Final time and it's a long one, let's get down to it! As ever, it's hard work blogging about dances that have already been done, so here's a quick rundown...
Alexandra's American Smooth was a sweet as a box of chocolates, and she just exuded delight. Debbie got lumbered with her weird salsa, but sold it as ever and we also had the delight of Spelling With Giovanni. Gemma got the best choice because I do really love that paso, and it showed them as strong and a team. Joe's VW was the first of his dances I really liked and this was great to see again, especially for Katya's dramatic heroine over-acting to make up for the lack of moustache.
Now, let's get cracking with the craziest of Christmas treats, the showdances!
Alexandra and Gorka After the drama they've had this series, I love that Alex and Gorka chose the ultimate showtune for their showdance, and did the most razzmatazzy choreography possible. Whilst also throwing in an Argentine Tango, because why not? As ever, you should play to your strengths and we saw it with her musicality and verve. What's more, showdances often feel like they're rattling along until the wheels come off, whereas this had control, and was all the better for it. Love youse guys.
Debbie and Giovanni I saw some It Takes Two footage and it looked rather contempo-waft, and, shocker, ballet-heavy. Giovanni likes himself a schmaltzy showdance, doesn't he? Great song choice and nice to have a change of pace in a showdance, but it didn't feel like more than the some of its parts. And too many lifts for me.
Gemma and Aljaz This was the most unknown quantity going into it, but you can often play that to your advantage. This was a pretty good routine with a balance of ballroom and Charleston and maybe a bit of cha cha thrown in, but I think it showed up that Gemma is technically behind the other three. There were moments when looked like she was standing still waiting for the next move. But full marks for oomph, which is what you always want from Gemma, it was enough of a surprise to maybe keep her in this.
Joe and Katya This took a long time to get to the dancing...and was basically just a bit weird. Once we got underway, it turned into a very nice quickstep with very well-executed lifts, but not much more than that. I don't really have much to say about it, which is seriously dangerous for a showdance...
And then we had the final dances, and I realised this series has gone by in a flash! Thankfully we had Alex to raise the roof with the epic jive of epicness, this girl has given everything this series. Debbie reminded us that when she's at her best, she's awesome, with the Argentine Tango. Then we had Gemma changing the pace with a lovely bit of ballroom with an AS that did her proud, and brought a bit of Blackpool to the final! Finally, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Joe and Katya's Charleston as much as I did; I felt like it had improved and was perfectly executed.
Just before the heart-stopping moment with the winners announcement, we actually had one of the best group numbers we've had! It's usually a car crash but this was remarkably good and carefree. Here's a list of exclaiming highlights...The Rev not doing any dancing! Ruth and Anton stripping! Davood and Nadiya messing up a lift! Mollie just doing lifts! Kevin and Susan making me well-up in a surprising turn of events! The return of Jonnie's glitter blade!
And then the red lights came down for the final decision (and four people instead of three just made the stage look cluttered this year), and the winner is......JOE! The only-person-not-in-the-dance-off thing did make it the most likely, and everyone loves a J-word. Plus Katya has given us some great choreography this year. It's been a cracking series that brought us some great dances, Shirley, and plenty of laughs, see you all next year!
The semi-final is always exhausting for everyone involved, we have two dances, it's nearly Christmas and everyone is a bit tired and emotional. It's often a slog with flashes of greatness. We also started this semi with some seriously bling-tastic dresses from Tess and Shirley, are there any sequins left in Britain?
Joe and Katya Joe has gone from strength to strength in recent weeks, and this was always going to be a good dance for him. My expectations were high and I was watching with a beady eye, but apart from some wonky arm bits, it was very good. A nice routine yet again from Katya too with a great mix of steps and not overly-reliant on lifts. Correctly scored, and all round good and proper, but not a wow moment just yet. But we have a long night ahead of us...
Alexandra and Gorka Apart from her quickstep at Blackpool, it feels like forever since Alex got to do some classic ballroom, and in a drop dead gorgeous frock too! PLUS a totally appropriate song choice that enhance the dance - all the elements were there for once. Now, there was a whiff, a WHIFF, of contempo waft about this, but I can forgive it since you need to jazz up a VW in the semis or you get forgotten.
Mollie and AJ 10 out of 10 for effort and smiling, much less out of 10 for dancing. She managed to look like she was having a marvellous time, but it really was all over the place. Craig comments about the palm trees having more bounce did make me cackle, I bet she is dying to get back in ballroom. Also, poor AJ looked like a puppy that had been told off...
Gemma and Aljaz No one wants a rumba in the semifinal, contestants, pros, viewers, no-one. Saying that, I actually thought this was quite sweet and they captured a nice mood, teamwork has been one of their strengths all the way through. But is was a bit hesitant in places and didn't quite flow. Certainly not a disaster, and it did indeed look like a rumba, but not setting the world alight.
Debbie and Giovanni Brilliant song choice for a jive, and Debbie knows how to sell a ritzy-glitzy number for all its worth. I thought this started well enough, but she really started flagging about halfway through and her steps suffered. Everyone looks for the iconic kick and flick section in a jive and that looked a bit scarecrow-y. Top marks for the festive Cadbury chocolate outfits though.
ALL CHANGE, round we go again....
Joe and Katya This was weird. Good, but WEIRD. It feel like it didn't get going until the opening section with the mirror and the first lift were done, and then there was a proper AT section that was truly excellent. I did really feel for him with that post-lift wobble, but it didn't throw him and that's pretty impressive. Closer to a showdance than an AT, they may have been a bit too ambitious with this one.
Alexandra and Gorka I wasn't sure which was this was going to go, but it blew me away with the sheer amount of choreography and commitment. It just kept going and going and the lifts were pretty epic too. And it looked like a salsa, not a samba, not a disco, not some deformed cha cha. After the week she's had, being able to bring both technique and showmanship in a dance like that means everything.
Mollie and AJ Quite a grinding change of pace after the party-dance-to-end-all-parties, but a peaceful bit of ballroom is always welcomed. Although it was peaceful to the point of me dozing off. It was perfectly nice and Mollie is always better in ballroom, but if I'm stuck for something to say about a semifinal dance then, really...
Gemma and Aljaz Gemma looks seriously foxy and this worked as a tango song better than some we've had recently. Its driven by a beat and entirely about sexual frustration, what more do you want? This started well, with lots of attack from both of them, but it didn't really go anywhere. Technically, it was very good, but it wasn't more than the sum of its parts.
Debbie and Giovanni A twee but delightful song and minimal faffage from Giovanni in the choreography. Although I was surprised when it was suddenly over, it felt like it hadn't really built to anything. Really feeling the semi-final slog this year, where we get lots of nice numbers, but fewer 'WOW' moments.
Does anyone else feel like this year has flown by? Can't believe we're already at the quarter finals and there's hardly anyone coming down the stairs all of a sudden. And just to throw you off, here's AJ in his primary school production of Oliver and Amy looking stunning in a peasant blouse...I think we're in for a random evening...
I hate musicals week.
Gemma and Aljaz How is Gemma dancing under the weight of that hair? She deserves extra points for that alone. Not a bad choice to start the week, with a rip-roaring song that was actually suited to a quickstep. Gemma felt a bit clunky in hold to me and like she was struggling to keep up at times, but then the quickstep often looks exhausting. She might struggle this week, but her and Aljaz have such a great partnership it might see them through.
This made such an impression on me, I could not remember what it was. So I have just been on iPlayer for a rewatch. Now I feel bad because it's Hello Dolly and who doesn't love that? But oh, all the faff.
Mollie and AJ Well they look divine, the perfect choice for them this week...apart from that it's a rumba. It was always going to be a tough one for Mollie, so they seemed to cope it with it by putting not a lot of rumba in it and and an illegal lift. There were snatches of good bits in her arms, but also only tiny bits of hip action. The judges seemed to like it, but it might have committed the cardinal sin of being boring. I was also CACKLING at the awful slapdash scrapbook someone had put together for their VT.
Oh, Shirley. Just no. And also I spent most of the routine freaking out about the weird time signature, which I have been reliably informed on Twitter was 12/8.
Joe and Katya Doing a samba dressed for a Charleston, in fact this was one of the weirdest mash-ups we've seen on the show...but I actually quite liked it! Cabaret is surreal anyway, and Katya put a great routine together - it had more content in it than Mollie's rumba that's for sure. And Joe executed it very well with good bounce and aplomb, is there nothing you can't throw at him?
OK, I know all the words to this. But samba? No. It hurts my soul.
Debbie and Giovanni They really want all out on the costumes, and probably got one of the more sensible themes for the night. This was very flowy without being wafty and not over the top or melodramatic, I was quite impressed. Also, the the lifts were well-executed rather than death-defying and wobbly. It hit all the right spots and actually showed some progression, hurrah!
We are still pretending that 'The American Smooth' is an actual dance rather than a dance style from the US, are we? I've been letting it go for a few series but I'm grumpy so I'm bringing it up again. I liked this better on second viewing. I just would have preferred it if they weren't dressed as cats. I know that was the point. But unnecessary. Totally.
Davood and Nadiya Nadiya's hilarious perm, Davood making descending from the ceiling his signature move, this was definitely the peak of themeing madness for the evening. Which was a shame because there was some good AT in there, including a great jigsaw-legs section (yes, that is a technical term). The lifts were oddly clunky though, Nadiya was basically launching herself at him. I have no idea how the audience will take to this oddness, but hope he doesn't go out on what was basically a blip.
What a waste of what should have been an excellent Argentine Tango. Ugh.
Alex and Gorka Gorka's jacket, my eyes! I literally recoiled from the screen when he first appeared. But this was the most jolly, charming routine I've seen in a long time. Alex's swivel was so sharp, she could even do it in a high-kick, so I assume she just doesn't have normal working joints like the rest of us! Also managing to keep up the energy right until the end - considering Craig said she was better than Gorka I don't know what she's supposed to do to get a 10 from him. Great end to the show though!
Finally, a dance where the theme didn't completely ruin it. Alexandra could have out-swivelled a Swizzel lolly on a carousel.
First of all, please excuse the lack of picture. My computer is playing up and Frankie is unavailable for emergency uploads. It totes would have been Joe and Katya. Totes. On to the show... Joe and Katya
I do love a nifty quickstep. And particularly one that plays with musical breaks. Mrs Jones, your choreography was a joy. I could even get past the unnecessary themeage. That's saying something. What made this stand out was the range of steps. Oh so often on Strictly, a quickstep is reduced to nothing but a flurry of scatter chasses, but this had slows to balance out the quickety-quicks. Joe is seriously one to watch now. One of my favourite dances of the series so far.
Alexandra and Gorka
Ah shucks to the return of the contempo-rumba. I'm sure the temptation to go all artsy is almost overwhelming at times, but if Gorka hasn't realised that this series is ALL ABOUT THE BASSICS (no treble...) then there's not really much hope. Alex's dancing wasn't bad at all. It just wasn't what it was supposed to be. And thank the fleckerl this year that actually matters again.
Gemma and Aljaz
OK, I was confused last night. I'm still confused. This was the weirdest thing I have since in my life. From the pyjamas, the inexplicable song choice and most particularly Gemma falling asleep on Aljaz's shoulder mid samba roll. And it was not improved by Aljaz being dressed as a bottle of ketchup.
Mollie and AJ
The second delightful quickstep of the evening. Mollie and AJ hopped into the whole thing like little drops of sunshine. OK, it wasn't as technically accurate as Joe's and the choreography was a little manic in places, but it was lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I didn't notice Mollie was dressed as a 70s patio until at least three quarters of the way into the routine.
Davood and Nadiya
First of all, loving the traditional ballroom attire. And the oh-so-beginners-ballroom-class song choice. I actually thought this was better than the judges...judged. On second viewing, however, I did notice a wee bit of gapping. Nadiya has finally grasped that it's about the ballroom this series (to be honest, no one could have called this) and I was delighted to see beautifully executed recognisable waltz steps. Really nice.
Debbie and Giovanni
Loving the music. Yes, it's been used about seven hundred and forty three times but for some classic pieces like this it does not matter one jot. This definitely had the air of a showdance, moving from pose to pose without much softness in between. I would have liked that softness, and some subtlety. It was technically exquisite. But not my favourite Argentine Tango of all time.
Susan and Kevin
Susan's the tail end contestant now. It doesn't matter how much she's loved, she's going to be bottom. She's so inherently likeable and this whole dance was charming, I couldn't help but love it. But even I have to admit, her Strictly journey is nearly over. She's been an absolute gem of a contestant, and whether she leaves this evening or has another week left in her, she's been one of the biggest stars of Strictly 2017.
I all out LOVED this. Felt like I was in the Blackpool Winter Gardens judging a PROP-AH LATIN COMP. Could have called the order but couldn't argue with it. Alexandra stood out.
Grab your bucket and spade and thermals, we're off to Blackpool! We all know what that means, a technicolour explosion of crazy dancing, inflated scores, questionable costumes, and jokes about seagulls...Speaking of which, loved the circus theme for the opening number, harking back to Victorian Blackpool. I also enjoy it when the celebs are good enough to do a group number without causing a pile-up. Great work everyone, now let's crack on...
Mollie and AJ Ok, Mollie just won all the dresses for this series - if there's anywhere you can put samba-feathers-on-yer-bum in a Charleston it's Blackpool! Nan card well and truly deployed, we finally got down to dancing. It definitely was an improvement, even if it wasn't technically amazing, and I could have done with a few more actual Charleston steps. Also, at no point did she look like she was going to tumble out of the lifts to her death! But she took everything thrown at her (and that was a lot!), if she does go out this week I think she can do it with her head held high.
Susan and Kevin She might be dressed for Strictly Ballroom, but Susan's hair and makeup are right back in Game of Thrones. As I feared, this dance was all about Kevin, and Susan got rather lost in it all. Although the solo she did halfway through was pretty ballsy and I couldn't have seen her doing it a few weeks ago. For all the hype, the Strictly Ballroom paso is pretty much a paso, and doesn't stick out much when you watch pasos every week on this show.
Debbie and Gio It's always a bit awkward when you're the only one who turns up to the party in fancy dress...Spice Girls have been proven to be good samba though, and hilarious playing with the lyrics. This was a bit of a hot mess though, even with the world's longest samba roll, that was pretty much the only samba in it. Could Debbie struggle this week?
Jonnie and Oti They had quite the wobble last week, but I perked up when I realised they had a Blackpool tango and an appropriate song for once. And then I saw the Tron outfits, although in the end I quite liked the theme. This was a bit better for Jonnie's ballroom form, and it looked like his hold had improved. Plus it was a massive routine to take on for someone with no performing experience. Food for thought: this is the first dance so far where I thought the extra dancers were too much, am I just getting better at blocking them out?
Gemma and Aljaz Northern girl back on home turf, I would say bring it on Gemma, but this was an awkward dance to be given for the massive Blackpool floor. Also, an abundance of panto props and extra dancers. Thankfully Shirley was there to comment on the actual ballroom content and improvements in technique. Probably not worth two 10s, but whatever, it was the best of the night so far!
Davood and Nadiya We're now going into Davood's routines with a certain amount of expectation, which a big change compared to a few weeks ago. Now he's prancing around the Tower Ballroom in fetish wear, who would've thunk? This was a great demonstration of how he has improved, with some great control and shapes - even when Nadiya may have kicked him in the face. Might have preferred it without the extra gimmicks, but it was definitely enough to keep him in the game.
Alexandra and Gorka Have been really looking forward to Alexandra getting to do some classic ballroom once again, feels like it's been quite a while. Also whilst dressed as a complete goddess and having a wail of a time, she always brings the razzle dazzle! There was a LOT of Charleston in this, but the bits they did in hold were so effortlessly good I'm not too bothered. It was light and fleet of foot, and because the quickstep travels so much the extra dancers didn't get in the way - hurrah!
Joe and Katya The outfits were...something...as was the concept, Blackpool was not like that in the 90s. I really expected to hate this, but it fell into the 'bonkers-awesome' category by the end, mainly due to Joe selling the routine for all it was worth. He actually had to carry it because Katya got lost among the day-glo dancers. It quite obviously wasn't a salsa, but the pot-stirrer-with-the-foot and the band climbing the mountain that was this song meant I had a good time.
Ah, Strictly, the perfect balance of the expected and the unexpected. This week before it even got properly started we had self-referential Blackpool jokes, Darcey dressed as a Strictly superhero, and the crowd going wild for Shirley. But the most unexpected thing was we had a whole week of training footage VTs! What a joy! How do we make this happen every week?
BLAAAAAACKPOOL. Totes looking forward to seeing the set up outside the tower on my way to work later this week. Yay.
Susan and Kevin I am liking this new trend for kicking things off with an exciting number, Kevin and Susan really brought it with this tango. Lovely traditional routine that harnessed the drama of the music, and they'd clearly worked on technique all week. Frame is an issue, but she's working on it and facial expression went into hammy about halfway through, but it kept her going. Much like her joyful quickstep, it showed they can be great all-rounders and why we look forward to them every week.
Susan has such the air of a contestant who had no idea she was actually going to be any good at this. Bless. But she is. I mean, we all know she's no Alesha Dixon, but what she does have is joy, and vim, and vigour, and this all shines through when she's on the floor. I was kind of imagining that she was just trying not to laugh throughout this. Nice tango though. Kevin's a smarty pants.
Joe and Katya The male rumba! In the death slot! Katya's costume got caught in a shredder! I actually rather enjoyed this: the song wasn't painfully slow and it looked like a rumba rather than contempo-waft. Joe was a bit too focused on attack at times, but I'm all for commitment to the dance, and I could see hip action and an all-important attempt to make the moves flow into each other. Plus, I got to cackle when he brought out "this girl" to refer to Katya, huzzah!
I think this could have been my favourite dance of the night. I mean. Male rumba in death slot? As was pointed out on Twitter by Mr Perkins. We all pretty much thought he was doomed. But alas, no. He pulled a total Rachel Stevens on us with this rumba. What I am loving most about this series is the return to actual ballroom and latin. And all tied up with this is the chance for the professionals to teach and for the celebs to learn and for the ones who were middly all at the beginning to have a real j...
Ruth and Anton After recent adventures in dressing up and Ruth's Wig Emporium, this was a rather conservative look for these two. Took forever to get in hold, and then when they got there not much really happened. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very good either. Ruth could struggle this week...
What's been keeping Ruth in is not only Anton's comedy form this series, but also just how relatable she is for a significant portion of the show's audience. However, this one didn't stand out.
Davood and Nadiya He raised his game last week, so that set expectations higher than before. But within two seconds we could see he could swivel and we were away! It wasn't a knock-your-socks off Charleston for the ages, but it was well-executed and fun, with only minimal gurning. Certainly worth nines, feel like tens is pushing it, but I guess he just made it look easy. The real surprise is Davood's sudden confidence and control, and that's what we love about Strictly!
YAAAS Davood. Another dark horse, much like Joe. Another middly-at-the-beginning-going-from-strength-to-strength type, like a Darren Gough or a Gethin (pre that salsa, he was a bit of a bot...) We haven't seen such lovely charleston swivels since Ms Ellis Bextor. This series really is turning out to be a free for all. I can't call it. One jot.
Gemma and Aljaz After a couple of clunky weeks, it's good to see Gemma back in ballroom, and with a lovely song and frock to boot. It's hard to make a VW stand out, but these two managed to pull it off, and Gemma seemed so much happier and confident - I was really surprised when the judges said they didn't think she was emoting. It appears she has a fanbase voting for her, but they will have to keep it up this week.
Now Gemma is the opposite. She started this series with much potential but she hasn't really progressed. She isn't connected with the dances and to me it just feels like watching a series of movements which happen to have music playing in the background.
Alexandra and Gorka First Argentine Tango of the series, and a much-anticipated one at that, and OOF they delivered! The routine travelled more than I'm used to from an Argentine Tango, but they still managed to hold on the drama and the control. Also, Gorka is very good at allowing the choreography to showcase her. I now really want to see her in classic ballroom, she's not done much of it so far, but it gives her a chance to show another side.
What I love about Alexandra is that she pours her heart and her soul into everything she does. I remember that about her on the X Factor and she has certainly brought it to Strictly. Compare with Gemma. Alexandra is 100% connected to the dance and to the music. It is all as one. Practically perfect in every way.
Mollie and AJ Props to Mollie for delivering after the hit of being in the bottom 2 twice in a row. It wasn't the most technically achieved, but for me it was full of paso content and delivered with commitment. Mollie is a funny one, we realised fairly quickly she's not a ringer, and whilst she's not terrible, she's not improving at the rate of some people in an uber-competitive year.
Mollie, like Gemma, has kind of got stuck. However, I do think Mollie is considerably better a dancer than Gemma. The thing is, everyone is saying she's doomed this week, but nothing does wonders for the sympathy vote than being in the bottom two for two weeks. I reckon she'll be fine. But perhaps it'll be bye bye in Blackpool. And that's actually a shame.
Jonnie and Oti It's been so nice watching Jonnie learn to enjoy dancing and performing, and obviously Oti in an array of stunning frocks. I felt this was a really difficult song for Jonnie, there wasn't much for him to bounce off, and in the foxtrot of all dances. A few improvements, including in arms, but the frame still has issues. Everyone loves him, but Bruno was right (I know!) when he said it was missing the va-va-vroom.
Eeeh, I was a tad bored by this one. Oti is quite obviously a goddess. But Jonnie has kind of reached a peak, and slipped a little down it. I want to see a WOW dance. Until I do, I'm all over meh about him now.
Debbie and Giovanni There's nothing more latin than a salsa set in an opticians, I was rolling my eyes before it even started. Also, my sleeve vendetta returned once again, why on earth does Debbie McGee with her age-defying body need sleeves?! Once we FINALLY got underway, this was actually a lot better than I was expecting; Gio knows his stuff and Debbie performed the hell out of it. I think I preferred it to the Halloween Charleston, although the lifts were reminiscent of Bonnie Langford the human cannonball on Dancing on Ice. Bit overmarked...
Twisting at the waist as though you are doing the, er, twist is not salsa. It never has been and it never will be. I hated it. But that's hardly a surprise.
We're halfway there, in week sev-ern with Halloween behind us and Blackpool on the horizon. You'd think we'd be flagging by now, but no, there's a stonker of a show ready for you here!
Alex and Gorka In the death slot, but looking fiiiine, and great to open the show with something that’s actually good for once! Alex travels across the floor beautifully and commits to every move. The footwork was really intricate, but she seemed to take it in her stride, and even managed to avoid Craig’s pigeon-toed drama. Also, top, top, top 10s celebrations from these two.
Very happy to have a decent dance - rather than a forgettable mid-table, mid-season exit type - open the show. One of the best executed cha cha chas in Strictly history in my opinion. It may not have had the overt confidence of Alesha Dixon's but the technique was better. This girl is a star.
Mollie and AJ A divine foxtrot song choice, and i’m kind of in love with that skirt. We know Mollie loves ballroom, and this was a perfectly lovely dance, probably one of her best so far and it’s hard to impress with a foxtrot. Her frame seems to have improved, so maybe Shirley’s core nagging has helped. Also enjoyed seeing AJ trying to put lifts in a non-lift dance by dragging her around on one toe.
Oh Mollie. This was sweet but almost forgettable. At this stage I'm starting to question AJ's choreography. Mollie has all the qualities of an excellent contestant - she has timing and coordination but something is just not setting the dancefloor on fire.
Joe and Katya Not sure what those early Christmas outfits are about, and what-the-actual-eff are those CGI soldiers?! This was a delightfully cute routine though, and easily one of Joe’s best; he looked like he was having a great time and at no point were we worried for him. Plus the lifts with impressive without any danger of death, a rare event this series!
My favourite of Joe's dances so far. I've had issues with his posture and bizarre body movement but this did not come across at all in the charleston. It was perky, fun, syncopated and speedy. Loved it.
Gemma and Aljaz Oh my word those outfits, I quite like the stonework on Gemma’s, but it’s just SO MUCH it’s like 90s Ibiza threw up on me. Hairy lifts, some salsa basics, and not much in between. I wanted to like it, but just no. Give Gemma some classy ballroom once again!
OK, so I haven't really had a rant about salsa this season. Brace yourselves. There is a complete lack of understanding about this dance. From the celebs, the pros, the show as a whole. This was far too steppy and there was no flow. Call me biased but salsa, more than any of the others, is not about the blessed steps. It's about fluidity of movement. Song didn't help.
Aston and Janette I mean, this is a beautiful song, a great choice for a VW, so there was no need to get the dressing up box out, it was so distracting and very DWTS in style. Not the best frame, and it didn’t help that it kept being broken up with random wafting. Aston seems more than capable of doing normal ballroom, it would be nice for him to be given the chance.
Not his best but Craig was brutal. BRUTAL.
Ruth and Anton These two, on the other hand, are more than welcome to raid the paso dressing up box and cackle away like lunatics. Slightly taken aback by how minimalist Ruth’s hair is, but they more than made up with it with a GENIUS routine incorporating fun and frolics with actual paso content. Ruth also seems to be getting into it a lot more and throwing herself into the dances, OLE!
Anton Du Beke: comedy genuis. The was camp, and bleedingly insane. Ruth is good enough to be improving but bad enough to pull of a Du Beke farce. Perfect.
Debbie and Giovanni Debbie’s twists-and-grips hair is straight out of 1999 and it’s terrifying me almost as much as this truly awful tango song choice. They actually looked like robots at times, but the technique was really strong and they somehow managed to inject some dramatic tension into it. Maybe if I played it back with another song over it? I did appreciate it was really good, but I wasn’t jumping up and down about it.
At first, all I could think was, could you imagine this to La Cumparsita. The song for me was so distracting. So then I watched it with the music off. And I saw what the judges saw. It was the sharpest tango I can remember seeing on Strictly. Sometimes the ringers transcend their previous experience to the point it no longer matters. Like Danny last year, Debbie is becoming one of those.
Jonnie and Oti Both of them have awesome hair this week, it’s like a fashion magazine. Easily an improvement on last week’s car-crash (shipwreck?) of a cha cha and he seemed to manage the loosey-goosey aspect, but also not one of his best. The lifts were awesome, as he can do the control better than a lot of the others, and he does seem to be dancing WITH Oti a lot more now. He also needs another stab at ballroom.
Argh, I'm going to die of bad salsa.
Susan and Kevin A while ago, myself and Clover saw Michael Vaughan dance to this at the actual show. Well, I say dance, Michael couldn’t chop wood in time to the music and Natalie threatened the judges with an axe...good times! This was obviously better than that, after last week’s foxtrot drama they just went with a straight jive and it was good for it – she did great kicks and flicks sections. Also, effortless dancing with a paintroller, there’s a skill for life right there.
This was pure joy. She has great musicality and the swingy type dances are definitely her thing. I'm worried there aren't enough dances left that will suit her but these two are still one of my favourite partnerships this year.
Davood and Nadiya Another cracking song choice, this was made for an American Smooth, and it appears it was made for Davood too – easily his best dance! For the first time it actually all came together, including non-manic choreography and Davood seeming confident and not hanging on for dear life. They were some ballsy lifts and they went without a hitch. Lovely to see such a surprise halfway through the series.
The VTs get naffer, the opening dances crazier, the country has a shortage of pound-shop wigs...it's that time of year again! Saying that, the opening number with the Ghosts of Winners Past and a Disney's Haunted Mansion tribute brought the house down and was minimum kitsch maximum drama - I hope this bodes well for the evening.
Jonnie and Oti Extra points for Jonnie's hilarious pirate voice, and they also win best couple's costume. It was all good fun and did indeed look like a cha cha, but it was also a bit of a mess - probably his weakest since the week one waltz. That and the death slot means it could be a scary night for them (I promise I will not do this all the way through...)
Ruth and Anton The latest adventure in Ruth's hair is Peak Bee Gee this week, along with a sparkly apron because not even witches can smash the patriarchy. This was a lovely little quickstep, probably Ruth's best ballroom so far (which means best, basically). They also seemed to have mostly dealt with the gapping issues we all saw on ITT. Yes, there are some problems, but she seems to be overcoming her nerves and that's been half the battle.
Simon and Karen These guys had some awesome Sweeny Todd costumes, Karen always rocks Halloween the hardest. You could see she'd really tried to cover with the theme, and Simon seemed to do well for it, but it does appear he forgot the steps more than once. Also, the song seemed slightly incongruous; if you're going to do a song about a jealous lover murdering his woman, you kind of need to show that, or it's just a jolly waltz tune!
Gemma and Aljaz They stole my jive song! I didn't get why Gemma was so cutesy until it started and realised they were Buffy and Angel and then it all made sense and I liked it 100% more. This was easily the best dance of the night so far, but also Gemma's worst for a while, and was a bit heavy in places. But it's also hard when you're comparing it to the showstopping jives of the ages. Totally overmarked.
Joe and Katya After last week's bombastic paso, it's a bit of a grinding change of gears to getting a ponderous foxtrot. I say ponderous, someone realised the song mentioned spiders and flogged the theme to death. It was a bit too high concept, I found it hard to engage with the foxtrot content, although Joe did well to take on everything thrown at him.
Mollie and AJ Mollie looks a total knock-out, while AJ looks like he works in a Hell-themed Ibiza nightclub in the mid-1990s. I think this was actually Mollie's best latin so far, I still find her a bit hesitant, but she'd put the work in and she and AJ were a bit more together. Also, when you have such a cracking cha cha song, it can sometimes carry you through.
Alex and Gorka Who knew a zombie tango outfit could be so glam? Although, without the costume I think this could have been a tango from any week, great song and choreography that surpassed the themeing. It had the attack that we all love from Alex and they held on to the tension throughout, plus everyone can learn from them how to work together as a team.
Davood and Nadiya Featuring Nadiya as the Ghost of the Victoria's Secret Runway. I actually quite liked this, making them do a peaceful rumba means they have to calm the hell down, although it could have done with more basic rumba like Queen Shirley said. It did however capture the spirit of the rumba (boom boom), for which I'm thankful, and they probably went on about the the choreography more than they should when that's not Davood's fault and he had shown some improvement.
Susan and Kevin The one we'd all been waiting for, and they delivered! I would not have taken any of this nonsense from anyone other than these two, from the flammable-looking dragon to Kevin's smiling Jon Snow, I should of hated it, but of course I didn't. Halloween is also proving to be a good week to bury a dance you're not that good at...
Debbie and Giovanni This was somehow odder than Susan and Kevin, I could not take my eyes off Giovanni's Frankenstein mullet. The lifts were terrifying, it took way too long to get to the costume change, but everyone was raving about it, and then it got three 10s. Are you really telling me that was as good as Alexandra's jive? Also, that song was the bane of my life growing up.
Aston and Janette Now, I've had my issues with Aston, but I loves me a flamboyant rock paso and this was one of the best. The themeing didn't actually kill it, which was my main worry, and even with the extra bits thrown in it was still full of paso content. He's actually had a few wobbly weeks and been overshadowed by Alex and others, this definitely put them back in the game.
There was drama, there were new steps, there was a bullfighter bolero jacket, there was Anton in a ruffled shirt, if ever there was an episode inspired by Strictly Ballroom it was this one! Hang on to your hats guys...
Davood and Nadiya After being in the dance-off and now in the death slot, it didn't look great for Davood. Although, the jive certainly lends itself to his Labrador-esque energy and Nadiya's manic choreography, I think this was their most coherent routine so far. Saying that, his technique needs to improve or he's going to start lagging behind the others pretty quickly. This was also the start of some rather odd outfits tonight too, Nadiya looking positively middle-aged in that heavy dress.
What are they trying to do to Davood? Totes unfair that he was in the death slot - but they seem to do this to dance off celebs don't they? Do they completely write them off once they've come bottom? Boo hiss. Having said that, I agree with F., if he survives the week, he needs to show some oomph. His performances are increasingly forgettable.
Mollie and AJ Thankfully Mollie is back with us after barely surviving those salsa lifts last week, here's a nice staid VW for you dear. Despite being sugary enough to give you a toothache, I quite liked this, maybe it was because of the minimal faff. Yes, it didn't set the world alight, but it was good to see her making some progress.
I found this weirdly uncomfortable to watch and I don't know why. Perhaps it was the saccharine over-acting. . Mollie is improving but she needs a wow-Rachel-Stevens-rumba moment. And soon.
Simon and Karen Ah, king of dad dancers survived the samba to wiggle another day. Now, this somehow got better as it went along, and it was quite a good routine from Karen, but Simon is lacking in skill....and an Achilles apparently. It was just a bit leaden and no amount of facial expression, or yellow tartan, can save that.
Even Rupert the Bear wouldn't have combined that waistcoat with the pants. And he's a fictional bear. I can't remember the dance. I was too distracted by that garish yellow.
Debbie and Giovanni Ah, we've all been waiting for a Debbie and Gio rumba, the Strictly props team were standing by with a bucket of cold water in case things got out of hand. Alas, they went for pretty, classy, traditional rumba, booo! Not really, it was good, and Debbie looked like she she'd really worked on the hip action. I was quite thankful that this wasn't one of those painfully slow rumbas too, good work guys!
I'm not sure it was as good as the judges said but I was so super glad to see Debbie do well I don't actually care. I never would have thought she would have been one of my favourites this year but there you go. What I love is that she took the criticism from last week and worked on it. That's what it's all about. And I'm not talking about the hokey-cokey.
Brian and Amy Amy is a saint, I hope we get her back next year, she ploughed through this jive to a very unfortunate song choice. This routine did seem rather light on content for Brian, I did genuinely think he'd forgotten parts of it at times, but he may have just been rubbish. That and the eye-watering outfits made me think we'll be seeing this again in the dance-off, what joy...
Meh. Not good enough to be good. Not bad enough to be good.
Susan and Kevin After last week's revelation of a quickstep last week, we were all ready to see what Susan would do next. There was a fair bit of faff at the start, but when it kicked in it was great to see Kevin sticking with proper routines and this was full of cha cha. It wasn't as technically achieved as last week, but it was full of pep and brought us all to life.
Susan is the breakout star of Strictly 2017. Charleston, American Smooth, Quickstep are always going to be more her style. Latin is a tough one to crack. This was entertaining, but technique-wise not great. But somehow with Susan, she sells it any way.
Aston and Janette So much wafting...Beautiful song, completely distracted by the all-over-the-place choreography. And this all came after them saying all week this was going to be Aston's first foray into classic ballroom. I was very annoyed.
Oh crikey, I must have fallen asleep momentarily because I barely remember it. Erm, Janette's dress was lovely.
Ruth and Anton Oh my word, the hair! The never-ending samba roll! Anton's sleeves! Anton dancing on one leg like a flamingo on acid! What I loved about this was that it was so crazy and came out of nowhere, there was no hint on ITT this week that they were going so full-on and it was all the better for it. Yeah, it was technically all over the place, but a delightful surprise.
Ruth, 1979 called. It wants its hair back. You know, I was just about to tweet about Strictly Ballroom and was searching for a gif of Ken Railings just as Craig made the same comparison. It was so camp, and such a parody. And that's why I LOVED it. Anton's trousers are life.
Gemma and Aljaz Beautiful routine from Aljaz, that's what proper ballroom looks like. All that, plus the hilarious trolling move of Gemma wafting while in hold! This was lovely and held my attention all the way through, which is hard for a foxtrot. Although I did wonder what was so fascinating about the ceiling, she didn't take her eyes off it for a second.
I could see this girl winning this.
Joe and Katya Loving how both Joe and Katya went all-in with the outfits this week, there was no mistaking what this was! And what's more, I think Joe finally had his breakout dance! There was so much power and commitment in this, and it should hopefully drive his confidence into next week. Yes, the shaping was a bit wonky in places, but I don't think he could have done that in week 1. But then Shirley gave it a 10 and sent me into a tailspin of confusion!
WUT? 10? I'm not sure I agree with that one. Great intro with arm-shaping but his body movement is very uncomfortable; he reminds me of Jake Wood in that respect. I'm not saying this wasn't good. But such high scores did surprise me somewhat.
Alexandra and Gorka Just going to get down to it: the song didn't work for me. Yes, the arrangement was correct for a samba, but it is too subdued, and Alex works best when she's in firecracker mode. Bags of content and hip action though - that was a filthy samba roll! I could have done with some feathers, to me it's not a proper samba without feathers on yer bum.
At first I was like NO WAY RUBBISH SONG CHOICE. Then it started and I was like OOH I LIKE THE ARRANGEMENT ACTUALLY. Then it continued and I was like MEH. Loved Alex's samba style though and it was grossly undermarked in comparison to Joe. I agree with Frankie. I want feathers! Fruit headpieces! Frills!
Jonnie and Oti Jonnie showed us last week he can do ballroom, so I was excited to see what a quickstep would bring - and he definitely delivered! A nice nippy little routine from Oti, and the way he's learned to perform has really helped raise his game. Plus you really get a sense of teamwork from these two, which livens up any performance, I really couldn't see him dancing with anyone else.
Loved this. Think it was my favourite of the evening over all. It was so nippy and tight. The attempts at acting were endearingly cute. Another one to watch.
Week 4, where the judges apparently get notoriously tough (since when?! I feel like history is being rewritten this series.) However, I'm not hating on Craig's new found respect for rules. This, in addition to the back-to-basics approach to choreography (Nadiya aside), and the fact that props just appear to be background scenes instead of infiltrating the dances to the point of stupidity (let's ignore Brian's glittery stick...), means I am enjoying the routines far more than I have for quite some years. Is this Shirley's influence? Whether it is or not, I approve nonetheless.
Debbie and Giovanni
They were pretty tough on poor Debs. However, her legs were as straight as matchsticks and her footwork was a wee bit sloppy in places. I would have thought the scores would be higher but perhaps Giovanni has got lazy teaching her technique, assuming she's a natural. But the movement in each dance is so different, she's not going to pick them all up without help. I bet we'll see a mahoosive improvement next week. This lady is nothing if not plucky.
Brian and Amy We have reached Peak. Camp. Not sure why Brian was having a toddler tantrum on a block at the beginning of the routine. Despite the horrific song choice and garish costumes, this actually genuinely did have paso content. And it wasn't executed all that terribly either. Brian's timing isn't bad. He's not good enough to be good, but he's not bad enough to be good either. I wonder how long he will last.
Mollie and AJ YAAAS another latin track for salsa? What are you doing to me BBC?! I'm delighted. It's AJ I'm going to critique here. Ballroom dancers always take such huge steps on salsa basics and it's so blooming unnatural. And if AJ is doing that, Mollie is bound to follow. Gives it all an awkward edge to be honest. So yeah, not my favourite. And he dropped her didn't he? She bounced off the floor.
Davood and Nadiya Oh bless, we're still at the point where we have many contestants, some just get lost in the process. Davood's performance was forgettable. In fact, I genuinely forgot it whilst writing this blog. He's such a contender in the sense that he's ripe for a journey. I want him to come out and WOW us, with pizzazz, like the time Gethin found his Salsa.
Charlotte and Brendan Poor Charlotte. She's the sort of contestant we just would have expected to be better. I think she probably thought she'd be better too. That's a tough glitterball to swallow. I thought she improved though actually.
Joe and Katya So Joe's graduating from the Jake Wood school of body movement. He's trying but it's not quite there. I'm loving that this series it's at least being called out instead of praised. Movement has to come from the feet/legs/core, not from the hips themselves. I saw timing issues but perhaps I was wrong given the judges said that was spot on. I'll have to rewatch. He's a nice chap and has potential. I don't think we'll be losing him yet.
Ruth and Anton A dramatic Anton Tango (and Ant-ango?) But, like, Davood, this wasn't good enough to be all that memorable. Or bad enough to be all that memorable. She's having a jolly nice time though. And it was a huge improvement.
Aston and Janette First of all, I called this song on Twitter four years ago for a perfect quickstep. And I loved it. But why on earth were they wearing green?! A lovely sky blue would have been just perfect. Regarding the dancing, I'm wondering if Aston got cocky. It was relatively ungainly in places. Glad again it was called out. They'll come back fighting next week.
Simon and Karen I don't care if it's re-used. I will always welcome a samba to Copacabana. Always. And I will always welcome fruit-related hair pieces. And yellow fringing. What I liked best about this however was the fact it was a samba. WITH SAMBA STEPS IN IT. Remember a few series ago when the sambas, salsas and cha chas were almost indistinguishable? No more! Not sure if this was enough to save him but I enjoyed this.
Gemma and Aljaz Gemma is the definition of rough diamond. One week soon, she's going to waltz out like a Disney princess and make everyone go ooooh, she's a LADY (woah woah woah, she's a lady). She's improving week on week, and is exactly the sort of contestant we love.
Alexandra and Gorka If it's good enough for a ten, it's good enough for a ten. No matter how early it is. This was the FIERCEST dance I have seen on Strictly. I think ever. It wasn't only technically proficient, it seemed as though Alexandra threw her heart and soul into every single step. Alex - already a Strictly Come Dancing legend.
Johnny and Oti First of all, I heart Oti's dress. I can't pull off a red dress, being pale and ginger. Jealous. Johnny was great in this and I loved the routine. Musicality, technique, all great. But he has the sportsman performance problem. Totally agree with Craig regarding the acting lessons. Look what it did for Matt Dawson. Got him to the final... just saying.
Susan and Kevin Susan for Strictly Champion! No! Susan for Prime Minister. No! Susan for QUEEN! She was so light on her feet and her musicality was impeccable. I ADORED this. Now I have been down on Kevin in the past. But honestly, he gets the best out of his celebs doesn't he? I take it all back. Think this might be my favourite partnership of the series this year. And Susan, this wasn't 'it-was-a-great-performance good', this was 'you're-a-great-dancer good.
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