Sunday, 20 December 2015

Finally, it has happened to we are, my little Christmas crackers. After thirteen long weeks that saw some sensational dances (and some downright dreadful ones) we have at long last arrived at the end of the line. Here we saw our final foxtrot fling, the last Latin legs and the ballroom blow-out. Saturday night was The Grand Glitterball Groove, The Sad Saturday Strictly Showdown, The Dreaded Dance Denouement.

Saturday's show actually all took place on the one night. Yes, no pretending it was Sunday. It was an evening split into two distinct halves - and each of the four remaining couples had to dance twice to decide who was going to be in the top three and in with a chance of lifting the glitterball trophy. First of all the panel picked the dance they wanted to see again - a dance they wanted to see improvement on from the first time around. A rejigged jig, if you will as they were allowed to make changes to core choreography.  The second routine would be the promised spectacular of a showdance where literally anything goes. Rules is for wimps in showdance land, my friends.

This week, the judges' scores were for 'guidance only' - everything rested on the viewer vote (I'm dreading my phone bill this month). So - what went on? Was it boogie brilliance - or murder on the dancefloor? Come with me, and we'll see.....

Jay McGuinness opened the show this time. The judges had asked him to perform his quickstep to My Generation again - the one that had seen his lowest ever score. This was a more accomplished outing, from an awesome turn sequence at the beginning that had more spins than the government, to a nippy, skippy promenade sequence that showed Jay's class. He was much more confident this time around in a dance that had a lot more speed and content. Jay remembered to bring his face to the party and he put in the heel leads and turns that had been missing the first time round. Performed with power and panache, but there were a couple of tiny wobbles and Aliona dropped a clanger that prevented perfection. Jay scored 36 out of 40 - an improvement of 11 on the first outing.

Georgia May Foote was up next. Her panel pick was the rumba from movie week. Dancing to The Writing's On The Wall, Joe Varney had made some major changes to his fundamentals (that's dance content you mucky lot) and put in a lot more traditional rumba moves to cheer up Len. Although Georgia started off rubbing herself all over like she was trying to get rid of a troublesome bogey, it was a much more settled performance. There were moments of drama and style, some passion and performance but it was a bit stiff, stilted and stop-start. Georgia's balance was off a little and she stumbled at the end, but she still scored a healthy 36 out of 40.

Kellie Bright had a corker of a night. She started off with another shot at her tango from the very first week. Boy, could you see her improvement and growth (I won't say journey, I won't say journey. Oh. Bugger, I just did). Dancing to You Really Got Me, there were absolutely no Kinks in this performance. Kellie was fizzing with confidence in a fun, cheeky take on a tango. There was clean footwork throughout, sharp staccato, rock-solid top line and great attack and attitude from start to finish. Kellie earned a 'fab-u-lous' from Craig - who also awarded KevinfromGrimsby the first ever ten from him. As did the rest of the judges. A super clean sweep of 40 out of 40 for Kellie.

Katie Derham finished the set with a rehash of her quickstep to 42nd Street. Unfortunately, hash was the operative as it all went wrong from the off with Katie messing up the opening hatography. While this time around was quicker and a little slicker, it still got away from her. Her feet were better but there was gapping, jumping and leaping and kicks lacking oomph. Katie seemed to go entirely her own way at one point and had to be rescued by Anton changing his steps to match hers. It was fast and furious, but she fluffed the finish and was so out of time she might as well have been in a DeLorean (thanks for that HOTH). Just 31 out of 40.

And so for the Showdances. These can be as spectacular as you like with any number of lifts, tricks, styles and content. Past years have seen some truly jaw-dropping performances. I even cried at Louis Smith's routine (although several large glasses of wine might have played a part in that). But this year? Well, this year all seemed a little......flat.

Jay danced to I Can't Feel My Face (surely Amanda Holden's theme tune?). Aliona had choreographed a clever little routine with snippets of all their previous numbers. You could play Spot The Dance as you watched. A little bit of rumba, a snippet of salsa, a chunk of Charleston and all. It all slotted together as easily as a Billy Bookcase and it fitted the music wonderfully. As usual, Jay and Aliona were perfectly together, spot on time and bang on the beat. But, apart from an upside down Spiderman-esque start, there wasn't a lot of wow. Technically very good, but as a showdance it was a bit tame. It lacked any real lifts and tricks to bring out the whoooo. The judges were a bit disappointed too and gave Jay 35 out of 40.

There was a bit more innovation from Georgia who was dancing to Fix You by Coldplay. The routine was a mix of free and easy Viennesey waltz with tastes of tango (the dance, not the fizzy drink). Georgia had been promising a 'dangerous surprise' in the pre-dance VT. It turns out that this was the fact she started the dance blindfolded. If that's her idea of a 'dangerous suprise' nobody better give her a Kinder egg then. She'd either explode or poop at the shock of a toy inside it. It was a nice enough dance, full of intense looks, face grabs and romance but the technique was a bit lacking. Georgia's flingy free arm raised its, her top line was all over the place and her shoulders became hunchy. The judges were more impressed than me though and gave Georgia 36 out of 40.

Kellie Bright came out kicking with a frantic Lindy Hop to Ding Dong Daddy. Well, she certainly went like the clappers. This full on dance was utter energy throughout - I was exhausted just watching her. This train based routine - including clever projection work from the crew - shunted Kelly to the top of the table, It was bang on time (which is more than can be said about the train I get) and packed full of kicks, flicks and tricks. There were jumps, spins, lifts and Charleston-esque moves in a dance that was fast, furious and frenetic but still under total control. This routine had pizzazz and all that jazz. It certainly put the show in showdance and earned Katie her second full house of the night. 40 out of 40.

The showdances concluded with Katie dancing to O, Fortuna. This tune gets a bad rep after being used to represent evil in The Omen, but it's actually a plea to The Fates to bestow good luck (see...funny and edumacational. I'm too good to you). Poor Katie needed all the luck she could muster. The dance had tangoey bits and quicksteppy bits, but it was all a bit messy and disjointed. It could have been so much more. The routine lacked any proper intent and purpose and the dramatic moves were all completely off the major beat. It was like the music totally overpowered Katie who was far too stiff and spent a lot of the routine being picked up and twizzed around. There was even a stage dive - with Anton nearly fumbling and dropping Katie on her bum. He recovered in time, but the dance didn't. The judges scored it just 31 out of 40.

The four couples had done all they could. There was an hour's break while the votes were tallied and the Beeb slipped in the festive edition of Casualty. Apparently Charlie Fairhead is still in it - and still has the same three facial expressions he's always used - sad, miffed and happy. Although they all seem to be a variation on 'constipated trout'.

After spending the equivalent of the National Debt on voting, it was time to find out who'd been axed. With the usual 'da da da' but very little fanfare we said ta ta to Katie. Not much of a shock. As Radiohead once sang.......Fake Plastic Trees. Sorry, I mean No Surprises. Once the goodbyes had been dealt with, the remaining three couples were left to do their own favourite routine from previous weeks.

Jay had decided to reprieve his Paso Doble to It's My Life.  Everyone had been expecting him to choose his sensational jive (that had earned him 39 in something like week two), but he felt there was no way he could ever do it as good again, let alone improve. It was still a damn good dance. If anything Jay piled on more power, more passion, more purpose - more performance. The whole routine was masterful, Jay had terrific strength and his connection with partner Aliona was near telepathic they were so together. The judges loved it and awarded him 39 out of 40 (boo, hiss Craig. Boo. Hiss).

Georgia dusted off her incredible Chicago Charleston. This was a simply stunning routine with every single trick and technique you could throw at it. Georgia was made for the fun, flirty, cheeky style and you could tell this was a routine she adored. She chucked her absolute all into it and, if possible, it was even better than the original. It was a dance that put a smile on your face - all Fosse, not fussy. Craig was so impressed he said he'd put Georgia into one of his shows any time. Poor lamb burst into tears and spent the rest of the marking with snot and mascara running down her face. There was no other score to give than a pitch perfect 40 out of 40.

Kellie brought the show - and the series - to the Endor the line with her Star Wars based Charleston. Was she hoping to cash in on the week's cinema release of The Force Awakens? Yoda thought so. Kevin was great, Ewok-ed his socks off to polish the performance. Kellie Leia'd it on the line with loads of content, swivel, cross and slapstick tricks. It's such a pity it suffered in comparison to Georgia's corker right before it. You've got to Han it to her, though - she really was a Force to be reckoned with and the side by side sequences were particularly pleasing. You could easily have put a Boba two on her winning. The panel weren't impressed enough to award another 40, and so Kellie got 39.

That was that. All dances done, all couples clearly cream-crackered. They looked like they were running on fumes and the promise of a large, cold beer after the show. There were some pro-dance routines, the inevitable return of the losers in the 'Class of 2015' dance and Ellie Goulding warbled her way through Love Me Like You Do while the next round of poverty inducing votes were counted. Another tense half-hour for the hopefuls and viewers alike.

A bit of the ba-bums as the finalists were forced to line up and face the glitterball trophy and then the announcement was made. The winner was.........


Jay, Jay went all the way. Hooray!

The poor lad looked utterly stunned at the news and Aliona appeared just as shocked. I honestly don't think they expected to win. Jay was so choked up he was near speechless and when he could talk he dedicated the win to Aliona, which just goes to show why he had found a place in the viewer's hearts. He's a sweet, genuine, all-round nice guy.

Approximately forty tons of glitter tape was dumped over the winning couple (I hope Strictly pay their cleaners a lot) and then that was that. The season is over for another year, apart from a Christmas Special for us all to look forward to - that was probably filmed in October with everyone forced into festivity. No wonder Daniel O'Donnell looked so confused.

This, of course, means that this is the last Strictly Round Up blog - unless I sober up enough to knock out a quick one for the Special. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Until next year......................for Gods' sake don't keep dancing - you'll ruin your poor bloody feet.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

First of all, I'm happy to report that my time-travelling, space-hopping and general running around like a blue-bottomed fly went without a hitch on Saturday.  Festive food was consumed, SBOTH kicked, punched and kiai'd his way to his next karate belt and the evening do was both a perfect surprise and a triumph. Much praise and thanks to HOTH for driving duties who was his usual unflappable self. You don't hassle the HOTH!

It was a Double Dance Semi Final night on Strictly this week. After a paltry 60 minute show last time, we were back up to an hour and three quarters as the remaining five couples fought on the floor for a place in the Grand Final (not literally, but that could be a plan to keep things fresh for 2016). The glitterball is in touching distance now - which means it's very nearly Christmas as well. I don't know what's more stressful - the dance off announcements or deciding on what present to get the family. But back to my penultimate prattlings. Which of our four frolickers (fox)trotted their way into the Final and who fell at the final hurdle? Let's have a look through the glitterball shaped window................

Katie Derham kicked off with her first routine - a clunky Charleston to Too Darn Hot. Shame the dance wasn't. This was too 'swing' for a Charleston. It lacked content, swivel, sway and style. Katie seemed to stand around waving her arms in the air like she was warding off a swarm of wasps while her bottom half did its own thing. She telegraphed all the lifts and tricks by just standing still and holding her arms up, waiting to be hoisted like a tired toddler. There was trouble with the timing - at one point Anton changed his steps to match hers just to keep things on track - and there was no energy or dynamism. A Limp Kickzit of a Charleston, I'm afraid. Katie scored a poor 25 out of 40.

Baby llama Jay McGuinness (don't believe me? Look below) came next with a lovely Viennese waltz to Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman. There were some delightful contemporary moves in the opening sequence with lots out of hold. It could have been a risky decision to perform this for tradition-stickler Len. It took a little while to get going but when it did it was a routine full of style and grace with lovely frame and posture from Jay. It had flowing, fluid footwork and a charming romantic feel. Unfortunately, Jay had reverted to 'beige face' factory setting and he didn't close his feet enough for Len but he still scored a respectable 34 out of 40.

 Jay A baby llama

Following this was Georgia May Foote and partner Joe Varney. Poor Georgia was under the weather(field) in the week and ended up with only two days' rehearsal time to put together two routines. Her first crack was a Cha Cha Cha to I Will Survive. This disco-based routine was full of attitude, energy and sass, but she lost hip rotation through the straight legs and her arms got flingy again - at one point she looked like she was bowling for the boundary - Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff would have been proud of some of those moves. Georgia was at the mercy of the lurgy and her energy dipped towards the end of the routine and she looked to be flagging a wee bit. It's a shame because with more time to practise and polish this could have been a corker of a dance. The judges were generous, awarding her 33 out of 40.

Anita Rani's first dance was a slow foxtrot to New York, New York. Starting her routine atop a piano this wasn't Anita's most grand performance. While there was some nice footwork, lovely style, grace and heel turns, there were some issues with balance, legs weren't fully extended and the armography went a little awry. Gleb had chucked in heel turns, big twizzers and a floor spin, but Len wasn't happy saying this had started a slide into an American Smooth. This should be an issue with Gleb though - and Anita shouldn't be punished for his choreography as she doesn't get a say in the steps. Still, the panel gave her 32 out of 40.

Kellie closed the first section with a rumba to Songbird. Kevin and Kellie did rumba-y type things. It was probably lovely, if you like that kind of thing. For me, it was like watching the rinse cycle on the washing machine. Round a bit, spin a bit, pause, slow swoosh. Kellie overbalanced at one point and there wasn't really any romance. It was all a bit sterile and safe. Technically very good, but a bit........bland. Like a salad when you're expecting something spicy or tap-water instead of tequila. I'm going to suggest that next year the rumbas are performed to the Benny Hill music or the Archers theme. Perhaps a bit of Slipknot. It'd certainly liven the dance up for me. Kellie scored 34 out of 40.

Round two started with Katie dancing a waltz to O Mio Bambino Caro. I usually cry when I hear this music (certain notes make me inexplicably burst into tears. All of the ones by The Spice Girls, for instance). On Saturday it wasn't the composition that made me want to weep. There was so much smoke on the dancefloor when Katie started that you could barely see her feet. The judges certainly couldn't, but we saw some definite stutters early on. You couldn't help thinking this was a deliberate move from dentally-advantaged Anton. It was technically good but there were problems with her balance, frame and the arch of her back. Everything was a bit placed - dancing by numbers, if you will - and Katie didn't 'perform' the dance. This routine really split the judges between style and content and she was awarded 31 out of 40.

Up next was a sensational Jay dancing an absolute cracker of a Charleston to Dr Jazz. Did you spot that I'd lent him my Tardis? This mocktor Doctor Who routine had everything you could want from a Charleston including a cheeky regeneration / costume change opening that set the scene. This dance was a sonic success full of style, swivel, swing and sway. It was full on from start to finish with loads of energy - once again Jay and Aliona were spot on together, bang on the beat with fab footwork and on point moves. This was frenzied and frenetic, but in a good way. Only one messy lift that went a bit wrong stopped this from being a perfect performance (even though they tried to style it out by saying the drop was deliberate). Jay scored 37 out of 40.

Georgia's second dance was a Viennese Waltz to Run Away by The Corrs. This was quite a fast number for a Viennese, but was a lovely routine to watch. Giovanni had filled the dance with Len-pleasing traditional content, plenty of spins and turns gave it grace and it was obvious that this was the dance they'd spent most of their limited time on. Georgia had beautiful frame and arch and the footwork was fabulous. Twirly, whirly, girly - whimsical and gently romantic. Georgia's fella was up on his feet clapping like a clockwork monkey at the end. The judges loved it and gave Georgia 38 out of 40.

 Georgia's boyfriend approves of the Viennese Waltz

Anita finished her night with a salsa to Feel This Moment by someone called Pit Bull. Somehow I don't think that's what his mum shouts when she calls him in for his dinner. Unless he's got a litter of dog-themed siblings - if he has I feel sorry for their Cockerpoo...Anyway, a glistening Gleb led Anita through a funky hip hop salsa style dance. But it was salsa style - not salsa proper. On the plus side there was loads of attitude, attack and fire with plenty of armography, flips and tricks and really difficult lifts that nearly saw Darcey drop the F-bomb. On the downside? It was a bit too contemporary and was so fast & furious it flummoxed the footwork. There was little hip rotation and it lost some rhythm and fluidity towards the end. A crowd-pleaser, but not really a panel-pleaser. Anita ended up with 32 out of 40.

And so it was Kellie who closed the show and sealed the semi final with an amazing American Smooth to There May Be Trouble Ahead. This sublime routine was pure Hollywood glitz and glamour all the way through. There was fleet footwork, fabulous framing and sensational side-by-side steps. Kellie went smoothly in and out of hold and safely through the lifts. Kevin had played a blinder with the choreography - right from the opening 'little girl lost' opener to the fantastic flair-filled finish. This was a nod to Fred and Ginger that was all homage, no fromage. The judges agreed and scored Kellie a near-perfect 39 out of 40.

Sunday arrived quicker than my brother-in-law at the bar when it's our round. Honestly, he's like Usain Bolt when it comes to buffets and beer. Pipistrelle sized popster Kylie sang her new single Bingley Bingle Chrimble, or something like that. What? Oh, apparently it's called I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter.  Not in those hot pants you're not, chicken. Anyway, she was miming, sorry lip-synching. We only got one song as well, this week. Clearly Kylie blew the budget. Len got his lens out one more time (rejected ideas for this slot may or may not have included Goodman's Gawp, Have At Yer Aperture, Ogle Me Opening and Craig's Shutter The F**k Up). Then it was time to make the announcements we've all been waiting for.

The tension was even higher than usual as there was so much at stake. This is the dance off EVERYONE wants to avoid. Unfortunately, rules are rules. Two couples must dance again and only one can remain. This week's unfortunates were.......Katie and Anita.

You may be forgiven for thinking this was a foregone conclusion, given Anita's stellar raise from dance dunce to ballroom belle and Katie's rise / fall / plateau / fall performances. You may be forgiven, but you would be mistaken. In a cruel twist of fate, Anita's wee errors and non-traditional content weren't overlooked this time - and despite an utter mauling from the judges in the 'Saturday' show it was felt that Katie had improved her performance and done enough to deserve a place in the final with the sure-thang trio of Jay, Georgia and Kellie - even though it was split decision and the casting vote went to Len - who had already made his views perfectly clear about Gleb's choreography. In a gobsmacking turn of events it was adieu to Anita, goodbye to Gleb (sob).

If you ask me, that's an utter outrage. Never mind 'Aw, Anton's never been in the final since the very first series'. Anita was the better dancer. She always HAS been the better dancer. Any beef about 'traditional content' should be with Gleb, not with Anita who, as someone with NO dance training whatsoever coped with routines that would have had half the pros crying. Anton must have some juicy goss about someone he's threatening to spill unless he got a final spot. Surely common sense will prevail in the first half of next week's show and Katie will bow out gracefully before the show-dance showcases? One can only hope.

So the Final Four have been decided, however much some have been derided. Georgia, Katie, Kellie and Jay - which of these will have their day? Next week will see the triumph and fall - who will lift the glitterball? No sneak peeks or at spoiler threads glancing - until next week's final show............KEEP DANCING!!!

 Oh so near and yet so far, there's no glitterball trophy for Anitaaaaaaaaaa (sorry for all the rhymes. I automatically default to panto mode at this time of year. A big Bah Humbug to Len, Darcey & Bruno)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

It's Quarter Finals Week! Not long to go now before we know who'll be lifting the glitterball and our celebrities hang up their dancing shoes - unless they're going on the lucrative Strictly Come Dancing Tour. Have you seen the price of the tickets? For that kind of money I'd want a glitterball of my own AND a feel of Gleb's fleckerls!

This week was Musicals week which served up a very mixed bag of styles, dances and routines. It was also the shortest show of the season so far, running at just an hour. Which is just as well 'cos I watched it after coming in from the rugby club Christmas party. The things I do for you! Luckily I can mostly read my handwriting, so here we go.

Georgia May Foote kicked off the show with a slow foxtrot to Beauty and the Beast. That's a bit mean, really - I think she's very pretty. Oh, wait. Joe Varney was supposed to be the Beast! Gotcha. Georgia was the Belle of the ballroom last night with this beautiful, sweeping, graceful dance. Always safe with Giovanni's choreography, this was a monster, magical routine full of flair, fabulous footwork and lyrical lines. It may have lacked a little dynamic for some of the judges and she's still lifting her shoulder but overall this whimsical number was a crowd-pleaser. She Disney disappoint and scored a far from Grimm 36 our of 40.

Up next was Anita Rani dancing an Argentine Tango to Cell Block Tango from Chicago. Gleb put the Sarge in Argentine, dressed in a sleeveless mesh shirt as a prison guard. I could hardly take my eyes off his truncheon. If that's how the prison officers look in Strictly land lock me up now! I have an awful lot I can confess, your honour. Anyway, this dance had plenty of attack and intent, it was lovely to look at with some tricky footwork, bags of ganchos and good, strong characterisation. There was heat and passion between the pair and lots of drama, but occasionally Anita lost her footing and her toes needed to be more pointed for effect. There was some gapping too, which spoiled some of the lines. It was a decent enough attempt and she scored 31 out of 40.

Kellie Bright followed with a mockerney, cockerney knees up of a Viennese Waltz to Oom Pa Pa from Oliver! (That's their exclamation mark by the way - it's not that exciting a film - although Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes always made me a bit hot under the crinoline.) In a Twist Stevie Wonder could have seen coming, Kellie was portraying tart with a heart Nancy with KevinfromGrimsby got up as The Artful Dodger. It was a bit of an odd routine - the music a bit cheery for a Viennese waltz and there was far to much dancing on the table top. Give her her dues, though, Kellie portrayed a good character (even if it wasn't much of a stretch from her day job) and the routine had lots of sway, swagger and style. It all ended up actually working quite well and Kev's clever choreography made it an overall entertaining routine. The judges scored Kellie 36 out of 40.

Jay McGuinness was next to the floor with a rumba to Falling Slowly from Once. No, I've never heard of it either. Apparently it's based on that film about the busker and the girl who meet through a love of music? No, I've never heard of it either. Sooooo.....Jay's rumba was, well a rumba. Walk, wave, wiggle, pout, grasp partner's face, look yearning and wistful and romantic. The thing is, Jay did it very well. His rumba covered the floor like a roomba, full of the classic content that Len loves. There was lovely story-telling and romance, Jay played plenty of attention to partner Aliona and they were together throughout, moving as one. This was quite a moving, passionate number and Jay put in a lot of effort and hip action in a dance that's notoriously difficult for the male dancers. The judges commented on Jay's costume of jeans and check shirt (worn by the character in the film / musical) but that's not his choice! Everything else was enough to wow - and only Craig failed to whip out his 10. A whopping 39 out of 40.

Katie Derham was the penultimate dancer, providing us with a fab little foxtrot to Maybe This Time from Cabaret. When Katie dances well she Bowles us all over, and Saturday night was a good stab. Partner Anton might be cheesier than a bag of Wotsits in a Dairylea sponsored-fondue, but he's also known as the King of Foxtrot. His experience showed in a dance choreographed to show off Katie's finer points and mask the areas where she struggles. It took a little while to actually get going, but when it did it had some great lines and technical trickery. While it was full of class, Katie needed some sass and it was a tad safe. There were some problems with the footwork in places and it needed a little more heel and toe action, but she still scored a cracking 35 out of 40.

Glamorous Helen George closed the show with a Paso Doble to At The End Of The Day from Les Miserables. I'm sorry, but I was Miserable after this dance. For me it really didn't work. The music seemed to clash with the routine and moves and wasn't really dramatic enough. It had some zing and zip, but the Paso is about passion, heat, a bullfight - not a whinge about being broke and having nowt. And is it really wise to dance to a song that ends with the singers urging us to chuck the woman out? Helen tried really hard, pouring on the attack with some strong lines. She was fierce and feisty, but she started to lose lines, her timing was off and her balance went on more than one occasion. It was sharp and had staccato, but At The End Of The Day it wasn't her best. She scored 34 out of 40 from Len & Co.

Sunday popped up quicker than it usually does, as everyone played Let's Pretend
It's Tomorrow. Mind you, it often feels like the weekend's gone that quickly for me, too. There was an opening performance from the cast of The Lion King. (Now those are pricey tickets. Like, second mortgage pricey. It's not as if Elton John needs any more money, surely?) Californian choon crooner and professional nice guy Josh Groban sang  Somewhere Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz - jolly nice it was too - and we had the usual pro dancing to stretch things out again. We had another peek through Len's Lens. I'm pretty sure that's where John Lewis have got their 'Man on the Moon' Christmas advert idea from - an old bloke with a telescope looking at the glitz and glamour here in the real world. See, direct lift. Tess Daly eked out the tension with her bum-bums (I mean the sound effects!) and the bottom two were revealed.

Astonishingly, indeed ludicrously, Georgia and Helen were in the dance off! This really was a shocker as two of the strongest ladies in the competition were forced to dance again. I mean, I know people were feeling sorry for Anton after years of weird Widdecombs and measly Murrays, but come on! Katie's a lovely lady and all - she's just not as good as Georgia or Helen. Or anyone else, to be honest. I'm not at all sure the public got it right this weekend.

The judges were in an awful position and faced with a very difficult dilemma. Both contestants had polished their performances and rectified the errors, but were clearly quite shaken by the situation. After a tough dance off, the judges reluctantly let Helen go, pointing out that neither couple deserved to be there. It's a terrible shame and hopefully the right people will be going home next week.

Next week is Semi-Finals week. It's also the week when I am so horrendously busy I will need to borrow Hermione's Time-Turner as well as the Tardis - and maybe H G Wells' time machine for good measure. I think there's one point on the Saturday where we have to be in two places almost simultaneously, forty miles apart. Wish me luck. The review may be a little later is appearing but come Hell, high water or a breakdown, it WILL be there.

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

 She's been to Helen back - but it's been no Midwife crisis for Trixie

Sunday, 29 November 2015

It's been a funny old week in Strictly land. Rumours have been abounding in the press that the show is a 'fix' - particularly after last week's dance off where a patently poor Peter was saved from the chop by the judges - despite Jamelia being miles better on the night when it's supposed to count for everything. Beeb bosses have been falling over themselves to set the record straight and smooth ruffled feathers, not least because some newspapers have been making it all up as they go along misquoting stars and situations. I'm sure it'll all come out in the wash. It's certainly not done the ratings any harm.

Anyway, on to this week's batch of ballroom and load of Latin. Not to mention the excitement of the quickstep-athon. Who did what with whom? And was it any good? Who is gong to make it through to next week's Quarter Finals - Musicals Week? Read on, my pretties. 'Tis all laid here before you.

Kellie Bright opened the show this week with a smashing salsa to I Want You Back by The Jacksons. Kellie certainly put the End in EastEnders with some serious hip shakes and rotation. This routine - Kevin said it was the hardest he has ever choreographed - had plenty of shimmy and shake, bounce and flounce and lots of peppy energy. As usual, Kellie and Kevin were totally together in the side by sequences and it was a nice, flirty number. There were one or two wobbles in the lifts and, at one point, Kev appeared to shove Kellie across the floor like a demented Dyson, but overall it was an accomplished number. The judges gave 34 out of 40.

Up next was Katie Derham and partner Anton 'Wallace-off-of-out-of-The-Wrong-Trousers stunt double' du Beke. No, really, it's not just me that sees it. Have a look yourself if you don't believe me! They were dancing an Argentine Tango to some traditional music (I don't know what it was called. Something twangy and Spanishy anyway). There were some lovely lines and clever choreography involved in the routine, not to mention lots of traditional ganchos. But the dance seemed to lack some of the drama and passion we've seen in earlier versions and Katie's kicks lacked the necessary 'oomph' to provide polish. There were a couple of trips and a bit of pulling into position as well which caught the eye. Credit to her, though, you can tell she's put in a lot of hard work and it's starting to pay off. But is it a case of 'too little, too late'? The judges were happy enough, scoring Katie 32 out of 40.

Cracking tango, Katie!!

Blonde bombshell Helen George was next on the dancefloor with a wonderful Viennese Waltz to At Last, by Etta James. This was a gorgeous, romantic routine packed full of content. Aljaz isn't daft - he knows Len is a sucker for tradition and this dance had it in spades - fleckerls, pivots, spins, heel turns, the lot. There was beautiful storytelling in the choreography. Helen covered the floor magnificently and her frame, footwork and flair were near faultless. It was quite a clippy Viennese, not skimping on the steps and playing to Helen's strengths in grace, glide and elegance. The panel absolutely adored it - and Helen scored a near-perfect 39 out of 40.

Dark horse of dance Jay McGuinness followed with a terrific little tango to When Doves Cry by Prince. This dance definitely put the cat among the pigeons, alright. Jay kept a proper 'tango face' (no, I don't mean he was orange like Claudia, just that he was looking mean and moody) throughout the dance and played an actual character all the way through. This was an awesome routine, stuffed full of passion, drama and drive. There was an air of sexual tension between the pair and Jay showed his natural musicality, perfectly in time and on beat, moving together with Aliona from start to finish. He had a fabulous frame, faultless footwork and tight turns. There were sharp staccato steps and perfect position and poise. It was a hot, steamy dance that left Darcey speechless. Misery guts Len harped on about missed heel leads, but he was just being picky. Jay scored an impressive 38 out of 40.

Apricot artiste Peter Andre and partner Janette Manrarararararaheyheyheygoodbye hit the floor with a foxtrot based American Smooth to The Sweetest Feeling. The routine was set in a bakery and was so saccharine that the first two rows of the audience probably developed diabetes by the end. Clearly shaken after Blackpool, Peter tried to rise to the occasion, but he couldn't seem to get back on a roll. The nerves must have bread as Peter stomped and clomped through the dance again, with bent knees and flabby frame. For some reason he kept arching his back and looking skywards and when he wasn't doing that he was gurning into camera instead of focusing on his partner. Peter's frame was as hunchy as his face was scrunchy and the whole thing was more crunchy than smooth. It totally lacked any swing, sway or glide. The whole thing was a bit too careful, even though he fluffed a fairly simple lift. His comment afterwards that he felt 'fantabulamundo' took the cake (he deserves to go for that alone, in my opinion. I nearly chucked my cream horn at the screen). The judges were left feeling flatter than a stale pikelet, scoring him just 31 out of 40.

Countryfile cutie Anita Rani was lumbered with a rumba this week to Read All About It (which explains the bizarre giant Kindle prop, anyway). This was the dance that split the judges. Gleb had choreographed a lovely contemporary routine with lots of romance. There were some nice fluid moves as Anita showed her sexy side and poor Gleb nearly knackered his clackers with a box split attempt. There were some technical issues - Anita's legs could have been straighter and she needed to push through with her feet a bit more (the judges said they needed to see more balls on the floor, but I'm not sure if they were talking to Anita or Gleb). Let's remember, though, Anita has no dance background at all unlike some of her remaining co-stars. She has come such a long way since Week One and is shaping up to be a great performer. Len was livid about the lack of traditional rumba content and an illegal lift (I reckon someone had eaten the last Werthers, putting him in a mardy mood). I don't think it's fair that the judges penalise the celebrities for the pros' choreography - they have no say in the matter. Len's lack of lenience meant Anita scored the same as Peter, even though she was much better. Just 31 out of 40.

Georgia May Foote closed the show with partner Joe Varney, dancing a paso doble to The Final Countdown by Europe. In the VT, Georgia said that she and 'Joe' were like brother and sister. Which brother & sister? Cersei and Jaime Lannister? Have you seen those two? The petite pair gave it all they had - and there's no denying Giovani knows how to showcase Georgia, letting her start the routine with a solo spot. There was plenty of passion and drama in the dance, Georgia was fiery and fierce but she lost her frame too often, hunching her shoulders and detracting from the arm movements. It all got a bit frenetic, Georgia was too stiff at times and there was too much skirt swishing than is good for anyone - could it have been a cover for a forgotten step or two till Joe stepped in? The judges weren't as impressed this week, awarding 33 out of 40.

And so to the quickstep-athon. All seven couples on the floor at once in the dodgems of dance-offs. This could have had  massive impact on the scores as they were awarded on a sliding scale - one point for the worst, two for the next worst and so on up to seven points available to the winners. There were a few rules - all couples had to dance anti-clockwise, they had to stay in hold, no lifts allowed. Footwork, frame, flair and floor-cover will all taken into account. Pushing, shoving, bumping and barging were a no-no (boooooo). After a frenzied, confusing (to us mere mortals) ninety seconds the judges deliberated their decision. Some things were easy to spot - Peter was simply awful - barely covering any ground, hardly able to dance around the other couples, little content and sometimes just plain standing still. Jay drew the eye with spectacular spot turns, Georgia had grace. But, after a lot of faff during which the judges had to be reminded they were live....the results were as follows:

7th -  Peter
6th - Kellie
5th - Jay
4th - Anita
3rd - Katie
2nd - Georgia
1st - Helen

Weirdly, this had very little affect on the leaderboard - certainly not in terms of the top and bottom two pairs. Not so much of a shake up, then. More filler than killer. It all ended up with everything feeling a little flat - an anti-climax to the night.

And so to Pseudo Sunday. Frock change, audience shuffle, pro-dance - the usual. A Len's lens recap and explanation of why the marking went went like it did. It's almost as arbitrary as QI if you ask me. Adam Lambert (I'll be honest, I had to google him. I'm STILL no clearer) sang Another Lonely Night. He had a remarkably shiny suit on. He looked a bit like a wet otter with shoes on, to be honest. Anyway, after the obligatory 'in no particular order' announcements the lucky few were through and the dance off duos were announced. The pair in the bottom two, the ones unloved by the audience were.......Peter and Kellie!

Again, a bit of a surprise with Kellie. There are definitely less able dancers left in the competition (cough, Katie, cough). There may just be something about her - either her character in EastEnders or the public have never forgiven her for The Upper Hand and a stint on T-Bag & T-Shirt with good ol' Grotbags.

Kid Kellie spoons on the cute

Once they could shut Peter up with his schlocky sincerity and 'aw shucks l'il ol' me' schtick and we had a turn from highbrow opera boy band Il Divo (this does NOT translate to The Divvies, I'm reliably informed) they got down to the business in hand - or feet, as it were. After a repeat of the routines it was clear that one dancer had gone as far as they could, that they'd reached the pinnacle of their paso, the apex of their Argentine Tango, the acme of their American Smooth....well, you get the picture. Audience and judges alike had had their fill of..............

Mango musician Peter Andre. Clearly the viewers didn't love him as much as he loves his kids - and there's probably a backlash from last week when he was obviously the worst dancer on the night. Either way, the rumours of a fix have been firmly dealt with. While Peter started off well enough, he just didn't seem to improve. He'd reached a plateau. He was a duck-faced plateau-puss. The closest Peter is going to get to a glitterball is if someone buys him a sequinned thong in the Secret Santa. It's just as well - I was running out of synonyms for orange and things to do with Janette's surname!

Now that the amber Aussie has been booted off the show there's only one male celebrity left in the form of Jay McGuinness. How much longer will he last? Will it be an all female final? Log on to the blog next week for another rundown. I watch the show so you don't have to, folks.

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

Perky popster Peter's performances packed in by public

Sunday, 22 November 2015

It's Strictly Come Dancing Blackpool Week!!! You all know what that means. Yes, that's right. Terrible, awful Blackpool based puns. Plus a few others thrown in for good measure. Well, if you don't know me by now..........

Dancers at Blackpool have so much floor to cover, in such a big space, that everything has to be bigger, bolder, better. They get backing dancers and props galore to add to the spectacle. Even Craig arrived on a giant, sparking, sputtering Stratocaster, twanging his G-String (the one on the guitar, filthy!).

So, this week the show started with eight. Come on Strictly fans - why wait? The time has come to get down to it. Who was great and who was..........not.

Jay McGuinness opened the show with a stunning, sensational salsa to Cuba. He was certainly Havana good time strutting his stuff. He had definitely taken on board the judges' comments about engaging his face more and he positively Illuminated the place with his smile and personality. There was loads of high octane energy, plenty of hip rotation and sexy shimmy and shake. At times it was difficult to tell him apart from the pro dancers behind. There were a series of magnificent, dangerous lifts and spins that took Aliona's breath away. With lots of complex content and armography this was a near-perfect performance. The judge's scored the dance a cracking 36 out of 40.

Jamelia was up next with a trickier than it looked quickstep to I'm A Believer. There was no Monkee-ing around in this doll themed routine. There were a couple of missed steps, but that could be forgiven in such a content-filled routine. There were times when it looked like she was being dragged around a bit, and while her feet seemed solid, Jamelia's top line and frame wavered during the dance and, yet again, there was gapping. If she can get her top and bottom halves to work together there might be a dancer in there. Still, it was an improvement on previous weeks and certainly her best ballroom performance to date. She scored a Towering 31 out of 40.

Up next was Anita Rani performing a Paso Doble to traditional music. I'm afraid I lost the power of rational thought, speech and movement as Gleb appeared stripped to the waist in tight, laced-up matador trousers, but once the music got going and Anita covered him up a bit I managed to pull myself together enough to watch the dance. The Paso is one of my favourite dances when it's done well. And boy, did Anita deliver. This was The Big One. It had everything a Paso needs - drama, passion, heat, strength and drive. I'm giving you no bull here. There was great character and theatre, stunning form and lines and amazing arms. With this routine Anita is certain to be Carmen back next. Y Viva Anita! A great score of 37 out of 40.

Katie Derham appeared to have found her feet with a solid American Smooth to Ain't That A Kick In The Head. You can sea this is Anton's forte - basic ballroom in The Ballroom. A classic routine with touches of Hollywood glitz and glamour, playing to Katie's strengths. There was some style and grace with fairly difficult footwork. This may have led to the couple of stumbles that marred the routine and there was a mix up with direction and the backing dancers, but overall this was a really nice dance. It certainly Rocked the judges who awarded the pair 35 out of 40 - Anton's highest ever score. Things are looking beachy for Katie.

Clementine crooner Peter Andre and partner Janette ManraraBananarama followed with a joyless jive to River Deep, Mountain High. This dance was a mountain too high for Peter to climb this week. It just wasn't his dance. From the beginning Peter was off and behind the beat, flat footed, wooden, lumpy and leaden. There was barely any jive content (Jay's is still the best by a long, long way), no kicks and flicks that are characteristic of the jive - and those that were in there had flappy feet instead of pointed toes. Peter was weirdly leaning back all the way through and once again resorted to his pop moves and looking for a camera to gurn into. It was weird to watch - like he was doing Riverdance on a trampoline while trying to kick his shoes off. He lacked any technique and really looked like he wasn't enjoying himself at all. Usually prancing like a pony in any case, this time he was dancing like a seaside donkey. The judges weren't that thrilled either and Peter ended up well behind his Piers with 29 out of 40. The ONLY dancer of the night to score less than 30. Maybe someone's had a word with the judges about overmarking him?

Georgia May Foote was next with a Viennese Waltz based American Smooth (a Viennese Smooth?) to I Have Nothing. Who said 'between the ears?' Hmm? Get to the back, you naughty creature. Tut. There's always one. Anyway, this was a lovely, lyrical flowing dance and Georgia performed it beautifully. The well choreographed routine covered the floor nicely and there was bags of style, grace and sweep. There was a teeny mistake in one of the lifts caused by a wardrobe malfunction (the ever-present heel in the hem) but she covered and, what's more, recovered well.  All-in-all an accomplished, charming dance that conveyed plenty of romance. The judges' scores put her out in Front with 38 out of 40.

From Georgia to George. Helen George stepped out with a cheeky little Charleston to Anything Goes. Aljaz is no (sugar) dummy had choreographed a Broadway style routine, with tap sequences and stair dancing, but there was still plenty of proper Charleston steps to please. Helen gave it her all with loads of swivel, cross and scissor moves, birdy steps and marching arms (sadly no monkey knees. I love a bit of monkey knee, I do). It started off with bags of energy, but the difficult routine had Helen flagging towards the end - I wonder if she does all her own smoking stunts on Call The Midwife (her character Trixie spends most of the show with a fag and a Cinzano in hand)? There was an error in timing that Aljaz put down to 'the stairs moving' and Helen looked a little in pain as she limped off afterwards. Still, it was a polished enough performance, earning her 34 out of 40.

Kellie Bright closed the show with an office based quickstep to 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton. This was a fun dance with lots of clip and zip, but thankfully no trip, as Kellie whizzed around the dancefloor like a Catherine wheel. She showed the others who's boss as the routine had loads of difficult content, lots of bounce and zing. This dance was flash, fast and fab. Kellie was clean and sharp with great footwork and she was together on point with Kevin all the way through. One or two little niggles about top line and placing, but this dance can be filed alongside Kellie's best. She's definitely not had her (fish and) chips yet and should be Tram-pling over the competition for a few weeks to come. The judges scored her 37 out of 40.

And then, as if by magic, Sunday appeared. The production crew probably had less to do shuffling the audience round as you couldn't see those in the cheap seats anyway and everyone else was set well back. Quick frock change, top up Bruno's tan and here we were again at the dance off announcements. Nasalstacia, sorry Anastacia, provided one half of the turns singing 'I'm Outta Love'. Take That, apparently reinventing themselves as a Bette Lynch tribute act, sang their godsawful new song Hey Boy (sorry, lads, it's not one of your best) - you've got to get your money's worth after all. I'm surprised they don't have bingo and Open The Box as well. Of course there was the usual bit of a squint through Len's Lens - and the bottom two were announced.

To no-one's surprise at all Jamelia was there again. What did I say last week? She's been there so often it should be renamed 'Jamelia Junction'. She probably brought her own butties and cocoa to have while she was waiting for the inevitable. The viewers just haven't warmed to her at all and it's been a rare week when she's not had to dance again. This time, though, she was joined by satsuma songster Peter Andre. Not really that much of a surprise given his routine earlier.

Jamelia actually upped her game and tried harder - I couldn't really see much of an improvement in Peter's performance. The judge's though, in their infinite wisdom, chose to save Peter and send Jamelia packing. It was a bit unfair, as they're supposed to make their decision based on the showing on the night and NOT the previous performances or possible potential, but maybe they figured Jamelia was getting such an audience mauling they'd better put her out of her misery sooner rather than later. Len certainly wasn't happy with the decision - if it had been a split vote it'd have been a completely different outcome.

So, we're down to the Magnificent seven - who will dance on to glitterball heaven? Will frozen food flogger Peter survive another week? Tune in next week to find out. Until then you wee sherbet lemons you................KEEP DANCING!!

Jamelia - been around the bottom more times than a......I'll let you make your own jokes on this one!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

It's the week before Blackpool - the show everyone wants to get to. Well, apart from the final obviously. Nine couples hit the dancefloor on Saturday night, but only eight will be boarding the bus north. Pity the illuminations will have finished. Still, they can always read my blog experience if they want to know what they missed (so can you if you haven't already, you lucky things). And so to Strictly week nine.........

Anita Rani opened the show with a quirky little quickstep to Don't Get Me Wrong by The Pretenders. I don't have to pretend to like Anita - and not just because she's partnered by the Gorgeous Gleb who looks like he was used by Michelangelo as the template for the statue of David, but rejected in the end for being too damn handsome. (Damsome? Or is that a type of jam?) Erm...oh, yes, dancing. The routine was full of pace - fast and clean with exceptional timing and togetherness. There was a little stumble near the end where Anita went a little wrong-footed but there were enough kicks and tricks through the promenades to please. The judges scored it a decent 32 out of 40, but what does the poor girl have to do to score higher?

Genial Jay McGuinness followed with a flowing foxtrot to Lay Me Down by Sam Smith. This could have been a SPECTRE-actular dance (see what I did there? Proper up to date with culture, I am. Really home with the downies) but unfortunately there were clashes. It all started off so well with clean, crisp lines, fleet footwork and really good frame with no gapping, but then Jay tripped over Aliona's feet and didn't quite recover the momentum. He still needs some kind of acting lessons to engage his face. He's dancing with one of the most beautiful women in Strictly but there was no emotion or flicker of romance north of Jay's neck through the routine and he will need some character to progress. The panel enjoyed it warts and all and gave Jay 30 out of 40.

Jamelia came next with a sticky salsa to A Little Respect by Erasure. A bit of an odd song choice for a samba, maybe there's a hidden message in the title for the viewers? It was slow for a samba and a bit clunky. The timing was off somehow and the technique was, well, flabby. Jamelia was stompy in parts with flingy arms, the knees weren't bent enough to give the requisite double bounce and there was too much grinding than is good for someone my age to watch. Jamelia's efforts split the judges, but she still only scored 26 out of 40.

Midwife miss Helen George took to the floor with a tidy tango to Hold Back The River. There was no holding back in this routine. The dancefloor was flooded with fine technique, fast footwork and stunning staccato. There was plenty of drama and passion in the routine and bags of character (perhaps she can give Jay a few pointers), but Helen needed to bend her knees a bit more and she lost some frame in the turns which detracted from an otherwise fine showing. The overall performance was very good though and the judges awarded her a high-scoring 34 out of 40.

Katie Derham appeared to be back on form with a romantic rumba to Impossible. A comeback certainly wasn't impossible for Katie - we've seen she has the talent, it's been Anton's choreography that's been lacking. This, however, was a decent enough dance...well, for a rumba. It wasn't as engaging as Helen's version last week and Katie's dress was exceptionally split (deliberately, I mean) right up the front. At one point I swear I saw her treble clef! But I digress with the dress. There was plenty of traditional rumba content in the routine to please the judges and some storytelling, even a smattering of romance, which can't be easy when you're dancing with perma-grinned JFM (Just For Men) enthusiast Anton. The judges loved it and Katie - and probably Anton - got their best score to date with a whopping 31 out of 40.

Dance-off survivor Kellie Bright came next with a strange samba to Boom! Shake the Room by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (or Will Smith as he's been known for the last...oooh, twenty years or so). It was another odd song choice and didn't really suit the samba. OK, so the samba is  a party dance, but this was like Kellie had turned up to the wrong party. Her hips were too hip-hop and the shimmies too street but there was plenty of attitude and energy. Kellie and KevinfromGrimsby were together throughout and the footwork was fairly fluid. It wasn't traditional enough for stickler Len and this was another routine that divided the dance score deciders, but they scored her a cracking 33 out of 40.

Tangerine tunester Peter Andre was the penultimate dancer, giving us an alleged Viennese waltz to You're My World by Cilla Black with partner Janette Manraratararabumdiyay. Odd one this. There wasn't a lorra, lorra actual Viennese content to this dance which seemed to be lacking in whirls and spins. Maybe turning the other way round was too difficult for the orange Ozzie (things spin differently in the Southern Hemisphere). Peter was Doing It For His Kids. If you weren't already aware (and if you weren't already aware where the heck have you been - Narnia??) Pete loves his kids. He mentions this about 20 times per interview. Like actually being slightly more than fond of your own offspring is a) unusual and b) something you should get a medal for - although with some of the little dears I've seen this is probably something the government should consider. Anyway, poppet preferring Pete was alright, but the dance was nothing spectacular. Low on content and too much out of hold, Peter stomped & clomped through the routine with smoke hiding his feet for much of the dance. Surprise, surprise - the judges loved it, with Darcy hysterically (and not the funny kind) over marking him yet again. Why does he get away with so much stuff like non-traditional content and dodgy framing when better dancers are marked down for it? Is he bribing the judges with frozen food? First dibs on his prawn ring or a pick at his party platter, perhaps? Despite not actually being that good or enjoyable to watch he was given 34 out of 40. And if his dance was as good as Helen's I'll eat my own cheesy nibbles!

Georgia May Foote was up next with an absolute corker of a Charleston to show tunes from Chicago. The girl certainly put the 'go' in Chicago. And the 'chic' as well, come to think of it. Which just leaves us with a spare 'a'. You can do with that what you will. Well, it's nearly Christmas, treat yourself. This was a spectacular routine, chock full of difficult content and really risky lifts and tricks. Georgia clearly loved the dance, piling on the charm and character right to the end. There was everything a Charleston aficionado could want - cross, swivel, scissors, flappy birds and monkey steps, head wobbles and cheeky winks all served with a wraparound smile. The judges were exceptionally impressed - although there was a moment where Georgia took a while to work things out when Craig spelled out L.U.V (his feelings on the dance). Georgia scored a sensational 39 out of 40 - and there's still weeks to go yet.

Poor Jeremy Vine had to follow - and close the show - with a quickstep to Going Underground by The Jam. Maybe Jeremy should have stayed underground and caught the tube home. He may have to Beat Surrender after this routine. This sticky routine was stiff and stilted and Jeremy was oddly hunched throughout. He started to look like a puppet with its strings cut about halfway through the dance and the traditional quickstep promenades ended up like looking like he was rushing to the loo. My friend remarked that he looked like a startled meerkat. It's as simples as that. The routine was strewn with errors and he seemed to lack the stamina to get to the end. If That's Entertainment I'll stick to daytime TV! Poor Jeremy failed to impress and scored a dismal 21 out of 40 - way, way down the leaderboard.

Sham Sunday rolled around, as it always does. A quick pro-dance while Darcy dons a different dress, Craig covers up the cracks, Len lounges and Bruno powders his nose. They probably shuffle the audience around as well so the same people aren't in shot. I wonder how many takes they have to do when people forget to say 'last night' to keep up the pretence? I'm still at a loss why they still do it - EVERYONE knows it's all done in one night.

Years And Years sang King at the opening of the show in a change to the usual format. Well, it must have been past their bedtime, bless 'em. I swear I've got underwear older than that lot. In a delightful double bill, Killers front man Brandon Flowers also appeared singing his new tune Still Want You. Brandon has a new look which makes him look weirdly like Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3. There was, of course, Len's Lens to stretch things out between the 'ba-bum' bits - they've got to make the show last forty minutes after all - and we were down to the dance-off again.

Jamelia was there again - honestly, she should just save the tension and go and stand in the dance off spot at the beginning of the show. The woman has been in the bottom two practically every week. Has she said something stupid on Loose Women again? Thankfully she was in the dunce, sorry dance-off with Jeremy and it was pretty much a sure thing who would be going. While neither celebrity set the floor alight the second time around, it was clear that Jezza had come to the end of the line. The judges made their decision and Jeremy was given his TFH (tube fare home).

Jamelia survives one more time, but how long will her luck - and her morale - last? There's only one way to find out - tune in next week for another exciting instalment of the Strictly round up blog, of course! But, until then my little sticks of Blackpool rock........KEEP DANCING!!!!!

 It's all Vine and dandy, Jeremy's joined ranks of the rejected

Sunday, 8 November 2015

First, apologies. This week's Strictly round up will be a bit briefer than usual and contain far fewer puns. Some say this is probably a blessing. The reason for this is that it's been SBOTH's birthday weekend. Yes, you read that correctly - birthday weekend. The child has had more celebrations than Her Maj (and I'm not talking about those little chocolates in a tub). Meal out on Friday followed by TWO parties on Saturday. The morning was taken up with us 'supervising' a rampaging horde of small boys who created chaos while ten-pin bowling and driving some dodgems. It was like knitting cats or herding fog. While juggling jelly. There was good natured arguing, comedy names and even a technical hitch where a ball was bowled at the barriers causing a ten-minute hiatus while the machine was repaired.

Food was simple fare, served with juice - again, one-part-per-billion-low-dose homeopathic juice. Trading Standards might have raised a quizzical eyebrow at the billing of 'orange or blackcurrant'. If it wasn't for the colour, you could probably have sworn they were the same thing.  Never has so much juice been spilled. The equivalent of Lake Michigan must have been slopped over tabletops as the wee darlings failed to grasp the concept that liquid will spill out of plastic cups with sodding great holes in them. Don't they teach 'em physics these days? Sigh. Anyway, it was all good fun, they enjoyed themselves immensely and after two hours we packed them back off to their parents full of sugar so they could experience the inevitable crash. We're good like that. SBOTH got loads of fabulous pressies from his mates as well, for which he is very grateful.

Round two was hosting Family. 18 assorted adults, teens and small children in a bijou semi-detached house. For bijou read smallish. Like, two rooms downstairs smallish - including the kitchen. Said adults are all in various stages of speaking to each other (or not) and there was enforced friendliness, lots of brittle, polite conversation, aches and pains one-upmanship, that sort of thing. HOTH had cleaned the house from top to bottom and I had spent about three hours preparing a big buffet - the hot dogs went down particularly well (mostly down buffet buff brother-in-law & his son, to be honest). HOTH put on a spectacular fireworks display, teens waved sparklers ironically - the whole caboodle. We mingled as much as one can mingle in near scrum conditions making sure everyone was fed and (beered) watered. I should have been a diplomat. All I'm missing is the squirrel poo chocolates in shiny gold foil.

Take it from me, SBOTH is NOT having another party until he's at least 50. And NEVER in the house again. I may have become well acquainted with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire when they'd all gone.

Anyway....I digress. Strictly round up. Right. Where was I? It's week seven and ten couples remained. The Blackpool show is hurtling up on us in a couple of weeks, so who will be there? Let's have a look........

Sweaty Southern Hemisphere Singer Peter Andre opened the show with a complicated corker of a Charleston to Do Your Thing. That song was made with Charleston in mind. Janette Manraraahaharomaromamagagaoohlalawantyourbadromance had put together a quick and clippy routine. There was a lot of swivel, cross, bounce and Charleston content and scissor movements so sharp you could cut yourself. Peter definitely took things to the next level and added some character to his dance for a change. Len was so chuffed he got to his feet, dodgy knee and all. The judges loved it, scoring it a season high 38 out of 40, which might have been a tad too high. Replays showed Pete wasn't as quite in synch as they may have thought - at some points he was a good half-beat behind. But what can you do, eh?

Jamelia was out next probably hoping, for once, that the viewers will judge her on her dancing and not her comments. She and partner Tristan performed a fairly nice Viennese waltz to Trouble. And trouble there was. The couple crashed into the prop guitar case on one of their turns and nearly came a cropper, but they recovered well enough. There was still some hint of Jamelia being dragged around a bit and there was some gapping, loss of form and line, but there was a hint of grace and she chucked in a fleckerl for Len. It was better than previous weeks, but will it be enough? The panel awarded 28 out of 40.

Catastrophic Carol Kirkwood followed with a lumpy, bumpy American Smooth to Man, I Feel Like A Woman. Sadly, the dance was about as smooth as sandpaper. Coarse grain sandpaper. Poor Carol really isn't coming on at all. She seems to have a default setting of 'standing with hands on hips wiggling your bum with a bemused expression'. Really, it's been in every dance. I sort of think it's her 'go to' stance meaning 'Help. I've forgotten the routine again' as Pasha seems to sweep to the rescue every time she does it. This was a wooden dance with Carol looking like a tailor's dummy at times, stiff in the shoulders and lacking any style or grace. There was shoddy footwork and flat feet throughout. The judges advised her to start with sorting out her footwork and the rest will follow - but surely week SEVEN is too late to start learning footwork? The routine scored a dismal 17 out of 40.

Up next was effervescent Helen George dancing a rumba to Hello (by Adele, not the one by Oasis. That would have just been weird). For a rumba, this was a lovely routine. The romantic theme was beautifully acted by Helen - no real surprise given her day job - and there was great choreography from Aljaz. It was powerful, passionate and told a story. Maybe it was more of a show dance than a technical rumba, which explains why I quite enjoyed it. It certainly upset Len who was infuriated at the lack of classic content, in his opinion. He was rounded on by the other judges who loved the contemporary feel and modern interpretation. What really counts though is that I liked it! A respectable 31 out of 40 from the judges.

Jay McGuinness offered up an amazing Argentine Tango - the first of the series. I'm given to understand that the 'normal' tango is a watered down, tamer version of the AT which was thought to be too hot & sexy for polite society. The tango is about ignoring each other, the AT is a prelude to getting it on. Jay brought it on last night, alright. He was powerful and masterful - if a little restrained. HOTH & I think he may benefit from a couple of acting lessons to bring him out of himself a bit. It certainly worked for Louis Smith a couple of years ago. The routine was full of AT content, powerful lifts and great footwork. At times it was like watching a pair of the pro dancers perform. A shame there was only a couple of ganchos (the classic AT leg flicks and entwinings) but that's down to Aliona's choreography, not Jay's talent. The judges gave him 34 out of 40.

Katie Derham followed with a classic quickstep to 42nd Street. Ah.......42nd Street. I fell out of there a few times in the late 80s / early 90s (it was a club in the city where I live. One of the Places To Be back in the day. Well, one of the Places I Could Get In, anyway - until I developed a modicum of taste and started going to The Brickhouse instead). Anton was back in his comfort zone with ballroom, but fell back to spending half the routine messing about with hats and canes before starting any dancing. It started off well enough but, like Schubert's 8th symphony, came across a bit unfinished. There were missed kicks, trips in the promenade steps and loss of control and form as the dance got away from her. It was ambitious, but sadly Katie couldn't keep up. A decent enough 26 out of 40 from the judges, though.

Up next was the lovely Anita Rani who is showing herself to be a very capable dancer. Saturday night saw Anita and Gleb (in overalls and bandanna) dancing a jive to The Boy Does Nothing by former Strictly winner and judge Alesha Dixon. The boy definitely does something for me, I can tell you. He's also a rather splendid dancer and choreographer and last night was no exception. Anita coped brilliantly with tricky footwork, sharp kicks and flicks, prop work and mop work. There was a very risky lift that paid off and the dance was full of energy, content and fun. Anita had plenty of attack and was on point and together with Gleb all the way through. A rather good 34 out of 40 from the panel, who knocked off marks for not-quite-pointy-enough toes.

Kellie Bright followed with a lyrical waltz to Love Ain't Here Anymore by Take That. Kellie is always enjoyable to watch, and finally got a slower routine than she's had previously. However, the reduced speed showed up some little flaws for the judges. She seemed a bit tense through the shoulders, especially the right one which kept rising up and spoiling her top line a bit. But this didn't detract too much from a smooth, graceful routine with lots of lovely double reverse turns and heel leads (apparently quite difficult) and rise and fall in the footwork. There was a wobble when Kellie lost balance but it was well covered. The judges scored her 32 out of 40.

Somewhat inexplicably starting on a giant model horse, Jeremy Vine trotted out a tango to Go West by The Village People. Maybe he should have done YMCA instead.(You're Mighty Crap Aintcha?) Jeremy tried a tango face but it looked more like he was trying to hold in some particularly painful wind. A cowboy outfit does not mix with a tango. It's not a comedy dance. Jeremy was more Woody (and wooden) than Wayne and spent most of the dance horsing around than dancing. Yet again we had wacky waving arms and loose limbs that had Darcy in hysterics. There was a twizzer chucked in there for good measure and a smattering of staccato, but not enough to trouble the top of the leaderboard. The judges could only pony up 21 out of 40.

Georgia May Foote closed the show with a spicy little samba to Volare. She seemed to spend a lot of time sitting down this week and she lost some timing and togetherness as the dance went on. She had lovely legs throughout the routine and really went for it, but she still telegraphs her moves and there were teeny errors sprinkled through the routine that caught the eye now and again. Don't get me wrong, it was a difficult and decent enough routine and she coped very well. The judges enjoyed it and gave it a very good 35 out of 40.

So here we are on Sunday. Look through Len's Lens, if you dare. Did you spot what the judges did? Did you agree with Len or Craig in Rumbagate? Do you care? (I do. I've got Helen in the work's sweepstake.) Seal showed up singing his latest number to entertain the audience. I once knew a bloke who genuinely thought Seal sang with Adam Skis. As in a bloke called Adam slides down snowy mountains on two planks. Which he was as thick as, come to think of it (the bloke, not Seal).

After the usual strung out tension designed to torture the poor celebrities it was announced that the bottom two dancers were Carol Kirkwood and, inexplicably, Kellie Bright. In the words of any Eastenders male hard man actor - 'woss gahn on'? Seriously - what? This was the first undeserved dancer in the danger zone. Has her character done something awful in Eastenders? Has she dug up Ethel's Little Willie and worn him as a muff or something? I can't fathom it. Carol, yes. But Kellie?? was a pretty foregone conclusion who'd be booted off wasn't it? Even if it was KevinfromGrimsby's first ever dance off in his Strictly career. Kellie had scored almost double what Carol had and, well, is just a better bloody dancer. Of COURSE Carol was voted off the show. Don't do that again, voting viewers! There are far more deserving candidates for the chop than Kellie and we all know who (cough...Jeremy.....cough.....). I'm relying on you to see sense next week. But, until then..............KEEP DANCING!!!!!!

 Clueless Carol clomps off into the sunset

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Well hell-oooooooo there. Welcome to the Halloween Strictly Spooktacular round up. I warned you last week that this review will contain terrible puns. Some may make you groan or feel ill. Some may turn your hair white with terror. Most will probably just tut and pull a face, to be honest. Voodoo you think will go? Only one way to find out.......take my hand, stay close behind and come with me into the Strictly Crypt of Critique.......

Creepy Katie Derham kicked off proceedings with a pretty poor Paso Doble to Phantom of The Opera. Latin doesn't seem to be Anton's strong point and he looks to be running out of choreography for Katie - well, it's been a few years since he's been in the competition at this stage. It all went a bit wrong early on with missed holds and wrong footing, forgotten kicks and plonky placement. This Paso was too tame - no attitude, no character and no passion. Katie had lack-lustre limbs, she strolled instead of strode. All very opera-tional, the dance was more Phantom of the Flopera. This just doesn't seem to be in Katie's aria of expertise. The score was a poor 21 out of 40.

Crypt-keeper Kirsty Gallacher was up next with a vampire-themed Charleston to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. There was a lot at stake this week after Kirsty's small resurgence. Would she go for the jugular and deliver a routine with bite? Erm...I wouldn't Count on it. Bad Romance? This was just Bad Dance, bro. It was a coffin-dodging catastrophic car-crash of a Charleston. Kirsty went wrong very early on and never recovered, not even able to disguise the disasters. The blood-curdling routine went from bad to batty as it got slower and slower and lacked any energy or content. There was no swivel, no character and no fun. It was flat footed and the limp kicks brought the routine to an almost total halt at one point. This dance may have been the Twilight routine for Kirsty. Brendan must have been so cross and they got it in the neck from the judges, scoring a very low 17 out of 40.

Germy Jeremy Vine - one of only three male contestants left - followed with a sorry salsa to Michael Jackson's Thriller. Poor Jeremy. This dance was more ill than thrill. He tried to throw in the iconic zombie walk from the video, but he looked more like an arthritic orang-utan trying to stack supermarket shelves. There was a shocking shimmy, no hip rotation and stompy footwork. A lack of proper transitions and Jeremy's now trademark flapping limbs made him look like a skeleton in a tumble dryer. The stilted & stiff moves might have been excused as his zombie character, but it's really a no-brainer. There's more chance of a Michael Jackson resurrection than Jezza winning Strictly, the judges scoring an undeadly 22 out of 40.

Alarming Anita Rani gave us a wicked waltz to Once Upon A Dream. Anita was a magnificent Maleficent and Gleb made a very handsome prince in guyliner. He could nibble my Granny Smith's anytime. This was a lovely contemporary waltz with a Beauty of a story (which, unfortunately, Len didn't get as he is somewhat out of touch). The routine was far from Grimm, full of style and grace, content and rise and fall. It went a tiny bit spiky at times, but was that the character (which Anita kept throughout) - or the mahoosive horns on Anita's bonce? Craig was a bit grumpy with his comments - maybe he didn't like not being the only Evil Queen in the room. Still, the dance scored a fairy good 29 out of 40.

Gruesome Jamelia followed with a jerky jive to Timewarp from The Rocky Horror Show. The routine was full of gimmicks (skeletons in wardrobes and moving-eye pictures) but lacked any classic jive content. Things went from Brad to Weiss as Jamelia started to run out of energy and the kicks and flicks grew limper and lamer. There was flappy footwork, the kicks were blunt and there was no point - to the toes or the dance. Let's be Frank....she may go no furter if she doesn't improve. The judges gave her 26 out of 40.

Jekyll Jay McGuinness came out with an American Smooth to Little Red Riding Hood. Jay was dressed as The Big Bad Wolf - and I was really Lycan that idea. This was another storybook routine with no howlers. Jay had fabulous footwork, lovely lines and flawless rise and fall - everything in the picnic basket, in fact. His lifts - the first he'd ever tried - went well and were tricky enough to be pleasing but not so difficult that there was danger of dropping Aliona. No (full) mooning about with this dance, wood you believe the judges scored it 34 out of 40.

Cursed Kellie Bright had everyone (JK) Rowling in the aisles with a Harry Potter themed Paso Doble. Starting off with Hedwig's Theme the tune turned to Alice Cooper's School's Out and Kellie came out kicking with a fiery flamenco style. She had plenty of attitude and attack, but lacked shaping in the arms and her top line went too skewy at times. The energy was wand-erful and KevingfromGrimsby went Hog-warts and all with the choreography. But while the tabletop dancing was fun, there was no repeat of Kellie Slytherin to the top of the leaderboard again this week. There was enough wrong with the routine for her to score a less than spell-binding 28 out of 40.

Cackling Carol Kirkwood followed with a really rotten rumba to I Think I Love You by David Cassidy. Dressed as The Bride of Frankenstein, Carol spent most of her time in hold instead of in free movement and when she was on her own she just stood and wiggled her bum a bit, smiling benignly at Pasha who was desperately trying to hold the body parts of the dance together. Despite moves that seemed more bolted on than Pasha's head, Carol seemed to forget the routine halfway through again and had to be reanimated by Pasha pushing her into place. This was pretty monstrous, even by Carol's previous performances with frighteningly bad footwork and......shock horror....HEEL WALKS (no, I didn't know they were A Bad Thing either until Len went loopy). Even for a rumba this was a rum do. Carol scored a shocking 13 out of 40.

Ghastly Georgia May Foote trotted out a terrific tango to Ghostbusters. This was a difficult dance, full of content and energy - an exorcise in excellence. Georgia had gorgeous foote-work and plenty of passion in a routine full of tricky moves. She was sharp and sassy, clean and comfortable with spine-chilling staccato. While stamina has been a previous problem, she managed to Stay-Puft through this proton-charged performance. The crossed beams of the judges said it all - Georgia May top this week's leaderboard with a magnificent 35 out of 40.

Petrifying Peter Andre was the penultimate performer, following with partner Janette Manmwhahhahaha and feasible foxtrot to Ghost by Ella Henderson. This was quite a spectre-cal and you can tell Peter gets into the spirit of things. He's still haunted by hunched shoulders and has a tendency to stomp around like the headless horseman. His problems were manifest and the same moves keep appearing week after week. Last night there was too much rise and not enough fall, more gallumph than glide. Pete still gets poppy and the judges are getting stroppy reminding him of it every week. He scored a grave 28 out of 40.

Haunting Helen George wrapped up the show with a mummy themed routine, dancing a seriously sexy samba to Take Your Mamma by the Scissor Sisters. Helen showed she was a cut above many of the other dancers with plenty of hot hip action, sexy shimmys and a fair bit of required double bounce action (I thought Bruno was talking about me running downstairs when he started going on about double bouncing. Turns out it's a samba staple). When one sphinx about it, you'd have to be in de-Nile not to fancy Helen's chances. She may have to visit the Cairo-practer this morning after this routine, though. After all your tut-n-calmin' down, you may like to know Helen was near the top of the pyramid with a respectable 34 out of 40.

Yay. It's Sunday. Doesn't time fly when you're hopped up on your son's Halloween Haribo (what, just me?). More pro-dance performances bulking out the show. The poor sods certainly earn their Strictly Sterling. They must be knackered after rehearsing all week and THEN dancing several more routines every weekend. I get worn out opening a bag of Maltesers. Len's Lens peered into the pickier points of performances and mulled over the minutiae of moves, showing us mere mortals why they're paid the big bucks as judges.

Anyhoo....singer of the week James Morrison came on crooning a theme-fitting song called Demons. Pity he sounds like a bag of nostrils doing karaoke. At least his wobbly warbling gave some of the poor buggers a break and we were down to announcing the dance-off duo.

Several ba-bums, red lights, screeches, squeals and tears later (and that's just me) the troubled two were revealed. Yet again, Jamelia was in the dance off, along with Kirsty Gallacher. Carol must have some serious dirt on someone to keep getting through. Either that or a REALLY big family. The viewers just aren't getting behind Jamelia and it was sad to see her in earlier VT getting upset about it, but pulling a 'the public are all picking on me' card isn't going to win the audience over. It must be something she says in her day job as my daytime TV spies tell me she sometimes comes out with really outrageous statements on Loose Women. That may be putting the people off. I'll have to take their word for it - I'm usually watching much more highbrow television at the time. What?? I watch Toddlers & Tiaras ironically, you know.....

The imperilled pairs danced again for the judges' final decision. Jamelia dug deep and delivered a better performance than previously, but Kirsty's confidence had suffered a serious knock (she's no stranger to dance-off danger herself) and she just couldn't pull it together, going wrong again almost immediately from the off, missing out vital moves. Poor Brendan. It was no surprise when the judges announced it would be Jamelia surviving for another week. Kirsty was shown the red card and took an early bath.

Ten couples remain. Who will be looking forward to further forays on the dancefloor? There's only one way to find out - join me next week for another rundown. Until then................KEEP DANCING!!!!

 Crusty Kirsty crashes out

Sunday, 25 October 2015

It's week five on Strictly. Not so much the Dirty Dozen as the Dirty Dancing Dozen. One more celebrity will stash their sequins and soft shoe shuffle out of the competition. So what happened on Saturday night?
Gorgeous but a bit gormless Georgia May Foote got the party started with partner 'Joe Varney' and a sexy little disco salsa to (You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real by Sylvester. There was no pussy-footing around with this number. It had loads of hip action and rotation, but she lost it a little towards the end again. Very high energy with lots of content it was slick, quick and full of tricks - and even a Dirty Dancing lift. Bizarrely, Georgia had said in VT that the aerobatics made her feel like a sausage - and this number had plenty of bang(er). She has to watch the links to her lifts, which she telegraphs (saus)ages in advance. But let's be frank(furter), this wasn't her wurst dance by any means. The judges scored it 31 out of 40.

Clueless Carol Kirkwood was up next with a wet and woeful Viennese waltz to Breaking Hearts. The only broken heart must be Pasha's, saddled with such drip of a partner. The Viennese waltz is supposed to be elegant and graceful - this was stiff and stilted. Carol always looks like she's just going through the motions. She dutifully does the steps she's given, but there's no peformance. She looks dead behind the eyes and sometimes it looks like Pasha is shoving a shop window Mannequin round the dance floor (but there's no danger of her ever turning into Kim Cattrall, I'm afraid). This dance was.....beige. The VT showed that Carol and Pasha had gone to a theme park get used to the spins. Sorry to say this dance was no storm in the teacups and you're not likely to be around for Christmas, Carol. Just 21 out of 40.

The tempo changed with a terrific tango from Anita Rani, dancing to Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap. Anita was anything but sweet in this fiery, fantastic dance. Gleb (sadly covered up this week) had devised some outstanding choreography and Anita definitely did it justice. Strong, powerful moves, great frame, piles of passion and loads of sweep and grace. Anita acted out her character with a dark menace - something Carol should take a look at - and the dance had plenty of traditional tango content, heel leads, head turns and staccato kicks. The judges likened Anita to a Klingon Queen. I'd certainly Klingon to Gleb - he can say nltebHa' maml' DaneH'a' to me anytime (apparently this means 'Would you like to dance with me?' in Klingon. I googled it, by the way - I'm not that geeky). The United Federation of judges awarded her 32 out of 40.

Up next was upright Andrex puppy Peter Andre and partner Janette ManraraRasputin, dancing a rumba to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran. You know I find it hard to love a rumba - but this one was nice enough. It had all the ususal rumba content - all walk, wiggle, wave, wepeat....this time  wi' Pete. He got a bit too stompy again - sometimes he looks like he's trying to kill spiders, or he's the back end of a pantomime horse - and he lost the dynamics at times. The routine was loosely based on a photographic studio theme and it's fair to say Peter gave it a good shot, he had decent frame but it wasn't picture perfect. The judges gave him 29 out of 40.

Kirsty Gallacher followed with a weary-looking Viennese waltz to This Year's Love by David Grey. The dance took ages to get going, with loads of faffing about on the stairs. Brendan is probably taking his lead from Anton Du Bec and limiting his partner's time on the actual dancefloor. There were lots of spins and turns and they even threw in a fleckerl, but her arms got really frantic and flappy at times and she clearly hates being out of hold, clinging onto Brendan like an agoraphobic koala. Kirsty still seems to be suffering from nerves as she never looks (or even pretends to look) happy when she dances. I've seen more expression on an artist's dummy. Credit where it's due, though, this was her best dance to date - maybe ballroom suits her better. This routine to music from White Ladder had her climbing up the leaderboard on Saturday, matching Peter with a very respectable 29 out of 40.

Kirsty limbers up for a trot round the dancefloor

Gurning gourmet Ainsley Harriott gave us what was billed as a jive to Shake, Rattle & Roll by Bill Haley and The Comets. Ainsley was certainly spaced out with this dance - and probably not even on this planet. It was the slowest jive I've ever seen in Strictly but even then Ainsley struggled, looking like a jumbo prawn in his bright pink outfit. His frantic antics and wobbly Elvis legs couldn't cover up his poor technique. There were very few kicks and flicks, he was flat-footed with flappy, floppy arms. At one point he looked more like he was playing keepy-uppy than dancing, resembling a drunk uncle - a druncle, if you will - at a wedding. Once again he just seemed to do his own thing and play up to the cameras. The telly chef wasn't cooking on gas with this routine which fell flatter than a flabby souffle. Just 21 out of 40 from the judges.

Loose woman Jamelia came out with a foxtrot to Because You Loved Me by Sealion Diane - sorry, Celine Dion. Jamelia doesn't seem to love ballroom. This routine started okay, but an early mistake put her completely off her stride and it all went down quicker than the Titanic after that. The dance was filled with errors, missed holds and even an illegal lift (how very dare she!) and Jamelia was clearly panicking as partner Tristan desperately tried to get her back on track. She had a nice top line, but it wasn't enough to save the dance. The judges gave her 26 out of 40.

After showing so much prom-ise last and topping the leaderboard a week ago, Katie Derham suffered the same fate as Jay experienced last week and crashed to earth. Instead of spark and spice she served up a sorry, sloppy salsa. It looked like she'd been on the sauce as she clomped her way through this routine. Where was the wiggle and jiggle? Katie was far too stiff and upright with limp hips and aimless arms. There was lots of content - Anton had put everything in but the kitchen sink - but this was a substance over style salsa. The lifts all went horribly wrong, Anton nearly dropped her at one point and it just didn't work. Katie's Latin lacked lustre. It had all the intention, but none of the execution. A disappointing 21 out of 40.

Up next was Jeremy Vine dancing a wooden waltz to She, by Elvis Costello. Actually, this reminds me of my Elvis Costello joke I made up when I was about 12 or so. It's still as bad now as it was then....I hear Elvis Costello really loves gardening. Last week he made a beautiful planter for his flowers out of an old tyre. Yes, it was a Goodyear for the roses! SEE - this is why I'm not a regular on Mock The Week or The Edinburgh Fringe. Anyway...that joke was probably better than Jeremy's dancing, which was stiff and stilted. Looking like a scarecrow in a suit, Jeremy plodded around with bent knees, poor frame and frantically flingy free arms. There were no transitions to speak of and a bigger gap than the Cheddar Gorge between Jeremy and his partner. It was terribly stop / start - like watching a flickerbook in slow motion. Jeremy ended up propping up the leaderboard with a dismal 18 out of 40.

Heavenly Helen George lit up the dancefloor with a cracker of a quickstep to You Can't Hurry Love. This was a joy to watch. Helen and Aljaz sped across the dancefloor faster than my brother-in-law when someone announces the buffet has been served. It was clippy, tricky, skippier than a bush kangaroo and chock full of difficult content. The pair were on point and together throughout the whole routine and Helen sparkled to the end. It was fast, furious and earned a 'Fab-u-lous' from Craig. It was a leaderboard topping 35 out of 40 for Helen.

Jay McGuinness was back on form last night, and how! A princely performance of a Paso Doble to It's My Life by Bon Jovi. This dance - and Jay - was strong, powerful and passionate throughout. Loads of lovely drama and attitude, great shaping and command, Jay made a masterful matador. He may have lacked a little arrogance, but its probably because he's such a nice guy. He certainly wasn't Livin' On A Prayer, this dance was a Bed of Roses. Bruno got so excited he got all sweary - dropping a 'bollock' before the watershed earned him a stern look from Len and telling off from Tess who had to apologise to the audience for his outburst. Someone really needs to keep the bloke away from the Red Bull and Sherbet Dib-Dabs before the show - his hyper behaviour was getting out of hand last night, and even Craig said he was being mean at one point, which is a bit like Darth Vader having a pop at Davros, but there you go. I can understand his excitement though, and so could the rest of the judges. Jay scored a much-improved 33 out of 40.

Closing the show was Kellie Bright and pocket prancer KevinfromGrimsby. Their spy-themed jive to One Way Or Another by Blondie (I refuse to accept One Direction's version as 'music' - don't get me started on what they did to Teenage Kicks) left me shaken and stirred. This dance was fast, frenetic, fabulous and fun. There was loads of tricky content, kicks and flicks, fancy footwork and fluid action. It was clean and sharp, Kellie and Kevin were together throughout - they have a terrific Bond as a couple. Maybe not quite as good as Jay's jive the other week, but excellent all the same. A triumphant way to end the night. The judges loved it too and awarded Kellie a table-top sharing 35 out of 40.

And then it was time for the sham Sunday show. The judges scores and viewer votes had been tallied. The pro dancers showed us all how it's supposed to be done. Bryan Adams came on to warble his way through his new single (yes, I'm showing my age) Brand New Day, probably hoping to flog a few before Christmas. Len's Lens - sans Len who was deskbound after his knee op - dissected the finer points we mere mortals can't see and don't really understand. Lots of tension, heartbeat music (you know, ba-bum, ba-bum - not Nick Berry murdering the theme tune to that TV show). Nearly thirty unnecessary minutes later, the bottom two dancers were finalised.......Jamelia and Ainsley were in the danger zone.

Second time around Jamelia appeared to get her act together and there were slightly fewer mistakes. Ainsley, however, served up a sloppy second helping pretty much the same as the first. The judges had no appetite for any more of Ainsley's shenanigans and he was finally given the chop and shown the door. Another contender bites the dust and the eleven remaining survive to dance another week. So far, it's the dancers who deserve to go that are being voted off, which makes a pleasant change.

It's the Hallowe'en special next week so I'm giving you all advance notice there will be some TERRIBLE puns. Don't say you haven't been warned! Until then, my little cherry bakewells.......KEEP DANCING!!!!

Aimless Ainsley is off the menu