Strictly Come Blogging

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

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Aljaž Leaves Strictly

Aljaž Škorjanec has announced that he has decided to leave Strictly Come Dancing.

The news was announced by the BBC, followed by a personal post by Aljaž on Instagram:

It's not a huge surprise that Aljaž has decided to move on. He has competed for nine years, won on his first attempt with Abby and also reached the final with Gemma. I'm sure the fact that Janette moved out of the competition to It Takes Two also made the experience during the last series different to previous years.

I had Aljaž pegged to be the new Anton, likely getting paired with the older participants due to his warm and caring nature, as well as his mature attitude and experience. So perhaps it's a shrewd move to leave now.

Aljaž seems to be happy not to be in the limelight. He enjoyed a social media break during the first lockdown while most of the other pros filled their days with live streams. 

Aljaž & Janette are heading out on another Remembering... tour soon, and he'll be a part of the Burn The Floor reunion as well. I'm sure there will be plenty of other dance and media work available to him if he wants it.

Aljaž is one of the most popular pros, and we'll definitely miss him. Especially when he reads the It Takes Two captions.

There have been so many great Aljaž routines over the years. Aljaž getting lost in Alison Hammond's sleeve during their American Smooth was nothing short of iconic. But his quickstep with Abby is probably my favourite:

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Vote For Rose & Giovanni

The BAFTA nominees for TV Moment of the Year have been announced, and Rose & Giovanni's couple's choice routine has been nominated.

This is the only award in which the general public can vote.

There are some other worthy moments nominated, but I don't think any of them had as big an impact on the nation as Rose & Giovanni's incredible routine.

You can cast your vote on the Virgin Media website.

If you're still in any doubt that they should get your vote, just remind yourself...

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Theatre Review: Firedance

Gorka Marquez & Karen Hauer had prepared their Firedance show to tour in early 2020, but after just a handful of dates the nation went into lockdown. But now Firedance is finally back on the road, and I saw the show at Wycombe Swan last week.

The show is a feast of moody routines in a selection of styles including paso, Argentine tango, flamenco and contemporary. The mood is set through costumes in mostly black and red tones. And, yes, there is actual fire provided by the company's talented fire artists Lex and Teta.

The show doesn't have a narrative, but few shows of this type need one. You can just immerse yourself in the numbers for what they are, a series of fantastic performances. And it's all accompanied by an excellent live band.

While the show's Strictly stars have equal billing and equal stage time, including a solo each, it really is Karen who captures your attention. She has strength and softness. Her performances have such light and shade, and she is really captivating. It's hard to watch anyone else in the company when she is on stage.

There were a couple of clichés I could have lived without - a contemporary number where the women all dressed in boy shorts and oversize white shirts, a dance to Peggy Lee's Fever - but the show was unique enough in other ways that this was forgivable. There have been so many live tours featuring Strictly alums that finding a new angle must be tough.

On a practical note, I really liked the announcement at the start of the show that photo-taking and recording is prohibited except for during the finale number. Despite reminders about not taking photos at other shows, patrons often ignore this instruction. By giving the audience permission to take a snaps at a designated moment, the request was followed by everyone as far as I could see. I wish more shows would set expectations in this way, as not all theatregoers understand that the theatre is not a place for photography.

The show still has a few performances remaining. You can book tickets via

Disclosure:  I was invited to attend a performance of Firedance by Chuff Media

Friday, February 25, 2022

Oti Leaves Strictly

It was widely speculated during the last series of Strictly that Oti would likely leave the show. She has now announced that she will not be returning this year.

She posted a statement on Instagram.

It's certainly not a shock that Oti has decided to leave. She has so many things going on. She's a regular face on daytime shows like Steph's Packed Lunch, she has a podcast, she's been a judge on three massive TV shows, she embarks on a solo tour soon, she runs a dance school. She was on Strictly for seven years, is a two-time champion and was a finalist on another occasion. There's little else she can get from the show, and she's more famous than some of the celebrities appearing on the show.

Of course Oti will be missed. She's an amazing dancer, pro partner and has been an inspiration on Strictly. But there will be so much opportunity to see Oti on our screens that we'll manage.

This obviously gives me an excuse to post my favourite Oti routine from Strictly. As much as I love Bill & Oti's Rapper's Delight, the routines she did with Danny are still some of my favourites. Their American smooth was breath taking.

Thank you, Oti. We love you.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Tours, Tours, Tours

With all of the Covid delays, and the ambition of our pros to get back out there, there are a raft of tours coming up in 2022. Almost too many to list!

Anton & Erin kicked off their postponed Showtime tour at the weekend. The show will celebrate some iconic performers. Some you would expect to see in a ballroom show, such as Fred & Ginger, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, but some are a little more surprising, like Tom Jones and Sir Elton John.

I've been going to Anton & Erin's tours for years, and I highly recommend them. You can get your tickets here:

Coming up next month is Karen & Gorka's Firedance tour. The first few dates went ahead in 2020 and then Covid put it on hold, but now it's back on the road. The show features Latin, contemporary and commercial dance and tells the story of two dancers from rival Latin houses who meet at The Festival of Fire and go on to form a fiery and passionate connection.

Tickets are available here:

Other tours coming up include Burn The Floor: The Reunion, Giovani Pernice: This Is Me, Johannes Radebe: Freedom, Oti Mabuse: I Am Here, Anton & Giovanni: Him & Me, Remembering The Oscars with Aljaž & Janette and many more.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Tuesday Chatter: Week 13 - The Final

It was such a shame that AJ had to pull out of the final. It has been such a great series, with three very talented, worthy finalists, and it was so unfortunate that it became a two-hander. Get better soon, AJ!

It felt odd to only have two couples in the final. It was the first time since 2009 that had been the case, and it's definitely not something I'd hope to see again. A direct head-to-head just wasn't enjoyable.

Thankfully, the dancing was enjoyable.

Round one: Judges' choice

Rose & Giovanni were asked to reprise their Frozen-themed quickstep. It's not the dance I would have chosen myself, as I was hoping to see their Viennese waltz. But there was an error in the quickstep the first time around so they did get to improve on it. It was as cute and fun as last time.

John & Johannes did their rumba again, and I think this was a good choice, as it showcased a tender side to their dancing, balancing their own pick which came later. It was moody, quiet and technically clean.

Round two: Favourite dance

It was interesting that the producers decided to switch around the showdances and favourite dances this year. It does avoid the couples ending the series dressed as toy soldiers, but I think for the couples, ending with the favourite is more relaxing and more fun. They get to enjoy the moment in the comfort of a dance they are familiar with, instead of the pressure of something new.

Rose & Giovanni decided to do their couple's choice again. The routine will go down in Strictly history and will be talked about for years to come. I wondered if it would have the same impact a second time around, knowing what would happen, but it totally did. I really enjoyed seeing it again, and remembering how it felt the first time we saw it.

John & Johannes chose the paso doble. I don't think there was anything else they could have chosen. It was a dance we all remembered and kept talking about, even when it was performed so early on in the series. And it was as good as we remembered.

Round Three: Showdances

So for the first time in a long while, the showdances were saved until the end. Yet, three days later, I am struggling to remember the content of either of them. For showstopping, no holes barred, anything goes numbers, they were a bit vanilla. Both couples excelled in their couple's choice routines, and both of those numbers did what the showdance should be attempting to do. The hand of Gilkison was evident in both of them, and while it must be nice for the pros to have less pressure on them, it means they lack personality.

Rose & Giovanni's routine was very balletic. It mostly consisted of lifts, which was a shame when Rose's ballroom is so strong. It would have been nice to see something requiring a bit more technique than a lot of waft. The spinning Dirry Dancing lift was very good, mind. The storytelling and romance was strong. But it left me cold where their couple's choice did the opposite.

No Gilkison routine is complete without lots of silk. It's usually in the hands of dancers running across the floor, presumably to give the impression of movement. This time, it was a massive curtain, which was dropped and spirited away with a musical crescendo. But John & Johannes' routine definitely had more to offer viewers than Rose & Giovanni's. It had light and shade and included lots of side-by-side steps which we know they are fantastic at. Maybe it was adrenalin, but it looked a tad under-rehearsed. There were a few little bits which just didn't looked polished.

I can't help wondering what AJ & Kai's showdance would have been like. Perhaps it would have been a nice counterpoint to these. I felt robbed of a big Hollywood showstopper.

I think the right couple won - Rose had been the star throughout the series, and I don't think either John or AJ was likely to pass her. I loved all three finalists, and I'm so glad they made it.

It's been a fantastic series, and the pairings were spot on. I cannot wait for next year!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Strictly Final Absences

Several members of the 2021 Strictly family will be missing or not performing in tomorrow's final.

Karen Hauer is currently rehabilitating a knee injury, so will not be able to dance live in the final. Obviously, she will still appear in pre-recorded pro numbers.

Robert Webb will not be dancing either. In a post on Instagram, he said: "The producers understood that when I had to stop, I had to stop completely. Dianne & Joe came over for lunch a few weeks ago and m’partner gets it. If I gave out a few more details about what the show had been doing to me physically & mentally, you wouldn’t be surprised that the offer of one more dance was politely declined."

Tilly Ramsey will miss the final as well, having tested positive for Covid-19. She said on Instagram: "So sad to be missing the Strictly final - but sadly have tested positive for covid so will be watching from my sofa and cheering on the amazing finalists from home on Saturday night - wishing everyone lots of love & good luck."

I'm sure we are all crossing our fingers that AJ will be able to perform. The final would be less bright without her.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Sunday Service: Week 12

 The semi-final was epic! It's a cliché to say that it's the best series ever, and the judges, especially Motsi often get caught up in their own hyperbole, but I have to admit that this series has been a bit special.

Rhys & Nancy started the show with a tango. The word that sprang to mind while watching it was 'determined'. Rhy looked focused throughout the routine. His topline still isn't perfect, and he is still often boarding on being ahead of the music. But all of the choreography was there, and it was a nice routine from Nancy. I kind of liked that Rhys began the routine alone, in fact I think he might have been better on the solo section than in hold. A good start.

I felt that Rhys' suspect timing was more evident in the samba. The move where Nancy sun around Rhys' leg and onto the floor didn't quite come off. Something also went awry in the middle section where Rhys didn't quite catch Nancy's arm to lead her into a spin, and then missed her hand again. I did really like Rhys' hip action, though. Brilliant voltas, and a nice natural top. 

AJ & Kai's quickstep was the story of Hollywood glamour routine we have been missing this series. It delivered everything. Amazing costumes, a fantastic rendition of Sing, Sing, Sing by the band, and a relentless routine which was exhausting to watch. They didn't break hold for the entire routine, their frame was spot-on and there was almost no gapping. A quickstep masterclass, and completely deserving of a perfect score.

Their rumba was also very well-danced. They seemed connected, but were performing for us as well as just each other. It felt like a performance and not just a dance. It didn't move me emotionally as much as some of their earlier dances, but it was still an excellent routine and very enjoyable to watch. It's such a shame so many couples try to dodge the rumba, because it's wonderful when it's performed this well.

I really loved John & Johannes' couple's choice routine. I got the feeling from social media that it wasn't everyone's cup of tea (more to do with people not liking contemporary dance than anything they did), but I thought it was moving. There was a moment at the beginning where they both stood up and walked forward. Johannes looked at John and gave him a little nod to say 'We've got this", and it was adorable. The routine showcased the beautiful mirroring skills we've become accustomed to, and the strength which you would only ever see with two male dancers together. Wonderful storytelling, and John was totally in the moment. It was wonderful.

I didn't enjoy the jive quite as much. It was fine, but it wasn't special. Maybe it was the music choice - I can't help wondering if I would have liked it more to a different track. John needs to watch his free arm, which was just not placed in this routine. They looked like they were having fun, but I didn't feel like I was part of the party.

Finally, we have Rose & Giovanni. The waltz is often really underrated and overlooked, but when it is performed as well as this pair did, it's truly beautiful. It was so elegant, perfect rise and fall, perfect frame. Totally enchanting. Their connection is so special to watch. I could watch that routine over and over again.

The key thing about the Argentine tango is that the woman has to follow. It looks so much better when she doesn't anticipate the steps. Because Rose cannot hear the music, she is the queen of following, and this was evident in their AT routine. She is also a fantastic actor, and it all came together on the floor. It was intense and atmospheric. She danced into the floor, and her legs kicked in all the right places while still looking effortless. I was Flavia was back in Choreography Corner this week, because I'd love to hear her opinion on it.

So, tonight four must become three, and for me Rhys is the one who is a hair behind the others. His timing and frame aren't quite as good as the other three. I fear that John & Johannes might join them in the bottom two, and if so there's an outside chance that the judges could save Rhys.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Sunday Service: Week 11

Semi-final time. So much pressure. So much on the line. Everything to dance for.

It was such a shame that the last lift didn’t come off for John & Johannes, because their salsa was looking great otherwise. As always, they were perfect side-by-side. The fist lift was fantastic and very challenging with Johannes’ height meaning he has very long levers. John looked relaxed, Johannes was giving us everything. I wouldn’t like to see them in the dance-off, but it would be lovely to see what that lift should have looked like.

What an Argentine tango from Rhys & Nancy! Fantastic intensity, Rhys lead Nancy throughout, and looked poised and in control. His timing was spot-on. The lifts were complex and well executed. Easily Rhys’ best dance, and what a time to bring it out of the bag.

A lovely American smooth from Rose & Giovanni. It was relaxed and confident. Rose has such poise. Lovely footwork, Rose released her toes on the backward steps. The last lift was daring, and it’s so nice to see lifts we’ve never seen before even after all these years. I watched the dance with a smile on my face.

Dan & Nadiya’s tango was fine, but forgettable. His top line was a bit off, too far forward with the left hand perhaps. Even skippy in places. It just wasn’t up to the standard of Rhys and Rose.

I can't believe that AJ & Kai’s salsa went the same way as John & Johannes’. That last lift didn’t come off. It was all looking so good otherwise. So fierce and fun. All the other lifts were great. I really enjoyed the rest of their routine. I'm dying to see AJ finally get a 10 from Craig, but it just wasn't to be.

Based on the dances, you'd have to put John and AJ in the dance-off because they both had such disastrous endings to their routines. But I enjoyed what both of them did throughout the rest of their dances than Dan's routine.

It's so tense, and I am really not looking forward to the results show tonight. It could so easily be the end of the road for one of my favourites.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday Service: Week 10

Oft. This is getting tough. They really are all so good. It's going to be so sad to see anyone leave.

The paso wasn’t Rose & Giovanni’s best dance, but I certainly enjoyed it. Her walks could have perhaps a little more power and perhaps it was a little stiff. But I loved everything in hold, and the characterisation was spot on. She lived the character. She is so watchable that I end up forgiving the things that aren’t so great.
I expected Dan & Nadiya’s rumba to be a bit vanilla and a bit cringy, but I actually found myself enjoying it. It was quite intimate. The choreography was simple, but it meant that he was able to execute it well. He presented Nadiya very well. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but it was enjoyable. It’s nice to see the rumba on Strictly, because so many couples shy away from it.
AJ & Kai’s Couple’s Choice was cool and stylish. It was sharp and very well danced. It could have been a final showdance. The jump lift was brave and she executed it with confidence. It was a really strong performance.
I really wanted to love Rhys & Nancy’s waltz, but I just liked it. The opening was wonderful, so relaxed and calm. Once they took hold, his dancing was lovely, but his timing felt a little off in places. Just a little rushed some of the time. His frame has improved so much, his footwork was great and his smile was wonderful.
It was clear that Tilly enjoyed the samba. She brought the party and did a decent job at dancing it. I didn’t love Nikita’s choreography, though. It didn’t seem very fluid, a bit disjointed. I feel as though Tilly could have delivered a better performance with different choreography.
It was wonderful to see John & Johannes get back to their best. Their Argentine tango was strong and intimate. It was spot on, and it was great to see them do the same choreography that a couple of opposite gender would do, rather than the more ‘battle’ style we’ve often seen the pro men do in the group numbers.

My favourites of the week were AJ and John. While I am firmly in the 'Dan has overstayed his welcome' camp, I actually think Tilly was the weakest of the night. I almost want to see Dan and Tilly in the dance-off together to see who the judges save. It's going to be tough to see anyone leave. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Saturday Service: Week 9

It's Musicals Week. Even though at least four of the dances were actually movies before they were musicals. But, hey.

AJ & Kai’s waltz was very sweet. It’s really hard to sell such a slow dance, which has nothing flashy about it, but they did. It was calm, the footwork looked good, the whole thing was magical. A wonderful start to the show.

Rhys didn’t seem as confident in his jive as he has in other dances. He seemed to keep looking to Nancy for reassurance. There were a few errors, and timing issues. His feet were not pointed, which made everything look a tad untidy. It was a little uneasy to watch.

Tom & Amy’s Couple’s Choice was well danced, but lacked heart. Cynthia nailed it, he just doesn’t connect to the dancing on an emotion level. He’s a very nice dancer, but I guess there’s a reason his sister is an actor and he is a musician.

I loved Rose & Giovanni’s quickstep. It was fun and cute and joyful. The storytelling was great and the dancing was lovely too. There was a lovely balance of dancing in hold and out of hold. Rose nailed all of it. They are so wonderful to watch.

There were so lovely moments in John & Johannes’ Viennese waltz, but also some less lovely moments. John looked great when he was leading, especially on the natural turns. It looked less smooth on the reverse turns. And when he switched to following it was a bit flat. Out of hold, he looks great. Very confident.

I struggled to really get into Tilly & Nikita’s Couple’s Choice. I think it was the weird counts of the music. I’m not familiar with Matilda, so I ended up feeling a bit confused. That aside, I really enjoyed Tilly’s performance. She seemed to stay in time even if my brain couldn’t. I didn’t love the choreography, but Tilly gave it everything and made it an enjoyable watch. I didn’t really even notice Nikita.

Dan & Nadiya’s Charleston was annoyingly good. It was quite charming. His timing was good. His performance was good too. I was actually quite surprised by the 7s from Cynthia and Motsi.

Rose was my favourite this week. My least favourite were probably Tom and Rhys. But with so few couples left, anyone could end up in the dance-off.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Cynthia Erivo To Guest Judge

Actor and singer Cynthia Erivo will stand in for Craig Revel Horwood as a guest judge on Strictly for Musicals Week.

The BBC announced on Monday that Craig would miss tomorrow's programme as he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Today it was announced that Cynthia Erivo will join the panel as a guest in his place. This will be the first time that the panel has been more than 50% female.

Cynthia said: “I’m so delighted to be joining the Strictly judging panel for Musicals Week. Musicals have a unique place in my heart, it’s such a special way of connecting all art and making it one. I’m excited to bring my experience to the show and I can’t wait to see what the couples have in store this weekend.”

Cynthia definitely has the credentials to judge the competition during Musicals Week. She won Tony award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Celie Harris Johnson in The Color Purple on Broadway. She also appeared in I Can't Sing! in the West End, alongside Nigel Harman and a cardboard cut-out of me! And lots of other shows, obviously.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday Service: Week 8

 Here are my thoughts on last night's Strictly.

The show kicked off with a bright and light quickstep from Tilly & Nikita. It was a really strong performance. Tilly looked as though she was having lots of fun and acted really well. There was very little gapping. Great choreography from Nikita. I definitely seemed to like it more than the judges did. I thought they were a hit harsh on Tilly.
I don’t think the paso was AJ & Kai’s strongest dance. She looked unbalanced on some of the turns and it seemed a bit unstable. The running steps lacked flair. Everything in hold was fine, but it was lacking a little out of hold. I never thought we’d see a dance which AJ didn’t nail, especially one with the drama of the paso.
Dan & Nadiya’s American smooth lacked the smooth. The top of the routine on the step was actually quick stylish, but it fell away as he got into the routine. His knees were bent when it was in hold, and forward steps lacked drive. The lifts were pretty awkward and laboured. On the positive side, his timing was good. The little bits out of hold were quite nice.
Rhys & Nancy’s Charleston had the trademark Rhys attack. It could have been dialled down a little, but it didn’t detract from this dance as much as it has on other weeks. It was fast, but it was all in time. This is probably Rhys’ dance to date, and I have a feeling we’ll look back on this dance as his peak. I’m not sure he’ll be able to top this one.
I wasn’t a fan of Sara & Aljaž’s Argentine tango. It lacked resistance and tension. It also lacked story and chemistry. She seemed to be anticipating the steps, and it’s so important to wait for the lead in Argentine tango. It wasn’t awful, but it could have been so much better.
I smiled all the way through John & Johannes’ samba. It was so joyful. Johannes did steal the show a little bit, and John looked laid back and was happy to let him go for it. It just worked.
Tom & Amy’s Viennese waltz was just OK. His frame wasn’t great, his bottom was stuck out a little and his shoulders weren’t pulled back enough. I agree with Anton that they got lost among a really big song. The whole thing was just a bit lacking for me.
I totally agree with Anton. I’ve watched Strictly since day 1. I’ve not missed a single dance. In all these years, nothing has moved me as much as Rose & Giovanni’s couple’s choice. Dancing has power and can communicate things which cannot be communicated in words.

My favourites of the night were Rhys, John and Rose. My bottom two are Tom and Dan. Neither of them excites me. I never look forward to the moment they walk on the floor. 

It's getting really close now, and it's concerning that there might come a point when two really good couples end up in the dance-off.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Congratulations Pasha & Rachel!

Congratulations to former Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev and his partner Rachel Riley who recently welcomed their second daughter Noa into the world.

Rachel posted the news and some photos on Instagram.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Sunday Service: Week 7

The week after a theme week is often a bit flat, but this was a strong week for many of the contestants.

Adam & Katya’s jive was light and relaxed. His kicks were neat and everything was pretty tidy. It’s a shame there was a big error in the middle, which threw his timing off. But I think this was an improvement for Adam. He deserved to be saved last week. I don’t approve of their dancing on the baize, though.
Is there anything Rose can’t do? Her samba looked so natural, her hip action is amazing. It’s clear that Rose has to work harder with the timing in Latin, and she was counting out loud again, but it was still a joy to watch. I love Rose & Giovanni’s partnership. Wonderful stuff.
A pretty decent paso from Tom & Amy. Tom is very ‘up and down’ for me, but this dance was an up. It was nice to see a proper traditional paso on Strictly. We don’t get enough of those these days. Lovely lines, everything was very neat, and some lovely cape work in the middle. Not 100% sure about his ‘stank face’, but if it helped him get into character then that’s fine.
I didn’t really follow why the theming of Rhys & Nancy’s quickstep was Uptown Girl. It was probably the most calm we’ve seen these two and their hard work showed. In hold, they were glued together with no gapping. It’s not perfect, but it was an impressive improvement for Rhys.
I loved Tilly & Nikita’s tango. It was fierce and staccato. Tilly has improved so much, and she is no longer someone to overlook. I really enjoyed her performance. I’m not sure why the judges didn’t love it.
I found Dan & Nadiya’s Couple’s Choice baffling. I didn’t hate it. But I’m not sure I loved it either. I don’t really know what it was, and there were several times where my brain went ‘That’s Dan off BBC Breakfast’. This is probably why Couple’s Choice is better when there are clearly defined styles to choose from.
Loved John & Johannes’ rumba. Absolutely wonderful, beautifully danced. Gorgeous choreography, beautiful hip action, and it was so simple. It was beautifully immersive and like Motsi said, it was like you were in a room alone with them. Possibly their best dance for me.
AJ & Kai’s Charleston was everything we expected. It was sharp and fizzy. The lifts were insane, the swivel was perfect. Brilliant.
Sara & Aljaž’s quickstep was solid. Their hold was better than I expected based on their training footage in the week. Sara is very comfortable in hold, her frame was good and her footwork was good. But I wasn’t moved by them.

I did not agree with the leaderboard this week. I was shocked to see Rose and Tilly so low down. They were my favourites, alongside John and AJ. It's really hard to predict who might be in the dance-off, but it could easily be Dan and Adam. I really feel that it's Dan's time to go, but he seems to be really popular with the public.