Strictly 2018 Series 16 – Week 10

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Last Saturday night a mobile phone rang somewhere in Northamptonshire. A lady answered it.

‘Raymond, it’s for you.’

‘Who is it, Pet? Not more PPI?’

‘No, luv,’ she paused, fearful, ‘it’s our Graeme . . .’

‘Our Graeme? I’ve just watched him dance . . . he wor like Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail . . . doin’ a Quick Step . . . camp as a sailor . . . ‘

‘Pause the telly, luv . . . ‘

‘Dad?’

‘Son?’

‘It’s bad, dad.’

‘The grandkids are alright, aren’t they?’

‘Fine, fine, it’s just . . . you remember my debut for Northants?’

‘Aye, great day, very proud of you, son.’

‘And Notts?’

‘Aye, same.’

‘And me first Test wicket?’

‘Gambhir, third ball, Chennai. Dravid in the same over . . . two great players . . . very proud of you, son, very proud.’

‘And all those Ashes wins?’

‘Great days, son . . . Graeme, what’s up?’

‘You’ll never guess . . . ’

‘Fourth one?’

‘Aye.’

‘Bloody hell!’

‘Aye.’

‘Who’ve you got? The lad from Eastenders? Crikey, I could’ve dunn a better Tango than that . . . he wasn’t stalking like a panther . . . no drive from the chest . . . the height thing didn’t work did it . . . he’s huge . . . not his best either . . . he doesn’t do formal . . . he’d have never made an opening bat . . . you’ve got to be correct, Graeme, feet movement, good frame, balance. He looked like he wor humping fruit on a market stall.’

‘No, dad, not Charles.’

‘The World Champion athlete then? Salsa on a pool table? Reminded me of an X-rated film I saw . . . ahum . . . before you were born, son.’

‘No, dad, not Lauren, though to be fair, bottom of the Leader Board two weeks on the trot, she tried her hardest to go home.’

‘Who’ve you got then?’

Ashley . . .’

Ashley?

‘Ashley.’

‘Bloody hell.’

‘I know.’

‘But she’s a pro . . . you’re a dancing bairn in comparison.’

‘I know.’

‘Graeme, we’re very proud of you son . . . and look at all that weight you’ve lost.’

‘Thanks, dad.’

‘I’ll put t’kettle on.’

And so it came to pass. No prizes for getting a cob on or for penning a note begging for leniency, rarely mute, Graeme’s Quick Step was his Swann Song, four sixes, a bad over, never enough, a messy, skippy, runny routine. We are told often that people are like swans, graceful on the surface, webbed feet going like the clappers under the Plimsoll line. This was neither. No clappers, no grace, just treading water. His time had come. But he should be proud of what he has achieved, his attitude and his application, the same as a nice five wicket haul at Trent Bridge.

To be fair Charlie and Lauren could have joined him; it really was Hobson’s choice, both also struggling to swim in the deep end.

We all know that dance is about the total recipe, the music, the look, the feel, the perfect partner, the delivery of the inward message of emotion and passion. For Charlie it all took a back step when the band struck up Eleanor Rigby. You’ll know the song. It might as well have been the theme tune to Pinky and Perky. Add in the height differential and his basic technique and it made hard viewing. Last week Hottie Hauer scored her first ever ten in her Strictly career. She will have to wait at least another year for her next.

On the plus side Lauren looked hot, a younger version of Wonder Woman without the boots and the magical tiara. And her Salsa was okay, far better than her score suggested, as much as we have seen in an eon, in spite of the pool table used as a giant air hockey pitch and the forum on which to dance. Try dancing on such a small space. Not easy. In a club you have to because there are normally other people on your dance floor. Good teachers say, ‘pretend you’re dancing on a dustbin lid’ and that works. But a pool table where all you can do is the baize-icks?

What was missing was fluency, soft skills, a learnt follow, pace and a genuine dynamic. A slow song makes it harder for the novice to be spectacular, it exposes much, and the diminutive Albert Jonas was never going to include masses of tricks and lifts. I mean, how would he get her off the ground? He’s not exactly Precious Mackenzie is he?

Joe and Stacey fall into The Emperor’s New Clothes category this week, 35 and 39, five tens between them, surely a pre-ordained command. You can only assume that the Christmas hotels have been booked for this cupple because neither dance merited any gratuitous ovation or hallucinogenic response; Joe’s Street Commercial dance was a bad audition for Britain’s Got Talent and Stacey’s effort, the newly named, for one week only, the Paso Dooley, was as sloppy as her Salsa in Blackpool.

Joe is a fit young man, athletic, trim, and he can do ‘gym stuff’ and aerobics till the cows come home. Which is just as well. Diagnosed with a new disease that could have resulted in Death by Prop, he played basketball, little ball, big ball, he used a hand towel, he slid on the floor, ran around, off time and out of soul with the music. Zac Efron’s role in High School Musical was never under threat. For some reason his clothes were four sizes too big for him, like Tom Hanks in ‘Big’.

You will remember that I mentioned ‘Malaguena’ last week, Anita Rani’s Paso at Blackpool. It scored 37 and was in a different league to this year’s offering (39) using the same music. Had the song choice been ‘Who Will Buy’ from Oliver the answer would clearly have been, ‘not me’. For all the veneer Stacey didn’t convince. A bull with sass? Smiling? Leering? Poor feet, it felt like a Friday night in Chingford with Nancy, a fight to the death outside a chip shop. And you were left wondering, ‘where was Bill Sykes when you needed him the most?’ Or Bullseye? Well, it was a Paso . . .

Ashley reaped the benefit of another old favourite, ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’, infamous as the tune used by Mark Ramprakash and Karen Hardy in their Salsa in 2006 when their microphone cables became entangled, and by Thom Evans and Iveta Lukosuite four years ago. Samba was the beneficiary on this occasion as we all were. For all her Glinda smugness Ashley can dance, beautifully, passionately, fantastically, she connects with the art, more so than most, and as a result she suffers minor persecution from the juddgies, very picky. Was this really staccato? Or did she blow us all away? As mentioned, Ashley had the pleasure of her first dance off, a clear sign that the GBP maybe making their move towards another winner.

There is a cricketing term, ‘it’s like batting after Bradman.’ It alludes to the fact that Don Bradman, the greatest batter of all time, was hard to follow. He averaged 99.94 in Test matches. The next best in the record books is 61.87.

So who should dance after Ashley? Faye got the honour and Waltzed her way to a regal 39. It made you purr, the Waltz does that, a semi-circle of nine pivots a beautiful highlight. Her partner has directed her charge to the final with aplomb. Understated, polite and quiet, his role of respectful participant a welcome replacement to the noisy, contentious, gobby former pros who now dance by tweet. So, two pros and two people’s champions to pick from come the big day in December.

Next week it is Musicals week, a genre of endless possibilities which is what we had this week with the first ever Lindy Hop-athon, a fusion of Jazz, Tap and Charleston, where all the cupples tested their floor craft dancing together, the same song with different routines. The theory went that the best cupple would score 7 points and the worst just the one.

We love a novel idea, especially when it creates a historic live TV moment. Here’s a few we prepared earlier . . .

Do you remember Lulu the Elephant from Ceylon (Sri Lanka for the youngsters) on Blue Peter in 1969 when it decided to have a toilet break whilst the nation’s kids had their tea? The handler slipped in it, John Noakes stood in it, Lulu stood on John.

Or the Prime Minister’s conference speech with the P45 and the letters falling off the backdrop in Manchester last year?

The La La Land – Moonlight fiasco?

Or Erica Roe, the Twickenham streaker, who entertained 65,000 people in 1982 doing her own version of the pendulum?

At the end of the Lindy Hop the juddgies lost the script, sorry, scores. The iPad went down, the note pads had disintegrated in a Mission Impossible sort of way and the Papal enclave was left gasping for credibility.

Graeme was the worst. No he wasn’t.

Lauren was. No, back to Graeme.

Charles danced with Dianne. No he didn’t.

Charles and Dianne? I think I’ve heard that before.

It was unscripted TV brilliance, Bruno the eventual mouthpiece. It was as if the producers were whispering to him through an ear piece in a David Coleman sort of way.

Surely that would never happen?

Dave Schofield

Bristol

November 30th 2018.