Sunday, 10 December 2017

ERMAGERD!!! It's only the Strictly Come Dancing 2017 semi-finals, innit? This time next week we'll know who has beaten everybody off and raised their giant sparkly ball in the air. Isn't it exciting! I won't know what to do with myself. Well, probably until Dancing On Ice starts, anyway. There's got to be some mileage in that, right (and more stuff I can pretend to know about)?

HOTH and I spent Saturday afternoon putting up the Christmas decorations and making the house look lovely and festive. Miracle of miracles, the lights worked first time (technology has killed the days when you had to spend four hours checking every single bulb in a string of 240 to find the duff one usually number 239). Next week we work on the Community Advent Window, where the houses in the neighbourhood each decorate a window with a festive feem on their given day. Seeing as I will have had my work's do on the Friday, a family gathering (not to mention the Strictly Final) on the Saturday and the rugby club do on the Sunday I'm not optimistic of having this year's stand-out display.

But back to the point of this blog. Only five couples remain and the press are really ramping things up bringing us bull poop stories of bitter feuds, tantrums, torrid romances and scheming - and that's just between Tess and Claudia. According to the news AJ & Mollie are romping, Alexandra is stomping, Debbie is bitter, Joe sniffs  glitter and Gemma is favourite to fall. I, personally, don't believe a word of it. There can't be THAT much drama between five people can there? Makes me glad I'm not famous (being recognised on the bus after being on Pointless doesn't count).

Your penultimate I Really Want To See A Doings To Thingy is a rumba to Earth Song by Michael Jackson. This will involve Aljaž as Michael Jackson and Gemma as Jarvis Cocker, re-enacting the famous BRIT Awards mooning stage invasion from 1996 (HOW long ago??!!).

Well, we are nearing the final - things need to start being more..........impressive.

But what of this week's routines? Remember, the couples are treating us to two completely different dances - and not just because they're desperate to pad out the show. Our remaining pairs will be hoping to show off how much they've learned, how far they've come on their journey (not that far, the hotel they stay at is only down t'road) and how versatile they are now they've spent a dozen weeks learning to dance.

How did they do? Was footwork fleet, armography outstanding, frame flawless and poise perfect? Or was it all a hot mess as different dancing styles collided in our celebrities brains and they started doing a Charleston to I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston? I'd actually pay to see that, with the backing being sped up so ol' Whitters sounded like Pinky & Perky - or The Smurfs.

There was no messing about with any opening dance sequence this week. Oh no, straight down to brass tacks we were with ten dances to get through - not to mention hair, make-up and costume changes to manage.

Joe McFadden and Katya opened proceedings with an American smooth to Have You Met Miss Jones? by Robbie Williams. Despite the omnipresent 'smell the fart' face, this was a slick, stylish and accomplished start to Joe's campaign. He was swish, cool and confident with some great timing and fab footwork. There was a really nice side by side step sequence and Joe coped really well with the difficult steps and choreography. His frame got a bit squiffy here and there and he telegraphed the lifts, but the transitions were good and this was a solid start. Joe scored 35 out of 40.

They wheeled out last year's champ Ore Oduba to help with the Terms and Conditions. He sportingly pretended to cry through it, of course. I tell you what, though - that glitterball obviously doesn't weight much. He was carting it about with one hand like it was made out of plastic. Which it probably is, come to think of it.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka kicked off their evening with a Viennese waltz to Tina Arena's version of REM's Everybody Hurts. (Still with me? Good.) This was a routine full of emotion, connection and feeling. There were tons of turns and spins with plenty of content and contact between Alexandra and Gorka. She was beautiful, elegant and controlled with near perfect timing, rhythm, rise and fall, swing and sway. She was poised and elegant in and out of hold and in the difficult pauses and change of pace. Her footwork was lovely - apart from one point where Craig said she didn't close her feet. ONE SINGLE OCCASION! This dance flowed beautifully and Alexandra had exquisitely lyrical arms and expression. Poise, grace and fluidity earned her 39 out of 40.

Mollie King and AJ came next with a samba to Whenever, Wherever by Shakira - famous for the line 'lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don't confuse them with mountains'. It probably sounds better in Spanish. Well, Mollie had a mountain to climb with this dance (and the prize for clunkiest segue goes to....). She has never got to grips with Latin dances. She's just too nice and innocent to pull off the sexy style needed for them. She started off with a confident attitude - but then she started dancing. While there was some shimmy and shake there was no real hip rotation or pizazz. She was definitely cheerful and cheeky, but lacked any bounce, commitment or attitude to the number. Sadly, she went off beat really early on and spent the rest of the dance playing catch up. She never really got to grips with the steps and choreography and seemed overpowered by the routine. The samba rolls were awkward and she lost balance and connection. The changes of rhythm were a struggle and it all just felt a bit too much for her. Poor Mollie got just 24 out of 40.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž followed with their first number - a rumba to Beneath Your Beautiful by Labyrinth. I'm just disappointed that Aljaž wasn't dressed as Jareth from the film Labyrinth. The costume department really missed a trick there. Mind you, that might prove just a bit too much for Bruno....

No, officer. I definitely didn't steal the giant salami

For a rumba (as you know, my least favourite dance) this was pretty romantic and rhythmic. Gemma had a good go at a sexy character and she had nice straight legs and lovely lines. There was a good mix of basic and advanced rumba steps apparently and Gemma was precisely on beat. She had good hip rotation but it was a bit stop /  start which spoiled the fluidity of the moves at times. Her top half was also a bit disconnected which made her look flat and stiff in some of the moves. A decent effort, though, and she scored 30 out of 40.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni finished the first half with a jive to I'm So Excited by The Pointer Sisters. This was a very quick jive that needed bags of energy and stamina. Debbie delivered with sharp kicks and flicks and clean, precise timing. Giovanni was very distracting with his pecs appeal but I managed to concentrate enough to notice that Debbie lacked a little retraction and she seemed to be looking at her feet a lot. Her body wasn't quite over her feet enough which affected her balance a little but it was still a damn fine outing - strong, clean, tight and detailed with some tricky steps. A fairly decent 34 out of 40 for Debbie.

Out came Joe McFadden and Katya again, this time performing an Argentine Tango to Human by Rag N Bone man. I must admit, I was looking forward to this when I read about it in the week. I wasn't disappointed. This dance was a good basic Argentine but with some cracking contemporary twists in the choreography by Katya. Joe's solo start was assured and his connection with Katya was suitably sexy, smouldering and raunchy enough for pre-watershed TV. There were some lovely mirroring moves and decent ganchos with some risky lifts, including an extraordinary pivot lift at the end where Kayta raised Joe up from the floor.

Joe and Kayta solve the problem of seating on the Tube

It wasn't perfect, though. Again, there were some balance issues and a wee stumble in the middle. His walking steps and promenade were a bit stiff, instead of being on bent legs. It was still very enjoyable and Joe was given 35 out of 40 again.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka's second outing was a simply sensational samba to Finally by CeCe Peniston. Now, for me, I will always associate this with Terence Stamp in drag in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Well, maybe not anymore. Alexandra was a one woman party as she threw everything into this routine. She attacked the dance with full-on attitude, bounce and energy with great hip rotation, rhythm and timing. This was hot, steamy, lively, entertaining and fun. Gorka had chucked in tricky body rolls and a stupendous neck spin lift in a no holds barred number. Alexandra performed with aplomb, never dropping character missing a beat. Darcey was so impressed she said she'd turn up next week in Bruno's speedos if Alexandra didn't make it to the final. A full house 40 out of 40 for Team AlGoRhythm.

Oh dear. Mollie King and AJ had to follow this with a waltz to Angel by Sarah MacLachlan. Tess said she could see sparks flowing between the two. I'll be honest - I've seen more sparks in me nylon knickers when they've chafed if I moved too quickly. No, Tess. No sparks. This was sweet and romantic with lots of spins, turns and pivots but it looked like nerves and the first half mauling from the judges had really affected Mollie's nerves. She seemed subdued and unsure of herself, even in hold. Her frame was fairly good right until near the end when she started hunching again. She tried hard with the dance which was relatively safe and careful, but an error right in front of the judges spoiled the moment. Still, the judges gave Mollie her highest score of the season with 32 out of 40.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž came out fighting with a tango to My Sharona by The Knack. And despite the VT appearing to show Gemma had struggled, she certainly had the knack of this number. She was fierce and focussed, using plenty of attack and intent with the character. She stared down the judges with attitude and determination and showed off sharp, clean footwork and precision. The routine was chock full of pleasing traditional content with clipped steps and staccato head turns. There was a lack of V shaping, but Craig admitted this might not have been what Aljaž had been going for. A couple of little niggles, but the judges gave Gemma 32 out of 40.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni closed the show with a fab little foxtrot to Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder. From the start Debbie showed off clean footwork, polished frame and effortless style and rhythm. The pair totally covered the floor with elegant, sweeping moves and lovely lines. There was lots of swing and sway and a nice, tight together side by side section. Unfortunately, the pair were out of hold a tad too long (although Giovanni argued against this) which cost the pair some points. The couple scored 36 out of 40 with Bruno being so impressed he announced he would judge next week in Darcey's tutu, no knickers and a tiara if Debbie wasn't in the final. I'm not sure if that's a threat or a promise. Or if it's something I really want to see on a Saturday night again.

And so all our couples had gone again. They had done everything they could to try to get into the final. With double scoring from the judges there was some hefty pointage available and the potential for some huge gaps between the pairs on the leaderboard. After everyone had gone around twice it looked like this:

Alexandra - 79 out of 80
Debbie and Joe - 70 out of 80
Gemma - 62 out of 80
Mollie - 56 out of 80 (a full 23 points behind Alexandra)

Of course, this means nothing in the world of the Viewer Vote as we've already seen. Whether these standing remained the same, we would have to wait and see.

Tomorrow came today and suddenly it was Sunday. The promised heavy snow didn't arrive and we had meh-ther instead of weather. Just cold and grey. A bit like me when my roots need doing. But joy of joys, MBOTH's rugby match was called off anyway so I didn't have to wear every item of clothing I own to stand in a freezing field for a change. Instead, I was treated to hot buttered crumpets in bed (that's not a euphemism) and a steaming hot latte while watching Taskmaster on Dave. Much more civilised, I think.

The results show kicked off with a crowd-pleasing lindy bop special. Lindy bop, for the uninitiated, is kind of swing / jazz fusion from 1920s and 30s Harlem which now has street dancing and breakdancing thrown in, including a solo spot from two incredible young girls who were only ten and 13. It can be very fast, very energetic. It was all rather jolly and a fun way to start the show. Apart from Anton who looked like a drunk uncle gatecrashing his teen nephew's birthday party. and very telling in that Kevin wasn't dancing with Karen. Rumour has it they're no longer together.

Tess's job is getting easier these days and without much mucking about we found out that Gemma was the first in the dance off. No huge surprise, really. She was in the bottom two at the end of Saturday night and her dances hadn't been quite as polished as either previous weeks or the dancers at the top of the tree, who seemed to have made that much extra effort to make it through.

The guest star was Craig David (Craiiiiiiiiig Daviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid - am I the only one who still goes all Bo Selecta when I hear his name? I wonder if he still has Kes?)

Anyway, Craig got together with Bastille and sang I Know You while newlyweds Aljaž and Janette got energetic. I'm not talking out of school but me and HOTH regularly carry on like that round the kitchen while we're waiting for our Horlicks to heat up. He's surprisingly easy to lift for a big bloke, but the frocks are a nightmare to drip dry.

The judges did their bit next, rehashing their comments and going into greater detail about what they'd said last night. I do hope they think of some way to jazz this up next year. Maybe have them sing the comments in a different style each week - I'm voting Shirl does grime while Craig gets a madrigal. It'd certainly make me keep my bum on the couch instead of going to clean the fluff out of the tumble drier.

And so back to the nailbiting bit. The last two slebs sweated squeaky bum style until it was announced that Mollie was joining Gemma to fight for a place in the final. At last, two dancers who actually should be in the bottom two, were. This close to the final it would have been a bit of a travesty if Alexandra had been there again. We can't pretend that it came as a massive shock now, can we?

Gemma had chosen to do the tango again for her dance off number. This was probably a really wise choice because a) it was her best outing of the night and b) nobody likes a rumba.

Mollie had decided to do the waltz. Again, a good choice - she'd have to have been off her cake to want to rehash her samba. Remember, that waltz had earned her her highest score in the competition.

This was by no means a done deal. Both ladies had made errors, both had been criticised by the judges and had their faults aired in public. Both had scored exactly the same for these dances the night before. The question was - who was going to hold their nerve the best?

Mollie went first and I suppose it's really hard to give it some proper welly in a waltz. Her shoulder started rising from near the beginning again but she had ironed out the error from the first time round.

Gemma came out kicking arse and taking names. Like Gene Hunt in a frock. The reprise seemed even cleaner and sharper this time round, as though the peril of going out had given her an extra edge.

And so it was all down to the panel. Who did they think had done enough to earn a reprieve? Craig said it was a close call, Darcey was impressed with improvements, Bruno concurred and Shirley confirmed she'd have gone with their choice, too......

Mollie had fallen at the last hurdle. She can't deny she had a really good run. There were a lot of peaks and troughs throughout the weeks. Her highest score ever was 32, which she didn't score until last night - some of the others were getting that in weeks three to four. While there's no doubt she improved, it just wasn't enough to make her a real contender.


And there we have it. We know know that our final four are Alexandra, Debbie, Gemma and Joe. Now Joe is the last man in the competition, but will he be the last man standing?

Next week we say hello to our new champion - and goodbye to this blog for another year. I don't do the Christmas Special one - there's just not the same journeys, the tension and the training, the tears and the exhilaration in a one-off. Besides, I've usually been on the Bailey's since first light so I'm in no fit state. I'M KIDDING!! (It's Babycham, really).

So who's your money on? Only one way to find out if you were right. Well, I mean, you could watch the show but where would the fun in that be? The best way to find out what went on is to join me next week for the last Strictly Blog of 2017. I wonder if they'd let me release an album of You Should Do A Thing To Wotsit By Oojah songs? If I say so myself, there were some good ones on there. I might have to dig out my cassette recorder and do you all a mix tape - Now That's What I Call Ballroom Balderdash, maybe.

Until then, my lovelies......KEEP DANCING!!!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Well, here we are already. Quarter Finals week. You can almost smell the end from here. Six couples remain, fighting - well, dancing (fighting would be much more fun - my money's on Debbie. I bet she's got a vicious right hook) for the right to hold the glitterball aloft in just two weeks' time.

I'll be the first to admit I'm slightly running out of ideas for Let's Do This To That so it's a good job there aren't many weeks left. After some thinking I've decided this week will be a waltz to Guilty by Paloma Faith. After some more thinking I've decided the costume least likely to get me banned from the Internet would be Joe and Katya as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin OJ Simpson never crossed my mind, honest.

This week is Musicals Week and the couples will be scouring the scores to try and come up with something that hasn't been done before. That could be difficult - there's only so many musicals out there. The question is whether anyone is cheesy brave enough to do something from La La Land.

So, Annie one want to have a guess at who did what? Who did a Wicked turn and who didn't stand a Ghost of a chance? Who will be on the Starlight Express to the semis? Get ready, Guys and Dolls. Squirt on your Hairspray and let's get this Little Shop Of Horrors started!

The show opened with a Dickens of a performance to songs from Oliver! It was a Sykes for sore eyes as they whirled around like Dodgers. Anton looked a proper Nancy but it was Food Glorious Food for thought and you should Consider Yourself well entertained.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž opened the show with quickstep to Hello Dolly from...look, you don't need me to tell you that one, do you? Gemma started off confidently with some lovely characterisation and charm, but it all went a bit south when she got into hold. It was almost like she couldn't concentrate on the two things at once. She was fairly fleet and flighty, light on her feet in the scatter chasses and promenades. Her footwork was fairly tight in the kick break section but her frame got bouncy again towards the end as she tired. Shirley had a real go at her for her lack of acting skills, which is ironic given Gemma's day job. The panel didn't seem particularly enamoured and gave her just 29 out of 40.

Previous participant Russell Grant popped us as Avanardon, sorry Abanazar, to sing us the Terms and Conditions to 'I Will Show You The World'. It was a bit weird but it kind of worked. I still think he would have preferred getting A Lad In  (Aladdin) to do it. Sorry, I miss being in panto at this time of year (OH NO I DON'T).

Mollie King and rumoured beau AJ (if they're a couple I'm Scarlett Johannson and HOTH is Chris Hemsworth) brought us a rumba to Hopelessly Devoted To You from Grease. Apparently, they started with I Dreamed A Dream from Les Mis but it was changed mid-week. No idea why - maybe AJ couldn't cut it as a convincing Jean Val Jean? Anyway, controversy from the beginning here! Mollie had started off with a sweet solo section, dancing on the veranda. But then did a jump and catch move into AJ's arms which, as we all know, is an illegal lift. How naughty. There seemed to be a lot of running about and Mollie couldn't decide if she was sulky or smitten as her expression changed so often. She showed some good hip movement, though, and had nice straight legs. It was more sweet than raunchy or romantic but the mood was nice. Apparently, she was doing some difficult footwork timing, which got her 9s from Shirley and Bruno, both overmarking and overlooking the illegal lift. 31 out of 40 for Mollie.

Joe McFadden and Katya came next with a very original samba to Money Money from Cabaret (for an extra 'Money' they could have had Mamma Mia! themed dance). Not the first song that comes to mind when someone says 'samba', this was a risky choice and combination. But it worked. It was quirky, crazy and cheeky. Joe's character was spot on for the song and he had bags of style, coping really well with the difficult content and tricky steps. He performed a tight shadow samba roll with Katya, and showed off with voltas and crescado walks (whatever the bloody hell they are). His feet turned out a bit and he had Flingy Free Arm Syndrome again that's probably a proper thing but he really pulled this dance off. The judges were impressed and awarded 37 out of 40.

Arm-ageddon outta here! Joe's trippy and flippy - pity you can't see his lippy!

Debbie McGee and Giovanni followed with a waltz-based American smooth to Memory from Cats. Oh my goodness. This dance actually gave me goosebumps. From Debbie's poignant solo start the routine had fabulous narrative and told a story throughout. This was a fluid, precise and flowing performance from Debbie who, again, had beautiful lyrical limbs, timing and rhythm. There was a fearless neck-hold twizzer, tons of spins and turns and no gapping. Her footwork was polished and poised and she had amazing balance. She moved seamlessly from lift to hold to turn and back again - and, for once, there were no splits. Craig was speechless at the end, but it wasn't a purr-fect score - 39 out of 40 for Debbie.

Cat's the way to do it - Debbie is feline groovy

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya struggled with an Argentine Tango to Phantom Of The Opera from....well, Phantom Of The Opera. Davood started off well, swinging in on a chandelier in character and made some strong opening moves, but he looked more gormless than glowering as he danced with his mouth open again all through the routine. There were some decent enough knee kicks and ganchos, but his balance was all over the place and he was stuttering and stumbling through the moves. He seemed to struggle in the placement of the lifts and that made them look clumsy. It never really got going and was too stop / start and juddery. A savaging from the judges and just 29 out of 40 for Davood.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka closed the show with a Charlieston to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins. Why the @*%! couldn't they have danced to something with a shorter title - like 'Help'? I'm suing for wear and tear on my keyboard and the medicinal gin for my RSI. Would Alexandra's slump into the bottom two last week have any effect on her performance? Would it 'eck as like. From the opening bars she was straight into character and right in the moment. This was a speedy, challenging Charleston that could have looked frantic and frenetic but Alexandra kept everything under control. Her swivel and cross were so spot on Craig remarked that she had been better than Gorka! There was loads of content, back flips, handstands, cartwheels and flips with great spins, lifts and high kicks. Alexandra's timing was bang on the money showing breathtaking stamina and energy in a West End worthy performance. A Spoonful Of Sugar from the judges - 39 out of 40 for the pair.

And so the curtain came down on the evening's performances and the leaderboard looked like this:

Debbie and Alexandra - 39
Joe - 37
Mollie - 31
Gemma and Davood - 29

Domingo dawned (I couldn't think of another Sunday quip) and, unfortunately, my spectacular voodoo failed. MBOTH's rugby match was not called off due to inclement weather and I had to spend the morning pretending to enjoy myself watching a bunch of young boys get muddy and sweaty.

The post-vote viewing started with a number to songs from the musical Dreamgirls. For One Night Only the Strictly Family reminded us It's Hard To Say Goodbye and I'm Telling You I'm Not Going to know what to do with myself when this is all over. Mind you, I bet the cleaners aren't going to miss all that sodding glitter tape they keep dumping on everyone.

Since there were so few dancers left it was going to be obvious fairly early on who was going to be in the dance off as Tess started reading out the names, but at the end of the first instalment Davood was in the bottom two. Maybe not the biggest upset of the series. It hadn't been Davood's night, really. He had looked uncomfortable and out of sorts with the routine. At least someone in the leaderboard's danger zone was in the dance again this week.

The Leading Ladies (no, I hadn't of them either but apparently Beverley Knight is one of 'em) sang I'm Every Woman while Kevin and his missus Karen did the energetic bit. I've shaken my groove thang to this tune meself on many a drunken occasion back in the day - both versions (though I'm more of a Chaka chick than a Whitney wench). I sympathise with the dancers - my days of strutting my stuff in four inch stilettos are long over.

I contemplated spending the judges' bit getting the snacks ready for the Robot Wars Grand Final (10 way robot melee people!) but they might have got cold while I was waiting, so cut my toenails instead. Just kidding, I faffed on here for a bit. It was all just a rehash of last night, anyway, and there's still no real..excitement in this section. Although Craig's propeller explanation was quite jolly and the back-stage footage of Ed Balls gangnam-ing through Tess's legs will stay with me for quite some time.

Without much further ado, we were left with Gemma and Alexandra. There were huge gasps in the audience when we were told that Alexandra was joining Davood in the dance off. This was a total shock again. What does Alexandra have to do to stay out of trouble with the viewers? Mind you, I did hear she was spotted out and about in a real fur coat this week, which might have upset a few people but that shouldn't impact on her dancing. There's also some rumblings on certain sites that folk don't think she's very sincere and her heartfelt thanks to the judges are false. Personally, I think that's utter bull-hooey. She clearly didn't deserve to be in the bottom two again this week and it has to have had an impact on her confidence.

Now, this could have been a tricky choice for the judges in previous weeks, but Davood had really struggled with this dance, where as Alexandra was practically perfect. It was no different in the dance off. Davood tried really hard and rectified the majority of his balance issues and mistakes from his first outing, but he was just totally outclassed and outshone by Alexandra.

The judges deliberated, cogitated and digested but it was no surprise when they told us that DAVOOD would be leaving the show. It's a shame - he had been improving week on week and tried really hard in training. But he was in the bottom two, after all, and it looks like his EastEnders army had deserted him in the voting. It probably was the right decision by both the judges and the viewers, based on this dance alone. At least he reprised his impressive bum lift in his farewell dance.         


And that was that. The Quarter Finals were over and we were left with the Famous Five sashaying through to the semis. Only two more weeks to go until we crown the Strictly Come Dancing 2017 winner. Next week the couples have to learn and perform two different dances for us. Who's your money on? Who will fall at the final hurdle? Join me next week for what could possibly be the most exciting round up you've ever read. Or, most likely, it'll just be more of this rambling tosh.

Until then...........KEEP DANCING!!!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

And so we're back....from outer space. Well, Blackpool to be precise but now you have an earworm. I really can't do enough for you, can I? No, I mean I really can't.

So we're back in Elstree and all is right(ish) with the world. We're down to the last magnificent seven (ghost of Len...SEVERRRRRRN) and next week is the Quarter Finals! Where has the time gone? One minute I'm trying to be entertaining about fifteen people I've hardly heard of, the next we're left with fewer than half that number. It'll soon be Christmas at this rate <hides under a blanket in the corner and swigs gin>.

While I'm trying to desperately distract myself from the Festive Season I've had a think about this week's 'Why Don't Strictly Do THIS Dance, Then?'. You know how my mind works by now, but this week is slightly more normal sedate. We should have a quickstep to Mrs Robinson - but the Lemonheads version, rather than Simon and Garfunkel because, well, it's quicker. The obvious change is that the dancers should be dressed as Lemongrab and Lumpy Space Princess from Adventure Time. Look, I only said slightly more normal. I'd post a picture but they're twitchy about copyright - you'll just have to Google.

I was also thinking they should do some alternative dances next year, just to keep things fresh. You know, things like the valeta (I can actually do this one - don't ask), a minuet or bosa nova. My favourite is the Gay Gordons - and not just because it contains a type of gin.

This week, of course, sees our first 'a-thon' of the series - and this time round it's a paso doble. THAT should be interesting, seeing as how a paso needs loads of room, the floor is tiny and the dancers can't get in each others' way. One false move and it'll look like kicking out time at the Ritz on a Saturday night - fists and feet flying while the bouncers (Shirl & Co) look bored and leave them to it. More on that later.

But what happened in the rest of the dances? Who will be the next to leave the fold and who will be in sniffing distance of the trophy? There's only one way to find out....buckle up duckies, let's get this show on the road.

Joe McFadden and Katya kicked us off with a quickstep to Jumpin' Jack by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I know I'm not Joe's Number One Fan but I actually quite enjoyed this dance. It took a little while to get going but when it did it was really rather good. Joe was fleet footed, nimble and light. There were loads of leaps and kicks, tricks and flicks in a technically very difficult dance. Joe and Katya were tight and together throughout with some nice side-by-side sequences and some very nice scatter chasses in the promenades (I nicked that off Shirley, I'm not that good). This was a fun, entertaining routine with lots of character and sparkle. Joe was very assured with lots of sass and style. His posture and frame were pretty good but his right arm got a bit bouncy for Darcey as his stamina began to flag. A cracking 38 out of 40 for Joe.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka came next with a wiggle walk pout wave rumba to Halo by Beyoncé. If I Were A Boy I'd definitely like to dance with Alexandra but I wasn't Crazy In Love with this dance. Alexandra smouldered with a romantic, sensual feel but this was a rather basic rumba with nothing really standing out. Her hips were quite good and she had some sway and elegance, but she needed to straighten her legs more to get proper rumba action and she failed to extend properly through her arms to be more lyrical. The slow pace of the dance seemed to show up her flaws and weaknesses - this wasn't her best dance by quite some margin. The judges said they didn't really feel she had a connection with Gorka. I don't know what they were watching - I was on stand by with a bucket of water. A rare savaging from the panel and she scored just (just!) 32 out of 40.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž followed with a sleepy samba to River Of Dreams by Billy Joel. This weird routine started off with the pair asleep in bed. It was fun to see Aljaž's Wee Willie Winkie (hat - I'm talking about his hat) but that was soon stripped off into samba gear. Unfortunately, that was the only samba gear that got going. It was a slow, lumpy, clunky and awkward routine that was too stop / start and juddery to have any flow. Gemma had some shimmy and shake and did a decent samba roll but her arms were too flingy with no control. There was very little hip action and not a lot of bounce and rhythm. To be honest, it looked like she sleep walked her way through the dance. She did have a lovely volta, though. The judges were very critical and she was only awarded 25 out of 40.

Mollie King and AJ brought us a quickstep to Umbrella - the version by The Baseballs, not Rihanna. This was a swing version of Rhi's annoying hit and worked well with the routine. Mollie kicked up a gear this week and really tried her hardest with another tricky routine by AJ. There was lots of swing and sway, leaps, style and changes of pace in this dance. Mollie was trippy (in a good way) and clippy, light on her feet with some very nice footwork including difficult rolling pivots (thanks again, Shirl). Her frame was generally pretty good - right up to near the end when her energy began to flag and her shoulders started hunching up. There was a bit of a fluff and the end, as well, where some move or other didn't quite come off. The judges were pleased with her performance and improvement. Brolly good show, Mollie. A little overmarking by Bruno meant she achieved her highest score to date of 31 out of 40.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya brought us a waltz to With You I'm Born Again by Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright. This was a beautiful, stripped back waltz that had no fancy gimmicks, bells or whistles. It could have exposed Davood but he coped extremely well with this sweeping, elegant number. He had very nice rise and fall, his footwork was clean and precise and he even managed a fab fleckerl. Leading Nadiya like a true gentleman he looked poised and assured, keeping his frame through changes of pace and direction. I just wish he'd close his mouth - at times he looked more gormless than genteel. The panel were impressed and he got 35 out of 40.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni gave us the second Argentine tango of the series, dancing to Por Una Cabeza by Carlos Gadel and Alfredo Le Pera or Alfred The Pear if you want the translation. Makes him sound like a vegan gangster, if you ask me. Much more romantic in Spanish. Despite the opening bars sounding like the theme tune to Fawlty Towers, this is that classic AT music you've seen in films like Scent Of A Woman and True Lies. Yes, THAT one. There was nothing Fawlty about Debbie's dancing though. She was focused, sharp and simply exquisite throughout the routine with some very impressive leg and footwork. Giovanni had thrown in tonnes of ganchos, knee kicks and flicks and splits of every shape. Debbie was limber and lithe and her ballet training definitely showed in her beautifully pointed feet and shaping in the stunning spin lift. Her balance didn't waver this week and, although the dance didn't exactly smoulder with passion, it was very entertaining. High praise from Craig, a couple of picky niggles here and there. Giovanni looked like a Manuel pleased with 38 out of 40.

Susan Calman and Kevin brought the set to a close with American Smooth to Beyond The Sea (not Beyoncé) by Bobby Darin. Set on a cruise ship, Susan looked all at sea with this number. The less serious choreography was back and Kevin seems to have taken a leaf out of Anton's book, covering his partner's flaws with comedy. It was a charming enough routine, but we've all seen the 'cheeky kiss on the lips by accident' schtick so many times before it's not so funny anymore. This dance was very low on American Smooth or foxtrot content with loads out of hold and bizarre dancing on benches. It looked more like a Two Ronnies sketch than a Strictly offering. The lifts were very low key and simple and there was lots out of hold including a section where she was skipping around holding her skirt instead of having her hand on Kevin's shoulder. Susan looked ploddy, placed and out of sorts with splayed hands and poor footwork. Sadly, she's not shown any improvement for weeks and, much as I hate to admit it, has got this far on the fact that she's a lovely lady. The panel sank her to the bottom of the leaderboard with just 21 out of 40.

Kevin & Susan don't look pleased with the judges' comments

And that was the first round over with. Now, I don't know if it's just me, but tonight just seemed a little flat after Blackpool last week. Some of the dancers seemed to be lacking in sparkle and energy and the routines weren't quite so captivating. Maybe they're at that 'nearly but not quite' fatigue point. I'm sure it will pick up as we hurtle downhill to the final.

After a bit of gossip filler to give Susan and Kevin chance to get changed it was time for the Paso Doblathon. Remember, extra points were up for grabs depending on the dancers' rankings in this bit, so it was all to play for. The winner would get seven points, second place six point and so on until last place gets one point. It had the potential to make a huge difference to the leaderboard. Would it be deadly serious, furious flamenco - or more ham than a wedding buffet? Let's see.

There were actually some Rules to this affair - no free for all madness:

  1. The couples must be on the floor and dance throughout the music
  2. No lifts allowed
  3. The couples must move anti-clockwise only
  4. No bumping into each other
  5. There must be proper Paso content
  6. Capes are optional

It was all a bit distracting with seven couples dancing at once so I just picked out a few obvious bits (although I was quite taken with Gorka and Giovanni mock stalking each other for a rumble at the start <fans self>).

Susan took the cape option, but just spent almost the entire dance twirling it like she was trying to get crumbs off a tablecloth and then weirdly pat-a-caking Kevin on the chest

Joe had his smell the fart face on but did some nice knee walks and had some decent shaping

Debbie seemed to fall back on doing the splits a lot and stomping about

Davood was a bit lumpy and wooden with no shaping

Mollie was very unsure, wobbly and stuck to safe moves

Alexandra was all passion, poise and attack and really performed

Gemma tried hard but was stompy and stilted.

The judges deliberated but even I called it right:

Alexandra - seven points
Joe - six points
Debbie - five points
Davood - four points
Gemma - three points
Mollie - two points
Susan - one point

At the end of it all our leaderboard looked like this:

Joe - 44
Debbie - 43
Davood & Alexandra - 39
Mollie - 33
Gemma - 28
Susan - 22

Weird to see Alexandra in the middle of the table for once. But we all know a few phone calls can knock that into a cocked hat, don't we?

Sunday slunk in like a dog who'd nicked the roast and then been sick in your shoes. My incredible powers of voodoo had worked again and MBOTH's rugby match - the third with his brand-spanking new team - was called off due to bad weather. I can't say I was disappointed. The day was spent blogging with bacon butties and The Princess Bride (the film - I didn't make sarnies for royalty, you understand).

The evening kicked off with a very eyecatching fashion based dance with the pros giving it large on the catwalk. Oti looked not a little bit like Beyoncé and the spare ginger one pouting like he'd just had his sweeties taken away. It all got a bit surreal when Anton strolled down in pink fur and Bruno popped up looking like a bling Mini Me.

Now there are only seven contestants left you'd think it wouldn't take Tess as long to get down to business. You'd be wrong. It still takes her an interminable amount of time to get down to brass tacks. At the end of the first half we knew that Alexandra was in the dance off.  Another shock! While it wasn't her best dance (I don't think the rumba is anyone's best dance to be honest) she didn't deserve to be in this position. Maybe Ye Olde 'she won't need our votes' thinking? I certainly hope so as she's genuinely one of the best and most entertaining dancers on the show.

Surprisingly, the Beeb hadn't completely blown the budget with last week's 'two guest singer' splurge and good ol' Kelly Clarkson was wheeled out to sing Meaning Of Life (maybe Level 42 should cover it - get it? No? No Hitchhikers fans in tonight? Oh well). Gorka and Janette Manrararagandboneman shook their fundamentals for the audience.

The judges came back on for their bit. No washing in the tumble drier this week (I'm so organised) so I spent the time making up some anagrams instead. We have:


I think I'll start a petition with the Beeb to make them change their names. This lot is much more interesting, don't you think?

Round two and it was going to be clear pretty quickly who was in danger.  It was down to Davood and Susan. Nice try, Beeb. Like there was really going to be a second massive shock. As expected, Susan would have to dance for the chance again. True to form, Susan was self-deprecating and entertaining. As soon as it was announced she was in the dance off she was laughing and taking the mickey out of herself with quips about making up the points and not being able to think of a more uneven contest. You've got to love her.

Well, call me an old cynic (I've been called worse) but I have to agree with Susan that this surely was the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. There was very little chance of a David v Goliath outcome for this scenario, was there? All Alexandra had to do was try and iron out the wee flaws in the first showing. Susan would need an absolute miracle to save her - something like a lighting rig falling on Alexandra or the panel being possessed by rabid Susan fans for the night. We could but hope, right?

Both couples took back to the floor to try to curry the judges' favour but it was a foregone conclusion. I don't even really need to recap the routines for you, do I? Except to say Susan went all out to have fun and give us one last entertaining show. It was quite touching. But, this isn't Hollywood and there are no fairy tale endings. Dun dun derrrrrrrrrrrn......

Susan was eliminated.


I think we can all agree she had a great run and brought some fun and real enthusiasm to this season. Things will be a lot more serious from here on in. But I won't miss Kevin's sweaty, floppy curtains in the rehearsal VTs, though. Just get a haircut, Kev.

And so the salubrious six sashay into the Quarter Finals. Who will get a semi next week? Will there be any men left in the final? Tune in next week for another round up where all will be revealed. And next week is Musicals Weeks so should lift the show back out

Until then..............KEEP DANCING!!!

By the way, I am rather excited to learn that Dancing On Ice is coming back on ITV next year. If you're very good, I might just blog on that as well. Let's face it - I've heard of hardly anyone on there either, except Orville and Keane.

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:


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!!!