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!!

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