Strictly Come Blogging

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

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.

Beyoncé 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 Beyoncé 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.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Sunday Service: Week 5

 After the highs of last Saturday night, I wondered if the BBC 100 episode of Strictly could even come close to being as good. Surprisingly, it held up well.

Helen & Gorka kicked things off with their hornpipe-inspired Charleston to the Blue Peter theme. It was energetic and fun. The side-by-side parts were really synchronised and Helen confidently danced several parts on her own. I loved the use of props as well. It was a brilliant, bright, bubbly start to the show.

I really enjoyed Tyler & Dianne's Doctor Who tango. Tyler was intense. He had drive and movement. His posture wasn't quite right. His left arm was slightly too far forward. But I loved the drama. His timing was very good. A really good job.

Fleur & Vito did a jive to Eurovision favourite Waterloo. I really loved the routine, it was packed with jive content. I love how Fleur has grown as a dancer. She's much softer and more musical than she was before. She needs to watch her shoulders, she was raising them up quite a bit last night. And she could have been higher up on the balls of her feet.

Amy & James' foxtrot to the EastEnders theme was very sweet and romantic. James had clearly worked hard on his footwork and I thought he led Amy pretty well. There was a bit too much choreography out of hold for my taste, it felt more like an American smooth. But James performed it really well. I loved the storytelling. James continues to get better.

I loved Ellie & Nikita's paso to Montagues & Capulets (the theme tune to The Apprentice). It's a fantastic piece of music, and they did it justice. The choreography was fantastic. It had drama and intensity. Yes, it did have an illegal lift, but I don't really care. Ellie started off the routine with her chin down, as many celebrities do in the paso, but she raised it pretty quickly and I don't think she did it again.

The trouble with Couples' Choice, is that the judges don't know how to mark it because they don't know what they are looking at or for. I thought Mollie & Carlos' routine to the Grange Hill theme was decent enough. It was clean and relaxed. It was fun. There really isn't too much to say outside of the choreography, which the couple have no control over.

I liked Hamza & Jovita's Planet Earth-inspired quickstep. It was light and bright. They covered the floor well and his footwork was good. Craig is right about his pigeon toes, and I think he could have pulled his shoulders back a little. But it was very cute and I love watching them. I really hate when they dress the couples in the same dark colour as it makes it difficult to see where one person ends and the other begins.

I loved Ellie & Johannes' tango to the Casualty theme. The comedy at the top of the routine was brilliant, but there was nothing comical about the routine. They had attack and drama. Perhaps it could have been slightly more dynamic and staccato, but I absolutely loved it. Like James, Ellie continues to get better.

I wanted more from Jayde & Karen's Charleston to Victoria Wood's The Ballad of Barry & Freda. Jayde spent too much time standing still while Karen danced around her. I want more energy and more quality from Jayde. As Motsi said, she has all the performance but needs to work harder on the dancing. I think Jayde has been coasting on performance for too many weeks now.

It was great to see Will back on form again. I loved his and Nancy's dramatic Viennese waltz to the Line of Duty theme. It had lots of drive and intent. Will has such star quality on the dancefloor. The fleckerl was really well executed. I loved it.

I wasn't a fan of Tony & Katya's cha cha to the Grandstand theme. It was really chaotic and really didn't flow very well. The expression on Tony's face was painful to look at. Tony had made real progress in the last few weeks, and it seemed to totally fall apart this week. I know everyone likes Tony, but I really didn't find him entertaining this week.

Kym & Graziano closed the show with their Come Dancing quickstep to Ballroom Blitz. It was just OK for me. It was a little flat. It didn't seem to have enough movement. It was fine, but it was a bit of a whimper of a finish to a big programme.

My favourites this week were Ellie T, Ellie S and Fleur. Will, Tyler and Helen were also great.

Tony was definitely bottom for me. I'd probably put Jayde or Kym with him, but really has has to be Tony who goes home for me. I think he's reached the end of the road.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Sunday Service: Week 4

What a night of dancing last night! Some weeks you don't need a theme. All of the numbers just click, and last night was one of those nights.

I could have lived without the dentist theme for Ellie & Nikita's salsa – I’m just glad she got to remove her white coat in the first few seconds. The routine had ambitious lifts and was pretty clean choreographically. Ellie was very sassy, as always in the Latin numbers. I don’t think it was Ellie’s best week, but it was pretty good. Shoe could have had a bit more rotation in the hips, but pretty good overall.

I loved Will & Nancy’s rumba. The storytelling was gorgeous. It wasn’t technically perfect, but I still loved it. It was sensual but also tough. For a man who didn’t get much training time this week, I think Will did a decent job. I love their chemistry. They can do fun, sexy and now pain and sorrow. I love them together.

Having an Elvis themed jive helped to disguise Matt's inturned knees and feet. I can see improvement, but it was clear than Nadiya was totally leading this dance herself and couldn't really rely on him to provide the resistance she needs to perform her steps. There was a point in the dance where he actually smiled and looked as though he was having fun and it was disarming. More of that please, Matt! Len would call him a tryer, and he’s certainly committed to everything he does.

Once again, I respect the message that Jayde & Karen were putting across of grief and celebration of those no longer with us. But that cannot excuse all of toe leads in Jayde's American smooth. Her top half is wonderful – beautiful arms and hands, and good posture and frame. She leads well. But her feet leave a lot to be desired. Toe leads, flat footed, lacked rise and fall. She really needs to start working on the detail. Personality is not enough to make it to the end.

Mollie & Carlos' routine didn't have enough cha cha content for me. It was quite a way in before I could figure out what routine it was. (I'll admit that sometimes I don't take on board everything in the week, or even in the intro.) The judges liked it more than I did. Molly’s performance was as strong as every week, but I felt that she got lost in a week of breakout performances. She should be high enough on the leaderboard to go through, but this routine was forgettable.

This was a better week for James & Amy. His quickstep had decent footwork. His posture still needs work, as he still has a tendency to hunch into Amy a bit. But otherwise it was relaxed and easy on the eye. Definitely his best dance so far. He seems to be enjoying himself more now. Room to improve, but he’s on the right track.

Fleur & Vito. One hundred percent redemption. That Argentine tango proved why she should stay in the competition. And was a massive 'F you' to Shirley, who said she would have saved Richie last week. Hot, clean, intense, moody, strong, sexy. Everything. 

Kym & Graziano's samba had nice content, nice movement. Lots of recognisable steps. We don't see enough samba rolls anymore so it was good to see them here. This was a very decent performance for a novice. Samba is really hard, and she made it look pretty good. I love that Kym has found her mojo. I’m enjoying watching her.

Tony continues to improve. Their routine had some decent Viennese waktx content, and it was danced well. Katya is a lift maniac. She pushes lifts to the max, is not afraid of taking literal risks, and they just about pulled it off. Enjoyable to watch.

Hamza is just fantastic. It was a brilliant salsa. He is such a good lead, relaxed and confident. Looked great himself while also presenting Jovita. The the lifts were showstopping. They trust each other. It's a great partnership.

I enjoyed Helen & Gorka’s flamenco take on the paso. It had a different feel to other pasos, and it looked more romantic than strong and fiery. I really liked it. I think the judges were a little hard on her performance. She's getting more confident every week. But who wouldn't with Gorka cheerleading and telling you that you're amazing. I'd like a recording of that speech so I can play it to myself in times when I lack confidence.

Ellie & Johannes' Viennese waltz was lovely, but it got totally lost among all of everything else on the night. She’s so much better in ballroom than latin. Lovely flekerl, lovely rotation. I fear that like Richie last week, the theme may have totally stitched her up.

Tyler & Dianne's 'Couples' Choice' commerical routine felt like a little bit of an anti-climaz after everything else. It had some clever moves and lifts, but just wasn't as capitvating as dances earlier in the evening. The ‘megamix’ aspect actually made it seem shorter than the other dances, but it obviously wasn’t.

My favourites of the night were Hamza and Fleur. Both were just amazing.

It's so difficult to pick a bottom two. Matt, despite working hard is not a natural dancer and is still the bottom of the pack. But I'm not sure who I'd put with him. Perhaps James or Tony. It's getting really tough already. Ellie T, Ellie S and even Mollie could have easily have got lost among all of the excitement of last night's routines.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Monday Musings: Week 3

I had a busy weekend, so I am only getting to write this today. I am writing without knowing the result.

Movie week comes along early, and I'm still not sure if that's a good thing. On the one hand, it means that all but the first couple out get to experience a theme week. On the other, it means that the couples don't really have to focus on technique, because they have an early week where they get to fudge it a little.

The first couple out this week, and definitely using the theme to hide the technique was Richie & Giovanni. Even my husband said "When are they actually going to start dancing?". There was a lot of character work, and eventually some very basic samba steps. Were they well executed? Not really. I didn't think it was anywhere near as good as last week's quickstep.

Molly & Carlos' waltz was wonderful. Lovely characterisation, perfect storytelling. Her lines were gorgeous, her footwork was well studied. It was dreamy. Wonderful choreography from Carlos. When the theme and dance come together, Movie Week can actually be a joy.

I loved Kym & Graziano's Charleston! It was so wonderful to see such a fearless side of Kym. She was a little tentative over the last couple of weeks, but she gave this everything and it made for a much more enjoyable performance. The lifts were challenging and well executed. This version of Kym needs to stick around. I feel like this could be her breakthrough routine.

Hamsa & Jovita's rumba was pretty simple, but it worked well with the understated music. They made some nice shapes, and Hamsa presented his partner very well. A competent rumba, which was sweet, but perhaps a little safe as Anton suggested.

Ellie & Johannes' cha cha seemed a bit tentative. She didn't look very confident, and tended to drop her eyeline. She also needs to work on her arms, which tended to not be very well placed and were either too short and close to the body, or a bit droopy. Her New Yorkers weren't too bad, but overall a good effort. She gives good facial expressions, and I still want to see more.

I find Matt really difficult to watch, and I still can't pinpoint why. His posture is very odd. Nothing her does looks natural. I can see that he's working really hard, and he's feeling it in his heart, but it's just translating to his body. The parts of his Viennese waltz where Nadiya was in hold were probably the better parts, but it just isn't coming together.

I loved Tyler & Dianne's Charleston. It was high energy from start to finish. It was clean, fast, the lifts were ambitious but well executed with very smooth transitions. Absolutely deserving of the 10s it received. 

I liked Fleur & Vito's American smooth. Fleur is getting better every week. She needs to work on her footwork more and really needs to straighten her legs more, and make sure her feet track together more closely. This is definitely going to be a journey for Fleur. The thing that bothered me most was her shoes. I don't understand why she was in light shoes. If it was a style choice, because Ariel really wants to have feet like humans, then they should have matched her dress. If not, they should have put her in brown shoes.

James gave us lots of dad dancing. His cha cha with Amy had lots of timing issues, and didn't hit the mark stylistically. It was fun, but he needs to work really hard to have any chance of progressing further in the competition.

I really liked Ellie & Nikita's quickstep. It was very well presented in hold. Ellie is confident and performed really well. The timing was dodgy right at the start, but she quickly rescued it. The judges seemed a bit down on her routine this week, but I really liked it.

I loved Will & Nancy this week. Give me an Amercian smooth, but make it sexy! Will was perfect in the Johnny Castle role. He captured the character perfectly, and had brilliant chemistry with Nancy. He presented her so well. He looked so in control and I felt so comfortable watching it.

Tony & Katya's samba was definitely theming over content, but I actually didn't mind because it was so entertaining. His timing was off in a number of places, and it lacked content, but it didn't really matter. I still felt more relaxed watching Tony than I did watching Matt.

I really loved Helen & Gorka's Viennese waltz. It's so lovely to watch a Viennese with so much content. There wasn't much filler in this dance. Lovely natural and reverse turns, and a very well executed fleckerl. I loved the sequence of underarm turns toward the end as well. This was my kind of dance. More of this please, pros!

I love the message of Jayde & Karen's cha cha. I love the body positivity. I loved that Jayde and Karen were side by side in very similar costumes with completely different body shapes. I love that Jayde wears whatever she wants in training. When I was growing up, there were very few women who looked like Jayde on TV, and even fewer in the dance space. I stood on stage with girls half my size in costumes I was not comfortable in, and I would have loved to have had someone like Jayde to look to. Jayde's performance in the cha cha was great. She's there, she's doing it and she's living her best life. But all I really want from Jayde is for her to get up onto her toes and use her feet. It seems that every larger woman who has ever been on his programme has been flat footed, and I am dying to see a bit more care taken with footwork. But it was inspirational, and I am here for it!

My favourites this week were Will, Tyler, Kym, Helen, closely followed by Jayde and Ellie S.

The bottom for me was Matt, followed by Richie and James. Tony rescued himself this week by having such an entertaining routine.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

Saturday Service: Week 2

A busy weekend for me, so an early review of this week's dances. Week 2 is where things start getting real for our celebrities, as they realise that someone is leaving the ballroom. Not sure why every training VT had the couples sitting on the floor. Bit odd.

Will & Nancy kicked us off with their salsa. Will looked really at home with this dance style. Down into the floor and relaxed, it suited his personality. The lifts looked pretty good. There might have been a little mistake early on, but I really liked this routine. I really didn't mind that it wasn't perfect.

I liked everything James did out of hold, or even in the close hold, but his tango frame wasn't quite there. Anton was right, he was too hunched over Amy. The storytelling and intensity was great, but the frame killed the routine a bit. He has potential, though. I think it'll come over time.

Ellie & Nikita's waltz was really lovely. A very sweet routine, romantic and controlled. I'd like to see Ellie take more care with her footwork, as it was a bit up on her toes. Her arm lines are really nice. She understands the music, and feels it too.

Helen & Gorka's cha cha was good, but it had its flaws. She could have straightened her legs a bit more, and straightened her arms too. She seemed to be looking to Gorka for something, reassurance perhaps. She needs to believe in herself more. She's got it, but I don't know if she knows she's got it.

The Charleston was probably the best choice for Tony & Katya. It was fun and it didn't require any technique, aside from the swivels which were not great. Sadly, it lacked pretty much anything else. The timing was dodgy, there was a lift error in the middle. The performance wasn't dazzling enough to make up for everything else. Tony's a nice guy, but that's not enough to stay in.

Ellie's paso was very good for someone who is new to dancing. She looked at Johannes with intensity. I agree with the judges that something was missing, but I really couldn't put my finger on what. I still believe she's got lots of potential.

Such a massive improvement from Richie & Giovanni this week. The quickstep was light, controlled and in time. His hold was good. It was clear that he had really put the effort in. I thought it would be a car crash and it was anything but. I was really surprised.

A much better performance from Fleur & Vito this week. I wasn't mad about the overly long contemporary break in the middle, it would have been better put in an American smooth. But Fleur's performance was very good. She totally nailed the storytelling.

I enjoyed Kaye & Kai's Charleston more than Tony & Katya's, but it wasn't the best. Yes, it was an improvement from last week, but the timing was off here and there. Brave lifts, and she looked as though she had more fun than last week. The parts in hold were better than the side-by-side sections.

Hamza is actually quite light on his feet. I wasn't that keen on the choreography, it seemed very stop and start and lacked flow. Hamza needs to get his eyeline up off the floor as he was looking down a lot. But I still love watching him and Jovita.

Kym & Graziano's  Viennese waltz was pretty inoffensive, but a bit vanilla. Something weird happened at the end of the flekerl, and she stuck her bottom up in a very odd way. But it was mostly fine. And she acted it very well, I liked the storytelling.

Well, Matt & Nadiya's disco samba was not too bad out of hold, which was most of the bloomin' dance. But this was far from a samba. There were barely any recognisable samba steps. Some of the walks were really mincey. It was not easy to watch. I really expected more from Matt, but he's not delivered so far.

I enjoyed Tyler & Dianne's jive a lot. It was by far one of the most confident performances of the evening. He was a little flat footed in places, especially at the beginning, but he knew the choreography and it was all in time. He performed very well.

There wasn't too much wrong with Jayde & Karen's tango. Great hold, great storytelling. A better performance than last week

I can totally see why they saved Molly & Carlos until the end of the show. It was light, bright, colourful and delightful. They covered the floor and there was no dead time in the routine. Easily the best of the night.

Molly was my favourite of the night, followed by Ellie S with an honourable mention for a much improved Richie. My bottom two are Tony and Matt. I can't expect anyone but Tony departing.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sunday Service: Week 1

Strictly is back! And it's back to normal. No more Covid protocols. They have kept a few elements, though. The judges have kept their desk pods, and the couples are sitting in the front (which probably means fewer audience tickets, pft), but there are a small number of folks up in the Clauditorium again.

Eyes down for a butt-numbing 2.5 hour opening show...

Kym & Graziano had the dubious honour of going first with a jive. I actually think the whole performance would have been better at a slightly quicker tempo. Kym had some lovely lines, and everything was in control and nicely placed and presented. Lots of clean, recognisable basic steps. It was lovely, but it would have had so much more life it had been slightly quicker. I think that's why Craig found it "sluggish". It could have been an even bigger party starter.

I hate when couples do American smooth before Viennese waltz or foxtrot, because they don't get the chance to get the technique down. Tyler & Dianne's American smooth was nicely choreographed, but lacked ballroom content. Tyler needs to pull his shoulders back, as his posture was a bit forward. He has lots of potential, though. I think he's going to be a latin boy. And and brave lift for Week 1.

I was quite surprised at how tentative Jayde looked in places. She seemed to be a little unsure of the choreography. I somehow expected her to be able to use her body more than she did. I was expecting more movement, but she was more flat-footed and had less hip action than I anticipated. She seemed to lead Karen well on the sections where she was leading. Probably a good thing they've got the samba out of the way. I like this partnership, though.

Thank goodness Kaye has Kai to lead her around the floor. Her tango was not the best. I liked the attitude at the beginning, but it seemed to disappear when she got into hold. She needs to take bigger steps. And she needs to believe in herself. She looks capable, but needs to find her inner goddess.

I liked James & Amy's jive. James was a bit heavy in places, and it was a little untidy, but I really enjoyed watching him. I liked the partnership. It's just a shame there were a few things which went wrong.

I was a bit concerned about Richie's ability to control his limbs and keep in time, but actually his cha cha cha wasn't as bad as I feared it might be. He was better on his own than with Giovanni. When they danced together, it really showed off his dodgy timing. I can't see how he is going to get on with something which requires more control.

Helen & Gorka's American smooth was really sweet and brought a smile to my face. It was controlled, clean and relaxed. Elegant and easy on the eye. They could do really well in his competition.

I loved Molly & Carlos' samba. High energy, clean, well presented and a joy to watch. Everything just worked. A dynamite partnership in the making.

Quickstep is a really tough dance to begin with, and having it in Week 1 was Matt's undoing. He likes to portray himself as a smooth, stylish guy, and that just did not come across in the dance. He lacked control and was totally out of sync with Nadiya. It was difficult to watch. He did get to dance to Stevie Wonder though, who Matt adores. So good for him.

Ellie & Nikita's cha cha was cute. She definitely got into the character of the dance. She was counting at the beginning, which was a bit of a shame, but she soon stopped. Her timing was pretty good. The dance suited Ellie. I'm intrigued to see where this couple go in the coming weeks.

Tony was clearly a better footballer than he is a dancer. Oft. He was definitely leading. I'm just not sure he was taking Katya where she was expecting to go! It was a bit too aggressive, even for a tango. There was lots of errors, and lots of timing issues. The only was is up, I guess. He seems like a nice bloke, but I'm not sure he'll be around for long.

Will & Nancy were as good as everyone expected them to be. Their jive was high energy, slick and a fantastic start to the competition. He is going to be one to beat.

Ellie & Johannes looked gorgeous together. Their quickstep was pretty decent for a first week. She has a very nice topline. It was go elegant and glamourous. Her legs and footwork could have been better, but I think she has a lot of potential.

Hamza & Jovita's foxtrot was just glorious. Hamza just made everything so easy. It was so smooth. His footwork was excellent. He was in total control. Wonderful musicality as well. I loved it.

Fleur's cha cha had a little too much attack for my taste. She's clearly got massive potential. She had rhythm and performance, but Vito needs to help her add light and shade to her movement. Power is good, but you need quiet moments to balance things out. If she can find that, she'll be great.

Did you survive the night? Good, because we get to do it all again next week!

Hamza, Helen, Molly and Will are all off to a flying start. I think Tony and, surprisingly, Matt have the most work to do in the next week.

This is looking like it could be quite a tight series. The couples are looking quite evenly matched so far.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Vote For Strictly & Anton In The NTAs

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 Masked Singer, RuPaul's Drag Race UK and Britain's Got Talent.

And Anton du Beke is nominated in the Talent Show Judge category against David Walliams (Brtain's Got Talent), Mo Gilligan (The Masked Singer) and RuPaul (RuPaul's Drag Race UK).

There are lots of other categories to vote in as well. Strictly winner Rose Ayling-Ellis is nominated for Serial Drama Performance for her portrayal of Frankie Lewis in EastEnders.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Strictly Lineup Complete

The Strictly Come Dancing lineup for 2022 is now complete.

I'm looking forward to seeing comedian Ellie Taylor on the dancefloor. I've been a fan of Ellie since she presented Snog, Marry, Avoid for BBC Three. She's a regular face on comedy panel shows as well as a contributor to Late Night Mash

I'm not familiar with Molly Rainford, but as a singer, actor and Sylvia Young graduate, I'd imagine that she'll be a bit good. You can see in this clip from Blue Peter that while she might not be the most convincing lip syncer, she can certainly move.

Former England and Arsenal footballer Tony Adams MBE is going to have his work cut out to keep up with youngsters like Molly. Footballers have never really done that well on Strictly. Perhaps Tony can break the mold.

Singer and 2011 winner of
The X Factor Fleur East is going to be really popular, I think. She's so engaging and positive that people will get behind her. Like Molly, she has musical bones and that will likely serve her well.
Hamza Yassin is someone I'm not familiar with, as I'm not really into wildlife programmes. Hamza lives in the Scottish Highlands, so he'll be competing with Kate for votes from north of the boarder.

James Bye has played Martin Fowler in
EastEnders since 2014. I really hope that the soap's producers give him an easy Christmas storyline - EastEnders actors have a really tough time combining training with emotional storylines. The only advantage is that Strictly and EastEnders both film at Elstree, so he doesn't have far to go to get to the set.

Former Blue Peter presenter and broadcaster Helen Skelton completes this year's line up. Blue Peter presenters have to be willing to throw themselves into anything, so regardless of her ability, I expect Helen to be up for giving everything a go. And this is not Helen's first go - she danced with Artem in the 2012 Strictly Christmas special. She was pretty decent then. Will she still be as good 10 years on?

Monday, August 08, 2022

More Celebrities Announced

Over the past few days there have been a number of new celebrities added to the upcoming series of Strictly.

First up is Loose Women's Kaye Adams. Kaye also has a show on BBC Radio Scotland.
I have no idea how Kaye will do. She's quite an elegant woman, and being a Scot must have some cèilidh experience, although that's very different to ballroom and latin. I think she will have a really good time on the show. I'm sure she'll be asking Judi Love for tips. I think she'll probably be partnered with AntonAljaž, someone great.

Next we have stand-up comedian Jayde Adams. Jayde first came to my attention when she co-presented the BBC Eurovision podcast in 2019. I get the impression that while comedy is her profession, she's also comfortable with a bit of a musical theatre and has dancing and youth theatre in her past. I think she could be a bit good. I've not really been a massive fan of Jayde, so I am hoping she can change my mind.

Paralympic gold medal winning swimmer Ellie Simmonds also joins the line-up.
Ellie's name has been rumoured pretty much solidly since 2012, so it's great that she's finally taking part. There is a lot of talk of course about Ellie's height - she is reportedly 4' tall. When Ola danced with Andrew Castle, there was over a foot between them, so I think Ellie will be fine.

Tyler West was the seventh celebrity to be announced. Tyler is a DJ on Kiss FM and has also been a presenter on CBBC and MTV News.
Admittedly, I am not familiar with Tyler, but that never matters when it comes to Strictly. They all get the chance to win over the public, and if you get a partner who is already popular with the viewers, you'll likely do well.

When I was 10, I had DMs with Grolsch bottle tops on and had turn-ups on my stone-washed jeans. Bros were the first band I ever saw live. Their songs are underrated in my opinion. Decades later, I went to see Matt Goss perform at the Rio in Las Vegas. I get that not everyone likes Matt - he does take himself a bit seriously - but I think he's going to be great on Strictly. If nothing else, he's going to be TV gold.

Friday, August 05, 2022

First Three 2022 Celebrities Announced

Here we go again! Series 20 is underway with the first celebrity announcements.

Actor Will Mellor was the first celebrity to be announced. He's been in loads of things, but the thing I always think of when I hear his name is Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps. He has also been in Coronation Street and Hollyoaks and hosts a podcast with his Two Pints... co-star Ralph Little.
An accomplished actor, but can he dance? I think he's going to embrace the sequins and spray tan for sure!

Kym Marsh is probably best known for playing Michelle in Coronation Street, a part she played for more than 10 years. But for my generation, she'll always be one of the members of Popstars winners Hear'Say. I was in the audience of CD: UK when Hear'Say went to No. 1 with Pure & Simple. She had the dance moves in those days, so hopefully she'll still have them now. 

Richie Anderson is best known as the weekday morning travel reporter on Radio 2, but he's also done bits of reporting for The One Show. It seems that his approach to jobs is to bang on about how much you love something on air, and eventually the BBC will let you do it. A Eurovision fan, he became part of the Eurovision team for Radio 2, and now his love of Strictly has landed him a spot on the show. He'll be nothing if not devoted and I know he will throw himself in. I'm a little skeptical about his dance ability, but I look forward to being proved wrong. Richie will reportedly be dancing with a male partner.