Strictly Come Blogging

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 1

It's Strictly 2018, people! I'm so excited that Strictly is back for another year. And I'm excited that you have swung by to have a read of my blog!

I loved the opening pro number to Your Song. I can't imagine what time in the morning they had to get up to film it in such peace. I couldn't help thinking the ladies must have been freezing in those dresses, especially with the fountains going around them. But it looked beautiful.

On to the first couple, Danny & Amy. A foxtrot is a very difficult dance for Week 1. Or it would have been if it didn't look like an American smooth! Way too long to get into hold. However, Danny looked slick and confident. His footwork looked a bit dodgy, not enough heel leads, although it was difficult to see under Amy's dress. Darn camera angles. All of that said, I really enjoyed Danny's performance. It was classy and he performed well.

Kate & Aljaž did a reasonable job with their cha cha. Kate had the attitude, but she must straighten her legs. She's got very long pins, so bent legs do not look good. The performance was there, but it was all a bit heavy. I can see her potential, I hope it's realised a bit more next week.

What an amazing waltz from Lauren & AJ! Beautiful top line, beautiful underarm turns, beautiful footwork. Lauren look relaxed. Such brilliant choreography from AJ. I loved it. I always get nervous when couples dance to Kissing You, because it's such a beautiful song, but Lauren & AJ were up to the challenge. Undermarked in my opinion.

Shaunn & Katya were a pleasant surprise. Their tango was strong and pretty slick. Seann surprised me. It was a tad aggressive in places, but his timing was better than I anticipated. A solid start here.

I'm afraid I didn't like Vick & Graziano's jive. The routine wasn't very enjoyable. I didn't like the choreography. There wasn't enough jive content. Vick was out of time at one point. Her limbs were a little uncontrolled and she didn't elevate the springing steps enough. A combination of poor routine, and uncontrolled performance. But I think Vick has potential. I want to see more.

I don't blame Anton for wanting to set the samba over and done with early doors. I enjoyed the band and the props more than Susannah & Anton's performance. Susannah did not seem to know what was coming next and was relying on Anton to push her around the floor. If I never see that routine again, I think I'll be OK.

Charles was one I was looking forward to seeing the the opening show. He didn't disappoint. He looked in control, and was even leading Karen in places. I wasn't too keen on the routine, but Charles performed it well. Great timing.

I don't begrudge any celebrity a bit of dance training in their past, but when their job was to be part of a dance troupe (not a girl band as they try and make out), you can't help thinking the others don't stand a chance. Ashley & Pasha's Viennese waltz looked almost professional. There was very little wrong with the routine. Maybe her legs could have been straighter in places. Maybe her frame could have been a little more pulled up. The trouble they will have is getting better. They don't have much further to go.

Ranj & Janette's cha cha was fun. Ranj looked like he was having a ball on the floor. It looked a bit awkward in places, and was bordering on camp. He has great timing, and the footwork was OK. He just needs to control his body a bit better.

Katie looked so nervous. The opening was romantic, and see looked like she had a connection with Gorka. But once the routine started, she looked like a deer in the headlights. Bruno is right, she needs to feel it rather than think it. She has potential. Maybe a crazy latin number will be her thing.

Can we take a moment to talk about Graeme's hips? Very surprising hip action. It was a great routine, good timing. A little awkward looking in places. I think he and Oti are going to work well together. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

In hold, Stacey & Kevin were marvelous. They were clean and poised. I didn't really like any of the parts out of hold. Stacey looked gangly and uncontrolled when on her own. She needs to keep her legs together, toes pointed and arms controlled. It was fun to watch, and I look forward to seeing her progression.

A solid start from Lee & Nadiya. Lee was a little pigeon toed. The little slip definitely threw him, and he raced the music on the part after. There was a lot of content to the routine. It was technically shaky, but I think it was solid start and I think Lee will get better.

A great start from Joe & Dianne. The jive had lots of energy and control. Joe kept up with Dianne perfectly. I wasn't too keen on the robot armography on the stage, but that's not anything to do with Joe. A nice suprise.

Faye's enthusiasm could light up a room. He beaming smile was a delight. Her cha cha with Giovanni was a great end to the show. Faye certainly knows how to sell it. I can't help thinking that ballroom will be Faye's strength. There wasn't anything really wrong with her cha cha, and maybe it'll improve with practice. Latin action is difficult to get.

My favourites of the night were Lauren & AJ, followed by Joe & Dianne. Weakest were definitely Susannah & Anton, and I don't think they'll be long for the competition.

Until next week...

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Pros Demand More Money

The Strictly pros are reportedly working together to try and get paid more for being on the show, and could even threaten strike action.

According to The Sun, all pros are paid £50,000 for the series, regardless of how many series they have appeared on or past success in the competition.

A source told the paper: “The professionals have been talking among themselves and are going to come together to ask Strictly bosses for a pay rise. They put in incredible hours rehearsing both with their celebrities and also group routines. A lot of them are putting in 10 hour days which is a lot of dancing. It has been on the cards for a long time and they haven’t had a pay rise in years. They love the show, they just want to feel their money reflects the amount of work they put in and also the celebrity status and profile that comes with it. Some of them are now almost better known than the celeb contestants and they feel that should lead to more cash — especially when the judges get paid so much just for turning up once a week. Some feel it’s a bit of a joke.”

Their pay is reportedly significantly less than the judges, who only have to make themselves available for the studio shows. Strictly is a big money spinner for BBC Worldwide, and none of the spin-off products and international productions would have been possible without the pros.

Although no-one is bigger than the show. Presenters, judges and pros have all come and gone over the years and the show still continues its juggernaut-like march though the Autumn nights. Maybe through collective action they can reach an agreement.

Strictly: The Board Game

If, like me, you're not actually a celebrity (there's still time, right?) or a professional dancer (OK, maybe that ship has sailed) your chances of being invited on to Strictly are somewhat slim. 

But there is an alternative. Enter Strictly Come Dancing: The Board Game. I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the game recently.

The game tries to capture some of the key elements of the show in a family-friendly board game format.

Players move around the board trying to gain votes. These can be picked up through dice rolls, answering trivia questions (a mix of general knowledge and questions for the Strictly fanatics), and even performing a few iconic dance moves.

The two winning players then battle it out in a real dance-off (or a finger-cha cha for those not brave enough/too full of mince pies to do a proper dance), with music provided by a mini-glitterball. Not only will fellow players vote for their winner, but Craig Revel Horwood himself will also pass his own judgement. His real voice is used in the game.

The quality of the game is very impressive. The board and 'stairs' that playing pieces move around look good and feel like the studio. The voting paddles look great. And who wouldn't want to raise the mini-glitterball at the end of the game?

The only disappointing thing about the game is that it needs at least three players, and would probably work best with the maximum of six. I wanted to rip open the box and get going, but I shall have to wait until I have some friends over. I have some dancing friends who are itching to play.

The game is available now, RRP £29.99. Don't just take my word for it. Amazon just named the game as one of their top picks for Christmas 2018.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the press launch and was provided with a copy of the game to take away. And I was also awarded a bottle of champagne for being the best dancer, as chosen by CRH, after we learnt a little routine from Ian Waite. Not that I like to brag...

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Strictly 2018: The Pairings

We now know who is partnered with whom, so it's time to have a look at the pairings in a bit more detail.

Kate Silverton & Aljaž Skorjanec
It was no surprise to anyone that these two have been put together. I like this pairing. They look great together, and I think they'll get on well. They'll have fun, and she'll do her best. I think they'll go quite far.

Vick Hope & Graziano Di Prima
This is a difficult one to call, as we don't know anything about Graziano and his style of teaching or choreography. But Vick looks good so far.

Faye Tozer & Giovanni Pernice
Faye is going to do well. We saw a very caring side to Giovanni last year with Debbie. He knew how to choreograph to Debbie's strengths, so I think Faye is in safe hands. We know she can dance.

Susannah Constantine & Anton du Beke
Poor Anton. Another dud. Susannah looked as though she was having problems with 'step and clap' in the group number, so I don't hold out much hope. Anton's fans will keep them in for a week or two, but I think Anton will have plenty of time to promote his book this autumn. And Susannah has already rubbed me up the wrong way with her 'curse' comment. Poor taste.

Lee Ryan & Nadiya Bychkova
I like Lee, he seem's like a good bloke. I didn't think Nadiya's choreography was the best last year. It was Davood's charisma that carried her through the competition last year. Perhaps Lee's likability will do the same.

Ranj Singh & Janette Manrara
Ranj seems a bit excitable, so I think he is a great match for Janette, who is a bundle of energy. Janette always seems to be a great partner to whoever she has. Ranj looked as though he might be able to move a bit, too.

Danny John-Jules & Amy Dowden
We didn't really get to see what Amy can do last year, but Danny is a much stronger partner than Brian Conley. I think these two could go quite far. I think they'll have fun, but work hard too.

Joe Sugg & Dianne Buswell
Joe Sugg is going to be this year's Mollie King, the one who gets a tad further than they should because of a legion of fans voting. If Joe's millions of followers all vote for him, he's going to be hard to beat regardless of his ability. I find Dianne a bit full on at times, but I'm interested to see how she'll do with a much younger partner than last year.

Katie Piper & Gorka Marquez
I think this pair will work well together. Katie is into her fitness, as is Gorka, so they'll have some common ground. I think he'll show her off well.

Lauren Steadman & AJ Pritchard
Lauren seemed to be hidden in the background of the group numbers, so it's hard to say if she'll be any good, although she has done salsa dancing as a hobby so perhaps not a complete novice. AJ has done well the last couple of years, and seems to be building up a fan base. They could do well.

Stacey Dooley & Kevin Clifton
They clearly wanted to be partnered together, so that's a good start. They seem to have a bit of chemistry. I'm not sure how well Stacey can dance, but Kevin always seems to get the best from his partners regardless of their ability. I think they'll go quite far.

Ashley Roberts & Pasha Kovalev
Team AshPash should be unstoppable. She's the biggest ringer in the competition. He is the master of presenting a partner, and one of the least selfish male pros on the dancefloor. If they don't make the final, it will be because she is too good from day one.

Seann Walsh & Katya Jones
Seann was clearly the weakest male celebrity in the competition. He cannot dance. But Katya made a dancer out of Ed Balls, so maybe she can make a dancer out of Seann.

Charles Venn & Karen Clifton
Charles was the surprise of the night for me. He looked really good in the group number. Karen has arguably never had a partner as strong as Charles. She's possibly done better in the past than she should have when you look at the list of her past partners. I think she has a genuine chance this year.

Graeme Swann & Oti Mabuse
Graeme also surprised me last night. He looked as though he might do well. In my opinion, Oti is one of the strongest choreographers among the pros. I think that will make them a good team.

I think Ashley and Charles will be the strongest dancers. I think Joe will probably outstay his welcome because of the votes he'll get. I think Susannah and Seann will be out quite early.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing Kate, Danny, Faye and Charles on the floor. I think Vick might be one to watch too.

A lot has been made about the quality of the celebrities this year, but looking back on last night's show, I think there is a diverse mix of abilities and personalities. I can't wait to see what happens in two weeks' time. Bring on the dancing!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Anton du Beke: Novelist

Anton du Beke has written books on ballroom dancing, but now he has turned his hand to writing novels.

Anton's debut novel - One Enchanted Evening - will be released on 4th October. Set in 1936, the book follows the goings on at a grand London hotel through dance troope leader Raymond de Guise and chambermaid Nancy Nettleton.

I can't wait to read it!

Anton has some book promotion events coming up.

He will be at the Savoy Theatre in Monmouth on Sunday 7th October, talking about the book and signing copies. Click here for tickets.

Later the same evening, he'll be at Komedia in Bath as part of the Bath Children's Literary Festival. Click here for tickets.

And on 14th October, he'll be in conversation at the Yvonne Arnuld Theare in Guildford, as part of the Guildford Book Festival. Click here for tickets.

If you've ever been to one of Anton & Erin's shows, you'll know what an entertaining speaker Anton is. These events are not to be missed.

No Celebrities For Neil, Luba & Johannes

Neil Jones, Luba Mushtuk and Johannes Radebe will not have celebrity partners in the upcoming series.

A spokesperson told The Sun“We have 18 pros and 15 celebrities, so sadly we can’t give everyone a partner. But this year we are planning even more ambitious group performances, we will have our Strictly special for Children in Need, there is the Christmas Special and there will be lots more surprises along the way. All our pros are going to be kept really busy.”

Neil confirmed the news himself with a video post on Twitter:

I'm absolutely gutted that Neil won't have a partner for a third year. I really like Neil, and I'm dying to see what he could do as a choreographer. It's very unfair.

It's also hard to Luba and Johannes to connect with the audience if they don't have partners.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Celebrity No. 15: Susannah Constantine

The final celebrity announced was Susannah Constantine.

Susannah said: “I hope to prove pigs can fly (dance). Sick with nerves and jangling with excitement.”

Susannah is best known for presenting What Not To Wear with Trinny Woodall in the early naughties. I never watched it myself, but Trinny & Susannah were everywhere at that time. I knew who she was because they were around all the time for a few years. Until Gok Wan came along.

They spent a lot of time being very 'hands on' with their victims subjects, so personal space shouldn't be an issue for Susannah. But somehow, I don't think dancing is going to be for her. I hope she proves me wrong.

Celebrity No. 14: Charles Venn

Actor Charles Venn has been in a bunch of shows I don't watch - EastEnders, Casulty and Footballer's Wives.

Charles said:  “It truly is a pleasure to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, to be associated with a show that has such a huge following excites and scares me in equal measure! Dancing on Strictly is going to be quite a challenge but life’s all about testing yourself so there’s lots to look forward to, let the games begin..!”

I don't know anything about Charles. I didn't even recognise him when I saw his picture, which seems to be a theme this series. Can't say it really matters, though. I'll know them well in a few weeks time.

Celebrity No. 13: Lauren Steadman

Paralympian Lauren Steadman has competed for team GB in Paratriathlon, winning silver in Rio.

Lauren said: “I still don’t think it has properly sunk in that I’m actually going to be part of this year’s Strictly! I have loved the show since I was young, and it’s a huge thing to tick off my bucket list. I’m more nervous about being on stage, performing live and in front of the judges than I am about the Elite Paratriathlon Grand Final next month! But I’m up for the challenge and excited to swap my triathlon kit for dancing shoes and sequins.”

Lauren was born without a lower right arm. Her website lists salsa as one of her interests. I presume that means dancing rather than nacho dip. So if she's had a few lessons, maybe she'll do well. Past experience of partner dancing is possibly more valuable than teen band choreography. She's also an athlete, so will have that drive that only sports people have. One to watch, I think.

Celebrity No. 12: Lee Ryan

Lee Ryan is the second member of Blue to appear on Strictly.

Lee said: “I’m so excited to be joining this year’s Strictly line-up. It is a real honour for me and I can’t wait to get out on the dance floor.”

Simon Webbe's Argentine tango lives on in people's memories. Lee will have to work hard to make his own mark on the show. He should be pretty good, as like Faye, he will be used to learning choreography.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Celebrity No. 11: Seann Walsh

I know who comedian Seann Walsh is because I watch a lot of comedy and panel shows.

Seann said: “Having seen videos of me dancing on friends’ phones from the night before, it’s safe to say I’m petrified but also so excited. I’m really looking forward to the lifts, the Lycra and the laughs, although as Craig would probably say 'dancing is no laughing matter dahhhhling…’”

I'm afraid that my expectations for Seann are low. I wasn't buoyed any by seeing this clip either:

I'm secretly hoping he gets a Jay McGuiness style haircut, though.

Celebrity No. 10: Kate Silverton

Kate Silverton is this year's news presenter turned dancer.

She said: “I’m excited to confirm that I will be swapping the newsroom for the ballroom and joining this year’s wonderful Strictly family. It’s something of a departure for a news journalist, shifting focus from the headlines to my hemlines and I suspect the only serious element of my life over the coming months will be in training hard and figuring out the foxtrot… but I am so looking forward to the fun, laughter and all the challenges ahead.”

Kate is elegant, just like Natasha Kaplinsky, Katie Derham and many others before her. She'll look perfect, but can she dance? 

Here's a Children In Need clip where she looks pretty good at walking in time at least. That's half the battle!

Celebrity No. 9: Ashley Roberts

An actual Pussycat Doll? Are you kidding?

Ashley said: “I am beyond excited and grateful to be part of the Strictly family! I’m going to put my heart and soul into this new adventure and can’t wait to have fun with the team! Bring on the sequins, glitz and glamour!”

Now, I have never been of the opinion that Strictly participants should have no dance training at all, but when you are the former member of an actual dance troupe, I think that might be a step too far. She has been paid specifically to dance. That's way more than a bit of childhood ballet, or knowing all the moves to Deeper Shade Of Blue. She was a judge on Dancing On Ice. What made her qualified to judge? The fact that she was a professional dancer! For crying out loud!

Who next? Ashley Banjo?

Celebrity No. 8: Stacey Dooley

Someone I have heard of again!

Stacey said: “It’s happening! I'm taking part in Strictly Come Dancing this year and my mother is going to explode. 2018 has already been such an incredible year for me, I’ve done some amazing things and I’m excited to add ‘becoming a dancing GENIUS’ to the list! Typically, work for me is very serious and can be quite hard core so I'm going to soak up the escapism and bathe in the sequins. See you on the dancefloor!”

I've watched a number of Stacey's documentaries, and they are always on pretty heavy subjects. Stacey seems like she will be fun, though. I'm looking forward to seeing he do something a bit lighter. I have a sneaky suspicion that she's not going to be a great dancer, though, and I don't know why.

Celebrity No. 7: Ranj Singh

My Google machine has been working overtime this week. Dr. Ranj Singh is the resident doctor on This Morning.

Ranj said: “I'm so overwhelmed and excited to be part of this wonderful show. It's an absolute dream come true for me! I've been a massive fan for so long, and I can't quite believe this is happening, but I'm going to give it my best shot. Anyone that knows me knows that I love a bit of sparkle... so bring on the glitter! I can’t wait!!”

Ranj's inclusion has re-started the talk about same-sex couples on the show, although the BBC say have they have no plans to pair two people of the same gender.

I don't know anything about him, as I don't see daytime TV. I just hope he can dance.