Strictly Come Blogging

Louise. Lou. Loulabelle. Loulabelle44. Louby.
Proudly blogging about Strictly Come Dancing ALL YEAR ROUND since 2006.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Does Being The Bookies Favourite Mean Victory?

A lot is being made this week of the fact that Caroline is favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing. But does being the favourite really mean she'll be raising the glitterball?

I've had a look back over the past five series to see what the bookies were saying about the finalists.

The Series 7 final in 2009 only had two participants - Ricky Whittle and Chris Hollins. There was no question that Ricky was the better dancer, but Chris & Ola's Charleston seemed to strike a chord with the public and it was them who came out victorious. Going into the final, Ricky was 4-6 favourite.

In Series 8 (2010), Matt Baker, Kara Tointon and Pamela Stephenson battled it out. Matt was 8-11 favourite, but it was Kara & Artem who won.

In 2011, the show headed to Blackpool for the Series 9 final, which featured Chelsea Healey, Harry Judd and Jason Donovan. Harry was a clear favourite at 1-3, and he and Aliona were the victors.

Buoyed by his success at the London 2012 Olympics, Louis Smith entered the Series 10 final as 8-15 favourite to beat Denise van Outen, Kimberley Walsh and Dani Harmer. Sure enough, he and Flavia came out ahead of the girls.

Last year saw the first ever all-girl final. The 'people's favourite' Susanna Reid was also the bookies' favourite at 13-8. The betting was close between all four, and it was one of the closest finals for a while. But it was Abbey Clancy & Aljaž Skorjanec who went on to beat Susanna, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Natalie Gumede.

Caroline is current favourite to win Series 12 at 8-13, followed by Frankie (2-1), Simon (9-1) and Mark (12-1) according to William Hill.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 12

I'm still reeling from the departure of Pixie, but the show, and the blogging, must go on!

Jake & Janette's first routine was the cha cha. It was OK, but didn't blow me away. Jake was trying too hard to make his hips work, and they ended up looking odd. The entry to the lift in the middle of the routine looked awkward. I liked the story, and Jake's applejacks were very good.

Their Viennese waltz was better in my opinion. It was romantic, traveled well and Jake had pretty good footwork. His posture was a bit odd at times, he sometimes hunches his shoulders. Again, it was solid, but not amazing.

I was a bit disappointed with Frankie & Kevin's rumba, not because of the way it was danced, but because I longed to see some intimacy between them, and the dolly routine left me a little disappointed. It also hid a few things, with Frankie doing stiff dolly walks instead of rumba walks. As a showpiece, however, it was brilliant. It had lovely light and shade, switching between the hard dolly parts and the soft rumba parts. It was a lovely routine, very innovative, but it just didn't scratch the itch I have to see Frankie do something less 'vanilla'.

Their Argentine tango went some way to scratching that itch. It was intense, dark and intimate. The decoration was great. Frankie waited to be led by Kevin and did not anticipate the routine. The lifts were nice, and effortlessly executed.

Mark & Karen's Viennese waltz was sweet and elegant. Mark looked relaxed and it was clear that he just wanted to take it in and enjoy the dance. Mark's footwork was good, and the routine covered the floor well. It was very engaging and well performed. It was a shame they couldn't quite manage the fleckerl.

I'm not sure where the content was in the rumba. As a lyrical routine, it was lovely, but this was supposed to be a rumba. I didn't like the decision to perform barefoot. We really didn't see much from Mark apart from posing and presenting Karen. There was a nice romance between them, but it wasn't what it was supposed to be.

In terms of content, Simon probably had the best routines of the night. I loved Simon & Kristina's samba. Simon displayed the best samba hip action of the series. It's such a shame there was a mistake in the middle with the samba rolls, because it should have scored so much higher. 

Simon & Kristina's foxtrot was proper, old school Strictly. It hard charm, fun, elegance and content. They barely broke hold throughout the whole routine, so hats off to Kristina for that. Simon has really started to perform over the last few weeks. His footwork was solid, and the whole thing was a pleasure to watch.

Caroline & Pasha's foxtrot was interesting. It was very lyrical and emotional. However, it looked to me that there were a few small stumbles in the routine, or odd places where Caroline seemed to be trying to catch up to Pasha. Caroline is an excellent dancer, but the foxtrot wasn't as clean as some of her other routines in my opinion. That's not to say it was bad. Caroline was amazing, but in the semi-final we expect to see perfection.

Their salsa was perfection. It was fast and furious, with brilliant armography. Caroline just went for it. She totally sold every step, and made you want to get up and dance too. It was a great performance, and deserving of a top score.

I thought that Caroline's salsa and Simon's foxtort were the best dances of the night. I thought it odd that Mark & Karen elected to do the rumba in the dance-off. I guess they just chose the routine which was their favourite, expecting it to be their last dance. I was happy to see Mark saved, as he has improved throughout the competition. Jake started strong, but tailed off, and never lived up to the salsa in week 2. 

Here are the videos...

Jake & Janette - cha cha

Jake & Janette - Viennese waltz

Frankie & Kevin - rumba

Frankie & Kevin - Argentine tango

Mark & Karen - rumba

Simon & Kristina - samba

Simon & Kristina - foxtrot

Caroline & Pasha - foxtrot

Caroline & Pasha - salsa

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Ola To Quit Strictly?

Ola Jordan will reportedly quit Strictly Come Dancing at the end of the series.

OK! magazine reports that she will be taking part in Channel 4's The Jump in the new year, followed by a dance reality show with her husband James Jordan. 

A source told The Sun"Ola leaving Strictly will come as a huge blow to the show. She hasn't been the most popular in recent weeks and there have been some problems, but she is still one of the best professionals. Ola has become disillusioned with the BBC and she and James want to do their own thing."

Wendi Peters: "I Would Be There Like A Shot"

Coronation Street actress Wendi Peters would love to take part in Strictly, and would jump at the opportunity to take part.

She told the Daily Express"If I'm honest, Strictly is the only ['reality' show] that I would love to do. If they called me up I would be there like a shot - it's such a fabulous show. I'm a huge fan and it's on in my dressing room on Saturdays in between shows [Wendi is currently appearing with Tom Chambers and Aled Jones in White Christmas in London]. I watch It Takes Two every night when I'm getting ready. I'm a bit of a Strictly freak, I always have been."

Len To Quit Dancing With The Stars

Len has decided that he non longer want to be a judge on Dancing With The Stars in order to spend more time with his family. The spring series of the American show, which runs two series per year, will be his last.

He told DigitalSpy: "Next year, I'm not going to do the flying backwards and forwards – I'm not going to do the American show... I've got to have a bit of time off. I've got my wife, I've got my son, my mother is still alive and she's in hospital – I've had virtually no time to go and visit her. So, I just need a bit of time off to get on with a normal life. And it was either Strictly went or the American one went or the tour went... I'm doing the spring one when I go out there... and that's going to be my last one."

He maintains that he will stay with Strictly, as long as the producers want him: "I feel a loyalty towards the BBC. I will do Strictly as long as they want me. Eventually, they will say, 'He's getting too old and fat now, Goodman, we'll have to get shot of him'. But all the time they would like me to do it, I will be doing it."

Sunday Service: Week 11

I think my expectations must be two high, because while I enjoyed last night's performances, at no point did I feel blown away. I think I want to much...

Simon & Kristina opened the show with their American smooth. They did a very nice job. It was clean and precise. There was plenty of foxtrot content and lots of showbiz. It's just a shame the last lift didn't quite come off as perfectly as the rest of the dance. The dance was lovely, but it didn't make my heart beat faster. Simon has come on leaps and bounds since Blackpool, and could not have delivered this performance earlier in the competition.

It was great to see Caroline & Pasha dance to traditional music for their Argentine tango. I didn't think it was the best Argentine tango choreography we have seen, but I thought they performed it very well. It didn't have the sense of heat that some others have had, and for me it wasn't as passionate as their ballroom tango. Caroline seemed to be holding the tension in her free arm, causing some odd shapes in places. And at times she seemed to anticipate the routine. In Argentine tango more than any other dance, the lady needs to wait for her partner's lead to make it look rights. In places, Caroline didn't let Pasha lead enough. That said, I did enjoy the performance.

Pixie & Trent's cha cha lacked cha cha content in my opinion. Pixie performed well, as always, but I don't like what Trent did with the routine. Trent has been excellent this year, so I'm not sure what went wrong here. There were too many kicks and poses, and very little recogniseable cha cha. Pixie's legs could have worked a bit harder. The whole thing was a bit messy and uncontrolled. Under-rehearsed perhaps.

I really enjoyed Mark & Karen's foxtrot, even if it was out-of-hold so much it was heading toward American smooth. It was calm, charming and controlled, with lots of Hollywood glamour and decent footwork. Mark hit his stride just before Simon, on Halloween week, and he's been really good ever since. I really wasn't impressed to see Mark in the line-up, but I've come to really enjoy having him on the show. The 'J' word was made for Mark.

I was a little worried that Jake & Janette had been stitched up again when I heard what they were doing to. I thought their Charleston started a bit show, but ended up being really good. It was cheeky and fun, with some very complex lifts. It's clear Janette totally trusts Jake, and says a lot for their partnership. I can't help but wonder if the reason I enjoyed the routine so much was more because of Janette than Jake. It was unfortunate that, like Simon & Kristina, they missed the entry to one of the lifts. It was a blot on what had been a near perfect routine otherwise.

It was definitely a night for dodgy choreography. I didn't think that Frankie & Kevin's salsa had enough salsa content. It was nice to see a sexier side of Frankie. Although it was still only Saturdays sexy. As I mentioned last week, I think that most of her dances have been on the 'preppy' side, a bit too vanilla. This was still a little too clean and places for a salsa, but at least she gyrated and looked a little less strait-laced. She still needs to close her feet together properly, too. Now, I would like to take a small moment just to honour Frankie's sparkly welding helmet. Genius.

Then we had the 'anything can happen' (but never, ever, ever does) group number. This year, some bright spark decided it should be waltz-a-thon. There is so much to debate. Did Simon have an unfair advantage, having done the waltz last week? I'm not sure he did. Surely this dance favoured the celebrity girls, as they can just follow their pro boys. Certainly, Mark seemed to keep out of the way as much as possible and didn't make much attempt to cover the floor. Simon was the only celebrity man who made the judges' top three, with Jake at the bottom of the list.

Top for me last night were Jake and Mark. The bottom two is getting impossible to predict. And based on the comments on Twitter last night, there are people out there voting for all of the couples. There is no clear leader, or clear loser. Pixie and Frankie were not of form for me last night, but should they be in the bottom two? Probably not. I think it's going to be terrible for whoever ends up in the bottom two tonight. I don't envy the judges at all. Get the tissues ready!

Here are the videos...

Simon & Kristina

Caroline & Pasha

Pixie & Trent

Mark & Karen

Jake & Janette

Frankie & Kevin


Friday, December 05, 2014

Final Tour Celebrities Announced

The final celebrities to join the Strictly Live Tour have been announced.

Simon Webb will dance with Kristina Rihanoff
Scott Mills will dance with Joanne Clifton

Unlike past tours, all the celebrities are from the current series.

In an interesting development, the judging panel is getting a makeover. Joining Craig Revel Horwood will be Series 6 champions Tom Chamber and Camilla Dallerup.

I think this is a good thing. Len and Craig's bickering, and Bruno's chair-falling antics are starting to become tired. While I wouldn't want to see them leave the show, it's nice to play with the line-up on tour. Tom will know what the participants are feeling, having performed on the show and the tour. And anyone who follows Camilla on Twitter will know that she often judges and scores the dances at home. I find her very fair, and think she will nicely balance the panel. It's also nice to have a woman back on the tour panel.

The tour begins on 16th January at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham (formerly the NIA), and runs until 18th February. See for more information.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Theatre Review: Dance 'Til Dawn

After the massive success of Midnight Tango, former Strictly pros Vincent Simone & Flavia Cacace have been touring with a new show - Dance 'Til Dawn - which has now arrived at London's Aldwych Theatre for a limited run.

Dance 'Til Dawn is a lot more light-hearted than Midnight Tango. It is set in Hollywood's golden age - the 1940s. Starlet Sadie Strauss (Flavia) and her leading man Bobby Burns, a cereal love-rat, are the darlings of the movies. But when Bobby is murdered, Sadie's co-star Tony DeLuca (Vincent), who has been trying to charm her, is framed.

The humorous story is pushed along by private detective Tommy (Teddy Kempner) and his nightclub singer client Lana (Abbie Osmon), who is desperate to cover up her own affair with Burns. There are a lot of 'rim-shot' jokes which deliberately break the kayfabe, but it all adds to the charm of the show.

The dance show features many different dance styles, not just the Argentine tango which the couple are famous for. There is quickstep, jive, ballroom tango and a prison paso with the campest backing dancers you can imagine. Vincent & Flavia are supported by an excellent company of singer-dancers, who support the stars without outshining them.

The whole thing is high-energy. There is very clever use of the stage sets to move the story on, too. There is also an excellent selection of music, which all has a 1940s sound, despite some of it being as up-to-date as Adele's Rumour Has It. The same is true of the costumes, which were designed by Strictly's Vicky Gill.

While I enjoyed Midnight Tango, and it's hard not to use that as comparison, Dance 'Til Dawn is definitely more my kind of show. It was fast, funny and fabulous.

If you're still not sure, here's a clip...

Dance 'Til Dawn is at London's Aldwych Theatre until 3rd January 2015, followed by a UK tour from late-January to early-May. To find out more, and to buy tickets, visit

More Tour Celebrities Announced

More celebrities have been announced for the Strictly tour in the new year. Frankie and Thom will be joined by Alison Hammond, Caroline Flack and Mark Wright.

The pairings for the celebrities have also been announced.

Frankie Bridge & Kevin Clifton
Thom Evans & Iveta Lukosuite
Alison Hammond & Aljaž Škorjanec
Caroline Flack will get a new partner in Tristan MacManus
Mark Wright & Karen Hauer

Sam Faiers Would Like To Follow In Mark's Dance Steps

Former The Only Way Is Essex star Sam Faiers would like to follow in Mark Wright's dance steps and take to the floor herself.

She told the Sunday World: "I'd love to do Strictly, to learn a skill and get fit. I've got rhythm, but I can't dance, so I'd have to learn from scratch. I've been watching Mark - he's been doing really well."

Judges Banned From Discussing Dance-Off

Len Goodman has revealed that the judges are completely banned from talking during the dance-off, so that they cannot confer. They also enter their decisions on their keypads as soon as the dance is over, which probably explains why the judges do not appear to agonise over their decisions as much as they used to.

Len explained to the Daily Star: “They are very important about the compliances on the show and that you do everything correct and there are people who check. You have to vote who you want to save straight away. You don’t see what the others have done. You don’t have a little chit-chat and say: ‘What shall we do?’ Oh no, there is no communication. You press a button if you want to save Number One or Number Two. You press it and then what happens, happens.”

Could Simon & Kristina Become More Than Friends?

Could Simon and Kristina become more than friends when the show comes to an end in a few weeks' time?

In an interview with The People yesterday, Simon hinted that he would consider more than a professional relationship with his dance partner: “I’m very passionate about what I do. It’s nice to meet someone else who’s passionate. We’re working so hard and it’s purely professional. I don’t want anything like that to get in the way of this experience. Would it cross my mind after the show finishes? You’re going to have to ask me after it ends.”

Simon also admits that while he has had fun at the after-show parties, he tries to keep it sensible: “We've had a few Strictly nights out but I leave before the lights come on. Kristina has two glasses of wine, then she’s off. She’ll say, ‘Please get some rest’ and I say I will. It’s really nice that somebody cares that much. I’m very ­competitive with myself but I’m not thinking about winning. I’m on Strictly – so I think I've already won.”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Service: Week 10

Ah, a ropey theme week. No series would be complete without one. And if you like a ropey theme week, then you must be beside yourself about last night's Around The World week.

Pixie & Trent's Viennese waltz was a nice start to the show. It was light and effortless, with a lovely fleckerl. The choreography was lovely, although the choreography across the board last night was lacking in content, and the Viennese waltz was no exception. That aside, I really enjoyed it, especially the ballet nods. Pixie has lovely posé turns.

I didn't really enjoy Mark & Karen's salsa. The lifts were good, but there was way to much out of hold and not enough salsa. The bits in between the lifts were not that great, although I did like the long knee-slide in the middle. There was nothing especially wrong with the routine, it just wasn't as good as Mark's last couple of weeks.

Despite what Kristina thinks, Simon didn't have the only slow dance. Sunetra probably had the most difficult job of the week, having the dreaded rumba so late on. The rumba really is a difficult dance. Sunetra needs to try not to act through her arms too much, as it makes her lift her shoulders. Thankfully for her, Brendan choreographed something that was recognisable as a rumba. There were moments where I thought it was a bit cringey, but generally it was good.

Caroline & Pasha's Charleston was a complete showstopper, and totally deserving of being top of the leaderboard. Caroline not only had to keep in time and in sync with Pasha, but also a troupe of other dancers. And she nailed it. The routine was cheeky, bouncey and fresh. I loved the tumble lift at the end of the routine, too. It finished off what was already a very classy performance. Arguably the best Charleston of the series.

Despite not being the only slow dance of the evening, I will admit that the waltz can be quite a hard one to 'sell' when up against the wow-factor of a Charleston. But no such issue for Simon & Kristina. Their waltz was just beautiful. It was simple and clean. Proof that a dance doesn't have to be showy to be good. I loved it. I think that the only thing against them is Kristina's competitive streak. Complaining about having a waltz showed a lack of class on her part, and wasn't necessary because she and Simon did an awesome job with their dance. I just hope that the public got behind Simon anyway.

Frankie & Kevin's jive was pretty straight. It was well-danced, and thankfully didn't have any backing dancers. Frankie had a really nice action on her kicks, with nice picked-up knees. Although I am starting to tire of Frankie & Kevin's preppy numbers. Their jive was yet another bubblegum dance. I would love to see another side to Frankie. We got a glimpse with the tango, but that's about it.

I think that everyone felt that Jake & Janette had been royally stitched up the minute Jake used the words Argentine tango and Zorba in the same sentence. It should not have been allowed. Trying to put that aside, which isn't easy, I still didn't like the performance. Jake's legs looked too bent, and he didn't really look like he was leading Janette. The routine was lacking in intimacy and interplay, although I think we can blame the music for that too. The only thing I liked about it was Janette's dress...

My favourites this week were Caroline and Simon, by a country mile. My bottom two were Mark and Jake, not because I didn't like their performances per se, but more because I didn't like either of their routines. They performed what they were given reasonably well, but I didn't like their dances. Sunetra probably should be the next one out, but I think that Brendan's choreography saved her in my mind. Losing anyone at this stage is going to be a killer. Someone send tissues!

Here are the videos...

Pixie & Trent

Mark & Karen

Sunetra & Brendan

Caroline & Pasha

Simon & Kristina

Frankie & Kevin

Jake & Janette

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book Review: Strictly Come Dancing Official Annual 2015

Not since Blue Peter have I enjoyed annuals so much. Reading the Strictly Come Dancing Annual each year is always a highlight, and I love to see what will be included.

Strictly Come Dancing Official Annual 2015
The opening of the 2015 edition pays tribute to Sir Bruce, with comments from Craig and Darcey. This is followed by a welcome to Claudia Winkleman, who is excited about extending her presenting relationship on to the main Saturday night show. Tess also has a few words about Sir Bruce and Claudia. And there are also the usual biographies of the celebrities and pros and interviews with the judges.

This year, the main focus of the book is back on the dances. Karen Hardy gives an introduction to each of the dances featured on Strictly, explaining key technique points and what the judges look for.

Executive producer Louise Rainbow explains what is new for this year, admitting that the natural changes in the show (new presenter, new pros) are enough for this year, with the new judges' entrance the only other main change. She mentions the introduction of Around The World week, which we have this Saturday.

There are also articles on the dresses, the hair and their new home in Elstree.

As always, the Strictly Come Dancing Annual always delivers, and it is a must-have for any Strictly fan.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: Dancing Around Britain

Dancing Around Britain is a new book by Len Goodman, which looks at the history of dance from WWI through to today. Using archive photos, including a few from his own collection, Len charts how dance helped Britain through two wars, then led into the swinging sixties and disco. He also looks at how movies fueled dance fever in the 1970s and '80s, and a look at dancing on television.

Len talks about his own dance career, although if you have read Len's autobiography Better Late Than Never, his stories will already be familiar.

A nice feature of the book is 'Songs that got Britain dancing', which feature throughout the book. Dance crazes, and the songs that inspired them, include Lambeth Walk, Knees Up Mother Brown, Let's Twist Again and Oops Upside Your Head.

What sets this book apart are the wonderful archive photos. From old dance halls such as the Rivoli in south-east London and the stunning Tower Ballroom in Blackpool (which are thankfully still in use), to people letting off steam in the war and holidaymakers in post-war holiday camps like Butlins, the images capture various beautiful dancing moments in time.

If you're a fan of dance, you'll love this book. If you're a fan of modern social history and popular culture, you'll love this book. If Uncle Len can't get you bopping along to the Time Warp, I don't know who can.

If you're looking for Christmas presents, this is one your nan will love.

Dancing Around Britain by Len Goodman is out now, published by Trinity Mirror Sports Media.