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.
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.
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)