Taken one for the team. There were no objections, no divine intervention.
No one asked him not to leave us this way.
October 13th 2017
P.S. Many congratulations to last year’s finalist Clowdier Fragapane for a brilliant bronze medal at the World Gymnastics Championships last week. Awesome stuff!