When Stephen Sauvestre designed the Eiffel Tower (1887-89) he wanted to put the dance floor right at the top where the viewing arena now resides. He did the wind calcs, allowed for three to four inches of lateral movement and he even tested it for vertigo and nausea. Amongst the guinea pigs were the British architects James Maxwell and Charles Tuke and the parents of young dance master Victor Sylvester who were then asked to report back to the UK which they duly did. The resultant consultation was short and sharp. ‘Bonkers idea,’ they agreed, ‘about as daft as the French penchant for escargots.’
As a result the iconic venue, the Mecca of the North, other bingo halls are available, The Blackpool Tower Ballroom, is situated squarely on terra firma and the only question of conjecture is how one gets to dance there. Week Eight was nervy knowing what was at stake. It’s a bit like losing in the semi-final of the cup; no one wants to miss the big day. To comfort myself, after last year’s surreal yet fantastic cameo care of the fabulous Lady Sue Goodman, and Lord Len of course, I headed to Twickenham to watch England beat Australia in a pre-curser to the impending Ashes series. If truth be told I would take Blackpool every time.
Before we move into the world of spangles, sequins, hyperbole, juddgies on ecstasy, audience on acid, scoring bearing no resemblance to reality (Blackpool is always worth a cupple of points extra) and additional dancers that were nothing more than a distraction, a quick word on data analysis. Every year we are told that this is the best year ever, that the standard is so high, so much better than. The table below tells the statistical truth.
Two from six would grace the Leader Board comparing like for like, 2017 against 2016. And the scores have been adjusted following Bruno-Gate.
Did you know that Mollie’s Nan lives in Hull? They didn’t say if it was the posh bit, Swanland, or the ruff bit, the East, a district that makes Southmead look like Kensington. Well, Moll and Amir Jared rocked up and met Nan, the last of the family for him to see before the nuptials are announced in The Times on New Year’s Day. The area will be able to cater. North Ferriby has a lovely church. The Hop Pole does a nice buffet.
And if they ask nicely they’ll be able to keep the angelic white outfits that they used for the Charleston, the opening number, in what was probably his dream pop video: a bird cage, angel wings, a budgie seat, four other girls all vying to be his last fling before marital incarceration. A bit ‘Beauty School Dropout’, if you remember Grease.
Mollie likes a good pop video, it gives her a chance to hide from the dance, to let others take the limelight, albeit briefly. If in doubt hide, prance around, pretend you’re out clubbing with the girls, but not even that could hide the clunky transitions or the thinness of the story line and the minimisation of the content. Once up one fifteen second section of lifts was spectacular though. It would go well as the wedding dance.
That performance could easily have propped up the leader board but as Christmas hurtles towards us Susan and Jonnie were also vying for the same honour. From the other five there will be some big disappointments in December; there isn’t room for them all at the Grand Final.
Kevin from Grimsby loves Blackpool. He has danced there, won there, and he loves it so much that if there was a building he could marry it would be The Tower. Which probably explains his choice of wife. As you know he married t’Hauer. Oh, come on!
For five years he has been pitching to do a Paso like the one in the movie Strictly Ballroom, Scott and Fran breaking all the rules and expectations, and he finally got his wish, the proper outfits the highlight of the routine. The backing dancers looked like they’d stepped out of West Side Story but there wasn’t a Jet or a Shark in sight, more a stroppy, stamping fish wife, the Flamenco section akin to a Haka, a tribal challenge, a war dance. Susan averages just 23 and it is easy to see why.
The GBP obviously think that Susan has one more comedy episode in her for it was Jonnie who bit the dust after, ironically, his best dance for some weeks. ‘Dreams are made and shattered here,’ he said with perfect irony on arrival in the North West.
Dressed like Captain Kirk with guy liner, more Depeche Mode than Star Trek, he and Oti were teleported to the dance floor for a technetronic Tango. Their transporters were labelled so that we knew who was who. Thank goodness for that. A blonde bloke from Cambridge would be difficult to separate from a black girl from South Africa.
A few years ago there was an act on Britain’s Got Talent where the outfits were illuminated at the hems and shown against a back drop of dense black and Team JOti’s were the same but without the lumens. The effect was terrific and it was enuff for the heroes of the hour to fight off the pesky Klingons causing all sorts of inter stellar histrionics. As the panel focused on Jonnie’s posture they were distracted from a sound technique, a dancing defiance and an intensity in keeping with the performance.
In the dance off Jonnie came across a terrified, stunned and withering Debbie but a strong performance wasn’t quite enuff for Loughborough’s finest. Here was a 24 year old young man, a wee bairn, nothing more, a non-dancer, asked to breach the realm of the greatest of comfort zones, something he did brilliantly and more so he did it with honour, a commodity in rare supply these days.
After the first three dances the Ballroom was rocked by a mini-invasion as a Spice Girls tribute band ousted the hostesses. Where was security? They had even lined up some of their music and a drag queen playing the role of Geri Halliwell (now Horner) in the halcyon days when the Union Jack frock raised more eyebrows than her recent face lifts.
The drag queen had orange ‘Geri’ hair, except for the greying edges and roots, and was obviously Granny Spice. Suddenly, Giovanni appeared from the wings and then, on a closer look, the lead dancer turned out to be the lovely Debbie McGee. No, really. And it was a Samba. No, really. Juddge Aggie is a world class Samba dancer and her view was that there was no traction through the body. Being a simpleton I added that she should bend her knees more (please remember this is not a seaside post card) and straighten, obviously, not just to walk around like a Simian.
Spiky, stiff, poorly themed, the Gin and Tonics had kicked in on the judggies’ table. 9? Maybe from 100.
The same drug induced delirium helped Joe take his tally of nines to nearly dubble figures for the series. Before you ask it was Salsa. From listening to the music and studying the outfit and the theme you needed telling. ‘Ride on Time’ was the song, an Italian Eurodance anthem from nearly thirty years ago, chosen because since then the Salsa world hasn’t produced one viable alternative. Joe even arrived on stage by being lowered from the gods on a giant clock face, like the Dreamworks’ logo of the man fishing from the moon, like a Scottish leprechaun, on time, and his dancing matched that too, though this was more like a rowdy Zumba with lifts, Joe stretching every sinew, aggression, boot camp, Rocky meets Jane Fonda.
Away from a routine misplaced by decades, by continents, by production ignorance, Joe showed more talent, a good grasp of the arm movements and enuff to suggest that with proper guidance this could have been scintillating. On the circuit teachers grab the audience for what is called a ‘line up’. In it he or she, mainly he, leads the throng from the front. The dancers mirror and copy. Most of the ‘line up’ is girls. Blokes go and have a seat for a few minutes like Joe should have. Opportunity missed. Poor Joe. You really feel for him.
Could it be a pure coincidence that the best four celebs were saved for the second half of the show, viewers teased and kept waiting? Once the hors d’oeuvres were nibbled at it was time for the main course? The top three on the Leader Board didn’t disappoint, Alexandra stunning, Gemma accomplished, Darverd maturing magnificently, like a great ageing whisky, an Iranian-English one.
Dressed like a Nubian princess Alexandra produced another spectacular effort, just 39, not knowing what she has to do to tip to perfection, a Quick Step to ‘We’re in the Money’, something that will inevitably become a self-fulfilling prophecy as long as she keeps her nose clean, avoids excess and sexual harassment scandals, though should she choose the latter there would be many volunteers. It was like the re-birth of Cyd Charisse as she produced beauty, timing, accents and synchronicity amidst the decadence of Gatsby.
Gemma was sitting on a bench waiting for a man and a tram, not the one that did for Alan Bradley, wearing a full length frock made from the off-cuts of the local big top, stripes of azure, mauve, rose and tangerine, her skin a warm shade of Cuprinol, her smile beaming golden; Blackpool is always a treat for Lancastrians. They can’t afford anything else. The entourage were also decked in pastels, the orange a tribute to the local footy team, up for sale if you’ve got a few spare coppers.
The dance itself rewarded Gemma with her first cupple of tens of the series, an elegant Smooth, sophisticated if not excessive, gentle if not dynamic, gapping if not perfection, transitions from subtle lifts heavier than light, the juddgies sold on the occasion, a sugar hit from all the rock they’d eaten. It wasn’t exactly La La Land but her beau was suitably chuffed. ‘Ponosen’ as they say in Ljubljana.
His compatriot, one of the Steam Team, young Nads, purred in agreement as Darverd produced the performance of the evening, a testing Paso to the all-time greatest Bond song ‘Live and Let Die’, the music delivered with genius by Dave Arch, his orchestra and singers.
Do you remember Ed Balls playing piano last year? He was lowered down to the dance floor right in front of me, the song ‘Great Balls of Fire’ accompanied by flames blown from huge torches? Well, the giant patio heaters were back, scorching the ceiling as Darverd was parachuted down, the canvas a sparkling Union Jack, to try and rescue his lime-clad beauty, the bad guys proving to be inept at arm to arm combat but rather good at dancing. Who’d have thought?
In the last three weeks Darverd has come of age and is now pushing the pros. He has developed a love for the art, and when added to his acting pedigree and his he-man like physique, the combination is electrifying. Power and passion dominated this Paso yet there was still space for artistry and delivery. It was worthy of the venue.
There was just one minor disappointment. He was harnessed to the parachute. And he was mechanically delivered. Was a real jump too much to ask?
November 24th 2017