Strictly 2018 Series 16 – Week 6

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Forever informative . . . did you know that the clocks always go back on the last Sunday of October when our temporal frame moves from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time so that we can all save money on candles and electricity, an idea introduced by the builder William Willett, the great-great-grandfather of Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay? In true romantic fashion the process began in 1916, a year after Bill the Builder died (think Suspension Bridge and Brunel – he died before it was finished), so that we could make the most of daylight hours. In a world where you have to do what you have to do light and dark, in this example, mean little, save for the extra hour in bed and the amnesia on the return bout at the end of March, an event that caused me to miss the start of a rugby game a few years ago. No one told me they change the clocks in France too . . .

In the dark of late October, a little earlier than normal, the Remembrance Poppies are already out (well it is the 100th birthday and there are few greater causes), Halloween is in full swing, and the trick and treaters were at it at the weekend and on Wednesday, door knocking on all the houses in the neighbourhood, a Canadian invention dating back to 1927, where they obviously had never heard the warning of ‘don’t take sweets from a stranger’. Bit counter-intuitive that one and a confusing instruction for the younger element of the population. This really is the greatest time to be an agoraphobic paedophile.

The dance studios at Elstree were at their hyper-extended best as the production team, designers, artists, hair, make up, floor team, everyone, pulled out all the stops to make this a vista of wonderment, the perfect opportunity to camouflage vice with virtue as the dancers divided magically into three leagues, the two lady pros, way up there, stratospheric, then the possibles, a changing clientele, and finally, the beginners, the latter all doing a new dance for the first time, five of them scoring less than 25, three fighting for the ignominy of the worst of the night all bagging just twenty points. Three months into the journey, that must have been hard to achieve. Mediocre is too good a word to use. I’m sure that when the producers checked out the horrorscope for the day that they never saw that coming.

It was a shocker. Like a spook with a broken leg, a Hoblin Goblin. Like a centre forward who can’t get the ball over the ghoul line. Like a visit to the opticians where you don’t bump into anyone that you know. I saw an optometrist recently which made her feel a little redundant.

So where to start? The top, two 39s, both deserving of the accolade, both under-scored, Faye and Ashley, one performing Theatre Jazz, the third and last new dance of the series, the other a Charleston, both with such aplomb, skill and delivery that superlatives are not enough to describe them. For the beginners please replace that with laxatives.

Before they went out there, Faye in the black and white of the Taoist yin and yang, Ashley as a left over bell shaped Christmas decoration, they sat together in a shared dressing room sipping a glass of potion from the gourd of good fortune, the word ‘Coven’ on the door, truly broom mates, here to stay.

If Bonnie and Clyde were to dance together this would be how they would do it, Faye and Giovanni in synchronised perfection, her great on her toes, reverse knee crawling pure artistry, a true togetherness. All that was done away with were the fire arms.

There was something a little odd about Ashley’s dance. No, not the brilliant dance, nor Pasta appearing from a door in a tree stump sporting a fat body suit reminding him of his recent weight loss programme. It was the three props on the stage, red with white spots, giant sex toys. Sorry if you’re eating. But watch it and check . . .

I don’t know if you’ve been following the BBC of late, all the palaver over equal pay, the profile of women, the forced departure of stalwart Simon Mayo, replaced by the super-gobby Sara Cox, (does she ever shut up?), positive discrimination gone wrong, the Animal Farm of the broadcasting world. Well, as well as having two female hostesses on Strictly, no men allowed, a female Head Juddge, no straight male in sight, a lady hosting It Takes Two (and soon the Radio 2 Breakfast Show), and an Executive Producer called Louise, the theory transcended into a woman leading a man in the Tango. Because that happens all the time. Like men having children.

Stacey was the beneficiary or victim, you pick, dancing to the theme tune from Dr Who, oh, yes, another woman, the wonderful Jodie ‘Broadchurch’ Whittaker. That said all the empirical studies show that women outshine men in the medical profession so that’s not really a surprise. Talking of Dr Who, did you notice the metamorphosis, the juddge on the end changed to the Tonioli – Gest avatar, CGI (computer generated image), obviously.

The opening section where Stacey was used as the hand of a giant clock took the core of an athlete, pure imagination and award winning choreography. However, amidst her dancing dexterity and undoubted class and ability her partner still led the section where she was dancing the male lead. It’s true, watch the pull with his right hand to add shape, a perfect example of 350 million years of evolution. Her scores of 32, 33, 33 and 35 over the past four weeks are pointing her towards Christmas. Who knows, if she does well, she might even get her own TV show?

One can only hope that the BBC don’t create their own channel of Vloggers and Bloggers (you heard it here first) because if they do then there would be only one host. No, not a lady, but Joe the Roofer. It’s a shoe in.

For some reason his Halloween dance was a Fox Trot that began on the fairground ride the Waltzer. Hmmmn. It looked like the producers were mirroring James Dean, please don’t get into a car if he’s driving, bog brush for hair, all hiding a lovely Ballroom frame, perfect feet, still missing though a sense of meaning and depth, a bit like a wheel without its spooks.

In contrast Lauren was in her element even though it was a non-Halloween element. With the artistic license that goes with ‘we can do what we like, dahling, look at the ratings’ there is a tendency for the Beeb to mix fantasy, horror, fairy tales and the supernatural into the same bubbling pot. If you check I don’t think that the Wicked Queen was at it at the end of October apart from on DVD.

But Lauren was, the power driven Maleficent, out to poison the poor doomed Anderson Jarreau Pritchard with an apple that was red but not delicious. He made a fine knight, dashing, handsome, charming and kind. Why kill him? This was a Paso. Was he the bull? Sacrificial. It was Lauren’s finest hour in spite of the cunning artifice. Good on her. This could be her turning point.

As she acted to glory others tried to emulate her. Danny looked remarkably like Morgan Freeman, a younger and thinner version, Charlie, the caretaker from Harry Potter (David Bradley/Argus Filch). Just to let you in on the secret Danny was dancing a Smooth. Needed saying, the theme, two corpses back from the dead in a grave yard, Lazarus doing the booking in and out. It sparked scores from 6 to 9 indicating that if this was a dance to save your life you would have done something else.

For some reason the celebs have been excluded from the Pigeon Feet training classes and it is ugly to watch. When doing flicks, check steps and walks, toes must be pointed from the inside out, even an inch is better than nothing, they don’t veer towards each other like water divining rods. Charlie and Dr Ranj were at it in the Jive, so too Swanny in his Cha. Oh, Graeme. Oh, Graeme. Oh, Graeme. What was the dance off like?

Ah, the Jive, the bouncy sprint, full of spirit(s), ghost-o and control. Charlie nearly had all of those and he knew that he was safe this week having been one of the favourites to exit stage lift even after last week’s spleendour. Not stuck in a time warp our Charlie. He is fighting hard.

On the contrary Dr Ranj, also a Jive, is about as scary, and as lumpy, as the mash we used to get at school rather than the blood curdling Monster Mash, his tune of choice. In the movie Monsters Inc, the lead characters are Sully and Mike, a big lug and a little fella, remarkably like the film Twins with Arnie and Danny DeVito. Sully is a turquoise monster with purple body markings and as a tribute Dr Ranj wore a multi-coloured fur suit that doubled up as a feather duster. That would have been its best use. The good doctor ended up under the bed that the routine was based around which is where we would have preferred to watch it from. Hats off to whoever’s idea it was to use two glove puppets at the foot of the bed. They were brilliant, indeed the highlight.

As mentioned it wasn’t a great night for most of the novices, Kate, Swanny and Seann all troubling the scorer as far as 20 or 21. In fairness to the sultry newsreader it was a good week to have a bad one, the same time as everyone else, and her near nemesis was the Rumba, devilishly hard, especially with such lack of content.

It goes without saying that she looked fabulous painted gold, a mix of a statue from the streets of Barcelona, a Greek goddess and an Amazonian warrior. I think she was supposed to start the routine frozen, like the Glacier Mint bear on top of an iceberg, but if ever a thaw was needed this was it. Her arms seemed to drop short of each extended movement and her hands didn’t maintain the same beauty as the rest of her.

Swanny’s Cha was far from beautiful. Apart from the aforementioned pigeon toes most folks dance the Cha like they are walking on land mines, knees high and stamp. These are metaphorical so there is no Invictus consequence. But it is wrong and ugly. The foot must be led from the ball like pushing a penny with the end of the foot. That would have helped. So too if someone had said that a chassé was a bit like dancing down the wicket, a language that he can really relate to. When someone shouted ‘bat’ he thought of bowl, not vamps, fangs, garlic and stakes. The dance caused nightmares during Swanny’s prep week, ours just from Saturday onwards, only assuaged by the vision of his partner with a Whitney Houston permed wig rocking Thriller, a little known pop song from the eighties. That sent the call for a cold shower never mind a chill.

It would have been cruel but funny had Seann been asked to Viennese Waltz to Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs Jones . . . (we’ve got a thing going on), but the producers missed that one. They could have gone down the line of Romeo and Ghouliet but didn’t. Instead their dance took place in a toy shop, where he and his partner were . . . toys. I’m still trying to find a link to Halloween. Stiff as a ghost? Rigid with fear? It was Pinocchio’s Fifty Shades of Black added to Marty Feldman meets Babushka. The reward was the dance off and Plan B for next week.

Their dream is over and they must now try to find a hobby to replace the 40 seconds of dancing that once interrupted their week.

I’m sure they’ll cope.

Dave Schofield

Bristol

November 2nd 2018