And now, the end is near.....so said Frank Sinatra (although I admit I know more words to the Sex Pistols' rude version). We're here at last. The Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Grand Final. It's all gone by in a blur. One minute fifteen couples gyrated in sequins and spandex (and Spanx in some cases), the next we're down to the last three. Tonight we'll see one of them take over the mantle of Strictly Champion from last year's winner, Jay 'That Jive' McGuinness. Tonight one couple will raise the glitterball trophy and wonder if all those weeks of training, stress and injury was worth it.
Tonight is also Len Goodman's final ever Strictly Come Dancing. Our genial Head Judge will be flashing his paddles and dispensing his wisdom for the very last time. It's bound to be an emotional evening. Long may his walnuts be pickled.
For those of you new to the Strictly family (where have you been?) the final is a weird affair. The remaining couples would be doing THREE dances. Their own favourite dance (usually their highest scorer), a dance chosen by the judges (sometimes a weaker dance they want to see some improvement on) and a spectacular show dance where ANYTHING goes - lifts, spins, props, costumes, style, dance, music - you name it, the couples get free rein. Thankfully, the couples have been told in advance what the judges' choice is - be a bit unfair to make them try and remember a number from Week One, after all. Expect the couples' choices to be more polished and pristine as well.
In a reversion to Week One as well, the judges' scores in the final are for guidance only. EVERYTHING rests on the viewer vote. THE WHOLE SHEBANG comes down to who picked up the phone for whom (and how may times they voted - there could be some BIG phone bills in January). Everything also takes place in one show - no pretending it's Sunday. The entire show takes place - including agonising vote results - over two hours and fifteen minutes of fun. Of course, there's more filler than in Amanda Holden's forehead - acres of VT footage of the couples' training videos, vox pops from members of the public gabbing on about who their favourite, the slightly embarrassing 'return of everyone else for the last ever group dance'. (Will Will show willing? Will he heck as like - as reference to him was expunged from the show like some dirty secret.)
Right. I've set the scene and gone through the rules and regulations. Got your ticket? Come on then and see what happened in the Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Grand Final (do de do do do de do, do do do de doooooo).
The show opened with a dance from the pros and more sequins than a drag queen convention. As the pro dances go this one was a bit 'cruise ship' Don't get me wrong, cruise ship entertainers work flipping hard but they're not world champion dancers like this lot. Still, it gave a chance for the finalist dancers to get a solo spot. The celebs then descended on giant rings. Thankfully, there was no Spinal Tap moment and nobody got stuck for the duration.
The first dancer to the floor was Ore Oduba. He was reprising the judges' choice of his American Smooth to Singin' In The Rain. He first did this dance in Week Three and had scored an impressive 35 on that occasion. This time round the weeks of training showed. He was more confident and polished throughout this routine. Tweaks had been made to his previously hunched frame and little touches of flair and panache had been added that brought the dance to life. Ore was fleet of foot and being properly up on his toes gave the dance a lovely light and airy feel - he even got the umbrella to open bang on cue. He was happy with the result, and why not? The judges awarded 39 out of 40.
Louise Redknapp came next. The judges had asked to see her cha-cha her way through Flashdance one more time. Again, we saw more confidence. Louise came out with sass, style and strut - she even smiled this time. She had bags more character, more attack and more impetus and showed good timing by being bang on beat. There were still a couple of issues with slightly static hips - made the more obvious by KevinFromGrimsby showing off like a lunatic and dementedly swivelling his rear at the judges. It seemed to work, though, and the added oomph added 7 to Louise's previous score for this dance - a cracking 38 out of 40.
Last to appear was (obviously) Danny Mac. This was to be a repeat of his quickstep to I Won't Dance. He'd scored 36 in Week 4 for this dance - room for a little improvement. Danny started off in great style, straight into character and into the dance - Len had moaned before about it taking time to get going. Danny and Oti were right in sync, flawless feet looking like they'd been tied together. His frame was tight and crisp, his positioning and poise immaculate and he had bags of energy and stamina in a dance that was very fast and complicated, even for a quickstep. And then it happened. A tiny flaw that marred what could have - and should have - been a faultless number. It wasn't entirely clear what caused Danny to miss some steps at the end - it may have been a wardrobe malfunction, Oti slipping or just nerves, but it was obvious that something had gone wrong. The judges were as disappointed as Danny. Despite much praise and extolling his many talents the judges could only give him 36 out of 40.
And then it was time for the eagerly-anticipated show dances. What were the couples going to do? How were they going to wow us? Only one way to find out!
Ore went traditional - a ballroom based dance to I Got Rhythm. And boy, did he. It was a tiny bit like his previous routine - Gene Kelly-esque in style, character and flavour. Partner Joanne had certainly choreographed to his strengths. Dancing & leaping around on a giant drum kit we saw tap, foxtrot, quickstep, tango, Charleston and more. It was really a 'highlights of Ore's best bits' all in one routine. We even saw the one-handed lift from the other week. It was clean, sharp and clever with great timing. There was nothing new, but it was all good stuff. There mightn't have been anything that pushed the boundaries, but the panel loved the Hollywood / Fosse feel and gave Ore his first full house 40 out of 40.
Louise and Kevin went the other way, dancing a rumba-esque number to One Moment In Time. It was all a bit....contemporary for me (I know, I'm a Philistine). All wafty and wavy costume - Kev was even barefoot - and they'd thrown in a sparkle lighting bar for dramatic effect. Louise coped well with tricky choreography and technical content. She had lovely fluid lines, lyrical and expressive arms and good posture and poise. The overall dance was stylish and looked nice, there was even some emotional connection between Louise and Kevin in this routine. There was a lot of time off the floor in lifts - one of which was decidedly lumpy and awkward - spins and a twizzer. Bruno cried at the end, the big nelly. I was unmoved. The judges gave Louise 38 out of 40.
Danny brought the second section to a close dancing to set Fire To The Rain by Adele. Oh. My. Giddy. Kipper. THIS was how a show dance should be done. Danny and Oti's prop was a mirror - and the pair perfectly mirrored each other from the opening seconds. An Argentine Tango / Paso mash up, this dance was heart-stopping excellence from start to finish. Danny's previous slip up hadn't put him off and he threw everything into Oti's incredible choreography. The dance was full of fire, passion and heat set to a dramatic backdrop of fire and ice. Danny was bang on every beat, every (dangerous) move perfectly timed in a routine that was intense, driven and captivating. There were extreme lifts, requiring split-second timing and trust between the pair - including one where Danny sent the mirror frame crashing to the ground over Oti and she leapt through it into his arms. Jaw-droppingly, gob-smackingly good, THIS dance brought the tears. What else could the judges give but a perfect 40 out of 40.
And so to the dancers' favourite routines from the series. The one they had enjoyed the most or had got them their highest scores. Their last dance in Strictly 2016 (unless they go on the tour, of course). Emotions were obviously going to be running high. Would they be able to keep it together?
Ore and Joanne had chosen their jive to Runaway. A high-scoring 39 the first time round, they had to give this one everything. And they did. There were sharp, clean kicks with pointed toes, fast flicks and rapid retraction. Ore was in time and on point, together with Joanne is their side-by-side sections. It was a strong, fierce, fast dance but Ore had plenty of energy and stamina to last till the end. There may have been a tiny foot error, but nothing to write home about. The judges certainly didn't pick up on it - or, if they did, they chose to ignore it. Another 40 out of 40 for Ore.
Louise's last dance was her Argentine Tango - a good choice from her previous weeks. The earlier flaws had been ironed out, and the confidence that we have seen growing week on week certainly helped this time. This was slick, sharp, tight and controlled and Louise had stepped up a gear for this routine. She showed great ganchos and ochos, musicality and technique in the dance and had even brought some heat and intensity to her performance. It was sexy and steamy (well, as much as one can with Kev - sorry, but he's just a bit........twee for me) and, while she may have been a little too staccato on occasion, this was definitely a better outing. The judges agreed and gave Louise her first full 40 out of 40.
Danny brought the evening to a close with his sensational samba. There was no way he could improve on his previous 40 out of 40. You'd think, wouldn't you? Well, somehow, he did. This routine was even sharper, even tighter, even cleaner and even more controlled than last time. There was more edge, more energy, more everything. Danny and Oti were so in sync it was like watching one person dancing. He totally threw himself into this dance and if he doesn't see a glittering and successful stage musical career after this then there's no justice. His agent's phone should be ringing off the hook after Strictly. The audience were in raptures as Danny took it to another level. In my opinion this was The Best Dance Ever - in the history of Strictly. This FAB-U-LOUS routine had Darcey speechless. Another 40 out of 40 for Danny.
And then it was all over. The dances had been done. Now everything lay in the hands of the voting viewers. While we waited for the votes to come in, be verified and counted we were
Then there was the tribute to Len. Golly, it was a glowing one. Footage showing how he went from hairy to lairy over the years, touching comments from colleagues, previous celebrities and pro-dancers showed how popular he is and how sorely he will be missed. Sadly, there was nothing from Sir Bruce Forsyth who is apparently quite poorly, which is a shame. Len even took the time to pay his own tribute to everyone he has worked with on Strictly and he was clearly very moved by it all. There was one last dance = a classic ballroom routine for the ballroom expert, beautifully performed by King and Queen of ballroom Anton du Beke and Natalie Lowe. Dancing to May Each day Of Your Life Be A Good Day, the pair were gradually joined by the rest of the pros until it concluded with them bowing before him as the last note faded. Crikey. There wasn't a dry eye in the house - ours included!
The Class of 2016 recap group dance followed to try and lift everyone's spirits for the result. Blimey - you can see now why some of them went out when they did! Poor Tameka's knee still seems to be playing up as she was carried round on a throne instead of dancing. Marvin muddled, Judge Rinder leapt and Ed was Balls in his partner's face as he recapped his Gangnam gyrations. It all ended with them dancing to Reach by S Club 7 (a tune with which I am emotionally scarred after having to sing it in two pantos in me Am Dram days with HOTH).
And so it was time. Who was going to be crowned Champion of 2016? After trying to be tense - there's only so long you can spin it out with three dancers - Tess gave us the result we've been waiting for since September................
ORE WAS THE WINNER!!!!
Do you agree with the result? I'm on the fence. While the best dancer may not have won (that was Danny by a country marathon, never mind a mile) it's clear that the people's favourite did. Ore was also the only remaining celebrity not to have had any previous dance training, which goes to show just how far he's come. And yes, he did cry.
So. There we are. The final Strictly Come Dancing for this year - apart from the pre-recorded Chistmas Special. This is the final Strictly round up of 2016 (I've not pre-typed a blog, sorry). All will - probably - be quiet on the blog front until next year. Unless, of course, there's another 'Sparkle Science' incident...........you can read all about that in my earlier rants.
I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading my ramblings. It's been a blast.
Until next year - remember......KEEP DANCING!!!!!!!!!!!!!