Sunday, 18 December 2016

And now, the end is 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 subjected treated to a whole load of filler. There were audience interviews, shiny-eyed moppets wishing everyone 'good wuck' - even previous series' winners and participants got into the act. Emily Sande popped by to belt out a number while Joe Varney - sorry, Giovanni - danced and lip-synced along.

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................


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' 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls....WELCOME! WELCOME! Here we are at the Strictly Come Dancing 2016 semi-final. The wheat has been sorted from the chaff, the good has been sorted from the naff and we're left with four couples who could actually win this thing - and each genuinely deserve to do so.

Apart from one or two dodgy dancers, this year seems to have brought us the highest standards in Strictly history. Some of the routines this year have been jaw-droppingly spectacular (some have been jaw-dropping in quite a different way, but Ed's not here any longer).

As if the excitement of a semi-final isn't enough for us this week each of the couples will be doing TWO different dances. That's right - double the entertainment, double the fun, double the danger of low scores and eliminations. Two caches of Craig Comments, Bountiful Bonkers Bruno, Lotsa Len and a duo of Darcey dahlings.

The stage was set, the audience primed, Tess and Winkers were waiting in the wings. Who will march on to the Final Three? Lights, camera, action and ON WITH THE SHOW.

This week the show opened with Louise Redknapp dancing a tango to Glad All Over by Dave Clark Five. My lovely late nan's friend bloody hated that song. Her name was, of course, Gladys - Glad for short. So all the blokes at work used to sing 'I'm Feeling Glad All Over' whenever she walked by.  But, I digress. Again. Back to Louise. This was, overall, a tight and controlled dance but the theme was peppy and jolly, rather than passionate and hot. I didn't know I'd been tangoed. Although Louise and Kevin were practically joined at the hip, there were problems with gapping - or lack thereof. The classic V-shape in the upper body was missing. Don't get me wrong, there was loads of attitude and attack from Louise and she coped really well with the fast pace and difficult choreography. Unfortunately, she fluffed her feet a couple of times and went wobbly on occasion. A decent 37 out of 40 from the judges, with Bruno giving a perfect 10 despite the errors.

Danny Mac was second to the floor with a steamy salsa to Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony. As we've come to expect from Danny, this was a slick, masterful routine that looked like a pair of pro-dancers on the floor. He used his whole body to show off Oti's clever choreography which was tricky in itself. There was excellent isolation, stunning spins and lifts and a breathtaking break section in the middle of a fluid, flowing number. Danny was assured and in control all the way through and led Oti with aplomb (well, with his hands). Craig bemoaned the lack of 'figure of eight' rotation and Darcey droned on about something - I stopped listening when Bruno fell off his chair in protest. Danny also scored 37 out of 40.

Claudia Fragapane followed with rumba to Keep Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis. Imagine I've said nice things about a rumba. Let's pretend it wasn't all wiggle, walk, pout, wave. Okay. Well, it was. It was......alright. Claudia & AJ sauntered round the floor like a couple of moody Goth teenagers - not helped by Claudia being made & dressed up somewhat like Morticia Addams. There was no real spark or chemistry between the pair, though and it was more like a brother / sister feel than angst-filled lovers. There was plenty of content, just no context. Lots of lovely leg extension pieces (apparently this has a posh ballet name but I can't spell it), but not much hip action and it seemed a bit placed and stop / start. Claudia earned 35 out of 40 for her first dance.

Ore Oduba finished the first section with an accomplished quickstep to Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet. He hit the floor running from the very start with this dance. Ore stayed in the cocky character right through the routine and danced with style, swagger and confidence. His footwork was really good and his step sequences with partner Joanne were bang on the money. Ore had bags of energy, was light on his feet and was fast, furious and fluid from beginning to end. It wasn't without fault - it got a little skippy at times and he lost timing and togetherness on a couple of occasions. Despite a couple of tiny errors he got a standing ovation from Len and Bruno - and promptly burst into tears, not least because his folks had flown in from Nigeria that morning to watch him. The panel gave Ore 38 out of 40.

And that was End Of Part One. Winkers had Tess corpsing with her antics, which included face-planting a crash mat and staying there while Tess tried to deliver her lines. This gave the dancers time to change hair, make-up and costume and get ready for Round Two.

Louise Redknapp started the second part with a samba to Brazil by Thiago Thome. I'll be honest, I wasn't nuts about this dance. To me, it seemed a bit flat, safe and staid for what should be a party dance. Louise seemed to hold back a bit and had lost some of the gusto she had showed us last week. There wasn't a lot of bounce or hip action and she seemed to lack some energy - maybe she'd used it all up in dance one? Apparently, there was loads of technical content - which was probably pleasing to the experts - but to those of us who don't know our Voltas from our Botafogos it was all a bit...hmmmm. Len said he saw a maypole, I just saw meh. What do I know - Louise got 36 out of 40 - a grand total of 73 out of 80.

Danny Mac returned with an amazing American Smooth to Misty Blue by Dorothy Moore. This is one of my favourite songs of all time - coupled with who is quickly becoming one of my favourite Strictly dancers of all time. Ermagerd. This was an astonishing routine. Danny and Oti have an incredible partnership and it shows in the dances. He had fantastic fluid lines, flawless frame and shaping and was accomplished both in and out of hold. The lifts were jaw-dropping - and the dance concluded with a breath-taking 'leap of faith' by Oti that showed her utter trust in Danny's capability. The dance itself told a beautiful story that was emotional and moving with the pair demonstrating a great connection. Danny scored 39 out of 40 - Darcey awarding a 9 where she had scored less able dancers perfect 10s earlier. Danny's final score was 76 out of 80.

Claudia came back with quickstep to When You're Smiling by Andy Williams. This was by far a more upbeat number (obviously - it's a quickstep) with lots of swing, jazz and pizazz. Claudia seemed more at ease in this dance and actually performed this time round. This was a hard routine with tricky split foot sequences, sashays and floor-covering sweeps. She had plenty of energy for this dance and it suited her personality to a T. Once again she had practically perfect poise and posture and she was tightly together with AJ. Light on her feet, she captured the mood of this dance better than the rumba. The judges agreed and gave her 38 out of 40. A total of 73 out of 80 on the night.

Ore brought the show to a close with an Argentine Tango to Can't Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie. Another outstanding outing from Ore on the night - something just seemed to finally click on Saturday night for him. Ore's character was strong and masterful and he was intense, powerful and on beat. For me, he seemed a little hunchy and round-shouldered at times - and Joanne appeared to do all the work with the ganchos and ochos. The lifts were risky, but Ore pulled them off, including a one-handed catch - and we should remember he's the only finalist who hasn't had any dance or gymnastic training. The lines were good, he led well and managed the intense choreography, staying in time. There were a couple of little errors and he lost a bit of balance, but he still scored an exceptional 39 out of 40 - giving him a table-topping score of 77 out 80.

And so the dances were danced, the panel purveyed points, the stars were shattered. They could do nothing more now but wait for the phone lines to close and the rest of show to be edited for Sunday.

The weekend waltzed to a close with a stunning opening routine from the pros who got us all in the mood for the results - with Janette Manrararararararararararara starting off in a cage and then the rest of the flock joining in dressed like birds (see what I did there?). I don't envy the cleaners having to pick up all the feathers that were flying off the costumes.

Self-satisfied singer and all-round Amazonian Tribesman botherer Sting sang One Fine Day. Well, copper load of that. Just to Sumner up, that must have been a budget-blowing bash by the Bee-b. They must have struck Fields Of Gold. Who are they going to get for the final - Elvis? Honey G?

You thought I'd forgotten it, didn't you? As if I would! It's time for Lookee Likee Of The Weeeeeeeeek. Watching the Tyneside Tantric Tunester strumming his six-string brought to mind another conceited performer with no restraint in the self-praise department. Mesdames et Messieurs, I give you.......

STING AND HANDSOME SQUIDWARD (from Spongebob, in case you haven't been tortured subjected to scarred by familiarised with kids' TV):

It's un-canny, bonny lads and lasses! I'd think they were twins if I wasn't wearing glasses.

Anyway......The looming lens of Len Goodman was wheeled out for the last time ever (wipes tear etc). Dances were dissected, footwork finagled, routines ripped apart. I do hope they're going to do something similar next year - it's 90% of the reason I've learned so much about the dances over the years.

And so it came to pass. The results that nobody and everybody wanted to hear. The souped-up judges' scores added to the viewer vote. The penultimate popularity contest. Which two couples were safe and who would be dancing again with all their heart and soul to steal that final Final place?

Tess was tenser than ever. The dancers must have been sponsored by Imodium as they waited. Eventually it was announced........Danny Mac and Claudia Fragapane were in the dance-off. Well, I knew it had to be someone but Danny? Maybe he was a victim of wellys. As in 'Well, he's going to get lots of votes so I'll ring in for someone else instead'. Danny. Did. Not. Deserve. To. Be. In. The. Dance. Off. Not no way, not no how (see, I'm so upset my grammar has been mangled). Still, no use whinging over something that happened last night I have no control over. I, we, would just have to trust the judges'...erm...judgement on this one.

There was a quick break for the skreikathon up in the Clauditorium. Crikey, they were all at it. I thought Danny & Claudia were going to have to don scuba gear for their routines!

The duos did their dance do-over. Since it would have been too much hassle to change costumes again (even though we're supposed to be 24 hours later) the couples reprised their second dances for survival. Which was a bit of a shame for Claudia, given the utter quality of Danny's American Smooth. Short of him missing Oti in the leap of faith or having a Matt Di Angelo moment and completely forgetting his routine (Strictly Season Five, week ten  - actor Matt forgot his foxtrot and went and sat on the steps before the end of the number. Ironically, he was dancing to Better Together), he was going to be a very difficult act to beat.

Thankfully, the judges agreed that there could only be one result. One dancer appeared to have plateaued, one dancer (incredibly) still improves week on week....

Claudia had fallen at the last hurdle. The glitterball slipped from her fingers and shattered like her dreams around her little feet. Cough. Metaphors not so much mixed there as gene-spliced together in an horrific experiment worthy of Dr Moreau. Genuinely heartbroken - or at least frightfully disappointed (she's probably going to be on the tour, after all) she left the show to tumultuous applause and appreciation from everyone else involved in the show. 

No more closer, tiny dancer. Fragapane's Strictly career is fragmented.

And there we have it. Our final three. Danny Mac, Louise Redknapp and Ore Oduba. Next week will see the remaining trio fight (well, dance) it out to first see which couples get to perform their intricate and, hopefully, amazing show-dance routines. After that, it's all down to the wire - the telephone wire (yes, I know it's mainly wi-fi and fibre-optic cable these days but that analogy wouldn't scan, would it? So I'm taking some poetic licence) and the opinion of the audience to see who will be crowned Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Champion. Who's your money on?

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

This might not be the actual, proper glitterball trophy. I mean, it looks like something knocked up by the Blue Peter team out of an old Christmas bauble and some sticky-backed plastic......but, you know, if they've spent all the money on Sting, you never know!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Not long left now, fellow fandango fans. With last week's Balls to the wall outcome, here we are at Quarter Finals week already. Where has the series gone? It seems like only minutes ago we were eagerly awaiting the line-up announcement. And here we are, almost at the end of our dancing journey. As if that isn't enough, it's also Musicals Week! So many to choose from - old Hollywood favourites, new sensations. Would anyone do the nudey number from Hair? Actually, Ed probably would have done. NOW are you happy he's gone?

Get your opera glasses ready (not the ones filled with Chardonnay), plump up your programme and take your front row seats for the round-up of Strictly Week Eleven - Musicals heaven!!

Since The Beeb has to fill at least an hour - and with not many dancers left - we were treated to a musical opening number by the pro-dancers and the celebrities. Well, I say treated. It was Tone Deaf Tony Beak (Anton Du Beke to Strictly regulars) murdering a song while everybody else pranced about in the background. Seriously, stick to the day job Anton - a song and dance man you ain't.  This was obviously a pre-recorded section slotted in at the start - there were so many changes of set and costume. Still, you could hardly see the edit joins and it got the audience in the mood.

Then came the judges. Bruno and Craig camply capered in, Darcey did variation On a Waft #4 (seriously, mix it up a bit Darce) and Len tottered in like a grandad on Guinness. The stage was set so.........on with the show!

All the contestants got some backing dancers to bulk out the routines this week, and it was good to see how they interacted and whether they were seamlessly joined in the routines.

Ore Oduba opened the show with a fair foxtrot to Pure Imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was a nice number, if a little quiet and sedate for an opener. I wonder if this dance was on Ore's Bucket list? Sadly, the backing dancers weren't dressed as Oompa Loompas, which would have added some fun. He coped with the acting part of the dance fairly well and he had an assured frame, sway and swagger. Light on his feet, he looked like he was dancing on Aero. Joanne Clifton had devised a lovely, sweeping, whimsical routine. There were some nice changes of pace,  but Daim to a dollar, Ore's balance issues Mars what could have been a cracker. Candy they go through to next week? Willy ever score 40? Not this week - the judges gave him 36 out of 40.

There was a nice little interlude where Brendan and his Technicolour Dreamcoat - complete with cuddly sheep (no digs at him being a Kiwi, I hope) brought us the Terms and Conditions. That was worth a day's licence fee on its own.

Judge Rinder was up next with a samba to Oh! What A Night from Jersey Boys. Frankie, my dears, this wasn't the best it could have been. The Judge's face got as much work out as his hips in this routine which, to be fair, were really very good. Lots of rotation and isolation - plus a bonus mini-twerk - ticked all the boxes in that department. Sadly, he was very flat-footed and looked like he's been on the Sherry, baby. This meant that he couldn't quite get the bounce action needed for a samba. There were some slips and errors and his free arm got a bit flingy, too. Still, you couldn't fault his energy, commitment and determination. There were shimmies and shakes, knee walks and he looked like he had lots of fun. It was a Valli-ant effort. Unfortunately, the panel thought he was stiff and stompy and only awarded him 31 out of 40.

Which, of course, brings me to this year's new slot. Lookee Likee Of The Weeeeeeeek!! Sitting watching the lovely Robert Rinder doing his Latin, clocking the ever-animated faces he pulls, I was suddenly struck with doppelganger delight:


I Don't Believe It! Rinder is a Ringer for Victor Meldrew!!! To the Victor, the spoils? We shall have to wait and see....

Louise Redknapp followed with a quirky quickstep to The Deadwood Stage from Calamity Jane. Kevin's no cowboy when it comes to choreography (although he looked alarmingly like Yosemite Sam in the training video). Deadwood? Dead good, more like. From the start Louise was on top form and seemed to have bags of confidence with this dance. She coped brilliantly with an extended solo slot and in sections with the backing dancers - including an amazing Leap of Faith, dropping backwards from the judges' desk into their arms.  This was a high-energy, high-octane 'show' routine with loads of changes of style BUT not much in the way of traditional quickstep, well, steps. Louise was tight, together with Kevin and had great timing all the way through this dance. There was a bit of a Calamity when Len bemoaned the lack of expected quickstep content and she was awarded 37 out of 40, with Bruno scoring a generous 10. Can she stage a comeback this week? Who knows?

Claudia Fragapane was a cute little cub dancing a salsa to I Just Can't Wait To Be King from The Lion King. It did look a bit like The Beeb had saved make-up money by sending her to a kids' face-painter (let's face it, she's so tiny she could get away with it) but it was a pretty impressive costume. Claw-dia really seemed to shine in this routine and showed off her excellent core strength in some spectacularly tricky lifts, throws and moves. She had great isolation through her body and really attacked the dance with great hip rotations and languid moves. Her confidence has grown week on week and now she has no problems with character and looking down the camera, smiling and putting on a show. She had plenty of energy and attack, bags of rhythm and style and was very good both in and out of hold. I'd be lion if I said it was flawless, though. Her mane problem was AJ fluffing a few lifts including the big finale where he totally missed his grip. Claudia didn't panic and held her nerve, though. It was a jungle out there alright, but the judges restored her pride to give her 37 out of 40 - and Bruno finally giving her her first perfect 10.

Danny Mac brought things to a close with a tight tango to One Night Only from Dreamgirls. Danny showed why he is the judges' Dreamboy, as he put the show in show tune with this number. This was a very Foxxy, very fast, very tight tango with more excellent choreography from Oti. Danny had a fabulous frame from start to finish and near-perfect shaping in all of his moves. He poured energy into a number that had tricky kicks and flicks thrown into already difficult footwork. It looked to us mere mortals that he was picture-perfect, but Len and Craig spotted that he'd missed a couple of his heel leads. Still, he was sharp, focused and in charge - especially in a brilliant ensemble promenade sequence with all the backing dancers involved. Nice guy Danny made sure he thanked them at the end of the routine and in the post-dance interview (the only dancer to do so). Given his background in musical theatre (he played Boq in Wicked - not a massive role, granted), you'd forgive him if he'd have belted out And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going. And I don't think he will be. Despite panel pickiness he still scored 38 out of 40.

To bulk out the programme that bit further, the pro-dancers finished with a West Side Story flavoured number, with the boys starting off in gang style poses. The Sharks and The Jettes perhaps? Now, I don't know abooout you but I'd back Brendan in a fight over Kev and AJ any day. Apparently, he was a brickie back in t'day. Hod and shoulder above the rest, probably.

So, almost as soon as it began, our musicals night was over. That went quick. I'm still disappointed no-one did Springtime For Hitler from The Producers. THAT would have got them talking on Monday morning.

The night saw some highs and some lows - even with the calibre of dancers that are left. Danny - unsurprisingly - was top of the leaderboard with 38, but Claudia, Louise and Ore weren't that far behind. Judge Rinder was at the bottom - but even he scored over 30 this week. No mean feat.

We know the score by now. Chapter and verse, in fact (sorry, trying to shoehorn 'libretto' in somewhere is a bit too much of a challenge - not quite my aria of expertise). The audience had been sent out for chocolate & squash, shuffled and dealt back in. Tess, Claudia and the panel had had a change of wardrobe - and probably a few 'refreshments' of their own - and we all reset for Sham Sunday.

This time the pro-dancers did a Chicago number for us, dancing with chairs, eye-watering leg splits and, well, All That Jazz. A nice start to the night.

With only five couples remaining, it wasn't going to take Tess long to make the Stay or Dance-off announcements, no matter how much she tried to spin it out. I feel sorry for the contestants at this stage. It must be like being me the rubbish-at-rounders kid in PE wondering if you'd actually get picked for the team this time instead of spending the lesson fielding so deep it took you most of the lesson to get there and back. Sorry. Flashback there for a minute. Ahem. As we were.

Musical Matron Elaine Paige treated us all to yet another a rendition of Don't Cry For Me Argentina from Evita. Cor, she really dines out on that one, doesn't she? Still, it could have been Midnight from Cats, so let's count ourselves lucky. Now, I do appreciate Elaine - and the fact that some viewers like the Old Favourites. But I'd have given my last Rolo to see Tess and Winkers do I Know Him So Well from Chess instead. That would have been entertaining.

Len dragged out his big zoom for a shufty at all the action from the dances, generous to the glorious, mean to the mediocre. At least these days I can spot a fleckerl from a heel turn, though I'm still a bit shaky when he starts talking about his cou-de-pieds and his fouettes.

With judgement cast and the last strains of Elaine's refrain ringing in our ears it was the moment we'd been waiting for. The public vote had been tallied and there was no going back. Tess tried to ratchet the tension.......

Ore and Judge Rinder were in the dance off. This was actually the bottom two dancers on the leaderboard this week. No changes to the judges' reckonings for a change. To be fair, I think both dancers expected it, given the showings from the other three. No rants from me again. What is a girl supposed to do with herself when the public are in accordance?

The pair re-enacted their earlier outings. Mistakes were ironed out, tricks tightened a tad, games upped just that little bit. Judge Rinder threw everything but the kitchen sink into it. The dance judges made their usual comments and tried to look as though the decision had been difficult for them. But it wasn't really now, was it? There was only one decision they could make.

Judge Rinder was booted off the show. Sadly, this was no big surprise - even to him. The couples that are left are extraordinarily good. It could be anyone's glitterball - especially since it's all in the hands of the public. The Judge had a terrific time of it all, learned new skills, confidence and a love of dancing in these last few weeks. Long may he continue!

Don't you Judge me! Rinder's Strictly career wasn't brief by any means.

Sooo. Next week is SEMI-FINALS WEEK!! Now, as we all know, I'm no expert on the Theme Of The Week. I didn't even think they'd have any more after Blackpool. So you don't have to take my word for it when I confidently state that next week will be Crap Number Ones Week. Here's my prediction:

Ore will dance a Viennese Waltz to Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face
Louise will dance a foxtrot to There's No-one Quite Like Grandma by The St Winifred's School Choir
Danny will dance a rumba to Rene & Renato's Save Your Love
Claudia will dance a Charleston to Tellytubbies Say Eh Oh. Probably in full Po             costume. AJ will be Tinky Winky, of course.
Then they'll all dance an ensemble Macarena to finish.

And if you can't remember any of these songs then you're VERY LUCKY!!

Remember, if THAT all comes true you can say you heard it here first. It's not very likely...but, then again, Ed Balls stayed in till Week Ten. Stranger Things have happened.

The remaining dancers are so close to the glitterball they can almost taste it. Who is going to make it to the last show? Who is going to get to do a show dance? There's only one way to find out. Tune in next week for the penultimate Strictly Round up (dawwwwww, I'm going to miss you guys).

This glitterball absolutely doesn't look like Metal Mickey goes disco. No, sir.

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