Strictly Come Blogging

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Proudly blogging about Strictly Come Dancing ALL YEAR ROUND since 2006. Always spoiler-free.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Pro Dancers Confirmed To Return

The BBC announced this week that, with the exception of Pasha Kovalev who has already announced his departure, all of last year's pros will be returning in 2019.

Director of Choreography, Jason Gilkison, will also return to oversee the dance content of the show.

The biggest question on the lips of every fan is "Who will actually get celebrity partners?".

Many, myself included, would like to see Neil finally come off the subs bench and partner a celebrity for the first time.

But there is also Johannes, who was received warmly last year and would be equally as deserving of a partner.

For the past few series, there have been more female celebrities than male. There is the possibility that Luba replaces Pasha, and swings the balance back the other way. Luba was fantastic on the recent Strictly tour, and like Johannes is also a fan favourite despite only having been in the line-up for one series.

The BBC probably won't make any announcements until they have confirmed the line-up of celebrities. We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Proshchal'nyy Privet, Pashpot!

Professional dancer Pasha Kovalev has announced that he will not be returning to Strictly this year, after eight years on the show.

He announced the news on Twitter:

Having been a champion with Caroline Flack, he probably feels that he has nothing else to achieve, and can move on from the show without leaving behind any unfinished business.

Pasha is definitely one of the most professional dancers, rarely speaking about his personal life (he has been with former Strictly partner Rachel Riley since 2014), and rarely seen in the tabloids. His focus has always been making his celebrity partner look good, and has been a gentleman with all his partners of varying abilities.

Farewell, Pashpot. We'll miss you and your Russian spy polo neck sweaters.

Will Gorka Leave His Hat On?

Strictly pro, and father-to-be, Gorka Marquez will potentially be baring all for The All New Monty 2019: Who Bares Wins.

Based loosely on The Full Monty, a group of celebrities will prepare to strip in front of an audience in order to raise awareness of testicular cancer, and encourage men to check themselves. The celebrities will be coached by Ashley Banjo and Alexander Armstrong, who himself has stripped in the past two programmes.

Alongside Gorka, ITV have announced that former Strictly participants Rav Wilding and Willie Thorne will also be a part of the line up.

No broadcast date has been set as yet.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

NTAs Short List Vote

It's the final round of NTA voting. Strictly needs you!

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

Case your vote here.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Chris Evans Says "Yes"

Chris Evans told Alex Jones on The One Show that he has said "yes" to Strictly, although it's not clear if they have actually asked him formally.

The Scotsman reports that he said: "I have said yes, I have said yes... I think what’s funny about it, everyone puts it off and tries and keep it a secret. No, announce now, we’re doing it now.”

Chris has talked about the show on his breakfast show a lot more than usual this year, and has had Anton on as a weekly guest. He revealed that he was invited to Saturday's wrap party.

The timing strikes me as odd. Evans will leave Radio 2 next week to join Virgin Radio. Why would he be suddenly offered Strictly when he is heading out of the door. Admittedly, being a BBC employee is not a requirement - Vick Hope works for Global's station Capital. But why wouldn't he have done it while at the BBC?

Sounds to me that he's just putting himself out there as 'available'.

Alan Carr: "I Would Do It"

Comedian Alan Carr has said that he would do Strictly, but is too busy next year.

The Evening Standard reports that Alan told the Loose Women panel: "I will do it but next year I have a busy year, I’m going on tour. They cornered me and said ‘would you do it?' I would do it but, listen, I hate those VTs where they’re like ‘hello, we’re doing salsa so we’re off to a dips factory’. Like, what? You know what I mean, they go to the zoo or a museum. And it’s like ‘no I need to be in a studio’.”

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 13 - The Final

The final. The time when the judges scores and comments mean nothing, and we finally find out which celebrity has the biggest support.

Round 1: Judges' Choice

Ashley & Pasha were given the salsa to dance again. To be fair, Ashley was so good from the beginning, there really wasn't the need to revisit anything. The lift was possibly a bit neater than the first time, but other than that there wasn't much to improve upon. As I said last week, I feel relaxed when Ashley takes to the floor, because I just know she's got this.

Stacey & Kevin were given the foxtrot by the judges. The performance was slicker than before, but I don't think Stacey's footwork was quite as good as the last time. They looked to be having fun. It was Stacey's best performance of the evening.

Faye & Giovanni's Viennese waltz was a pleasure to see again. Faye's confidence has improved since she last performed this number. It was so dramatic, so smoldering, so sexy. I loved it even more than last time. It had drive and command. Such good work.

I'm not sure I would have picked Joe & Dianne's paso again, but they did a good job. Aside from some dodgy arm lines (vol-au-vont, anyone?) it was a solid performance, and certainly shows how far Joe has come in the competition.

Round 2: Show Dances

Ah the show dance. There are no rules. Although these days, there are pretty much no rules anyway. Kevin's "mine wasn't as 'out of hold' as some of the others - my sister checked" defense is pretty pointless. But I digress...

Ashley & Pasha proved why they deserved to be in the final. Their show dance was similar was similar to their contemporary Couple's Choice routine, but so what? The show dance allows the couples to showcase what they are good at. And Ashley is good at lyrical. I loved it. It was clean and precise, had great musicality and passion. The lifts showed the trust between them. Brilliant stuff.

Kevin had stated that the show dance would show Stacey's journey. Apparently, her journey involved a lot of running around. Starting in different rooms and not seeing each other was quite brave, but perhaps they should have stuck to dancing in their bedrooms. The whole dance was untidy and frantic. I think it showed off more of Stacey's flaws than her accomplishments. 

By contrast, Faye & Giovanni's routine was a show dance masterclass. Pure Hollywood, which of course is Faye's strong suit. Great musciality, great side-by-side mirroring and the return of wings from two feet. A great showcase of ballroom dancing, too, which is what the show is all about.

I loved Joe & Dianne's show dance. It wasn't as slick and Faye & Giovanni's but it had the same wow factor. I loved the surprises of the trampoline and bursting though the speaker (although when Dianne did all the turns and the camera followed her, I actually thought he was getting into a harness for some sort of levitation). I liked that it included the Shoot at the start. The whole routine was very Joe. And it included proper quickstep as well.

Round 3: Couples' Favourite

I was surprised that Ashley & Pasha chose the Charleston, as I thought they would have chosen the jive. But it was lovely to see it again. It was a fun routine. Great swivvel. Great lifts. A good fun routine for them to end on.

The paso was probably one of Stacey & Kevin's strongest routines, although for me their street/commercial was their best performance. The paso had lots of running, so maybe the show dance really was about Stacey's journey. It was a strong performance, though. Stacey's shaping could have been better.

I wanted to see Faye & Giovanni's Charleston again, but their theatre/jazz routine was a good option too. Once again, it was sophisticated and synchronised. Wonderful.

I wasn't a fan of Joe & Dianne's Charleston, but I can see why they chose to do it again in the final. It was high energy and fun. But I think I would have preferred to see a ballroom routine again.

For me, on the night, Faye was the winner. She's been a bit behind Ashley all series, but last night Faye nailed everything. Her three routines were flawless.

Of the final four, Stacey was the one I least wanted to win. This was cemented by their mess of a show dance, which didn't stand up to the other three. I don't begrudge Stacey the title, she worked hard and came a long way. She is a lovely woman, and I love her documentaries. I just felt that she was out-danced by the other three on the night.

But worse than Stacey winning was how the whole thing immediately turned into the Kevin Show. Stacey was practically nonchalant about winning, while Kevin was suddenly the centre of attention. It was Kevin who knelt in front of the trophy, and it was Kevin who was lifted aloft. The whole point about Strictly is how it is a partnership, but this didn't feel that way.

It has been a brilliant series, and despite quite a 'who?' cast, it ended up being as good as ever. There were definitely some routines that will go down in Strictly folklore.

I am bereft again at the thought of no Strictly until September. With a change of executive producer next year, I suspect some things may be a little different...

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Countdown To The Glitterball...

The final is only two days away, and after spending some time chatting to Chris Evans, the final four couples are in the BBC Radio Theatre to meet the nation's press.

All of them look relaxed and at ease, especially Stacey, who has one foot resting on the edge of the coffee table in front. She looks as though she is sitting in a six form common room, reclined and relaxed with her mates.

She tells Scott Mills that she feels calm. "I want [Saturday] to feel like a massive party, like we've had such an incredible couple of months, all of us. So I sort of want us to come together, collectively, and celebrate."

Many have wondered if Kevin Clifton might depart at the end of the series, especially if he and Stacey walk away with the glitterball, but that might not be the case: "I've fallen in love with dance, and fallen in love with Strictly all over again. I've really, really enjoyed this series."

Scott asks Ashley how she's managed to say motivated despite being in three dance-offs: "The first two times in the dance-off, I was like 'OK, that's a bit of a bummer', but Monday hits, it's a new week, it's a fresh start, and you get in and you get focused. By the third time I just looked at Pash and was like 'Alright, honey, shall we give them a little show, 'cause we here?' The amazing thing though is that we did have to battle up to get to the final, but I'm so grateful to be here. I can't wait to just go out there with these fabulous people and just enjoy it."

Stacey is happy to have skipped it: "I never wanted to be in a dance-off, absolutely not. There are so many people who would have thrown us out if we'd been dancing against them. The idea that people at home are on your team and are picking up the phone, you don't take that for granted. That's been a highlight for me."

Of the final four, Faye is the one who has suffered the most injures. She's fine now, but it's been a grueling series: "I don't know if it's because I am particularly clumsy, or because I bruise like a peach. Who knows?"

Joe is aware that his casting was a surprise to many, but now he gets stopped in the streets more by older people who have seen him in Strictly than people who have seen his YouTube videos. He's also proud of the reaction from his followers: "I've had so many messages from younger guys, saying 'I would never normally think about doing dance, but from watching you on Strictly I can see you're having so much fun, and you've kind of made it 'cool''". Joe claims he isn't actually 'cool', but hearing that guys have started going to dance lessons with their girlfriends because of him is pretty special.

Joe's followers are not the only ones who have been inspired by dance. Stacey admits to watching old Shirley Ballas videos on YouTube in breaks between rehearsals.

When asked about plans for next year, an at-ease Stacey is the one with a wisecrack: "I have to take into consideration that Strictly are probably going to ask me to be a professional next year, so from September until December I'll be wrapped up with that."

If Alesha can be a judge, why can't Stacey be a pro?

Find out who will raise the glitterball tonight at 6.30pm on BBC One.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Saturday Service: Week 12

It seems that the toll of two dances proved too much for some of the couples this week. It's wasn't the best week for anyone.

I'm not sure how you make a flappy bird look gangly, but Stacey managed it. Stacey is a lovely person, I adore her enthusiasm for Strictly, but she has always struggled to control her long limbs. While she didn't miss a step in her Charleston with Kevin, I found it difficult to watch. I know Charleston is a 'free' dance, but I wanted it to be a bit neater.

The Charleston was still better than their Viennese waltz. Choreographically, I hated it. It took 20 minutes to get into hold, they did a fleckerl and a couple of turns, and then they were out of hold again. Viennese waltz can be a beautiful dance, but this was dull. A wasted opportunity. On top of that, Stacey's technique wasn't great. She missed heel leads. 

For me, Joe & Dianne's Viennese waltz lacked drive. That level of dry ice makes me very suspicious! Joe could have had straighter legs. It was OK, but not a showstopper.

Sadly, their Argentine tango wasn't a showstopper either. I liked the atmosphere. But Joe's posture wasn't right. He seemed to be hunching over Dianne. And he wasn't leading. Both of them seemed to be anticipating the moves rather than leading and following. Not good.

I loved Ashley & Pasha's paso doble. I just love watching Ashley. She was dramatic and precise. I diagree with the judges that it lacked passion. I thought it was amazing.

Ashley is a safe pair of hands. I feel calm when she walks on to the dance floor, because you know it'll be good. Their American smooth was as solid as always. Beautiful lines, and I loved the attitude lift. Great footwork, too.

Nutbush City Limits has to be about the worst song choice for a tango, and one of the worst picks of the series. I'll take disco salsa over dodgy tango. So the odds were against Lauren & AJ from the start. Lauren started well, but seemed to disengage and lose focus about halfway through the dance. Bruno's point about her walks was spot on. She has such great poise in hold, and then walks like she's in the high street.

It was such a shame that Lauren made so many mistakes in the samba. It was a very sweet little routine. Her natural rolls were quite nice, but she lacked hip action on the voltres. It's not enough at this stage.

I was a little disappointed by Faye & Giovanni's samba. It had looked amazing in the training footage on It Takes Two, but Faye's hip action didn't seem as good on the night. Maybe it was the dropped waist on the dress. I'm not sure. Loved the routine, though. Graceful and traditional.

Their Argentine tango was also very traditional, and possibly the best we've seen this series. Faye followed Giovanni perfectly. There was light and shade in the routine. It had drama. I can see why it was saved for the end. I just wish that Faye hadn't lost her tango face. She slipped out of character and smiled.

I think the dances of the night were Ashley's paso and Faye's Argentine tango.

It's so hard to predict who will be in the bottom two. Joe has a legion of young fans, while Stacey & Kevin are the housewives' choice. I suspect both might go through. Which leaves Lauren in the dance-off with Ashley (probably) or Faye (unlikely).

Worst case scenario would be Ashley and Faye both in the dance-off. I think it's unlikely, and either of them would easily knock out any of the other three. I voted for both of them only tonight. I appreciate that few people want Ashley to win, but the final would be poorer without her in it. And we need to see Faye's Charleston again.

I can't wait for tomorrow's results show.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Monday Musings: Week 11

I still don't see the point of having a musicals and a movie week, since the two are interchangeable, but I guess they ran out of 'around the world' dances after one series.

Lauren & AJ's American smooth was delightful. It was well performed, well acted and very enjoyable. Lauren really is a ballroom girl. While I think she is one of the weaker dancers left in the competition, when she brings out a performance like Saturday's, it's clear she still deserves her place.

Faye & Giovanni's Charleston was amazing. It was so in time, so in sync, and well performed. Faye was just the right amount of cooky. I loved the choreography, and everything about it worked so well. And it had wings from two feet! Totally deserving of a perfect score.

Charles & Karen's rumba was quiet. It was intimate and romantic. Great acting from both of them. And some lovely choreography. I think it was a dance I enjoyed more on second viewing, though. It was difficult for them to follow Faye & Giovanni, but it was a good effort. The best male rumba in Strictly history? Perhaps.

Was Ashley & Pasha's quickstep a bit too busy? Perhaps it was. It was certainly relentless. But when Ashley is that good, I can see why Pasha would want to showcase what she can do. Ashley was on point, as always. I liked the routine, and I think she performed it well.

I wasn't as taken with Stacey & Kevin's American smooth as the judges were. Stacey performed the routine, and captured the mood. But she footwork wasn't that good, she was missing lots of heel leads. I didn't like it as much as the judges seemed to.

I wasn't overly keen on Joe & Dianne's salsa either. It was a bit campy, and a bit affected. It just didn't do it for me. I thought the lift in the middle was a bit unnecessary, and a bit awkward, too. I liked the cheerleader lift at the end, though. And there was some nice armography.

Faye was far and away my favourite this week. She was just brilliant.

My bottom two would be between Joe, Stacey and Charles. Charles was going to find it difficult to stand out among all those big routines. Joe's routine wasn't my favourite, and Stacey's technique wasn't tight enough for me.

But with Ashley in the dance-off, there was no was Charles was going anywhere other than home. He went out on a high, and that's all an eliminated celebrity can wish for.

One more celebrity has to leave before the final. This Saturday's show, and the following elimination, is going to be really tough. And with two dances this week, the couples have their work cut out.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

DVD Review: Bruno's Bellissimo Blackpool

New Strictly DVD Bruno's Bellissimo Blackpool is a tram ride (not literally) though some of Strictly's best Blackpool performances.

Not including 2018, Strictly has visited the Tower Ballroom during nine different series, so there are a lot of dances to choose from.

The DVD features some of the best and worst performances at the Tower. Excitingly for me, four of the performances I saw in Blackpool are included - Mark Wright & Karen's Charleston, Pixie & Trent's paso, Judy & Anton's Viennese waltz and Simon & Kristina's memorable Argentine tango.

It also features some other routines I loved, and others I had forgotten about. It was so good to see Natalie Gumede & Artem's Charleston again, as well as Kara & Artem's American smooth and Harry & Aliona's quickstep.

My disappointment, as with some of the past compilations, is the focus on the last few years. I do appreciate that there was no HD for that first visit, but it would be nice to see more older routines.

I liked that this DVD included a couple of the routines, not just the individual performances. The Ballroom Blitz number, which Vikki Gill mentioned on It Takes Two last night is on there, for example.

There was one screaming omission from this DVD for me, and that was Aled & Lilia's samba to It's Not Unusual. An iconic moment in Strictly history. If you haven't seen it, watch it here.

Bruno is a fine host of the DVD, and if you like a curated selection of dances, this could be the DVD for you. It would make a great Christmas gift for someone, too.

The DVD is out now.

Still not convinced? Watch the trailer:

Disclosure: Thank you to the nice folks at BBC Studios for supplying a copy of the DVD for me to review.

Strictly Tour: First Couples Announced

The first three couples participating in the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour have been announced.

Ranj & Janette
Joe & Dianne
Stacey & Aljaž

With Stacey being paired with Aljaž, that implies that either Kevin is not joining the tour this year, or he will be paired with a previous partner. The only one of his former partners who hasn't done it is Kellie Bright.

Kevin is going on tour with Burn The Floor next year, but his tour commences later than Jannette & Aljaž's Remembering The Movies tour, so I don't believe this would have any bearing. Pros embarking on their own on tours usually keep the new year free in order to tour with Strictly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Book Review: Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2019

I always think that I can't possibly learn anything from the Strictly Come Dancing Annual, and every year I am proved wrong.

Of course, the annual has interviews and profiles of the presenters, judges, celebrities and pro dancers. But it's the articles in between which interest me the most.

This year there is a profile of the main Strictly singers - Tommy, Lance, Andrea and Hayley - who give an insight into how they choose who sings what, how the learn the tracks, how they care for their voices and some memorable moments on the show.

There is a 'day in the life' profile of Executive Producer Louise Rainbow. She explains how each Saturday night runs from her perspective. Related to that is an explanation of how dances go from concept to the dancefloor. For example, props constructed for a couple who are eliminated before they get to use them might be re-purposed for another routine. And I didn't know that Jason Gilkison or someone from his team visit ever couple each week to see how things are going and relay key information to the sudio team.

My favourite article this year was an interview with the show's theme tune composers. Who would have thought that that little tune would mean so much to millions of viewers every Saturday night? I even have that tune as my ringtone. My proudest achievement years ago was composing the theme myself on my Nokia in the days before polyphonics!

Not to be missed are the pros' baby photos. Can you guess who they all are? Some are tricky, but Pasha has not changed a jot.

The Strictly Annual is a sure fire Christmas present hit.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Service: Week 10

Back to basics this week. No extra dancers, no theme, no gimmicks. Well, apart from the Lindyhopathon. And the pool table. And the basketballs...

Graeme & Oti's quickstep was a bit of a dance disaster. There was an error on the Charleston section and a stumble in the middle. It was lumpy in the faster parts, and his frame was terrible, especially in the slower section at the end. Not good at all, and probably not good enough when we're at this late stage of the competition.

Another excellent dance from Ashley & Pasha. Her samba action was excellent. Great hips, great placement, great performance. And great fans. I want those for Christmas.

Faye & Giovanni's waltz was gorgeous. It was relaxed and controlled. Great footwork. Great musicality, too. I loved the crescendos on the chorus, first with the pivots and then the standing spin. Lovely.

A really fun street/commercial routine from Joe & Dianne. Great timing. Loved the routine. They both coped well with all the props. They kept the energy all the way through. Great musicality. A great job.

There were times in the tango when Charles looked totally disengaged, which other times he looked very connected with Karen. The posture was strange at times. It was a bit jagged. It wasn't bad. Just a bit odd.

Lauren & AJ's salsa was a bit soft for me. I was a nice routine, and Lauren danced it well, but it lacked a bit of attack. Again, earlier in the competition you that would easily take her through, but I'm not sure if it's enough now.

Amazing paso choreography once again from Kevin, and Stacey danced it well. I was worried she wouldn't get the shaping, but her lines looked great. Great light and shade. She captured the mood. She pulled it out of the bag.

The Lindyhopathan was a bit manic, and it's very difficult as a viewer to pick a winner. Graeme stood out for the wrong reasons for me. Lacked energy and performance. Stacey and Faye stood out as being the best. The judges should be voted off for a complete shambles.

For me, the leaderboard pretty much reflected how I felt, except I thought that Graeme was the weakest. I would put Graeme in the dance-off alongside Lauren or Charles.

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!