Well hello there, dance fans. It's been a while since I last posted something on here. Did you miss me? I won't go into lots of detail about what I've been up to in the last few months. Suffice to say it involved two gin festivals (and lots of gin), food, Lego, rugby, festivals and stuff to keep me out of mischief. But mainly gin.
But why the sudden return to the blogsphere? Why else? STRICTLY COME DANCING IS BACK. So this is the first round up of the season. I know it started last week, but no-one was voted out and it was all just the introduction to the shenanigans. Plus I had a crazy busy weekend that gave me no time to scribble anything down. So. Here we go. Sit back.Relax. Have a hob-nob. Remember - I watch Strictly so you don't have to!
First of all, let me say that I am devastated, nay heartbroken that there's no Gleb this year. If you read my last lot of ramblings you may rememer that Gleb appreciation was a frequent theme. Alas, he has not returned for 2016. While the new chaps are all very pleasant, they're just not a reasonable replacement for my Russian.
Oh, well. The show must go on.
Ore Oduba opened the orchestrations with a clunky cha-cha-cha to Hot Stuff by Donna Summer. Ore was dressed as a fireman but this was no disco inferno. He had plenty of energy and gave it some gusto, but even the pole dancing bit in the middle couldn't light a spark. Ore seemed to forget the hips needed in a cha-cha-cha and while it was high octane it all got a bit frenetic and he started doing his own thing. A decent 27 out of 40 from the judges though.
Up next was gyrating gymnast Claudia Fragapane (not to be confused with frangipane, an almond cake filling. Although both are very sweet). Claudia and partner AJ are the youngest contestants - and Claudia is a miniscule 4 foot 7 in her stockinged feet. Never mind High School Musical - this is more Kindergarten Cabaret. Claudia & AJ performed a whimsical waltz to You Light Up My Life. The mini mover certainly lit up the dancefloor with graceful moves and interpretation - although there was a lot out of hold and a very-near lift, with just her pinky staying earthbound to keep it legal. A very decent 30 out of 40.
Perky Popstar and all round nice guy Will Young followed with a jerky jive to Rock Around The Clock. While Will had a good crack at character, the overall routine was a bit safe, stiff and staid. That being said, he apparently pulled a muscle near the start which may have affected his performance. He was flat footed and stompy, missed the beat and had to cover up a glaring error in the middle. It wasn't a Joy to watch but I don't think he'll Leave Right Now. Keep playing Your Game, Will and you should be OK. A respectable 27 out of 40.
Septuagenarian sashayer Lesley Joseph showed she's a game old Bird Of A Feather dancing to Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps. Her cha-cha-cha wasn't everyone's cup of tea as she wobbled across the dancefloor. She lost balance a few times and went off track. Anton resorted, as usual, to getting her out of trouble by pulling her around. Honestly, The Birdcage had less drag. I was a bit put off, too, by Anton's alarmingly sequinned strides. It looked like he'd taken the term 'glitteballs' far too seriously. Still, it was a fun routine with bags of character and earned Lesley 26 out of 40.
The evening's most literal song choice award went to Olympic long-jumper Greg Rutherford, who danced a tango to Van Halen's...well, Jump. Much as I admire a nicely turned derriere, Greg's bum stuck out far too much and it looked like it was trying to sit down most of the time. This meant his shoulders got hunched, he lost his frame and there was more gap than Watford. He wasn't comfortable and you could tell the nerves had got to him. There's a line in Jump that goes 'I ain't the worse that you've seen'. No, but it was close, Greg. He gave it a good go, though and there's plenty of room for improvement. Another 26 out of 40 from the panel.
For me, EastEnders actress Tameka Empson romped away with the show with a cracking Charleston to Yes, Sir, That's My Baby. This was no Square dance. Tameka hit the floor full on with a high energy, high content routine that had everything a Charleston needed. Super swivel, cracking cross, oodles of energy and fab flapper feet throughout. They even chucked in The Swim for good measure. It got a little out of sync in places but there was loads of character and you could tell Tameka was having fun. A solid 29 out of 40.
Irish eyes were smiling on presenter Laura Whitmore who performed a wistful waltz to If I Ain't Got You. Her partner is back under his real name of Giovanni this year (after having to suffer being referred to as Joe Varney by previous celeb Georgia May Foote), which must be a relief for him. This was a nice, romantic, sweeping routine with lots of style and grace. No fireworks or fancy footwork but it was elegant and smooth and it got the job done. A nice high score of 32 out of 40, too.
Melvin Odoom was up next with a torturous tango to Moving on Up. This was less M People and more M Barrassing. Poor Melvin never really got to grips with the tango technique. He was hunchy, bunchy, stampy and stompy (no - those aren't the alternative names for the dwarfs in our local Snow White panto) in a dance that lacked any intent, attack or rhythm. There was a pointless faff with a luggage trolley and a bizarre bit at the end where Melvin stood like a lemon while partner Janette mimed handing Bruno some luggage. Except it didn't look like anyone had told Bruno it was going to happen. I don't want to sound like a prophet Odoom, but Melvin may not be around much longer. A low 23 out of 40 from Len and Co.
Wiggly WAG Louise Redknapp followed Melvin to the floor. True story - last week I overheard two girls on the train. Girl 1 - who's that Louise Redknapp married to? Girl 2 - I dunno. Steven Gerrard, I think. Anyway, Louise danced a very nice Viennese waltz to Hallelujah. It may have been an Eternal time ago, but Louise has retained some of her dancing skills as she whirled and twirled around the floor. There was some lovely footwork and she even threw in a fleckerl or two just for Len. The nice, romantic routine scored her a fab 32 out of 40.
American artiste Anastacia was severely hampered with a nasty injury sustained in rehearsals. She had torn the internal scar tissue from her previous mastectomies for breast cancer, which must have been agonising. Partner Brendan Cole was forced to choreograph a whole new routine at the eleventh hour and poor Anastacia did her absolute best to cope with pain and the changes. Her salsa was sadly lacking as most of her movement was restricted due to her injury. She put a brave face on things but the whole routine suffered - she was stiff, stilted and static. The dance lacked any sparkle and sass. Maybe she should have sat this one out and taken a bye for the week as the judges had to mark on what they saw meaning she only scored 22 out of 40.
Lumpy Labour MP Ed Balls was up next with a crazy Charleston to The Banjo's Back In Town. Give him his due, Ed gave it some welly in this Western routine. It was mostly barn with little storming, but there was a decent amount of energy and rhythm. Ed showed us a lively comedy character (at least, I hope it was a character) but it wasn't without fault. There was very little swivel and I've seen more crosses at a vampire convention. Still, Ed got a standing ovation from the crowd - probably the first he's had outside the Party Conference - and a score of 23 from the judges.
Newslady Naga Munchetty came out with a cha-cha-cha to Fool In Love by Tina Turner. The back-stage crew had kitted out Naga in a curly Tina wig, but it seemed to have a reverse Samson effect on poor Naga as her dancing left a lot to be desired. The whole thing was strangely wooden - no character, so style, no intent or attack. It was all a bit too careful and, at one point, partner Pasha seemed to grab her by the hips and forced them around to remind her to use them. There were too many mistakes and she seemed a bit out of her depth. Will she improve on her own, or will Pasha have to Naga a bit (sorry). Just 23 out of 40 scored.
Up next was Judge Rinder. Apparently, he's a good friend of Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. Well, our Courtroom Cumber-chum was anything but cumbersome with a slick American Smooth Foxtrot to Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On. Rhythmic Rinder is a born performer. Fleet of foot with a great frame, he had loads of style and pizazz. There were some epic, effortless lifts (the guy is ripped under those robes) and the routine was flowing and flamboyant. He does have to learn to rein his face in a bit - the grins and gurns can be a bit off-putting. But, as he told grumpy judge Craig, at least he can move his face. Hand shaping needs a little work, but I don't think the Judge is going to get sent down any time soon. A passable 27 out of 40 helps, too.
Model and presenter Daisy Lowe was the penultimate performer. She gave us a cheeky, cheery cha-cha-cha to Cee Lo Green's Forget You. Thankfully, the non-sweary radio edit of the song or the Beeb would have been in all sorts of trouble. Tess had already had to hand out an apology for Bruno's earlier slip-up. Daisy was sultry, sharp and stylish with good hip action. Her upper body was a bit loose & out of control at times but overall it was a good effort. Len lopped off a point for an illegal lift (naughty, naughty Alijaz) and an upsy Daisy got 30 out of 40.
Ex-Hollyoaks heart-throb Danny Mac closed the show with a venerable Viennese Waltz to my favourite INXS tune Never Tear Us Apart. This was a really quick routine, whirlwind turns and speedy spins helped pack the content. Oti's trick of making Danny rehearse with a set of bicycle handlebars tied round his neck paid off as his frame was sure and solid - it was Raleigh good, in fact. The speed was a bit of a problem though as, at some points, Danny seemed to be skipping like a bush kangaroo instead of gliding across the floor. His head also seemed to be wandering about as he tried to spot himself during the turns. A great effort overall earned Danny 32 out of 40.
So the combined scores from last week saw Louise and Danny jointly on top of the pile and Ed propping up the leaderboard. But - remember - it's all down to the viewer vote.
Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey and suddenly it was 'Sunday night'. Tess, Claudia and crew were whipped into new outfits and the audience were shuffled about a bit so we could all pretend it was The Next Day.
Toothy tunester and sole-surviving Bee Gee Barry Gibb his new number In The Now. There was a moment of panic when we thought Tess has said he's be performing in the nude but it was all good. There was the usual pro-dance routine and Len's Lens was polished up to show us where everyone had gone wrong. Then it was Results Time. The bumbeddy bum of the fake heartbeat, the dry mouth, the sweaty palms....but, enough about me......
Melvin and Anastacia were in the bottom two. However, Anastacia was in no fit state to try to reprise her routine. She couldn't even turn out to try again. This meant that they had to use the count back from the public vote alone to see who would be going instead of the judges' verdict. Harsh, but them's the Rules, I'm afraid.
After a tense few seconds it was announced that MELVIN would be hanging up his dance shoes and leaving the show for good. Which I'm a bit relieved about as I'd run out of Janette Manrara puns last year.
And that was Week Two in a nutshell (well, a few thousand words anyway). Fifteen couples become fourteen. Ed Balls lives to learn a new routine - who'da thunk it?
Until next week my little chocolate eclairs..............KEEP DANCING!