Monday, 26 November 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - Week 10

So the sticks of rock are eaten and the Kiss Me Quick hats back in the wardrobe and the ride on the Big One a distant memory as the seven remaining couples return from the dazzling lights of Blackpool and it's back to work in the studio to try and gain a place in next weeks Quarter Finals, which also happens to be Musicals Week.  Not only do the couples have their own dance to learn but they also have to get in some practice for the LindyHopathon.  More about that little fiasco later.

So who will be sailing through the auditions to Musicals Week and who will be going home to find a 'proper job'?  Let's see how they fare then shall we?

First up tonight were Graeme and Oti and they were dancing the Quickstep.  Graeme always knows how to bring his character out in his dances, even if he's not always spot on technique wise.  It was unfortunate he had a bit of a stumble at the end which spoilt an otherwise decent performance.  Aye aye, sailor!

Next onto the floor were Ashley and Pasha dancing the Samba.  After scoring the perfect 40 in Blackpool, the pressure was on to maintain that high standard but unfortunately, she fell a bit short.  It wasn't bad, let's face it this is Ashley the pro dancer, but it wasn't perfect and it showed in the marks given with only Bruno thinking it was perfect and giving a ten.

Following them were Faye and Giovanni. They should have been dancing the American Smooth this week but after a day of rehearsals they had to switch to a Waltz as Giovanni had hurt his back and would be unable to do any lifts so as the Waltz has none, it made sense to change.  What a perfect switch as this was the most beautiful waltz I've seen for a long time.  It was so classy and elegant, just perfectly in time with the music and divine.  One point off perfect and top of the leaderboard. Take that, Ashley!

Next to dance were Joe and Dianne.  They were doing the Couples Choice and had opted for Street/Commercial which suited Joe down to the ground.  Yes, there were a few timing issues here and there when they were a bit out of sync, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this routine.  It was fun, snappy, bouncy and quite daring with all the props.

The next couple up were Charles and Karen.  They were dancing the Tango which is quite a change from their fabulous Samba last week.  Sadly the performance was quite different too.  Charles struggles to keep his frame which needs to be tight for a Tango but sadly he was still quite loose and fluid in the hips which fail for a Tango.  I also didn't like the music choice for this either, I don't think it suited a Tango at all.  Not his best dance by any stretch of the imagination.

Lauren and AJ were up next and they were dancing a Salsa.  This was pretty good and much better than last weeks Argentine Tango.  Lauren has really started to get into her characters more and she was loosening up.  There were a few issues here and there, some moments when she was a little hesitant but overall I found this quite entertaining.  However, the judges didn't and scored her quite low, putting her at the bottom of the leaderboard.

The final couple to dance was Stacey and Kevin and they were doing the Paso Doble.   Oh my, this was good.  Now Kevin always manages to choreograph a fantastic Paso, they are quite often a sight to behold.  The last two years he's done them at Blackpool, and I especially liked the one he did there with Louise Redknapp.  This one with Stacey even surpassed that.  It had all the elements of a classic Paso, the shaping was clean, the fierce passion and energy were present and the chemistry these two have is outstanding.  I was so pleased to see their first tens, and three of them at that.  Joint top of the leaderboard with Faye was totally deserving.

So at the end of the regular dances, the leaderboard stands as follows

Faye & Giovanni39
Stacey & Kevin39
Ashley & Pasha36
Joe & Dianne35
Charles & Karen30
Graeme & Oti24
Lauren & AJ23

However, all couples now had to compete in the Lindyhopathon.  All couples would be on the dancefloor at the same time.  The judges then had to rank them in order from best to worst, with the top couple getting an extra 7 points to add to their score, right down to one extra point for the worst couple.   The danceathon was a bit confusing, it's hard to see everything going on when all couples are dancing at the same time but doing different routines.  Finally, (after a total cock up with losing the scores on the iPad and then losing the bit of paper, then Shirley announced them in the wrong order), the judges ranked them as such.

Ashley & Pasha7
Faye & Giovanni6
Joe & Dianne5
Stacey & Kevin4
Charles & Karen3
Graeme & Oti2
Lauren & AJ1

When these extra points were added to the scores from their individual dances, the final leaderboard looked like this.  

Faye & Giovanni45
Stacey & Kevin43
Ashley & Pasha43
Joe & Dianne40
Charles & Karen33
Graeme & Oti26
Lauren & AJ24
So it didn't change the leaderboard too much, other than giving Faye a clear lead at the top and bumping Ashley into joint second with Stacey, the rest remained unchanged.

But onto Sunday night and the results show.  After a fabulous opening routine from some of the pros who were dancing with members of Candoco Dance Company (all of whom were disabled in some capacity but still fabulous dancers), the first couple in the dance-off was Graeme and Oti.  No real shocks there as he was next to the bottom of the leaderboard.

After a forgettable performance from Rod Stewart, who really should retire as he's not the singer he once was, the second couple joining Graeme into the dance-off is Ashley and Pasha! Well, I don't think anyone saw that coming, least of all Charles who was the last one to go through and had clearly resigned himself to being in another dance-off but his shock was all too clear to see. I think really everyone knew what was coming next but as per the rules, both couples had to dance again and predictably all four judges opted to put Ashley through.  I admit she is the better dancer but a sneaky part of me was hoping she fell over or something.  So it's farewell to Graeme but I think this is the first indication that the public is not behind Ashley at all, it's Alexandra Burke all over again.  

So it's my second favourite week next week and its Musicals AND the Quarter Finals!  The stakes are high and there is so much to play for now.  Who will triumph and who will fall? Stay tuned to find out.

Until then, keep dancing!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 Week 9 - Blackpool

The lights just got brighter and the sparkles more sparkly as Strictly comes to Blackpool.  The Tower Ballroom, home of Ballroom and the pinnacle of the season, only the final is a more important night in the world of Strictly.  It's the one aim for everyone to say they danced at Blackpool but only eight couples out of the original fifteen can make it.  It's sure to be a spectacular night as they roll out extra props, extra dancers and in some cases, fire! Oh, and Craig's 10 paddle got an outing at the seaside.

So how did our celebs fare this evening?  Well, let's just pause a minute and appreciate the amazing opening number.  Pro dancers and celebs combined to dance to a Gloria Estefan medley and the lady herself was present to sing it.  She may look older and not quite as nimble as she was but she can still crank out that Dr Beat and boy did the rhythm get ya!

So onto the celebs dances, and opening the show tonight was Kylie Minogue, sorry I meant Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton.  My inner nineties pop child had only just got back into its locked box from last week's Hanson number, but it's busting free for a Salsa to Gina G's Oooh Ah Just A Little Bit.  It's cheesy, it's cheeky, it's total Eurovision (it actually genuinely is) but Stacey seriously sold it.  They just looked to be having so much fun out there, although she looked a bit unladylike sitting astride that big stick of rock.  Not a bad effort and still looking like she could go all the way.

Next up we have Lauren and AJ, they are tackling the Argentine Tango.  This wasn't great for me.  It lacked any kind of precision or continuity.  It just looked like a bunch of dance steps that she had to get through, there was no connection with the dance, with the music or with her partner.  I didn't like her outfit either, it seemed to restrict her a lot with her movements.  A reasonable effort but nothing like an Argentine Tango, my favourite is still Alexandra Burke's last year, that was outstanding.

Next, we have Graeme and Oti doing their Couple's Choice and they've gone for Theatre/Jazz.  More Theatre than Jazz definitely and a proper old-style musicals number here.  It was good, but not that great.  Graeme always brings such personality to his performances and you can tell he is having a lot of fun in the competition.  He's not always the most technical of dancers but he is a performer which helps in this new category particularly when you don't have to follow any rules as such.  He just needs to polish the performance up a bit more.

The next couple though, now that was a performance.  Faye and Giovanni were dancing the Paso Doble.  There was Giovanni in a see-through shirt, there was Faye looking all fierce and angry and there was fire.  Yes, you read right, there was fire.  I confess I was watching this almost from behind my hands, I was convinced Faye's dress was going to set alight but it didn't fortunately.   This was a strong Paso, full of passion and energy.  There was a strong connection between the two of them and some lovely shaping and Spanish lines.  Off to the top of the leaderboard with just 2 points off perfect.

Next, we have Kate and Aljaz, on their Blackpool honeymoon after their Quickstep wedding last week.  This was an American Smooth and it was very smooth.  It was sweet and romantic, but also had some good timing and good lifts.  Very enjoyable, I think Kate may have hit her stride after a bad few weeks, we are starting to see a dancer emerge once again.

Oooh, next it's a pool party at Charles and Karen's place.  Dancing an energetic Samba to La Bamba, this was  A-MAY-ZING.  Charles totally nailed that Samba which not many of the celebs have managed so far.  Bruno even went as far to say that when he was dancing with the other male pros he looked like one of them.  Charles has suddenly gone from consistent scores of 25 to joining Faye at the top of the leaderboard.  Getting his first 10s and two of them to boot, another dance just 2 away from perfect. Oh, and they were Karen's first 10s as well, having been in Strictly now for 6 years.

Next up were Joe and Dianne.  They were dancing the Quickstep.  Joe had previously said he wanted to get to Blackpool because his nan used to dance there at tea dances and god bless her she was in the audience to watch him.  He certainly did her proud, it was a proper old-fashioned style dance, very Fred Astaire like and his timing was impeccable.  Craig only scored him 8 but with three 10's from the remaining judges, Joe scored 38 points as well.  It's getting rather crowded at the top of that leaderboard.

The final dance of the night to bring the show to a close was Ashley (who else, talk about giving her top billing, always the last celeb to be announced at the beginning).  She and Pasha were dancing the Jive.  Yes it was good, yes it was fast and slick and yes it was perfect because she is a trained dancer.  I think we all know she's going to be in the final, but if previous years are anything to go by, she won't win it because the general public is very unlikely to vote for a trained dancer.  Danny Mac, Alexandra Burke, Debbie McGee.  All finalists but it was Ore Oduba and Joe McFadden, the non-dancers, that lifted the Glitterball.  The public knows best, I'm sorry.   Still, with a perfect score of 40, she has to knock down the other three and claim the top of the leaderboard for herself.

So at the end of Saturday night, the leaderboard looks like this

Ashley & Pasha40
Faye & Giovanni38
Charles & Karen38
Joe & Dianne38
Stacey & Kevin33
Graeme & Oti32
Kate & Aljaz30
Lauren & AJ25

Then it's onto Sunday night.  Nothing memorable about the opening pro dance tonight, not even sure what the story was other than Giovanni and Graziano having a fight over a girl.  Anyway, nothing special.

So the first couple into the dance-off is Graeme and Oti.  It's Graeme's third dance-off, joining Charles for the number of times for being there.  As I said, I liked his routine but it wasn't anything spectacular.  Joining him in the dance-off is Kate and Aljaz.  Surprising, because I was expecting Lauren as Kate was stronger than Lauren but clearly Lauren has the public support behind her.

So after a performance from Take That (seriously what is with these singers bringing their own dancers to a dance show?), the dance-off commences.  Both couples performed well, no obvious errors from either of them but all four judges voted unanimously to save Graeme and Oti, which means we have to say our farewells to the lovely Kate.  It's unfortunate as I feel she was just starting to bloom again, she has had much worse weeks when I expected her to leave but the last couple of weeks has seen a vast improvement.  However, it's not meant to be but she can leave on a high, she danced in Blackpool and danced well.  We will miss her.

So we are down to seven couples and next week sees something new.  Last year we had the Paso Doblethon where all remaining couples dance the same dance together.  This year sees a Lindyhopathon, so not only will they have to learn their own routines, but they will also have to learn a brand new dance as Lindyhop has never been featured before. It's a lot like the Jive apparently but I can't wait to see what happens.  Might make the leaderboard very interesting.

Until then my friends, keep dancing.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - Week 8

So we are at Week Eight and there are nine couples left and the ballroom already feels a little less bright now Dr Ranj is no longer around but all of the couples are dancing tonight in the hopes of getting to the real brightness of  Strictly, the bright lights of Blackpool.  The Mecca of Strictly is just around the corner but for one couple, the bus will be leaving without them  Let's ignore the silly drama in the papers this week again, this time based around Danny and Amy and move on to the dancing which is what the show is all about.

Opening the show we have a wedding.  Kate and Aljaz are getting married and dancing the Quickstep.  Now last week I felt Kate had reached her peak and she was struggling, I felt she didn't have much more left in her.  How wrong was I proved tonight, ladies and gents?  This was fun, fast, perfectly in sync with each other.  It reminded me of Vick's Quickstep back in Week 4, it had everything right about it.  She hit 30 and I think deserves to go on to Blackpool.

Next up and entering the carnival party mood are Danny and Amy.  They are dancing the Samba this week.  Looking like he's just stepped off the set of Death in Paradise (although in someone else's costume), Danny shook his body for all he was worth.  It was a little lacking in fluidity at times but he certainly gave it his all and after his disastrous week last week, he was back without the mistakes, just lacking in the flair required.  Danny's problem throughout the whole series has been the stiffness in his body, he just needs to loosen up more.

Next, we have another Couples Choice and the choice is Contemporary.  Ashley and Pasha chose this dance and I'm sorry, but I just don't get this dance.  It's not dancing to me, it's twirling and stretching about on a dance floor, and why are they always barefoot when they dance it, do they have an aversion to shoes for Contemporary?  I'm obviously missing something because a score of 39/40 took them to the top of the leaderboard, possibly the sympathy card, way to go Ashley. Milk it for all it's worth, kid. *sniffle*  Dedicated to my father who is sadly no longer here to see it *sniffle* *sneaky glance to see if anyone is watching* *sniffle some more*  Well done, Shirley. You fell for that, hook line and sinker didn't you?  No way for me, but hey she's obviously a ringer for the final.

Once the sea of crocodile tears was swept away, we had....sorry I'm blinded by the dayglo lycra.....oh it's Graeme and Oti.  Once again showing off his fun side and clearly, he is game for anything the wardrobe department throw at him (looks like Mr Motivator's old clothing).  Graeme is dancing the Salsa and it is the most bizarre routine I have ever seen.  I wasn't that keen on it, it looked a bit messy and thrown together but the judges surprisingly loved it and gave him his joint highest mark, comparable to his Spiderman Charleston in Week 3.  Personally, I preferred his Waltz last week and his Samba in Week 1.

Next up were Faye and Giovanni doing Gio's favourite dance, the Jive.  It was good, but it wasn't great for me.  It was a pretty good Jive but nothing that blew me away like Danny's did, or even Ore a couple of years ago or Alexandra's last year.  Giovanni needs a really good partner for a Jive because like Debbie McGee last year, Faye wasn't really WOW like she has been in other dances.  Good but I expected better from her.

Next up is the competition's dark horse, Stacey with Kevin.  Dancing to one of my all-time favourite songs, from Breakfast at Tiffany's 'Moon River', they were dancing the Waltz.  It was smooth, clean, classy, sweet, everything you expect from Kevin but by no means an easy routine.  Stacey has come from no dance background at all to being one of the front-runners in this competition and unless something goes terribly wrong, she should make the final and deservedly so.

Oh my word, my nineties child suddenly started dancing around the room because Joe Sugg is dancing his Samba to Hanson's MmmBop!  I love that song so much and I am not ashamed to admit it.  I loved the whole look of his little drummer rock star and the dance was so much fun and cheeky, but he needs to stop counting along (or was he just singing, no he's not old enough to remember Hanson, surely?)  Anyway, this was a great routine and super fun, another non-dancer who could easily make the final, despite all my early reservations.

Almost at the end now and taking to the floor next is Lauren.  She's dancing the Viennese Waltz and another very classy performance.  She looked relaxed and comfortable, which she has been lacking in previous weeks but she's starting to really come into her stride now and AJ's hard work is obviously paying off as they received their first 9s from Shirley and Bruno.  Happy Birthday, AJ.

Closing the show are Charles and Karen.  Desperate to avoid yet another dance-off, they are dancing a Charleston.  WOW! I was blown away by this routine. It was on a par with their Street dance from week 5.  It was fun, the timing was impeccable.  I loved the one arm lift/spin move, that was cool and he just really went for it this week and it showed.  He should be nowhere near the dance-off this week and should be already on the Blackpool bus.  And I loved Karen's hairstyle in this routine.

So at the end of Saturday night, the leaderboard stands thusly.

Ashley & Pasha39
Faye & Giovanni36
Charles & Karen35
Lauren & AJ34
Stacey & Kevin32
Joe & Dianne32
Graeme & Oti31
Kate & Aljaz30
Danny & Amy27

So onto Sunday and a lovely Remembrance Sunday Tribute to the RAF and it was so lovely to see Amy taking centre stage in a Pro dance rather than the usual Janette or Karen.  Not that Janette and Karen aren't lovely and talented dancers, but it's nice for others to shine too and Amy really did.

So the results and some couples are packed and ready to go but there are no confirmed reservations for either Graeme or Danny as both gentlemen find themselves in the dance-off.  it's Graeme's second dance-off but it's Danny's first.  Before they battle it out, there is a gorgeous performance from father and son Andrea and Matteo Bocelli.  I have heard this song before actually, it was on one of dad's dodgy music programmes when I was staying there a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed hearing it again.

Well, the dance-off is over and the results are in.  With only Craig voting to save him, Danny is eliminated and Graeme survives to board the bus.  I feel like Danny has been wronged somehow, I thought he improved in his performance on Sunday night and I still didn't like Graeme's routine.  I can't help but wonder if the bullying saga has played a major part in Danny's departure.  I will miss him, I really loved him and will continue to enjoy his Red Dwarf performances, but sadly he will be dancing no more on a Saturday night.

So onto Blackpool then and the bouncy floor beckons the eight remaining couples.

Until then my friends, keep dancing

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - Week 7

So we are halfway through the competition and the number of celebrities is down to ten.  Halloween is but a distant memory and now the remaining celebs have their sights on Blackpool.  Yes, the pinnacle of the series in Week 9 when they make that journey north to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, complete with bright lights and bouncy floors.  However, they have two more weeks to get through before they can waltz, tango or Paso in the Vegas of the North.  So onto this week and let us see what awaits us.

So opening the show tonight are Lauren and AJ.  They scored their highest score with 29 doing the Paso last week and are hoping to break into the elusive '30 club' with their Jive this week.  Lauren is definitely coming out of her shell more and more and getting into her characters when she dances which also helps with how the dance looks and her confidence.  This wasn't a perfect Jive but it was a very good effort.  Being an athlete obviously helps with her stamina and AJ's choreography has been fabulous to make sure her disability does not disadvantage her in any way.  A well-deserved entry into the '30 club' for Lauren.

Next up were Graeme and Oti.  After surviving the dance-off last week, Graeme was keen to make sure he wasn't there again this week.  He was dancing the Waltz and it was dedicated to his grandparents who were also dancers.  The personal touch seems to help Graeme a lot and this was a beautiful dance, he seemed to flow very nicely and he was actually leading Oti as the man should. Yes, there were one or two wobbles but on the whole a very good effort.  I think he should be safe this week.

Next up we have our first Argentine Tango of the series, being danced by Kate and Aljaz.  It was a first for Aljaz too as he hasn't performed one on Strictly before so it would be interesting to see how it went.  For me, Kate isn't a strong enough dancer for this dance, there is a reason why it's not brought out until the later weeks.  She put in a good effort but I just didn't like it, it seemed too stiff and wooden and quite hesitant at times.  Not good enough for me.

Hoping to put his monstrous Jive from last week behind him, we have Dr Ranj bouncing back with a lively Samba.  This is the Ranj we know and love, smiley and bouncy and shaking that booty for all he's worth.  There were moments of real Samba in there but a lot of it reminded me of his Salsa in Week 2.  it was still a very energetic performance and you could tell he was really enjoying himself.  A very good comeback from last week.

Next, we have another Couple's Choice and it is Street/Commercial from Stacey and Kevin.   Considering she lost two days training due to injuring her ribs and landing in hospital early in the week, I thought this was a very entertaining routine and I don't feel it was lacking in any way.  She still had plenty of movement and was very much in sync with Kevin all the way through.  I also found Kevin completely adorable in this routine and I enjoyed it from start to finish, the storytelling was delightful.

Following Stacey was another contender for the final in Danny with his partner Amy.  I was expecting great things with this Quickstep, however, it was not to be.  He started off badly, on the wrong foot and it escalated from there.  There were too many mistakes and it showed in his scores.  Whilst I think Craig was harsh with a 4, I also think Bruno was delusional with a 7.  Shirley and Darcey were a lot more fair with a 5 and 6 respectively.  Bottom of the leaderboard is not something I have come to expect from Danny and I hope he survives this.  However, apparently he can do this dance so if he DOES appear in the dance-off there is a chance he will still survive.  I just hope it doesn't get put to the test.

So from a bad performance to a good one.  Ashley and Pasha danced the Foxtrot.  It was a good dance, as I've said I don't really understand this dance, but it was pleasing to watch.  It was smooth, clean and classy.  However, the props guys need to sort themselves out.  I can't be the only one who spotted the rope pulling the bench at the end, can I?

Following Ashley came another good performance from Faye and Giovanni.  They were doing the Tango.  Apart from faffing about in a box at the start, although at least they were dancing, it was a great routine.  Sharp and fierce, everything I love about a Tango.  Faye is good and Giovanni has another final ahead of him I believe, he's done well with his last two partners.  His choreography is always spot on and impressive which always works better when he has a decent partner to show it off.

Almost at the end now and we have Charles and Karen dancing the Viennese Waltz.  Charles has a natural rhythm to him even if he is not the most technical of dancers.  He makes mistakes, which at this stage in the competition is not great but he has a lovely stage presence and his acting career helps him get into character easily.  This was a joy to watch and he performed it reasonably well but with the competition hotting up, he'll have to improve especially as he's been in two dance-offs already.

The final dance came from Joe and Dianne and they were doing the Paso Doble.  Now, much like Ranj, how will naturally cheeky cheerful chappie Joe handle the dark and moody aggressive Paso?  Extremely well, I find to my delight.  I've really come to like Joe and apart from looking a lot like Robbie Williams in this dance, he was spot on.  He had some good clean lines, really stretching that lithe body of his.  He was fierce and the energy between him and Dianne is outstanding.  A little wobble when coming out of the knee slide but overall a fabulous performance for a Paso 'Joeble'

And so by the end of Saturday night, the leaderboard looked like this

Ashley & Pasha39
Faye & Giovanni38
Stacey & Kevin36
Joe & Dianne34
Lauren & AJ31
Graeme & Oti29
Charles & Karen28
Dr Ranj & Janette27
Kate & Aljaz23
Danny & Amy22

Moving onto Sunday nights results show and an amazing opening in tribute to Aretha Franklin.  The singers were incredible and Oti leading the routine was inspired.  All the dancers performed amazingly.

But you're here for the dance-off, aren't you?  The first couple to get the red light is Charles and Karen.  So make that three dance-offs for Charles, they really do not have the public support.  

A lacklustre performance from Jess Glynne but a nice pro dance from Graziano and Nadiya and then we're back to the results.  It came down to Dr Ranj or Danny in the dance-off and I think nobody was more surprised than Danny when he was safely through and it's Dr Ranj in the dance-off. 

I thought both couples in the dance-off did not deserve to be there.  Personally, I felt it should have been Kate vs Danny (as much as I hate it, he was dreadful).  However after a very close vote, right down to the end and Shirley's vote held all the power, it was Dr Ranj who was eliminated which is a total shame.  I will miss him, he was always so cheery and fun to watch, he just didn't have the skills to continue, although I think he should have had another week at least to go.

So ten become nine and next week sees the battle for Blackpool as only eight couples can make it 'up north' to my neck of the woods.  Who will it be? Who knows?

Until then, keep dancing