Sunday, 19 November 2017


Well, it's finally here - the week all the dancers look forward to the most. IT'S BLACKPOOL WEEK!!! Who would have thunk that a small seaside town in the north-west of England, famed for tat and terrible beaches / weather would be a Mecca for the spray-tanned sequinned set? For DECADES Blackpool has been the place for ballroom dancing - The Beeb's very own Come Dancing used to be 'live from the Tower Ballroom'. All the pro dancers enthuse mightily about competing at Blackpool and how it has a special place in their hearts. Makes you wonder (and secretly a little proud, seeing as I live not a massive distance away and go there for the Lights every year).


Strictly has obviously been playing on my mind this week. Thursday night I dreamed they were having a 'Worst of the Worst' special instead of Blackpool. The Rev Richard Coles came on doing a can can, dressed in a black and silver spangly leotard, feathered headdress and those thick grey tights they used to make you wear at school. It wasn't a pretty sight, but I enjoyed his 'Good Ship Lollipop' tap break in the middle. I worry about myself sometimes, I really do.

Speaking of Strictly On My Mind, this week's 'I'd be really rubbish good at doing a this to that is a jive to Size Of A Cow by Wonderstuff. It will be a Jack and the Beanstalk themed routine with both partners in a pantomime cow outfit. How's THAT for side-by-side synch? Look, I told you I worried about myself.


Tess asks the judges what they think of Mollie & AJ's outing

But enough of my ramblings. You want to know what happened on the night, don't you? Come on then, bring your bag of chips and bottle of Mad Dog and we'll wander down to the front and see what went on.

The evening kicked off with a mish mash medley of music and styles from 'I'm Coming Home' to 'Let Me Entertain You' - complete with Big Top Theme, punk Pierrot pirouettes and circus shenanigans.

Blackpool Ballroom has a much bigger floor than our dancers are used to - and it's sprung as well, giving bounce back. There would be plenty of scope for extra backing dancers, props and scenery so the celebs would really have to give it large to sell their dances.

Mollie King and AJ set the scene with Charleston to Wings by Little Mix. Yeah. You know the one. This was one weird Charleston. There was no fun or slapstick, no comedy at all. This was more Burlesque than birdy flap in feel. There were lots of tricky spins and lifts including an amazing 'around the world' twizzer, but it was fairly slow and steady with no real Charleston content. Mollie had very little swivel or cross and on a couple of occasions seemed to lose AJ in the crowd. Of four backing dancers. Her shoulders got hunched near the end as she tired but she gave it a good go. The tide may be turning for Mollie and she scored a fair 29 out of 40.

Peter Kaye 'hilariously' popped up to tell us the terms and conditions but took the opportunity to flog his next tour. It was all a bit try hard and contrived but I'm sure the less jaded audience loved it.

Susan Calman and Kevin came out with a paso doble to Scott and Fran's Paso Doble. You know, the one from Strictly Ballroom. When Kev said last week he'd been dreaming of a special paso since he started Strictly I was secretly hoping it would be a Tellytubby themed dance with Susan as Po and him as Tinky Winky, screaming 'Time for Tubbycustard' as he beat out flamenco steps on his Noo Noo. (You're worried about me now, aren't you?) The Powers That Be said he could do it this year if he got to Blackpool, probably chortling into their chai lattes, safe in the belief Susan would be out in Week Two or summat. Well, the joke's on them, isn't it? Susan was supposed to be a sultry señora, but unfortunately looked more like Goth Lisa Simpson.

 

Kevin did the famous Strictly Ballroom knee slide as the opener but it didn't really sell as the backing dancers got in the way. Serious Susan popped up again this week but, again, her expression was pained instead of passionate. She tried hard with the attack and focus. There was a fair attempt at a flamenco break but she lost shaping and intensity. Her chasses looked like a toddler having a tantrum as she stomped and clomped around Kevin. She walked around instead of strutting and it was all a bit too safe. She lost time and synch with Kevin as well, which I'm shore affected the scores. A rock bottom 25 out of 40 scored by Susan.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni trampled through a samba to a medley of the Spice Girls Greatest Hits. No, that's not a spelling mistake. Dressed as Ginger Spice (I'm saying nothing about Old Spice) Debbie seemed to struggle a bit to get to grips with this one. She had good timing and musicality but it was all a bit stop / start and lost fluidity. Her promenade runs were fairly decent and her samba roll (you know, that move that looks a bit rude where she's basically got her bum shoved into Giovanni's swimsuit parts) was on point. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of standing round, waving, not doing much and there wasn't a lot of hip rotation or bounce either. Unusually, her energy appeared to flag at the end. More shower than Girl Power. A bit of a rollercoaster in the marking as well with Shirley and Bruno somewhat overmarking her with 9s. A drop in points with just 33 out of 40 awarded.

Jonnie Peacock and Oti brought us a  tango to Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. I can't have been the only one singing the dairy version of this song, can I? All together....sweet dreams are made of cheese, who am I to diss a Brie...Another dance with a different feel, this was a tango meets Tron with Jonnie and Oti in silver sparkles and make up. Jonnie tried hard with the dance, working on the attack and attitude, focus and ferocity. He covered the floor well and there were some good staccato head movements. There was a lovely bit where he and Oti synched with the backing dancers in an impressive armography section. His frame got a bit too high in places and his bottom stuck out further and further towards the end until he looked like he was leaning on Oti. I can seaside steps in his progress but I reckon he'll beach about his score of just 26 out of 40.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž came next with an American smooth to Downtown by Petula Clark. My spellchecker wanted to change that to Petulant Clark, which is miles better if you ask me - singing with a sulk. This was another solid outing from Gemma. The routine was light, airy and lyrical with some lovely fluid lines and movements. There was an elegant spin sequence and the lifts were nicely done, if not too taxing.  Her frame was good in and out of hold and her footwork was fair. She had plenty of judge-pleasing swing and sway in a gentle, whimsical number. She must be able to pier into the future and into next week after this turnout. A well deserved 38 out of 40 scored.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya present a paso doble to Live And Let Die by Wings. Davood was in Bond mode, giving us pecs appeal in a sheer, see-through top that got Bruno and Craig all of a fluster. From his parachute entrance to the steel-cold ending Davood was in character for a fast, powerful and strong performance. His frame was strong and his shaping was fairly good - apart from awful splaying and flexing of his hands at times. His timing was good and there was an impressive twist/turn jump where he changed direction mid-air. This technically difficult dance was a towering outing for Davood and he showed he's no donkey, getting 35 out of 40 from Shirley and co (I don't know what's wrong with me today, I keep putting a 't' in Shirley where there ought not to be one. Thank the gods for spellchecker).

Alexandra Burke and Gorka were our penultimate pair, showing off with a quickstep to The Gold Digger's Song (We're In The Money) by 42nd Street. Just. Wow. This was a Hollywood worthy performance from Alexandra, getting into the character and the style of the dance from the get-go. Full of pizazz, it was a slick, polished number with plenty of content. There was a terrific Charleston break and a tap section, with the side by side synch for both being utterly together. At times it was hard to tell Alexandra apart from the pro dancers beside her. This diva owned the dance, with a fab frame, fleet footwork, controlled top line and bags of energy and stamina. Only Craig imagining spotting a touch of gapping stopped her getting a full house. This was the best dance of the night by a Golden Mile and earned her 39 out of 40.

Joe McFadden and Katya closed the show with a salsa to Ride On Time by Blackbox. I know. There's some odd music choices this week. And odd costume choices. Joe looked like he was auditioning for a 1990s kids' TV presenter job or WHAM! The Musical.

Joe arrived on stage showing off his eight foot clock. I SAID  CLOCK!! This was a high energy dance with plenty of bounce and shimmy, but Joe appeared a bit off balance and there was no figure 8 rotation in the hips. Although this was apparently fine as he had lateral movement, according to Shirl - even though she'd slammed Jonnie for the same action a couple of weeks ago. His free arm got a bit flingy and it all just felt a bit frenetic. He was praised for his leg-ography, but to me it just looked like he was cocking his leg like a spaniel against a lamp post while Katya twirled underneath. There was a weird lift thing at the end as well where it looked to me (and everyone else) like he'd dropped Kayta but no, they had the front to say it was 'planned that way'. The judges liked it and gave him 34 out of 40.

And that was that. The seaside spectacular had come to an end and the leaderboard looked like this:

Alexandra - 39
Gemma - 38
Davood - 35
Joe  - 34
Debbie - 33
Mollie - 29
Jonnie - 26
Susan - 25

Suddenly, as if by magic, Sunday appeared. Sadly, it wasn't dressed as a caveman (obscure Mr Benn reference, sorry). The stars gave us another magical opening performance to another throwback themed, Northern Soul number with some eyecatching gymnastics and breakdancing from backing dancers. We saw Brendan in a mullet wig and Anton crowd diving. Unfortunately, they didn't drop him. I mean fortunately, fortunately they didn't drop him.

Out of the comfort zone of the studio the tension was ramped quite a bit this week when Tess started to announce who had survived another week. The much bigger audience in the ballroom must have been giving off loads of vibes that added to the atmosphere. She eventually revealed that Debbie was in the danger zone! Now, that's a bit of a shock. She must have thought she'd be a shoo-in, even though Susan had gone through (with Kevin overreacting wildly - and a bit unsportingly, if you ask me). She looked like she'd been slapped with a wet fish and was totally speechless. Although my <cough> other sources tell me she's not the massive favourite with the fans that was first thought.

Tears For Fears pootled on and belted out Everybody Wants To Rule The World. I don't - the amount of admin would be shocking. But at least they sang one of their old favourites and not something new. Not at all anything to do with the fact that they've just announced an arena tour for 2018. Cynical, moi? Ha, I make Cruella Devill look like Peppa Pig.

Anyway, it's their own fault for making me feel very old, although Curt Smith bears more than a passing resemblance to Judge Rinder these days.

 

The judges waffled on for a bit about their likes and dislikes from 'the night before'. I didn't pay much attention - I went and put the tumble drier on with MBOTH's school shirts. Much more interesting, if you ask me.

After all that it was time to find out who else would be in the dance off. One by one the survivors were read out until we were left with Joe and Jonnie. I wasn't exactly flabbergasted when Jonnie was declared. He was down at the bottom of the leaderboard after all.

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe gave us a cheesy rendition of New York, New York to pad out the show a bit more. At least they can pop down the road to Alfie's gaff for a Horlicks after the show - his home town is just down the road from the tower.

This is where I come over all seaside psychic. I can comfortably predict that the eliminated dancer will be one with 'ie' at the end of their name - and a double consonant in the middle. Probably starting with a 'D' or a 'J'. Good, aren't I? I must be a medium (OI, who said 'more like an extra large'?)

Well, actually, this was going to be something of a foregone conclusion, wasn't it? Shirley's favourite versus the whipping boy of the pack? The princess and the paralympian. Jonnie has overcome many odds in his lifetime but this one was pretty much insurmountable. Short of Debbie jumping on the judges' desks and doing a wee in their woo-woos there was only going to be one outcome.

And of course, there were no alarms and no surprises. Debbie upped her performance, even though she made a mistake in the same place as the first time. Jonnie tried tucking his wayward rear under and straightened up a bit but seemed a little stiff and lost some spark. It was a unanimous decision.....

Jonnie was eliminated. It can't have come as a massive surprise to him and, to be fair, he's not been bringing his 'A' game for a couple of weeks. The very technical requirements to come in some of the more difficult dances may have been a bit too much. We'll never know. Jonnie's Strictly race has been run.


Jonnie goes marching home - peed off Peacock is gone

And so the show was over. The poor cleaners were waiting in the wings to sweep up the sh*t tonne of glitter and sparkly stuff while the celebs bogged off to Yates' for a Blob and a bag of pork scratchings. I reckon it's on Debbie's rider. Probably.

 

Saturday Seaside Special - make mine a large one!

Don't miss next week as we'll be having this season's first mass dance - a paso doble a-thon where all seven couples will have to perform at once. Should be a good one. So, until next week...........KEEP DANCING!!!


Sunday, 12 November 2017


Well, I don't know about you, but I'm still sulking after last week's shocker. How could you Shirley? That's her out of the Secret Santa this year, I'm telling you. Lump of coal and a mouldy satsuma in her stocking an' all. Harrumph.

But we must go on. There are still nine couples left - not to mention Blackpool. We were there the other week to see the lights and have fish and chips with homeopathic vinegar on. It's out family tradition until MBOTH thinks it's too lame and won't be seen with us in public.

Seeing as how I was in a melancholy mood after Sunday I thought I'd cheer myself up with a jolly tune for this week's What Shall We Dance To That. So this week you're getting a cha cha cha to Brimful Of Asha by Cornershop - the Norman Cook remix, of course. I want a Bollywood meets Open All Hours look to the costumes, please. The lady dancers in beautiful Indian attire, Brendan and co dressed like Arkwright. Fork 'andles? Fork in hell! (Yes, I know I'm mashing my shop comedies - it's a remix, innit).

But what will happen this week? Are we in for another shocker or is this the week the public starts to see sense? There's only one way to find out....

Susan Calman and Kevin opened the show with a tango to Firework by Katy Perry. Now, you got all your firework related jokes last week. I'm all out. This was a very different Susan to the fun, jolly lady we usually see. This dance was definitely not played for laughs (you listening Anton?) and was a decent attempt at a serious routine. Susan brought a different character this week, but her facial expression made her look like she was in pain rather than in the throes of passion. There was attack and intent but her frame was a bit loose and there was no V shaping. Her footwork and timing were fairly good but Kevin seemed to be dragging her around a bit. Susan is all Roar talent but I don't think she'll be the Dark Horse because she can blow Hot and Cold. The judges awarded her 27 out of 40.

Joe McFadden and Katya came next with a rumba to One by U2. Joe was apparently attempting a romantic expression but, unfortunately, he was more Acting 101 Joey Tribbiani 'Smell The Fart' than anything else.

 

He who smelt it, dealt it. Well Joe apparently dealt a decent dance with this rumba if you listen to the judges. He had good lines and shapes in a fairly fast number but the speed led him to become stuttery and jolty when finishing the moves instead of being fluid and free. His hands were a bit poor in parts, clenching and clawing. Craig pulled him up on shoddy footwork and pigeon toes but praised his hipwork. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking for in Joe but he has plenty of Pride and he'll probably go through to Blackpool With Or Without You. 33 out of 40 scored.

Ruth Langsford and Anton brought us a floppy foxtrot to Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin. This was a dance disaaaaster from the start, daaaarling. She messed up from the opening bars with the side-by-side step sequence out of synch at the beginning. Anton tried to cover up saying it was his fault but the judges weren't fooled. She had no timing or rhythm and had reverted to 'electric floor cleaner' mode, being dragged around and placed by Anton. The dance took ages to get going and never improved. She was skippy and clumsy and there was no glide to any of the steps. Her posture was poor with Darcey pulling her up on her bottom half looking like she was swimming in hold. Anton tried to be funny, answering back about 'the swim' being a secret foxtrot step but it was painful and he just looked petulant. Besides, gobbing off to the judges is Brendan's schtick. Maybe Ruth's support will be slashed and she finally gets the chop, especially as she only scored 18 out of 40.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya performed a scintillating 'Charlieston' to The Lambeth Walk by The Pasadena Roof Orchestra. Dressed as a Cockney barrow boy Davood wowed the crowd with this dance. I couldn't keep my mince pies off his plates of meat as they fairly blurred with swivel and cross. Would you Adam and Eve it, there were even more moves in this dance than in Joe's last week. There were propellers, dapper struts, row boats, monkey steps, flapper walks and tons of steps and kicks. My strawberry tart was in my north and south with some of the incredible and dangerous lifts, including one at the end where Nadiya ended up looking like the Isle of Man flag! The geezer done good and got 38 out of 40 for his efforts. (Please contact me if you need a translation of this bit - I've got Dick Van Dyke on speed dial.)

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž (sooo mortified I was using the wrong accent in the wrong place last week) seemed to struggle with a Viennese waltz to You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by Brenda Lee. Gemma had worked hard to sort out her posture problems and eyeline but there was no emotion or performance from her. The whole thing was a bit flat, except for the huge amount of rise and fall that, as we know from Aston's demise, shouldn't appear in a Viennese. Gemma's heart didn't really seem to be in it this week and there was an awful moment when her shoe came off in a fast fleckerl that shook her confidence. This was a technically difficult dance and may have been a tad too much. Gemma has been Coming On Strong and whispering Sweet Nothings to the judges each week. Will Gemma be Rockin' Around The Christmas (final) Tree? The panel gave her 28 out of 40 so she may be safe.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka brought the season's first Argentine tango to Mi Konfession by Gotan Project. I'm not sure if the Tango / Gotan anagram is deliberate or just accidental. Or if it's only me that's noticed (wouldn't be the first time). The Beeb are listening, though. I was only moaning saying last week we hadn't had an AT and here we go. This was Alexandra on top form again in a hot, steamy, passionate dance. She was strong and sensual with intense attitude and attack. Her legs were strong and powerful, but the legs hooks and ganchos weren't quite sharp and finished off enough. Her shoulders started to rise a bit by the end of the routine, but it was still an impressive number, full of difficult technique and tricky footwork. Mucho Buenos Aires Alexandra! The judges loved it too and gave her 38 out of 40.

Mollie King and AJ were up next with paso doble to Layla by Derek and the Dominos. Poor Mollie looked like she couldn't deliver a pizza, never mind a paso. This was a low energy, low attack, low content number. Molly is just too nice to bring the power, intent, attack and purpose needed for a paso. She was a subdued señorita, slinking around instead of prowling like a caged tiger. Her shoulders were hunched, she was off balance and she kept looking at the floor like she wanted it to swallow her. This wasn't a difficult dance either - a paso by numbers, if you will. More clapped out than Clapton, this was Mollie's worst dance in weeks. Such a shame. She scored just 22 out of 40.

Jonnie Peacock and Oti trooped out a foxtrot to Someone Like You by Adele. Hello, is Jonnie Turning Tables this week? Rumour Has It he prefers ballroom to Latin and past mistakes could all be Water Under The Bridge. Erm, no. Despite being told over and over in training to keep his bottom tucked in it was stuck out like a baboon in heat. I understand his balance is different due to his prosthetic leg but it looked like he'd cracked the errant ass in rehearsals. Unfortunately, once he took to the floor it all went to pieces again. His frame was hunched and loose and he struggled to lead Oti. His head never seemed to be in the game and he looked uncomfortable from the start. It was a disappointing, careful and self-conscious outing. Even some tricky double reverse turns and natural spins couldn't raise his score above 21 out of 40.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni brought the evening to a close with a sassy salsa to Can't Keep My Eyes Off You by Boys Town Gang. Don't get me started on the grammar in that song. It's almost as bad as 'we don't need no education' <shudder>. Could Debbie match last week's stunner and high score? There was bags of hip action, bounce and energy and Debbie was fast and fluid from start to finish. There were a couple of little mistakes and flaws (including a small pause while Debbie got her balance back) which stopped it from being perfect but there was an amazing one-armed flat spin lift which means either Debbie weighs less than a pair of my kecks or Giovanni is entering next year's World's Strongest Man.


It was an accomplished effort and I reckon the judges should have gone to Specsavers as they only (only!) gave her 35 out of 40.

The nine were done and the night was over. It's strange, the stars usually really up their game in the week before Blackpool to try and ensure a place there. This week it looked like some would rather not be going at all.  Some dancers were clearly ahead of the pack this week. At the end of it all the leaderboard looked like this:

Davood & Alexandra - 38
Debbie - 35
Joe - 33
Gemma -  28
Susan - 27
Mollie - 22
Jonnie - 21
Ruth - 18

Sunday Bloody Sunday rolled around (sorry, I've still got U2 stuck in my head). The viewer votes had been totted up on the back of a fag packet and the final results were in.

The results show opened with a poignant Remembrance themed routine from the pro dancers, to a stripped back version of The Proclaimers' 'Five Hundred Miles'. Without the 'da-ra-da' bit, obviously. It was surprisingly moving and a subdued start to the evening.

The not-really-very-tense-for-us-at-home bit revealed that the first celebrity in the dance off would be Jonnie. This can't have been much of a surprise to the couple - or to anyone watching to be fair. Craig gave helpful and kindly advice and seemed to be enthusiastic about Jonnie's chances - but all would depend on who he was up against, of course.

Seal sung a splendid song, giving us Autumn Leaves while Anton and Katya tromped about waving their limbs artfully. It was nice and fittingly low-key, but I'd have been secretly chuffed if he'd have belted out Crazy and Tony Beak had to try and look graceful in rave gear. Mind you, I don't always watch this bit, as I said last week. If I don't fast forward I use the opportunity to top up my gin cuppa. I don't think they notice.

Claudia tried to extract something interesting and entertaining from the panel as they perused previous proceedings. It's just not the same now it's not Len's Lens. I, for one, wouldn't miss this slot if they cut it. It doesn't really add much now - especially if you watch It Takes Two during the week. Still, it gives me time to make a gin butty or something.

Back to the restive remainers and the dance off declaration. We were left with SUSAN and RUTH. It was all going to come down to whose fan base was the strongest, who had got the most viewer votes. After a genuinely nervy minute RUTH was announced to be in the danger zone. Bruno was less supportive of Ruth with his advice, chuckling like it was already over, telling her to use 'smoke and mirrors' to cover up her mistakes.

Well, THANK YOU. At last the bottom two on the leaderboard were the two in the dance off and deserved to be there. Both couples were going to have to up their game to stay safe. The question was going to be who was more likely to rise to the occasion and cope with the pressure.

Both pairs took back to the floor for the foxtrot face-off. Ruth was......Ruth. She went wrong from the start again, messing up the side-by-side bit - easily the simplest part of the programme. Anton appeared to be talking her through it and she messed up at the end as well. The sportsman that he is, Jonnie took a deep breath and raised his game. He danced this time like he was in the qualifiers for the Olympics. He tucked his bottom under a bit more and put more effort into the spins and turns. He even remembered to smile.

After the reprises come the reprisals. Who were the judges going to save this week? It came as absolutely no surprise that, at the end of their deliberations, RUTH was chucked off the show.

And not before time, in my humble opinion. In fact, long after she should have gone if I'm being honest. I'm sure she's a lovely lady and, let's face it, she has to put up with being married to Eamonn Holmes. But a dancer she is not and I don't think even months of intensive training by the best of the best (eg not ego in a tuxedo Anton du Beke) would have made any difference. Some people have potential, some people should stick to what they're good at. And so we'll see Ruth back on the sofa again, entertaining her telly fans and it's bye-bye Captain Beak-y.


And that was our lot. The remaining eight couples will be dusting off their Kiss Me Quick hats and getting on the chara to next week's show live from Blackpool. More excruciating puns? Would I do that to you? Of course I would!!

Until next week..............KEEP DANCING!!!

Sunday, 5 November 2017


Greetings, dance fans - and welcome to another round up. Hallowe'en is behind us and we're staring down the barrel of Christmas. Seven weeks on Monday, to be precise. I've already started the cold sweats thinking about it.

To take my mind off it I've been listening to the radio and deciding Well What Dance Would I Do To That Then? And this week we have....Argentine Tango to Havana by Camila Cabello. Well, we've not had an AT yet - someone's got to crack it out. I'd love to do an Argentine Tango. I picture myself with the panache of Flavia Cacace, tearing up the floor. In reality I'd be more Florrie Cackhanded with all the grace of a heifer in heelies. Perish the thought. I'll stick to armchair Argentine, thanks all the same.

This week, for most people, it's Bonfire Night. The evening where we stand in freezing cold fields, happily set fires and burn effigies of men who were tortured to death in the Seventeenth Century. Usually while dribbling ketchup from a hot dog of dubious origin down your jumper. All good clean fun. Mind you - The Beeb missed a trick not casting actor Robert Lindsay as old Guido Fawkes in their latest production Gunpowder. I don't know about you but I think he's a dead ringer (if you pardon the expression).

 





Now, Strictly don't usually make a thing of Bonfire Night - being so soon after Hallowe'en's festivities (and they probably used up most of the budget on last week anyway). But it gives me the opportunity for a load more really painful bad puns. I spoil you lot, I really do.

So. Who was a sparkler this week and who was a damp squib? Let's gather round the fandango flames and have a look, shall we?

Alexandra Burke and Gorka opened the show with a cheeky cha cha cha to I Got The Music In Me by Marcia Hines. Now, if you believe the scandal rags press, all is not well in Camp AlGor (no, not he former US politician). Apparently, he's dating rival Gemma Atkinson and Alexandra is Not Happy and there have been Words. Are they professional enough to put the squabble behind them? Well, in a word, yes of course they are. Wait - sorry, that's five words. Alexandra got the evening going with a bang(er) with this dance. It was a technically very difficult routine full of judge-pleasing content. Alexandra took it all in her stride with fabulous legs, great hip rotation and bounce. Once again she was excellent in the side-by-side sequences and had terrific forward walks with almost perfect footwork. She was awarded an impressive 39 out of 40.

Mollie King and AJ came next with a foxtrot to Call Me Irresponsible by Connie Francis. All I'll say is that it's a good job AJ can dance. He was so wooden in the VT skit I got splinters through the telly. Blimey - I have socks with more personality (usually after a couple of days' wear). This was a nice routine, though, with some elegant lyrical lines. It was fairly polished with a romantic feel. Mollie had a slight accident when she tripped over AJ's feet but, give her her due, she recovered well and didn't let it affect her (Ruth take note). She fixed the shoulder hunching problems from last week and her overall footwork was better. AJ spun her round like a Catherine Wheel at the end, but her tootsies stayed on the floor. 27 out of 40 for Mollie.

Joe McFadden and Katya brought us a crackling Charleston to Alexander's Ragtime Band by Ella Fitzgerald. Or, as the lovely Giovanni calls it, The Charlieston. Which I think is a much better name for it, don't you? This was a hot number which, for once, I really enjoyed. Joe was dressed as a drummer boy and paradiddled all over the floor in this dance. This was practically a How To Charleston demonstration - cross, swivel, birdy flaps, flapper struts, monkey steps, hops and head wobbles. It had the lot. There were some very tricky lifts and throws, high kicks and jumps and a really showy opposition synch section that was fun to watch. A well deserved 36 out of 40 for Joe.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljâz showed off a saucy salsa to Sun Comes Up by Rudimental ft James Arthur. You were just going to say that, weren't you? This was a Hawaiin themed dance and Gemma certainly brought us a pizza the action. Sadly, it wasn't her best outing. She seemed very unsure of herself throughout the dance and the lifts were all very awkward and clunky. Poor Aljâz looked like he was manhandling a bag of spuds at some point.  The lifts were definitely playing on Gemma's mind and she was very tentative and stop / start which spoiled the flow. She had nice isolation in parts and her feet were fairly good, but there was no figure 8 hip rotation. Will she get her tiki-t through to next week? With 26 out of 40, that's not a certainty.

Aston Merrygold & Janette Manrararavioliandgarlicbread did a variation on a Viennese waltz to Who's Loving You by Jackson Five. Pocket rocket Aston was looking forward to this dance as he's a big Michael Jackson fan. He even impersonated him on Stars In Their Eyes Back In The Day (that's about  five minute ago, judging from this pic).


This was certainly not a traditional Viennese waltz. It had plenty of the expected spins and turns and Aston had a good go at a fleckerl. Once more, he was lovely and accomplished both in and out of hold but, as Darcey pointed out, he seemed to switch off when he was back in hold. He had nice free arms and decent footwork and was tight and together with Janette. He had a bit too much rise and fall for a Viennese waltz, though, and some of his movements were quite staccato and punchy which spoiled the lines. The judges hated it, savaging him with their criticism. He only scored 25 out of 40, with a lowly 4 from grumpy Craig.

Ruth Langsford and Anton trundled out a parody of a paso doble to Shady Dame From Seville by Julie Andrews. It was obvious from the costumes that this was going to be one of Anton's 'funny' routines to distract us from the fact that Ruth can't dance. Rather than a matador and señorita (yes, I've worked out how to do accents on my keyboard) they looked suspiciously like The Battersbys Do Benidorm.

 

All Anton needed was the stuffed donkey. Oh, wait, never mind, he had Ruth. I'm not entirely sure they danced any of the steps they rehearsed. It looked like Anton was making it up as he went along at times, dragging Ruth along for the ride. They certainly put the bull in bullfight with this number. Ruth was about as fierce as a field mouse as she clomped about the stage, gripping onto Anton like grim death. It was a very slow paso, very low on any actual content. At one point they just stopped and comedy gawped at the singer hitting the high notes. In fact, she was the best bit of this outing. Ruth even fell over Anton at the end, pinning him to the floor like Big Daddy taking out Kendo Nagasaki on World of Sport showing my age here. It was a crowd pleaser, but only got 22 out of 40 from the judges. Will the ardent Fantons be enough to keep her in another week? We'll have to wait and see.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni set the floor on fire with a tremendous tango to I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas. Well.I.Am impressed. Debbie and Giovanni have a terrific partnership and he's really bringing out the best in her. From the get go she was sharp, focused and passionate with bags of attack and intent. She coped really well with the changes of pace and style in a difficult routine and never lost rhythm. Her chasses were tight and on point and she showed great technique. Her footwork was tight and Giovanni even managed to throw in her signature leg raise. The panel were suitably impressed. Craig even came out from behind the desk to bow down at the couple's feet in praise. A FULL HOUSE 40 out of 40 in Week Seven - the earliest it's ever been awarded. Where can Debbie go from here?

Jonnie Peacock and Oti had to follow this with a salsa to Turn Me On by Kevin Lyttle. Now they said last week that Latin wasn't Jonnie's best skill set and he gets two Latin dances on the bounce. Hmmm - do I sense a plot? Jonnie had good rhythm and pulse in his upper body, but he couldn't translate that through to his hips which lacked rotation. He was really leaning forward at times which spoiled the frame and his free arm got a bit flingy. He gave it a good go and there were some tricky lifts which showed some skills. The armography was messy, though, and occasionally it looked like he was just stood around doing nowt while Oti did all the work. He still managed to earn 27 out of 40 though.

Susan Calman and Kevin fizzed with joyful jive to This Ole House by Shakin' Stevens. Susan was a bit heavy and flat-footed in parts of this dance but there's no denying she gave it some welly. She did well with the flicks and kicks and had decent retraction where it was needed. Kevin doesn't hold back with his choreography and there was some difficult content. This was a high energy dance and Susan did run a little bit out of steam towards the end (who wouldn't?) but the synchro steps were together and in time. She had good height in her knees, lovely timing and decent rhythm. Will she be shown the Green Door or Julie go through to next week? 29 out of 40 might be enough to see her there.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya brought the night to an end with an awesome American Smooth to This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) by Natalie Cole. This was better from Davood. Full of Hollywood glitz and glamour, this was a fast flowing, light and airy dance which showed that he has some skills. He was light on his feet and had lovely hands in hold. There were some very nice 'Fred and Ginger' side-by-side sequences and Davood was leading his lady till the end. What a Guy. He finished with an exceptional one-handed 'bum lift' pressage that saw Natalie fly high in the sky. Not enough swing and sway for Craig, but Davood still got 35 out of 40.

And that was our box of delights. As with any firework display there were plenty of oooh and ahhhs - and some drab disappointments as well. There were some big surprises, too. Sparks might fly on the results show.

Debbie continued to impress but Aston tumbled down the leaderboard for the first time:

Debbie - 40
Alexandra - 39
Joe - 36
Davood - 35
Susan - 29
Mollie - 27
Jonnie - 27
Gemma - 26
Aston - 25
Ruth - 22

Sunday dawned bright and cold in my part of the world. Remember, remember the fifth of November as the old rhyme goes. Well one celebrity will be remembering the date for all the wrong reasons. The day they were bonfired off Strictly.

The pro dancers started the evening with a sizzling performance to a medley by Prince. There were some....interesing costume choices, especially for the blokes. Over Aljâz seemed to be in a Christmas jumper and not even Gorka could quite pull off the floral flock suit look. Still, it gotmus in the mood for what was to come.

You know the score by now. Dreary Daly drags out the decisions to pad out proceedings. Just once I'd like to see her get fed up and just say 'Oi, YOU, you're in the dance off. Deal with it, sunshine', drop the mic and stalk off for a swift half. It'd certainly liven things up, anyway.

She finally announced at the end of the first half of the evening that Aston was in the bottom two. Now this is frankly ridiculous. Aston? Last week he was second on the leaderboard with the paso that could do no wrong. Yes, he was in the bottom half this week but he was woefully, if not criminally, undermarked for his Viennese waltz and it's not his fault the choreography wasn't 'proper' enough for the judges. The poor wee mite looked crushed and the only advice that Shirley could give for improvement was to perform more. How much more Shirley?

Our musical interlude was provided by Welsh warblers Stereophonics. Kelly and Co belted out Caught By The Wind while The Spare Ginger One and Woman We've Never Seen Before frolicked around the stage. I must admit, I sometimes fast forward through this bit. A rumba looking like it's been choreographed by Benny Hill is hilarious.

The judges came up to Claud Nine to give their views on the previous night's performances, explaining why Debbie was good and Gemma was not so hot. At least Shirl kept her hands to herself this week. Maybe Claudia had had a word.

Back to the banishings. Bum-bum, bum-bum, hooray, thankyou, lights out, yada yada yada. So far, so Strictly. Tess announced the survivors until we were left with Gemma and Mollie sweating. Finally, Mollie was given the grave news. It seems she's the whipping girl with the viewer votes. Either that or people assume she will be safe and don't phone in for her. Yes, she has some ups and downs but she's better than others who are still in the game. It's not really fair on her.

Both couples reprised their routines. Both couples seemed to dance about the same as they did on Saturday night - minus the Mollie mishap and Aston attempted to lessen his rise and fall. Who would the judges decide to save? After the usual deliberation and comments about improvements and journeys the panel had came to a split decision. It was all down to Shirley. Her word was going to be final. And she decided to eliminate:

ASTON!!!

Oh. My. Goodness. THAT was not expected at all. He really must have upset Shirley and co to be binned off in such a manner. Aston is a very good dancer who works extremely hard in all of his routines and entertains the audience. Mollie is nice and all but.......well, it's not up to me is it? I'm just really disappointed that celebs who don't actually dance but do funny routines are kept in at the expense of those who do what it says on the show tin. It's Strictly Come Dancing, not Strictly Gurn While Being Dragged Around Like a Floor Cleaner While Your Pro Makes A Mockery Of It. Yes, I'm a little bitter. Hopefully normality will return next week and someone who deserves to go will go. Otherwise it's Ann Widdecombe all over again - just because Anton is (allegedly) funny. It's enough to drive me to drink. Not that it takes much these days.



Oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. At least he'll be on hand if his girlfriend goes into labour and he can concentrate on being a new dad soon. And I won't have to try and come up with any more plays on Janette's name. Shame though.


The judges gang up on Aston for daring to be different


And there we were for another week. We're down to single figures now and our sights are set firmly on Blackpool. The stars will certainly try and up their game to secure a place in the Home of Ballroom. But who will get there? Tune in next week and find out.

Until then, my little sherbet lemons..........KEEP DANCING!!!

Sunday, 29 October 2017




It is the night of deeds most foul
Where banshees wail and werewolves howl
When spooks and spectres fill with dread
The mortal, wary of the dead
And creatures so evil can be seen
 To frighten us this Hallowe'en
The ghouls and goblins may writhe and prance
But which star did the greatest dance?



HELL-O Strictly fans and welcome to the round up of this week's Spooktacular performances! Sorry it's a bit later than usual this week. We've been binge-watching Season One of Stranger Things with MBOTH. The boy has to get caught up.

Well, the gremlins have certainly been out in force this week. Poor AJ had been laid up with the lurgy meaning partner Mollie has had to dance with stand in Patrick. No, I've not heard of him either. It wasn't the spare ginger one, anyway. Apparently, Simon was also struggling with rehearsals. The fall he suffered in last week's dance off - which almost saw him binned off the show - tore a quad muscle and has resulted in him missing a lot of practice time, only really starting on Thursday. I wonder if we'll be able to tell the difference?

At least things were back to normal with the return of Bruno Tonioli to the panel. Sad in a way, really. Craig was more Bruno than Bruno last week and we were spared smarmy innuendo. Ah, but we'd miss him if he was gone for long. Not me, I'm an excellent shot.

This week's You Know What, You Could Proper Do A X To This Song is.....Viennese Waltz to Beautiful Freak by Eels. Very fitting for Hallowe'en as well. HOTH and I should have had it as our wedding song, if we'd have thought of it. Mind you, people thing we're weird enough as it is. Probably a good job we stuck to There's No-One Quite Like Grandma. I'm kidding. We had a proper romantic first dance. I'm just not telling you what it was.

I thought I was watching a surprise sneak peak dress rehearsal the other night. Turns out I'd tuned into 'Ru Paul's Drag Race'. An easy mistake to make after Anton's outfit last week. Although I think Drag Race had fewer sequins, better taste and more rhythm.

But I digress. Again. I've not even opened the wine yet. Right. Back to the show. So, whether the mysterious mishaps will have any effect on the demonised dancers on the night we shall have to wait and see. Witch couples bedazzled the judges and whooooooo was just a fright? Down the rabbit hole we go and find out.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS BAD PUNS. NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED OR THOSE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION.

This being Hallowe'en we were treated to a bonus show opener by the pros and celebs dancing to It's A Sin by Pet Shop Boys. It was a nice way to get things warmed up for the rest of the show to come. No wonder the audience are there for a million years with all the dancing and costume changes they have to get through. They must have one hell of a warm up man keeping them going.

Jinxy Jonnie Peacock and Oti kicked off proceedings with a chilly cha cha cha to Troublemaker by Olly Murrs. Trouble being the operative word here. Poor Jonnie really seemed to struggle with this dance and he never really got going. Dressed as a zombie pirate he was heading for Davy Jones' locker from the start. The character work has gone well but the actual dancing bit has gone to pot. He was flat-footed and stompy, leaning forward again with his balance all over the place. Oti had challenged Jonnie with some tricky steps but there was no hip action, rotation or bounce. Not his best dance, he sunk down the leaderboard scoring a ghastly 20 out of 40.

Rotten Ruth Langsford and Anton followed with a queasy quickstep to the theme tune from TV show Bewitched. They didn't seem to get into the spirit of things with barely any costume or make up. I know Bewitched was supposed to be about a witch trying to hide in plain sight but, apart from a lame cotton tail on Anton, nada. It looked like a Geography teacher getting it on with the Home Economics one. The dance wasn't much better either. Ruth made a few mistakes from the start but covered them up okay. The choreography was really simple and hardly challenging for Week Six. She coped well enough with what content there was but she was hunched over and her shoulders were raised. She had some rhythm but her timing was off in parts. Hardly spellbinding but she managed to charm 22 out of 40 from the panel.

Sinister Simon Rimmer and Karen brought an awful American Smooth based on a Viennese waltz to Delilah by Tom Jones. I'm not sure what Simon was supposed to be, but he looked like a 1970s Oliver Reed after a rough night. Well, rougher than usual.


I had heard it was just supposed to be a Viennese, but maybe things had to be changed up because of his injury. This was more American Horror Story than American Smooth. I've seen more life, rhythm and energy in the extras from The Walking Dead. The ones Rick and Co have already finished off. It took ages to start with loads of perplexing pootling about round a table and went downhill from there. Simon was stiff, stilted and wooden with flat feet and splayed hands. His footwork was heavy and leaden and he clumped his way around the floor. There were barely any lifts - one was Karen just about lifting her pinky toe off the floor in a spin. I don't think Simon stands a ghost of a chance this week and it's manifest he won't be with us for much longer. Even ending with a bizarre chicken leg munch (which they still hadn't finished chewing at the end of the critique) it was a case of 'why, why, why' and he only got 16 out of 40. For about the sixth week running.

Gruesome Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz came out with a jolting jive to Ever Fallen In Love by The Buzzcocks. Gemma was dressed as a vampire hunter and this dance was an all you can eat Buffy of kicks, flicks and tricks. Gemma must surely stake her place in next week's show in a routine with plenty of bite. This was a fangtastic, fun number showing how much Gemma has improved as a dancer. She had great retraction in her legs, plenty of bounce and energy and did really well in the tricky side by side sections. There were a couple of mistakes at the beginning which she was beating herself up over, but this was a good effort. The judges were impressed too, coffin up 30 out of 40 points.

Joyless Joe McFadden and Katya gave us a frightful foxtrot to Trouble by Coldplay. Not a very scary tune this. Mind you. SBOTH used to cry every time Coldplay came on the radio when he was a baby. And that was long before the gay zebras episode. The judges are clearly seeing something in Joe I'm not. They rave every week about him but, to me, he's just....meh. His routines aren't really memorable and my attention sometimes wanders while he's dancing. He was dressed in a weird chain / web covered outfit with a spider painted on his gob. There was a lot of flinging himself about the floor again, with Drama School 101 acting technique. Not a lot of floor was covered, but there were some fast spins and changes of pace which he coped with well. There should have been some intent but he was all Incy Wincy Mincey again and his hands looked like tarantulas on Katya's back. He had the judges in his web though and they gave him 32 out of 40.

Malevolent Mollie King and a recovered AJ brought us a creepy cha cha cha to Better The Devil You Know by Kylie Minogue. This was a devilishly difficult dance for Mollie who admits she's not a Latin fan. She found her demons again this week with AJ's choreography. He does get carried away a bit sometimes and doesn't make the steps suit his partner. Mollie worked hard on a cheeky, flirty character and she gave it a good go with bounce and rhythm. Sadly, her hips had very little rotation and her legs were a bit weak, meaning she couldn't get the correct action required. Her balance was off too as she was leaning back a bit too far and her shoulders kept rising. I hear Kylie means 'boomerang' in Aborignal Australian. I wonder if Mollie will come back next week? 27 out of 40 from the panel.

Abominable Alexandra Burke and Gorka showed us a terrifying tango to Maneater by Nelly Furtado. From a Thriller-esque start Zombie Alexandra tore up the floor with this dance. My goodness. Packed full of passion, focus and intent she looked like a pro dancer matching Gorka step for step. She really performed the routine - something Joe some of the others should be looking to emulate. There were deadly accurate staccato moves and accents and she was strong and fierce. Great both in and out of hold, this was a confident, accomplished outing for Alexandra. The judges had the brains to score her 35 out of 40.

Deadly Davood Ghadami and Nadiya performed a rotten rumba to Wicked Game by Chris Isaak. Erm. The story of the dance was Davood being visited by Nadiya as a ghost. This was haunting for all the wrong reasons. Davood's 'romantic' expression was more gormless than gorgeous. You can tell he's an Eastenders actor - if they're not screaming at each other to get out of the pub they're lost. Even as rumbas go, this was boring. There was hardly any rumba content at all and there was more lunging than longing in Davood's efforts. He had nice arms, but his footwork was all over the place and he was off beat throughout. This was all a shade of style over substance but I sus-spectre he'll be safe enough. He spooked the judges into giving him just 25 out of 40.

Satanic Susan Calman and Kevin tripped out a freaky foxtrot to Killer Queen by Queen. Susan was dressed as Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, from Game of Trones. Our Kev was, of course, Jon Snow. No, not the newsreader. Although that would have been a brilliant costume mix-up. Imagine what Kevin could have done with a big swingometer. Mind you, Kevin seemed to have given the costumers a bit of a challenge. He looked more like Danny The Drug Dealer from Withnail & I than Kit Harington's character.

  


See what I mean? Looks like the dressers had been on the Camberwell Carrots and finest wines known to humanity when they put this together. Anyway, Susan's dance. This could have been so good, but Kevin had stripped almost all of the foxtrot content out and simplified things to the bare minimum. I don't want to drag-on, but he's started putting in comedy elements where there really shouldn't be any. Daenerys is all about burning stuff to the ground. This barely smouldered. Sadly, there was very little grace or elegance and she lacked flow. At times she was stomping around like the Dothraki Horde. Her frame was pretty good and she did well out of hold - but they were out of hold too long which cost them points. I fear winter is coming for Susan and she got just 18 out of 40.

Dastardly Debbie McGee and Giovanni lightened proceedings with a crypticious (no, I don't think that's an actual word) Charleston to Frankie by Sister Sledge. With Giovanni looking weirdly like a green Noel Fielding, this was a cracking dance. Debbie seemed to have resurrected her talent this week and was magnificent. Giovanni had packed absolutely everything you could think of into his choreography. It had flapper struts, birdy arms, monkey steps, hops, starfish spins - the whole kaboodle. And Debbie coped with every single thing like she'd been doing it for years (well, to be fair, she has - both as a ballet dancer and choreographer). This routine was full of energy, pizazz and sparkle and she kept it up from start to finish. This monster routine earned her a whopping 39 out of 40, with Shirley calling Debbie over to hand over her metaphorical Queen of Latin crown.

Atrocious Aston Merrygold and Janette Manraraaaaarrrrrggghhh closed the show with a phantasmic (look, I'm running out of words, okay) paso doble to Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. This was an incredible way to end the night. Aston rocked in a routine full of passion, attack, intent and focus. He had magnificent flamenco feet, scarily good shaping, spooky style and powerful presence. He even threw in some pop-n-lock hip hop moves which could have been risky but the judges loved it. Apparently he even threw in a Joaquin Cortes, whatever the flip that is. And all that on only one Cuban heel as the other one had flown off during the flamenco section. Definitely my favourite dance of the night, he scored a Joaquin-great 38 out of 40.

And so the dances were over and the celebs had crept back into the crypt. Craig had gone to top up his embalming fluid and the others probably went outside to exorcise.

The leaderboard looked like this:

Debbie - 39
Aston - 38
Alexandra - 35
Joe - 32
Gemma - 30
Mollie - 27
Davood - 25
Ruth - 22
Jonnie - 20
Susan - 18
Simon - 16

The sun rose on Sunday and all was well with the world. MBOTH's rugby had been called off again. I swear I must do voodoo on the thing - I'd pre-written a paragraph about me rather staying in bed and, SHAZAM, match cancelled. So it was breakfast in bed instead, which is much nicer than freezing my extremities off while shouting encouraging things at young people.

The pro-dancers got things going with a spooky, atmospheric number to a medley of tunes from Fleetwood Mac and Michael Jackson. We ended up with a flying Brendan and a phantom four-poster. Best not to ask, really.

Terrible Tess Daly (I'm keeping up the Hallowe'en theme, honest) filled the time reading out the safe dancers. Several hours minutes of fake heartbeat music, the screaming and cheering of the safe and teary-eyed 'thank yous' to The Folks At Home the first to be denounced dance off denizen was Mollie. Bit of a surprise, that one, seeing as she was comfortably mid-leaderboard. Maybe she was a victim of the 'ooh, well I won't vote for her because she'll be safe' school of thought.

As if things weren't scary enough, Steps - who have been reformed more times than a tin of corned beef - sang Scared Of The Dark while a whole raft of stand in pro dancerswove their magic. I was never really into Steps. All that cheesy, jolly pop was a bit too saccharine for me in the days of...hang on. Looking at the biggest selling music of 1997 we had Elton's Candle in the Wind, SugaPuffTheMagicDaddy or whatever he's called these days with Missing You. Hanson and bloody Mmm Bop and Aqua's Barbie Girl. Steps were practically Marilyn Manson!

Claudia tried to raise the dead boring with the considerations of the committee. Have you noticed how quick they whizz through this bit these days? It's over with faster than I can eat a quarter of cherry lips (very fast, trust me on this). Mind you, Shirley spent a few minutes mauling Claudia and lamenting her por core. Claud wasn't fazed by the manhandling and Shirl's cards have been marked for the rest of the series.

And so to the final denouncements. The remaining lights went out one by one as Tess told us who was safe. Eventually we were down to Jonnie and Simon. You didn't have to be Mystic Meg to work out who was going to be the one in trouble. And it was no great shock to anyone when Simon's name was read out again. Would it be third time lucky for us?

The imperilled pair took to the floor one more time but it was hardly going to be a nail biting fight to the finish. No contest on this one really, was it? I mean, it would be a bit like putting Mini Me from Austin Powers up against Anthony Joshua and expecting it to go the distance. Vicious bugger that Verne Troyer, so I hear. Still, we had to sit through the dances one more time. They're cruel like that on Strictly.

At last, the judges had made their decision (like it was a difficult one). SIMON was leaving the show. To be honest, it's been a few weeks coming and there are a lot of folk who think he was lucky to stay last time. My wee limerick last week probably put the mockers on him as well, if my rugby voodoo is anything to go by.


The TV chef just couldn't make the cut

He's Simon, Simon, Simon Rimmer
Could be outdanced by a garden strimmer


And so the tentative ten tenderly tiptoe towards triumph as we hurtle at Week Seven. Who can survive another thrilling instalment? Meet me here next week and I'll tell you.

Until then, my gorgeous ghoulies............KEEP DANCING!







Sunday, 22 October 2017


Here we are again, happy as can be. Well, relatively. I hope everyone's okay after Ophelia and you didn't experience too much damage? I don't know about you, but that yellow sky / red sun combo on Monday really gave me the willies - and not in a good way.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we were battered by Storm Brian this weekend. I'm sorry, but Brian? Who the fudge calls a storm Brian? It's hardly the most awe-inspiring, terror-inducing name out there, is it? Apologies to any Brians reading this - I'm sure you're all perfectly lovely. Which is kind of my point. I know they name storms with human names starting with each letter of the alphabet, alternating female and male, but surely there are stronger names than Brian? Baelfire, for instance or Balthazar. I'd settle for Beauregard. But Brian? We can't have been the only family singing 'Brian, the storm they called Brian' a la Monty Python.

But back to the point of this blog. The Dancing Dozen were all vying for a place in next week's Hallowe'en Special. Take this as your advance warning of much punnage. It's also HOTH and my wedding anniversary so if my notes make any sense come the following Sunday morning you can count yourselves lucky. I may have just made it all up.

This week's Song Wot I Heard On The Radio And Did Do Decide A Dance To is....a foxtrot to Pompeii by Bastille, with AJ and Mollie dressed as Tellytubbies.
Just because of the 'eh eh oh eh oh, eh eh oh eh oh' backing vocals. Yeah, you can just see it, can't you?

But back to this week. We were bizarrely sans Bruno who apparently had 'other commitments'. What those are, I can only hazard a guess, which would probably be libellous so I'll keep schtum. Actually, he was apparently in Noo Yoik and has been filming Dancing With The Stars which has kept him on his toes. The Powers That Be decided not to bring in a guest judge for the night, which made things a bid odd and, well, restrained. Not to mention the fact that the scores this week were only out of 30.

And as for the dancers - who strutted to the top of the table and who was in the danger zone? Which couples danced it out again and who won't be raiding the dressing up box and their mum's make up for next week?

Follow me, as I take you on a journey to the dancefloor - and a whirlwind tour of the week.

Davood Ghadami  and Nadiya kicked off proceedings - quite literally - with a jive to Tell Her About It by Billy Joel. Davood was dressed as a barista. I misheard and was expecting him to come out dressed like Judge Rinder but, no, they meant a coffee shop dude. It was a slowish jive with lots of skipping about, but he put lots of energy into the routine. There was a weird cartwheel in the middle which he just about pulled off and some nice basic technique like pat-a-cake moves which are apparently quite tricky. There were lots of kicks and flicks but, unfortunately, he didn't point his toes enough and there was no proper retraction. He was a bit heavy on his feet and his arms were too swingy but most of his posture was okay. I'm not one to mocha but these small details Costa lot of points. 22 out of 30 scored.

Mollie King and AJ were up next with a Viennese waltz to Anyone Who Had A Heart by Cilla Black. I'm not entirely sure who chose AJ's costume this week but he ended up looking more like a Ken Doll than ever..

 

Again, this dance took a while to get going. Half of it was in a gazebo for some reason. When it did get to the floor it was a fast, flowing number with lots of turns and twirls. Mollie was lovely and graceful, coping well with the swing and sway of AJ's difficult choreography. There were fleckerls and floor sweeps with more spin than a Tory government press conference. Mollie's fine posture and ability to appear to effortlessly follow AJ's lead got her a lorra lorra points. 24 out of 30.

Simon Rimmer and Karen followed with an alleged Charleston to Fit As A Fiddle (And Ready For Love) by Gene Kelly. Oh dear. Simon tried to find a character for the dance but fell rather short. The dance itself should have been fairly simple as it was low on technique. With Simon doing it there was no technique. There was no cross, no swing, no timing and absolutely no swivelling on his balls (of his feet, people). Simon was stiffer than Olaf's carrot as he lumbered across the floor. There was a nice slapstick break in the middle that showed some promise, and a fun train step, but his shoddy footwork and awkward arms spoiled it. He did keep up the pace, but it was a slow one to begin with. He tried to blame his lack of swivel on a torn Achilles tendon seven years ago but, as Craig pointed out, he had none in his other leg either. And, you know, Jonnie has one leg but you don't see him trying to play the sympathy card. Even some Scouse bias overmarking by Shirley meant just 16 out of 30 for Simon.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni brought us a romantic rumba to Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman. I'll be honest here - I have to crib most of my critique from the judges for a rumba. I really can't tell if the wiggle was working, the pout was put on right or the wave was in the right direction. Apparently, this was very good. Giovanni had stuck in what has now become Debbie's signature 'legs akimbo' move which, while impressive, is starting to wear a bit thin. She was nicely on the beat and had good, straight legs and the piece was emotional and sympathetic. I don't think the judges saw her lose her balance and stumble on her heels at the end. Or if they did they thought she'd done enough good stuff to counter it. Craig did a hilarious impression of Bruno, swinging his arms about and gyrating like a loon - even prat-falling off his chair. Debbie got a whopping 27 out of 30 and will probably be in a Fast Car to next week.

Not so Storming Brian Conley and Amy followed this with a jive to It's Not Unusual by Tom Jones. This certainly was. Our lolloping Lothario went back to his holiday camp rep days in a routine that was supposed to be all Hi-De-Hi but ended up low-de-low. Brian was outdanced by his face again and he staggered through this routine. He was lumpy and wooden, stamping about like he was trying to put out a fag. His feet were flat, there was no retraction and he leaned back too far. There was a half-hearted knee-slide that went wrong and very little energy. To be honest, it looked like he didn't want to be there and was putting in as little effort as he could get away with. The judges weren't happy campers and gave him just 16 out of 30.

Susan Calman and Kevin took to the floor with a cha cha cha to Shout Out To My Ex by Little Mix. I like Susan, I really do, but her routines are starting to become more about the storyline of the dance than the technique and style. Give Susan her due, though, she always tries her best (Brian take note) and puts everything into what she's given. This was an entertaining number with some difficult content and bags of energy. She did get a bit too carried away at times, to the cost of the finer details - her arms were windmilling about a bit and there wasn't much rotation in the hips. Not her best dance and, although Shirley was a bit overgenerous with the paddle, Susan scored just 16 out of 30.

Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrararastamouse gave us a waltz to Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley. This was a very contemporary routine, more like a show dance with some elements of rumba in the mix. It had a nice, romantic feel and Aston took the lead well again. He seemed to have fixed his footwork this week - only for his splayed hands and sticky up thumb to let him down. Still, he had plenty of style and grace (Rita Hayworth gave good face) and lovely rise and fall. His frame was generally pretty good with only the odd wobble. Aston was focused and in control while staying elegant and fluid. The panel awarded 24 out of 40.

Ruth Langsford and Anton surprised with a silly send up of a samba to Love Is In The Air by John Paul Young. Ruth started off the number dressed as a trolley dolly airline stewardess. I thought she looked more like Pauline from League of Gentlemen to be honest.

 
Still, that look wasn't to last for long as she and Anton whipped their kit off to reveal hysterical fru-fru outfits straight out of the Seventies - or, at least, the film Strictly Ballroom!


This was obviously a distraction technique by Anton to draw attention away from Ruth's dancing but, you know what, it worked! The psychedelic flamingo-on-acid costumes really took the eye away from the fact that there was no hip action and no bounce. Ruth was wrong footed on many occasions and she was stiffer than a showroom dummy as Anton chucked her about the floor. They were definitely marked for the show they put on more than for the dance itself. Still, only 16 out of 30 though.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz demonstrated a stripped-back foxtrot to Believe. The Madilyn Bailey version rather than Cher. You know, one of those slowed-down breathy ones. Think John Lewis Christmas advert. Despite Gemma's somewhat pained expression she coped well with this dance. She was elegant and poised with a somewhat romantic and vulnerable character, which was sweet. Overall, the quality was good but she's still over-arching her neck which spoils her line and she needs some work to extend her arms a bit more. It was still an enjoyable routine and she scored 24 out of 30.

Joe McFadden and Katya stormed out with a passionate paso doble to Diablo Rojo by Rodrigo y Gabriela. This was a traditional flamenco based paso. Ole guacamole! Joe came out fighting on this one after last week's poor showing. This was all masterful matador with no-bull intent. Right from the kick-off Joe had great shaping, passion and intent. His arms were good, with the right oval framing and there were some nice knee walks. He had plenty of attack and intent, but it wasn't as eye-catching and enthralling as I would have liked. To me he seemed a bit stiff in parts (oi, naughty) and some of the moves looked too planned and placed. The judges loved it and Shirley must have had a dollop of whatever Bruno is usually on giving the dance an overmarked (in my humble opinion) 10. She said it was the best make paso so far this season, but since the others were Brian, Jonnie and The rev Richard Cole that's hardly difficult. A total score of 26 for Joe.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka were our penultimate dancers with samba to Shape of You by Ed Sheeran. Or, as MBOTH likes to sing 'I'm in love with your best mate Sue, but she's not here so you'll have to do'. Proper charmer I'm raising here, innit? Still, it's better than my version: 'I'm in love with Bill Oddie'. Anyway, Alexandra got off to a good, solid start and she totally owns every dance she's been given. This was a sexy, raunchy dance with plenty of hips, bounce, swagger and attitude. She kept bang on time and totally in step with Gorka from start and coped well with changes of pace and rhythm. It wasn't without its flaws, though. She was a bit pigeon toed which spoiled some lines and her feet were a little flat in parts. What was shocking was the woeful undermarking by the judges. Her scores were slashed for the tiniest of errors - either that or the panel had been told off for too many tens last week. To my eye she was better than many of her contemporaries but ended up with just 23 out of 30 - lower than Mollie, Aston and Gemma!

Jonnie Peacock and Oti brought the night to an end with a quickstep to Part Time Lover by Stevie Wonder. Jonnie had taken Craig's advice and sought the help of an acting coach to help him find a character. And it sort of worked. I mean, he's never going to give Steve Buscemi or Robert de Niro any sleepless nights but at least he gave it a go. Jonnie was dancing on his blade again to help with the speed needed for the routine. He was light and clippy throughout the dance with lovely footwork and he kept up with Oti all the way. There was a nice Charleston / jive break in the middle and he was accomplished both in an out of hold. He kept a cheeky, flirty character going till the end in a difficult, detailed dance with lots of content. He wasn't even out of breath at the end. Despite mortifying Shirley (she said he had a spring in his step - he said 'no pun intended', pointing at his blade) he scored a decent 24 out of 30.


And that was our lot. Pretty mixed bag, hey? I think we can see some definite improvement with some of the dancers. Others? Well, some of the others are like me in PE - must try harder. My PE teacher once told me that if I forgot my kit one more time I'd have to spend the lesson in the library. Like that was a punishment? I don't think I ever did PE again, but me and Judy Blume became very good friends.

Our scoreboard  looked like this:

Debbie - 27
Joe - 26
Mollie, Aston, Gemma & Jonnie - 24
Alexandra - 23
Davood - 22
Simon, Brian, Susan & Ruth - 16

Then, suddenly, as if by magic, Sunday appeared. The pro dancers did full on Sixties style  jive set around speed dating. It was all very colourful, even with Aljaz looking like Fred off of out of Scooby Doo. And Aljaz would do, thank you very much.

Tess of the Dullbervilles trotted out to tell us the first star in the dance off. In roughly the same time as the Mesozoic Era she had announced our first dancer in trouble was SIMON. Hardly the shock of the century and some sensible voting from the viewers at home for once. Everything would depend on who he was up against. If it was someone like Aston or Joe it would be sayonara Simon.

The Script came on to flog warble their latest number 'arms Open' while Aljaz and Oti jiggled their bits. I often wonder what would happen if The Script met Editors. Probably some decent phrasing and diction for a start. Just me? Oh well.

The Panel's Perusals was up next. It was all a bit flat without Bruno's flouncing and lolloping. Mind you, this is the most boring part of the night now. They really should think of a way to spice it up - maybe challenge the judges to give a critique in the form of a limerick:

While Simon's a pretty good cook
His Charleston was not by the book
He couldn't look wetter
Next week might be better
Oh who am I kidding, will it......heck

Just a thought, oh Strictly Bosses.

After all this faff, Tess was back for the final nail biting pronouncements. One by one, the safe stars were read out until we were left with RUTH and BRIAN in the spotlight of doom. This was something of a dilemma. Neither of them are particularly good, but would Tony Beak's legion of fans make a difference? Well, yes. Yes they did. BRIAN was dealt the bad news. Yet more nouse from the public on this one. At least someone who deserved to be going was in the dance off.

Both blokes reprised their routines for the torture pleasure of the audience. Simon upped his game a little and made more of an effort with the energy, timing and moves. I think I even saw a hint of a swivel - but he went wrong a few times at the beginning. Brian hammed it up from the start and it went downhill from there. It looked like he was so carried away looning about that he forgot what he was supposed to be doing and made big mess ups. Towards the end I think he was just doing his own thing. Pity it couldn't have been a double elimination, really.

The judges had to make a decision. I mean, that's their job, right? Unanimously, they chose to save Simon, meaning it was Brian who was blown out. I'm not convinced he gave Strictly everything he could. None of his dances have been very good and he had been in the dance off before. I dunno, anyone would think he's got a panto somewhere he needs to start rehearsing (he has - he's Buttons in Cinderella down in Milton Keynes, apparently). Cynical, moi?



The public weren't conned by Conley. Brian is binned.

So the remaining eleven dancers are heading off to the Hallowe'en Spooktacular. Expect outlandish costumes, bizarre make-up and breath-taking moves - and that's just me and HOTH for our anniversary weekend celebrations!

Until next week.............KEEP DANCING!!