Strictly Come Dancing 2011 – it’s final time!!!

14 weeks later, we find ourselves in Blackpool, home of ballroom dancing, with three worthy finalist couples suited, booted and ready for battle royal on the dance floor. but who would prevail? Would Harry manage to keep his nose in front or would the glints we had often seen from Jason and Chelsee spoil his Blackpool illuminations?

On with the show.

Harry & Aliona (Scored 10, 10, 10, 10, 40) : Opening the show with their highest scoring dance of the series, their quickstep, we were (and Harry was!) off to a great start with an improved second run at this dance. He’s turned out a really competent dancer over the 14 weeks and maybe this was his best so far, a lovely varied routine with some flashy bits, basic steps, well danced. A well deserved perfect 40 for Harry for this one and puts the others under pressure to perform at their very best.
Showdance (Scored 9, 9, 10, 9, 37) : Into the second half of the 3 couple part of the show where showdance gives the opportunity for lifts, freedom and that extra creativity. being a Rock and Roll number, it was lively, energetic and a real crowd pleaser full of variety. There were a couple of very minor bloopers, and we felt it needed a stronger ending of them both together rather than Harry on the drums. Then the scores rolled in and suddenly was this a little chink in the armour that the others might be able to steal the show with?

Jason & Kristina (Scored 9, 10, 10, 9, 38) : We were impressed how Jason pulled his best dance out of the bag with his last of the semi-final and maybe that was the one that really got him here. Now he had to be Mr Consistent with that level to take the dancing fight to Harry. They took to the floor with their Tango and you could see the determination to entertain and perform from both of them (How apt a music choice, “I will survive!”). It wasn’t flawless and the hold wasn’t as good as Harry’s throughout, with a few minor postural (posterior!) distractions, but full of vibrancy and fun. Perhaps not a performance to win but certainly full of entertainment factor for that all important public vote.
Showdance (Scored 10, 10, 10, 10, 40) : Following Harry’s showdance, we felt if Jason (and Chelsee) could really pull the stops out now it could level the competition again. Once again, out he roared with a showdance based on Quickstep, full of that big stage performance factor we’ve become used to from him. no major bloopers here, great variety in the show too with some nippy costume rip-offs that seemed to add some different looks and interest. It looked more than Harry’s showdance with it’s variety and equalled with energy. Then came the scores, and Jason had hauled himself right back into the mix. But wait, it’s not about the judges this week, but the public, had he won the public appeal?

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Shrek stormed onto the Balckpool Tower floor as Chelsee showed us her Jive once again. We felt some deja vous from Jason’s dance as we saw Chelsee spring to life, full of energy and entertainment, but the odd very minor technical distraction for us – occasionally looking a little flatter in the feet, and calling for a little more fuller Jive action from the legs and body. She should be so proud though of what she has achieved. From the outset we wondered how the youngest pairing would handle the pressure but her they are in the final, entertaining the nation. After the three had danced their first dance, Harry already had a nose in front, something Jason and Chelsee would find tricky to overcome without pulling out their very best dancing in the showdances.
Showdance (Scored 9, 9, 9, 9, 36) : After Harry’s showdance had possibly left him open to a good challenge, then Jason bringing out a 40 for his, Chelsee had to step up for this one. It was a shaky, nervy looking opening, until she got going with Pasha into a rip-roaring lift-fest! She was, for us, starting to tire a little towards the latter half of this extremely high energy routine, or maybe it was slightly loss of focus. Great music (“For one night only”) but there was more potential here to be squeezed out and yet it didn’t quite reach that dizzy level. And the scores were in…. 36, and surely she hadn’t made enough of an impression over over Harry?

After the first part of the show, Jason leads with the judges on 78, Harry on 77 and Chelsee behind on 75, but that doesn’t mean anything. How would the public vote reveal itself. We had maybe seen signs that the public hadn’t warmed to Jason with previous votes but for us he’s neck and neck with Harry at this stage. The only thing we had noticed is that all important connection between the dance and emotional expression – this might sound strange but possibly with Jason’s big stage experience he was used to over expressing whereas Harry seemed more genuine, sometimes more introvert in his approach and this made a difference to the natural look of the dancers. An hour to go…..

…..and then they’re back! Phone lines not close, but frozen – was this because of the additional cold tonight we wondered?

The first result was in…. Jason out!! The public had probably removed the last remaining threat to Harry lifting the title this year. What could Chelsee do now, with two dances already in the shadows? Phone lines already un-frozen. Come on Chelsee, give it your all!

Harry & Aliona (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Dancing their American Smooth, they were now beginning to have a confident look about them. This partnership had gelled several weeks back and he became our “nose in front” and never really overtaken since. Ha had a few things to work on still here, with very splayed hands and still looking rightwards in the right turns, but this was a lovely dance, nicely choreographed and he showed a great feel and right emotion for the dance too. Then the scores, and another strong vote form the judges, not that it counted in the total, although it was bound to prove influential.
Second Dance (Scored 10, 10, 10, 10, 40) : With their Tango, they were clearly focused and this showed through the dance. This was nicely done, with a good mix of traditional and showey elements; this couple really had started to have a good luck together. Stronger expression Len said, and yes, we agreed, it did seem stronger. Scores in… 40, and you could sense the relief after all that hard work. With this, surely he’d now sealed the title? But, remember last week, Jason nipping through with that last dance of the night making such a strong impression? Could Chelsee do the same?

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Dancing the Rumba, this now had to be very good. How did we see it, well another lovely dance, with a nice story and cleanly danced. For us she still lacked that middle body action to really get into the movements more but in 14 weeks, phewph! Well done Chelsee, and great upper body presentation here. Scores were in… great score but she really needed one more point to make a bigger impression than Harry here we felt. At this stage, we had Harry still ahead.
Second dance (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Finishing this fabulous series with a quickstep, Chelsee has the humor of being the last to grace the floor. Nice routine, with a little story telling too, in general nicely danced. She had a good few moments when her feet weren’t closed elegantly when they should have been, and the hold lost some poise in the tricky steps, but she’s done such a great job with this enormous dancing challenge. And the scores… 39, a great score but for us this left her behind Prince Harry.

So after the two sets of two dances, the judges had Harry on 79 and Chelsee on 78, not accounting for the other earlier dances. We were all (and there were two other experienced dancers with us) of the view that Harry was about to lift the trophy and give Aliona her first Strictly win too. Chelsee had raised her game and done extremely well but it wasn’t enough to challenge.

And then the big result of the year…. and Harry had done it! Well done, a huge congratulations for all the hard work. A terrific final, close at times, but this was a worthy winner and one you could see coming from those early weeks. You had to feel for Jason and Chelsee but what a show they made of it, and a great contribution to a fantastic series. Roll on next year, although a bit of a rest for some in between might be nice!

Our very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

James & Joanna

 

Strictly Semi Final – Who Will make it?

Semi-finals – it feels like only a few weeks ago when they all started out but what a journey has unfolded before us.It’s been building up to a good few last shows, with a few dancers in the running for that rare chance at the title.

This week, they must take on two dances, and with a double elimination week, there was huge opportunity for feeling the pressure; who would succumb and who would take a lead?

Harry & Aliona (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Dancing their Charleston, what a refreshing outlook they gave to the dance with a slightly modern feel to their great choice of music “I’m just wild about Harry” – to be honest we are too! A really terrific dance, evidently very well rehearsed with some good technique employed, balanced with good choreography. They really pulled out the stops with this one which has surely got them half way to Blackpool (Is that Birmingham?).
Second Dance (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : His Viennese Waltz was very classy, nothing over the top, and well danced from beginning to end. Minor footwork issues on the opening Fleckerl and sometimes occasional rightward shaping when his head should have been left, but otherwise good and surely he’s on his way past Blackpool now….

Alex & James (Scored 7, 9, 9, 9, 34) : Dancing the waltz, we just hoped she’d get through it without getting any heels in anyone’s clothing! Phewph! At last, a clean run so we could see her at her best. This wasn’t bad, and she really has improved such a lot from those early weeks, but there was more technically here that wasn’t addressed than some of her peers had managed. There were a few moments when posture was lost, and feet didn’t quite work so well, mixed in with better moments. She has to rely on a fantastic second dance to get her through to Blackpool as this put her under pressure.
Second Dance (Scored 7, 8, 8, 8, 31) : Well, we were hoping for something to put her back in the game after her first dance, but despite a great effort, we don’t think this was her ticket. It had some good moments, and still we think back to how she really has improved, but it also had some weaker moments when her leg action let her down, sometimes passing the feet too wide apart. She gave it her everything and if she does go home, she should hold her head high.

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 8, 9, 10, 9, 36) : Their American Smooth was danced nicely, finished well in places too, but mixed with a few minor places of less finesse which we felt would keep her from the very best scores. Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest we have seen from her but solidly performed.
Second Dance (Scored 10, 10, 10, 10, 40) : What we were hoping here, was not just for another strong performance to get her to Blackpool, that was within reach maybe, but one that would start to put Harry under some pressure. Her Paso was strong, full of shaping and character so essential to carry it off. It was sometimes danced a little high for us but she got away with it, and it was a nice piece. The scores came in just slightly higher than we thought so maybe this did send a good message that the competition is still on! Well done Chelsee.

Holly & Artem (Scored 9, 9, 9, 9, 36) : We felt Holly really raised her game last week with a wonderful Paso, and our favourite dance of the series so far. Could she continue that way? Well, this was another very solid performance, for us a little on the careful side but perhaps in-keeping with the dance. Good mixture of steps, nicely timed together, and we admired them for not going for the wow factor of frenzied steps so often seen in show-dance Argentine Tangos recently but maybe this kept them back from those 10s.
Second Dance (Scored 8, 8, 9, 9, 34) : Chelsee showed a stronger second dance than her first and you had to feel Holly now had to do the same. Take a few risks they said in the lead-up, hmm. This was an interesting modern twist on the Charlston which did seem to work. There were a few minor links between steps and lifts that weren’t quite so slick, but this was good and generally well danced throughout. We felt it was slightly under-rated compared to some of the other outcomes tonight and maybe not enough. We wish her luck with good old Joe public tomorrow!

Jason & Kristina (Scored 8, 9, 9, 8, 34) : Last time we saw Jason dancing Latin was in Wembley where things quite go fully according to plan. Dancing the Samba, there was nearly a slip before he got on the floor, and a couple of ‘speedy’ timing moments (Running Promenades) which took the edge of the dance. It was vibrant, full of energy but maybe that let the control get away from him a bit. He applied himself well again, that was never the problem, but maybe he needed to squeeze more from this than he did. Under pressure for that second dance.
Second Dance (Scored 10, 10, 10,10, 40) : And so here it is – maybe his judgement dance! This was an Argentine in complete contrast to Holly’s earlier, full of over-drama, lifts and aggression but maybe lacking the sultry, subtle look. Perhaps the extra performance factor would gain him some higher marks seeing how they are scoring so far…. and then came out the 10s, all four of them. Cracking score and what a time to bring it out, on the last, and most publicly memorable slot on the show as well.

That left Harry on 78, Chelsee with 76, Jason on 74, Holly on 70 and Alex bringing up the leader-board bottom on 65. Jason really pulled it out of the bag with his last dance – would that keep him in with the public though, especially after a bottom two finish last week? Surely Alex has probably had her time. It looks like Harry and Chelsee are already booked in to Blackpool hotels, but what about that other place? We’re really not sure what to say. Perhaps Jason has applied himself better, but more recently Holly has raised her game and we’d like to encourage that. Interesting results show tomorrow from that point of view and much less clear cut than of late.

Lastly, whoever makes it, what a great line-up we’re looking at for the final next week. Will anyone be able to raise their game enough to challenge Harry, or will he continue to be uncatchable? Those pros have certainly got their work cut out next week – no pain, no gain. Good luck to all of them.

Best wishes,

James & Joanna.

 

Strictly Week 10 – Who makes the semis?

This week was movie week – dances and music all themed around those famous movies.

Robbie & Ola (Scored 7, 7, 8, 8, 30) : Robbie was saved by the public last week but needed a better week this week. Dancing his quickstep, it was better but lacking some finesse in the hold and movement which sometimes left it looking less tidy and together than it should do. Is this his best score so far? Maybe. Still falling behind we feel.

Harry & Aliona (Scored 9, 9, 9, 9, 36) : Dancing the Rumba, this was probably one of the most capable Latin dances, certainly the rumba from the male celebrities so far. He had some body-centred action, the routine was danced clean and tidily and there was some real character on show throughout. Another good dance from Harry. Where is his weakness? Well, it seems it doesn’t have one!

Alex & James (Scored 8, 8, 9, 9, 34) : Their American Smooth was danced without major bloopers, although a couple of minor ones here and there. This wasn’t bad but it wasn’t Rolls-Royce smooth that would have made the bigger difference to them. We felt they needed to bring themselves more into the competition than this but they certainly won’t be bottom of the judges leader board for the moment.

Holly & Artem (Scored 9, 9, 10, 10, 38) : Dancing the Paso, Holly claimed this would suit her rather better than the fluffy dances – and so it proved. This was a more assured performance from Holly, clean, stylish, good shaping – it really did suit her well. Occasionally downcast but a really good performance from Holly, and after a bottom two shock last week she needed this. Good dance from them.

Jason & Kristina (Scored 9, 9, 9, 10, 37) : He knows he’s got serious competition from others improving around him. This week dancing the American Smooth, he acknowledged he had to raise his game, and that’s with the pressure of dancing in the shadow of Gene Kelly. This song means a great deal to us so we sat down hoping it would do it justice. Certainly he gave a better performance here, without that blooper of the last week or two, and showcased him rather than her. Jason’s weakness had been over-trying, over-working it and maybe he showed us here he is on his way to relaxing into it.

Chelsee & Pasha (Scored 9, 10, 10, 10, 39) : Dancing to Shrek, this could be a fairy tale or a boggy ending. After their recent weeks of improvement, could they step it up again, and would we see some of that acting coming through? She was certainly showing more characterful dancing in her jive, although maybe it is easier to show this for her. It was a fun and vibrant dance, full of energy. There were a few technical aspects that need work for a fuller Jive action but it was a really solid overall performance.

That left us with Chelsee, Holly & Jason heading the leader board, then Harry, Alex & Robbie, at the bottom, propping up the rear end. Maybe it was Robbie’s highest score but the others have come on a long way and he’s being left behind.

Best wishes,

James & Joanna