Strictly 2017 Series 15 – Week 6

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Did you know that in New Zealand they don’t have pumpkins at Halloween? Just thought I’d throw that out there.

The pumpkin on the TV screen reminded me of my boss. No, not the fat orange face but simply the teeth that had been carved into the flesh: triangles, squares, oblongs. His are more like Stonehenge but you get the picture.

When the broomsticks appeared I was transported to A & E, flashbacks to a previous life bringing me out in a severe rash. Halloween was back.

Craig was dressed as The Joker, a purple suit, white face and green cravat, straight from the set of The Comedians. Bruno looked like a zebra, the black and white stripes on the suit he wore last week on his brief residence in one of USA’s finest state penitentiaries. I’m told he was supposed to be a character called Beetlejuice, a malevolent ghost, so why do I always think of Beetroot Juice when I hear that? Where were the purple stains on his hands? Darcey rocked in as a sexed up Little Red Riding Hood bringing out the Big Bad Wolf in the country’s male population. And then there was Dame Shirley, 101 Dalmatians Wear Prada, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close teaming up to become Cruella de Vil. Her beautifully informed acid tongue wreaked fear in the dancing professionals and one of our hostesses. No slouch, our Shirl. Very endearing. So not really Halloween, just tenuous dressing up, something the BBC do beautifully.

As the masses gathered for the honour, perm one from four, you could have wiped a month off the show in one fell swoop, it was Simon who got the chop this week; the cook has had his chips. His goose is cooked.

Simon played the character of a chef, just like in real life, The Sunday Brunch host appearing as Sweeney Todd, a mass murderer and an early competitor for Greggs in the fast food market. Sweeney used to make pies with human filling but only at the end of October, hence the link to Halloween, which is why it took so long to catch him. Looking more like Bill Sykes from Oliver, sideburns from the Seventies, it took an educated guess to work out which dance Simon was actually doing. Rather than a Viennese Waltz Smooth was it the ‘Ten Pints and Fight’ dance? Or the ‘Get Me My Dinner Woman’ jig? Ah, got it, it was a homage to Master of the House from Les Mis. No, definitely Nancy and Oliver. The confusion couldn’t hide the lack of filling in this particular dish. A game trier, a true beginner, it was his third and final dance off. Will he ever dance again? Certainly not on telly. Next week we pay homage to Fred West, Harold Shipman and Anders Breivik.

Susan appeared wearing a blonde Viking wig, like Brunhild without the horny hat, a shield maiden, a fiery dominatrix. Still searching for the heights she attained in her Quick Step she started on top of a dragon that dropped gently into the studio from the rafters, not a real dragon, obviously, there are none in captivity, more a giant red and orange brolley, though Susan breathed fire during rehearsals, just like how my ex-wife used to make toast. Kevin from Grimsby appeared like a romantic poet; long coat and scraggly hair, a scruffy oik. How to sell a dance. Apparently it was a take on something called Game of Thrones, a show I’ve never seen, and Susan was the Dragon Queen. If you ever wanted to learn how to Fox Trot this would not be the one to watch.

Long John Silver was the bad guy in Treasure Island, a man with no left leg. As Jonnie’s missing limb is the other one this is where the likeness ends though for his Cha, that pesky Cha, easy to get the timing, tricky to get the leg action, Jonnie was a pirate too, his dream fulfilled, Blond Jonnie Golden. He wins lots of fancy dress competitions does Jonnie.

Who’d have thought that we would ever hear the words ‘heavy bladed’ and ‘pigeon blades’ on a Saturday night? We didn’t but you get the drift. The Cha is about placing the foot forwards not banging it down as if you were trying to burst a balloon or dig to Australia. With all the Owen Wilson swash and buckle to gawp at nothing could hide the plank that nearly beckoned Team JOti towards the soup.

On November 24th Anthony Smith of Bristol is releasing his debut album ‘From The Top’. I know. Singing. We’ve had Bradley Walsh topping the charts, Jason Manford doing a UK tour, singing, not telling gags, and now Bristol’s finest is joining in. By the 24th he and the delightful Ruthie will be at home, feet up, all their jokers used, no more aces in the pack. They’ve already dunn three Ballroom dances, his forte, including tonight’s Quick Step, they’ve been hidden well along with the rest of the beginners yet the inevitability follows them like a ghoulish shadow. The dance featured the theme to Bewitched, a benign TV comedy of yesteryear, where the hostess could do magic by twitching her nose. One move and she made her partner dance in a scary Halloween outfit . . . a tank top and a tie. And with a rabbit’s bob on the butt of his trousers.

Dame Shirley got her teeth out for the Steam Team; had they been puppies they’d have been skinned alive and made into a cloak for her. You can’t blame poor Darverd for the Rumba or for his partner’s support.

‘I’m so proud of him.’

‘He’s worked so hard.’

‘He is doing brilliantly.’

If only things were different.

Overheard in the dressing room afterwards.

‘I told you there were too many lunges.’

‘Aren’t there any steps in the Rumba?’

‘Do I really have to dress like this?’

‘It’s see through?’

‘And everyone can see my tits!’

‘Nads! Come on! There must be more to it than this!’

This was an ethereal effort, an actor’s dream, a contemporary approach. Whenever anyone says contemporary it just means no steps.

The same can be said when dancers focus on a prop for most of the routine. The naughty, horny devils, the under thirties, Mollie and Anderson Jarreau, clad in red, bull horns and tails, crucified a Cha to ‘Better the Devil You Know’ whilst holding a trident, a large fork not a nuclear missile. Now Mollie, whilst she is cheeky and playful, she doesn’t like Latin. In fact she hates it. She said so, loud and proud. She was so convincing in her conviction that the Great British Public took her to their hearts and made her do it again in the dance off. Who says there is no justice?

Did you know that there are no vampires in France? Another factoid.

There aren’t any in Bury now either; Gemma the Vampire Slayer has sorted them all. The stakes were really high in an octane-charged Jive and what a minxy performance we were rewarded with. Okay, she wasn’t wearing many clothes, tick, an LBD accentuating her magnificent pins, tick, but she needed no hiding place as she pranced, cavorted and retracted with style, tick, maintaining the tempo throughout, tick. Imagine Marilyn Monroe doing Happy Birthday Mr President but at 78 RPM not 33. If this is how they do aerobics across the Pennines I’ll be there in a jot.

The next time they play a Fox Trot at the local pally I’m going to dress like a tarantula, lie on the dance floor, squirm a bit, get up and do a few bars and end up in a spider’s web, captured by some Gothic goddess wearing a tutu and a see-through bodice flashing her underwear. In fact, I’m going to write to the IDTA (International Dance Teachers’ Association) and see if they will add these figures to the Guy Howard Technique manual and DVDs, the latter yours for £114.95 plus package and postage.

As we know Joe has talent if not pedigree. As an actor he is in his element. As a dancer it depends on the element and he has discovered his frame, some style, much timing and a joy for the art. His partner, however, could make it as a magician should her dance career ever take second place in her life. Rather than faff for half a minute or more at the start of the routine, as is the norm, Katya decided to break it up, twenty-five seconds here, fifteen there, another fifteen squirrelled in at the close. Smoke, mirrors and spiders all in the same dance. This was a new Halloween hybrid monster, half faff, half dance. Not pretty. In spite of that Joe won’t be disappearing any time soon.

The food chain – toffee apples, parkin, cinnamon swirls, black treacle toffee and jacket potatoes – took an ominous look as, for the first time, the three pros all hit the top spots of the dance parade, 35, 38, 39. It is unlikely but let’s hope that this is just a blip.

There is more than one song called ‘Maneater’. I’m a Hall and Oates fan meself and their song is about a girl who defies modern day culture and wilfully sleeps her way to fame and fortune, a mildly sexual psychopath. Another tune of the same name is by the Canadian songstress Nelly Furtado and just by sheer coincidence the lyrics focus on zombies, the living dead, Haitian history, flesh eating undeads and the film the Silence of the Lambs. Honest, it’s all in there. Apparently it’s a Tango too and by chance Alexandra was made up like a zombie, lavender streaked with grey and platinum, her hair doused by errant ashes from the local crematorium. Her partner looked like John Travolta in Grease after a heavy night out.

A word of warning for young Alexandra. As the plaudits rained in along with the eight and the nines for a wonderfully sharp and crisp, purposeful performance, please remember that your body is always communicating and that it doesn’t lie. The high scores were no shock to her. She was expecting them. Assumed excellence. And the GBP don’t like that. They don’t like that at all.

You may remember a film called Strictly Ballroom directed by Baz Luhrmann from 1992. You may not know that there is a musical version that played at the Leeds Playhouse back in the first quarter of this year. It has toured North America and now heads to the West End, a great show, the highlight when the maverick star is shown how to do the Paso by a Flamenco champion, in real life, the magnificent dancer, Fernando Mira. The moment bursts with passion, desire and authenticity. Aston, Buster’s grandson, nearly matched it, as good a Paso as the show has seen ever, power, technique and an extraordinary delivery.

Looking like Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die the two elusive points – he like Alexandra is being harshly juddged compared to the non-dancers – were lost in the inauthentic track and a small inclusion of hip-hop, Aston back on the pop video stage. A great opportunity missed. And oh yeah, why did the burial casket, centre stage, state ‘cemetery’ on it when the backdrop was filled with tombstones? What else could it have been? A bus stop? The car park at Tesco’s?

According to the ghoulish paddles the lovely Debbie McGee topped the Paso by a point, the beauty of subjectivity in juddgement, even when it’s wrong. Lest it not be said that Debbie wasn’t brilliant. She was. But who could Paso like Buster’s grandson?

Giovanni, the Italian lothario who partners Debbie appeareded looking like Lou Ferrigno’s younger, smaller brother, a green Incredible Hulk face in a Showaddywaddy suit. Dave Bartram was the fashion consultant. Apparently he was supposed to be Frankenstein, Giovanni, remarkably light on his feet for a monster and Debbie was . . . her self.

The Charleston was peppered with pace, precision, brilliance and energy, a round the world lift and a courageous shoulder ride to drop to finish. We even had a clothes change behind a screen, bit of time to do the hoovering, the whole performance a fitting tribute to four years in a professional dance troupe during her youth. If she wasn’t a serious contender before she is now.

As we move forward it is time for us all to wish for some more mysticism from the wizzards at the BBC. How about a special theme week, where the magicians and the witches focus on correct spellling?

Week Seven.

Theme: Proper Dancing.

Now that would be magic.

Dave Schofield
November 3rd 2017