ERMAGERD!!! It's only the Strictly Come Dancing 2017 semi-finals, innit? This time next week we'll know who has beaten everybody off and raised their giant sparkly ball in the air. Isn't it exciting! I won't know what to do with myself. Well, probably until Dancing On Ice starts, anyway. There's got to be some mileage in that, right (and more stuff I can pretend to know about)?
HOTH and I spent Saturday afternoon putting up the Christmas decorations and making the house look lovely and festive. Miracle of miracles, the lights worked first time (technology has killed the days when you had to spend four hours checking every single bulb in a string of 240 to find the duff one
But back to the point of this blog. Only five couples remain and the press are really ramping things up bringing us
Your penultimate I Really Want To See A Doings To Thingy is a rumba to Earth Song by Michael Jackson. This will involve Aljaž as Michael Jackson and Gemma as Jarvis Cocker, re-enacting the famous BRIT Awards mooning stage invasion from 1996 (HOW long ago??!!).
Well, we are nearing the final - things need to start being more..........impressive.
But what of this week's routines? Remember, the couples are treating us to two completely different dances - and not just because they're desperate to pad out the show. Our remaining pairs will be hoping to show off how much they've learned, how far they've come on their journey (not that far, the hotel they stay at is only down t'road) and how versatile they are now they've spent a dozen weeks learning to dance.
How did they do? Was footwork fleet, armography outstanding, frame flawless and poise perfect? Or was it all a hot mess as different dancing styles collided in our celebrities brains and they started doing a Charleston to I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston? I'd actually pay to see that, with the backing being sped up so ol' Whitters sounded like Pinky & Perky - or The Smurfs.
There was no messing about with any opening dance sequence this week. Oh no, straight down to brass tacks we were with ten dances to get through - not to mention hair, make-up and costume changes to manage.
Joe McFadden and Katya opened proceedings with an American smooth to Have You Met Miss Jones? by Robbie Williams. Despite the omnipresent 'smell the fart' face, this was a slick, stylish and accomplished start to Joe's campaign. He was swish, cool and confident with some great timing and fab footwork. There was a really nice side by side step sequence and Joe coped really well with the difficult steps and choreography. His frame got a bit squiffy here and there and he telegraphed the lifts, but the transitions were good and this was a solid start. Joe scored 35 out of 40.
They wheeled out last year's champ Ore Oduba to help with the Terms and Conditions. He sportingly pretended to cry through it, of course. I tell you what, though - that glitterball obviously doesn't weight much. He was carting it about with one hand like it was made out of plastic. Which it probably is, come to think of it.
Alexandra Burke and Gorka kicked off their evening with a Viennese waltz to Tina Arena's version of REM's Everybody Hurts. (Still with me? Good.) This was a routine full of emotion, connection and feeling. There were tons of turns and spins with plenty of content and contact between Alexandra and Gorka. She was beautiful, elegant and controlled with near perfect timing, rhythm, rise and fall, swing and sway. She was poised and elegant in and out of hold and in the difficult pauses and change of pace. Her footwork was lovely - apart from one point where Craig said she didn't close her feet. ONE SINGLE OCCASION! This dance flowed beautifully and Alexandra had exquisitely lyrical arms and expression. Poise, grace and fluidity earned her 39 out of 40.
Mollie King and AJ came next with a samba to Whenever, Wherever by Shakira - famous for the line 'lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don't confuse them with mountains'. It probably sounds better in Spanish. Well, Mollie had a mountain to climb with this dance (and the prize for clunkiest segue goes to....). She has never got to grips with Latin dances. She's just too nice and innocent to pull off the sexy style needed for them. She started off with a confident attitude - but then she started dancing. While there was some shimmy and shake there was no real hip rotation or pizazz. She was definitely cheerful and cheeky, but lacked any bounce, commitment or attitude to the number. Sadly, she went off beat really early on and spent the rest of the dance playing catch up. She never really got to grips with the steps and choreography and seemed overpowered by the routine. The samba rolls were awkward and she lost balance and connection. The changes of rhythm were a struggle and it all just felt a bit too much for her. Poor Mollie got just 24 out of 40.
Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž followed with their first number - a rumba to Beneath Your Beautiful by Labyrinth. I'm just disappointed that Aljaž wasn't dressed as Jareth from the film Labyrinth. The costume department really missed a trick there. Mind you, that might prove just a bit too much for Bruno....
No, officer. I definitely didn't steal the giant salami
For a rumba (as you know, my least favourite dance) this was pretty romantic and rhythmic. Gemma had a good go at a sexy character and she had nice straight legs and lovely lines. There was a good mix of basic and advanced rumba steps
apparently and Gemma was precisely on beat. She had good hip rotation but it was a bit stop / start which spoiled the fluidity of the moves at times. Her top half was also a bit disconnected which made her look flat and stiff in some of the moves. A decent effort, though, and she scored 30 out of 40.
Debbie McGee and Giovanni finished the first half with a jive to I'm So Excited by The Pointer Sisters. This was a very quick jive that needed bags of energy and stamina. Debbie delivered with sharp kicks and flicks and clean, precise timing. Giovanni was very distracting with his pecs appeal but I managed to concentrate enough to notice that Debbie lacked a little retraction and she seemed to be looking at her feet a lot. Her body wasn't quite over her feet enough which affected her balance a little but it was still a damn fine outing - strong, clean, tight and detailed with some tricky steps. A fairly decent 34 out of 40 for Debbie.
Out came Joe McFadden and Katya again, this time performing an Argentine Tango to Human by Rag N Bone man. I must admit, I was looking forward to this when I read about it in the week. I wasn't disappointed. This dance was a good basic Argentine but with some cracking contemporary twists in the choreography by Katya. Joe's solo start was assured and his connection with Katya was suitably sexy, smouldering and raunchy enough for pre-watershed TV. There were some lovely mirroring moves and decent ganchos with some risky lifts, including an extraordinary pivot lift at the end where Kayta raised Joe up from the floor.
Joe and Kayta solve the problem of seating on the Tube
It wasn't perfect, though. Again, there were some balance issues and a wee stumble in the middle. His walking steps and promenade were a bit stiff, instead of being on bent legs. It was still very enjoyable and Joe was given 35 out of 40 again.
Alexandra Burke and Gorka's second outing was a simply sensational samba to Finally by CeCe Peniston. Now, for me, I will always associate this with Terence Stamp in drag in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Well, maybe not anymore. Alexandra was a one woman party as she threw everything into this routine. She attacked the dance with full-on attitude, bounce and energy with great hip rotation, rhythm and timing. This was hot, steamy, lively, entertaining and fun. Gorka had chucked in tricky body rolls and a stupendous neck spin lift in a no holds barred number. Alexandra performed with aplomb, never dropping character missing a beat. Darcey was so impressed she said she'd turn up next week in Bruno's speedos if Alexandra didn't make it to the final. A full house 40 out of 40 for Team AlGoRhythm.
Oh dear. Mollie King and AJ had to follow this with a waltz to Angel by Sarah MacLachlan. Tess said she could see sparks flowing between the two. I'll be honest - I've seen more sparks in me nylon knickers when they've chafed if I moved too quickly. No, Tess. No sparks. This was sweet and romantic with lots of spins, turns and pivots but it looked like nerves and the first half mauling from the judges had really affected Mollie's nerves. She seemed subdued and unsure of herself, even in hold. Her frame was fairly good right until near the end when she started hunching again. She tried hard with the dance which was relatively safe and careful, but an error right in front of the judges spoiled the moment. Still, the judges gave Mollie her highest score of the season with 32 out of 40.
Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž came out fighting with a tango to My Sharona by The Knack. And despite the VT appearing to show Gemma had struggled, she certainly had the knack of this number. She was fierce and focussed, using plenty of attack and intent with the character. She stared down the judges with attitude and determination and showed off sharp, clean footwork and precision. The routine was chock full of pleasing traditional content with clipped steps and staccato head turns. There was a lack of V shaping, but Craig admitted this might not have been what Aljaž had been going for. A couple of little niggles, but the judges gave Gemma 32 out of 40.
Debbie McGee and Giovanni closed the show with a fab little foxtrot to Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder. From the start Debbie showed off clean footwork, polished frame and effortless style and rhythm. The pair totally covered the floor with elegant, sweeping moves and lovely lines. There was lots of swing and sway and a nice, tight together side by side section. Unfortunately, the pair were out of hold a tad too long (although Giovanni argued against this) which cost the pair some points. The couple scored 36 out of 40 with Bruno being so impressed he announced he would judge next week in Darcey's tutu, no knickers and a tiara if Debbie wasn't in the final. I'm not sure if that's a threat or a promise. Or if it's something I really want to see on a Saturday night
And so all our couples had gone again. They had done everything they could to try to get into the final. With double scoring from the judges there was some hefty pointage available and the potential for some huge gaps between the pairs on the leaderboard. After everyone had gone around twice it looked like this:
Alexandra - 79 out of 80
Debbie and Joe - 70 out of 80
Gemma - 62 out of 80
Mollie - 56 out of 80 (a full 23 points behind Alexandra)
Of course, this means nothing in the world of the Viewer Vote as we've already seen. Whether these standing remained the same, we would have to wait and see.
Tomorrow came today and suddenly it was Sunday. The promised heavy snow didn't arrive and we had meh-ther instead of weather. Just cold and grey. A bit like me when my roots need doing. But joy of joys, MBOTH's rugby match was called off anyway so I didn't have to wear every item of clothing I own to stand in a freezing field for a change. Instead, I was treated to hot buttered crumpets in bed (that's not a euphemism) and a steaming hot latte while watching Taskmaster on Dave. Much more civilised, I think.
The results show kicked off with a crowd-pleasing lindy bop special. Lindy bop, for the uninitiated, is kind of swing / jazz fusion from 1920s and 30s Harlem which now has street dancing and breakdancing thrown in, including a solo spot from two incredible young girls who were only ten and 13. It can be very fast, very energetic. It was all rather jolly and a fun way to start the show. Apart from Anton who looked like a drunk uncle gatecrashing his teen nephew's birthday party. and very telling in that Kevin wasn't dancing with Karen. Rumour has it they're no longer together.
Tess's job is getting easier these days and without much mucking about we found out that Gemma was the first in the dance off. No huge surprise, really. She was in the bottom two at the end of Saturday night and her dances hadn't been quite as polished as either previous weeks or the dancers at the top of the tree, who seemed to have made that much extra effort to make it through.
The guest star was Craig David (Craiiiiiiiiig Daviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid - am I the only one who still goes all Bo Selecta when I hear his name? I wonder if he still has Kes?)
Anyway, Craig got together with Bastille and sang I Know You while newlyweds Aljaž and Janette got energetic. I'm not talking out of school but me and HOTH regularly carry on like that round the kitchen while we're waiting for our Horlicks to heat up. He's surprisingly easy to lift for a big bloke, but the frocks are a nightmare to drip dry.
The judges did their bit next, rehashing their comments and going into greater detail about what they'd said last night. I do hope they think of some way to jazz this up next year. Maybe have them sing the comments in a different style each week - I'm voting Shirl does grime while Craig gets a madrigal. It'd certainly make me keep my bum on the couch instead of going to clean the fluff out of the tumble drier.
And so back to the nailbiting bit. The last two slebs sweated squeaky bum style until it was announced that Mollie was joining Gemma to fight for a place in the final. At last, two dancers who actually should be in the bottom two, were. This close to the final it would have been a bit of a travesty if Alexandra had been there again. We can't pretend that it came as a massive shock now, can we?
Gemma had chosen to do the tango again for her dance off number. This was probably a really wise choice because a) it was her best outing of the night and b) nobody likes a rumba.
Mollie had decided to do the waltz. Again, a good choice - she'd have to have been off her cake to want to rehash her samba. Remember, that waltz had earned her her highest score in the competition.
This was by no means a done deal. Both ladies had made errors, both had been criticised by the judges and had their faults aired in public. Both had scored exactly the same for these dances the night before. The question was - who was going to hold their nerve the best?
Mollie went first and I suppose it's really hard to give it some proper welly in a waltz. Her shoulder started rising from near the beginning again but she had ironed out the error from the first time round.
Gemma came out kicking arse and taking names. Like Gene Hunt in a frock. The reprise seemed even cleaner and sharper this time round, as though the peril of going out had given her an extra edge.
And so it was all down to the panel. Who did they think had done enough to earn a reprieve? Craig said it was a close call, Darcey was impressed with improvements, Bruno concurred and Shirley confirmed she'd have gone with their choice, too......
Mollie had fallen at the last hurdle. She can't deny she had a really good run. There were a lot of peaks and troughs throughout the weeks. Her highest score ever was 32, which she didn't score until last night - some of the others were getting that in weeks three to four. While there's no doubt she improved, it just wasn't enough to make her a real contender.
KING HELL - NOT SO JOLLY FOR MOLLIE AS SHE CRASHES OUT
And there we have it. We know know that our final four are Alexandra, Debbie, Gemma and Joe. Now Joe is the last man in the competition, but will he be the last man standing?
Next week we say hello to our new champion - and goodbye to this blog for another year. I don't do the Christmas Special one - there's just not the same journeys, the tension and the training, the tears and the exhilaration in a one-off. Besides, I've usually been on the Bailey's since first light so I'm in no fit state. I'M KIDDING!!
So who's your money on? Only one way to find out if you were right. Well, I mean, you could watch the show but where would the fun in that be? The best way to find out what went on is to join me next week for the last Strictly Blog of 2017. I wonder if they'd let me release an album of You Should Do A Thing To Wotsit By Oojah songs? If I say so myself, there were some good ones on there. I might have to dig out my cassette recorder and do you all a mix tape - Now That's What I Call Ballroom Balderdash, maybe.
Until then, my lovelies......KEEP DANCING!!!