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Proudly blogging about Strictly Come Dancing ALL YEAR ROUND since 2006.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Book Review: Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2016
While I enjoy the profiles of the participants, and hearing what Tess and Claudia have to say, the nicest thing about the Strictly Come Dancing annual each year is the peek behind the scenes of our favourite show.
This year, the focus is the Strictly 'look' - hair, make-up and costumes. Vicky Gill gives away some wardrobe secrets. My favourite was the fact that Mark Wright would try on about eight shirts for a number, and then choose the one he tried on first! There is a great feature on how the team manages the Halloween show. Frankie's green body paint, Steve's costume and Janette's 'horn' hair are all problems which the team have to resolve in the short hours between rehearsal and live show. How they do they get everything done? You have to see the show's epic spreadsheet! The book also shows you how to re-create Janette's Halloween look yourself, and how to make a wrap-around skirt worn by Flavia Cacace. Other features include a look at Strictly's footwear, diet and fitness (Kevin's roasted salmon with avocado & quinoa salad, anyone?), Craig's dressing room and the infamous tanning booth! The Strictly annual always makes a great gift. I was given a copy of last year's as a secret santa present! With such a focus on hair in this edition, it is only fitting that the book is dedicated to Strictly's hair supervisor Neale Pirie, who passed away suddenly in August.
Ola Jordan confirmed last night that she will be leaving Strictly Come Dancing at the end of the series. Having given an interview to yesterday's Sun, she then confirmed the news in a series of tweets just before the start of last night's Blackpool show:
Hi tweeps.... So, yes it's true.
I will be leaving Strictly at the end of this series.
I have had an amazing 10 years on the show, but...
Blackpool week. Can the Tower Ballroom live up to the hype it gets? Jay & Aliona were up first with their salsa. I thought this was their best routine for a few weeks. Jay looked really relaxed on the floor. He was cool and suave, exactly what the salsa needs. The lifts were lovely, and Jay and Aliona had great chemistry. I really enjoyed the performance. I felt that Jamelia couldn't keep up with the quickstep. She and Tristan flew around the floor, but it was a little messy, and there was a little gapping. Jamelia needs to point her toes more too. They were ugly hooks on the end of her legs. Something else, that wasn't Jamelia's fault, was the dress and hair. The skirt had so much material that it made the whole thing heavy, and likewise her hair was too long and had the same effect. Anita did really well with the paso. Her flamenco styling was excellent, her arms were beautiful. She delivered lots of drama. But I didn't really like Gleb's choreography. There was too much posing, and way too much floor work. Gleb seemed to spend half the dance picking Anita up from the floor. I hadn't seen anyone swept around the floor that much since Ann Widdecombe. The first half of Katie & Anton's American smooth was glorious. Katie looked beautiful, and her foxtrot was beautiful. It could only have been improved by releasing her toes. And there were move pivots, because we know she's good at those. If in doubt, pivot. But then there were a couple of small errors. Something happened getting into the first lift. Something looked odd in the running promenades. And she lost her balance just before the end. If she had nailed everything, it would have been a show-stopper. Instead, it was just very good. I thought Peter & Janette's jive was pretty inoffensive, but not very interesting. His technique wasn't very good. His timing was off in places. Bruno was right on the money with his comment that the style of the dance was lost. You couldn't tell what it was supposed to be at times. Everything is just Peter style. I loved Georgia & Giovanni's American smooth. The choreography was fantastic. They covered the floor well and made the Viennese waltz element look easy. The only thing which spoil the routine was the backing dancers. Yes, the backing dancer controversy continues. They almost didn't get Georgia up into the lift. So why do we even need them? I celebrity like Georgia lights up the room, and is a stunning dancer. She doesn't need backing dancers to detract form her. I thought Helen & Aljaž's Charleston got off to a great start. Helen was made for that 1930s styling. She's so elegant. But I started to get bored about halfway through. And Helen started to lose it a little. Her timing was a bit iffy on one on the kick sections. She nearly fell up the starts, and there was another little error before the final lift. And the ending was very anti-climactic. She just didn't do it for me this week. I really liked Kellie & Kevin's quickstep. It was so effortless. The covered the large floor so well. They were so together. One of the best moments was the Charleston section. She was so in sync with all of the backing dancers, it was amazing. They should Len's Lens that for all to see and appreciate. I loved the Dolly styling of her hair and dress too. This was possibly the only dance of the night where the backing dancers enhanced the routine. I really enjoyed it. My favourite of the night was Kellie, but I enjoyed Georgia and Jay too, and Katie to an extent, and Anita couldn't be faulted on performance. The bottom two were easily Peter and Jamelia. And based on last night's performance, there could be a chance that Jamelia might survive another dance-0ff. There was less wrong technically with Jamelia's performance last night than Peter's. It might actually come down to Len's vote for once. I can't wait to find out! Here are the videos... Jay & Aliona
Following the announcement that Frankie Bridge would be taking part in the 2016 Strictly live tour, three more celebrities have been added to the line-up; Anita Rani, Ainsley Hariott and Georgia May Foote. I am loving Anita and Georgia, so I am pleased about this. Here's hoping that Gleb will be signed up - we all want to see the Gleb Special live and in person - and I would love to see Georgia's amazing Charleston live.
Book Review: Dancing Out Of Darkness By Kristina Rihanoff
Like most people, I have read a lot about Kristina Rihanoff
in the papers, mostly negative, mostly about her personal life. So it's hard
not to skip straight to those pages and get the inside scoop from the woman
However, like all autobiographies, you have to start at the
beginning. I didn't know very much about Kristina's pre-Strictly life,
other than she had been in the cast of the Dancing With The Stars live
tour in the US (the programme for which I should really dig out and see if
she's in it - I saw the show in Fresno). Kristina had a difficult time as a
kid. Her father and mother argued constantly, until he left, and was generally
absent after that. Her mother later became an alcoholic, so Kristina was pretty
much alone, and found solace in dancing and teaching.
Dancing lead her to the US, aged 19, not speaking a word of
English. She partnered a man named Brian and depended on him and his family for
everything. The two later become a couple, and married, until their careers
started to take them in different directions.
Fast forward a few years, and following a whirlwind
audition, Kristina is a household name on Strictly, partnering John
Seargent. You'll know most of the story from there, expect that you probably
haven't heard Kristina's side.
Kristina speaks honestly about the difficulties the press
have presented, with their constant intrusion, but seems baffled by their
interest. Unfortunatly for Kristina, the facination with the celebrities and
their partners started long before she joined the show. If you are attractive
and single (and now it seems even if you are not), the press will make up
everything in between becuase it sells papers, or makes people click.
Those looking for the intimate details about Kristina's
relationships will be disappointed. She talks mostly about how the stories were
wrong, how she was persecuted by others selling their stories. She refused to
do that herself, and felt she had to take the press abuse with no outlet. This
book is now that outlet.
The thing I loved was how warmly she speaks about Joe
Calzaghe. They were a couple for four years, and clearly they parted on good
Sometimes, people suggest that Kristina is cold. Last year
in Blackpool, while others were happy to chat to fans and pose for pictures,
Kristina clearly did not want to be stopped. But having read the book, I now
understand what a difficult time she was having. There were paps everywhere
outside the venue, and I think Kristina wanted to protect herself. It was a
totally different story just a couple of years ealier when the Dance To The
Music tour was in Cardiff, and she was charming and happy, and was about to
head off for dinner with Joe and his family.
The press are now suggesting that Kristina's time with the
show could be coming to an end, and while the book concludes at the end of the
2015 Strictly tour, it certainly sounds as though she could be making
her peace with the end of an era.
I had lost some affection for Kristina in recent times, but
the book has reminded me what I loved about her when she joined Strictly,
and that she is still that person. It was the press and social media which had
persuded me otherwise.
With the Strictly Christmas special cast just announced (more on that story later), it's time for my annual panto round-up. Want to see participants past and present in panto? Here is where they'll be...
Craig Revel Horwood (judge), Peter Pan - Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe
Robin Windsor (pro), Snow White - Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Camilla Dallerup (ex-pro), Cinderella - The Pavilion, Worthing
Jessie Wallace (Series 6), Cinderella - White Rock Theatre, Hastings
Ricky Groves (Series 7), Peter Pan - Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Paul Daniels (Series 8), Aladdin - Regent Theatre, Ipswich
Scott Maslen (Series 8), Aladdin - Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Anita Dobson (Series 9), Sleeping Beauty - New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Edwina Currie (Series 9), Snow White - Northwich Memorial Court, Northwich
Sir Bruce Forsyth is recuperating at home, following keyhole surgery last week. He had a procedure on an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which was successful, and Sir Bruce is expected to make a full recovery in time for the Strictly Christmas special, which is being recorded on 7th December.
His manager told TV3: ''The procedure was a complete success and while Sir Bruce needs to rest and recuperate, it is anticipated, given the minimally invasive nature of this operation, he will make a speedy recovery.''
Rest up, Sir Bruce. The Christmas special is the highlight of Christmas day for me.
With places in the Blackpool show at stake, everyone wanted to show that they deserve to perform at one of Britain's most famous and iconic ballrooms. Anita & Gleb started the show with their quickstep. Once again, it was a lovely performance from Anita. I loved the whole section in the middle of the dance which was out of hold, great choreography. They were pretty together throughout. The only thing I didn't like was the 'through the legs' moment. It doesn't really have a place in the quickstep. Anita continues to be a pleasure to watch. Jay & Aliona's foxtrot was a nice enough routine, but Jay still lacks emotion. It was a little mechanical. I liked the opening and ending. Aliona's turns were stunning, and Jay supported her well. In hold he was less inspiring, but still solid. Such a shame about the little stumble. Jamelia & Tristan spent too much of the samba out of hold for me. But then I am not really sure how anyone can be expected to choreograph a samba to A Little Respect. A cha cha if you have to. Maybe a foxtrot. But not a samba. Anyway, Jamelia's technique has improved a little. She did straighten her knees properly in places, although the technique seemed to wane as the dance wore on. There was too much wiggling, and not enough attempt at proper samba hip action. And I had to agree with Craig about her hands on the running promenades. Ugly. Helen & Aljaž's tango was lovely. The routine was excellent. Helen was really sharp, and it had great drive. In fact, my only criticisms are nothing to do with Helen's performance. It would've been off the chart to a better piece of music, though. The song, Hold Back The River, totally killed the drama of the dance. I would love to see the dance set to another piece of music, or with a tango-style arrangement. Also, can someone tell Gilkison that those billowing metres of fabric that he is so fond of are really annoying in group numbers, and even more so in front of a single couple. Still, it's better than props or backing dancers I suppose. Katie & Anton's 'grown-up' rumba was so old school, I thought I was watching an episode from 2006. I haven't seen such 'classic' choreography since the early days of Strictly. We all know Anton can't choreograph latin. He can't do sexy rumba. He can't do romantic rumba. He can't to that modern, lyrical rumba that the new pros are so fond of. So he went for basic, basic rumba. And pivots. Lots of pivots.Katie needs to finish her lines properly - she had very odd hands at times. She also needs to perform out to the audience more. Throughout the dance, she seemed to be looking to Anton for reassurance, and not performing for the audience. I really enjoyed Kellie & Kevin's weird hip-hop/samba fusion. It totally worked for me. I think Kevin did a good job mashing up the two styles. And Kellie's samba technique was very good. It was heaps of fun, and I loved it. Peter & Janette's Viennese waltz was a bit too aggressive for me. There was too much attack for a dance that should be smooth and should glide across the floor. It was pleasant enough, but nothing special. The music was too fast. Georgia & Giovanni. OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! I LOVED THEIR CHARLESTON! The beautiful swivels. That freakishly amazing lift. The nod to the choreography from the Chicago stage show. It was almost flawless. Just a teeny tiny stumble from Georgia. If only Jeremy & Karen hadn't had to go right after Georgia & Giovanni. It made their quickstep look a bit boring. It was pleasant enough. Jeremy picks up his knees too much, which makes the whole thing looks odd. On the Charleston sections, he was lifting his knees up, rather than kicking his legs up sideways. He doesn't drive enough, although I wonder if that is because of the height difference between him and Karen. He could have stretched out so much more with a taller partner. I liked the routine, though. Great musicality. Georgia totally smashed it this week. I also really enjoyed Helen and Kellie. I would be hugely surprised not to see Jamelia in the dance-off this week. She had a stay of execution last week, but her days are numbered. The only person she might be able to beat in the dance-off is Jeremy, and I really think the viewers will save him. They want to see what happens in Blackpool. But who will be against Jamelia? I think Peter might find himself in the bottom two tonight. Or possibly Katie. Here are the videos... Anita & Gleb
After a theme week, especially one like Halloween, it's actually nice to get back to a normal show.
Peter & Janette kicked things off with the Charleston, which was awesome. It was high-energy, and brilliantly in sync. The one-armed lift was confident and the last lift was very clever. It was great to see Peter finally recapture what he had in Week 1.
Jamelia & Tristan's Viennese waltz was not very inspiring. There was so much gapping you could drive a bus between them. They almost tripped over the props, which is a little poor on Tristan's part, although Jamelia actually handled it very professionally. She looked lovely in her red dress, too.
Carol & Pasha's American smooth was really not good. The whole thing was stumbly (hey, if the judges can make up words, so can I!) and woolly. The first lift was very clumsy. Carol has shown improvement in the past few weeks, but this was a step back. I did not enjoy the performance at all.
I had high hopes for Helen & Aljaž's rumba, but sadly my hopes were not realised. I had really hoped for more from them. The dance just seemed to be a series of poses. Rumba paint by numbers. They lacked an emotional connection. It was all a bit dead behind the eyes. Maybe they are still stuck in Halloween week...
I had also hoped for big things from Jay & Aliona's Argentine tango. When it's done well, Argentine tango can be one of the best dances on Strictly. Sadly, Jay was simply competent. Like Helen, Jay lacked an emotional connection with his partner. Jay needs to get his Frozen on and Let It Go. It's still too controlled. If anyone still thinks that Jay & Aliona's relationship was more than professional, that Argentine tango should reassure them that it's not.
Katie & Anton's quickstep could have been top of the leaderboard if they'd nailed it. Instead, it was littered with mistakes. There was too much gapping. It was all there, but Katie seemed to not be concentrating. There have been a few little 'incidents' in Katie's dances, where she seems to go to pieces, and forget parts. I'm not sure why this is happening, but she really needs to focus if she wants to go much further.
There were a few little errors in Anita & Glebs jive, too. Anita needs to point her toes on the flicks. You can't fault Anita's energy, though, which she maintained throughout. I loved the drop. That requires a lot of trust. I would have preferred her to wear heels, though. Flat shoes give the dance the feel of a lindy hop rather than a jive.
I really liked Kellie & Kevin's waltz. It took a little long to get going (although I did like the return of the light saber). I loved the heel turn sequence at the top. Kellie is technically one of the strongest in the ballroom. The pivots were fab. It was elegant and sweet. I thought they out-ballroomed Katie & Anton.
The song choice for Jeremy & Karen's tango was odd. It was the weirdest tango ever. There wasn't enough tango content for me. That old dodgy top line was back again. It was very entertaining, but I think Jeremy is coming to the end of his Strictly journey. It was bonkers, awful, genius and I liked it more than I've like Jeremy's more recent performances.
Georgia & Giovanni's samba was really good. There was actual samba, for a start. Georgia did a pretty good job at the difficult bounce action. It had lots of content, and Georgia did most of it well. It's a shame there was a small mistake in the middle.
My favourites were easily Georgia and Peter this week. The bottom two is very hard to predict. It will come down to votes. If Jeremy and Carol's fans keep them in, and Jamelia faces anyone but either of them in the dance-off, Jamelia is toast. But if the public feel sorry for her and save her too, there could be two good celebrities in the bottom. Katie, Kellie, Anita and even Peter could be in danger. Personally, I would put Jeremy and Carol in the bottom two, and I'd send Carol back to her weather map. But it's hard to predict. And we haven't had a shocker yet...
The Argentine tango is reportedly causing a few problems with Jay McGuinness and Aliona Vilani this week. According to the Daily Mirror, Jay has kicked Aliona in the head a couple of times. Jay is also having trouble with an old knee injury. But it's not just injures causing problems. A Strictly source also suggested that Jay is also struggling with the Argentine tango's intricate choreography: “It has all been going very smoothly for Jay and it looked like he would foxtrot to the final. But this week has been filled with problems. He can’t get his head round the steps and has kicked Aliona a few times. They’ve barely completed it correctly at all. Now Jay’s knee is leaving him in real pain too so they can’t work too hard. He’s starting to feel the pressure.”
Jay has been wearing a knee support for some weeks, but the injury has never been mentioned until now. It appears that the lunges and lines in the Argentine tango are taking their toll on Jay's joints.
I doubt, come Saturday night, there will be anything to worry about. Jay has been professional throughout the series, and we're all dying to see the show's first Argentine tango of the series. Jay would not have been given that if the producers didn't think he could score a home run.
Theme weeks are so often hard work to watch, and Halloween is the queen of theme weeks. Don't get me wrong, just like everyone else I love the hair and make-up and costumes. They team does an amazing job. I love the lighting and the props. But the routines. Oh the routines. They are so often a let-down after all the hype. And I'm sorry to say that this Halloween was no different. A paso to Phantom Of The Opera could have been a show-stopper, until you realise that Katie & Anton will be performing it. I can't believe how many mistakes Katie made. She looked like she had no idea what she was supposed to be doing. It was stiff rather than strong. Just awful. Perhaps the razzmatazz was too overwhelming... Kirsty & Brendan's Charleston seemed to have lots of running about. The lifts were clunky, and Brendan didn't quite do a good enough job of styling out the missed lift. It was messy all around. Kirsty is definitely attacking the dances more, but she's still not hitting it out of the park. I had high hopes for Jeremy & Karen's Thriller salsa. It could've been brilliantly bonkers. Sadly, it wasn't really much fun to watch. It was messy, and a bit stiff. I haven't really enjoyed Jeremy's performances since the first couple of weeks. The lifts were pretty good though, at least. I was worried that having the waltz wouldn't be great news for Anita & Gleb. Being a slow dance with little wow-factor, I was expecting it to get lost in the dirge. I was wrong. The choreography was brilliant. The routine had fantastic musicality. They totally owned it. The only thing that baffled me was the judges' scores. Why is Anita always under-marked? Jamelia & Tristan's jive (or joive, as Tristan calls it) started well, but very quickly lost energy. The routine seemed to be too quick for Jamelia, she seemed to be trying to catch up. As Bruno mentioned, she needs to point her toes more, they are ugly and hooky. She was also too heavy in places. Like Kirsty & Brendan's routine, there seemed to be a lot of running about and not enough joiving. Jay & Aliona's American Smooth was nice enough. Jay continues to lead Aliona, and they cover the floor well. I have to agree with the judege's comments about the lack of emotional connection to his routine, though. Technically, there isn't much to fault, but he needs to sell it more now. He's a bit of a Gethin Jones at the moment. He needs to create characters, and think about them. His Big Bad Wolf wasn't really bad enough.
Kellie & Kevin's paso had lots of strength. The routine had too much time out of hold for my liking. And Kellie was pulling some weird face throughout the dance. It was just OK for me. Not bad, not amazing. The rumba is always a difficult dance. It really is. Not 'this is a hard dance' difficult. Genuinely difficult. So Carol was in trouble right away. The amazing make-up and dress, and a green Pasha were not going to distract us. The whole thing lacked passion. It was ploddy. It wasn't a sexy rumba. It wasn't a romantic rumba. It was just odd. In fact, I can't remember when I have enjoyed a rumba by a female celebrity less. Thank goodness that misery was soon washed away by Georgia & Giovanni's tango. All credit to Giovanni. Despite the dodgy Ghostbusters theme, Giovanni got down to matter of the tango in good time, and the routine was great. Georgia looked great, and it was so good to see another proper tango. It was my favourite dance of the night. I really enjoyed Peter & Janette's foxtrot, but I seemed to be in the minority on Twitter. I thought it was a return to form for Peter. Janette's choreography was great, and it picked up the accents in the music really well. OK, so maybe his topline is still a bit dodgy. Maybe I only enjoyed it because so many of the others were so poor... Helen & Aljaž's samba was very cleverly choreographed. Aljaž worked Helen's stiffness into the routine, which limited the amount of time Helen had to attempt the samba hip action. To be fair to Helen, the limited amount of samba action she had to do was pretty good. It's a very difficult action to perfect, and few celebrities have mastered it, but Helen did OK. The top two are easy to pick out this week - Anita and Georgia without a doubt. Almost everyone else was pretty terrible, so a bottom two is harder to choose. I think it would have to be Carol and Kirsty (I think I've said that almost every week), but Jamelia, Katie and Jeremy could easily be in the bottom two, too. Here are the videos... Katie & Anton
Tristan MacManus is reportedly frustrated with Jamelia's lack of commitment to training, after she was late to rehearsals. A source told the Daily Mirror: “They’re really feeling the pressure after finding themselves in the bottom two last week and it has caused a bit of friction. Jamelia has been late for rehearsals several times and doesn’t seem to be putting in as much effort as Tristan. He’s one of the new dancers and is super-keen to win.” There could be some truth to this. All of the pros come from a competitive background, fighting to win competitions, fighting to win jobs, and will expect the same from their partners. Why should any pro put everything in, when they don't feel the same level of commitment from their celebrity partner? The best pairings are those who have the same work ethic. Take Kellie for example. She is working all hours on EastEnders, and is still doing all she can to fit in training. I appreciate that Jamelia is also working on Loose Women, and is a single mum, but she at least has to show commitment to Tristan when they are in the training room together.
Apparently it was Family Week on Strictly. We saw mums, kids and friends aplenty throughout the night. Georgia & Giovanni kicked the night off with a salsa, which was pretty good. I liked the armography, and the lifts were great. I wasn't floored by the routine, but it was solid. The underarm turns which Craig liked were pretty good, except she started to lose her balance toward the end. It was great to see continued improvement from Carol. She didn't seem to be clinging on to Pasha as much as she has in the past. It certainly wasn't perfect, but it was a pleasant routine, and Carol danced it as well as she did the paso. She needs to make sure she closes her feet properly. I've enjoyed them more in the last couple of weeks than previously. I really enjoyed Anita & Gleb's tango. It certainly wasn't traditional, but the choreography was great. It was unlike anything we've seen before, and that made it interesting. Anita had great intensity and intent. Perhaps there was a little bit of gapping, but it was still brilliant. Anita is consistently good, and I think she might top the leaderboard at some point. I kind of liked Peter & Janette's rumba, but it was a bit 'small'. Ian Waite mentioned earlier in the week on It Takes Two that Peter should lunge out further and make everything longer, and unfortunately he didn't. Emotionally, it was lovely. I still don't think Peter has topped the first couple of weeks. I really want to see him smash it, but no male celebrities smash the rumba. I think the scores were fair. The use of the stairs was a clever waste of time for Kirsty & Brendan. I think the judges over-praised Kirsty a bit. The performance was OK. Her head was a little too far to the left. It was actually less skippy than Katie last week in my opinion, but I didn't see what the judges saw. Always happy to see a fleckerl. I know Ainsley is the oldest man in the competition, he doesn't let us forget it, but the jive didn't have enough energy for me. It was more Rock 'n' Roll than jive. The timing was a bit iffy at the start too. And hid feet were a bit 'kipper-y' as my dance teacher used to say - he didn't point his toes enough. It was fun to watch, but as the judges said, it was a bit untidy. I liked the Elvis notes which Natalie added. I really wanted to like Jamelia & Tristan's foxtrot this week, but it was a bit messy. Her footwork wasn't very good, and Craig was completely right about her not bringing her feet together. It was a bit disappointing. I also didn't like that Tristan's shirt didn't match Jamelia's dress... So, Katie & Anton went on the seemingly annual trip to the salsa club. Did it help? Hmm... Well... The salsa wasn't quite smooth and fluid enough. The arms were OK, but it was bumpy. She seemed to be having fun, but I didn't have fun watching. It got worse at the end with the lifts. The lifts were like the lifts in my office building - at least one is out of order, and sometimes you're scared to get in. Jeremy & Karen's waltz was quite nice. It was controlled and calm. I didn't like the drag across the floor which was ugly, but otherwise it was nice enough. There was a bit of gapping between them. It didn't flow as much as it could have, but I liked it better than the manic jive last week. I really enjoyed Helen & Aljaž's quickstep. They covered the entire floor. It was effortless. Cool and clean, elegant and easy. They looked gorgeous together. Tonnes of choreography - Helen didn't have it easy, but she nailed all of it. Totally deserving on three nines.
I was very skeptical when I heard that Jay & Aliona would be doing a paso to It's My Life. However, it was brilliant. Jay is just so stylish. He looks great on the floor, and he and Aliona compliment each other so well. The paso had great passion and intent. Loved it.
Kellie & Kevin's jive was energetic and slick. We saw how good their side-by-side work can be in the Charleston, and that continued in the jive, and in hold too. Lots of traditional content, and Kellie coped with the fast pace really well. They also deserved the three nines.
Anita was a highlight early on among the dirge, and Helen, Jay and Kellie brought it home. It's difficult to pick a bottom two, but I think I might have to go with Kirsty and Ainsley. Neither was terrible, but I think they were the weakest. Jamelia could also be in danger, and maybe even Katie, although I think voters will keep her in.
Whoever chose the songs for this week's show needs to take a long, hard look at themselves. It has been truly atrocious this series, but last night was an all-time low. Anita & Gleb kicked things off with an OK samba. It wasn't bad. Anita didn't really have the samba hip action down, but there are so few non-pros that have managed it that you can't mark her down for that. Hip action aside, it was a good effort which should see her through. Daniel played the part of a pilot in his American smooth routine. Unfortunately, it was more "plain" than "plane". Daniel is actually a solid ballroom dancer, just a bit dull. If I was in a class with him, I'd probably think he was quite good. But on Strictly, he completely lacks pizzazz. There was a little mistake at the beginning. He lifted Kristina twice during the routine, but if you blinked, you probably missed them. Kirsty & Brendan's paso didn't flow very well. Kirsty's performance was a bit 'internal' - she needs to learn to perform for the audience. Her eyeline was down a lot of the time. There were glimpses of something better, but not enough. If nothing else, her confidence has improved. And it was a POOR song choice. There was no way that Georgia & Giovanni could be accused of lacking content this week. Their quickstep routine was full-on. Georgia's footwork was decent. I loved the little ball-changes in the chorus section. Georgia just needs to make sure her posture doesn't slip towards the end of such a grueling routine. Jeremy continues to channel his inner 'newsreader on Children In Need'. The jive was a bit ploddy and heavy. Jeremy & Karen continue to be entertaining, but I'm not sure how much more of them I need to see now. Kellie & Kevin did a lovely foxtrot routine. I loved the use of a little social foxtrot at the top of the routine before they got into it. There was a lovely heel turn. I just wished Kellie had released her toes on the backward steps. That would have really pushed the number over the top. They did a really nice job, though. Just a shame her hair was so distracting. Jamelia & Tristan's Charleston was easily their best dance to date. It was a fun and light. Charleston doesn't have the same rules over technique, which meant Jamelia could throw herself into it and not worry. She has great timing, and she nailed it. Jay & Aliona's quickstep was never going to live up to last week's jive, but it turned into a bit of a disaster. Jay lost it several times, and never really looked completely in control. It was very disappointing. But Jay is still one of the strongest in the competition. Again, POOR music choice. I did actually enjoy Carol & Pasha's paso more than I've enjoyed any of her other dances. She seemed a little less lost than usual. It was quite strong, for Carol. I thought Ainsley & Natalie's waltz was just OK. It was solid, but not very interesting. Despite all the emphasis on his frame in the VT, he still wasn't able to maintain his frame throughout the dance. It was sweet and pleasant, but it not going to set the world alight. I loved the final lift in Helen & Aljaž's salsa routine, but I felt like she was trying too hard in places. She was grinding and gyrating, but it all felt a bit clinical. I didn't really like the facial expressions either. These kind of 'dirty' latin dances are always going to be a challenge for Helen. Peter & Janette should have had a fairly easy week this week, because moving from paso to tango isn't too much of a stretch, at least in mood. But their tango didn't do it for me. It was solid, but didn't have wow factor. Peter had a funny posture, and quite odd footwork at times. Yet another POOR song selection. Katie & Anton's Viennese waltz was incredibly skippy. I really don't know why they topped the leaderboard, although of course I am happy for Anton that he's finally done it after 13 series. Katie looked like she'd gone a little wrong at the beginning, and her timing was off in places. Way too skippy to be enjoyed. She was grimacing through the 16 million pivots. At least there was a proper fleckerl. My favourites this week were Kellie, Jamelia and Georgia. The bottom two could be picked from a number of couples. The poorest dancers in my opinion now are Carol and Jeremy, but Daniel and Ainsley were quite dull and could also go home, and I didn't enjoy Kirsty either. I would put Kirsty and either Carol or Jeremy in the bottom two. I would quite like to see Carol go home, but I wouldn't be sorry to see any of the above go home. Here are the videos... Anita & Gleb