This is getting a bit tedious; please blame the GBP and the structure of the show.
Last Saturday night a mobile phone rang somewhere in Portsmouth. Lauren’s sister answered it.
‘Alright our Laurie.’
‘You’ll never guess . . . dance off . . . Ashley . . . I’ll put the kettle on.’
Or something like that, you know the drill.
And so it came to pass.
Depending on your age you receive certain gratuities from the NHS. There’s MOTs, flu jabs, smears, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Ratio tests, cancer scans, breast and bowel, and it is the latter that I’d like to focus on, albeit briefly. A friend of mine qualified for the free test and in the post he received a DIY enema. IKEA do the same with their suppository furniture. You put it up yourself.
As it happens the date was cancelled because of staff shortages and it was re-organised for a few weeks later. My friend received another enema in the post.
Like he’d used the first one!
This was like Lauren’s dance off; the night had not gone well, a Samba (23) set on a ship that was surely heading for an iceberg and a middling Tango (31) that she decided to reprise in the dance off. Enema 2.
In truth Tango 2 was slicker, smarter than the first effort, they normally are, in spite of a hideous song, Nutbush City Limits, and you have to hand it to Lauren, her efforts have been fabulous, as a pure novice, worthy, the very essence of the show. There is a true bond with the young and fearless Algenon Jethro, a shoe-in for Marius in Les Mis when he eventually gets to that rebellious age.
You don’t need a first in Psychology to see their issue, the same as it had been for Swanny and Charlie, that in the dance off, they all faced the magnificent Ashley, a superstar destined never to win the Glitter Ball and almost unbeatable in a one versus one. Who could top her in Strictly history? The great Juddge Alice? Natalie Gumede, another pro? Caroline Flack? Abbey Clancey? Alexandra Burke? Danny Mac? Ricky Whittle? Harry Judd? Faye? Now that would be a proper show, the best ten ever in a real competition, fake tan, scratches and cat fights, especially under strict dance rules and regulations. When it appears on the BBC you will know that you read it here first.
The camera panned to Ashley’s face when it was announced that she would dance again and there was real pain behind her eyes. Gone was any pretence, image and façade. Her genuine vulnerability won many hearts and courageously she said that she would go out there and do it again. Deep down, amidst the pain, she, like previous celeb-pros, must have been wondering what on earth she had done wrong, being penalised just for being who she is. Her pedigree is well catalogued but what else can she do? It’s a dance show so she dances. We all long for the days when it will be Strictly Never Danced Beginners Only . . . but until then . . . maybe if we contextualise . . . it’s only a game show.
Scores of 36 (Paso) and 40 (Smooth) should have left the world in cheers of hysteria. Like a benevolent hurricane her ferocious passionata from the bull ring was swished in the mind to be replaced by a sumptuous Smooth involving a car, a big Yankee thing, a bit Starsky and Hutch but sky blue rather than red. They sat on it, Ashley danced on the bonnet and in the lift to descend, perched on her partner’s shoulder, she was held by one leg and, she bent forward and she posed like the badge of the car. Her core, her partner’s lower back, simply stunning.
There was a touch of the Cyd Charisse about Ashley. But she won’t win. The GBP like a journey and we are due a female champion from these shores. Of the fifteen winners to date (9 men, 6 women) all but one have been English, only last year’s champion was Scottish, ten points if you can remember his name, so the likelihood of an American? More chance of the BBC publishing the voats next week.
Semi-finals are nervy affairs, I’m told most affairs are nervy, and having to learn two new dances posed its own problems for the other three who have made it to the big day, Joe, through on a clear sympathy voat, overmarked to balance the books. A dance off against Lauren would have been very interesting but the final needs a man, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?
So what did we learn about Joe, 29 for a Viennese Waltz, a single point more for an Argentine Tango that would have normally scraped a six, dutifully awarded by the panel’s conscience.
The VW was to ‘This Year’s Love’ and how apt. Joe, bizarrely described as a Social Media Superstar, whatever that is, spent the slow track gazing into Reddo’s eyes. And she reciprocated. It couldn’t help the rise and fall, more in this dance than the Third Reich or the Roman Empire, but it would certainly have improved his post-show Saturday night.
His clunky second dance didn’t offer any more hope, blocks of moves held together by Blu-Tac, Joe dressed like Norman Wisdom does the Peaky Blinders. Some information here for the producers. The dance is set in South America and it’s about prostitutes, dockers and Heinrich Band. The last time I looked there wasn’t a port in Birmingham. You might struggle to find a Bandoneon too. Or a Mr Grimsdale.
As we know, when the music is right it gives the dancers half a chance. Of course, it helps if you’ve been trained in many dance disciplines and been in the West End starring in Me and My Girl, Tell Me on a Sunday, In the Spotlight and Over the Rainbow.
Faye is a beautiful dancer, her place in the pantheon of Strictly All Time Greats guaranteed, her fantastic technique in the Samba (37) and Argentine Tango (39) was worth the entrance fee on its own. Her legs straightened when they should in Rio, they flicked with controlled abandon in Buenos Aires, her hips rocked, her passion burned, voltas, ganchos, kicks, dips, left you wondering why? You know the questions, don’t you? Why now? Why not in September? It is as frustrating as someone with OCD wanting it to be CDO. With ‘I Go to Rio’ and ‘La Cumparsita’ perfectly added you may remember an advert from a watch maker a few years ago.
‘Someday all dances will be made this way.’ (Adapted)
Of the three beginners on show only one did herself any favours with the GBP, not that she needed them, the People’s Champion has it to lose now as we enter the last Saturday of the season. It really is in her hands. Well, feet. With an aggregate of 75 she was just one point behind the pros but a chasm in front of Joe and Lauren, 59 and 54.
Let’s begin with her Viennese Waltz for it merits a severity of critique. Not Stacey, not her dancing. But again the music; it’s really quite important isn’t it? But who do you aim comments at? Poor KFG only does the choreography. Did he choose the song? Do you point at the Director of Music for his noteworthy work? Or even the composer Umberto Bindi? He wrote it, he’s not just a random musico selected by luck pin. It took a full fifty (50) seconds for the Fleckerl to begin the routine following a terminal introduction, a further ten for the real Waltz to start. Could’ve cooked tea whilst that was on. And nipped to Waitrose.
Thereafter things went well this duo rippling with intensity and chemistry, one of KFG’s trademarks apart from his balletic splendour. Is it a coincidence that Susanna Reid split from her partner after a series with Kev? And Louise Redknapp? He is a passionate man . . . and a dance prodigy . . . so much so that this may be his last hurrah on the show . . . the West End beckons . . . and behind the scenes tensions with Hottie will disappear in a pivot. It will be a sad loss to the show. Is there another male superstar in Grimsby?
The dance that elevated Stacey ever closer towards the Glitter Ball was a Charleston (39), a homage to the suffragettes of a century ago. They had a tuff time the ladies fighting for the right to voat. They had to battle peer group pressure, patronising and dismissive people from the other gender, a system bent against their value. Their reaction, not before time, included hunger strikes, direct marketing, mailshots, posting on Socials, arson attacks in a Mandela sort of way, lots of placards, being chained to railings and martyrdom.
That response came from the liberation following the First World War when the class structure buckled, the motor car encouraged movement and women taunted social norms and behaviours, as well as smoking (bit daft that one), drinking and partying.
The party that Stacey brought us was energetic, free-flowing, fast, furious and fabulous, our heroine dressed in the spare tinsel from this year’s seasonal decorations. The routine exuded enjoyment in a bawdy, seaside post card sort of way, more focused than slapstick, precise and clean, she went over KFG’s head, through his legs, up in the air, there was a vertical reverse cowboy, of sorts, it was all beautifully dappy. So too the Prima Ballerina who mixed up her animals when describing one move. Slap the donkey, she said, meaning slap the pony. If only she’d have said monkey . . .
Would have brought the house down more than the dance.
December 14th 2018.