Sunday, 30 September 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - Week 2

So it's Week Two *cue dramatic music*, yes it's the first elimination of the series.  All the contestants returned from last week's scary, nerve-wracking first performance, to do it all over again for the second week.  At least last week they all knew there was nothing to lose but this week marks the end of someone's time on Strictly.  Of course, no-one wants to be the first to leave and in the past, we have had some unexpected results so nothing is guaranteed.  All scores from Week One are carried over and added to the scores for this week but this week sees the input from the public vote added as well so sometimes it may not matter if you're bad (Ruth Langsford, Ed Balls) if the public like you, you're through.  Likewise, you may be very good (Alexandra Burke, Aston Merrygold) but if the public takes a dislike to you, you're in that bottom two and at the mercy of the judges.

So let's quit the waffle and get onto the dances.

Opening the show this week is Stacey Dooley. Last week saw her dance a passable Quickstep which was a first for Strictly week one.  This week she was dancing the Cha Cha Cha and unfortunately, it is not her dance.  It was alright but seemed to lack the energy of the Cha Cha I'm used to seeing.  I think she can do better. Following Stacey was Charles Venn.  He and Stacey have switched dances, as last week Charles did the Cha Cha Cha and I really enjoyed it.  This week he was doing the Quickstep and he had some very unfortunate timing issues where he was totally out of sync with Karen.  I'm not sure if Shirley Ballas has an issue with Karen as last week she bemoaned her for too much disco and this week she blamed her for the timing issues but Craig set her straight and said it was Charles who was off the timing.

Next up was Katie Piper.  Last week she suffered badly from nerves, this week she overcame her nerves but suffered from lack of any dancing.  She stomped and walked her way through the Paso Doble and not even the gorgeousness of Gorka could save this dance.  After two bad weeks, she could be in some serious trouble this week.  Following on from Katie was Graeme Swann.  After a promising start last week, this week saw him tackle the American Smooth and unfortunately for him there was nothing smooth about it.  It was too fast and jivey for an AS and it didn't impress the judges either.  Maybe it was partly the song but mainly it was Graeme.

Finally, we saw some decent dancing and it came from the lovely Kate Silverton.  I knew she was going to be fun after last weeks Cha Cha Cha but who knew she could vamp it up like that? Wow, a superb Tango and she was showing some real promise.  A really good score helping her up that leaderboard and looking like a contender, she was on point, fierce and beautiful timing and shaping.

Next up was Joe Sugg.  Stop making me like you, boy!  Over the last week, I have watched his Jive a fair few times and I have had Aha stuck in my head all week.  I really hope I don't have Cotton-Eye Joe in my head this week.  He was dancing a Charleston and it was a really fun routine and fast-paced.  Dianne is really putting him through his paces and not taking it easy on him and he's proving more than capable of keeping up with her.  We haven't seen him tackle ballroom yet though so we'll see how he handles the more traditional dances in weeks to come probably.

After that high came a real low as Suzannah Constantine took the floor again.  She needn't have bothered really.  Although it was a marked improvement from last weeks dreadful Samba, her Foxtrot was still wooden and laboured and she just can't dance, no matter how hard Anton tries to convince us otherwise.  Next up was Lee Ryan and he did a very convincing Jive to one of my favourite Elvis tracks Blue Suede Shoes.  Okay so there were one or two timing issues but he put everything into it and I really liked Nadiya's choreography for this routine.

Following Lee was my favourite Danny John-Jules.  He was also dancing the Cha Cha Cha and when it started, the first few lines confused me as it was slow but then it kicked in and I really enjoyed it.  He did seem a bit stiff in places but his footwork was impeccable again.  For a man of 59, he can seriously move.  Then we had Vick Hope and I was really hoping to see an improvement and I was delighted to see I got one.  Okay so it was a different style of dance being a Waltz but Graziano put together a routine that allowed Vick to shine and she certainly did.  She has beautiful long limbs and her arm work was very impressive as well as the steps from the feet. A huge improvement from both celeb and pro here and I loved it.

Next came the Pocket Rockets, Dr Ranj and Janette.  What a routine, what an outfit, what a song.  Even a dress malfunction couldn't stop this being a fun-filled routine.  You can tell that Salsa is Janette's dance and Ranj is definitely a performer.  he just gives it his all and throws his wonderful personality into the dance.  Like Joe, we've yet to see him in ballroom where things will naturally be a lot calmer but he is showing a lot of potential, he just needs to loosen up from the hips.

Following Ranj was Faye Tozer and five Giovannis.  Yes, you read that right, FIVE Giovannis.  But eventually she just danced with one and it was an interesting take on the Viennese Waltz.  It impressed Craig but not Shirley and as much as I hate to agree with her, I'm with Shirley.  It wasn't my cup of tea at all.

Next, we had Lauren Steadman with AJ dancing the Charleston.  I couldn't concentrate on her dancing because of her hair, it completely threw me off.  I can't decide if I like it or not.  I was impressed that she didn't face plant the floor towards the end.  Lifts like that with a partial arm is very brave and shows complete faith and trust in AJ.

Next, we had another 'oh dear' moment from Seann Walsh.  Whilst last week's Tango was wooden, it was at least watchable.  His Jive this week was poor, he struggled to keep up with the choreography and the steps.  If I'm honest the joke at the beginning was the best part of the routine and that was pretty bad.  Still, he's quite a likeable guy, just not a dancer.

In complete contrast, closing the show was Ashley Roberts.  She also did the Cha Cha Cha and I thought it was going to be another disco routine, despite what Shirley says the dance does lend itself well to disco music, another example here with Boogie Wonderland. However, there was plenty of Cha Cha content and of course, she performed it well.  I'm not sure it was worthy of a 9, not yet Bruno but still a good routine and top of the leaderboard.  I just think she's my Alexandra this year.  She's a good dancer, I just can't warm up to her somehow.

So at the end of Saturday night and all scores combined, this is how the leaderboard looked ahead of the public vote.

Week 1Week 2Total
Ashley & Pasha293261
Faye & Giovanni293160
Joe & Dianne273158
Danny & Amy272855
Dr Ranj & Janette272451
Charles & Karen252550
Lee & Nadiya222648
Lauren & AJ252247
Kate & Alijaz202747
Vick & Graziano182745
Stacey & Kevin242044
Graeme & Oti221537
Seann & Katya181533
Katie & Gorka171330
Suzannah & Anton121224

But everything can change once the public gets their little mitts on the voting buttons. (A vote from me for Danny, a vote from my wifey Lauren for Danny and the spare this week going to Vick).

So Sunday night saw the first of the results shows.  As usual, we have a pro dance to start, not quite sure what was going on there with that one.  There was a live performance from George Ezra singing Shotgun.  The more I hear this, the more I like it.

But we all know what we came for, we want the results and a dance-off.  First into the dance-off was Lee and Nadiya.  I don't think anyone could understand this result.  I mean he wasn't perfect but there were many more much worse than him.  Joining him were more predictably Susannah and Anton.   I think we all knew how this was going to end up barring fire, flood or plague of locusts.  It was a unanimous decision 4-0 to save Lee and Nadiya which meant Susannah was going home and the first time Anton has been booted out first in the history of Strictly.

So the right result I think this week, even if Lee didn't deserve to be in the bottom two.  Next week, I think Seann, Katie and Graeme need to up their game to stay in.  it's Movie Week so my favourite week.  I already know that Dr Ranj is doing Disney, he's going to be Aladdin.  There could be more.  As for the pro dance, I'm so excited about this. They are doing...............HARRY POTTER!!!! Be still my beating heart, is it the weekend yet?

Until then, keep dancing!

Week 1

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - Week One

 Yes, we are back in the Ballroom as Strictly Come Dancing finally begins properly.  two weeks ago, we had the launch show and our fifteen celebs were partnered up with the pro dancer who will be teaching them the steps and turns to get them through from little or no dance experience through to impressing Crag Revel-Horwood. An impossible task it may seem at this stage, but it can happen.  I've heard he even smiles sometimes.

So it's down to business as usual with all celebs taking to the floor for their very first dance.  As always, the first dance is deemed safe.  With no elimination threat, it gives the dancers time to teach their celebs some basics and see what they may be capable of, knowing they will still be returning next week to dance again.  However, the routines are still judged the same and this weeks score will carry over to next week when determining the leaderboard results.

Opening the show then, we have Danny John Jules, my personal favourite and the one I'm backing this year.  After seeing his debut, I'm glad he didn't let me down.  He was suffering earlier this week with an injury to his toes but it didn't show and certainly didn't hold him back.  One of my favourite routines of the evening, he and Amy danced the Foxtrot to the theme from Top Cat.  Given the role of The Cat on Red Dwarf is his most notable role to date, I was wondering how they would tie that in and it was a brilliant and stylish routine.

Next up was Kate Silverton.  From the launch show, I had a feeling she was going to be cheeky and a lot of fun.  She danced the Cha Cha Cha with her partner Alijaz.  It was a reasonable effort for week one and enjoyable to watch, as was the following Waltz from Lauren Steadman.   It was charming, sweet and elegant and AJ brought out all her good points beautifully. Oh, and she had been able to train very little having been in Australia competing in the ITU World Championships where she won a gold medal.  Well done that girl!

The next three dances were nothing great. Seann Walsh did a wooden Tango with Katya (she's not going to retain that trophy this year), although I think Shirley Ballas was out of line telling him to tidy himself up.  She might not like his long hair but what does that have to do with his dancing? Cheeky mare!  Next up was a disappointment for me in Vick Hope.  I was hoping she would do well as she looked pretty good in the group dance at the launch and she has the dishy new dancer Graziano to teach her, but sadly their Jive was flat and it was all about Graziano.  I know he's new and wants to impress (shadows of Nadiya last year) but the way to impress is to showcase your partner.  The pros get to shine in the pro numbers but the main dances should be about the celebs.  Vick didn't appear to do much other than point at Graziano leaping around.  I hope he calms down and they improve, it worked for Nadiya last year.  Davood really came on once she focussed on him and not herself.  Finally, in the appalling section, we had Suzannah Constantine doing the Samba.  In all honesty, my living room wall has more rhythm than she does and I think Anton knows it (she totally deserved that 1 from Craig).  I feel sorry for him, he never has a chance so he makes sure his routines are remembered.  Sadly, it's not for the dancing but for their flamboyance and downright campness.  You have to admire a man prepared to wear tangerine trousers in front of millions of viewers.

Then, at last, we had some decent dances once again.  Charles Venn danced a smouldering Cha Cha Cha with Karen although again Shirley taking a dig at the pro for making it too disco.  As Bruno rightly stated, what's wrong with disco?  Then Ashley Roberts and her partner Pascha danced a beautiful Viennese Waltz although I expect her to go far, she has the most dance experience out of them all.  Although to be fair, this dance is nothing like the burlesque stuff she's used to, it was still pretty amazing.

Ooooooh next we had the Pocket Rockets, Dr Ranj and Janette.  They were also dancing the Cha Cha Cha (time for another Shirley dig at previous Cha Cha Cha thanking Janette for putting lots of Cha Cha content in) but it was pretty good, I think Dr Ranj could be one to watch as well.  And god love him did he not only put in loads of hours training but also worked night shifts at his hospital, still did his slots on this morning and was even a birthing partner for someone until the early hours of the morning.  He's certainly not afraid of hard work.

Next was a disappointing performance from Katie Piper.  She was also dancing the waltz but her nerves clearly got the better of her.  She was very hesitant and almost clinging to her partner Gorka at times.  Something she needs to work on because I think she can do quite well if she combats those nerves.

Next up was a big surprise for me.  Graeme Swann, as wooden as the cricket bats he's used to in the launch dance, but he was also doing the Samba and whilst it was nowhere near technically perfect, he showed he can be quite flexible and certainly got his hips moving.  Kudos for Oti there, she had a lot of work and she delivered on the night.  Bonus points for dancing to the BBC Cricket theme tune too.

After them came Stacey Dooley and partner Kevin.  They were dancing the Quickstep which not only is a very hard dance apparently, and very fast, it's also the first time it has ever been done in Week One in the history of Strictly, for the very reason it is very hard.  But boy, did Stacey nail it, that girl has got a lot of potential and Kevin is one of the best pros to help it along.

Lee Ryan and Nadiya danced a nice but nothing special Waltz, I honestly didn't see where he slipped but eagle-eyed Shirley did.  At least they didn't deduct points for it as it was deemed not Lee's fault because some debris from the previous routine hadn't been cleared away and they were impressed he didn't let it affect him.

The penultimate dance was Joe Sugg and he was also doing a Jive.  As I said in my last post, I don't want to like him but I can't help but like him.  It was a really good Jive, he can move, he can keep up the pace and he knew the steps.  Again, he has great potential and there really is something very likeable about him, he seems a really nice lad. (No I'm not going to be one of the millions subscribing to his channel though)

The final dance was from Faye Tozer who also did the Cha Cha Cha.  It was clean, sharp and sassy and straight to the top of the leaderboard, and I really loved the Steps 'steps' in there.  Another one to watch, I'm not seeing any clear front-runners here, the field is too wide open at the moment and for Week One we saw some brilliant performances.

So this is how the official Leaderboard looks after Week One

Faye & Giovanni29
Ashley & Pasha29
Danny & Amy27
Joe & Dianne27
Dr Ranj & Janette27
Lauren & AJ25
Charles & Karen25
Stacey & Kevin24
Lee & Nadiya22
Graeme & Oti22
Kate & Alijaz20
Seann & Katya18
Vick & Graziano18
Katie & Gorka17
Suzannah & Anton12

So all the points will be carried over to next week where we will lose our first celeb.  My money is on Suzannah but stranger things have happened (Ed Balls, Ruth Langsford etc)

Until then everyone, keep dancing

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Strictly Class of 2018

The glitter ball is back, shinier and sparklier than ever.  Well, maybe not but it's definitely back. The Joe McFaddens and Debbie McGees are forgotten as fifteen new celebrities sign their names on the dotted line and give up their normal routines for ones filled with Tangos, Foxtrots and Rumbas as they shimmy and sashay their way through til Christmas.  The sequins are sparkling and the hair is bouncy and that's just the men.  We have many weeks ahead of pretty dresses, high heels and wiggling hips and I for one cannot wait.  Welcome to Strictly Come Dancing 2018.  As ever, I will be watching each week and passing my personal, non-professional opinion on the latest batch of wannabe champions as they compete for that shiny trophy.

So what's new and what's not.  Well, first of all, the hosts are the same as always.  Wooden Tess Daly and Madcap Claudia Winkleman return to run the proceedings and tell really bad jokes.  Also, no changes to the judges line up this year with Nasty Craig, Nice Darcy, Sassy Shirley and OTT Bruno.

There has been a small change to the professional dancers, however.  Brendan Cole has not been asked to return this year (possibly due to his feud with Shirley last year but that is pure speculation). Three new dancers have joined the show, two of them are just backups to help out in the Pro Dances and when extra dancers are required such as Blackpool or Musical Weeks.  They are Luba  Mushtuk and Johannes Radebe.  But we have a new dancer who will get partnered with a lucky celeb and he is the gorgeous Graziano Di Prima. He is definitely an Italian Stallion.

So who are the latest celebrities (and in some cases, I use the term loosely) who have exchanged their sneakers for stilettos and their tracksuits for tuxedos?  Here they are in all their splendour and who they have been partnered with.

 Ashley Roberts - Singer and member of the pop group The Pussycat Dolls.  She's been partnered with Pascha Kovalev.
 Charles Venn - an Actor, currently starring in Casualty as Jacob Masters and previously in Eastenders as Ray Dixon. He has been partnered with Karen Clifton. (I want him to do well as he definitely has an Idris Elba vibe about him)
 Danny John-Jules - Actor from both stage and screen, most notably his role in Red Dwarf as The Cat.  For this reason alone, because I am a HUGE fan of Red Dwarf, I will be backing Danny to win.  He has been partnered with Amy Dowden.
 Faye Tozer - Singer and member of the pop groups STEPS.  She has been partnered with Giovanni Pernice.
 Graeme Swann - Ex-England cricketer and broadcaster.  He has been partnered with Oti Mabuse, which is a shame because I love Oti's choreography but I don't think she'll be able to do much with Graeme.
 Joe Sugg - Social media star (YouTube vlogger).  I'm sure his millions of followers will come at me with shaking fists when I say his sister Zoella is more well known but anyway.  I want to dislike him because I don't consider him a celebrity, however, there is something rather likeable about him.  He has been partnered with Dianne Buswell.
 Kate Silverton - Journalist for the BBC, she has presented news programmes and reported live from both Iran and Afghanistan frontlines.  She has been paired with Alijaz Skorjanec.  I'm really looking forward to this pairing as she seems like a lot of fun and I really adore Alijaz after last year when he partnered Gemma Atkinson.
 Katie Piper - Now a presenter, author and charity founder, Katie was an aspiring model until a vicious attack by a former boyfriend who threw acid in her face and left her badly scarred and partially blind.  She has been partnered with Gorka Marquez and I really hope she does well as she is an inspiration to all young girls.
 Lauren Steadman - Paralympian Lauren was born without a complete right arm.  She started out as a swimmer and competed in two Paralympic Games before switching to be a Triathlete and won silver at her third games in 2016. She has been paired up with AJ Pritchard.
 Lee Ryan - Singer and member of boy band Blue.  Lee is the second member of Blue to join Strictly, his bandmate Simon Webbe competed in Strictly back in 2014 and made it to the final so no pressure there Lee! He has been partnered with Nadiya Bychkova.
 Dr Ranj Singh - yes he is a real doctor, he is an NHS paediatrician.  However, he has appeared on TV featuring on kids channel CBeebies show Get Well Soon and has also appeared on current affairs morning show This Morning.  Being only 5'6, it was obvious he was going to get a small partner, and there is no-one smaller than his partner, Janette Manrara.  Instantly dubbed the 'Pocket Rockets', they have been cited as ones to watch but can he dance?
 Seann Walsh - London born comedian.  I want to like him, he seems very likeable and funny (being a comedian one would hope so) but he's a QPR fan.  I'm a Spurs fan, they are not compatible.  He has been partnered with last years winner Katya Jones.
 Stacey Dooley - Investigative reporter, famed for her fly on the wall documentaries which don't shy away from the hard and shocking stories (child labour, people smuggling, domestic violence etc).  She has been paired with Kevin Clifton.
 Susannah Constantine - TV presenter is best known for the fashion show What Not To Wear which she co-hosted with Trinny Woodall.  She was pretty harsh with her criticisms on that show so let's hope she's ready to take some now as judging by the opening dance, she has three left feet.  Hardly any surprise to see she was paired up with Anton DuBeke. (Seriously Strictly, what do you have against Anton?)
Vick Hope - Television and radio presenter, currently presenting the early morning Breakfast Show on Capital Radio.  She has been partnered up with Graziano Di Prima (seriously I growl whenever I say his name - grrrrr).  This pairing is all about the big hair, the big hair and, yep you've guessed it, the big hair.

So there they are, just as Craig Revel-Horwood noted, like lambs to the slaughter.  Now they are all paired up, they head off to the dance studio for two weeks and Strictly will be back then for the celebs to wow us all with their first dance.  Safe from elimination in the first week, they have nothing to lose.

Until then, start dancing!

All images except my signature courtesy of BBC