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!!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

I'm VERY excited! Why? Have I won Euromillions? Has Tom Hardy decided to live in my wardrobe? No - nothing quite like that. HOTH has told me about a funky new app (well, new to me) called PHONTO. It lets you write on pictures. Like the one above. Oh, what fun I can have now. Yes. Yes I am easily pleased. I'm lower maintenance than an air plant. It's why HOTH married me, I'm sure.

But we're not here to read about apps and stuff, are we? You could go and read a tech blog if you wanted something like that. And where would the fun be? Do tech app blogs use loads of hilarious puns and have insight on dancefloor shenanigans? No they do not. Mind you, neither does this one, really. So, I'd better get down to what we're here for before you log off and start Googling blobfish or something. (You really want to now, don't you?)

But before we begin, here's this week's Songs Wot I Heard On The Radio And Guessed A Dance To. We've previously had a Viennese Waltz to Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. This week I have decided on....

A paso doble to Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Yes? It's perfect isn't it? I don't know about you, but I'd love to see Gorka's separation on that one.

Right, we're now at Week Four and down to a bakers' dozen of dancers. Last week the right Rev went, Brenda - sorry Brendan - threw a wobbly and Aston (pencil) topped the leaderboard. It could all change this week, though. There was no theme this time but there was plenty of action and drama. Come with me and I'll take you on a whirlwind of waltzes, a scatter of salsas and all that jazz.....

Tess and Claudia sauntered down the steps to open the show, introducing the judges. Shirley seemed to have thought it was fancy dress night and turned up in a frock that made her look like one of those toilet roll dollies your nan probably had in the bathroom.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni kicked off proceedings with a choppy cha cha cha to The Shoop Shoop Song by Cher. Giovanni was dressed as a delivery man for this one and I, for one, couldn't take my eyes off his giant package. Debbie started off well with little pre-dance follolling and brought us a cheeky, flirty character. I know people Believe in Debbie and if I Could Turn Back Time I may be more impressed with this dance. It started off okay, and there's no denying Debbie has lovely limber legs as Giovanni eased her into the standing splits, but it was all a bit sedate and careful. The moves looked placed and plonked rather than being smooth in the transitions. Debbie's legs were all over the place (when they weren't round her earholes) - too straight in some places, too bent in others. It was all very nice, just not mind-blowing. The judges weren't overly impressed, either, and she scored a table-tumbling 27 out of 40. Only some over-marking by Bruno stopped it being lower.

Now, I'm among the first to admit that Giovanni (the artist formerly known as Joe Varney) is a good-looking little sausage. Especially when he's doing his mean 'n' moody look. The trouble is when he does his really goofy grin. Then he reminds me of an entirely different TV star:


Maybe it's just me and the gin?

Anyway, up next was Brian Conley and Amy with a clunky, punky paso doble to I Believe In A Thing Called Love by The Darkness. Brian's guy-liner made him look like he'd been on an all-nighter and his moves were more Tommy Cooper than Alice Cooper. Yet again he gurned his way through the dance. In fact, his face is more mobile than his feet. This was dad-dancing at its finest and Brian gyrated and clomped along like his haemorrhoids were giving him gip. There was very little paso content and it was all very basic. Brian's promenade walks were too pedestrian, he was low on rhythm and timing and he was just plain ploddy. He attempted some paso shaping but he was flinging his arms about like he was swatting off a swarm of bees. With loss of control and a smattering of errors he was hardly the appel of the panel's eyes, though he scored 21 out of 40.

Saturdays star Mollie King and AJ brought us a saucy little salsa to Subeme La Radio by Enrique Iglesias. AJ made Mollie jump through Julio hoops with this one. Mollie was shiny, sparkly and sparky in a dance with lots of action - crazy throws, spins, flips and twists. AJ was chucking her around like a Jack Russell Terrier with a chew toy. She had plenty of confidence and sass, showing off hairography and armography like it was going out of fashion. Unfortunately, her footwork went a bit floppy and she lost timing and rhythm. Her hips weren't as engaged as they could have been and she was a bit stop/start in transitions. She's still improving every week, though and she scored 27 out of 40.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya showed us a variation on a Viennese waltz to Say You Love Me by Jessie Ware. This was....different. Again, it took ages to get to the floor with lots of pre-dance farting about. It was okay when it did get going, but wasn't really what you'd expect from a Viennese. It had plenty of spins (which Davood apparently found really stomach-churning) but there was too much time out of hold - yes I was counting after Craig's 'ten second rule' quip last week. There were two illegal lifts when Davood got carried away spinning Nadiya, meaning both her feet left the floor. On a positive note, his frame was good, his footwork was neat and he was more in control. There were parts where he was actually leading Nadiya, which was nice to see. Davood earned a decent 29 out of 40.

Charlotte Hawkins and Brendan were hoping to impress with a wedding-themed jive to Marry You by Bruno Mars.  Would this routine go without a hitch or would Charlotte be divorced from the dance? Well, while Charlotte came out with more character and personality this week, she still had some problems. Head Judge Shirley Ballas calling her 'Mollie' being one of them. The dance was pretty simple, with no pizzazz of difficult content. It took too long to get going and not even a banister slide by Brendan could add much. Charlotte was stiff and stilted and had issues with her timing and rhythm. The side-by-side steps were out of sequence and her footwork was sloppy. Apparently, she was kicking with the wrong part of her knee - which I didn't even know was a thing. Brendan looked like he wanted his Mummy when a miserable 19 out of 40 scored.

A freshly-shaved Joe McFadden and Katya came next with a cha cha cha to You Keep Me Hangin' On by Human Nature. This wasn't Joe's best outing. He minced about the floor like he was having a strop with poor hips, no bounce and no real performance. He seemed to go blank midway through and Katya was dragging him into place at times. His footwork was hit and miss and there was a really messy bit where he took ages to get up after a knee-slide. His legs were that far apart he couldn't have stopped a pig in a ginnel (that's 'round our way' talk for an entry or alleyway). He struggled with a routine that was relatively routine and low on content. He tried to blame his Cuban-heeled shoes but the lady celebs have to do this thing in three inch stilettos - usually going backwards, so no sympathy from me. The judges were equally unimpressed and he was given just 24 out of 40 this week.

Ruth Langsford and Anton trotted out a tired tango to Allegretto by Bond. I was neither shaken nor stirred with this one. This tango was fairly flat and lacked fizz, spark and passion. Ruth still looks lost and confused out of hold, nervously searching for Anton's hand but this week she did find some character. There was more gapping than Watford and her frame was loose in parts. However, there was definite attack and purpose, she coped well with the spins and change of pace and she didn't make any big gaffes. Her best dance to date, she scored a Joe-matching 24 out of 40 - a big improvement.

Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrararasputin seemed to struggle a bit this week with a quickstep to Mr Blue Sky by ELO. Aston's pigeon toes made an unwelcome return and he was flat-footed flappy in parts. It looked like Janette had been pushing the heel leads but he was landing a bit too heavily on them in the jumps. Don't get me wrong, he was still very good - light on his feet in the promenades and chasses, covering the floor in a very fast quickstep. He had a nice tight frame and side-by-side hold, mostly controlling the jumps which had great height. The timing was spot on and, again, his mirroring with Janette was faultless. He took the judges' critique well and his excellent partnership earned him 32 out of 40.

Poor Simon Rimmer and Karen Clifton brought a sorry samba to Copacabana by Barry Manilow. Mandy lifeboats, Simon's technique disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle. Never mind dad dancing this was grandad grinding. Simon's hips made him look more like a sex pest than sex god. Simon's shoddy, ploddy footwork was a sight from the get-go and he seemed to let Karen do all the work. There was no bounce, no rhythm and no style. He went wrong again even in a dance with really low content and technique. His promenades looked like he'd been on the pina coladas and he just lost the plot, bodging his botafogas right in front of the judges. It seemed like he was still in Buzz Lightyear mode with his giant leaps where there should have been small steps. He looked utterly mortificado at the end and scraped a measly 19 points from the panel.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz were hoping to build on last week with a perky paso doble to Viva La Vida by Coldplay. Now, the last time I heard this song it was being sung by a bunch of gay zebras playing with expanding balls (don't ask. And, yes, I was sober. Relatively). Gemma came out with great intent, swishing her skirt and looking Aljaz dead in the eye - something Ruth needs to work on with Anton. She showed us great fierce character and determination throughout the routine with lovely arm shaping and frame. Her feet were really good and she was together with Aljaz throughout. This was a dance with difficult content but Gemma coped well and focused from start to finish. There were a couple of minor quibbles - her shoulders rose a little and her chin was too tucked in - but the judges were happy and gave her a whopping 35 out of 40.

Astounding Alexandra Burke and Gorka followed with a joyous jive to Proud Mary by Tina Turner. There's no denying it - Alexandra was Simply The Best of the night with this number. Gorgeous Gorka (I'm married, not dead, dahlings) had put together an absolutely amazing routine full of really difficult content and made to show off Alexandra's excellent technique. She came out in full-on diva mode, bringing everything she had again and coping with whatever Gorka threw at her. Alexandra had incredible legs, stunningly high kicks and flicks and was totally engaged with the performance that must have been spine-tingling to watch in the flesh. She was poised, polished, faultless and flawless showing unending stamina from the start of this captivating number. Her supreme effort brought her the first 10s of the season. A right Royal performance brought a very well-deserved 39 out of 40 - in WEEK FOUR!! The show of appreciation made Alexandra burst into tears as she wished her mum (who sadly recently passed away) had been there to see her. Not a dry eye in this house, either.

Poor Jonnie Peacock and Oti had to follow that with a still above average American smooth to Cry Me A River by Michael Buble. Mickey Bubbles must make a pretty penny off Strictly - they're always using his back catalogue. Jonnie is still working on getting a character for his dances (Craig recommending acting lessons for next week) but his hard work ethic in rehearsals is starting to pay off. There was an amazing opening lift, a walkover by Oti and some lovely spins and catches. Jonnie coped well with some difficult moves and showed great footwork, including a fancy fleckerl.  There was some nice timing and togetherness and he certainly seems to be growing into a dancer, improving every week. He's still sticking his bum out too much and has a tendency to lean forward but he got his highest score to date - 31 out of 40.

Susan Calman and Kevin closed the show with a charming quickstep to Bring Me Sunshine by The Jive Aces or, as everyone knows it, the theme tune of Morecambe and Wise. I reckon that everyone was expecting Susan to dance all the right steps, just not necessarily in the right order. How wrong they were. Dancing to what was her wedding song, Susan upped the ante with a bright and airy interpretation of the dance. Bringing great character as always, she was light on her feet, in time and on point. Kevin was Wise enough to keep it relatively simple, but there was a lovely jazz break section and some smashing running promenades. Susan beamed throughout the dance and it was clear she was enjoying herself. Her frame slipped a little at the end but there was no slacking and she definitely wasn't lacking in enthusiasm. Morecambe round to Susan each week and the classic M&W skipped exit put a soppy smile on my face. A very decent 30 out of 40 scored.

At the end of all that the standings were like this:

Alexandra - 39
Gemma - 35
Aston - 32
Jonnie - 31
Susan - 30
Davood - 29
Debbie - 27
Mollie - 27
Joe - 24
Ruth - 24
Brian - 21
Charlotte - 19
Simon - 19

Sunday came around, as it always does (just a little earlier for the dancers and studio audience). It was time for us to find out who was hanging us their dancing shoes for good.

The pro-dancers brought us a show-opening spectacular that was all Stomp meets Mad Max. Actually, I had flashbacks to the gay zebras. I think it was about escaping from a post-apocalyptic industrial hell-hole to a twinkly, floaty paradise with Kevin, Aljaz and Giovanni in scruffy clothes and more eye make-up than Claudia. Still, it was enteing enough as results show dances go.

Glacial Tess Daly started to read out the survivors. The poor celebs must be overdosing on adrenaline as they're waiting to hear their fate. Finally, after what seemed like a century DAVOOD GHADAMI was shockingly announced as being in the bottom two. What have I said about the fickle public? SEVEN other dancers scored lower than him - many of whom had woeful scores and routines and he is in the dance off? Alright, his Viennese hadn't been traditional but it was decent enough and he didn't deserve to be looking down the barrel of a boot-off.

The lovely Gregory Porter entertained us with Smile (written, incidentally, by Charlie Chaplin - so they should have had him on last week) while the recently booted off Pasha and Dianne did their bit, which wasn't rubbing their face in it at all. While I'm at it, why does Gregory always wear a hat and that head-covery thing indoors? He won't feel the benefit when he goes outside, that's all I can say. Anyway, it was very nice as I tucked into my Raspberry Ruffle bar (rock 'n' roll, me).

Len's Lens has now apparently become the Dance Debrief. Boooooooring! The judges waffled, ranted and raved with Darcey pontificating all over Aston's sickle, saying if he works hard he can pull it off next week.

Back to the results as we all waited to find out who else was in the dance off. One by one the reprieved remainers were announced until we were down to Joe McFadden and Charlotte Hawkins. Tess finally revealed that it would be Charlotte  facing a potential exit. Bloody hell, Davood must have been relieved. Short of running over and clothes-lining Craig or drop-kicking Darcey (which I'd have paid good money to see) he was a shoo-in to stay this week.

Both couples took back to the dance-floor to give it all they had to impress the panel. Davood could have just sat on the floor dragging his bum around like a dog with worms, to be honest, and still be onto a winner. But give him his due, he reprised the routine in a much sharper, polished way - and Nadiya's feet stayed grounded this time. Charlotte did her best, poor thing, but it just wasn't to be. Not even Brendan's frantic distraction dancing could change the inevitable. The judges voted unanimously to save Davood and it was time for her to say goodbye. I bet Brendan's secretly relieved - the couple were never likely to be in touching distance of the glitterball and at least he gets to have a lie-in with his Squiggles in the morning now.

And there we were for another week. A dirty dozen dancers survive as we edge closer to Hallowe'en. Will Ruth improve some more? Will Brian leave the facial workout alone for once? Will anyone get another ten - and just where can Alexandra go from here?

All this and more in next week's gripping instalment. Until then, Strictly fans.....KEEP DANCING!!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Here we are again, Strictly fans. I hope you brought your popcorn and supersize cups of fizzy drink because this week was MOVIE WEEK! The first of Strictly's themed weeks - we'll have Hallowe'en at the end of the month - it's a chance for the stars to shoehorn in tenuously linked tunes dance to some familiar, big screen scores. And for me to come up with some truly awful puns. I told you this was coming last week.

So which dancers gave Oscar-worthy performances and who deserved a Golden Raspberry? Switch off your mobile phones, stop talking at the back and I'll take you on a tour of Strictly Week Three. Lights! Camera! Action.....

The show opened with a lengthy La La Land inspired routine by the pros and the celebs, promising us a blockbuster show. The judges were gussied up in their glad rags - Craig and Bruno in white tuxes, Darcey & Shirley in the posh frocks. It probably would have worked the other way round as well, to be fair. Tess and Claudia introduced the stars and we were off.

Simon Rimmer and Karen Clifton started proceedings with a quickstep to You've Got A Friend In Me from Toy Story. Simon certainly got a Buzz out of this one. Woody be any good or end up looking like a big Jessie? (This stuff writes itself.) It started off promisingly enough. Simon had nice characterisation and his frame was fairly solid. Karen hadn't tasked him too much and this was fun, simple choreography at the slower end of the quickstep spectrum. His timing was okay and he hand nice hands. Unfortunately, he was flat footed and skippy and there was gapping in hold. No swing or sway cost him marks. He was Lightyears better than last week but even with judge Shirley in full Mummy mode he still only scored 19 out of 40.

Ruth Langsford and Anton brought us a rotten rumba to Diamonds Are Forever. I know I'm biased. The rumba is my least favourite dance. I think I've enjoyed three in the history of Strictly and one of those was a pro dance. It's just so.....meh. Walk, wiggle, pout, wave, pose, repeat. It's allegedly romantic but since I have all the romance of a used teabag [if you've read my post Moon and Back you'll understand why] it passes me by. So, poor Ruth was on a loser from the start. Anton had ordered a shed-load of dry ice and smoke to cover Ruth's feet, well up to her knees really, so most mistakes were well hidden. Yet again Anton did all the work, dragging Ruth about and plonking her in place. She looked like a Zombie. There was no wiggle, pout, wave or pose. Just the walking - and that not even in time to the music. She was stiff and stilted and looked like she'd rather be having her unmentionables plucked. Floppy arms, no rhythm and off balance, she looked like Anton had just picked a random member of the audience out for a go. I don't know about diamonds but this dance seemed to go on forever. Neither shaken, nor stirred the judges awarded just 15 out of 40.

Mini Mollie King and AJ produced a classy American smooth to Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music. I Have Confidence that Mollie will be in for a while. This was a flowing, serene routine and Mollie had lovely footwork in a dance with some tricky choreography. Even with AJ Alpen her out she was a bit clunky in and out of the lifts making the transitions clumsy and she spent quite a bit of time off the floor. It was fairly romantic and her chemistry with AJ is growing each week (thankfully like a lovely crystal, not mould). Not a spectacular number but nun the less Mollie managed to score 30 out of 40.

Rev Richard Coles and Dianne came next with something that was supposed to be a paso doble to Flash's Theme from Flash Gordon. Yes, you can imagine. I had to watch it. And I had only had half a glass of wine by then (Merry Mole - a rather nice            Moldovan malbec if you're interested). Oh. Good. Gracious. Flash may have had 24 hours to save the earth but Rev Richard would have needed a millennium to save this dance. I don't think you're supposed to laugh through a paso. Looking more like a blond bombsite than blond bombshell in a badly fitting wig the poor Rev was camper than a week at Center Parcs as he minced to the music, flinging his arms around like he was tossing confetti. He stomped and clomped along with all the aplomb of a grounded hawkman and was about a fierce as a kitten on catnip. His wig had more rhythm. He did have intent - if not the purpose. It was strangely entertaining but the panel was Merciless. Just 14 out of 40 scored.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni gave us a lively quickstep to Let's Call The Whole Thing Off from Shall We Dance. I have problems with that song. I don't know anyone who says potarto. And they should just call it a spud and save all the arguing. Anyway - Debbie hit the floor with very little faff, getting down to the routine almost straight away. She is very accomplished and her fabulous fleet footwork shone in a tight routine. Where Simon was slow, Debbie was like a little dervish as she covered the floor. She made the dance's complex steps look effortless and yet again she was solid in the solo sections. Apparently, she broke the 'ten second rule' (no she didn't eat a chip off the floor) by being out of hold too long and her upper frame got a bit too busy which dented the score. A decent 29 out of 40, though.

Brian Conley followed this with an American Smooth to If I Only Had A Brain from The Wizard of Oz. Flipping Ada, I bet Amy wishes she didn't have a Brian. Dressed as the scarecrow, Brian undeniably had character but sadly there wasn't a lot of charm. There was lots of messing about with him lolling on the floor to waste time. He made a few mistakes, missed a hold and he was flat footed. I know he was supposed to be a man of straw but he was just too loose and floppy for the dance. His timing was okay and it was an improvement on last week but the lack of classical steps and content meant he scored  Toto-tal of just 22 out of 40.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz swung into action with a Charleston to Bare Necessities from Jungle Book. Aljaz was dressed in a giant, fat bear suit (not bare suit, unfortunately) which should have hampered the routine but was weirdly cute. The dance took ages to get to the floor but when it did it was nice enough. Gemma had loads of energy, but this meant she got a bit frenetic and frantic - almost like she wanted the dance over and done with. There were some nice touches, but very little cross and swivel. Aljaz had thrown in some swing / jazz steps and it was nice to see Gemma's starfish at the end (it's a dance step you naughty people). Craig's comments were a bit Baloo the belt but Shere Khan't have been too disappointed with a score of 31 out of 40.

Charlotte Hawkins and Brendan came next with a tired tango to Danger Zone from Top Gun. Poor Charlotte. She always looks fine in the training VT but she seems to completely freeze like Ice, man, when she hits the floor. Was she going to prove me wrong or just wing her way through this dance? Looking like she'd been Goosed, she made mistakes from the beginning again and it was clear Brendan was in Cruise control doing all the work. She is quite a 'needy' dancer and was hanging on so much she was like a Klingon on his starboard bow. Never mind Top Gun, Charlotte was so stiff she should have been dancing to something from Mannequin. There was no passion, no emotion, no drama and no glide in her footwork. Maverick Brendan argued with the judges over alleged rise and fall in the number which can't have helped a low score of 17 out of 40.

Jonnie Peacock strutted his stuff with Oti in a passable paso doble to The Raiders March from Indiana Jones. Was this routine going to be his Last Crusade? Surely not after this performance. Does anybody else think he sounds like Noel Fielding? Just me? Oh, well. Jonnie attacked this dance with a passion, showing plenty of focus, attack and panache. Oti is whipping him into shape and he's starting to find and get into character for his dances which is really helping him improve. He had decent arm shaping, good footwork and plenty of focus. He did some tricky jumps and knees changes which can't have been easy with his prosthetic. He still needs work on his shaping but he was manly, macho and strong. Indy end he scored 26 out of 40.

The Susie Soap continues as Susan Calman and Kevin attempted a samba to the Theme from Wonderwoman (the TV show - you know, the one with the classy 'fighting for our rights, in your satin tights' line). I like Susan. She always has a bloody good go and her dances are full of character, if not content. This week was no different - a fun, cheery routine with Susan showing lots of sass and shimmy and giving it plenty of welly. Sadly the dance was lacking in bounce, samba rolls and technique. There was very little hip action throughout the number which affected the marks. Susan should have got extra points for leading Kevin, though - and she made him do the 'wrist-ripper' twizzer which is probably a first for Strictly. A fair 20 out of 40 for Susan.

Joe McFadden and Katya showed us their version of a Viennese waltz to Somewhere My Love from Dr Zhivago. Omar goodness. The dance seemed to go on as long as the film. It was very nice but left me a feeling a bit Siberian. You can't argue that he covered the floor well and had loads of rotation. There was some nice sway but he was leaning forward a bit and he seemed to be over-striding sometimes that left him looking a bit spidery. Joe had grown a 'tache especially for the character and I was racking my brains who he reminded me of. And then it hit me.....

I like you, do you like me? Joe goes Borat in the name of Strictly!

The judges liked the dance well enough and Joe scored 32 out of 40.

Accomplished Aston Merrygold and Janette Manraraskirt came up next with a cheery cha cha cha to Cant's Stop The Feeling from Trolls. Looking like he'd come straight from a pencil top, Aston didn't mess about. Another amazing week with Aston showing great character, control and content. He has amazing rhythm and musicality and seems to cope with just about everything Janette throws at him. Aston has spot on timing, fab fluidity, clean lines and straight legs needed for the dance. There was good hip action and rotation and he was tight and together from start to finish. He controlled Janette in a terrific pot-stirrer (the one Charlotte fell off last week) and his hip hop hips had Bruno all of a flutter. A fabulous 35 out of 40 scored.

Before we could get our breath back Alexandra Burke and Gorka took to the floor with an American smooth to Wouldn't It Be Loverly from My Fair Lady. Again, Alex's stage training shone in a lovely routine and she's one of only a few celebs who acts a role while she dances. This number showed off Alexandra's musicality with whimsical choreography. She coped well with changes of pace and had nice, clean footwork. She needed more control in her arms and her shoulders are still rising too much which is spoiling her neckline. With A Little Bit Of Luck she'll sort this out for next week. The judges were happy enough and awarded her 33 out of 40.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya closed the show with a sloppy samba to Stayin' Alive from Saturday Night Fever. Discos without saying, this wasn't his best dance. He had poor posture and had little or no bounce. He wiggled his hips rather than rotated them and his core was weak. He did have some rhythm and there was some good crossing. The wholly unnecessary dancing on the desk and wiggling his bum at the judges didn't have the desired affect. His hands were awful. As Mary Poppins probably didn't say - they were supercalispatulisticthisishowhegropesus. There wasn't a lot of connection with his partner either and he scored a middling 25 out of 40.

And there we were. Everyone had done their thing and the curtain closed on another night. I'm just disappointed no-one did anything from Fiderer on the Roof (sorry, in joke). The leaderboard looked like this:

Aston - 35
Alexandra - 33
Joe - 32
Gemma - 31
Mollie - 30
Debbie - 29
Jonnie - 26
Davood - 25
Brian - 22
Susan - 20
Simon - 19
Charlotte - 17
Ruth - 15
Rev Richard - 14

And so it was Sunday. MBOTH (Medium Boy Of The House) got Man of the Match at rugby. Typical. The week I don't go because I'm laid up with the lurgy. Hang on, maybe I'm on to something. I don't go = he plays really well. I'm doing him a favour by not dragging my backside out of bed at stupid o'clock on freezing Sunday mornings, aren't I? Job's a good 'un.

So, back to Strictly and the results show. Who was going to be in trouble this week? Who was going to have to hang up their dancing shoes? It was all down to the viewers.

Tonight we started off with a jolly Disney-based dance medley routine that got the audience warmed back up and was fun to watch. There was Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast. But enough about the judges. Tess and Claudia were introduced as Lady and the Tramp. You can fight among yourselves about who's who. There was a recap of the <air quotes> night before to remind us all what went on - and to pad out the programme a bit.

Finally, it was time to get down to the serious bit. Tess dragged out the first half of the 'who gets another go' bit. Honestly, you could watch all three Lord of the Rings films in the time she takes. The extended versions. FINALLY, we found out that SIMON was going to have to dance again. Craig gave some nice, helpful feedback on what he needed to do to be safe.

This being movie week they wheeled out Sheridan Smith who belted out the number My Man from the Barbra Streisand classic, Funny Girl. I suppose it's famous if you know the film. I'm disappointed she didn't do the Minions version of I Swear from Despicable Me 2. The pro-dancers did their bit in a filler that was probably filmed sometime Saturday afternoon, but it was all quite nice.

We had the 'comments from the judges' bit that's a bit flat these days now there's no Len's Lens. There was more staged bickering about bits from 'last night' and Bruno was rather restrained instead of his flapping and flouncing about like he'd had too much sugar and E. Numbers like the night before.

Tess then came back to tell us who the second dancer at the bottom was. It wasn't really much of a surprise when she announced it was REV RCHARDS COLES. There were no gasps of surprise or baffled looks. He was probably expecting it himself but he took it all in good part, saying he was looking forward to wowing Craig again.

Both couples reprised their routines in a vain hope that they could make some improvement on their previous performance. I looked - I really did - but both outings seemed about the same. Simon may have been a bit crisper and clippier in the movement across the floor. I still enjoyed The Rev's performance the most. Rarely has there been such inefficient but enthusiastic movement.

The judges took very little time to deliberate and it was with a touch of sadness that.....

REVEREND RICHARD COLES was ushered from the series. To be honest, Simon could have just skipped around the stage like a toddler and he would have looked better than the Reverend. It's a shame but at least this week the right person went.

It was all over in a Flash but the Rollicking Rev gets his Sundays back. 

We're down to unlucky thirteen. Who's going to get the chop next time? You'll have to tune in next week to find out. 

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

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Well, that week went quick, didn't it? No sooner had the stars got their breath back from Week One's baptism of fire, than here we are in Week Two.  I think it's safe to say I've got a bad case of Strictly Fever.  I even told our son that writer Christopher Marlowe had been stabbed in a ballroom bra, instead of bar-room brawl. This show gets under your skin. Mind you, I can't be the only one who, when listening to the radio, guesses which dance would go best with each song, can I? No-one else? Oh well, just so you know, I reckon you could do a cracking Viennese Waltz to Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. Just sayin'.

Anyway, here we are already at Week Two. And this time someone goes home. Who that was going to be depended on the judges' combined score from Weeks One and Two and, for the first time this series, the Viewer Vote. As we all know, this can be a massive gamechanger as The Folks At Home tend to vote for their favourite personalities rather than who was best at, you know, actual dancing (Ed Balls anyone?). Hearts trump diamonds, and sometimes even dancers.

But what actually happened on the night? Who sparkled like a glitterball on fire and who spectacularly crashed? There's only one way to find out, Dear Reader. Lay on, Macduff, as Billy Shakespeare was wont to say. Let's get this show on the road.

Chizzy Akudolu opened this week's show with partner Pasha. This was billed as a foxtrot to I'm A Woman by Smokey Joe's Cafe. It was a fun routine but took flipping ages to get going - lots of faffing around at a breakfast table. But when the dancing actually started that was when the trouble began. This was like no foxtrot I - or the judges - had ever seen. There was virtually no technical or traditional content. Chizzy threw her all into what she had been given and her larger than life personality shone through. It's clear she's one sassy lassie who likes shaking her chassis. Sadly it wasn't enough to please the judges. She scored a poor 16 out of 40. Combined with last week she had a total of 37 out of 80.

Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrararaforrocket brought us a salsa to Despacito (Remix) by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Jr ft Justin Bieber. I hope you're taking notes on this, there may be a quiz later. Astounding Aston did it again. His great connection with Janette led to some dazzling, daring, difficult lifts, throws, drops and spins. My heart was in my mouth as I watched him throwing her around with all the aplomb of a seasoned pro. The dance was tight, compact and controlled with Aston showing excellent musicality and timing. He had plenty of hip action, but not enough figure 8 rotation for picky Craig. The last lift was a little clunky and there was a missed hold but Aston got the first 9 of the series and an impressive 32 out of 40 - 63 out of 80 in total.

Susan Calman was up next with a cheeky Charleston to If You Knew Susie (see what they did there) by Enoch Light and The Charleston City All Stars (Look, you'll thank me if this ever comes up in a pub quiz). It struck me last night who Kevin reminds me of......


Edward from League of Gentlemen                     Kevin Clifton

Uncanny, isn't it? Maybe if Kev fancies a weekend off he can ask Reece Shearsmith to body double. It might show in the dancing, though. Clever Kevin had choreographed a Charleston that played to Susan's strengths - perky personality and comedy timing. Pity the dancing timing was sometimes a bit lacking in parts. Susan tried hard with some tricky content - there were flappy bird arms, push moves and skip steps but unfortunately not a lot of swivel and cross. It was bright, fun and cheerful though and Susan earned a decent 22 out of 40 - 42 out of 80 in all.

Charlotte Hawkins followed with a charmless cha cha cha to Sugar by Maroon 5. This was far from sweet. Charlotte was totally marooned with this dance with moves more like Jabba than Jagger. Poor Charlotte never got to grips with this dance. She started off with some strut but it soon all fell apart. It seemed like she forgot her steps and Brendan was talking her through it and dragging her round for the full 90 seconds. She was stiff and stilted with no bounce or rhythm and never really recovered from an early mistake which left her bewitched, bothered and bewildered. A difficult spin at the end must have been playing on her mind and when that went wrong as well it was all a bit of a disaaaaaaaaster dahling. A very woeful 12 out of 40 (a very restrained Brendan) and 34 out of 80 overall.

Joe McFadden and Katya came next with a tango to Castle On The Hill by Ed Sheeran. Another routine that took ages to get going. Joe took so long faffing about with a prop wardrobe I thought he was going to get his Tumnus out! When he did hit the floor it was all a bit disappointing after last week's impressive start. He had sharp head turns and some clean lines but he looked at the floor a lot, had rise and fall where there should have been glide and he lost frame and shaping. It was all a bit skippy and stompy with no control - and his hands horrified Craig. Only 22 out of 40 this week - a total of 51 out of 80.

Brian Conley and partner Amy tried to sell us a cha cha cha to Shake Your Groove Thing by Peaches and Herb. Looking like the cat that got the cream, Brian wiggled and smirked his way through the routine. Actually, he looked more like this:

To be fair, he had loads of energy and bags of character but - again - the dance was more disco than anything else with very little cha cha cha content. There was no hip action, floppy footwork and wangy arms (that's a technical dance term, honest). It was entertaining enough but Brian shook his groove thang a bit too much. The judges weren't overly impressed but Brian's score improved a little to 19 out of 40  - 35 out of 80 after two weeks.

Gemma Atkinson followed with Aljaz and a very pretty waltz to Un Giorno Per Noi by Josh Groban. The whole dance had a lovely, romantic feel from the beginning. Gemma had lovely lyrical arms, great shaping and elegant lines. She had fab footwork, nice rise and fall and chucked in a fab fleckerl to boot. Coping well with changes of pace and direction this was a huge improvement on last week. The judges were happy, too, awarding her 26 out of 40 - 46 out of 80 in all.

Rev Richard Cole took to the floor with a weird Australian themed American Smooth to Love Really Hurts Without You by Billy Ocean. Now, I only know a rude version of this so couldn't sing along with Small Boy Of The House in the room well, he's more Medium Boy Of The House these days. Actually, I know a rude version of most songs. I blame my dad playing rugby records when I was little. Anyway, back to the dance (if we must). You can't deny that the Reverend enjoys himself. He certainly put the Out in Outback as he lolloped about the floor like a large Labrador puppy, occasionally hitting the beat and throwing in something that vaguely resembled an American Smooth move. The lifts were low tech and he lost his way. More technique was needed but maybe he couldn't have pulled it off. The dance was lumpy and clumpy, sloppy and cloppy. Our Reverend was Amazingly Graceless - more Australian Rough than American Smooth, Richard scored 17 out of 40, no improvement on last week, and so 34 out of 80.

Up next was last week's joint bottom-dweller Ruth Langsford with walking Chinsters Pasty Anton du Beke. They brought out a choppy Charleston to The Charleston by Bob Wilson and the Varsity City Boys (I have ALL their records). Anton is a clever bunny getting his strongest dances out in the first two weeks but this routine seemed to be all about him. Ruth looked less nervous than last week, but she was still a bit stiff and wooden and Anton was dragging her about again. She looked lost in the sections on her own and seemed to be looking about for her partner. It was low on content and got loose and sloppy but it was still an improvement. Ruth showed she had some timing and rhythm and her personality started to come through. The judges gave her 20 out of 40 - 36 out of 80.

Simon Rimmer and Karen Clifton showed us their waltz to You'll Never Walk Alone by Rodgers & Hammerstein. This was a very important piece of music for Liverpool FC supporter Simon and he tried his best to do it justice. Sadly, it wasn't to be. The words are 'walk on, walk on' and that's precisely what Simon seemed to do by the end. A big mistake really shook his confidence and he never properly recovered. He lost rhythm and musicality and it all went a bit, well, pedestrian. The spin near the end looked like he was spreading a bag of fertiliser 'round the floor. He did have fairly good shaping and frame and did some nice heel leads. I reckon Karen may make a dancer out of Simon yet. He was visibly emotional at the end and Wirral Judge Shirley Ballas was moved to tears. I think that was the music rather than the dancing though. Simon scored 19 out of 40, giving him 36 out of 80 in total.

Mollie King and AJ came next with tango to Addicted to Love. At least they've dropped the Mollie / short dancers schtick for now. This was so much better than last week. Mollie developed a character to get her in the mood for the sexy, sharp, stylish routine that was packed full of content. She had a tight frame, good footwork and was together and on point with AJ - much more of a connection and chemistry this time.  Mollie was strong and fiery and had lots of attack and passion. It wasn't flawless - her shoulders need some work and there were a couple of wee stumbles but she should be pleased with herself this week. There was also an illegal lift which cost her points. All in all a mixed bag - Raindrops and sparkles you might say. The panel awarded her 25 out of 40 - 48 out of 80 in all.

Jonnie Peacock and Oti gave us an accomplished jive to Johnny B Goode (tres hilaire) by Chuck Berry. And this was berry good (sorry). Dancing on a specially developed blade, Jonnie totally went for it with no holding back. His kicks and flicks were really very good and his footwork was excellent in this high octane number. Being an athlete means Jonnie had all the stamina and energy to sustain this to the end. He was on point, had great timing and a nice partnership with Oti. Another improving dancer, Jonnie was given a hugely improved 29 out of 40 - 49 out of 80.

Debbie McGee and Giovanni came next with a Viennese Waltz to She's Always A Woman by Billy Joel. Debbie showed she's a proper Uptown Girl with this stylish number. Her dance background showed in this number with beautiful footwork and elegant lines. This sweet routine was full of gorgeous content and Debbie has great timing and connection with Giovanni. There was a nice mirroring sequence that shows she's as happy out of hold as she is in. Craig was wowed by her mad skillz and she ended up with a cracking 34 out of 40 - and a table-topping 64 out of 80.

Davood Ghadami and his partner Nadiya brought us the first quickstep of the season to Last Night by The Strokes. The quickstep is a nightmare, fast-paced dance with lots of changes of direction, pace and tone. Davood coped well enough - he was fleet and had nice clean feet - but too much attack in the moves left it looking sloppy around the edges. The routine started off in a library but had a weird section in the middle where they both stripped off for some reason. Another illegal lift in a dance that was more frantic than romantic meant Davood scored a decent 27 out of 40 - 54 out of 80.

Alexandra Burke and Gorka closed the show with a pristine paso doble to Ven a Bailar by Jennifer Lopez. Jenny may be from the block but Alexandra ruled the world with an astonishingly impeccable performance. Yes, she had dance training and has worked on stage. So has Brian Conley but I don't think he could have pulled this off. This was an amazingly choreographed, jam-packed routine that was really difficult and high in content. Alexandra was sharp and focused showing us impressive arms and phenomenal footwork. Her turns were tight, her promenades near perfect and she attacked the dance with everything she had. It was fierce, hot and steamy and earned a 4 judge ovation eventually. With nines all round (Week Two is a bit early for a 10) she scored a huge 36 out of 40  -  meaning 60 out of 80.

This left the table looking like this:

Debbie - 64
Aston - 63
Alexandra - 60
Davood - 54
Joe - 51
Jonnie - 49
Mollie - 48
Gemma - 46
Susan - 42
Chizzy - 37
Ruth - 36
Simon - 36
Brian - 35
Charlotte - 34
Rev Richard - 34

And so the stars all pootled off to the green room for a quick fag and a scotch egg rest while the audience got shuffled round a bit, so we could all pretend it was Sunday. I mean, it actually is Sunday when we watch it, but it's really filmed as soon as the viewer vote closes (I don't think MI5 are going to bust me for spilling that secret). I hear the filming goes on until eleventy billion o'clock. My poor bum would go numb - no wonder they're always jumping up for standing ovations - they're making sure their legs still work!

The pros opened proceedings with a bowling-themed number to Everybody Needs Somebody from The Blues Brothers. Strike me pink, that was no turkey. A very good, energetic number that warmed everybody up. I hope they'd actually filmed that early on Saturday otherwise they'll be too knackered to do the dance off.

After the recap of last night (wink wink) we had the first half of the 'who is safe' vote results. The celebs all stood shaking and sweating as they awaited their fate. Tess took longer to read out the results than it's taking to negotiate Brexit. But, finally, our first bottom-dweller was revealed as CHIZZY. Anton utterly over-reacted to the news he was staying in a roared like a lunatic

Emili Sande sang her new song Starlight for us. It must be distracting trying to flog your new tune when there's a pair of pro dancers follolling about in front of you. Anyway, it was quite nice and the audience have got to have something to keep them warmed up, haven't they?

Of course, there was no Len's Lens. Instead we had a lamely titled 'Dancer's debrief'. Look, they can have Shirley's Shufti - all I'd want in return is an evening with Gorka a pait of tickets for Blackpool. HOTH & I could have a mucky weekend and homeopathic vinegar again (you can read all about those in earlier blogs).

Back to the competition. The remaining dancers huddled under the spotlights where Tess, again, took the half-life of uranium to reveal the final couple in trouble. Was it any surprise that it was BRIAN. Not really much of a massive shock given their performances on the night, I suppose.

The fated pairs took to the floor one more time in  desperate bid to stay in the show. Both had to improve on their previous performances to be in with a chance. Chizzy seemed to come out with more attitude and tried harder to get the technique in this time round. She certainly looked like she wanted it more. It looked like Brian had forgotten half of his routine, or wasn't really trying. Maybe he'd resigned himself to going home already - his speech before his dance certainly suggested that. It was almost like he'd made up a new routine on the spot. He wasn't dancing the same steps as his partner most of the time, put it that way.

The judges were ready to announce their decisions. The condemned couples stood nervously like kids before the headmaster. A split decision meant Shirley had to put her Head Judge Hat on - and she didn't look to thrilled about it. She made up her mind and then, it was all over........

CHIZZY was eliminated. REALLY? For me, she was the better of the two in the dance off. Maybe the judges - who are the experts, I suppose, must have seen something we didn't. Or did. They made a lot of the fact that Brian had put in content and was entertaining. It's such a shame - she really did have some potential and was showing some promise for improvement. This could be another case of a better dancer being voted off too early just because the viewers want a laugh at the hapless. I really don't think she deserved to go this week given her combined scores and potential. Is her character on Holby horrible or something? The poor thing was in floods of tears. Ah well, if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly (I'm spoiling you with Shakespeare aren't I?).

Chizzy's in a tizzy - the first Casualty (okay, Holby City) of Strictly

And so it was all over for another week, The poor knackered cleaners waiting in the wings to hoover up the glitter, the foot-sore celebrities eager to start yet more training, Bruno back in his vat of Cuprinol. And us, well we'll all just have to get on with it until next weekend and another gripping, action-packed blog of the ballroom. And next week is Movie Week. SQUEEEEE!! Well, folks, this is your Seven Day Pun Warning! Don't say you didn't know in advance.

Until then, KEEP DANCING!!!!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Ladieeeeeeeeeeees and Gentlemennnnnnnnnnnn - I have the great pleasure of announcing that the Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Blog of the Year (well, in our house anyway) is BACK!!!!  Once again I selflessly sit through hours of hoofing and scores of sequins so you don't have to. Sometimes I even sound like I know what I'm going on about. If you're new to reading this what I do is sit at home at the weekend necking gin watching Strictly, making increasingly more indecipherable notes as I go. My Sundays are then spent writing it up, usually saying to Husband Of The House (HOTH) - 'it says here Anton danced with a wolverine? OH - he danced a Viennese!' Eventually it all makes sense.

It's been a long nine months. Lots of stuff has happened. There was a General Election, we got funky new fivers, there's a homicidal Oompa Loompa in the Whitehouse. But what we've all been waiting for, really, is for the glitterball to be prised out of last year's winner Ore Oduba's hands, given a quick dust and stuck back on its pedestal.

We have a new Head Judge to replace the lovely Len Goodman - Latin guru, multi-championship winning, teacher, Dancing With The Stars talent scout Shirley Ballas. The Wirral -born wiggler takes to the hot seat for the first time this weekend and knows all eyes will be on her.  She's no stranger to the camera, working on DWTS for ages, but the British audience is a different animal. I'm still wondering how they'll do Len's Lens - Shirley's Shufti perhaps?

A few weeks ago the 'pairing up' promo took place to many 'ooohs' and 'aaahhs'. Mainly 'ooo the hell is that?' and 'they look like they'll make an aaaaahs of themselves'. It's a very mixed bunch - singers, actors, comedians, chefs, a former 80s band member turned reverend and The Lovely Debbie McGee. Strictly 2017 should be......interesting. 

So, how did they all fare? No-one is voted out on week one (that would be a bit cruel) and all the judges' scores are rolled over till next week. Well, get your glad rags on and take my hand. Let me lead you down the dancing path on a whirlwind tour of what went on. 

The show opened with an energetic number by the pro-dancers, including a flying Oti and Giovanni. Judging by the number of costume changes I'm guessing that this was a sneaky pre-record.

Tess & Claudia have really grown into their roles and are now as comforting and reassuring as an old pair of slippers. I said slippers! And so the competition began.

Serial Soap Starlet Gemma Atkinson (I mean, she's been in Hollyoaks, Emmerdale AND Casualty) got things off to a fine start with partner Aljaz. They opened with a cheeky cha cha cha to There's Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes. It was a confident showing with good hip rotation. Her legs were a bit weak and wobbly and her free arm got flappy but it was a difficult first dance - a typical Aljaz fast routine. An impressive start scored her 20 out of 40.

Comedy crooner Brian Conley came next with pro newcomer Amy. This was allegedly a tango to Temptation by Heaven 17. You know when you've been tangoed and this wasn't it. Brian has trouble taking things seriously and he was smiling and corpsing throughout his dance. Shame we weren't. He was way too loose with no V shaping or command and he walked through the steps instead of gliding. It all got quite stampy and flat-footed, the arms looked more like paso poses and he horrified Craig with his splayed banana hands. Not a good outing and he scored just 16 out of 40.

Ex X Factor Songstress Alexandra Burke and partner Gorka The Corker followed with a whimsical waltz to You (Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman) by Arethra Franklin. Alexandra's stage experience and musicality shone in this floaty, flowing dance that covered acres of floor. She had beautiful rise and fall and smooth lyrical arm movements. Craig had some niggly bits, including a tucked in neck, but it's nothing she can't work on. A decent 24 out of 40 for Alexandra.

Celebrity Chef Simon Rimmer and partner KarenNotTheOneFromGrimsby Clifton took to the floor with an alleged paso to Song 2 by Blur. Oh. My. Goodness. Simon's baptism of fire started with him stomping about like a toddler having a tantrum. Then he stood waving his arms about like he was drying his deodorant. The paso is supposed to be about power and presence. Poor Simon was about as masterful as Mr Tumble.


Simon looked all at sea as he wrong-stepped a few times and had to be dragged back into position. He looked lost in solo sections and it really seemed like he was suffering terribly with his nerves. There was lots of energy but unfortunately it was in all the wrong places.  Not entirely a Charmless Man but This Is A Low. Plenty of room for improvement and maybe ballroom will suit him better. He still scored higher than Brian, with 17 out of 40.

Newsreader (there's always one isn't there) Charlotte Hawkins and her partner Brendan Cole brought us a fiery little foxtrot to The Best Is Yet To Come by Michael Buble. Is that a promise, Charlotte? Because this was a damn fine start. HOTH and I learned the basics of foxtrot on holiday so I can declare myself an expert (much like Daddy Pig but with less chin hair). The simple but effective choreography showcased Charlotte's lovely lithe limbs. A Hollywood style routine with some fancy razzle dazzle it was a little low on the intrinsic foxtrot steps (told you I was an expert) but it was good fun. Charlotte gave a smooth and assured performance, only losing a little frame in parts. One to watch, she scored a decent 22 out of 40.

Holby star Chizzy Akudolu stepped up with partner Pasha with a cha cha cha to Boogie Fever by The Sylvers (no, me either). There's no denying Chizzy has bags of personality and this was a fun routine. She was a little flat footed and there wasn't a lot of bounce in the legs - elsewhere, yes - legs, no. Chizzy had loads of energy and coped well when she got her foot caught in her dress. There wasn't a lot of cha cha cha content and it diverted into disco at times which affected her score. Head Judge Shirley called her Lizzie by mistake adding to her woes. She scored a middle-of-the-board 21 out of 40.

Olympic champion paralympian Jonnie Peacock danced next with last year's runner-up Oti They brought us a waltz to When I Need You, billed as being by Luther Vandross. Funny, I remember Leo Sayer singing it in the seventies! Maybe he's not as cool as Luther? Anyway, Jonnie's dancing. It was a nice romantic routine but Jonnie was a bit hunched and you could see he was thinking the steps as he danced. He needed to straighten his frame and tuck his lovely bottom under a bit to get the right shape. He had good timing and attention to detail but brought Craig more horror hands. He did bring us the first twizzer of the series though, which cheered me up no end. Lots of potential and he was advised to develop a character for each dance. Something that was told to Jay McGuinness early on and look how he ended up!

I don't know. You don't see any Holby actors for ages and then two turn up at once! Joe McFadden and partner Katya rocked out a jive to Rockin' Robin by Michael Jackson. Set in a car wash you might have been forgiven for expecting a car crash. Not so. Despite being a bit flat-footed and stilted in parts Joe had some good kicks and flicks. He brought a cheeky, flirty persona to the floor and kept the energy up throughout. It was an impressive first performance and may be the shape of things to come. There was lots of very difficult content which may have bumped the score (I've seen better jives). A mighty 29 out of 40.

Comedian Susan Calman was utterly delighted to be partnered with KevinfromGrimsby in the pair-up show. So obviously they danced a Viennese Waltz to Mad About The Boy by Dinah Washington. Cheesy Clifton came to the floor a la Clark Gable with a 'tache that looked like he'd drawn it on with his mum's eyeliner. He'd devised a dervish of a dance with really fast turns and spins, even for a Viennese. Susan sparkled with her star-struck character which she played for laughs. Her posture was a bit squiffy and there were some foot issues - although Kev threw in a fab fleckerl. It wasn't pretty but it was good fun and it will be interesting to see what Kevin can bring out of Susan. 20 out of 40 scored.

Magic maiden Debbie McGee set out her stall with partner Giovanni. At least he won't get called Joe Varney this year (although his pronunciation of Debbie sounded like an elder from Yonderland - Debb-eye). The pint-sized pair brought a tremendous paso doble to Be Italian by Fergie. I never knew the ex Mrs Prince Andrew was so talented! Poor Gio must have been in pain as Debbie stood on his thigh with full stiletto heel at the start but, given the pro he is, he covered it up and carried on. Debbie's dance training showed with her great shaping, leg extensions and musicality. Debbie owned the dance that Giovanni had cleverly choreographed to show her off. She obviously brought her A game when the lights came on with a masterful display. Giovanni was gobsmacked at the end. Literally - Debbie snuck in a cheeky unchoreographed kiss right on his lips, saucy minx! A massive 30 out of 40 for Debbie's debut.

Eastenders heartthrob (so I'm told) Davood Ghadami came along with another newbie, Nadiya. They were dancing a cha cha cha to Dedication To My Ex by Little Mix. Bit of a weird choice, but there you go. Davood had good attack and character (well he is an actor). There wasn't much rotation in the hip department and he stood still a bit too much when Nadiya wiggled her nethers. He had good posture, though, and gave it plenty of welly. It's certainly a good starting point and there's lots of promise. Nadiya has a lot she can work with in the coming weeks. Davood scored a jolly good 27 out of 40.

Presenter Ruth (Mrs Eamonn Holmes) Langsford with partner Anton did a rather woeful waltz to This Was Nearly Mine by Seth McFarlane, apparently. Yes. Ted, American Dad and Family Guy Seth McFarlane. There was less swearing in the song than in our house, thankfully. Typical self-indulgent choreography from Anton. If it had been any cheesier I'd have cracked open the Branston. You'd be forgiven for thinking Ruth had a sure-fire safe start with Strictly's King of Ballroom. Alas, this was not to be. From the start she had posture problems with no neckline and hunched shoulders. Her footwork was fatally flawed and she had all the musicality of mollusk. Anton had even resorted to using pyrotechnics to detract the audience from the sight. It may have been first night nerves. Ruth may be a firecracker Latin lady, who knows. She scored a bottom-of-the-board equalling 16 out of 40 though.

Rollicking Reverend Richard Coles - who has gone from The Communards to Communion performed an.....unusual cha cha cha to There Must Be An Angel by Eurythmics. Flying in on a cloud, strumming a harp, The Rev started things how he meant to go on. This was never going to be a serious dance and, with tongue firmly in cheek, off he went. While he was certainly flamboyant he was a bit leaden and lumpy. Again the hips did lie. Quite a lot in fact. There was little rotation and not a lot of bounce. Reverend Richard had musicality though and a bit of rhythm. He certainly went for it and the next few weeks might give us some surprises. More What The Hell than Heavenly, Richard scored 17 out of 40.

Saturdays singer Mollie King and partner AJ presented us with a jive to Good Golly Miss Molly by Little Richard. Oh, how clever. She's called Mollie and so is the song. And here we go again with references to them being small. Will it be the same every week? I predict songs by Little Mix, Little Jimmy Osmond, The Small Faces, Tiny Tempah and Wee Jimmy Krankie in the coming weeks. You read it here first. So. The dance. Well, again, there was lots of standing about doing bugger all while AJ did his bit. They seemed to have slowed the tempo of the song so the dance was at the lower end of the jive spectrum. There wasn't much in the way of content or energy and it was lacking in kicks and flicks. Mollie had wild, flappy-bird arms and was flat footed. Her energy flagged at the end and she never really sold us the routine. The tabloids are hinting at a romance going on but I've seen more chemistry in a potato clock. 23 out of 40 for the pair.

Former JLS member Aston Merrygold (that HAS to be a Hobbit name) closed the show with partner Janette. Although she married Aljaz in the summer she's kept her professional surname. Which you will remember is Manrararararararaheyheyheygoodbye. Or something like that.  The pair gave us a fab foxtrot to It Had To Be You by Harry Connick Jnr well his version apparently. Wee Anton was light on his feet, assured both in and out of hold and had tons of character and attack. This slick outing was pure showmanship with a great frame and fleet footwork. His turns were tight and on point and he coped really well with some tricky choreography. Take a bow, Fantastic Mr Foxtrot! The judges were impressed, too, and Aston was awarded a table-topping 31 out of 40.

And that was that. Overall, it was a decent opening show. There's some definite contenders - and some in close contention for first to be booted off. New judge Shirley was visibly nervous, with Darcey giving her frequent reassuring knee pats. What she did do, however, was give really good constructive criticism and encouragement to all the stars which was really nice to see. It would be all too easy to pile in with jibes - I mean, that's what I do here, right? I'll be interested in seeing how she gets on.

With no elimination this week there's no 'Let us all pretend it's Sunday' rundown so I'll sign off here by saying 'ta-ra for now'. See you all next week! KEEP DANCING!!!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Hip To Be Square Meal

It's already well established that I am a grumpy old fart with all the trendiness of Queen Victoria. The only aspect of 'hip' I have is the rather wide set near my bum. I have been accidentally 'on trend' (whatever the chuff that is) twice in my life. Such was the shock I had an attack of the vapours and had to lie down. So you can guess that the latest 'hipster' trend is something I view with narrow-eyed suspicion, much like that your parents used to reserve for Top of The Pops...or computers. (The irony that I am turning into my parents is not lost).

And so, hipsterism has even crept in to the way we eat. Having lunch is no longer a way to cram in calories to get you through the afternoon. It's a 'dining experience' - theatre and Art and, well, faff. Look, I'm not adverse to theatre and art – Husband Of The House (HOTH) and I met at Am Dram (that's another story best reserved for when I've had a lot more gin). I just don't particularly want it all the time and particularly not when I'm getting to that 'hangry' (angry hungry) stage of the day when all I want is food.

Take this week. HOTH and I went out for lunch. We decided to go to the new place that had opened in town (I'm not naming names!!). As soon as we walked in we realised it was TRENDY. It was young & hip & happening. It was.......YOUNG!

First, none of the tables or chairs matched. It looked like the dining equivalent of Scrapheap Challenge meets Ikea End Of Season Sale. Not even two chairs at one table were the same. Upstairs was all bare plaster & exposed light fittings. Sort of like that stage of Grand Designs where Kevin McCloud goes round when the money's run out and then the woman miraculously gets pregnant. The walls were covered in a mish-mash of paintings and drawings of various styles and (to be honest) talent. And it was heaving.

We snagged a table and sat down, perusing the bright! and! cheerful! menu! that! used! too! many! exclamation! marks!!!! There was lots of the flowery menu language to describe the food - 'nestled in', 'drizzled with', 'in a bed of' know the thing.

Having chosen our Artisan Unicorn Hooves On A Bed of Centaur Hide Drizzled With Leprechaun Tears (just kidding - HOTH had a burger and I had a steak ciabatta with fries) we placed the order at the bar, got our drinks and sat down to wait.

And wait we did. Wait and wait and wait. To say that the service was....erm...relaxed would be like saying The Great Wall Of China is a bit long. Or that Justin Bieber is slightly annoying. Twenty long minutes ticked by. We ran out of conversation. Being married nearly eleven years this does not take long these days. We looked for one of the waiting staff to chase up the order.'s the clever bit of Trendy Place. The waiting staff are all dressed in their own clothes (as in no uniform or recognised theme, not that waiting staff should swap outfits before coming on shift. That would be weird. Wait...hang on.....I'm sensing the next trend. Remember if it happens you saw it here first). Anyway, Own Clothes Staff means you can't tell them apart from the customers! Is that tattooed & pierced girl one of the staff or trying to get served? Is the guy in the painted on jeans rolled up mid-shin, plaid shirt, brogues and too much facial hair the manager or a mangeur (that's French for eater - I looked it up)? Or just so achingly hipster he's making my palms itch? You couldn't tell. And, not being hip, we didn't want to risk being Laughed At for being Luncheon Luddites. So, we carried on waiting. Without much conversation we looked like we were on an awkward first date or something.

Thirty minutes after placing our order, the food arrived. My chips, sorry, House Fries were in a bucket. A little steel bucket. Why? What aspect of chips says 'Serve me in a cold steel bucket separate to the main part of the dish. Yeah, cold steel so I arrive at the table at something like less than room temperature'? Which, this being a trendy place, is obviously cool. At least the rest of our food was on (non-matching) plates rather than boards, slates, floor tiles or, I don't know, in a size 12 Doc Marten boot hand painted with a picture of the chef's mum.

And, do you know what? It was really nice. The food, I mean. It was lovely. Juicy steak done just right, delicious melted cheese and wholegrain mustard mayo. Side salad with a really tasty tarragon dressing. Delicious. HOTH reports that the chorizo burger was just as nice, with pesto mayo for more depth of flavour. Honestly flavourful food. We hoovered it down with 'mmmmmms' of approval and much wiping of mouths & fingers in a matter of minutes. Finally replete, we left as nonchantly as we could, nodding to staff, or customers, or maybe the postman for all we could tell. Trying to look like the kind of people who ate at that kind of place all the time - when we're not sampling micro-brewery beers no-one has ever heard of or watching Scandinavian detective shows re-dubbed into Japanese or something, that is.

The thing is, we would eat there again. We will eat there again, most likely taking Small Boy Of The House (SBOTH) who, at nearly ten, is far, far more on trend than we can ever hope to be. He'll up our cred (do you youngsters still say 'cred'?) by at least a factor of ten. It was genuinely very nice food, with a decent varied menu and it serves alcohol. But why all the fuss and faff and 'Emperor's New Food'?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not after harking back to the times where a trip to the Beefeater for prawn cocktail, leathery steak and Black Forest gateau was the height of sophistication, I just want to be able to choose my food without having to use a thesaurus. Where I know who the waiting staff are and where my food - all of it - will be served on a nice warm plate in slightly less time than it takes me to eat the damn thing. Somewhere where I might actually look like I fit in with the rest of the clientelle and not look like an extra from How We Used To Live or The Supersizers Eat.....

Right....enough ranting....I'm off to find a Wetherspoons!

Just kidding ;-)