Strictly Come Dancing Week 9 – the magnificent 7?

So the competition is hotting up and the pressure of two dances in one week is thrown into the pot too! How would they cope this week? Who would rise to the top and who would be left floundering on the floor this week?

Anita & Brendan (Scored 7, 8, 7, 8, 30) : The Knight in shining armour was back to save the day once again with Robin out of action this week. How would she cope with picking up with a new partner? Very funny intro by the way, Brendan clearly more at home in lycra than armour! Nice little Cha Cha routine, really featuring the celebrity for a change, but obviously lacking some of that solid technique.

Holly & Artem (Scored 8, 8, 9, 9, 34) : After a surprise visit to the bottom two last week, how would she bounce back this week for two dances? First up, their foxtrot, with a tricky slow piece of music, held their own rather well. It lacked some silky smooth, traditionality of slow foxtrot but oozed a style and character that had perhaps been lacking from Holly of late. This was a step in the right direction in terms of showing character and a stronger look but needs more of the dance to come through now.

Alex & James (Scored 6, 7, 8, 8, 29) : Having raised her game in the last few weeks, could she continue to show that improvement needed to challenge for the top spots? Dancing the Charleston should have given her a great opportunity for fun and wonderful characterisation all at the same time. It wasn’t quite to be though. Somehow, maybe as was suggested from the rehearsal footage, this wasn’t to be. Alex looked a bit out of her comfort zone and unable to perform this routine at a higher level. Details were lacking, finishes looked more ordinary and maybe this had held James back from giving her a more ambitious dance.

Robbie & Ola (Scored 5, 7, 7, 6, 25) : Dancing the Samba, Craig took words out of our mouths as his bounce was over-exaggerated and should have a had a more subtle look. He threw himself into it and there was a good string of famous Samba steps (running promenades, stationary walks – hope our classes were watching!) but it went off track a bit far from good dancing in the end as his trousers were thrown asunder! Looks like his briefs put the judges off too!

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 8, 9, 9, 9, 35) : Dancing the Argentine Tango, this was a good routine, danced well with the odd minor unfinished foot, but it lacked some oomf, passion and vibrance that we’d hoped to have seen. Strong dance but she was so careful with herself – amazing for an actor isn’t it?

Jason & Kristina (Scored 9, 9, 9, 9, 36) : After a high profile mistake at Wembley could Jason forgive himself, and turn it around this week? Another couple dancing the Charleston hadn’t ended showing their forte tonight. Jason definitely showed a better look for the Charleston but it wasn’t error free once again so he’ll have to keep focus. Really good dance though, acted strongly too. Great score but there was even more potential here. He’s still in it to win it.

Harry & Aliona (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Could Harry continue to raise his game and knock Jason back to second in the first dances? Well, he coped with a huge flurry of very tricky variations in his Quickstep so well. He has developed his hold, footwork, movement, poise – all still getting better and better. His look was sometimes down so that should be corrected for the final weeks but he’s just so capable and has to be favourite to win it at the moment. And then the scores rolled in and made it all official. Keep up the hard work Harry and surely no-one will catch you.

Swing-a-thon : The group Jive – Swing – Lindy dance gives the first chance to see them all on the floor at once, requires energy, togetherness and maintaining it right to the end. Robbie and Ola off first, 1 point, dancing off-time, Anita and Brendan next 2 pts, struggling to keep up with them, Holly and Artem next 3 pts, tired looking piggy-back, all losing some energy now, Jason and Krsitina next 4pts, disappointing for them, Alex & James next 5pts, two couples left, Chelsee and Pasha 6pts, leaves Harry and Aliona with 7pts, still with energy for kicks and flicks and a big big psychological win. At the moment there is no-one to touch him is there?

Overall, that left Harry, then Chelsee and Jason at the top, Holly in the middle, then Alex, Anita and Robbie bringing up the bottom (that’s the second time he’s highlighted the bottom tonight!). For the first time since week one, it looks like we have a favourite for the win with Harry but this could still change. What would it take? Well, Chelsee would have to use more of her acting skills, Jason needs to free himself up and on top of that perhaps Harry has to plateau, all seemingly unlikely at the moment. Could it be Robbie’s last week? Perhaps the nation was just not ready for his bottom or maybe it will be his save tomorrow. Not long until we find out.

Best wishes,

James & Joanna

 

Strictly Come Dancing Week Eight – Wembley Week

The stage was enlarged, the crowd was teetering on 6000, as ballroom dancing took Wembley Arena by storm – an incredible sight. So how would the celebrities cope under all of that additional pressure? Who would be able come through the fog of nerves and show their best dancing in the Best of British show?

Robbie & Ola (Scored 5, 7, 7, 7, 26) : Dancing the salsa, that was one big stage for such a compact dance! Len summed it up quite well – it was a bit wild and perhaps the requirements of filling that stage was not quite the helpful factor for this dance. It lacked some salsa, rythmn in the body and was a bit lacking here and there. Plenty of lifts. Maybe this was the first dance to suffer the bigger stage.

Alex & James (Scored 8, 9, 9, 9, 35) : Fairing significantly better than Robbie’s Salsa with her Tango, Alex and James seemed to cope with the space better (the dance by it’s nature travelling much more anyway). It was danced quite high and needed that body compression to really impress a bit more, with that classic leftwards poise too.

Holly & Artem (Scored 7, 8, 8, 8, 31) : Having to suffer the delights of Brendan and Artem in training, surely Holly would have been forced to raise her game from two pairs of teaching eyes? Dancing the quickstep, she seemed to have loosened some of those places that had seemed a little stiff, and she raised her game again. They seemed to fill the stage even better than the others but there were a few places where things weren’t quite held nicely. We thoguth it was better than Alex’ Tango but the camera only shows us part of the story; the judges see everything.

Anita & Robin (Scored 6, 7, 7, 7, 27) : Dancing the Samba, this was probably the ideal dance to put on the Wembley stage, full of travelled steps and Latin vibrance. It wasn’t quite up to par technically and maybe this was one that didn’t suit Anita so well – strong use of feet and legs maybe left her a little lacking but she was expressive in her face and clearly put everything she had into it. Craig reminded us semi-finals are not far away and perhaps this wasn’t a sign that Anita would make it.

Harry & Aliona (Scored 8, 8, 9, 9, 34) : Dancing the Salsa (not the Samba Len!!!) Harry really put everything in it and this was full of dynamic lifts. It was slightly over-danced here and there, steps a bit too exhuberant now and again losing that all-important body action and this stopped it being better reviewed. Craig said it lacked a groove and to some extent we had to agree. Still riding the wave Harry, keep it up!

Russel & Flavia (Scored 5, 6, 6, 7, 24) : Please, please, no more camp! It’s turning into a campsite. Oh no, he’s being shot from a giant human canon… we’re under attack! You can’t say he hasn’t put everything into the show, nor has he failed to provide some entertainment each week when we see the latest characterful delight. Technically, well, it was lacking everywhere, but it was entertaining and he added much to the show. Dance-wise alone, his time is surely running out.

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 8, 9, 9, 9, 35) : Dancing the Samba, we saw a good amount of traditional Samba steps on this big stage. She didn’t seem to lack confidence, starting on her own and had some more Samba technique than some of the others tonight. A little stiff legged in between, but tended to finish most of her lines, with the odd minor blooper. She’s still capable of more so we’re hoping for some more improvements. Safe for a good while we think!

Jason & Kristina (Scored 8, 8, 9, 9, 34) : No stranger to the Wembley stage, but how would his Jive compare to his live concerts? Clearly he’d worked exceptionally hard with this routine and it did show. A first half exceptionally strong with good bounce action but then a minor blooper on the last fence when he messed up some kicks left him disappointed. He’s in it to win it isn’t he but the competition is stiff and won’t allow for mistakes in the closing weeks.

So, it’s a five-way fight at the top with Harry, Chelsee, Jason, Alex & Holly – could Robbie raise his game to join this battle? That leaves Anita, and at the moment Robbie, at the bottom, with Russel of cause but we never seemto know if the public will save him or not; so far he’s ridden a popularity wave but that will run out sooner or later.

We’ll find out on Sunday!

Best wishes,

James & Joanna

 

Strictly week…. Seeevvveeeerrrnnn!

Alex & James (Scored 7, 8, 8, 8, 31) : Last week we didn’t see their best side (remember the heel in the dress for most of the dance?) so we were keen to see them again this week and what improvements had been made. Dancing the Jive, we saw a bit more energy from Alex than some of her previous dances and a slightly more confident look about her. For us the Jive was more Rock and Roll and slightly less Jive but not a bad job from Alex. Should be safe for another week with this dance.

Robbie & Ola (Scored 7, 8, 8, 8, 31) : Maybe a little put out that showing his softer side last week hadn’t earned him more allure from the judges, would the footballer make it to Wembley? A little like we saw with Alex, you can see Robbie growing in confidence on the floor too. His American Smooth had all the key elements and their dancing in general has fewer and fewer areas that distract from the overall look. He’s progressing well and safe for another week no doubt matching Alex with the score.

Audley & Natalie (Scored 3, 6, 6, 5, 20) : This is becoming easier, he has to improve more this week, in particular get those ankles working much much harder and articulate more or he’s likely to be the next out. Dancing the Cha Cha, he wasn’t quite as vulnerable as the Jive and as usual he entered the floor positively with that big Audley smile. Technically though, he was still showing a weeker base action, little stretch in those ankles and finishing the figures, some of which looked laboured and behind the beat. He’s done well and has come across on TV very well too, but his time is running out surely.

Harry & Aliona (Scored 9, 8, 10, 10, 37) : In the last few weeks we’ve seen good improvement from Harry who’s turning into a real contender. This week, dancing the Argentine Tango, he didn’t disappoint either. It was a confident and polished performance carrying off some nice elements. The only negative we would add is this. If you haven’t tried it already, this dance is a wonderful experience but does need a clear lead and follow aspect of the dance. For us, this looked so much like pre-set choreography it lost a little of that wonderful connected look – that cause and response, or action and reaction. Len hinted at the lack of mood and this is what the results of that “cause and effect” being lacking lead to. It was a good dance, but this is a partner dance world and demands that magic ingredient – come on Aliona, see if you can bring it out in the next one!

Jason & Kristina (Scored 8, 9, 9, 9, 34) : In the last few weeks, Jason has been through a tougher-time with the judges just keeping him in check from the dizzy heights of those early week successes. His Viennese was solid but we did agree with Craig that the overall look and hold needs improving to really finish it off well. He deserved his good score from this but there’s more potential here if they can bring it out – that’s what will be needed to challenge right at the top in the final weeks. Safe for a while yet.

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 9, 8, 10, 9, 36) : There has been an upward trend from Chelsee in the last few weeks and with signs things are beginning to gel better with partner Pasha, our hopes were high for their dance this week and their foxtrot didn’t disappoint. She’s come a long way from those early frantic weeks and is improving all the time, seemingly enjoying herself too. There’s still work to do to really put daylight between them and the chasing pack – footwork, poise, leg strength, but it’s all going the right way for getting towards the closing weeks.

Anita & Robin (Scored 7, 9, 8, 9, 33) : She had a great time dancing the Charleston last week but we did feel that dance suited her well so how would she cope with the Argentine Tango? Well, we think we underestimated her before the dance, and she actually held herself quite well. It wasn’t the most fluent of performances and was a little lacking in flow (staccato or otherwise) but she did well with it and has surely kept her place for another week. Come on Anita, surprise us again next week please!

Holly & Brendan! (Scored 8, 8, 9, 9, 34) : With Artem injured, Brendan stepped up to give Holly a partner for week 7. Its difficult and destabilising changing partners for the celebrity but this was a seamless substitution and you had to feel Brendan allowed Holly to show us what she’d been up to in her Rumba very well. Overall it was another good performance but we’re looking towards the later weeks now and she has to get that core working better, stronger feet, legs and ankles. Safe for a while, but we want them all to challenge for the last few weeks – come on Holly and get well soon Artem!

Russel & Flavia (Scored 5, 7, 7, 7, 26) : Please please, not another camp-fest! Oh well! The gimmick is maybe losing its novelty factor. He tries so hard with his steps and never takes himself too seriously but we’d have loved to have seen him take on a more serious role at least just once! Instead, his American Smooth, to “I Am What I Am” was yet another one of ‘those’ performances. Yes, it was crowd-pleasing and it did make us smile but you couldn’t help but feel it was all done to take the eye off the dancing. He’s probably through to Wembley but how much longer will he last?

Well, that was week 7. It’s tight at the top but that’s left Audley at the bottom, and Russel not far behind. More than anything we noticed how we’re starting to enjoy the dancing more as the more obvious bumps and lumps get ironed out, and we’re looking forward to see what magic they can start to pull out of the creative bag as they all head towards the iconic setting of Blackpool – oh, yes, and Wembley next week!

Best wishes,

James & Joanna

 

Strictly Week 6 – Lenless Week

After giving us some sleepless nights from fright-night last week, it was a relief to see things back to normal this week – almost. This week, Len was holidaying in Butlins so who would stand in for him? Legend of Dirty Dancing fame, Baby, AKA Jennifer Gray, sat in for him, promoting Craig to head judge.

So, how did they get on?

Brendan & Lulu (Scored 5, 8, 7, 7, 27) : We hoped Lulu would finally have a flawless performance and at least make it through the choreography without a major blooper…. but it still wasn’t to be this week. She had a great opening but as soon as she took to the main floor things quite so strong, with the poise going a little downcast and the odd mistake once again. Brendan did a storming job to spin down the stairs but must be left wondering if they’re going to go on much further.

Audley & Natalie (Scored 5, 8, 7, 7, 27) : After getting through possibly his worst dance, the jive, last week, we felt Audley might show his strengths again this week. With his Viennese Waltz he showed us his charming side once more. Smiling throughout, we still find it incredible to see such a sizable boxer on the dance floor – terrific. Natalie please get to articulating his ankles some more; that would help all of his dances and give them a lighter look. Same score as Lulu but we think maybe just safe for another week.

Harry & Aliona (Scored 8, 9, 8, 8, 33) : Dancing the Samba you couldn’t help but feel he should take to it well; he’s been increasingly confident to strut his stuff hasn’t he? Very solid job tonight, and showing signs of starting to gel with his pro partner quite well which must be a sign of things to come. A little wooden through his middle making some of the actions looked stiff. We would have liked a bit more Samba in the routine too. Overall, improving all the time and safe for those later weeks surely.

Anita & Robin (Scored 7, 8, 8, 8, 31) : Costume, character, music, and of course the dance and it was a real Charleston treat. This dance is always a popular little showpiece because of the happy, lively approach. This suited her so much. Not technically flawless, and some things from her other dances still to improve here, but overall very strong here.

Jason & Kristina (Scored 6, 8, 7, 7, 28) : Dancing the Rumba, he had clearly worked hard on polishing the routine, all very good classic Rumba, but there was clearly a disconnection in their dancing that left him looking an individual rather than half of a couple. Contrast this with Harry,who was maybe not so strong, but so much more connected and interesting differences are emerging. Doubtless he’ll be back working hard again on Monday.

James & Alex (Scored 7, 8, 8, 8, 31) : Well, difficult to know what to say fairly here. She got her heel stuck (completely) in the dress and battled through right to the collapse at the end. Craig was correctly sympathetic to here too. There was potential here but we never got to see it. Please don’t vote her out on this week; judge her at her best.

Robbie & Ola (Scored 6, 8, 8, 7, 29) : Causing a few complaints over his raunchy Latin last week, it was back to his strength in his Waltz this week. It was ridden with faults and a little back weighted, but it was largely nicely dancing with some characterisation to it. We’re finding his ballroom more appealing than the Latin so maybe he’s vulnerable only on Latin weeks!

Russel & Flavia (Scored 4, 7, 6, 7, 24) : He’s turning into the joker of the pack isn’t he? Dancing (?) the Paso Doble with one of Flavia’s brilliant fun character’s once again he entertained and gave us a great parody of the Paso Let’s not get too technical here (we’d be here all day), this was all about the entertainment factor. At least his character is allowing Flavia out of the confines of the usual box and showing some creativity. Not the best of scores but he’ll surely be saved by the public vote? Surely he can’t keep getting away with it.

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 9, 9, 9,9, 36) : Dancing the Charleston, we found her dance didn’t we? This was really a strength for her and all of that frenetic energy we’ve sometimes seen from her was put to good use. Great story, choreography and dancing too – a couple of times with minor timing issues but otherwise terrific and a great score to show for it. Starting to click with Pasha too. Safe for a few weeks we feel.

Holly & Artem (Scored 8, 9, 8, 9, 34) : Dancing a tricky, energetic Jive, there were areas of this where it was stylish, with a great character. Holly showed some signs of coming out of that box but we still need more. Contrast that with the injured Artem who was still bravely flying those kicks around. She has to step up the energy levels much more if she is to challenge in the later weeks. Come on Holly….

That left Lulu, Audley and Russel at the bottom of the pile, and with Russel putting on a crowd-pleaser, surely the public would save him again? Looks like Audley and Lulu for the bottom two but of those, we really don’t know which way it would go. We’ve been more impressed with Audley but who knows.

At the other end, it looks like a race for the top between Chelsee, Harry, Holly & Jason and a great four-way fight to boot. Could this be the most competitive Strictly so far?

Keep…. watching.

Best wishes,

James & Joanna