Finally, it has happened to me......here 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 ugly.....er....head, 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
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.........
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.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!!!!