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!

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