1582. What a year! Queen Elizabeth was mid reign, no, not the same one, the University of Edinburgh was founded, the Spanish decided to claim Argentina and Holland though William the Silent, the founder of sign language, rebelled against the latter, Billy Shakespeare married Annie Hathaway and Pope Gregory Xlll decided to introduce a universal calendar so that most of the world had some unison and structure.
Contrary to popular belief human beings crave structure. Of course there are some that turn it into a punitive lifestyle system, you’ve got to do what you’re told and people often exploit rules and regulation. But really we would be nowhere without our core, without our rituals, without knowing what comes next. We know when Pancake Day is, the months that host the Six Nations, when to plant sweet peas and when to fly south to the sun.
In TV land this is a particularly fruitful part of the year. Rak-Su won the X Factor, an unknown was the victor in I’m a Celebrity, two people have been backed by Alan Sugar to graduate from their apprenticeships and Sir Mo Farah was named as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Anthony Joshua, the stand out performer of the year was left to wait another day.
The Sports Personality is a brilliant example of self-congratulation that the BBC do so brilliantly. In the main. There was that year when a convicted murderer voiced the golf round-up (Leslie Grantham). And it was a bit embarrassing when Dame Tanni Grey Thompson’s wheel chair couldn’t get up on to the podium. No ramp. Do you remember Daley Thompson, no relation, swearing? Or when Sir Steve Redgrave forgot to thank his wife? And when Ryan Giggs was rewarded for being alive? Or Mary Peters commenting about the trophy that she inherited from Princess Anne? ‘Hasn’t she kept it clean?’ she chirped in her Irish brogue.
This year the BBC decided to ask the disgraced ex-England football manager Sam Allardyce to present an award. Double take. The man willing to take £400,000 to offer advice on how to beat FA regulations, a bastion of standards, hands out gong. Crazy. Next year the presentation team will feature Jeffrey Archer, Fred West and Harold Shipman.
The main significance of the award ceremony was firstly the Scottish influence, the appearance of Kenny Dalglish and his interpreter to hand out the main awards and secondly, the third place trophy that was given to Jonnie Peacock for his contribution to Strictly. Nice touch that, combining both shows. Sporting a natty haircut and scruffy chin Jonnie sashayed onto the stage gushing at King Kenny not mentioning his Jive once. That wouldn’t be popular in down town Pretoria.
This option, to select someone from an ethnic minority to star at this prestigious ceremony, Kenny, dovetailed nicely into the events the evening before when a Scot and a Russian won this year’s Glitter Ball Trophy. So much for Brexit! Joe McFadden and Katya Jones danced into the history books and through the lucrative doors that such success commands. They were worthy winners. He even got a telegram from Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP, anxious to associate with a winner for once.
The final has always been a bit of a mish-mosh of structure. Two cupples? Three? Four? Who is eliminated? Who isn’t? Where is the jeopardy? The drama? How do we retain viewers? How are the numbers increased? There was a year when the contestants were eliminated before dancing their Show Dance. That’d be funn. Train for a week, perfect a jaw-dropping routine, and then . . . don’t do it. This year four cupples all went head-to-head, three dances apiece, the juddgies’ choice, their own favourite and the Show Dances.
Before that a little back drop.
Did you see Griff Rhys Jones playing guitar in Dave Arch’s band? Note to self: have a check.
I wonder how Jamie the Singer is feeling having been dropped for the final. Lance was back. And why aren’t the singers detailed on the BBC website?
This was the first final in five years without KFG. Nice change. Good luck for next year Kev . . . with everything.
Wasn’t it great to see Juddge Aggie’s girl crush back, young Nads, looking hot.
The juddgies’ scores were for guidance only. Normal.
The best dancer didn’t win. Also normal.
It’s true that, if you study the stats, and even if you watch the dances. Natalie Pro (Gumede), Ricky Whittle, Rachel Stevens, Danny Mac, Louise Redknapp, Pixie Lott, Denise Van Outen and Alexandra Burke have all excelled only to be beaten back to reality by the GBP. They may mess up General Elections and referenda but at least they got the winner right on Saturday night.
The show itself was a success without parallel, a work of joy, a spectacle and a celebration of the art. Over in a blink, the peak number of viewers nearly fourteen million.
It all began when the hostesses headed for camera one, Tess ‘Twice’ Daly in a red trouser suit, Claudia in her customary Gothic black walking downstairs as if she was wading gingerly through a field of cow clap. The contrast may have been unintentional but it added to this twenty first century version of Laurel and Hardy. Why do they never win double act of the year at the Baftas or the National Television Awards?
First upp, the accolade worthy, went to Alexandra the Fly Catcher, honoured and humbled to have the most prominent role. If you can’t win, go first, show them what they’re missing. And then gracefully stand to the side.
In the last ten dances, including a ropey Rumba, Alex has averaged 38.5 and has scored 32 tens in total from start to finish. Both are unprecedented stats and they tell us something that we already knew; there is no doubt that Alex is a brilliant dancer with the ability to turn her hand to anything, in fact everything. She has more than versatility, no jack of one trade, a master of many. Or should that be any? She reprised her Smooth and Jive and maxed them both in a pique of performance and delivery. Her Show Dance fell short by one point and as predicted even 119 from 120 wouldn’t be enough to grab the main prize.
Alex’s dad was in the crowd. Note to proud father. Wear the tie or take it off. Half way isn’t a good look. His face beamed throughout as she performed on a film set but he must have been wondering, like the rest of us, what was going on. There she sat in a satin green kimono and a flapper headdress messing about in front of a vanity mirror, something you suspect she may have done before, and as she tousled and preened we waited. And waited. Prime time telly, and she just teased. I’m sure she was supposed to dance but the instruction must have been to hang on in there.
After some foreplay, and fiveplay, and sixplay, she stripped to reveal a light golden number; it looked like a second hand frock or one she’d worn before. Ah, well, if she likes it. And then the accelerator button was pushed. Quick Step, Charleston and Argentine Tango all popped up as the adrenalin coursed through her body. All too soon, at the flick of some glitter, it was over, her fingers noticeably pointed like the shape of Rudolph, the Reindeer, not Nureyev. She was finished, spent and brilliant. With dancing like that she could well end up in the West End.
The lovely Debbie McGee finished third on the night on the Leader Board but we will never know what the genuine end result was. Once the winners were announced bedlam ensued and the dancing was replaced by revelry, intoxication and non-chemical highs. That’s how it works.
Debbie scored 117/120, only her reprised Argentine Tango hitting all the spots for the juddgies. Her Salsa, him clunkier than her, dropped one point, her Show Dance a further two.
The chemistry between this mother and father combination has been the glue in all their performances and it was no different in a Show Dance that was simple, beautiful and refined, the song, ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, adding an emotional purity to the narrative, a narrative that was missing from Alex’s opener. Like any good fella Gio has focused on his partner, what is the best for her, what she can and can’t do, and placing her with affection on a dancing pedestal. Hats off to him.
Debbie wore her old ballet shoes and stood on top of a music box ready to be wound up and let loose for the penultimate occasion. It was a normal music box, not a giant one, and she proceeded with balletic lines, standing turns, cradle lifts, something that bizarrely always gets a big shout from the audience and that neck lift, no hands, more turns, more drama. If you add Gio’s five turns to left, something that he does twice a series, a minor distraction, it was a sumptuous display but it wasn’t enough to win the night. Good of her to end with where she began, back at the Royal School of Ballet. Sorry, on top of the music box. The circle is now complete, Debbie, for so long dutiful in her place as second billing to an international luminary her star has now ascended in its own right.
Gemma was always up against it, yet, driven, grabbing her opportunities where they have appeared, an outside bet with the bookies. As a glamour model, a fine exponent of swimwear and lingerie, it was no surprise that Gemma chose sex to try and win the day. And why not, I can hear you ask? The oldest industry in the world. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Tall, sultry, in great shape, her assets speak for themselves, especially the ones she has paid for.
Bring on her Show Dance to a song about burlesque. You get a lot of that in Bury. Bordellos, brothels, boudoirs. Open all hours.
Gemma began in the shadows, a bluish hue to the lighting, tantalising us on top of some giant letters that coincidentally spelt her name. For thirty seconds the camera captured her silhouette, curves where they should be though she wore tights not stockings, her leg lines teasing. All she needed was a whip, a few high heels and an idiots’ guide to BDSM and the party would have really started. (Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism . . . or replace with your own favourites.)
As is the dance itself contained a melange of Quick Step and Charleston, carefully introduced lifts, not that high but off the ground nonetheless, and a feisty sass all heightened by a magical synchronicity. Their togetherness was as sharp as any, the delivery powerful and worthy. Gemma has become the Boudicca of the Ballroom. Or Boadicea. Depends where you went to school. On the night she finished with seven tens, two in her Blackpool Paso, two in the sex show and three in her Smooth that also knocked up a massive 39, her highest score of the series. ‘Thanks for having us,’ Gemma said as if she’d just been round for Sunday tea. You know, she could well be my new favourite. Of all the Show Dances this is the one that rang truest, the most inventive, the best delivered, the most intoxicating.
Joe woke up on Sunday morning in a haze of disbelief still dressed in his toy soldier’s outfit, white pants and blood red tunic. Next to him, on the bedside, the Glitter Ball trophy rested proving that he hadn’t dreamt everything. Had it really happened? Three months in the arms of a Russian hottie? A six figure cheque in the bank. No work for a cupple of months, a blank canvas to exploit his new national notoriety.
As our great friend would have said, ‘Didn’t he do well?’ The GBP took to the self-effacing Scot and his delightful partner. In Week One his Jive offered real promise. In the following weeks his Cha, Tango and Paso made milk curdle. This wasn’t going to be easy.
But our oldest winner ever struck a fine accord with Katya and the growth curve through November offered every mere mortal hope. If Joe can. We can.
In Week Three there were signs. This was his Dr Zhivago based Viennese Waltz, produced again in the final. His technique was smarter than ever, his feet closing on cue, his Fleckerl spot on, his cross steps smooth and flat; no rise and fall. This was Russia no Roman Empire.
That said there was a wobble that no one touched on. Right at the end of the routine he turned Katya before the elves pulled the sleigh away with her aboard. As he led the move his left foot nearly gave way and he stumbled like he’d been hit by a little right hook. We carried on as if nothing had happened and he still scored three tens and nine. So no penalties for mistakes in the final then?
On the Leader Board, when all the juddgies had put away their paddles, Joe was just one point behind Alex, 40 for his brilliant Charleston and 39 for his less brilliant Show Dance. Joe played Prince Charming to Katya’s Cinders, her beginning the dance in a turquoise fat suit moving to grey rags and a Halloween broomstick and then finishing in a stunning frock bedecked with silver, titanium and City blue. A fair transition as her beau searched for the foot that fitted the shoe. Would have been a perfect theme for Jonnie Peacock that . . .
After a week or so we all decided that the shoe fitted Katya, the giant clock hadn’t really struck midnight seven times, and that some Quick Step could eventually be unleashed. Which it was. Neat, natty, all delivered with Joe knowing where the camera was. It was joyful if unspectacular, a reverse somersault and synchronicity being the highlights. At the finish he dropped to his knee and branded a box with a ring. I knew a girl who told her bloke that she loved carrots so each year at birthdays and Christmas he bought her carrots. Raw ones, grated, tinned, even chocolate. I bet she wished she’d said carats.
So that’s it folks, it’s all over. What a blast! In a world full of turmoil this show provides a beacon of wonder and hope, a vision of possibility and dreams for all. The caricature juddgies have all excelled, Dame Shirley has been a resounding success with her technique, insight and heart, the costumes have been outstanding, the singing and music off the planet. And, as ever, the producers need a shellacking. Of course they do. The lack of genuine music for genuine dances is still the show’s biggest blemish. One wonders why such myopia continues.
My usual thanks: Juddgies Hils, Lulu, Aggie, Lewis, Magnum and Lola, she was a showgirl, it wouldn’t have happened without you.
And Season’s Greetings to you all.
December 22nd 2017