Strictly Come Blogging

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

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Saturday Service: Week 2

This week's show took a little while to boil. It was a little flat to begin with, but we got there by the end.

Bobby & Dianne's Charleston was fine, if a little uninspiring. High energy, perhaps a little untidy. I didn't enjoy it as much as the foxtrot, but it was good enough to get through to next week.

When Annabel knew the steps, she looked elegant and in control. In the parts where she was less confident it showed all over her face and went to pieces. At times, she was fighting with Johannes. She also needs to point her toes on the kicks. Their quickstep covered the floor well. She has lots of potential.

I didn't really like anything about Jody & Jowita's paso. It was all a bit wooden. Scarecrow arms, lazy free arm during the cape work, stompy. It lacked flow, the movements didn't seamlessly blend. He's trying hard, but it just wasn't there.

A gorgeous foxtrot from Ellie & Vito. Cute story and even better dancing. The footwork was very good, nice toe releases, decent heel turns, nice top line. Quite a bit out of hold, though. This is not American smooth. 

I loved Nigel & Katya's Viennese waltz. He's a great actor, and the storytelling was amazing. I was so wrapped up in the story, that I didn't see the technical flaws that Shirley did. His left arms was leading just a little, but otherwise I loved it. He was leading, he looked in control throughout.

I liked Nikta's sass and attitude. But her Charleston with Gorka lacked any swivel at all. I don't think I've ever seen a Charleston on Strictly with less of it. It was stompy and heavy. I really like Nikita, and I would like her to stay and have the chance to get better.

I feared for Les & Nancy doing the samba, but it wasn't as bad as I feared it might be. The action wasn't right, but it still had a bounciness. It was better in hold than out of hold. The salutes were a little twee. There weren't too many samba steps present after the first 30 seconds. But in a series with probably a greater number of celebrities who are less well-known, Les might be around for a fair few weeks yet.

Adam & Luba's tango was just OK. He broke character when something went a bit wrong in the middle, which was unsettling for me. It was a little soft and lacked drive. There were points where he seemed to be doing too many steps, which made it look panicky. I think Adam will get lost in the middle of the field.

I'm glad Giovanni liked Amanda's salsa so much, because I wasn't so keen. It was a bit aggressive in places. Something about her arms looked a bit odd. The last lift was very clunky. It was good, but not a patch on last week.

Out of hold, Krishnan is a delight. He brings a smile to my face. As soon as he took hold of Lauren, it all went a bit south. He spent the whole time looking at the direction of travel, rather than keeping his head back. He needs to raise his eyeline. And he needs to work on that frame. But I still love watching him. They need to put the foxtrot behind them, and move on to the next dance. 

Eddie & Karen's cha cha was high energy and high performance, but it was also read more like a salsa. His cha cha technique wasn't there. It was flat-footed and pigeon-toed. It was a crowd pleaser more than a judge pleaser. I definitely want to see more of Eddie. And we need to take a moment to appreciate Karen's J-Lo look.

I thought that Zara & Graziano really improved this week. Zara's head was sinking into her shoulders early on, but her posture got a little better as the dance went on. If she can improve her posture and get some core strength, she could really improve. I fear that she might not get the chance.

The jive seemed to be a bit too quick for Angela in places. She seemed to be struggling to keep up with it. I think Carlos might have packed it too much. Angela must have done Irish dancing in the past, because her leg positions definitely had that look and the whole dance had that Irish bounce.

Angela & Kai looked as though they have been dancing the foxtrot together for years. It was classy and elegant. Lovely leg extensions, decent footwork. Simple and beautiful.

Layton & Nikita's quickstep was pure Hollywood. Light and bright, covered the floor beautifully, high energy and anything but basic. Fierce.

No-one is really that bad. Les is clearly the weakest dancer, but his fame will probably keep in him for a few weeks. I think we could be saying goodbye to Zara, Nikita and Adam could all be in trouble.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Tuesday Chatter: Week 1

The new Strictly series began in earnest on Saturday. A bit inconsiderate of the BBC to start the series on a Saturday that I was away! I had to catch up today.

I was really impressed with the standard across the board. It was a good week for everyone, and a fantastic week for some.

Adam & Luba had the tough gig of kicking off the series with a cha cha. I really liked the opening section with the handkerchiefs. He has such a cheeky smile that you forgive some of his shortcomings on the dance front. His dacncing was actually better than I thought it might be. His timing was OK. His footwork could have been better, but for Week 1, it was a good effort.

Angela & Carlos' tango was another solid start. She needs to watch her arms, which lacked proper placement and went a bit 'Stacey Dooley' in places. But it had decent intent and good timing. I can't wait to see her tackle a dance with a bit more of a fun vibe.

I loved Eddie & Karen. The quickstep is a tricky dance for Week 1, and most of the elements were there. Great storytelling, great performance and great timing. The only thing which let him down was his posture. He was leaning into Karen and sticking his bottom out. Everything out of hold was a winner.

Angela is a national treasure, and she showed exactly why she has been so closely associated with ballroom dancing for so long. It was a confident performance. Kai is the master of presenting his partner and showing them off, and he got the best out of Angela. That leg! And i
I'd like to borrow that robe, please! She just needs to make sure she keeps her eyeline up.

Nikita & Gorka's waltz was very sweet, but a little tentative. Very romantic, but in a field of 15 couples, it got a bit lost in the middle. She's such a lovely girl, I really hope she gets to show us more. It's never good news when Shirley leads with how nice you look...

I thought the judges were quite hard on Layton & Nikita. I thought their samba was great. It had energy and attack. Everything was nicely finished. Just just missed the last beat of the music to nail the finish. He's a born performer. I'm looking forward to seeing his range, especially when he comes to the ballroom dances.

Zara & Graziano were another couple that got lost in the mix for me. Her timing was iffy in places. He looked how a novice should look, though. We're so spoilt on Strictly these days that there isn't time for a couple like these two to grow. Next week's dance needs to be better than this cha cha.

Les looked better in hold for me than out of it. His tango with Nancy lacked drive and his posture needs more work, but his timing was good. He needs to open his shoulders, and that would improve things immensely.

Ellie stood out to me in the launch show because of her gorgeous smile and high energy. The performance was 100% there in her and Vito's jive, but the technique needs more attention. She was a bit stompy in places, most apparent in the drunken sailors. As her stamina improves, she is going to be one to watch.

Jody & Jowita's quickstep was mostly good, although they were a bit out of sync in some of the running steps in hold. They need to go up and down at the same time, but they seemed not to be, and it made it a bit awkward to watch. Room to improve.

The thing I liked most about Bobby is that he kept upright in hold, despite a bit of a height difference between himself and Dianne. Bobby was the first celebrity male that I felt was actually leading his partner. His timing was spot on, and the storytelling was cute. I loved their foxtrot and I can't wait to see more.

Annabel & Johannes' cha cha was a good solid start. Annabel has a natural elegance, and that comes through on the dancefloor. I think she might struggle with some of the more 'earthy' dances, but this was a good start.

I can't tell you how much I wanted Amanda to be terrible. I really don't want her in the competition. Unfortunately, she was very good. And being paired with Giovanni, one of the most creative choreographers, won't do her any harm either. Their Viennese waltz had an intensity which only Giovanni can pull off. The storytelling was impeccable, her lines were wonderful. She looks as though she's been dancing for a long time.

Krishnan's 'La' training t-shirt brought me joy before he even danced a step. He and Lauren are such a watchable partnership and I hope we get to see it for a long time. Krishnan's new found love of dancing is exactly what I want to see on Strictly, and is endearing to watch. I loved their goofy cha cha. This is exactly why they always put journalists on Children In Need. They all have this peacockery in them, they just need to let it out.

Nigel & Katya's paso was phenomenal. Strictly is back, baby! His drive was fabulous, his armlines were a thing of beauty, it was masculine and strong and hot. And the cape work at the end was the cherry on top. Undermarked, because they can't hand out 9s in Week 1, but if Nigel makes the final we will definitely see that dance again.

A very solid start, a very high standard, and anyone mid-to-low on the leaderboard will need to turn it out next week to save themselves. If there was a vote this week, I could see Nikita, Zara, Adam and Jody all looking a bit precarious.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Strictly Lineup: Series 21

It's Strictly season once again. I have to be honest. I have been putting off writing a blog about the 2023 participants since they were announced.

Strictly has worked really hard over the last few years to be inclusive and diverse. Since the beginning it has embraced openly gay dancers and celebrities, people of colour and more recently those with disabilities. We have seen multiple same-sex couples take to the floor, and I really felt that the show was doing good work to move its pearl-clutching, middle-England viewers into the 21st century.

So when the show books some celebrities whose views don't seem to align with these values, it feels like a backward step. I struggle to make peace with people who feel they are the gatekeepers to the identity of others, who feel they can decide whose identity is "legitimate" and whose is not.

I want Strictly to be the glittery, safe space it should be. I hope the voting public get behind those who embody the spirit of Strictly.

So, for what it is worth, here are the 2023 participants.

Anglea Rippon is synonymous with ballroom dancing. She was host of Come Dancing for many years, and even released her own 'how to' DVD, Ballroom Dancing with Angela Rippon, co-demonstrated by Ian Waite. She has danced on TV many times, and is very elegant. At 78, she is the oldest person to perform on Strictly to date, but if she can heep up with the tough training, she will likely do well.

Layton Williams is an actor who is no stranger to dancing. He performed the title role in Everybody's Talking About Jamie in the West end and on UK tours. He's a born performer, and I expect he will be amazing.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy has been a well respected Channel 4 News journalist for most of his career, but for many of us of a certain age, he is the man we watched presenting Newsround when we were children (OK, I do remember John Craven when I was really young, but it was all Krishnan and Juliet Morris when I was really watching). I passed Krishnan on the street last week, but resisted the temptation to shout "G'wan Krish!" at him. Not sure if he'll be able to dance...

Comedian and presenter Eddie Kadi is someone I am not familiar with, so I have no insight into how he might get on on Strictly. I delight in getting to know people over the course of the series and taking them at face value.

I do know and like Angela Scanlon. I have a feeling that she actually hosted a few dates on one of the early Strictly tours, standing in for Kate Thornton, although I'd have to pull out the programme to be sure, as it was dates I didn't go to. I think Angela might be OK on the dancefloor.

The day has finally arrived. We have our first former Love Island participant on Strictly, although in the press release Zoe McDermott has made a BBC Three documentary, which it turns out I did watch but forgot she was the woman behind it. We always assume that younger women will be able to dance, but that's not always the case.

I am not familiar with actor Adam Thomas, having not watched Waterloo Road. He says he is excited to be a part of the show, and has been a fan for years. I do love it when Strictly fans get to participate.

Nikita Kanda hosts the BBC Asian Network Breakfast Show, and is another participant I am unfamilair with. I'm sure I am not alone in hoping she gets paired with Nikita Kuzmin just for the LOLs.

I don't watch Coronation Street, so Ellie Leach is conscripted to the unfamilar pile too. Ellie is the youngest of the women this year.

Paralympic cyclist Jody Cundy joins a long list of gold medalists to join Strictly. Team GB sportspeople have generally done pretty well on the show, and the cycling team have to be among the most disciplined. I have no idea if he will be able to dance, but I am confident he will be able to give it everything.

I don't watch EastEnders, so I am sorry to admit that I am more familiar with Bobby Brazier's famous parents than I am with him. At 20, Bobby is this year's youngest participant. Bobby has been a model as well as an actor. Modelling might not translate to dancing, but I'd expect that he would be able to follow instructions about body position.

I remember Nigel Harman being in EastEnders, so it must have been a long time ago. I haven't watched it in at least 15 years. I also remember him being in the West End, as I saw him in I Can't Sing, a musical loosely based on The X Factor. Anyone who has been in a musical must be able to dance a bit, surely...

Les Dennis must be on the cusp of national treasure status. While he is best known as a comic actor, he has also been in musicals and should be a bit good. 

I know Annabel Croft from her time on Treasure Hunt. Maybe she'll be better than Anneka Rice. If not, she can go back to her pint with Farage and not getting the vaccine.

When I saw Amanda Abingdon's picture, I thought I knew who she was, but it turned it I was muddling her with her doppleganger Katherine Parkinson. Frankly, I wish they had booked Katherine. Amanda hasn't been in anything I have watched. She's described as an actor (well, probably an actress because gender is very important), but I'll decide if she is a legitimate actor.

So there you have it. I've finally written something. See you next month when it all kicks off.

Vote For Strictly!

 It's time for the shortlist vote for the National Television Awards again.

Strictly Come Dancing is nominated in the Talent Show category, up against The Great British Sewing Bee, The Great British Bakeoff and Britain's Got Talent.

And Claudia Winkleman is nominated in the TV Presenter category against Ant & Dec, Bradley Walsh, Alison Hammond and Martin Lewis.

Vote here! You have until midday on Monday 5th September to make your vote count.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Cameron Not Returning To Pro Lineup

The BBC has confirmed the line-up of talent for this year's Strictly Come Dancing. The only change on Saturday night's is that South African dancer Cameron Lombard will not return.

Cameron had not had a celebrity of his own on the show, and had only appeared in the professional numbers.

Cameron called his time on the show "a blast".

It's not clear if the decision was Cameron's own choice, or if he was not invited to return to the show.

Last week, Rylan announced that he will not be returning to It Takes Two.

With Janette's baby due only weeks before the start of the new series, I would expect that Rylan will be replaced and someone will continue to share presenting duties with Janette - assuming she returns. There are lots of former Strictly participants who would make excellent hosts, just as Zoe Ball did. I'd love to see Clara or AJ on It Takes Two. Gethin has long been their Friday Elstree correspondent. He could also be a possibility. Whoever it is needs to be a fan of the show - the show has always been brilliant because the presenters genuinely watch on Saturday nights just like us.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Saturday Catch-up: Week 12 - Semi-Final

The semi-final means our very tired participants now have to take on two dances. It helps to highlight who really are the most accomplished celebrities left in the competition. And for some, it meant that the two dances were not as drilled or as polished as they might usually be.

I found myself agreeing with the judges a lot this week.

Fleur and Molly have both had a rough ride through the competition. Fleur started her paso with a look of determination. Once again she was ready to fight for her position. She was channeling anger, passion and strength throughout the routine. I'm not sure I even noticed Vito that much. It wasn't perfect, but it was 100% Fleur.

Their Charleston was the opposite. It was pure joy and fun. It was quite lindyhop in style. Not for the first time this series, the thing that bothered me the most was Fleur's shoes! Those black shoes looked really heavy. I think red shoes would have looked so much better. But I loved the routine, and I admire Fleur's resilience.

A waltz can be a really difficult dance to sell to the audience. While it feels dreamy and warm to perform, it can look a bit dull from the spectator's perspective. Somehow, Helen & Gorka were able to translate that dreaminess through the screen. It was so sweet and romantic. Their chemistry shone through. I loved it.

After last weeks Couples' Choice, my expectations for this Argentine tango were high. I think Shirley expressed how I felt about it in a way I couldn't. It had the intensity, for sure, but it just didn't quite hit the mark. Perhaps it was her posture that was out. I was a bit 'walky' in places for me. Perhaps Helen was anticipating the choreography rather than letting Gorka lead, which is essential to making this dance pop. Great sorytelling, though.

Hamza & Jovita's Charleston was a Pencil Full of Lead and a box full of fun! I loved it. It as silly and bouncy. And there was a lift in there that we had never seen before. I'm not sure how that's possible after all these years. It was a great routine for smiley Hamza.

Their waltz wasn't quite as dreamy for me as Helen & Gorka's, but it was still a joy to watch. I think it's far too late for Hamza to fix his pigeon toes, which was really the only thing wrong with their performance. It was very sweet. Hamza led Jovita and presented her as well as he always does. His posture is comfortable to watch. You can't not enjoy watching him dance.

Molly & Carlos' American smooth was a delight. There's little to say about Molly's performance because it was so good. She is a technical dancer with fantastic musicality. He is the sort of dancer I love to watch. Everything looks so effortless. She breathes the music and expresses it through her body.

Molly's paso was also excellent. It had power and control. There was a small sequence of turns which didn't look right, I think she raised her shoulders and propelled herself with her arms in a slightly inelegant way. But that aside, everything else was spot on. She certainly is a Survivor.

Will had a bad week at the worst time. His paso was too small. He lacked shaping and extension. He looked as though he might pull himself over during the turns with the cape. He and Nancy have been pretty strong throughout the competition, but perhaps having two dances meant that he wasn't able to nail the details this time around. If this dance had come earlier in the competition, he probably would have gotten away with it.

The Couples' Choices hip hop 'Madchester' routine was definitely more comfortable to watch. I don't think it was Will's first time busting out some of those moves. I quite liked it. But 'quite liked' does not a finalist make.

I think it was right for Will to leave the competition this week. He had a bad week at the worst possible time, and had probably started to plateau. I'm relieved that both Molly and Fleur made the final, and that they never had to face each other in a dance-off. That would have been the worst possible scenario. 

Saturday Catch-up: Week 11

Having a holiday in the middle of the Strictly run is really inconvenient for writing blog updates. Here I am writing thoughts about Movie Week on the Saturday afternoon ahead of the final. Never mind...

I loved Movie Week. There were some amazing routines, and it really could have been anyone in the bottom two. I watched the dances on YouTube while I was away, so I didn't see any of the judges comments, and I was impressed by everyone.

The start of Molly & Carlos' Charleston routine seemed to be in Tess' old 'Red Room'! The dance and performance were spot on. Molly captured the spirit of Chicago perfectly. She was absolutely brilliant. The lifts looked easy, her facial expressions were flawless. I loved it.

Hamza & Jovita's samba was absolutely fantsastic. Samba can be a dance of death for a lot of celebrities, but Hamza totally smashed it. His hip action was amazing. His samba walks were mesmorzing. His samba rolls were great and his solo batucadas were a delight. I loved the calmness of the routine, which I think was propelled by the music.

Kym & Graziano's cha cha was very enjoyable. Kym's legs and hips were stunning. There were a couple of small choreographic details I didn't like. I didn't like the bit where Jake came over purely to catch Kym on a back fall. Seemed superfluous. I didn't the little solo section. I found it disruptive, and Kym didn't give it enough power. And I didn't like the very end. It should have been a punch pose to end, and instead it faded up to a pose. But this is Craig levels of nitpicking. I really did like the performance.

I've never seen Miss Saigon, but I understand it is a little problematic by today's standards. Taking Will & Nancy's foxtrot at face value though, it was a very sweet routine which captured the romance between the main characters. I still have problems with Will's posture in hold. I think he favours his left arm, which makes his topline slightly out of place. But emotionally, it was great. Will's a very emotional person, you know...

Helen & Gorka's Couples' Choice was magnificent. Absolutely stunning. It was very much the Helen Show, with Gorka mostly being a prop - table, chair, car seat. It was Helen's best dance of the series, and a big middle finger to her ex. Incredible.

I loved Fleur & Vito's quickstep. It's the sort of routine that deserved a bigger floor. It was fast, fleet of foot. It had tricky changes of tempo which Fleur took in her stride. I loved everything about the routine. The additional dancers totally complimented and elevated the routine. It must have been difficult following Helen, but she totally held her own.

This was easily my favorite week of the series. Every routine was a winner. It wasn't surprising to see Kym leave the competition, and it was probably the right result, but they all could have been semi-finalists.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday Service: Week 10

We are properly at the business end of the competition. The post-Blackpool hangover can often be a disappointing week. This year's offering wasn't disappointing per se, but you can tell the couples are starting to get tired. While they all continue to be fantastic, and are putting in some great performances, they all lacked the X factor last night.

With Kym out with Covid-19 for the week, it makes the stakes even higher, so perhaps that is what gave this episode a level of anxiety, which was more palpable than usual.

Will & Nancy opened the show, with a very unusual take on the Charleston.  No 1920s theme, no flapper dresses or spats. It read like a Couples' Choice routine. Probably because of the suits. I wasn't keen on all that coloured trim, it looked chaotic. All that said, I didn't dislike the routine. It had some great choreography which was fun. Although there was a lot of stylised walks and runs that made me wish it was performed to One Step Beyond. Will was out of sync with Nancy a couple of times, which was a shame. But overall, I think it was good. I probably liked it even more on second viewing.

Molly is probably the most technically skilled and competent dancer left in the competition. I loved her tango. It was sharp, it had light and shade, fast and slow moments. It was absolutely packed with steps - there was no dead air here. Her technical ability is amazing, and her chemistry with Carlos really comes across on the dancefloor. I'm not really sure why she didn't get any 10s this week. Her biggest problem is that she has been so good since the beginning that people have lost interest. She absolutely deserves her place in the competition, and I really wish she was more popular with the voting public.

Ellie is starting to get left behind in terms of ability. Her jive was quite flat-footed and lacked spring. I remember when the judges would give you a bit of a pass if you were tall. They'd spend ages talking about how much more difficult it is for those with longer limbs. But no such pass for Ellie & Johannes. There was a mistake toward the end, which was a shame, and she needs to make sure she doesn't look at the floor. But I enjoyed the performance. It was joyful and engaging.

There was a lot to like about Fleur & Vito's rumba. Fleur's legs were brilliant. She really pushed into the floor, and her legs passed each other beautifully. And her shoes were actually the correct colour this week. I loved the chemistry between the pair of them. It was intimate and sexy. I just felt as though they hadn't spend enough time working on the upper half of Fleur's body. The undulations seemed to stop at her hips instead of resonating up though the torso and through to her arms. If the top half of her body had reacted to motion coming up through her legs, it would have been perfection.

I love Hamza. He is a lovely, watchable dancer. But he's a nice guy, and I felt he was too nice for the Argentine tango. He absolutely led Jovita, no question. Her supported and presented her beautifully. But the routine lacked the passion to make it a show stopper. Jovita was going all the heavy lifting on the acting front. And he really needed to point his feet. They looked like ugly coat hooks at times in the gancho sections and in the pirouette. It definitely was not a 10 dance for me.

I hope that Helen & Gorka were already meant to be a couple in this routine, because a receptionist ripping open his shirt when a guest walks up to the desk could easily be construed as sexual harassment, no matter how good looking he is! The routine was fun and bright. It lacked quality on the technical side. It lacked hip action, it had a lot of running steps (not the promenade runs, which were pretty good, but actual running), and the trolley section, which meant she was able to skip a few steps completely. But I enjoyed it anyway.

It's really hard to pick favourites now, as even though I was able to pick holes in almost all the routines this week, I still enjoyed them all immensely. I think my favourite this week was Molly, because I am almost always going to root for the most technically skilled dancer, as long as they have the performance to match.

I genuinely don't know who will be in the bottom two. Logic says Ellie, but she is a crowd pleaser. Literally any of them could be in trouble.

Don't forget the results show is at 6pm tonight!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Panto Time

A little later than usual, here is where to find your favourite Strictly stars, past and present, in pantomime this Christmas. There's still time to book your tickets! I'll be seeing Anton in Bromley.

Anton du Beke (judge, ex-pro), Jack & The Beanstalk- Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Craig Revel Horwood (judge), Cinderella Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol

Katya Jones (pro), Snow White - Middleton Arena, Middleton
Flavia Cacace Mistry (ex-pro), Jack & The Beanstalk - Pavilion, Worthing
Brendan Cole (ex-pro), Peter Pan - His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen
Joanne Clifton (ex-pro), Cinderella - Grove Theatre, Dunstable
AJ Pritchard (ex-pro), Cinderella - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Ian Waite (ex-pro), Cinderella - New Theatre Royal, Lincoln

Claire Sweeney (Series 1), Beauty & The Beast - Port Civic, Ellesmere
Claire Sweeney (Series 1), Beauty & The Beast - Civic, Whitchurch
Julian Clary (Series 2), Jack & The Beanstalk, London Palladium, London
Brian Capron (Series 5), Snow White - Bridlington Spa, Bridlington
Matt Baker (Series 8), Goldilocks & The Three Bears - Richmond Theatre, London
Patsy Kensit (Series 8), Aladdin - The Atkinson, Southport
Anita Dobson (Series 9), Aladdin - Brighton Centre, Brighton
Jason Donovan (Series 9), Goldilocks & The Three Bears - Mayflower, Southampton
Lesley Joseph (Series 14), Snow White - Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes
Ore Oduba (Series 14), Sleeping Beauty - Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Robert Rinder (Series 14), Snow White - Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes
Alexandra Burke (Series 15), Jack & The Beanstalk, London Palladium, London
Brian Conley (Series 15), Cinderella - New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Davood Ghadami (Series 15), Aladdin - Waterside Theatre, Ayelsbury
Joe McFadden (Series 15), Beauty & The Beast - The Grand, Swansea
Debbie McGee (Series 15), Cinderella- The Anvil, Basingstoke
Ranj Singh (Series 16), Dick Whittington - Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham
Faye Tozer (Series 16), Snow White - Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Emma Barton (Series 17), Beauty & The Beast - Bournemouth Pavilion, Bournemouth
Karim Zeroual (Series 17), Peter Pan - The Hawth, Crawley

Su Pollard (Christmas 2011), Jack & The Beanstalk - Memorial Court, Northwich
Rufus Hound (Christmas 2013), Jack & The Beanstalk - Theatre Royal, Norwich

Please drop me a line if I have missed anyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday Service: Week 9

After a week of Blackpool fever on It Takes Two, it was great to finally see the hype train pull in after a three year absence. Anticipation was high, and we were kept waiting until 7.45pm for the show so everyone was ready.

Hamza & Jovita kicked things off with an American smooth. Hamza said in the week that he prefers to dance the ballroom routines as he's not great at counting and it's easier to dance in hold. He certainly looked the part in his gorgeous tailsuit. The routine was competent, but for me it came across a little soft. It would have been perfect for the studio at Elstree, but the Tower Ballroom requires a bigger performance and that's what was lacking here. The final lift was absolutely glorious, and that's what I wanted from the whole routine. It was clean, well-danced and sweet, but I wanted bigger.

Personally, I felt Molly was let down by the choreography this week. Carlos' rumba last week was a triumph. This week, he left Molly looking like a spare part while he jived up a storm. He had all the best moves, while she waited for him to dance around her. As always, Molly danced what she was given with accuracy and performance, but she is capable of so much more, and she just didn't get the chance to bring the house down like she should have had. It's a shame.

There are two dances you really want to get in Blackpool week - Paso and quickstep. Kym & Graziano got the former, and certainly used all of the Tower Ballroom's extra space to make everything bigger. The routine was great and Kym sold it. There were a few moments where I felt she lacked power, while in other moments she dominated. Really hit and miss. Her confidence has grown so much and it was great to see her really go for it.

Can we just make disco salsa a thing and be done with it? Tyler & Dianne certainly delivered the spirit of the '70s with their routine, and I did actually quite like it. I yearn for the kind of salsa routines that Chris & Jacqui used to perform (look them up on YouTube), but this was a solid effort. It could have had more armography and less Hustle, but Tyler sold it and seemed to be having a blast. The lifts were very impressive.

It's a good job that the judges get to watch what is happening in the room, and not what we watch on TV, because the camerawork for Ellie & Johannes' American smooth was all over the shop. Lots of bad angles and zooms, ending with us having to watch Ellie clipping herself into the lift when we should have only seen Johannes and friends in the foreground. That aside, I thought it was a nice routine. I preferred the chorus part where they covered the floor with their lovely natural turns and were alone on the floor. Classic Blackpool. I'm not sure the additional dancers really added value to this routine. Ellie seemed really upset with herself at the end, and I'm not sure why. I didn't see anything wrong.

Helen & Gorka got the other dance you long for at Blackpool - the quickstep - and they absolutely made the most of it. The routine was pure content. They flew across the floor in promenade position with virtually no gapping. The additional dancers did add value to this routine, I really wanted to be a part of their gang. Helen had the biggest smile on her face and I absolutely loved her this week.

BeyoncĂ© lives again at the Tower Ballroom. On our last visit, we had Alex Scott's fantastic paso to Run The World (Girls), and this time Fleur gave it absolutely everything with her Destiny's Child mix Couples' Choice. I'm not sure BeyoncĂ© is a dance genre, but who cares? It was epic. This was the dance she was destined (no pun intended) to perform. She had the moves, the attitude and the performance. Was Vito even in this dance? I barely even noticed him, or any of the additional dancers. Fleur owned the routine, and the dancefloor. I especially loved the end where they both stared down the camera as they lowered themselves slowly to the floor. Epic.

It was tough for Will & Nancy to follow Fleur, especially with a campy, '70s samba. They did a good job, but it was slightly anti-climatic. This felt like a very Gilkison routine. Very big, very bright, very camp, with feathers, silks, staging and props. It lacked a lot of samba content. It was all gyrating and voltas. It was a performance, but I wanted more steps. Will performed very well nonetheless.

My favourites of the night were Helen and Fleur.

It's difficult to decide who might be in the bottom two. Molly didn't stand out this week. Kym could be forgotten in the middle of the show. Ellie seemed a bit deflated. I just don't know. Someone good is going to be leaving us every week, and I don't think I'm ready for anyone else to leave.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tuesday Chatter: Week 8

This weekend I learned how much context matters when you watch Strictly.

I was away (hence the tardiness of this post), and because BBC iPlayer won't work outside the UK, I just watched the dances on YouTube so I would at least know what went on and which order they performed in. I also accidentally saw the result via the Strictly Facebook page, again with no context. So I was really surprised to find out just what an emotional show it had been.

I liked Ellie & Johannes' Charleston routine. The style totally suited Ellie's goofy side, and the choreography was pretty well executed. Friendship is a really fun number in Anything Goes, and this routine captured the same spirit. I especially liked the jacket section. It was a fun number, and a good start to the show. I've not really been convinced that the pair are actually that close, but Ellie does really seem to like Johannes.

I wasn't so keen on Tyler & Dianne's paso. I just can't put my finger on why. It was absolutely fine, barring his topline in hold from time to time. But I just didn't connect to the dance. It didn't move me. I wanted something more.

Kym & Graziano's American smooth was pleasant, but really didn't move me without the context of her emotional connection to the song. It was a nice, well-danced routine, and was more emotional than Tyler's dance. But add the context of the loss that Kym experienced, and it totally changed my perception of the dance. I bought into the whole thing more. Apparently pulling on the heartstrings works.

Helen & Gorka's salsa was lively and fun. Helen's performance had sass, but was still a bit 'nice' for a salsa. I loved the cartwheel lift, and she certainly threw herself into the dance. It was a great performance, but it could have been even better.

Tony & Katya's jive was actually pretty entertaining. I loved him bursting through the poster at the beginning. I was amused by Katya's constant counting. I thought the sequence of forward rolls was very ambitious (even if not a typical jive step!). He's not a great dancer, but he has improved and I did enjoy him this week.

I loved Molly & Carlos' rumba. It was an absolute treat. Light and shade, fast and slow, packed with recognisable rumba figures and hot! I loved the combination of intimate, passionate moments, paired with outward performance to us. There was no dead time in the routine, every count was danced. Their connection was tangible, and you could believe that they were actually romantically involved by their brilliant storytelling. I loved it!

Fleur was also brilliant on Saturday. As the judges noted, she has now discovered how to control her power, and she channeled it brilliantly into her samba. Vito's choreography was brilliant - I loved the natural top - and Fleur's hips and body moved so rhythmically and stylishly.

Without the emotional context, Will & Nancy's waltz was lovely but really didn't make an impression on me. Just a nice ballroom dance. With the context of Will's story of loss, it took on new meaning, especially the end of the dance where he walked alone into the light. I was surprised how much more I enjoyed Will's dance after seeing the VT, and seeing Will's reaction at the end.

Couples' choice is often a difficult routine to judge, and it's usually because the style of dance is not well defined. Even without seeing the VT, I knew exactly what Hamza & Jovita's routine was all about. There was no question that it was an afrobeats routine, and it was brilliant. Hamza has such presence on the dancefloor that even the smallest of movements has impact. And the amazing lift where he swung Jovita around like a guy flipping a directional ad at the side of the road was just magic. More clearly defined CC routines, please!

My favourites of the week were Hamza, Fluer and Molly.

It was the right result. I think it was Tony's time to go. I would've probably been really mad at his presence in Blackpool if he'd knocked out anyone else. And I'm not mad at him for not performing again in the dance-off. Short of Tyler falling over mid-dance, he would never have been saved by the judges anyway.

So, off to Blackpool we go for the first time since 2019. But with no couples doing a paso which seems a real shame.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Sunday Service: Week 7

Halfway through the competition, we means we must open the show with a moody 'I'm not ready to go home yet' montage.

Personally, I haven't yet picked a favourite. Every week I like a different couple. It's making for an interesting competition.

Hamza & Jovita kicked things off this week with a cha cha, which the judges went crazy for. The training footage showed that Hamza had really struggled with the timing, but that certainly didn't show on the dancefloor. Well, if you turn a blind eye to the obvious counting aloud from both of them. He is still also a little pigeon-toed. But the routine had loads of cha cha content, which was well executed. And the story was cute. I'm not 100% sure it was worthy of 39 points, but I definitely liked it more on second viewing.

Can we just take a moment so acknowledge Alison Hammond reading the T&Cs? She came dressed ready to dance, and I'm sure she spent the whole night hoping someone would get injured so she could leap in.

Ellie & Johannes' rumba was very disappointing. She has beautiful, long legs, but they were not very well controlled. Her knees were often bent when they should have been straight. Her hands often don't finish the line nicely. Her wrists are bent awkwardly, or her fingers splay out. The whole thing lacked chemistry for me.

Mollie & Carlos' foxtrot was a delight. I'm starting to feel that Mollie's problem is that she has been so good from the start that she has almost nowhere to go. Her heel turn at the start of the routine was spot on. The routine was lyrical and she performed everything beautifully. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if she flicked her toes up on the backward steps. But otherwise, it was perfect.

As expected, Ellie & Nikita's Charleston had a lot of lifts. A lot. I thought Ellie performed it well, but it lacked light and shade for me. It was a bit one-note. Ellie lacked swivel, and her timing was off in a couple of places as well. I think she has done enough to do through, but I'm beginning to wonder if Ellie has reached her plateau.

Tyler & Dianne's Viennese waltz should have been really hot, but it fell a bit flat for me. I liked the opening on the bench. And Tyler definitely captured the mood of a late night, one last dance before the band go home moment. His posture really let him down, thoough. His top half was too far forward, which made his bottom stick out. We've seen better from Tyler.

Kym continues to grow in confidence, and her Argentine tango with Graziano showcased her confidence brilliantly. It was intense and moody. It wasn't as packed with steps as Mollie's Argentine tango last week, but it didn't need to be. Instead it smoldered, and had greater intimacy. And beautiful lines. I really liked it.

I didn't have any strong feelings about Will & Nancy's quickstep. It was fine. There was one big where he looked a bit hunched over her, but I wondered if that was a chorographical choice. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad either. Just fine. I was most interested in Nancy's eye make-up than the dance.

Helen & Gorka's jive was probably the coolest we have seen on Strictly. It just oozed cool. I didn't even notice that Helen knocked her hat off at the beginning and had to mime throwing it away until the second viewing. I loved the routine. It had some nice staccato timing which Helen looked really at ease with. Everything about it looked relaxed and effortless.

I feel a bit bad for Fleur. Not a good week to get a dance as understated and forgettable as the waltz. It was a very nice, very competent routine. Fleur looked comfortable in Vito's arms, and her lines were nice. It was very elegant and temperate. Definitely one of Fleur's better routines. I think it's a shame that it might get lost among the good and the bad.

I definitely buy Tony more as a superstar DJ than I do as a dancer. The first few salsa steps he did alone looked fine, but where totally out of time. Unless Katya was directly in front of Tony, and sometimes even when she was, the timing was horrific. It's a shame, because the moves themselves are actually nice. He has a fluidity in his hips which is very watchable. 

Scores aside, the order of the leaderboard felt about right. For me, Helen and Kym were as good as, if not better than, Hamza. But the three were definitely the best of the night.

Tony and Ellie T were definitely the weakest. But I fear that we could see Will, Fleur or Mollie in the dance-off, as people vote to save Ellie. It really should be the end of the road for Tony, but he brought the entertainment last night, and he went last, and people will likely respond to that.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Monday Musings: Week 6

Week six, and already our third theme week of the series. Halloween is one we always look forward to, but it's sometimes a treat, but quite often a trick.

Tony & Katya's quickstep was OK, but there were so many timing issues. His timing was especially bad out of hold. I thought the judges were overly complimentary. I just didn't see what they saw in it. I liked the walkover lift thing at the end, but otherwise it left me cold. I think he has done better in other weeks.

I can't help thinking that the mummy theme of Will & Nancy's cha cha might have saved him a little bit. Perhaps I'm no giving him credit, but it would be easy to hide technical flaws behind the styling. I did like it, I'm just not sure about it as a choice. It was good fun, but it's hard to judge as a classic cha cha.

I really liked Kym & Graziano's rumba. Kym's technique was really good, wonderful straight legs, beautiful armlines. Great acting. The routine had light and shade, quickness and stillness.  Kym is getting more and more confident and it's great to see. Probably Kym's best dance so far.

James & Amy's Charleston was not the most exciting choreographically. It had some big lifts, which all seemed to have a long preparation to get into. Some of the lifts were quite challenging, but it's a shame they were so clunky. James had nice swivvel in the beginning when he was on his own, but when he was in the loose hold it was totally lacking.

I loved Molly & Carlos' Argentine tango. It was full of drama and atmosphere. Molly's lines were clean and she looked gorgeous. I see where Craig was coming from though, perhaps she was anticipating the choreography a little, but it's hard for an amateur to make it look spontaneous when it is so choreographed. And to be honest, I didn't care. It was a lovely routine to watch.

Tyler & Dianne's cha cha was a hoot. I loved the styling, I loved the references to Beetlejuice. I could have lived without the handkerchief section in the middle, as it took away from the cha cha content. Great musicality. Very enjoyable.

I loved Helen & Gorka's foxtrot because it had so much foxtrot content, which was so beautifully executed. Lovely footwork and lovely lines. She'd getting better and better, especially on the performance side. She had a gorgeous smile, which shows how much she is starting to relax. Yes, there was some gapping, but overall it was a great routine well performed.

I liked Hamza & Jovita's tango for the most part. Something bothered me about his frame. I agreed with Anton that his left hand was slightly too far forward. It made things a little off. Aside from that, his technique was good. Lovely drive and a nice line in other areas. It seemed to me that this dance was not his vibe. He didn't seem comfortable with this dark kind of character. And I didn't like it as much as other Hamza performances.

I really didn't get the theme of Fleur & Vito's salsa. What did the fortune teller thing have to do with the song? It had a bit too much power again, and lacked the armography that I love to see in a salsa. It was a decent dance, but quite forgettable.

I thought the judges were unnecessarily harsh on Ellie & Nikita's foxtrot. Her footwork was so clear and clean. Absolutely brilliant. Perhaps it wasn't the most inspired, especially out of hold, but I really liked it. Perhaps it was a dance, rather than a whole performance. But it was some of the best technique we've seen this series.

I liked the acting part of Ellie & Johannes' couples' choice, but the routine itself left me cold. It seemed to be a bunch of skirt swishing and spins. I didn't find it all that entertaining, and I just don't see what the judges saw. Ellie performed it very well, but the choreography just didn't do it for me. The judges liked it but didn't say much, because... couples' choice!

My favourites of the week Tyler, Helen, Kym and Mollie.

The bottom two for me were James and Tony, and it felt right for James to leave, especially against Fleur.

But I am certain I wasn't watching the same show as the judges this week.