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.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Congratulations Roll Call

There are a number of Strictly faces had things to celebrate over the Christmas break.

Congratulations to Darcey Bussell, who because a Dame in the Queen's New Year Honours List. She tweeted her gratitude.



Congratulations to finalist Alexandra Burke, who got engaged to boyfriend Joshua Ginnelly on 18th December. She posted a pic to Instagram earlier this week, ending much press speculation.


18-12- 17 🇫🇷 I said YES! Smiling as I type this because it was the best day ever in Paris and so unexpected. My soul mate and my love asked me something that I could only have dreamt of. Being in love is one of the most magical feelings life has to offer. So grateful for this amazing man in my life who has supported my family and I through so much. We decided to keep this between us for a while to enjoy this special moment and that’s why we haven’t said anything... Something so amazing honestly felt so overwhelming because there was only one person I wanted to call when it happened. I know she is smiling and very happy for us both - because little did I know she knew about it. 😇 For those who guessed and have left such beautiful messages - thank you. Josh is someone who makes me so happy and I’ve never felt this kind of love before. Here’s to an amazing future that’s filled with love, joy and so much happiness. I love you Joshua Ginnelly. I can’t wait to see what our future brings and what God provides for us xxx
A post shared by Alexandra Burke (@alexandramusic) on

Congratulations to pro Amy Dowden, who also got engaged. Dance partner and boyfriend Ben Jones popped the question on New Year's Eve, and Amy posted a video of the magic moment on Twitter.
Congratulations to Strictly's director of choreography Jason Gilkison, who married partner James Carney on 30th December.

A post shared by Jason Gilkison (@jasongilkison) on

And finally, congratulations to former Strictly champion Abbey Clancy and her husband Peter Crouch, who welcomed their third child, Johnny Crouch into the world on 3rd January.

An exciting start to 2018 for all of them.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday Service: Week 13 - The Final

Coming into the final, I didn't have any idea who I wanted to win. I was excited to see the showdances, as I thought that would probably be the way to split them. Yet after the showdances, I was still undecided.

Round 1: Judges' Choice
Alexandra & Gorka were given the American Smooth to perform again. They were flawless. The routine was precise, and beautifully danced. Alexandra left nothing backstage.

Debbie & Giovanni were given the salsa. Debbie performed the routine better than the first time, and looked to be having a great time. The lifts were just as well executed as before, but I just enjoyed the routine more than the last time.

Gemma & Aljaž had to re-visit the paso doble. This was a great choice. Given how well the tango went for Gemma, and that the paso was performed early in the series, it was obvious that she was going to perform this well. And she did. It had attack and intent. A pleasure to watch again.

I'm so glad that the judges chose the Viennese waltz for Joe & Katya, as it was one of my favourite routines of the series. Joe's posture, while not perfect, was better than before. It was pure Viennese without too much fluff.

Round 2: Showdances

Alexandra & Gorka went for old Hollywood glamour in frantic style. The routine was packed with lifts and fast steps, playing to Alexandra's strengths and preferences. It was a great routine, with interesting lifts and fantastic energy again. I just wish it had crescendoed a bit more, with a stunning lift or something to bring the routine to a climax.

Debbie looked very nervous at the start of her and Giovanni's balletic routine. In places she looked unsteady. The routine was lovely, but parts of it felt a bit tentative. There was a lovely split, though, of course.

I really enjoyed Gemma & Aljaž's cabaret-style routine. Gemma looked fierce and in control. I loved the opening, where she was alone. Very Roxie Hart. It definitely showcased her talents in ballroom, but with other elements thrown in too. Some great lifts as well.

Joe & Katya's Cinderella-inspired routine was good, but didn't really move me. I thought the bit where he danced with the show was a bit naff. However, when he got Katya into hold, it was quite charming. I loved the dress changing from rags to ballgown. It was a sweet routine, with a couple of nice lifts, and lots of stroytelling, which is their strength.

Round 3: Favourite Routine

With the showdances over, the favourite dance is little more than a formality. These are routines that most couples nailed the first time around, so have little more to offer. It's just their chance to have a nice last dance.

It came as a surprise to literally no-one that Alexandra & Gorka went for their jive. I wasn't too keen on Alexandra's performance the first time around, but this time it was the perfect end to their series. I think she performed it better than before, with better technique. I loved watching it.

Debbie & Giovanni chose their Argentine tango, which was a big change of pace after Alexandra's jive, but it was the right choice. They nailed it again, great chemistry.

The nice thing about seeing Gemma & Aljaž's American smooth again was that the extra dancers were excluded. I liked this routine so much more when it was just the two of them. It had an intimacy which was lacking in Blackpool.

Joe & Katya could have chosen from several routines, but went for the crowd-pleasing Charleston. It was clean, fun and entertaining. 

Toward the end of the week, I was pretty convinced Joe or Debbie would win. The bookies were saying Joe, but almost everyone I spoke to wanted Debbie to win. Few chose Joe, so I started to think that maybe Debbie could do it. By Saturday morning, she was the favourite.

Over the same period, while I was sure I didn't mind who would win, I think I subconsciously started to gravitate towards Gemma. Seeing her at the press conference, and on It Takes Two twice in the week, I fell in love with her partnership with Aljaž. It was so obvious that they were having a great time. I just wish I'd have loved their showdance more than I did.

On the night, I think there could be little question that Alexandra was the strongest performer. All three routines were flawless, and I loved that she gave her all to everything. She nailed all three routines. And while I wanted even more from her showdance, she was definitely the most impressive.

When Joe was announced as the winner, I didn't really feel anything. Maybe it's because I didn't mind who won. Or maybe it's because by Saturday night, I'd kind of decided that I was backing Gemma. I don't really know. But I don't begrudge Joe & Katya the crown. Joe's improvement has been obvious, and Katya is a brilliant choreographer who has come up with some very inventive routines.

I can't imagine how lost the participants feel today. It seemed odd not watching Strictly at 7.15pm tonight. Only eight days until the Christmas special, and then on to the tour in February. And no doubt the rumours about 2018 will start imminently. Although they have to recruit a new celebrity booker first, so don't expect any stories just yet...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Strictly Final Press Conference

It's Thursday. The fab four finalists are on stage at the BBC Radio Theatre about to be interviewed by the ghost of Strictly past, Ore Oduba (he joked that as host of the official podcast and upcoming tour, he's "the boy that never let go").

Gemma and Joe look pretty relaxed on stage when they first come out. Alexandra fiddles with one of the sequins on her jumper. Debbie picks at her fingernails. But the conversation soon flows and everyone relaxes.

The warmth between the couples is palpable. Any suggestion that any of the finalists don't get on seems ridiculous. Gemma shares a sweet moment from early on: "On Week 1, Debbie & Giovanni got us all a little tiny glitterball cup with a straw in it saying 'we're all winners regardless', and we all are."

Ore asks the pros about when they saw the potential in their celebrities. Gorka explains that putting in the hours in training is more important than any existing ability: "You can be the most talented person, but if you don't work, and you don't really want to do it, it's very hard. All of them [the celebrities] have the patience and the love to be on the show. That's what makes our job easier."

For Giovanni, her knew he was on to a winner when he saw how bendy Debbie was: "I said to her, 'Can you split?' She said 'I think I can'. 'Let me see'. She did a kick, and I was like 'Wow, this is going to be amazing. Thank you so much! I am going to have the best time of my life with you. Happy days. I saw the other ones - beautiful, pretty - but I've got Flexi McGee!"

Ore asks the celebrities if they see themselves as roll models. Debbie says: "I get stopped all the time, every day, and it's a fantastic feeling that because someone has watched me on Strictly that I've made their life happier, and I've made to want them do more for themselves - go to the gym, or start dancing. It's been an incredible experience the fact that I've inspired so many people, and I wasn't expecting that.

Gemma doesn't like the tag 'role model', but her story is similar: "I love training and going to the gym, and I'm not your petite dancer's physique - I'm broad, I'm tall - and everyone said to me 'There's no way you'll be able to do it, you're too muscular' or 'You're too much of a tomboy'. I love the fact that women who do boxing or weight training and who don't like wearing dresses and don't like the spray tans have said to me 'I want to try and do some dancing because you do it'."

Alexandra hopes her time on the show can inspire others to find happiness in difficult times: "The feedback I have got online is more about whatever you're going through in life you find a good outcome. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I had the opportunity to take a step back and say to myself 'Maybe I'm not ready to do the show mentally', but actually I've surprised myself. I'm not going to say everything has been rosy, I've had ups and downs, but I have done something that has brought me such joy. So if I can inspire someone else to do what they love in the toughest of times in their life, then that's what I'm here for."

I personally identify with this. My dancing friends and I often talk about what a great escape a dance class is. No matter what is going on in life, for a couple of hours you can break away into a special world of music and movement. It sounds lame, but it's true.

Joe: "I certainly don't feel like a role model at all. In fact, I don't really feel like a celebrity, to be honest. Whenever they say 'We need the celebs'. 'Oh, that's me isn't it?' I'm just an actor. I think that if I were to inspire people perhaps it would be that if you want to do something just put the work in, and get your head down and get on with it, and don't take the easy way out. I hope that that's the thing that people look at me and maybe see - that if you apply yourself, and if you have a fantastic Russian partner you can do pretty much anything."

Unsurprisingly, the celebrities and pros remain very tight lipped about the content of their showdances.

Joe tells us that "There's some dancing in it". Katya is willing to expand a little, explaining that they have focused on storytelling, as that was something they got positive comments about.

Aljaž jokes "Gemma choreographed a beautiful routine." He goes on to say that it shows their journey, and Gemma's improvement.

Giovanni admits there will be lots of lifts "just because we didn't do a lot on this series. And some more splits. Why not?". He says it will be elegant.

Gorka's routine will be be like a old movie, fun and fast with a lot of tricks. "He literally has me leaping across the dancefloor the whole time", explains Alexandra.

When asked about pre-show rituals, Gemma tells a funny story. Here's a clip, as they is no way I could convey the story myself. 


They won't talk about what it would mean to raise the glitterball. They all just claim what an achievement is has been to make it to the final. But Gemma jokingly interjects at the end "But vote Gemma & Aljaž, yeah?".

We'll find out who will lift the glitterball tonight with Tess & Claudia from 6.30pm on BBC One.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2018

The first thing you see when you open this year's annual is the dedication: "In loving memory of Sir Bruce Forsyth, 1928-2017." A lovely touch.


I always look forward to reading the Strictly Come Dancing Annual, but every year I think that there can't be anything left to talk about that we don't already know. Of course, the celebrity and dancer profiles are different every time, and we always hear from the presenters and judges, but the other pages have to be filled too.

An interesting feature this year looks at the highest and lowest Strictly scores ever. I was surprised that Anton didn't feature more often in the lowest. He is in there - three times - all with Ann Widdecombe. There are actually quite a few low scores from the earlier series, which is probably a combination of Arlene Phillips, who generally scored couples lower than her successors, and the generally improved standard in more recent series. The lowest ever? Quentin Wilson's cha cha (8 points). I met Quentin at Strictly once, probably around Series 3 or 4. He was very proud to be the lowest scorer. I bet he's especially proud that his record has stood the test of time.

Another interesting feature is about the Strictly cruises. They are a part of the Strictly calendar that many of us will never get to experience, so it was nice to hear a little more about them and the challenges they can pose to the dancers and production team. I've found it challenging walking around on a cross-channel ferry at times, let alone dancing at sea!

We also get to meet Dave Arch, who talks about the challenge of arranging orchestral music for a band of 16 musicians, designers Catherine Land and Patrick Docherty, who might have to source giant drums for a showdance or eight palm trees at short notice, and Louise & Kier Lusby, who created the original, iconic glitterball trophy.

The Strictly annual is a welcome shape under the Christmas tree. Any fan of the show will love it. I've been given more annuals for secret Santa over the years than you can shake a 10 paddle at.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

DVD Review: Tess and Craig's Christmas Night In

It's Christmas gift season, which means a new DVD offering for Strictly fans.


In Strictly Come Dancing: Tess and Craig's Christmas Night In, the pair choose some of their favourite routines and share some memories.

If, like me, you like to vote for the best performances, this DVD is for you. The focus here is very much on perfection. It is a celebration of some of the best 40-scoring routines, which gives it a slightly different angle to Len's picks on last year's disk.

There is a nice mix of couples, and for the most part the selections are different to Len's. Unsurprisingly, there is more time spent in recent series. All of last year's finalists - Ore, Danny and Louise - feature more than once.

But fear not, fun fans. There is also a section of 'surprises', and of course Ed & Katya's iconic salsa to Gangnam Style is here!

There is also a look at some of Craig's most catty put-downs, and some of Tess and Claudia's funniest moments.

The 2-hour runtime is generous, and at 90 seconds a pop with no judges critiques, the DVD is jam packed with dancing. While Tess and Craig host, this programme is definitely all about the dancing. The pair are really only there to give a bit of context.

Sir Bruce is remembered, and the tribute which was broadcast during the launch show is included as a DVD extra.

This DVD is a must for Strictly fans. It includes many couples you might not have thought about for a while - Natalie & Artem, Ali & Brian, Chelsee & Pasha, Jason & Kristina, Katie & Anton, Pixie & Trent, Anita & Gleb, Georgia & Giovanni, Lisa & Brendan and many others. 

I was snowed in at home yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed escaping the weather for a couple of hours. If you have nothing planned for Boxing Day, you could do worse than pop this in your player. It will ease the pain of the series being over for another year.

Still not convinced? Watch the trailer:



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

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday Service: Week 12

It's the semi-final, which means two brand new dances for the remaining couples. The pressure of two dances seems to have tripped up some of the celebrities.

Joe & Katya's American smooth wasn't as Hollywood as I had hoped it would be. The ending lift was good, but some of the others were a bit hard going. His arm lines were a bit dodgy in a few places. It was a lovely performance, but I just wanted a bit more.

Their Argentine tango followed a similar path. I really wanted it to be better. It was a bit laboured in places. There were a few stumbles, and it lacked finesse. There were some good lifts, and he had the mood nailed. I really liked the end lift. It was good, but not good enough.

Alexandra & Gorka's Viennese waltz took too long to get into hold for my liking. Otherwise, it was elegant and controlled. Unfortunately, it just didn't stop my heart and excite me.

The salsa, on the other hand, was a completely different story! Amazing Alexandra stole the show. Their salsa was hot, hot, hot. Fantastic lifts. Showstopping performance. Great armography. It was everything a semi-final performance should be. Totally worthy of four 10s.

Mollie seemed to be channeling her inner showpony during her samba. She seemed to trot around looking at AJ, rather than dancing. She looked gangly and awkward. There were a couple of errors in the routine, which left her on the wrong foot. It was just all a bit wobbly and unconvincing.

Their waltz was much better. It was a very magical, romantic waltz. She looked confident and serene. And AJ used Anton's old trick of 'if in doubt, pivot'. There were rather a lot of them. 

Gemma & Aljaž's rumba was enjoyable to watch. It was calm and understated. Her legs were nicely controlled, and had a great mood. But as the judges noted, it just lacked a bit of feeling. She needs to use all of the music.

Their tango was much better. Despite a very dodgy song choice in My Sharona they performed very well. It was staccato, it had attack and mood. Gemma's frame was lovely and she held it well. A lovely routine.

Debbie & Giovanni's jive was definitely one of Debbie's most awkward dances all series. She was still a bit straight-legged for me and she did really awkward things with her arms in places. But Debbie throws herself into every routine so much that it was still fun to watch, even with its awkwardness.

Their foxtrot was lovely, lovely, lovely. It was pure foxtrot. Well, it was until they went out of hold at the end. It had the kind of Hollywood vibe that makes a good foxtrot. So gorgeous. Everything about the routine made me smile, including the confetti cannons.

So who will make the final? There's no question that Alexandra should be there. Her salsa was the dance of the series so far. I think it's clear that Mollie isn't in the same league as her fellow competitors, and if she is in the bottom two, I'm convinced that the judges would save the other couple, no matter who they're up against. I really don't want to think about a bottom two that Mollie is not a part of.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday Service: Week 11

Quarter final time. Theme week again. Why we have to have movies and musicals, I'm not sure. 

Gemma's quickstep training footage revealed that there had been a lot of gapping between her and Aljaž during rehearsals. The performance was better, but they still could have been closer. I found the extra dancers really distracting.  I liked the showbiz elements of the performance, but it lacked content for me. They spent too much out of hold, give gave it the look of an American smooth. Not a good week to have a bad week.

I did not get Molly & AJ's rumba. First, Hopelessly Devoted... was a questionable song choice. Then she danced it in flat shoes. And then there was a massive lift in the middle. And it seemed to take about two hours to get into hold. She performed the routine very well, but it was balletic rather than Latin American. She had a nice hip action, although I'm sure it could have been better in heels. Risky to do such a controversial routine at this stage.

Money, Money was also an odd song choice. It doesn't exactly scream rumba. But somehow Joe & Katya made it work. There were some nice natural rolls and voltas. Decent hip action, especially for a male celebrity. I actually think the theme might have helped rather than hindering them.

Debbie & Giovanni's Viennese waltz American smooth was a delight. The opening was beautiful. The turning in the routine was relentless, but Debbie coped really well. The whole number had great musicality. The fleckerl/standing spin was well executed. On top the the technique, Debbie's performance was on point. Great chemistry. Gorgeous. Loved it.

Davood & Nadiya's Argentine tango was the most exciting choreographically that we've seen. However, there were some nice lines. The judges were right about Davood's balance, which wasn't as strong as it could have been. He doesn't fully use his core strength. However, personally, I find Davood has a charisma on the floor. I find him engaging to watch.

Alexandra & Gorka was as fantastic as they always are. Their Charleston was fabulous. It was slick. Alexandra showed great musicality. A brilliant performance once again. She's been very lucky to have such a crowd-pleasing routine so close to the end of the competition.

So who should go home? For me, it would be Gemma and Mollie in the bottom two. Gemma just wasn't as strong as she was in past weeks. I still don't see what the judges see in Mollie, and I think it was arrogant of AJ to put a lift in the rumba. Personally, I'd send Mollie packing. But it's is so close. Who knows who will even be in the bottom two. Someone is voting for Mollie all these weeks. Maybe she's been saved from the bottom two again.

It's going to be a very interesting show tonight. Roll on 7.15pm!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday Service: Week 10

Week 10. Definitely the business end of the competition, where comments and marks matter more than ever.

Joe & Katya's quickstep was so good. It was light and speedy. The choreography was amazing, especially when they went back-to-back and belly-to-belly. Great timing through. I loved it.

Alexandra & Gorka's rumba was pleasant enough. It was much neater than some of Alexandra's other Latin dances have been. I thought their chemistry was OK. There was a connection between them in my opinion. I did agree with the judges about Alexandra's need to stretch out further, and go on forever with the movements. Not a showstopper, but decent.

I actually really enjoyed the concept of Gemma & Aljaž's samba. I actually thought it was a great way to introduce a theme to a dance without it becoming a distraction from the core dance. It seems the judges didn't agree. I thought Gemma's technique was good. She really sold it, and looked as though she really enjoyed it. Her hands were odd on the promenade runs, but I don't think it was as bad as the judges made out.

Mollie was better this week than she has been in recent times, but her quickstep with AJ left me a bit cold. The choreography just didn't move me. It was a but dull compared to Joe & Katya's. It was clean for the most part, but there were a couple of off moments.

Davood & Nadiya's waltz was a bit frantic for me. It lacked light and shade. The choreography was too busy. Davood seemed to dip his shoulder on some of the pivots which looked a bit weird. I can't help but wonder how Davood would be with a different partner. Can you imagine him with Natalie? Davood danced the routine well, of course. There is definitely something very charming about the way Davood dances.

If anyone was going to nail an Argentine tango, it was going to be Debbie. She and Giovanni did a phenomenal job. Those legs! Intricate and intimate. Just amazing.

Susan & Kevin's American smooth was cute. She needs more strength in her upper body. She lacks poise and frame, which she should have nailed by now. However, her performance was much more glamorous than I expected. She is still entertaining, and this routine showed her versatility in performance terms.

The paso doble-athon felt more like a real competition situation than any "-anthon" since the group Viennese waltz in Series 1! It was great to see the couples all on the floor at once. I just wish they could red button an option of a balcony-cam, so you can choose who to watch, rather than seeing what the camera shows.

My favourites this week were Joe, Debbie and Gemma. I fear for Gemma however. Aston had a bad week, and look what happened! If the public votes with the judges, it could be the end for her. Personally, I think it's time for Susan to go. I wouldn't be sad to see Mollie go either. I thought she was overmarked last night. I guess we'll find out in a couple of hours.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Panto Round-Up

Since returning from holiday, I am feeling quite festive. So I thought it was time for my annual panto round-up.

Here is where you can see the stars of Strictly past and present (Debbie!) treading the boards this Christmas.

Craig Revel Horwood (judge), Snow White - Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Robin Windsor (ex-pro), Aladdin - Spa Theatre, Bridlington

Claire Sweeney (Series 1), Sleeping Beauty - Central Theatre, Chatham
Julian Clary (Series 2), Dick Whittington - Palladium, London
Claire King (Series 4), Peter Pan - Grand Opera House, Belfast
Brian Capron (Series 5), Aladdin - The Plaza, Stockport
Rachel Stevens (Series 6), Jack & The Beanstalk - Bournemouth Pavilion, Bournemouth
Jessie Wallace (Series 6), Snow White - Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Ricky Groves (Series 7), Sleeping Beauty - Cloud 9, Barrow-in-Furness
Ann Widdecombe (Series 8), Aladdin - Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
Dani Harmer (Series 10), Jack & The Beanstalk - Shaw Theatre, London
Lisa Riley (Series 10), Jack & The Beanstalk - Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
Dave Myers (Series 11), Peter Pan - Harlequin Theatre, Redhill
Alison Hammond (Series 12), Cinderella - Festival Theatre, Malvern
Simon Webbe (Series 12), Aladdin - Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe
Danny Mac (Series 14), Cinderella - Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham
Brian Conley (Series 15), Cinderella - Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes
Debbie McGee (Series 15), Beauty & The Beast - Grand Opera House, York

John Barrowman (Christmas 2010), Dick Whittington - Opera House, Manchester
Su Pollard (Christmas 2011), Snow White - Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
Bobby Ball (Christmas 2012), Snow White - Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Service: Week 9

Blackpool. Always hyped up. Always under-delivers. Thankfully, being on holiday meant I missed all the hype, and didn't even know who was dancing to what.

I liked the showgirl theme of Mollie & AJ's Charleston, but Wings was a terrible song choice. Mollie looked quite qangly. She really needs to keep legs straight and point toes to help avoid that. The lifts were good, but the entrances and exits into the lifts were awkward and laboured. Mollie lacked swivel.

Kevin gets to do paso at Blackpool again. Apparently his five-year long desire to theme the dance around Strictly Ballroom had been quite the hot topic this week. I was left a bit cold. Susan had the drama - she always finds the character of the dance. She really needs to close her feet together, though. The whole thing looked untidy because she doesn't finish things off properly. She also lacked shaping. It was OK, but not her best dance.

Debbie's samba lacked hips for me, which was especially notable on the voltas. Nice samba rolls, although feet looked untidy to me. Nice promenade runs. Her chemistry with Giovanni wasn't quite a good for me this week.

Jonnie & Oti's tango was quite disappointing. Their reliance on the extra dancers did little to enhance the performance. Jonnie's terrible posture strikes again, his bottom was sticking out and distracted from everything else. He looked like he was concentrating too much, rather than performing.

Gemma & Aljaž's American smooth was a lovely dance. Took a bit too long to get going, but once it did it was great. It was very neat and tidy. Nice release of the toes on the backward steps. Lovely lifts.

There was too much Nadiya, not enough Davood in their paso. Once again Nadiya didn't give him enough to do. It worked in the rumba, but not here. Paso is one of the few dances when the man can shine, rather than just presenting his partner.  Davood had nice lines and great shaping. He had power and intent. He deserves better than the choreography he is being given.

Alexandra & Gorka's quickstep was big and glam. On point as always. They totally nailed it. Complete Hollywood. The type of thing we long to see in Blackpool.

Joe & Katya's salsa was interesting. Joes's entrance was like something from Catchphrase - "Say what you see". He was sitting on a clock. Literally riding on time. Aside from that, I though it was good. Great lifts, which were really ambitious, too. Katya is not afraid to trust her partner. It was a great routine. High energy. I liked it.

There is no question in my mind that Jonnie should be in the bottom two. I'm beginning to wonder if he still wants to be there. I think Mollie should probably be there with him, although Susan could also be in danger.

Aston's Departure

As you can tell by the lack of updates, I have been on holiday. I have decided not to write blog updates about the weeks I missed, as I'm sure no-one wants to read jetlagged ramblings about what happened two weeks ago. A post about last night's update will follow shortly.

However, I could not get into Blackpool without discussing the untimely exit of Aston & Janette. It's been just over 24 hours since I discovered this news, and I still can't believe it.

I'm not sure what happened. Did the public think they would be safe anyway? Or did the public listen to the judges' comments, take them on board, and decide not to vote for them? Do the judges have that much power?

I still can't believe that Aston is gone. I thought he was a lock for the final alongside Alexandra. When I saw he was in the dance-off, I presumed he'd be safe. With the exception of Alexandra, I thought no-one could topple him. 

I didn't think their Viennese waltz was all that bad! It was better than Mollie & AJ's performance in my opinion. And Aston had so much more potential. Totally robbed. It'll take the rest of the series for me to get over this one.

I guess that means Gemma and Debbie will both make the final. But it's made everything a lot less exciting.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Service: Week 6

Strictly's Halloween week was a show of two halves. Some ropy old performances in the first half, some terrible ones in the second.

Jonnie & Oti's cha cha wasn't that great. It was very ploddy. Jonnie's been pretty good in recent weeks, but this week he seemed to just stand around while Oti danced around him. It was just a bit off. And I couldn't get past how much he looked like Tim Minchin.

Ruth & Anton's quickstep was really bumpy. There was a big gap between them for a lot of the routine. They seemed to go up and down at different times as they trotted around the floor, it looked as though Ruth was fighting against Anton instead of dancing with him. It was messy and heavy. Hard to watch.

Simon & Karen left the smooth out of their American smooth. The whole thing was flat and walky. The fleckerl was pretty weak, but at least he attempted it and didn't do a standing spin cop-out. Again, it wasn't nice to watch.

Gemma & Aljaž's jive wasn't the best. I enjoyed the routine, but it all felt a bit heavy. I can't put my finger on why. Gemma's leg action was lovely, proper retraction. There was lots of content in the routine. It just missed the mark.

Joe & Katya's foxtrot was kind of strange, and I can't decide if I liked it or not. It took a bit long to get going, although I did like the opening section. Joe has good timing, but the performance didn't look as confident has it has in past weeks. I liked the armography section in the middle, but it detracted from the foxtrot content a bit. Great pivots, though.

Mollie's cha cha was really wooden. I kept waiting for it to get going, and it just never did. Lots of wriggling, but not much hip action. Maybe they suffered with AJ being poorly at the start of the week. I don't know. But I didn't enjoy it.

Alexandra & Gorka's tango put things back on track. It was sharp. It had loads of drive and drama. My only criticism is that she needs to make sure she points her toes on all of the kicks. She does it some of the time, but not all of the time. Loved the part where she held her frame and Gorka walked around her.

I loved Davood & Nadiya's rumba. It was haunting and beautiful. I thought Davood did pretty well for a male celebrity. I agree with Shirley that the routine lacked content, but that's on Nadiya, not Davood. I hate it when the judges punish the celebrities when they don't like the routine. The same happened to Greg & Natalie last year. It's not fair on the celebs.

I thought Susan & Kevin's foxtrot was decent enough. It was a bit walky, not amazing. It was confident, though. I think the judges were a bit harsh on Susan tonight. It wasn't as bad as they made out.

Debbie & Giovanni's Charleston was fun and lively. It was enjoyable to watch, and packed with steps. Debbie had a lovely swivel, better than most celebs. However, the lifts weren't perfect, and she nearly fell over at the end of the routine. Good, but not worth tens.

Aston was doing very odd things with his upper body on the appels, especially at the beginning of the paso routine. The second half of the routine was better. His lines were pretty good, and he showed great strength. Janette's make-up was the best of the night, too.

Davood and Alexandra were my favourites tonight.

I think it will be an injustice if Simon is not back in the bottom two tomorrow. But who else? Could be Ruth, could be Jonnie, could be Mollie. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that Simon should be going home now.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

AJ Will Dance On Saturday

AJ missed training earlier in the week as he was ill, so Mollie began the week training with professional dancer Patrick Helm instead.

But no reference was made to this on It Takes Two tonight, where AJ appeared with Mollie, and looked to be fighting fit.

Blue Peter Presenters Join CIN Special

Following in the footsteps of newsreaders, Call The Midwife cast members and Olympians, this year Blue Peter presenters will take the Strictly plunge for Children In Need.

The couples are:

Anthea Turner & Brendan Cole

Dianne-Louise Jordan & Pasha Kovalev
Konnie Huq & Neil Jones
Radzi Chinyanganya & Chloe Hewitt
Tim Vincent & Dianne Buswell

The couples will perform a group number, and a winner will be selected from that.

Gethin Jones is the only Blue Peter presenter to have participated in the main series of Strictly so far, but as we've seen many celebrities make the leap from specials to the main series, maybe this will open the door for one of them if they prove popular.

Their performance will be broadcast as part of Children In Need night, 17th November, on BBC One.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Service: Week 5

Bruno, Bruno, wherefore art thou Bruno? A three-judge panel for the first time ever on Strictly. Scores out of 30 only. Strange old week.

Davood & Nadiya's jive was fun and energetic. It didn't set the floor alight, but I enjoyed the routine. Some nice tricks, although should cartwheels be in the jive? I think they should have done enough to stay out of the dance off this week.

Mollie & AJ's Viennese waltz was gorgeous. A lovely underarm turn on the bridge was beautiful. It too way to long to get in to hold, but I didn't really mind because I enjoyed watching it so much. In hold, it was lovely. Smooth, elegant, dreamy. Loved it.

Simon & Karen's Charleston was very clever. Simon generally stayed on the spot while Karen ran around him. It was pretty together. A few little errors. No swivel at all. I liked the routine, but Simon's performance wasn't wacky enough.

I'm afraid I wasn't that keen on Debbie & Giovanni's rumba. It lacked chemistry for me. It was better than last week - Debbie had worked on her legs, and it was was more earthy than before. I'm afraid it just didn't move me as much as the judges. Can we just take a moment to appreciate Craig's Bruno impression though? Brilliant.

Brian & Amy's jive was OK, but not great. Brian was way too flat-footed and stompy. It was slightly behind the music at times, not exactly out of time, but just a split-second out in places.

Susan & Kevin's cha cha was quite fun, but lacked technique. She needs to bring her feet toegther - you could drive a bus between her legs at times. She lacks hip action. The steps got away from her. Great performance, but not her best.

Aston & Janette's waltz spent way too much time out of hold for my liking. I liked the chemistry, but not so much the routine. Aston was leaning forward over Janette in places, particularly during the pivots. He needs to keep his upper body back a little more.

I did not enjoy Ruth & Anton's campy samba. Ruth spent most of the routine looking at Anton to see what came next. It lacked confidence. Ruth's hip action was hit and miss. Voltas were not pretty. Nope.

The only thing I didn't like about Gemma & Aljaž's foxtrot was her face. It was a bit dead, and her eyeline was way too high. As Darcey noted, she was looking at the ceiling. Her eyes were rolled back in her head. The quality of her dancing was lovely, however. A very nice routine.

I loved Joe & Katya's paso. Outstanding. With that hair and outfit, Joe totally looked like Darren Bennett... I loved the content. Joe danced it incredibly well. He was in control, and was so good that I really didn't look at Katya very much. Totally undermarked by Craig.

Another great performance from Alexandra & Gorka. It lacked a bit of flow for me. Like last week, she's still not always bringing her feet together. She has great isolations, body rolls to die for. She is a lovely dancer, so it's hard not to be super-critical.

Jonnie & Oti's routine was pure quickstep. No faffing about. No filler. Jonnie did a brilliant job. His topline is looking better. It was confident. A great end to the show.

Joe was the best of the night for me, followed by Jonnie and Mollie.

Brian, Simon and Ruth could all be in trouble this week. They were all the the bottom of the leaderboard, and I don't think any of their routines were good enough to save them. I think I'd like to see Simon go. I think he was better this week - Charleston is not as technical as other dances - but he lacks some of the quality and performance than help Brian and Ruth get away with dodgy dancing.

I guess we'll find out tonight.