Sunday, 27 November 2016

Well, how are we all after last week's seaside stormer? Have we all recovered from the shock of losing poor Greg? I'm not entirely sure that I have - but it's onwards and upwards now. Well, onwards towards Christmas, anyway. Only four weeks to go. Four! I don't know about you but I've already started panic buying the prosecco mince pies and Babycham. The sprouts are on a low light ready for The Big Day and I've set a date to start plucking me poultry. (Oi, none of that!)

But before all that festive nonsense we still have a few more weeks of Strictly. A few more weeks of whittling down the crew to the final few. Who is your money on?Are you sure it will be the same person after this weekend?

Bearing in mind this is the first time Ed Balls has been in (week) Number 10 in a while, how did it all go on the night?

Danny Mac opened the show with a stunning, sensational samba to Magalenha by Sergio Mendes (he's on my Christmas list, honest). Wow. This was, to quote Craig, A-MA-ZING! Such a different dance! Oti had choreographed another corker - an African / Creole mix of flavours with a deep tribal core running through it. From a slow, measured start the dance built in speed and rhythm to its climax. Danny showed extraordinary hip isolation and rotation and used his whole body in an expressive, fluid dance that was a joy to watch. There was terrific armography sections and the tone was steamy, sexy and fun. Again, the timing and togetherness were spot on and the energy never flagged. Danny's dance got Len hot under the collar, Bruno went bananas, Darcey was dotty and even Craig went crackers. Another 40 out of 40 for Danny, the highest ever scoring samba in the history of Strictly - a fact that had Oti in tears.

Ore Oduba followed this with another different take on a Paso Doble to Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Lorde. Lorde? I remember when it was Tears For Fears. Anyway, the dramatic arrangement of this number really suited the dance that was darker in tone than we've seen before. Starting off on what looked like an air hockey table, Ore soon got into the swing of the routine with some very nice moves. He had nice lines (for me a little too nice - I like a powerful paso, myself) and was very fluid. There was a hint of attack and aggression, but this routine looked more like he was stalking partner Joanne than seducing her. Ore lost some footing and steps in the middle and you could tell at the end he was disappointed with his mess up. The judges still enjoyed it, though, and appreciated the modern take on a traditional dance. Ore scored 36 out of 40.

I had another Lookee Likee revelation this week. Well, Soundalikee. Joanne Clifton is a dead (sound) ringer for comic creation Philomena Cunk. There's actually a bit of a physical resemblance as well, come to think of it. So now Joanne is Philomena Clifton in our house. Or maybe Joanne Cunk?

Cunklifton Confusion. This week's spot the difference!

Anyway, I digress. Again. Louise Redknapp was next to the floor with a wonderful waltz to At This Moment by Michael Buble. Louise admitted at the start of the training video that she wasn't a romantic sort, so they brought in hubby Jamie to try and get her in the mood. Well, that was a mistake. Bringing in her husband? After so many years watching them pick out belly-button fluff and having to wash their scraggy undies the last mood you usually get with your other half is romance (sorry, HOTH). Where was I? Oh, yes. dancing. Once again Louise had upped her game and coped with this dance with style, grace and aplomb. She had beautiful footwork and swept across the floor. There was great frame and shaping and Clever Clifton #2 had developed a dance with light and shade, power and presence. Louise has natural musicality and it shone through in this routine. Fabulous finger turns near the end capped a dance that had been full of content and had been eminently watchable, even for waltz-naysayer HOTH. Louise scored 39 out of 40.

Judge Rinder came next dancing a rueful rumba Lean On Me by Bill Withers. Which reminds me of that old joke. How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? Shove him in a microwave until his Bill Withers. No? Oh well, there's no pleasing some people. That joke was actually better than the Judge's outing this week. I'm sorry, but this definitely wasn't his dance. Oksana had choreographed a teacher / pupil story which kind of put an end to the romance and seduction mood that's supposed to run through a rumba. Mr Rinder had some good wiggle through the hips and fluidity in his arms, but he leaned far too far back and that ruined the graceful lines. He looked uncomfortable and unnatural throughout this dance and there were some awkward pauses. The dance was difficult and he was moved by the moves. Sadly, the panel weren't and he scored just 29 out of 40 this week.

Ed Balls brought us a tiresome tango to (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones (I know the feeling, watching Ed dance). Why does Ed always get to dance near the end? Is is because the audience is nicely drunk warmed up and likely to vote in droves by now? In this dance Ed was portraying a male model. Which wasn't good after I'd just eaten a lovely meal. The routine was 'comedy' strewn again but it didn't really work this time. Ed spent more time posing, pouting and staring down the camera than he did doing any actual dancing. Katya did all the 'look at me' distraction showy moves while Ed pranced like a pillock with a rose in his gob. Banana hands, weak feet, no frame and no power from Ed spoiled what could have been a decent dance. There was plenty of content and some good ideas, but he couldn't seem to pull them off. I don't know about moves like Jagger, Ed looked more like Keith on chems. The judges weren't impressed either and seemed to have lost patience. 23 out of 40 for Ed.

Claudia Fragapane closed the show with an Argentine (or should that be AJtine / AJteen) Tango to Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake. This was a fierce dance, full of focus, intent and attack. Claudia was on point with beautiful shaping, frame and character and AJ had put together yet another different take on an original. There were some extraordinarily difficult and technical lifts - all of which Claudia pulled off with grace and ease. She may have spent more time off the floor than on, but when she was on the floor she had great footwork and technique. The ganchos and ochos were slow and tight instead of the trademark quick flicks we normally see, which was picked up by the judges. Even so, Claudia did a turn through one of the ganchos which apparently an extremely difficult move even professional dancers struggle with. A dramatic, powerful, controlled dance that scored 36 out of 40.

As if that wasn't enough we had the huge treat that was the Cha-Cha-Challenge! All six couples took to the floor in a winner-takes-all dance off against each other. This was an important part of the night. The extra points earned from the judges' scores for this dance would be added to those from the main dance. It could make a huge difference the the leaderboard (like that's mattered these last few weeks).

This was the crazy part of the show. So many rules! Couples had to keep moving, there had to be plenty of cha-cha content, there was to be no partner-swapping (although there was a change of position on the dance floor halfway through) and no improv in the steps. Even more challenging -  the couples were said to have never heard the music, let alone worked out any choreography for it. The dancing duos strutted their stuff around the floor and tried to look like they knew what they were doing. Danny was very watchable, Kevin talked Louise through it all, Ore was okay,  Claudia was a little clunky, Judge Rinder just about avoided em-barrister-ment and Ed made a....well, let's just say he wasn't the best on the floor. The judges pretended to seemed to argue amongst themselves as decided who was getting what score and Craig played along pretending that they hadn't been in full agreement. But at the end of the dance:

Louise was judges' favourite scoring 6 points
Danny was second, scoring 5 points
Ore was third and got 4 points
Claudia was fourth and got 3 points
Judge Rinder was fifth and scored 2 points
Ed Balls was last and scored just one point.

This left the leaderboard looking like this - Danny Mac and Louise Redknapp at the top, Ed Balls propping it all up.

We all know what comes next. I won't pretend it happened on Sunday if you don't. The viewer votes had been added to the judges' scores. (Does that mean Ed gets something like 90,023? That'd be weird. I mean, it's weird he gets scores like that anyway, but you know what I'm getting at.) Someone in the gallery was whispering the results into Tess Daly's ear as she was reading the autocue. No wonder she always has a look of panicked bafflement. Media multitasking - for me that means listening to Ed Sheeran while playing Candy Crush. Soon Tess would be revealing all to the agog audience (WHAT have I said? Get to the back. Go on, off you go. Cor, there's always one).

While we were waiting for the results the auditory equivalent of blancmange Ellie Goulding subjected treated us to her latest musical rendering,  Still Falling For You. I'm sorry. That was mean of me. I'm sure lots of people like Ellie. She sells lots of records, downloads, upstreams or what have you. She's just not quite my bag, as it were. She's too...twinkly and......nice and.........boring. Mind you, it's not like I'm expecting Metallica doing a slot any time soon - although after Glasto the other year, you never know. I can see Brendan and Natalie doing a lovely Viennese waltz to Nothing Else Matters (I told you I invest far too much time thinking about Strictly).

Mr Goodman had a gander through his lens again, nit-picking and bum-licking his way through the celebs' routines and explaining to us sofa-samba-ers, us couch cha-cha-cha-ers, us pouffe-paso-doble-ers (I'm running out of ideas here) what was good and what was grotty. He even got his hanky out for a wave around at one point.

And then it was time. Had the cha-cha-challenge make any difference to the decision? Had it bum-cheeks! Everyone else was in the same place. And it wasn't much of a surprise who was bottom of the viewer votes.  The two celebrities in the dance off this week were.....

Judge Rinder and Ed Balls. FINALLY!!! The viewers seemed to have got the idea of the competition and voted with their heads instead of their hearts (or funnybones). As much as I love Robert Rinder, he did deserve to be in the bottom two this week. As for Ed - he should have been here a long time ago. At least we can assure ourselves that the dancer who went this week was one who should have gone instead of one that can actually dance. It feels a bit strange, not having a rant this week.

Unfortunately, of course, this meant we had to sit through Ed's dance again - even though Craig admitted to secretly really enjoying his performances and being chagrined that he had to score him as a judge and not a fan. Flipping good job, really!

Poor Judge Rinder looked like he wanted to be sick before he took to the floor, Ed looked quietly confident. But then again, he always does. Judge seemed to get into the character more the second time around and took the panel's advice on board about making more of a connection with Oksana - he didn't lean back as far this time, either. Ed went guts and glory, poop or bust. It didn't improve the technique any and he actually seemed to make a couple of mistakes in this offering.

Once again the judges had to decide who to call time on. After some - but, let's face it not much - deliberation ED was finally, and rightfully, booted off the show. Now we have at last whittled the numbers down to those who can actually bust a move and get with the title of the show. Strictly Come Dancing - not Strictly Get The Viewer Sympathy Vote Because Although I'm Actually Crap I Look Like I'm Trying, I'm a Bit Amusing And Britain Loves An Underdog. I mean, that'd be too much of a mouthful for starters, never mind the cost of ink in printing the bloody tickets. So, yay. Hooray, in fact. Ed has reverted to his MP (Minor Personality) status, has lost out on a vote and gone. I'm definitely not breaking out the celebratory gin. Oh no, sir, not me.

And there we are. Six becomes five as we hurtle on a week closer to the final. One week closer to Christmas. Quick, HOTH, give the sprouts a poke! I'm just nipping off to give my pudding a stir.

Until next week, everyone........KEEP DANCING!!!! And just to keep us on our toes - and probably someone read my moan last week that there's nothing special after Blackpool - next week is going to be MUSICAL WEEK. That should be a whole heap of fun. Imagine the puns I can shoehorn think up for that.

Oh, and as a special treat, here's a preview of the costumes HOTH and I have decided on if ever we take up dancing. Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. Well, not in this weather I don't. It's bloody freezing. Talk about Baltic Blackpool? It's cold enough to turn me winkles inside out! I suspect things were a lot warmer for the celebrity dancers this week. Things for them are certainly hotting up as we hurtle towards the finals - it's all downhill after Blackpool, you know. No more themed weeks to look forward to and the group of gyraters dwindles ever lower as the year draws to a close.

Blimey. That ruined the mood, didn't it? Sorry about that - here's a picture of a lovely Blackpool donkey to cheer you all up.

That reminds me of the old joke - what does a Blackpool Donkey get for lunch? About half an hour, same as those in Southport. Right, enough of that. Back to business. The celebrity couples hit the Blackpool Ballroom dance-floor this week. Apparently, it's a whole new kettle of fish (and chips). A proper ballroom dancing floor is much bigger - so a lot more space for the dancers to cover. This means everything has to be BIGGER and has to be really expressed so that the cheap buggers in the Gods' seating can see everything without having to pay a quid for those useless binoculars you can hire. Consequently, the choreography has to be bolder. The floor is also slightly sprung, so every step is exaggerated and bounced back at the dancer - making it harder on the feet and knees. Meaning dodgy legs, knees and footwork will be even more obvious to the judges. On top of all that there's a bunch of infinitely better backing dancers lolloping around behind them to pad out the number. I don't know what they're worried about. I mean, they're only faced with this sight when they come out of the wings....

Nowt to it, right? So, what turned up in The Tower? Which couple gave us Saturday Night Fever and who made us Sick Again? Come, let us pier behind the scenes and sea what went on (look, I warned you last week there would be puns).

The show started as it meant to go on with a slick, impressive opener with the celebs and pro-dancers mixing it up on the floor in a Fosse-style number. It was a good way to kick off proceedings. Greg popped out from behind a door, Ore sashayed down a red carpet, Claudia came in on a pedestal, Louise brought her fans from last week - the feathery kind - Ed swept in on a throne, Judge Rinder was lowered in on a star and Danny came in with the pro guys (and it was hard to tell them apart). This whipped the audience into a frenzy - they sounded like they'd spent the afternoon on 2-for-1 WKDs at Yates!

And so to the show.

Claudia Fragapane reverted to choreographic stereotype playing a cheerleader, dancing a jive to Hey Mickey by Toni Basil. This was a very fast, almost frenetic routine by AJ. There were some sharp, clean flicks and kicks with really good retraction, but the fast pace caused Claudia (the only contestant small enough to ride on a donkey in the training video clips) to lose her footing and timing. She fronted it out well, though, and quickly got things back on track. This happy, peppy number was full of content and high difficulty and Claudia was in time, on point and together with AJ through most of the full-on choreography. This dance can be Fylde under T for Terrific. The little errors prevented 10s and Claudia scored 36 out of 40.

Up next was an assured Ore Oduba working a Viennese waltz to That's Life by Frank Sinatra. Joanne Clifton had an inspired twist on a traditional Viennese that was great to watch. Faster than usual, this dance had flavours of swing, American Smooth, jazz and pizazz without losing the spins and turns required in a Viennese. Ore oozed confidence, swagger and style as he swept Joanne around the floor. Totally in time, he coped with tricky footwork, clever choreography, acting a character and interacting with the backing dancers without losing a beat. He even performed a twelve-rotation super-fleckerl (see, I knew you'd be impressed). With great frame, poise and polish this was a tower-ing performance that should see Ore coast through to next week. Despite a mean 8 from Craig, Ore managed an impressive 38 out of 40 - cue waterworks.

Louise Redknapp followed this with a Paso Doble to Explosive by Bond. This was a pleasure to watch. While Kevin seemed to push and pull Louise about a bit at the start she soon got into her stride and found the fierce. Louise put on her best paso face as she started with some stylish skirt-swishing and followed up with attack, attitude and intent that was there until the end. She was strong and assured, staying in character and showed some great shaping in her arms. Again, this was Clifton choreography at its best playing to Louise's strengths. This shore was a good number, scoring 38 out of 40.

Which, incidentally, brings us to Lookee Likee Of The Weeeeeeek. I've been pondering who KevinFromGrimsby reminds me of. Last night, the penny dropped. It's Reece Shearsmith from The League Of Gentlemen!

It's uncanny. I can hardly tell them apart. Same glasses, same hair, same smirk. Maybe Kevin and Louise can dress as Edward and Tubbs next week? 

'This is a local cha cha for local people. Do they have glitterballs in Swansea, Kevward?'
(Google is your friend if you don't know what I'm wittering on about).

Where was I? Oh, yes. Strictly. Danny Mac took to the floor next with a simply outstanding Charleston to Puttin' On The Ritz. Showing us she's no donkey Oti tilted the windmill steps in Danny's favour (sorry, even I cringed at that one). This was a super-speedy Charleston. Quick, polished and sharp from start to finish Danny was totally in synch with Oti and the backing dancers. It was a tight, controlled number with tons of difficult steps and tricky choreography - including some table-top moves, fearless lifts and a totally in time one-handed cartwheel. Danny was fleet, fast and didn't flag once. His footwork was flawless, on beat, on time and on the money. He's got to be tide into next week's show. Even Craig was impressed giving a 'FAB-U-LOUS' and getting his big 10 out for the first time this series. BINGO - a full house 40 out of 40 for Mr Mac.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous. It must have been so difficult to follow Danny but someone had to. That someone was Ed Balls 'dancing' a jive to Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis. It really should have been Rock Around The Clock for Blackpool, surely? He certainly danced like his Balls were on fire. Yet again, partner Katya was forced to resort to comedy tricks with Ed being lowered into proceedings on a wire pretending to play the piano. The backing dancers were the main attraction as they sought to take the eye off Ed's antics. There was very low content in this jive - and even the sprung floor couldn't help with the utter lack of bounce. Ed was flat-footed, lumpy and schlumpy all the way through this offering. While he tried with the character and gave it a go he lacked any retraction on the kicks, there were very few flicks and he was fairly low on overall energy, attack and commitment. He was mainly in time but there were long pauses while he got into place and no real flow to the dance. The judges weren't overly impressed either and Ed scored just 23 out of 40 - a backwards slide from previous weeks.

Greg Rutherford was out next dancing a quickstep to Hand Jive. While Greg is used to leaping in his day job he had to tame the take offs (otherwise he'd have ended up in the 15th row of the audience). This conscious effort to wind things back showed and it cost the dance style. Greg had a good, upright posture but unfortunately, so did his thumb - something not lost on picky Craig. His feet were quick and nimble and he covered the floor really well, though he got a bit skippy in parts particularly towards the end.  It seemed like the floor was adding to Greg's natural bounce and it looked a little messy at times. Ironically, he messed up the fairly routine jette leaps but nailed the complex sit down armography. Not his best dance, but by no means his worst. He didn't trample on Natalie's feet anyway. Shell we see him next week? A score of 32 out of 40 might make it difficult.

Judge Rinder closed the show with a saucy little salsa to Spice Up Your Life by The Spice Girls. Last week he brought us Fred and Ginger - this week was something else. There was a Scary moment at the start when the backing dancers almost dropped the Judge out of a lift but he quickly recovered and came out fighting. There was bags of hip movement and rotation, sassy shimmies and some showy lifts all the way through. Proving he's not too Posh to party he showed his Sporty side with a neat little flick-flack but there may have been a little too much energy and attack, causing the timing to suffer a bit. There was some nice footwork and you couldn't fault his enthusiasm, especially for shaking his groove thang - whatever that is - and for once his face antics fitted. The Judge also showed he's no Baby, taking criticism on the chin and standing up for Len when the audience booed the negative feedback. I'm not going to beach about it - the score of 33 out of 40 was on the money. Will he be back next week? Answers on a postcard please. A Big One (DOUBLE PUNNAGE!!! I've outdone myself. Dollars to doughnuts next week's blog is going to read like the Shipping Forecast after this!).

Incidentally - if anyone has a CLEAN word or phrase they'd like me to shoehorn into next week please post something in the comments (or on the thread if you're reading this on the forum) and I'll get HOTH to pick the one he likes the best.

And so the show was over (at least for TV viewers, anyway). The seven couples had done their turns, the judges had made their comments and awarded their scores. Danny was top of the leaderboard and Ed was propping it up - again.

Some of us slept and enjoyed the last day of the weekend before the results show. SBOTH and his rugby team hammered the opposition 18-1, with all the boys playing out of their skins and everyone scoring tries, including SBOTH (GO UNICORNS) and it didn't rain much, which is always a bonus. Plus,you know, sausage butties. Winner.

The people in Blackpool on the night knew what was going to happen, of course. Just how do the live audience keep it such a secret? Do they lock them in a cupboard until Sunday night? Put something in the orange juice and KitKat they get in the interval? (Other chocolate and wafer confections are available. They're just not as nice.) Maybe Big Trev has a word before they can pick up their coats. Who knows? 

Anyway. Results night. The show started with a high energy rock n roll number - again with the celebs mixing it up with the pro dance partners and the backing crew. It was a fun number, loosely based on the old Fifties music TV shows and introduced the stars again and got everyone in the mood for the rest of the evening.

This being Blackpool they rolled out some Big Names - well, bigger than some they've had on so far anyway. Simple Minds rocked up with their classic number Don't You Forget About Me. I wish I could forget it. Jim Kerr largely didn't bother with the tune and looked like somebody's dad doing bad karaoke, dressed in a shiny foil jacket and super-tight strides. Then, as if that wasn't a big enough treat for us, Rick Astley belted out his latest gospel-inspired ballad Dance. Although, ironically, he didn't do his trademark dance, more's the pity (he's a serious singer these days). Rick and Jim? That must have blown the BBC budget. Maybe there was an 80s revival show on at the South Pier and they got them cheap or summat.

Len had brought up his lens, set it to wide angle, and showed us again the good and the glorious, the flawed and the furious. Bruno waved his appendages about as usual, with Darcey and Craig keeping the cool.

And so to the results. The poor celebrities waited, sweating and nervous, as Tess (remarkably fresh after a stint on Children In Need on Friday night) read out the viewer votes. Would the decision reflect the judges' scores for once or would the audience go their own way again?

There it was. Claudia and Greg were in the dance off. Claudia. And. Greg. What? I know I have been saying this for a few weeks now, but come on people! This really is beyond a joke now. OK, so Greg was no Danny Mac but he was a decent dancer, he was improving and he had a much wider repertoire than comedy gurn, stamp and flap arm about like a wounded pigeon. I understand Ed is or can be entertaining and Strictly is an entertainment show. But it's also a dance competition and ED CAN'T DANCE! It's gone from 'OK, let's see what he can do' to 'Lookit the funny man dance, momma'. Like the Victorian freak-shows and visits to Bedlam but with less refinement. Enough. A very decent dancer is in danger of being voted out next week if this carries on. 'Aw, he's dead funny - he proper makes me laugh' just isn't going to cut it anymore.

Right. Enough ranting for now. Greg really upped his game this time round, tightened the feet and nailed his jump, bringing an altogether better performance. But short of Claudia either completely forgetting the routine or kicking Bruno in the nuts in time to the music (I'd probably pay to see that, to be honest) the judges didn't have to think too hard about who was going home. And they were probably eager to get their fish and chip suppers in any case.

It was a unanimous decision. Greg was eliminated. The Curse of Blackpool struck again (I don't know why I'm saying that. Someone is always voted off, even in Blackpool). This really was a shame and he deserved better. The poor lad was in tears in the post-decision interview and Natalie was equally emotional.

Olympic long jumper for the high jump. Greg crashes out.

The remaining dirty half-dozen will return to That There London for next week's show and a chance to knacker themselves all over again in the name of entertainment. Me? I'm off to snuggle under about 15 duvets with a Horlicks and watch Humans (the TV show on 'another' channel. I'm not remotely suggesting that Ed isn't human - although sometimes I do wonder).

Until next week..................KEEP DANCING!!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

You know Strictly is taking over your life when you start to dream about it. This week my nocturnal inner ramblings brought a new twist.  I dreamed that the Beeb had decided to shake things up for 2017. Instead of individual marks dancers were given a random 'lump sum' score. Len had been replaced by Queen guitarist Brian May. Bruno had been replaced by Jonathan Creek star Alan Davies (I must have a subconscious thing for blokes with poodle perms). Points were awarded for being rubbish and funny rather than technique. Ed had scored a full house 40 for his dance - although, thankfully, that didn't appear in my dream - I tuned in just in time for the scores. I woke up in a cold sweat - that's the last time I eat prawns before bed, I'm telling you! I just hope no BBC execs are reading this and think 'You know, that's not a bad idea.....'

So, back to reality. It's Week Eight - nearly Blackpool time. I'll pre-warn you on the punnage count for the blog on that one. It will be high and awful. It always is. But that's all in the future. What happened this weekend - who wowed us and who won't be beside the seaside?

Daisy Lowe opened proceedings with a salsa to Groove is In The Heart by Deee-Lite. With Aljaz looking like an extra from Scooby Doo this was a sixties style nod to the dance. It started off pretty well - Daisy and Aljaz were together and she was in time with the beat but it was a bit stop / start and lost fluidity and flow. More chunky and clunky than a smooth saucy dance. Daisy's height hindered her somewhat (even though she has amazing legs) and she wobbled out of turns and the tricky lifts that Aljaz has choreographed. Bruno spotted the fluffs from across the floor and brought them up in his comments. Still, it was cheery, bouncy and fun and earned her 31 out of 40.

Greg Rutherford came next with a powerful paso doble to Tamacun by Rodrigo y Gabriela. Yeah, I've got all their albums. Even with a waistband higher than Simon Cowell sports Greg gave this a good go. From a cape carry on at the start the dance was full of energy. Greg had plenty of attitude, attack and intent throughout the number and Natalie had packed in plenty of content with knee-change jumps, lunges and walks. The unfamiliar music may have helped as there was nothing to distract from the routine. There were some lovely heel flicks and flamenco steps and Greg kept his rear well tucked under. He lost a little shaping in places and his free arm was still a bit flingy, but overall his wasn't a bad dance. It certainly divided the judges but Greg was awarded 31 out of 40 for his efforts.

Judge Rinder followed with a fabulous little foxtrot to You Make Me Feel So Young by Harry Connick Junior (well, by the Dave Arch singers but you get my drift). The judge had been looking forward to this so much. It's his grandparents' favourite dance and they were in the audience to cheer him on. He started off with a great skip & heel click before getting into hold. He seemed to be singing along to the song as he and partner Oksana swept along the floor, but his face was in check - apart from the massive grin on his face that showed what a great time he was having. Us too. The judge had loads of style and grace, rise and fall and had nailed the 'quick, quick, slow' that makes the foxtrot such a difficult dance to learn. There was bags of content, glide and flow and he was lovely and light on his feet. There could have been a bit more swing but the judges were impressed. Nines from Len and Darcey contributed to a whopping 33 out of 40.

Ore Oduba brought us another rumba to Ordinary People by John Legend. I think I've worked out why I don't really like the rumba. It's a dance all about romance, tenderness and deep feelings. as HOTH will testify, I have all the tenderness of an All-Black rugby forward and the romance of Geoff Boycott after a heavy loss by England in The Ashes. I probably swear more, too. But back to Ore. There was some nice touches - the usual wiggle, walk, pout, wave bits were all in there. Ore kept in character and was touching in the touchy-feely bits without being too cheesy. He had good shaping and frame with nice musicality, particularly through his arm extension and finishes. It was a good effort, but I still enjoyed the singing more than the dancing. The guy had a great voice. Ore's ability to stay in time with an arrangement that had no percussion or real beat earned him 35 out of 40.

And then came Ed Balls. Ermagerrrd (as Da Yoof today are prone to say, so I'm told). Ed was dancing (and I say that in the loosest possible terms) a salsa to Gangnam Style by Psy. Yes, you read that right. Gangnam Style. Salsa. As if the singers don't have enough to contend with, the poor bloke had to sing entirely in Korean. Never mind Ed getting points, the singer gets a big TEN from me! As I said last week, partner Katya has resorted to comedy to get Ed through the series. And I will admit that this was a bloody entertaining turn (if Ed isn't on the Strictly tour this year I'll eat HOTH's underpants - after he's eaten chilli cheese). Ed threw everything but the kitchen sink at this dance. There was a bizarre move where Katya saw more of Ed's balls than could have been good for her - if you didn't watch, YouTube it (just don't eat while watching). The energy certainly wasn't lacking and there were some good lifts and bounce. Ed's hips didn't rotate much and there wasn't a lot of promenade, but blimey it was fun. Darcey's control pants must have taken a hell of a bashing she was laughing so much and Len was speechless. The salsa-that-wasn't scored Ed a bottom-of-the-board 25 out of 40 - but an 8 from Len!

Claudia Fragapane swept onto the floor with a Viennese waltz to Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson. Tiny tumbler Claudia is probably the best prepared for all the turns and spins needed for a Viennese - she spends her days doing somersaults, after all. However, it has been hard for her to 'unlearn' the stiff posture required in gymnastics and the habit of 'spotting' the floor. Nevertheless, this was a graceful, smooth, flowing routine with plenty of content. AJ had stuck in more fleckerls (of every flavour) than Len could shake his pickled walnuts at and there were some nice heel leads. Claudia had a beautiful frame and lovely, lyrical arms out of hold with plenty of confidence throughout. There was a twizzer and a barely legal 'float spin' at the end with Claudia just about scraping the floor with the skin of her verruca (disclaimer - I don't know if she actually has got a verruca. She might have lovely feet for all I know). This nice little number earned 36 out of 40..

Danny Mac brought us the second Argentine Tango of the series to I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. He actually did some actorising in this one! This was another fabulous, confident and assured outing from Danny. It was clean, sharp, precise and controlled from beginning to end. We were treated to glorious ganchos and outrageous ochos and some beautiful kicks and leg twining and crossing. Danny showed some great poise and panache and, while there could have been more of a V shape, his framing and posture were pretty solid. While this was a dance the audience clearly loved, it split the judges - with Darcey in particular feeling it was a bit too aggressive and full-on and Craig pointing out the (admittedly) minor flaws. Whatever the comments, Danny scored a table-topping 38 out of 40.

And so the show was closed by Louise Redknapp dancing an American Smooth to Big Spender by Shirley Bassey. This was a nice nod to the Fosse era with Louise starting out with ostrich feathers. She gave this dance a good fan-dang-go, I'll give her that. She's clearly growing in confidence as she gave this dance loads of style, swagger and pizzazz. It was big, bold and full of fun. Louise sold the number and The KFG (KevinFromGrimsby) had put in lots of cracking content. There were some sticky moments in and out of lifts where Louise didn't look as comfortable but she was bang on beat when her feet were on the floor. The judges were impressed - especially Bruno, whose 10 added to Louise's overall score of 37 out of 40.

Our hopeful eight had done all they could do. It was all out of their hands (or feet) now. Everyone who dances on Strictly wants to go to Blackpool - it's the home of ballroom, the Mecca of music (and I don't mean just because of all the bingo). We were about to find out which seven couples were seaside bound.

There was a lovely, touching Remembrance Sunday tribute at the start of the show dedicated to a couple who met during WW2 - 72 years ago. The pro dancers told the story of how the couple met, fell in love and married and the couple themselves appeared to a standing ovation from the audience.

Quite how Len got across London for the results show while simultaneously standing in for Paul O'Grady on Radio 2 is anyone's guess. Perhaps one one  of the shows was pre-recorded (innocent look)?

Continental conductor and Strauss superfan Andre Rieu showed up to provide the musical interlude - a version of Hallelujah by the wonderful Leonard Cohen who sadly passed away this week. The pro-dancers - Brendan and Natalie - of course performed a Viennese waltz. As if we could have expected anything else. Now, I don't know about you, but our Andre always reminds me of Vigo - the villain from Ghostbusters II. Honestly, you never see them in the same room!


See what I mean? If it wasn't for the violin you'd have to wonder what Andre was up to in 1989. Actually....what was he doing?

Len and his omnipresent lens spotlighted (spotlit?) his favourite bits and cleared up confusion where - and why - the judges had been picky about moves, feet and arms. There were a couple of candid shots and recordings of the judges and dancers that we wouldn't normally see, which is always fun. Darcey's reaction to Ed's dance looked suspiciously F-bomb in nature!

Then the couples stood in their spotlights, hoping they wouldn't turn red and signal a potential halt to their progress. There were squeals, tears, floods of relief (flods of tears from Ore) and evident joy as, one by one, the safe and secure six were sent through and upstairs to the 'Clauditorium' and a light-hearted grilling by Winkers.

Finally, we were left with the unloved. Greg and Daisy were in the dance-off. Poor Daisy - this was her third time in the bottom two. She just doesn't seem to be connecting with the audience. It's not even like she's a bad dancer or a horrible person. She's just a bit - dare I say it - bland compared to some of the other competitors. Like Laura, her day job is probably also a bit outside the universe of Strictly's majority demographic and not exactly a household name.

Ed, on the other hand. Well, Ed must have the same campaign manager and publicist as Donald Trump. Actually, the two do have quite a bit in common. Nobody I know or have spoken to admits to having voted for him and yet he remains on the show. That and the fact that they're both orange, overconfident, fairly talentless and clueless. The consolation, of course, is that Ed is relatively harmless and has all his own hair (as far as we know anyway).

The dance-off followed the same format it always does. Both couples revisited their routines, both couples tried that bit harder to take on board the judges' comments and improve for survival. Nothing was spectacularly different. Nobody was dropped or mooned the panel (shame, that would have made things a bit more interesting).

This week must have been a difficult decision for the judges. Neither celebrity was entirely terrible, nor were they outstandingly spectacular. Both had achieved the same score the first time round. Daisy seemed to dance the same as she's done previously, Greg had tightened up his routine and ironed out the errors. The judges were split. Craig and Darcey plumped for Greg. Bruno simpered over his decision to save Daisy. The casting vote went to Chief Judge Len. In the end, as he said, he voted with his head and not his heart. He went for the dancer that had improved and was still improving. Greg got a reprieve and Daisy was sent packing.

               Say Hel-Lowe and wave goodbye! Daisy cha-chas back to the catwalk.

And that was that. Our ever-dwindling bunch of boogeyers boarded the bus for Blackpool. What will happen there? Will Darcey Kiss Me Quick? Will Bruno ride The Big One? Will Craig do a turn at Funny Girls? All that - and more - will be revealed in next week's blog.

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

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Remember, remember the Fifth of November - it's Strictly Come Dancing Week Seven
Whose dancing should be placed on top of the pyre - and whose took us to dancing heaven?
Nine couples were left to vie for the prize for the glitter ball and the top spot
But never mind about the gunpowder and treason - which celebrity had lost the plot?

Good evening fellow Strictly chums! How was Bonfire Night for you? Like most, Strictly this week was full of explosions of energy and thrills - and just a few disappointing damp squibs. The anticipation was like setting up a Catherine Wheel. Or, as it's known in our house, the Disappointing Disc of Pfffttttttt. You really didn't know how it was going to go.

Guy Fawkes. Apparently. I think he looks more like actor Robert Lindsay doing his serious face.

But back to the show - who was on fire this week (not literally - that's going too far even for The Beeb) and who failed to go off with a bang? Put your mittens on, grab a sparkler and join me for the Bonfire Bonanza that is the Strictly Round Up.

'Dynamite' Danny Mac opened the show with a joyous jive to Long Tall Sally by Little Richard which was set in a pool hall. Cue a great routine. Danny was clean, sharp and controlled with crisp kicks and flicks. There could have been a bit more retraction but he had great character, frame and attack. He nearly broke his (pool) balls doing the splits but he caught a break with fab timing, synchronicity and energy. It's the return of the Mac - 38 out of 40 scored.

Daisy 'Light The Blue Touchpaper' Lowe followed up with a vivacious Viennese Waltz to Daisy Bell. I only know the rude version of this song so couldn't sing along since it was before SBOTH's bedtime. This was a lovely, whimsical routine set at a market. Daisy didn't stall once and really sold this number. It was twirly and swirly with some very fast spins, bags of style and overall charm. Aljaz had choreographed a nice story and Daisy stayed in character right to the end. Her frame sagged a little at the end, but that's being really picky. Daisy got her highest score to date - 34 out of 40.

Ore 'Ooooh' Oduba (alright, alright - I couldn't think of a better pun) came next with a sizzling salsa to Turn The Beat Around. Joanne Clifton really knows how to choreograph to best show off her partner (unlike some other pro dancers I could mention). Ore was was more happy and confident in the moves this week. The routine had lots of difficult content and rhythm with some fearless and secure lifts. He had some good shimmy and swagger but was missing the figure of eight rotation a little. It was energetic, perhaps a little frantic in places - and he looked like he'd had some face training from Judge Rinder. Overall a good comeback - hip, hip Ore. 34 out of 40 scored.

Ed 'Banger' Balls took to the floor with a clunky quickstep to Help! by The Beatles. Never was there a more apt song choice. If he's here next week may I suggest Go Now by The Moody Blues or We Gotta Get Out Of This Place by The Animals (actually, you could manage a decent foxtrot to that, come to think of it). Anyway, Ed's dance. This was a pretty slow quickstep with the pair dressed as Laurel & Hardy. It was straight out of Anton Du Beke's Strictly Handbook - when your partner can't dance well, do comedy. I'll be honest - I was expecting slopstick, we actually got some slapstick. While the plank prop may have had more style, Ed was surprisingly light on his feet. He had good character and there was a nice Charleston-esque section in the middle. His frame was OK, but he tended to get a bit skippy in a routine that was fairly...well....routine. The judges thought well enough of it, giving Ed his highest score to date with 27 out of 40.

Laura 'Whoosh' Whitmore followed with a saucy samba to Bamboleo by Gipsy Kings. Yes, I was singing it the rest of the bloody night. Except I only know the words 'Bamboleo, bambalyo'. Laura's dance had decent attack with some nice footwork, hips and swing. She did make a mistake or two and stumbled a little at one point - perhaps the music was a little too fast for her? Giovanni showed off throughout the dance with 'look at me' flashy moves and poncey pirouettes while Laura was reduced to standing there pouting and wiggling. This fact wasn't lost on the judges, with Len & Craig criticising him for his actions. Despite a couple of timing issues Laura still scored well with 32 out of 40.

Judge 'Rocket' Rinder was up next with the night's second quickstep to It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing). Well, this dance had it in bucketloads. The judge clearly loved this tricky routine, even if you could see him counting the beat out loud through clenched teeth. He tried to tame his face, but it has a mind of its own and just did what it does best. There was some lovely fleet footwork, nice travel across the floor and some pleasing promenade steps. Once he relaxed into the beat you could see he forgot to worry about the technics and in doing so nailed the technique. He has a sweet chemistry with partner Oksana,too, who is definitely bringing out the dancer in him. The judge was another who scored his highest to date - 33 out of 40, including his first 9 of the series.

Louise 'Roman Candle' Redknapp brought us the first Argentine Tango of the year to Tangeura by Sexteto Mayor. No, I've never heard of it either. Wow. Clever choreography is clearly a Clifton strength. Kevin had set a cracking number. This was a hot, steamy, sexy routine full of drama, attack, content and style. Louise played a great character and it looks like she's finally starting to believe in herself. There was good leg action with all the gauchos and ochos you could wish for (these are Argentine tango moves, apparently, and not side dishes at Chiquitos). Louise let rip with deep lunges, sass and attitude in a dance with great content and switch-up of style. The cheeky chica scored an astonishing 39 out of 40.

Greg 'The Guy' Rutherford was last but one with a Viennese Waltz to You Don't Own Me. This was a totally unique take on a 'normal' Viennese and completely different to Daisy's. Despite a little bit of a spiky start this was a full-on dramatic, powerful routine. Greg looked to be in control throughout, leading partner Natalie wonderfully across the floor. He had tight, even footwork and was strong and masterful. He still needs to work on his free arm but the judges loved the flavour of this dance - Craig's only niggle was a brief sticky-up thumb. A very decent 32 out of 40 for our Olympian.

Claudia 'Firecracker' Fragapane closed the show with a passable Paso Doble to Shut Up And Dance by Walk The Moon. An unusual choice of music in my humble opinion. It's a bit cheerful and poopy, sorry, poppy for a dance that's supposed to be about torrid toreadors and sizzling senoritas. Still, Claudia made a damn decent attempt. You can't fault her framing and she had perfect Paso arms, attack and attitude all the way through. The dance had plenty of content, technique and flair but, again, it seemed a little too fast for Claudia to keep up at times. Newbie AJ (i still can't get over that hair) clearly wants to impress the judges - and you can't knock him for the effort - but he needs to reel it in a little and choreograph to his partner's strengths and limits (or maybe take some tips from the CliftonsFromGrimsby). Claudia earned 33 out of 40 for her efforts.

And so the dances were done. The hotdogs had been eaten, the toffee apples scoffed. Someone had rescued Craig before he was chucked on the bonfire. Louise was top of the leader-board and Ed was yet again languishing at the bottom. All that was left was the wait for the results.

Everyone in the studio knew before they got the last bus home, obviously - minds wiped like Men In Black lest the spill the secret to their loved ones or the bloke in the kebab shop. Us mere mortals had to wait until Sunday and the edited highlights of the vote (I'm reliably informed that Claudia W is very sweary and naughty - can't be having *that* sort of shenanigans before the watershed).

This week Cheshire Crooner Gary 'Take That' Barlow - and his amazing performing eyebrow (seriously, that thing needs its own agent) - brought us a snippet of a song from his new musical 'The Girls'. This is based on the true story (and Hollywood film) of the WI ladies who stripped off for a calendar to raise money for cancer. There was a choir of ladies of a certain age provided backing vocals. Not so much The Three Tenors as the Thirty-Three Tena-ladies. Thankfully, Gary kept his kit on and there was no chance of seeing his trailing begonias before tea-time. For this I am eternally grateful.

Len got his lens out for a shufty at the shuffles and gave us a bit more insider knowledge for me to nick for me blog. Tess did her thing, the celebs twitched and sweated. Some screamed and cried when they learned they had been saved. It's fun to see who doesn't thank the public down the camera - you have to wonder if their card will be marked next week. Finally, the bottom two dancers were announced.............

Ore and Laura were in the dance off!! WHAT? I mean WHAT THE ACTUAL AND UTTER? I can't believe the viewers this week. Maybe everyone was out at a bonfire party and only Ed's mum & family were sitting at home voting. Alright, I know some people aren't that keen on poor Laura (or don't really know who she is unless they watch reality TV shows) and she'd had some difficulties with her dance but Ore?? Were people watching the same dance? Or was it voter apathy? People thinking 'Well, everyone will vote for Ore now so I'll vote for.....' Seriously, this week's outcome was frankly bizarre. Everyone was shocked with the result - the panel included.

The endangered duo took to the floor again to reprise their routines. Laura hadn't really sharpened up her moves much but she avoided the previous stumble. Giovanni still showed off. Ore....well, Ore just gave us more of the originally great number and stuck in some extra hips and smoothed out the lifts for good measure.

It was down to the judges - who would Len & Co save this week? Yeah - like I had to ask? Remarks were rightly made about the wrong couples facing the chop. Even though it mustn't have been that difficult a choice for them to have to make (sorry Laura) there are times when they get annoyed by the viewer vote. Eventually, after some discussion and deliberation....

Laura was booted off the show. 'Tis pity -  I'm sure Laura would have improved further given a chance.

Loathe her or adore her - it's the last we'll see of Laura. Whitmore is there to say?   She's out and on her way.

And that was that. All done & dusted. I'm off for a small sweet sherry and a French Fancy. Until next week.........KEEP DANCING!!!!!!