Strictly Come Blogging

Louise. Lou. Loulabelle. Loulabelle44. Louby. loulabelle44@outlook.com.
Proudly blogging about Strictly Come Dancing ALL YEAR ROUND since 2006. Always spoiler-free.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 9

This year, Blackpool was very much a show of two halves. It was definitely back-loaded to build to the end.

Before we get started, I have yet to read anyone say anything nice about the use of extra dancers. That's nothing against the dancers themselves, they are all very talented. It was nice to see more of Johannes. There is a place for them in the big group numbers. But with the couples they are largely distracting, and intrusive.

We started with the return of Disco Salsa: Stacey & Kevin Edition. Disco just about worked for Abbey & Aljaž in Blackpool five (five!) years ago. It didn't really work for Stacey & Kevin, though, at least not for me. Stacey's arms still bother me, especially in turns, although luckily for her most of the arms were set this week. I loved the lifts, though. Fearless. Stacey always goes for it.

I felt that Lauren & AJ were grossly undermarked last night. Their Argentine tango wasn't perfect. Far from it. But it was better than the judges gave them credit for. Lauren's biggest problem was her toes. If she pointed her feet, it would have improved her leg lines. Her legs needed to be straighter all though, but pointing her toes would have hidden it a bit. The routine wasn't easy, and she danced all of it correctly. It had the intensity and mood you need.

I wanted Graeme & Oti to be amazing. Theatre/jazz to The Trolley Song sounded like a winner. And yet, it wasn't that interesting. It was lots of running and brolley tapping, and not much else. The choreography didn't move me. The performance was fine. Good in fact, but it's not enough at this stage to be good.

We've seen some excellent pasos at Blackpool, so expectation is always high. But sadly, Faye & Giovanni's effort just didn't quite do it for me. Like Graeme's routine, it was good, but I wanted more. I actually liked it better on second viewing, which is not very helpful on Strictly, where you get one chance to impress. It was strong and passionate. It should be enough to see her through.

Kate & Aljaž's Blackpool honeymoon fell a little flat for me. It just wasn't a showstopper. Decent enough, and well danced. Nice pivots at the end. Nice lift in the middle. It was all just nice.

Then the evening started to take a turn. I was concerned that with the couple's choice and Charleston behind them, Charles & Karen would have little left to offer. Charles has not found his stride with the ten dances. He proved everyone wrong last night with his samba. Lovely promenade runs, gorgeous hip action on the voltres, and a fluidity of movement throughout. Charles looked to be having a blast. So good to see the penny drop for him.

Quickstep is always a good dance to get at Blackpool, and Joe & Dianne didn't waste it. Their routine was quick and light with no gapping. The was joyful and musical. I could have done without the giant piano section in the middle - this is not American smooth - but all told it was a great performance. 

Ashley & Pasha's jive was amazing, and definitely worth of a full forty. If you didn't know which was the pro and which was the celebrity, you'd have a hard time guessing. Probably because the celebrity is a dancer by trade. But I am not trying to take anything away from Ashley. The performance was on point. Excellent leg retractions. Beautiful arms. Beautiful turns. Perfection.

Ashley was definitely the best last night, followed by Joe and Charles.

I think it'll be the dance off for Graeme and Kate. I fear for Lauren at the bottom of the leaderboard, she doesn't deserve to be in the dance-off.

I can't wait for tonight!

Book Review: In Strictest Confidence

Craig Revel Horwood has written another autobiography, In Strictest Confidence, his third book.

The book covers the last three years, which doesn't sound long, but it has been a period of significant change for Craig. He lost his father, he turned 50, he gave up his life in London to buy a house in the quiet countryside and he bought a ride-on lawn mower.

The book starts during the period in late 2015 when he was in panto in High Wycombe. During the run, he learnt of his father's death. But even before that, he was lonely. His (now-ex) boyfriend didn't visit, and he was stuck in a small budget hotel room close to the theatre. There are two budget hotels in Wycombe, I just hope he chose the one where Lenny Henry stays, and not the one with the puppets.

This revelation killed me. I live less than two miles from the theatre. I saw him in that show. I would happily have kept him company! If only I'd known...

The book then covers his reaction to his father's passing. Craig's period of reflection continued as he appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? It was interesting hearing how the programme is put together.

He also talked about his two fiftieth birthday parties, his time in Annie, obviously more about Strictly, including the passing of Sir Bruce, and the departure of Len and arrival of Shirley.

One of the most interesting parts was the filming of the upcoming Nativity Rocks movie. Much of the script is improvised. I can't wait to see it.

I have been a big fan of Craig since the start of Strictly. He was always the judge I found myself agreeing with the most. And he is way more talented than people give him credit for. Don't let the affected Craig you see on Strictly fool you. He really can sing, dance, direct and choreograph. I can't wait to see if he can improvise.

If you are a Craig fan, this is another excellent read.

And Craig, if you ever find yourself lonely in Wycombe again, just let me know. We'll go for cocktails in the Heidrun and have a fabulous time.

Disclosure: Thank you to the nice folks at Michael O'Mara books who kindly sent me a copy of the book to review.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 8

No-one wants to be chucked off the coach to Blackpool before it's even left Elstree. For one participant, it is the end of the road. But who?

Kate & Aljaž started things of with their quickstep. It was bright and breezy. Her top line is a bit iffy in places, but that's being picky. It was relaxed and confident. She kept up with the music, and didn't appear to tire out.

Danny & Amy's samba was well choreographed, and nicely performed. But Danny's jerky side returned. It was too stiff and punchy, rather than smooth and bouncy. The hip action wasn't quite there. I want Danny to stay, though. He is a good dancer.

When the couples are doing contemporary dances, with amazing lifts, what is there for us to look forward to in the showdance at the end of the series? Ashley & Pasha's contemporary dance was gorgeous. It was emotional. The lifts were superb. Ashley & Pasha were a team throughout the dance. Excellent.

My reaction to Graeme & Oti's salsa was "I'm not sure what I just watched." It was the most bonkers salsa ever. Tredmills, Reebok steps, I Don't Like Cricket in the middle of Follow The Leader. Mad. But strangely entertaining, if a little flat footed.

What a jive from Faye & Giovanni! A wonderful sequence of turning kick ball-changes at the beginning. The whole thing was light and bright. Brilliant retraction on the flicks. And all danced in Latin sandals, which seems to be a dying art on Strictly. Loved it.

Stacey & Kevin's waltz was never going to stand out among the wow factor of jive or contemporary. It was nice, but lacked a bit of something. Good footwork, but needs more drive and more fluidity.

It was obvious that Dianne had really worked on Joe's hip and leg action. It wasn't quite there, and was lacking the undulation required, but it was a good effort. Samba is really difficult and I was impressed with Joe's effort. Not a classic, but a good attempt.

Lauren & AJ's Viennese waltz was gorgeous. It was romantic. It flowed well. Lauren't top line has improved since the last time she did ballroom. The underarm turn at the beginning was lovely. Excellent footwork. It was a great ending to the show.

The Charleston might have saved Charles & Karen from another dance-off. Like street/commercial, it totally suited Charles. It was a flawless performance. Great timing and musicality. Lovely swivel action. A cool Charleston.

The strongest for me this week were Ashley, Faye, Charles and Lauren.

There was no-one weak this week, and it's going to be heartbreaking to see anyone go home tonight. Could be anyone in the bottom. I suspect Kevin's fans will keep him and Stacey in. Graeme, Kate, Danny and Joe could all be in danger. Or maybe it's time for the shock exit that we usually see at least once a series.

Tonight's results show will be quite exciting.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 7

Seven!

What an odd week it was. The judges seemed to be watching a different dance a few times, and there were a few stumbles from some good contestants.

I definitely wasn't watching the same jive from Lauren & AJ that the judges were watching. They thought it was great. I thought it wasn't good at all. It was heavy, stompy and messy. I liked the tricks, but the jive content was not so good.

Graeme & Oti's waltz was very sweet. It was elegant and engaging. It was exactly what a waltz should be. Not gimmicks. Very pure. Graeme is a tad pigeon toed, and there looked to be a moment where he made Oti stumble. I also wish he had smiled. He was concentrating so hard, and he wanted so desperately to do well, that it translated to a slightly severe face. A good job, though.

We went from the Sound of Music gazebo of Graeme's waltz, to Aljaž's outfit which Maria made from the curtains! I desperately wanted Kate & Aljaž's Argentine tango to be great, but it just didn't quite hit the mark. One thing that ruined it for me was Kate's toes. She didn't point them, which killed the leg lines. The pair lacked a bit of connection for me. The choreography was correct throughout, but it just didn't quite move me.

Ranj & Janette's routines are always fun and infectious, and the samba was no exception. It was upbeat and energetic, with the usual Ranj flourishes. His samba technique wasn't perfect, and it lacked the undulating hip action. I would have liked to see some samba rolls, too. But it was another fun performance from an infectious couple.

I really liked Stacey & Kevin's street/commercial routine. The choreography was excellent. And I actually thought it was once of Stacey's best performances so far. She looked really comfortable with the funky style. The thing that really bothers me about Stacey is her arms. She tends to extend her arms from the elbows, so they are truncated down near her waist, instead of from the shoulders to give a long line. It just looks odd. It's especially noticeable on her turns.

Danny & Amy's quickstep was sadly a complete dance disaster. The opening was great. There was a little error just as they took hold, and I thought they were over it, but then it spiraled. He recovered during the second half of the dance, but it was such a shame. It had the potential to be a show-stopper. If they make the final, I'd love to see them do it again, and smash it.

You can trust Pasha to turn out a pure piece of choreography, and that's what he did. A gorgeous foxtrot. Ashley looked so glamorous and at ease in Pasha's arms. I loved the routine, the footwork was excellent, Ashley has a gorgeous topline. Pure Hollywood.

Faye & Giovanni's tango was what I wanted Kate & Aljaž's Argentine tango to be. It was staccato, it had attack and drive. Faye is just great at that moody stuff. Like Craig, I wasn't really a fan of the cube, as I think it limited them, but it was still a good routine.

Charles & Karen's Viennese waltz was nice enough. It was sweet, not overly complicated. It was definitely a week for 'pure' choreography. His posture looked a tad odd to me, but I'm wondering if that's because of their height difference. A good week for Charles.

Joe & Dianne did a good paso. It was clear that Joe had worked hard, although his shaping was a bit odd in places. He definitely seemed to be leading Dianne, and he looked in control and made no mistakes.

My favourites this week were Ashley and Stacey, although Faye and Graeme were good too.

It's difficult to choose a bottom two. Danny made mistakes, but he's too good to go home. No-one really deserves to be there. I'd put Lauren in the bottom two, becuase I really didn't like her jive. There were no other routines that I really didn't like. Ranj, Graeme, Kate and Charles could all end up there.

It's going to be a tough dance-off tonight.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Panto Roundup 2018

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Here is my annual round-up of which Strictly stars are appearing where. Shirley Ballas is making her panto debut!

Shirley Ballas (judge), Jack & The Beanstalk - Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Craig Revel Horwood (judge), Cinderella - New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Flavia Cacace (ex-pro), Snow White - Palladium, London
Brendan Cole (ex-pro), Snow White - Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe
Kristina Rihanoff (ex-pro), Peter Pan - Theatre Royal, St Helens
Vincent Simone (ex-pro), Snow White - Palladium, London
Robin Windsor (ex-pro), Aladdin - Palace Theatre, Redditch

Claire Sweeney (Series 1), Sleeping Beauty - Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
Julian Clary (Series 2), Snow White - Palladium, London
Claire King (Series 4), Sleeping Beauty - The Plaza, Stockport
Rachel Stevens (Series 6), Cinderella - Alban Arena, St Albans
Ricky Groves (Series 7), Aladdin - Melton Theatre, Melton Mowbray (Dec)
Ricky Groves (Series 7), Aladdin - Pavillion Theatre, Exmouth (Dec/Jan)
Ricky Groves (Series 7), Aladdin - Majestic Theatre, Retford (Jan)
Ann Widdecombe (Series 8), Snow White - Harlequin Theatre, Redhill
Anita Dobson (Series 9), Cinderella - Hull New Theatre, Hull
Dani Harmer (Series 10), Snow White - The Anvil, Basingstoke
Sid Owen (Series 10), Peter Pan - Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
Lisa Riley (Series 10), Beauty & The Beast - New Theatre, Cardiff
Simon Webbe (Series 12), Aladdin - Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
Tameka Empson (Series 14), Aladdin - Hackney Empire, London
Lesley Joseph (Series 14), Cinderella - Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Brian Conley (Series 15), Cinderella - Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol
Debbie McGee (Series 15), Sleeping Beauty - Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Su Pollard (Christmas 2011), Snow White - Festival Theatre, Malvern
Bobby Ball (Christmas 2012), Jack & The Beanstalk - Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

Book Review: One Enchanted Evening

Not satisfied with being a professional dancer, media personality and singer, Anton du Beke has now added novelist to his CV.

Anton's debut novel is entitled One Enchanted Evening.

The action centres around the Buckingham Hotel, and the many characters working in the hotel, all of whom have secrets which could destroy their careers, and probably their lives, if they were to get out.

The story is set in 1936, the inter-war period, a time of uncertainty and unrest.

Raymond de Guise is the confident professional ballroom dancer who wows the patrons of the Buckingham's Grand Ballroom. With a name like de Guise, you cannot help but think about Anton, but he also quite Johnny Castle-like. He has reinvented himself, and his colleagues know little of his past.

Hélène Marchmont is Raymond's dance partner. She has recently returned from a year off spent travelling and trying to become a star. But she has a secret...

Nancy Nettleton is a young chambermaid, who has just joined the Buckingham, hoping to earn money to support herself and her younger brother. They have recently lost their father.

Maynard Charles is the hotel director, pivotal to the running of the hotel. He does the hiring and firing. He also has secrets...

Vivienne Edgerton is living at the hotel, which is owned by her stepfather. She is a lush, who gets exactly what she wants because she is the boss' daughter.

Billy Brogan is the young page, who seems to know everything going on in the hotel. Knowledge is power, and there isn't much that Billy doesn't know.

All of the characters' stories intersect, as they try to maintain their secrets while upholding the values of their upmarket workplace.

Is the book any good?

I'm not going to lie. I love Anton, but I was skeptical. An autobiography would be an obvious move, but a novel? Could he pull it off?

The book is quite engaging. Every so often I had to remind myself that this was written by Anton. You soon begin to care about the characters, and want to learn more about the secrets they are protecting. Anton's love of this period of history is apparent. The descriptions of the Buckingham and its Grand Ballroom are vivid.

I wasn't a fan of the ending, personally. I thought that there were much more engaging scenes earlier in the book. But I am happy to say that I did enjoy it, and would consider reading something else from Anton. He recently told Chris Evans that he has enough material for more books, so I don't think this will be the last one.

One Enchanted Evening is available now.

Disclosure: Thank you to the nice folks at Bonnier Zaffre publishing who kindly sent me a signed copy of the book to review.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 6

Halloween week is always so highly anticipated, but doesn't always live up to expectations. Last night was very hit and miss.

Graeme & Oti's cha cha had loads of basic content, which was great. But Graeme didn't look as confident as usual. Maybe under rehearsed. A couple of times he looked to Oti for reassurance or inspiration. It was a bit ploddy. Nice Thriller moments, but not Graeme's best week.

I wasn't sure if a tango to the Doctor Who theme was going to work, but it kind of did. It was great to see Stacey do something a little more serious. It was nice to see Stacey & Kevin switch roles, but she didn't look as though she was leading.

I really liked Ranj & Janette's jive. Loved the story. The technique wasn't really there, though. It was a bit heavy and ploddy. There were a lot of mistakes. Maybe he'll get to correct them in the dance off... Still entertaining, though.

I felt that Kate & Aljaž's rumba lacked connection. They performed to the audience, but didn't connect with each other. I agreed with Darcey about Kate's arms - she doesn't extend them all the way to the end. Everything was a little truncated. Not Kate's best.

I liked Danny & Amy's American smooth. It was a bit annoying that you couldn't see Danny's feet because of all the dry ice, although he emerged from the mist with a nice upturned toe. Lovely arms. Not a classic Hollywood American smooth, but nice enough.

Charlestons always deliver. Ashley has such a great sense of timing and musicality. Great swivel. Great characterisation. Ashley matched Pasha's moves so well. Fantastic routine. Definitely worthy of 10s.

I loved the concept of Seann & Katya's Viennese waltz. It was a lovely routine. Unfortunately, it wasn't executed very well. Seann's legs were too stiff. He was off time almost all the way though. Well-attempted fleckerl where other pros might have just gone with a standing spin. What might have been.

I was worried that Charles & Karen peaked last week, and a return to the traditional ten dances would be a disaster. However, it was a great attempt at the jive. A couple of timing issues which was a shame. Not as heavy as it looked in training clips during the week. Enjoyable, even if it wasn't perfect.

Faye was made for theatre/jazz. Everything was spot on. Timing and musicality was perfect. She was so in sync with Giovanni. Brilliant lifts. Just wonderful. Again, deserving of 10s.

Joe & Dianne did a decent foxtrot. Foxtrot is quite a hard sell, especially where some of the evening's other dances had a lot of spectacle. Great technique. Very watchable.

I liked Lauren & AJ's paso. It had attack and drive. Lauren was very fierce and intense. A little timing issue, and she could have done with a bit more shaping. But overall good.

Ashley and Faye were easily the best this week.

Seann should definitely be in the bottom two, with Charles or Ranj. Or maybe even Graeme. If Seann is in the dance-off, he's definitely going home.

Friday, October 26, 2018

NTAs: Last Chance To Vote

You have until 2300 tonight to vote for Strictly in the National Television Awards.

Strictly Come Dancing is nominated in the Talent Show category, up against The Voice Kids, The Voice UK, Dancing On Ice, Britain's Got Talent, The X Factor and All Together Now.

Claudia Winkleman, Tess Daly and Zoe Ball are all nominated for TV Presenter.

Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas are all nominated for TV Judge.

Click here to cast your votes.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 5

A week of poor frames, this week.

Ranj & Janette's American smooth was a joyous start to the show. Lovely footwork, clean lifts. He is a tad pigeon toed at times, but aside from that it was really nice. Great choreography from Janette. A sweet routine.

Lauren & AJ's contemporary routine felt like a showdance. It was very lyrical and emotional. I liked the choreography. It was a bit disjointed in places. The lifts were challenging. I liked the physical expression of her day job. A good job.

I loved everything about Graeme & Oti's tango, except Graeme's frame in hold. It had drive. It had emotion. I loved the neck drops and other difficult moved. He just needs to get his shoulders back. Graeme is slowly doing well and flying a little under the radar.

What a gorgeous rumba from Ashley & Pasha! A lovely mix of basic steps and more challenging choreography. Great lines. She really worked into the floor to give herself great hip action. Lovely underarm turns that Nicole Cutler would be proud of. It's so nice to see a rumba done so well on Strictly.

Seann & Katya's quickstep was much better than I was anticipating. They were pretty in sync. Some challenging choreography that Seann coped well with. Using the guitar in hold was slightly odd, but worked OK. Seann really needs to close his feet together more. Not his best dance, but not his worst either.

Stacey & Kevin's samba was bright and fun. It could have had more hip action in places, but it had some lovely basic choreography. Nice promenade runs. Nice natural rolls. My favourite Stacey routine to date. She looked as though she was having a ball.

Joe & Dianne's waltz was very sweet. Like Graeme, it's only his frame that lets him down. He needs to keep his shoulders back, and not lean over Dianne. His footwork was decent. It was nice. Not showstopping, but waltzes rarely are.

It was clear that Vick had really worked on her leg action this week. She tried hard to keep her legs straight. I didn't like the move down the stairs. Using the stairs takes way too long, but I guess Graziano is too new to know that. Vick totally sold what was a horrible cha cha routine.

What was it with frames this week? Kate's shoulders were too high, spoiling her top line. Otherwise, her Viennese waltz with Aljaž was nice. A good fleckerl and standing spin. She definitely felt the music. It just left me a bit cold.

I loved Danny & Amy's jive. Brilliant snappy leg action from Danny. Light on his feet. Energetic throughout. A total joy. Loved it. Everything came together. Props and lighting capped off a brilliant routine. It was so good to see Danny finally come into his own. This is what we have been waiting for.

I loved the storytelling in Faye & Giovanni's foxtrot routine. It was dreamlike. They had a lovely connection. It was very relaxed, it was nice to see a nice frame at last. It felt a little American smoothy, though. It could have more in hold.

It was nice to finally see Charles hit his groove. He was made for street/commerical. The routine was sharp, and Charles hit all of it. Great job. That should hopefully keep Charles & Karen out of the dance-off for this week.

Danny, Ashley and Charles were easily the best this week. Brilliant routines all of them.

It could be the end of the road for Vick. She sold a poor routine well, but I don't see it getting that many votes. Seann, Joe and Kate were all so middle of the road that they might not have got the votes. I could see any one of them being there too.

We'll find out tonight.

Alfonso was actully a pretty good guest judge. And not a "Donny 10" in sight. He failry marked everyone, and he was in line with the rest of the panel. Great job.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Couple's Choice

There hasn't been much of a change to the Strictly format for a while. The last new dance introduced was the Charleston, which joined the line-up in Series 7.

So this year, the couples can choose between three different dance styles outside of the usual 14. Sounds like more couples getting to dodge rumba, if you ask me.

The choices are contemporary, street/commercial and theatre and jazz.

This is actually an interesting development. While I am sure most of the pros will have dabbled with each of these styles - some of them have been incorporated into the Sunday pro numbers in recent years - they are probably not styles that the pros have had extensive training in.

I can't help wondering if the pros will receive choreographic assistance, as they do with Charleston and Argentine tango. Which may make for better routines all round. Some, like Katya, will probably be able to bring something interesting when let loose, but I wouldn't see someone like Anton having a good go at anything other than theatre and jazz.

Charles & Karen (street/commerical) and Lauren & AJ (contemporary) are the first to tackle these styles.

This is probably a great opportunity for Charles. He hasn't really found his groove with ballroom or latin, so perhaps this is the boost he needs to stay out of the dance-off this week.

I suspect that Laren & AJ will do something lyrical, and it may not be contemporary in the traditional sense.

I'll be watching with interest.

Alfonso Ribeiro To Guest Judge This Saturday

Apparently Bruno has decided he needs a break from Strictly again. 

Last year, he took the same weekend off and was not replaced with a guest. This year he is being replaced for the week by Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro.

This is the first time since 2014 that a guest judge has been drafted in. The thing I don't really get is why they have to keep drafting in DWTS contestants as guest judges. I'm sure there are plenty of UK celebrities or dancers who could join. Matthew Bourne is a fan of the show, and well respected. Or perhaps someone like choreographer Kate Prince. Or Karen Bruce.

We really don't need celebrity guests dishing out "Donny Tens" all over the shop.

Alfonso did win his series of DWTS, so I guess he's at least as qualified as Alesha Dixon. I just hope he gets the Carlton dance out of the way early doors, or no-one is going to listen to a word he says.

I'm sure Shirley will be pleased to be free from Bruno's flailing limbs for a week.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 4

No themes for this week. Just dancing.

Joe tried really hard to get the cha cha hip action, but it didn't come. Everything else about the routine was pretty good. He got all of the steps and he led Dianne well. He certainly knows his choreography. It's was just all a bit forgettable. 

Vick & Graziano's quickstep was a joy. It was light and energetic. Vick's lines are pretty nice. A little bit of gapping in places, but nothing major. Their best dance so far.

Danny & Amy's Viennese waltz was packed with content, which was great to see. He needs to watch his footwork, as he missed a few heel leads. His fleckerl was a bit unclear, and was verging on standing spin. He feels the music. One of Danny's best dances in my opinion, it was less spikey than other routines have been.

Faye & Giovanni's rumba was well executed, but it lacked a bit of chemistry for me. The choreography was good, and she performed well, but there was something missing. Faye hits some beautiful shapes. There was a lovely moment where she glanced over her shoulder at him, but that was the only electric moment in the dance.

There was something so charming about Gorka & Katie's jive, I was grinning throughout. There were timing issues throughout. Gorka obviously realised that she could do a back-rock chasse just about in time, and filled the whole routine with them. The flicks needed pointed toes. Her best dance so far for me. Their chemistry was all there, too.

There is no question that Charles is a good dancer, but none of the styles he has done so far have suited him. I didn't really like the salsa. The routine lacked classic salsa content for me. Charles performed well, bit it needed to be lower in the knees and more hips. I'm not sure why he and Karen keep missing the mark.

There was a little timing issue at the top of Lauren & AJ's quickstep. It was a lovely routine, though. Lauren definitely is a better ballroom dancer than latin dancer. She needs to watch her left elbow which sinks a lot. But it was a good attempt. I'd love to see it again done correctly, but not in the dance off.

Ranj needs to work on his acting skills. There were a couple of points where he forgot about his character and started to smile. There were some nice lines in places, but the transitions were a bit ploddy. Good choreography from Janette. There was nothing really wrong with it. I just didn't feel that it was Ranj's dance.

I don't the the samba was Kate's dance. It started of well, with gorgeous hip action on her lock steps. But after that, they vanished. There was no hip action in any of the rest of the dance. There were a couple of moments where she seemed to be looking to Aljaž for inspiration or reassurance. Africa, though. Tune!

Graeme & Oti's jive was energetic and fun. Graeme could have got more up on the ball of his feet, and he could have pointed his toes more, but otherwise it was great. Good timing. Good energy. Lots of performance value.

I didn't really know what to make of Ashley & Pasha's tango. It left me a bit cold. It was all very well performed. It just didn't move me. On to next week.

Everyone was waiting for Seann & Katya. Their Charleston was very ambitious, and it didn't really come off. The lifts were very laboured. There wasn't enough swivvel. I'd love to see it with everything performed correctly. It was as if they were a bit distracted, and didn't have enough time for training this week...

I enjoyed Stacey & Kevin's foxtrot more than any other dance they have performed. I was a bit annoyed by the dance break in the middle, because I wanted to see more of Stacey's very good foxtrot. It was the first time we've really seen Stacey in hold, and I want to see more.

No-one really stood out for me this week. Everything was a bit middle of the road. I liked Vick and I liked Danny.

I know Katie is the weakest dancer. Last week I would have happily seen them leave. This week, I'm more reluctant to see them in the dance-off. I think Kate was pretty weak this week, but I don't think she deserves to go home either. I would have put money on Charles to do well after I saw him in the launch show, but he just hasn't hit his stride. I think he'd be the one to go.

Have the public been voting for Seann? I guess we'll find out tonight.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 3

Theme week, ahoy. It's movie week, which is absolutely not the same as musicals week. Admittedly, many of these movies are musicals, and many musicals are movies, but they are absolutely different.

Vick & Graziano's salsa lacked content for me. Vick's performance was great, high energy, I just wasn't a fan of the content. The lifts were good, and looked effortless, which is quite rare for a celebrity. Vick has a lot of potential, but I'm not sure how far she's going to get with Graziano.

Ranj & Janette's quickstep was fun, but didn't hit the mark. Ranj lacks drive. He didn't look as though he was leading Janette. Here were heel leads missing, and the Charleston section went a bit wrong. Their body contact was pretty good. Perhaps the excitement of becoming Price Ali was too overwhelming for Ranj.

I really enjoyed Lee & Nadiya's cha cha routine. It was fun. I liked the routine. Lee is still a bit pigeon-toed. I didn't think his leg action was as bad as the judges made out. It was a shame he made a mistake toward the end. The side-by-side sections were pretty clean, and I liked the floor section. Very undermarked.

Such a shame that Kate stumbled at the beginning of the foxtrot! It disturbed the sexy vibe of the routine. Her footwork was pretty good, the heel leads were there, although she needs to flip her toes up on the backward steps. She lost body contact with Aljaž at times, and she needs to watch her shoulders on pivots as they were creeping up.

Why was Stacey in flat shoes? It made the entire jive so stompy. I liked the choreography, and Stacey is a great performer,  but I want a jive to be much lighter. Stacey and Kevin have a great partnership. I am desperate to see them do something a little less high-energy.

Joe & Dianne's American smooth was a lovely routine. However, Joe needs to straighten his legs. He danced the whole routine on bent legs, like it was a tango. He needs a bit more drive. His musicality is spot on, though. He id definitely watchable. I wouldn't say he lead Dianne especially, but he did present her beautifully. I want to see more ballroom from Joe.

Graeme & Oti's Charleston had my Spidey senses tingling! The lifts were incredible, and there were so many of them! The one at the end was amazing. His timing was great, the swivvel was pretty good too. The trust between them after three weeks is phenomenal. Brilliant routine.

Ashley & Pasha has a difficult job. To dance the salsa to one of the most iconic movies of all time, with that iconic lift, was a lot of pressure. Anyone would have been nervous, but it was confident and clean. There were nods to the original choreography everywhere. Was there enough salsa content in there? Not sure. But who cares?

Katie & Gorka's foxtrot was cute, but she is a bit out of her depth now. Gorka is doing a good job of hiding her lack of ability but not over-packing the routine with steps. It's lovely to see a more relaxed Katie. The judges are right that she's improving, and in a normal classroom situation she would improve throughout her course. Unfortunately, this is Strictly, and there isn't the time for slow development.

I loved Seann & Katya's paso doble. Brilliant choreography, brilliant mood. There was maybe one moment where Seann was a little off time, but I don't care. I loved it. Great shaping in the arms. The slow mo section was amazing - Katya's control is breathtaking. Loved everything about it. Clubbed To Death is a brilliant track. Everything just worked.

Lauren just seems to lack confidence and attack. Her cha cha action is nice, but it's way too understated. Both of the drops off the car were fearless. At times she appeared to be looking to AJ for reassurance. It's all a bit Louise Rednapp. She needs to find a way to express herself on the floor.

I was a little bored by Charles & Karen's american smooth. Choreographically, it was uninspiring. It felt like it was all about Karen, I barely even noticed Charles. And why was there no lift on that crescendo of the start of the chorus? Missed opportunity. Choreography aside, Charles could have had more drive and straighter legs and better timing.

Faye Tozer was the embodiment of Sandy Dumbrowsi. She totally looked the part, and acted the part. The routine was frantically fast, and Faye nailed all of it. She and Giovanni flew around the floor. Fantastic stuff.

Danny & Amy had a tough job, dancing to one of the world's most beloved musicals. It was a good effort as well. Danny has shaping issues - his arm lines are too straight for the paso. There was a little incident before the pivots as well. The music didn't scream paso, which made it difficult.

So many favourties this week. I loved Faye, Seann and Graeme the most, but there were other great performances too.

Katie is definitely in the bottom two for me. She is just so far behind everyone else, and won't have time to reach their levels. I don't agree with how high they were on the leaderboard. I would probably put Lauren in the bottom two with her, but Lauren has lots more to give. I don't agree that Lee was the weakest of the week.

We'll have to wait until tonight to see if the public agree with the judges.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

James Jordan Joins Dancing On Ice

It was announced yesterday that former Strictly pro James Jordan will be joining the celebrity cast of Dancing On Ice in 2019.


I'm the first to admit that any kind of dance training is a big help on Strictly, and don't buy the whole "But Latin and ballroom is sooooo different" defense. 

But ice dancing really is so different. No doubt the ability to learn choreography is a big help,  and he knows how to hold himself and finish lines, but the balance and fearlessness needed for it is way beyond anything he will have experienced in the dancing world. He is physically fit though, or will be by the time DOI comes around. You definitely need core strength, which is probably why I have always sucked at skating.

I know a lot of people don't like James, but I have met him several times, and I have always found him honest and charming.

I am so curious, I might actually watch. I want to see him take out Gemma Collins and Bryan from Westloife.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 2

With someone leaving the competition this week, the pressure is now on for the couples. Some rose to the challenge, others faltered. The enduring memory of this week will be some odd choreographic choices.

My concerns with Stacey & Kevin's cha cha were similar to last week. She brings the performance, she brings the attack, but she needs to control her limbs. The whole thing is a big gangly. She needs to straighten her legs more throughout. However, Stacey has loads of potential. She has great timing, and didn't miss a step last night. I can't wait to see her do ballroom.

Charles & Karen's quickstep was clean and light. The routine was packed with steps, and Charles danced it well. It was a shame that he was ahead of the counts on the Charleston section, but otherwise I thought it was a very confident performance. The splits was a nice touch.

I so wanted to enjoy Katie & Gorka's paso doble. I was willing Katie to do well. Her attitude was better, she seemed to have shaken off the nerves. But sadly, she was out of time quite a lot, and didn't really have the technique. It was a lot of uncomfortable walking and not much else. One of the weakest in the competition, sadly.

Like the judges, I found Graeme & Oti's American smooth very confused. I usually love Oti's choreography, but last night's didn't work for me. I loved everything in hold, but not the parts out of hold. Aside from the choreography, I thought Graeme did well. His footwork looked good. His posture needs work. He was leading with his left arm, and started to hunch over.

Kate & Aljaž's tango was passionate. It had great drive, good footwork. I thought Kate's facial expression was a bit severe, and her shoulders dropped slightly in a couple of places. But that's being picky. For week 2, it was a brilliant performance. After such high praise from the judges, I thought her scores would be higher.

I wasn't a fan of Joe & Dianne's Charleston choreography. Perhaps it was the Cotton Eye Joe track, but it just wasn't as much fun as Charlestons usually are. I also thought it was just too quick and overly packed. However, Joe danced it very well. How he kept up with the speed I'm not really sure. Perhaps he's related to Tigger. And can we take a minute to admire their shirts, please?

When the 'King of Ballroom' can't get a foxtrot to look good, you know you're in trouble. Susannah & Anton's routine started off well. It was all good until they got into hold. Then it was a disaster. She was out of time frequently. She made lots of mistakes. They lot body contact because her posture was so poor. I don't think I've ever seen a heel turn done on the balls of the feet before. Total disaster. The best part was Anton's grimace about two-thirds of the way through. You could see the moment when he realised that his competition was probably over for this year.

I quite enjoyed Lee & Nadiya's jive. I liked the Elvis styling. The routine had lots of choreography, and Lee managed well. There was a small mistake in the middle, and Lee is still a bit pigeon-toed, which is really apparent on the kicks. He has bags of potential, though. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

I found Danny & Amy's cha cha a bit sharp. Danny hit all the positions and didn't miss a step, but it all felt a bit jagged. He needs to smooth things out a bit. His leg action is nice, and sometimes his hips and arms are on point. But it just wasn't quite there. I'm confident that Danny will go a long way, though. What I love about Danny is he finishes his lines - his arms are never left dangling.

I loved Vick & Graziano's waltz. It was smooth and balletic, elegant and engaging. So much better than last week.

Another upbeat routine from Ranj & Janette. Their salsa was hot and energetic. Props to Janette for continuing no matter what. I'm very interested to see how Ranj will get on with something a little more sedate like a waltz or rumba.

Faye & Giovanni's Viennese waltz was totally captivating. I loved the slightly darker interpretation. It was gorgeous. The rotation on the turns in hold was fantastic. Fantastic fleckerl, too. I was surprised that Shirley was so down on Faye. Faye looked quite upset at the negative feedback. Unfortunately, it looked like Shirley might have been right about the footwork. It's so hard to see from home when the cameras cut their feet off. But to be honest, I didn't care. I loved it anyway. If Faye makes the final, I think we'll see that routine again, with all the heel leads in place.

Lauren & AJ's Charleston wasn't quite as confident as last week's waltz. Lauren looked a bit tentative in places, although not surprising when there are all those lifts on her mind throughout the routine. It's a shame she got a little lost on the side-by-side section at the end. I liked the choreography better than Joe & Dianne's, but I don't think they executed it quite as well.

I'm Still Standing should just be retired. No-one else should be allowed to dance to it. I guess the saving grace is that Seann & Katya's jive was so bad, it hasn't tarnished the memory of the Ha'penny in any way! There were lots of points were Seann was off time, and even did extra steps to fill the music because he was so far ahead. But in other places he was on time. He remembered the whole routine, though. And there is something quite watchable about Seann.

My husband walked in while I was watching Ashley & Pasha's cha cha. "Is that the ringer? The Pussycat Doll?" he asked. "Is it that obvious?" I replied. It so was. Ashley looked like a professional. Probably because she is a professional dancer. Her arm placement, leg action, hip action was all on point. It was a fantastic performance. I think the only reason she didn't get more 9s was because it is week 2, and the judges don't want to give them out yet. In my opinion, that dance was a 10.

My favourites of the week were Faye and Ashley. But there were so many good performances it feels unfair to single anyone out.

There is no question in my mind that Susannah should go home. Both of her routines have been woeful, and the general public don't like her enough to save her. I'd probably put Katie in the dance off with her, but it felt that Katie had put more work in.

We'll find out tonight.