Strictly Come Blogging

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ed Ball Joining Strictly Tour

Six celebrities have been confirmed to be part of the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour in the new year.

'People's Champion' Ed Balls, Daisy Lowe, Lesley Joseph and potential finalists Louise Redknapp, Ore Oduba and Danny Mac will all take part.

The remaining celebrities and professional dancers are still to be announced. Judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood will be joined at the desk by Karen Hardy, and former participant Anita Rani will be on hosting duties.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Service: Week 10

Week 10! Time slips away quickly...

I loved Danny & Oti's tribal samba. I often find myself looking at Oti, but tonight I couldn't take my eyes off Danny. His hip action was very good. He was in time with Oti this week. There were enough basic steps to call it a samba. Awesome job. That's why Danny is worthy of being in the top slots each week.

I loved Ore & Joanne's different take on the paso. It was moody. It was precise and hot. It totally stood up to Danny who proceeded them. Ore totally led the whole routine. The lines were lovely. He can do Hollywood and contemporary. Totally undermarked.

I was worried for Louise this week. The waltz is not a show-stopping dance, and she could have got lost in the crowd. However, Kevin's routine had a touch of drama, and Louise performed it beautifully. She kept her eyeline up for the most part, which was nice. The story telling was lovely, and she got into the character. I thought it was was better than last week's paso. And that set of turns at the end was delightful.

I liked the story of Robert & Oksana's rumba. From the waist down, he was pretty good. His arms were a bit ugly in places. They were a bit stiff and it lacked a bit of fluidity. He didn't connect enough with Oksana for me. It wasn't bad for a male celebrity, but at this stage in the competition, it wasn't good enough. That said, it did have a charm about it, and it was horrible to see Robert looking so crushed at the judges' comments.

Ed & Katya did OK this week. It wasn't a show stopper, but it was reasonable. His neck was lost a times, and he lost his frame a few times. It was a bit stompy and a little pigeon toed. I found the tango quite inoffensive. I agree with Darcey that he lost focus from time to time.

It was so good to finally see Claudia & AJ do something more adult. It was powerful, sexy and commanding. Perhaps she was anticipating some of the moves as Craig suggested, but it didn't matter. I just wish there wasn't such a height difference between them, because it stops them from connecting as much as they should. That has to be one of the best dances she's done. I can't believe we've had to Week 10 to finally see this Claudia. The only thing I didn't like was the musical arrangement.

The night ended with the cha cha cha-athon. I like that they didn't know what the music would be before they started. It's always to watch these sort of dances on TV, because we can only look at what the camera shows us, so it's hard to completely understand if the judges are correct in their voting. Based on what I could see, I thought they should have placed as follows:
Danny & Oti
Claudia & AJ
Louise & Kevin
Ore & Joanne
Robert & Oksana
Ed & Katya

I really can't see how Ed can not be in the bottom two tomorrow, probably with Robert. If anyone else in the dance-off, it really would not be fair.

Here are the videos...

Danny & Oti

Ore & Joanne

Louise & Kevin

Robert & Oksana

Ed & Katya

Claudia & AJ

Cha Cha Challenge

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Service: Week 9

Blackpool is a bit like Halloween. Highly anticipated, sometimes underwhelming. The standard is so high this year that I expect to be blown away every week, and I'm often left disappointed.

Last night there was definitely a sync issue with sound and vision. It made Claudia appear to be totally out of time on her jive. It looked better watching it back on YouTube. She wasn't out of time. However, it still wasn't amazing. I don't know if her heels were too high, or if AJ's routine was too fast for her, but she seemed to be struggling to keep up throughout. She also needs to keep her legs together when she's standing still to avoid a masculine look. Claudia is definitely a ballroom girl. Latin is not as kind to her.

I liked the use of the mannequin challenge at the start of Ore & Joanne's Viennese waltz, and then the slow motion as they came out of that. The rest of the routine was nicely danced. Ore's footwork was good, getting most of the heel leads. But I really didn't need a 20 minute flekerl (actually 24 counts, which is way too long), and that kind of spoilt the routine for me. Ore is better than the need to kill time, even if it is with a difficult step. They could have stopped and reversed or something.

Louise is way too nice for these aggressive dances. Her and Kevin's paso was a bit on the tame side. The skirt work looked a bit messy too. And she needed to get her eyeline off the floor. It should have been amazing - paso at Blackpool to Explosive. Louise is a lovely dancer, but she's starting to leave me a bit cold. I want to shake her and get her to really attack the dances, and give even more performance. She's exactly like Holly or Rachel or Sophie or Kara. All lovely dancers, all very controlled and all struggled to really let go and push over the edge. Some managed it, some didn't. Louise hasn't so far for me. However, I did vote for her because I believe she still deserves to be in the competition.

I love Danny & Oti usually. But that was not a perfect performance and should not have got a 40. I'm ashamed of Craig. For one, they were not in time with each other on the first couple of side-by-side sections. It's really obvious! He also went a tiny bit wrong up on the table. I don't want to take anything away from Danny. It was a lovely routine, it did deserve to be top of the leaderboard, and it was well-danced for the most part. It just wasn't perfect for me.

Ed & Katya did everything they could to get to Blackpool. Last week was a fantastically entertaining routine. Now I feel like they know they are on borrowed time. Their jive wasn't a patch on past weeks. Ed was very heavy footed. It was in time, but his technique was poor. He didn't have the retraction needed on the flicks. And it wasn't entertaining enough for me to forgive the technical shortcomings.

I really enjoyed Greg & Natalie's Grease-inspired quickstep. They moved around the floor really well. It was smooth, and Greg showed great musicality. Greg's topline was better than in other weeks, although that could be because he didn't have any pivots, which really expose a poor posture. The grande jeté was clearly on the inside foot, and he landed it very heavily. And now that he's 30, he needed a little sit-down in the middle of the routine. I've really enjoyed seeing Greg's progression. He's come so far. 

I thought that as Robert & Oksana were last, that their routine would be a showstopper. Sadly, it wasn't. Like Greg, I think Robert has progressed really well, and I've enjoyed watching him, but I felt that the salsa was a step back. The whole thing looked a bit chaotic and uncontrolled. The faces were back again as well. There were good points, though. The lift was very clean. 

Danny and Ore were the most impressive this week, and I enjoyed Greg as well. I really hope that Ed is in the bottom two tonight, as I feel if he remains, it will be the expense of someone who really deserves to stay. Claudia could end up in the bottom two tonight. And if Ed it not there, Robert, Greg and even Louise could be with her. It's going to be an interesting results show.

Here are the videos...

Claudia & AJ

Ore & Joanne

Louise & Kevin

Danny & Oti

Ed & Katya

Greg & Natalie

Robert & Oksana

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thursday Thoughts: Week 8

I have been away, which is why I am only getting around to this today. Unlike most weeks, I am writing this already knowing the outcome. I watched the results immediately following the main show.

With a place on the fun bus to Blackpool up for grabs, no-one wanted to miss out, and they all threw themselves at the dances.

I wasn't a massive fan of Daisy & Aljaž's salsa. There seemed to be a lot of posing and not much dancing. The whole thing was a bit static and on the spot. I wanted it to be more dynamic. Daisy went for it, but it just didn't excite me.

Greg & Natalie's paso was a lot more dynamic. I liked it very much. It was strong and powerful with such great intent. A fantastic leap at the beginning. The only part I didn't like was the scarf/cape work at the beginning. And he needs to watch his top line and make sure his shoulders are kept down. 

Robert & Oksana's sweet foxtrot was pitched perfectly. They created a lovely story piece, and it was very nice to watch. Robert needs to watch his top line on the pivots, he was leading with his shoulders instead of his body. They covered the floor well. It was a good job.

Ore & Joanne's rumba was pleasant enough. It was romantic, and had a nice amount of light and shade. I didn't buy them as a couple, though. It lacked a bit of chemistry for me. He could have used the floor more on the walks too. But it was certainly one of the better rumbas we have seen from male celebrities.

Oh Ed Balls. Anyone who has read this blog over the years will know that I am not usually a fan of the novelty act. John Sergeant, Ann Widdecombe, Russell Grant, Judy Murray, I pretty much loathed them all. But Ed Balls has won me over for most of the series. He and Katya certainly went Hell for leather to make it to Blackpool with their salsa. I wasn't convinced until the chorus, but as soon as he took that leap at her, I was on their side. I liked all but the first lift, which was a bit clunky. I liked Ed's execution of the Gangnam Style moves. And, as always, Ed kept in time. Such fun to watch.

It was hard for Claudia & AJ to perform anything after that, but they did their thing and it was lovely. Their Viennese waltz took too long to get into hold for my liking, but once in hold it was lovely. The flekerls were very nice. AJ did a better job at showing Claudia off, and matched his stride to hers. It was very sweet.

When I heard that Danny & Oti were doing an Argentine tango to Heard It Through The Grapevine, I was not impressed, but it was such a good arrangement that it just worked. I liked the aggression and attack between them. I thought it was fab. It was hot. I agreed with Craig that perhaps they could have had more of an 'A' frame, but I loved it anyway. Lovely lifts, especially the last two.

Louise & Kevin's American smooth was definitely one of her best dances. I didn't really think the fans were necessary, I don't think they added anything to the routine. It was definitely the routine that Louise has appeared the most engaged with all series. She needs to point her toes more on kicks, but otherwise she did a good job. The only thing that distracted me was the flesh-coloured back to her dress. Why wasn't it just open? I would have been on the pros. They usually only do that with the larger ladies. Weird.

I think that Daisy was the right choice to leave the competition. She was at the top of the show, and got lost in the crowd with a very plain routine. Greg performed his routine much better the second time around.

The big question is will Ed's journey end at Blackpool? I actually think he might still have a couple of weeks left in him.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Panto Round-Up

All this talk about the Christmas special got me thinking about panto. Here is where you can find former and current Strictly stars this festive season.

Craig Revel Horwood (judge), Peter Pan - Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Arlene Phillips (ex-judge), Dick Whittington - New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon

Julian Clary (Series 2), Cinderella - Pallidum, London
Louisa Lytton (Series 4), Sleeping Beauty - Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Brian Capron (series 5), Aladdin - Grove Theatre, Dunstable
Jessie Wallace (Series 6), Robin Hood - Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Ricky Groves (Series 7), Aladdin - Middlesborough Theatre, Middlesborough
Russell Grant (Series 9), Snow White - Gracie Fields Theatre, Rochdale
Chelsee Healey (Series 9), Snow White - Gracie Fields Theatre, Rochdale
Dani Harmer (Series 10), Cinderella - Pavillion, Bournemouth
Lisa Riley (Series 10), Aladdin - Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
Alison Hammond (Series 12), Cinderella - Floral Pavillion, New Brighton
Simon Webbe (Series 12), Jack & The Beanstalk - Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Lesley Joseph (Series 14), Snow White - Theatre Royal, Plymouth

John Barrowman (Christmas 2010), Dick Whittington - Hippodrome, Birmingham
Su Pollard (Christmas 2011), Snow White - Assembley Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
Bobby Ball (Christmas 2012), Aladdin - Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas Special Line-Up

The BBC have announced the participants for this year's Strictly Christmas Special, all of whom are former participants from the main series.

Denise Lewis, Series 2 finalist
Gethin Jones, Series 6 semi-finalist
Pamela Stephenson, Series 8 finalist
Frankie Bridge, Series 12 finalist
Ainsley Harriott, fourth eliminated in Series 13
Melvin Odoom, first eliminated in Series 14

Professional partners are still to be announced.

I can only assume that Melvin was included because some felt his departure was unjust, due to Anastacia's failure to perform in the dance-off. Ainsley was popular with the public, and all of the others were successful in their respective series.

Could Strictly Have Five Judges?

The Sun reports that Strictly bosses are considering adding two new judges to the panel, not just one to replace Len.

They suggest that any new judge would not have the seniority to have the 'deciding vote' that Len has as head judge, so adding a fifth judge would guarantee a split vote.

A source told the paper: "There is a feeling without Len’s calming measured influence the panel might need a fifth judge to stop there being a deadlock and casting vote. It is an idea that has been discussed privately. The plan would be for Anton - or the other judge - to join the panel and the other judge to join for the results show to stop there being a need for a casting vote currently used by Len.”

Having five on the panel for the main show would be a mistake. It would mean that not all of the judges have time to give comments. Adding a fifth judge for the results show only seems an odd solution. Why would the public respect the opinion of someone who is only there to vote?

I would think that if they don't want to give the casting vote to a judge, then they should adopt the 'deadlock' mechanism used on The X Factor. This would also give the power back to the voting public, who are often frustrated by the judges' decisions. However, I would caveat that by saying that the judges must 'lock in' their votes before they are given, so that none of the judges can cop-out and deliberately send the vote to deadlock to avoid looking like the bad guy.

Davina: I'll Do Strictly In "Eight Years"

Davina McCall would like to do Strictly, but feels it would be too disruptive for her family.

She told the Huffington Post“I’d love to do Strictly Come Dancing, I really really would. But the fact is, it’s training all week, and working all weekend, and even if I wasn’t in it for very long, I’d still be working weekends for three or four weeks. And actually... that would be really hard on my family. I think for anyone with young kids it’s really, really difficult. It’s too much time away. And I work hard, but I do get my weekends, and I really value those. So no.”

But, it's not 'no' forever.

“When [the children]’ve all left home. So… eight years. If Strictly is still going in eight years, I’ll do it.”

Who wouldn't love to see Davina do Strictly? She'd be a fantastic signing. The team need to sign her up for a special so she can test the water without the full commitment.

My Tweet Is Famous!

I have been tweeting about Strictly Come Dancing since 2009, and finally one of them has made it into a news article.

Sadly it wasn't a witicism about Strictly, but a comment about Chas 'n' Dave who made a short appearance on Saturday's show during the T&Cs section.

The Daily Mirror article picked up this tweet:

Fame at last!

I'm A Dancer... Get Me Out Of Here!

Is Ola Jordan following in the footsteps of Camilla Dallerup and Vincent Simone by heading into the jungle?

The Sun reports that Ola will be part of the line-up for the new series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, which begins on Sunday.

A source told the paper: “Ola is a no-brainer of a signing. She’s well-known, gorgeous and has strong opinions. Add difficult challenges and starvation to those qualities and she’s sure to make great telly. Having a very vocal husband is an added bonus in the deal. James is not afraid to air his opinions and will make a great guest on the spin-off show while Ola is in camp.”

Other celebrities rumoured to be heading Down Under are former Strictly participants Lisa Snowdon and Carol Voderman, and Frankie Bridge's footballer husband Wayne.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Congratulations, Anton!

Congratulations to Strictly pro Anton du Beke, whose partner Hannah is expecting twins.

Anton announced the news on Twitter last night.

Sunday Service: Week 7

Ah. A 'normal' week. No themes, just dances. This is a relief.

Danny & Oti got things started with their jive. I liked the cool, relaxed vibe. However, he looked a bit hunched over in places, and needed to keep his shoulders back a bit more. I also didn't think he led Oti as well as he had in previous dances. He wasn't as in charge of the dance as he had been.

Daisy & Aljaž really needed to bring it to avoid another dance-off, but I am sad to say that I don't think they did. Their Viennese waltz was sweet, but a bit dull with it. She did a neat fleckerl, and I liked the 'tandem' choreography at the end, but the whole thing was just 'nice'. I was also distracted by Daisy's head placement, which looked a bit odd.

I'm a total sucker for Turn The Beat Around, so I had high hopes. for Ore & Joanne's salsa. It had some nice armography. Ore really went for it, but it just didn't have the wow factor of some of his other routines. The lifts were a bit clunky and cautious in places, and he could have brought more hips. Like Daisy, it wasn't bad. It just wasn't amazing either. He's set expectations high with his previous performances.

While it pains me to say it, I really loved Ed & Katya's quickstep. The choreography was excellent, and perfectly in keeping with their Laurel & Hardy characters. Ed showed some great storytelling and musicality. There was possibly a bit too much out of hold, perhaps to cover some of Ed's technical failings. I think Katya was supposed to end up picking up his had on the forward roll at the end, but she missed it. In hold, Ed had loads of energy and made it through from one end to the other, but the whole thing was a bit skippy and he missed loads of heel leads. But I liked it anyway.

I didn't really enjoy Giovanni's samba, probably because he left Laura out of so much of it. It's easier for the female pros to get away wit that kind of thing. Ola used to dance around her less-able partners regularly. But Giovanni just came across as selfish. Laura really seemed to struggle to get in time at the beginning of the routine. She gave it a decent go, but she didn't quite get the difficult bounce action.

I was pleasantly surprised by Robert & Okasna again. Their quickstep had plenty of content, and they remained in hold for most of the routine. There was a nice grande jeté in the middle. His technique wasn't perfect, but as Craig said, he was a joy to watch. Classy and fabulous.

Louise & Kevin had the challenge of performing the first Argentine tango of the series. It was nicely danced. It had good atmosphere, but personally I just didn't feel the chemistry. I can't deny it was good, but the best Argentine tangos provoke an emotional reaction, and this one just didn't move me. I did love the ending, though. That was hot. If only it had been that hot all the way through.

Greg & Natalie's Viennese waltz had more heat in the opening and close of their routines than Louise & Kevin had in the whole routine. They really set the mood, although I wish they'd have kept that throughout, instead of breaking into big grins in hold. Greg gave the fleckerl a good go, and strode out well. It's just a shame that he lost his hold about halfway through. His left arm got closer to his body, making the hold almost tango-like.

I don't know if AJ is picking the music for his and Claudia's routines, but if he is someone needs to direct him in a different way. The choice of Shut Up And Dance was truly awful. I wanted to finally see Claudia stretched out of the twee, sweet world she's been in for all these weeks, but the music totally killed any chance of that. She was way too happy throughout the dance. Technically, it was a decent performance, but there was no mood. She just needs to make sure she closes her feet together. It places she stands with her feet apart, and it looks a bit unladylike.

Ed, Greg and Robert were my favourites this week. I would expect Laura and Daisy to be the bottom two, but no-one is safe. I truely think we'll lose someone good in the next couple of weeks, especially if people want Ed to make Blackpool. Heck, I voted for Ed last night. It's probably a good thing I'm not around to vote next Saturday. I can't be trusted.

Here are the videos...

Danny & Oti

Daisy & Aljaž 

Ore & Joanne

Ed & Katya

Laura & Giovanni

Robert & Oksana

Louise & Kevin

Greg & Natalie

Claudia & AJ

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Congratulations, Aliona!

Congratulations to former pro Aliona Vilani, who announced this morning that she is pregnant.

She posted the news on Twitter.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Service: Week 6

I'm sure the Halloween show is starting to lose it's way. Yes, the make-up and costumes are amazing, but the dances are starting to under-deliver. I always look forward to it, but it's starting to let me down.

Louise & Kevin started things off with a Charleston, which was not very memorable. They were very together. Louise gave it loads of energy, performing the whole thing flat out all the way through. But it was a bit hip-hop for my liking. It just didn't move me the way other Charlestons have.

I really enjoyed Robert & Oksana's paso. It had to be his best dance so far. It was manly, he gave the shaping a good go. The routine had lots of content, and Robert performed it all pretty well. It had lots of intent.

I also enjoyed Claudia & AJ's American smooth. The American smooth is always better when the couples have already done foxtrot or quicktep, whatever the base, and it's only been a couple of weeks since Claudia did foxtrot, so it was all fresh in her mind. The lifts were effortless and confident. I just wish she had danced to something other than Little Mix. Please let her have a grown up song, now!

Anastacia & Brendan's jive seemed to lose energy toward the end. Anastacia's technique was a bit heavy - she needed to be lighter on her feet. Brendan always delivers on Halloween, and it was a nice routine, but it wasn't executed very well. But at least Anastacia looked like she was having fun.

Danny & Oti showed some unintended vulnerability when their foxtrot went a bit wrong in the middle. I didn't really like the concept anyway, I found the elastic band a bit distracting. The routine had too much time out of hold. Just didn't work for me, and I don't think I'd have felt any different if they had done it right.

Laura & Giovanni's tango routine was great. Full of drive and intent, and full of content too. The hold looked good. It was sharp, and it needed to be. Lovely stuff. Her footfork could have been better, but we'll give Laura the benefit of the doubt and assume this was due to her injury.

Tonight was not Charleston night. Ore & Joanne's Charleston wasn't quite on it. I didn't really like the routine, although Ore did dance it well. They did miss a lift, but generally the whole thing was a bit flat. At least Ore had his off week at the same time as Danny...

I kind of liked Greg & Natalie's rumba. I did agree with Craig that the content was lacking, but that aside it was great. It was a bit 'run, run, pose'. But when did the judges start caring about content. I thought that was just something those of us who have been watching since series 1 did. Anyway, Greg danced the choreography he was given with great drama. It had atmosphere! It was a bit frantic, but it was one of the night's most exciting dances. Greg had even worked on those toes.

Daisy & Aljaž's paso was good, but not showstopping. Daisy's shaping could have been better. It could have had more intent. It was only OK, lost in the middle.

Ed & Katya's cha cha was oddly entertaining, and a return to 'form' for Ed after a couple of meltdowns. Ed's timing was good, although I could have lived without him mouthing 'ba-ba-ba' in time to the music.

I never thought I'd say this, but my favourite of the night was Robert Rinder! I also enjoyed Laura, Greg and Claudia. Bottom two for me would be Anatsacia, and possibly Louise. I think it's unlikely that anyone other than Anastacia will go home, but it really depends on who ends up in front of the judges.

Here are the videos...

Louise & Kevin

Robert & Oksana

Claudia & AJ

Anastacia & Brendan

Danny & Oti

Laura & Giovanni

Ore & Joanne

Greg & Natalie

Daisy & Aljaž

Ed & Katya

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2017

Every year, I look forward to reading the Strictly Come Dancing Annual. There are interviews with the participants, dancers, presenters and judges. You can't beat an autumnal Saturday afternoon, with a nice mug of hot chocolate, snuggled on the sofa under a blanket, and delving in to the book.

This year we have to say ta-rah to Len Goodman, who is happy to give up his Head Judge seat on a high, but not so happy to give up his slow mo camera: "Woebetide anyone who tries to rename Len's Lens. I'm not going to stand for it!"

Each year, the annual has a theme running through it, and this year it seems to be 'on the road'. There is a feature on the history of Strictly's second home - the Tower Ballroom. There is a look at how the team goes about getting Strictly up to Blackpool for a week each November. There is a lot of work that's involved which goes on all week to make sure Saturday's show looks great on TV. Another article covers the costumes for Blackpool and how Vicky Gill and the team make sure everything meets expectations. 

Blackpool is not the only time Strictly leaves Elstree. The Strictly Come Dancing Live tour hits arenas across the country each new year, and 2017 marks its 10th anniversary. There is an interesting look at how the tour is put together.

And of course, in 2016 we had the Strictly Prom, which saw six pros perform at the Royal Albert Hall alongside 2015 finalist and Proms presenter Katie Derham, and accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

If that isn't enough, the book also has quizzes, make-up tips and other behind-the-scenes gossip which make this a must-have for any Strictly fan.

The book is always a nice easy read, suitable for any family member. It has lots of glossy pictures, and is nicely balanced between interviews, history and fun stuff.

The Strictly Come Dancing Annual was released today, priced £12.99, and is available from all the usual retail outlets, published by BBC Books.

Disclosure: Thank you to the nice folks at Penguin Random House for supplying a copy of the annual for me to review.