Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Four play

Final Performances: 22nd December 2012

You might expect that the final would begin with a lengthy intro sequence detailing exactly how we got here, reminding us of everyone's Strictly Journey, possibly even admonishing us a little bit for allowing History's Greatest Dancer Who Totally Isn't A Ringer Denise Van Outen to fall into the Dread Dance-Off not once but twice - but you'd be wrong. Instead, we go straight to the titles, with an added bit of "The Final!" jazziness to them.

We open with a truly ridiculous pro-paso to 'The Final Countdown', which is, rather incongruously, where we get our Strictly Journey moments, as the early parts of the dance are intercut with footage of the judges delivering praise to our four finalists earlier in the series. There's a huge set of screens at the back of the stage which flash up the eyes of each of the finalists in turn on a continuous loop, and then suddenly the display changes to flash up each contestant's name as they suddenly appear from behind it, presumably by complicated hydraulic means: first Kimberley, then Dani, then Denise, then Louis. The women are all wearing the same silver sequinned outfit (with slight differences in style to set them all apart), while Louis is wearing tails and a gold bow tie. I find myself wondering if they were stored backstage in two boxes, labelled "sequins for also-rans" and "winner's tux". Er, spoilers.

Then a large CGI glitterball descends from the ceiling, "THE FINAL" is written on it, and we go back into a weird, truncated version of the titles that just features the four finalists dancing around the world "FINAL", even though the footage of them is the same footage we've been seeing all series long. I think we all got the point of who the finalists were without needing to see this, so the only reason I can see for its inclusion is that the opening number was an obvious pre-record, and they just needed something else to show for 15 seconds to ease the transition into the live sequences where all the props from that routine had been removed - it would probably have been a bit jarring to cut straight to Bruce and Tess entering with those screens and platforms instantly vanishing.

Speaking of Bruce and Tess, here they are. Daly Dresswatch: oh good lord, she's actually come as the glitterball. Her dress is just a long, unflattering stream of silver sparkles that clings in all the wrong places and makes me hope that she doesn't inadvertently stand on a black podium at any point in the evening lest she actually be mistaken for the trophy in a hilarious mix-up. We cut to the judges, and Bruno is doing finger guns at them, presumably in the knowledge that Tess's outfit is a blight on humanity and must be destroyed, whatever the collateral damage might be. Bruce welcomes us to the grand final, and gets a fit of the giggles: it's not a bout of unprofessionalism, he just saw Anton backstage earlier looking at the trophy and wondering if he'd ever win it. Hey, cruel humour is the best humour - the very existence of this blog will attest to that.

Once Bruce has calmed himself down, he and Tess inform us that our votes alone will decide who wins this year's competition - the judges will still be scoring, but those scores will be for "guidance only". Bless the show for still plugging away at the idea that anyone is influenced by the judges' scores at this point: the first boots in the finals of series six through nine were the couples at the top of the leaderboard. Tess runs through the running order: first the contestants will repeat a previous routine that the judges have selected for them (and by "judges", presumably read "producers"), then the voting lines will open, and then there will be what Tess refers to as the "incredible showdances", and she is possibly more correct here than even she realises, since invariably the showdances will literally not be credible. Bruce then picks up that they'll be back at 8:50pm, when the couple with the fewest votes will be eliminated, then the remaining three couples will perform their own favourite dance in a last-ditch fight for the trophy. Incidentally, this is where everyone who watched The Voice UK (all 12 of us) started to get that horrible, sinking feeling that we weren't going to find out who finished second or third, but more on that later.

There's no dancing yet, only filler as we look back over some highlights of the series. Let's skim over this as quickly as possible, shall we? Launch show, Darcey Bussell, cartoonish Hollywood dances, Halloween dances, Lisa Riley doing a lot of faces, Bruno doing a lot of...something, fuckin' WEMBLEY, Lisa paying tribute to Mystique Summers Madison with her death drop, Louis' Strictly Journey beginning and ending with him learning to pull goofy faces in the charleston, Kimberley losing her shit when she got 40 for her Dance Fusion, and comedy VTs which were lesser in both frequency and commitment than last year (controversial opinion: I think I preferred it last year when the show at least decided it was definitely going to make comedy VTs a thing and stuck with it: this year it just decided that it wanted to do some comedy VTs, occasionally, and then do training VTs the rest of the time. The show's done a lot of fence-sitting this year, and that's one of the more egregious examples, right up there with Darcey's scoring).

Right, time to meet the superstars of our show. Bruce grabs Tess and declares that she feels "like a Brillo pad". I bet the champagne corks were popping in the Kay-Daly household on Sunday morning when they saw that headline about Bruce not planning to come back next year. (I'll believe that when I see it, personally.) Anyway, here are our finalists: Kimberley and Pasha, Louis and Flavia, Dani and Vincent, and Denise and James. Without actually having seen any of the dances yet, I'd have been quite happy with that as a finishing order. Dare to dream, eh? [For me, I'd have liked a Denise/Kimberley top two, in either order, then Louis, then Dani.  But then I'm Denise's only fan, I think - Rad]

Bruce decides to open the proceedings by declaring that any of these four couples could've been champions in a previous series. Presumably the series in question is the seventh, and even then I think Denise would've struggled. Kimberley too, quite possibly, since she wouldn't have had Pasha to dance with. Joining Karen Hardy for her "expert guidance" (again, the sort of "guidance" that we hold in about as high esteem as that of the actual judges) tonight is none other than series four champion Mark Ramprakash. I didn't press the red button, but I imagine the commentary was pretty much "REMEMBER WHEN WE WON?!?!?!" on a loop. "Have a good time up there!" says Bruce. Oh Bruce, I'm sure they don't need telling.

Up first tonight are Denise and James, and the crowd whoops, leading Brucie to declare "they're all so popular!" Considering Denise has been in the Dread Dance-Off in two successive weeks, Bruce, I think some of them might be more popular than others. After yet another off-colour and faintly homophobic joke about Bruno, we learn that Denise is reprising her jive to 'Tutti Frutti' for the judges' choice section. Their VT gives us a brief summation of their past week, the main gist of which is that being in the bottom two makes you feel sad. Thanks James! There's a hilariously stagey bit in which the Judges' Choice is officially revealed, featuring all four of them behind a handsome desk in all of their finery, like the world's sparkliest interview panel ("tell us about a time when you really delivered first class customer service. And tell us about it THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF DANCE!"), ostensibly discussing the grave importance of the task they are here to deliver today. Len and Craig are taking it seriously (obviously), and Darcey and Bruno are doing their best not to laugh (OBVIOUSLY). Denise and James stride in, both with "this shit is so idiotic" looks plastered across their faces (it's the most likeable either one of them has been all series) and Craig congratulates them for getting this far in the series. I'd say most of the thanks go to the judges for pulling them through two successive Dread Dance Offs, and the producers for changing the rules mid-series to allow four couples into the final, but whatevs. Craig tells them that they're doing the jive, and Denise is very pleased about this. Bruno thinks that, ten weeks on from the first time they performed this, now Denise truly has the experience to take a good jive and make it into a brilliant one. Because those ten weeks have really made all the difference in a way that several years on the West End stage just couldn't. Len informs them that they can tweak the dance if they choose, and reminds them that they got 32 last time, but this time he's expecting it to get the perfect 40, at which point St Jill of Halfpenny will descend from Ballroom Heaven and wage a holy war on the nation for daring to tarnish her record. Denise and James go off to rehearse their jive, and Denise talks about how much she's looking forward to it, and she hopes Len enjoys it too. Because fuck those other three losers, who even cares what they think?

So Denise and James reprise their routine with a few minor changes (there's a big jump in it now!) and this may be deeply uncharitable of me, but I was really hoping she'd get her heel caught in her dress again. Thankfully the universe does not cater to my whims in that way and Denise's hemline remains intact. It's still very well-danced, but honestly I feel it's not quite as good as it was first time out. If anything, it seems to have less active jive content this time, the bloody spins are endless, and the side-by-side section looks a little bit sloppy on Denise's part. [Still better than what happens at  (Mewwy) Christmas though, whoops, spoilers - Rad]

Bruce introduces the judges with a little spiel about how much he's going to miss all of them, except Craig. Interestingly, despite having been hired to add a much-needed voice of dance expertise in place of Alesha, Darcey is essentially reduced to the position of "the totty" in this joke just like Alesha always was. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. 

Len opens for the judges and says that to dance well, you have to be athletic (like renowned athlete Chelsee Healey, for example?) but to truly be a dancer, you need artistry, and Denise has got both of them. Athleticism and artistry. Arthleticism! Actually, that sounds like some sort of condition that leaves you with dodgy joints. Bruno declares Denise "wicked" and tells her it was a premium grade jive. And if anyone should be able to recognise premium grade...things, it's Bruno. Craig feints with "limp, lame..." before giggling that he's joking (so precious) and telling Denise that her timing's impeccable. Denise crows "d'yer wann' another kiss?", indicating that she's willing to pimp out James if necessary, and James shoots her an "even I don't want to win that badly" look. Darcey says that she loved it the first time, and Denise's style suits it perfectly. She adds that Denise is "fast and furious", and is it just me, or does anyone else automatically think of Roy Walker introducing the Ready Money Round on Catchphrase when they hear those three words together? It's certainly made it hard for me to take Vin Diesel seriously. Well, harder. Darcey spotted no effort in the shoulders this time around and a genuinely delighted Denise exclaims that she'd been working on that. Aw. It's moments like this when you almost begin to think she's human and not an Evil Ringerbot, isn't it? [I genuinely like her.  I think James brings out the worst in her, but imagine her with Ian.  That would have been epic - Rad]

They head up to the Tess Circle, and Denise says that she loved it. "You wait till you go out there," she says, seemingly talking to Tess. I'd say that'd be a very disappointing booking as far as this evening's half-time entertainment goes, but frankly after last week's shenanigans I'll gladly take anything that doesn't involve Katherine bloody Jenkins. Tess asks James if Denise is the best person he can hope for in a partner, and he says that she's his dream partner. Somewhere in Scotland, a tearful Dr Pamela makes a beeline for the drinks cabinet. Tess asks what we can expect from the showdance. "Spins," says James, as though this is any sort of surprise. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Everyone reacts to Craig's 9 with the sort of shock and disgust they'd normally reserve for a situation like catching him having sex with a woman, but at least St Jill's perfect score remains unparalleled. For now.

Our second couple for the night is Dani and Vincent, dressed for their tango. Bruce does a joke about Dani being upset about him calling her a "dark horse" all the time, but it's a fairly hollow effort since I absolutely guarantee she can't be nearly as sick of it as I bloody am. And don't even get me started on fuckin' "dark pony" either. (Brucie joke admission: I did actually laugh for real at "try not to take offense". As horse puns go, that's a pretty good one.) Dani recalls being very tense in the semi-final, and really thinking that she was in the Dread Dance Off when it came down to her or Denise, despite...well, everything, really. They head off to the Sparkly Panel, led by Darcey, who informs them that she wants to see their tango again. Bruno says that he's really seen their partnership in this dance, and Len tells Dani she needs to work on her heel leads. Craig says that Dani's been consistent, but she's also consistently never been at the front of the pack, which is an interesting way of looking at things. Certainly better than just saying "dark horse" for the 90 millionth time. They rehearse, and Dani talks about how she's grown as a person since the last time she did it (insert laboured "Dani is short" joke here) and she says she's going to give it even more this time.

In case you can't remember, they're dancing to Adele's 'Rumour Has It', and regrettably the routine actually looks more like a teenage temper tantrum than it did last time. Vincent, for reasons of his own, has left in the bit of choreography where he appears to be physically overpowering Dani and forcing her to tango with him, which was always a bit that sat rather uneasily with me. This is another disappointing revival because I don't even think it's danced as well as it was last time - Dani seems to be off her balance slightly in some of the faster parts, and the whole thing just doesn't have the attitude and dynamism I want in a tango. [I thought it was a clumpy, stompy mess - Rad]

Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers (but not by name, that fad died out quickly), DaveArch, and his wonderful orchestra. Bruno says it was "like watching tantrums and tiaras". I'm sure every young woman wants to be told that her passionate tango made you think of Elton John. Bruno says Dani has always been a good technical dancer, but tonight there were a couple of wobbles. Terrifyingly, he then screeches "THERE WUZ A CUBBLE OF WUBBLEZ!" at her again in a weird babyvoice, and CHRIST ALIVE DANI HARMER IS 23, CAN WE PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WHEN TALKING TO HER? However, Bruno was pleased she tried to get the character right. Being an actress, and everything. Craig spotted the "minor stumbling", but loves Dani's clean, precise and efficient work, as well as the fact that she finished in time with the music this time. Darcey didn't see a moody teenager this time, but a sophisticated woman, and she thinks Dani looks so comfortable in hold with "Vince". Len thinks Dani is the spirit of this show, because she's what it's all about, and if someone had told him in week one that Dani would be in the final, he'd have said "WORR DO ME A FAVAH! APPLES AN' PEARS, PICKLE ME WALNUTS, GWORN MY SON" and other east London things like that. If you'd asked me to pick four couples to make the final in week one, incidentally, I would've probably picked Dani and Vincent as one of them, so this means I am now officially a better judge than Len. Anyway, Dani's become consistent, and there's nothing sexier than consistency, is there? That's a vote-winner you can ride all the way to the glitterball. [Yeah, this final four is pretty much the one I saw coming once I discovered Nicky Westlife couldn't dance.  It's the right finl four though, much as I wish Michael/Natalie were there - Rad]

They run up to the Tess Circle (consistently, natch) and Tess asks if the final is nerve-wracking and Dani says that she's got nothing to lose any more (spoiler: LOL) so she just wanted to go out there and be as passionate as possible. Vincent's all "too passionate? Story of my life" (no wonder he and Flavia split up) and Dani talks about what a wonderful partner he's been. She's also dancing to her favourite song of all time for her showdance, prompting Nicky to shout "Westlife!" from behind her. Hee. Scores are in: nines all round for a total of 36. It's an improvement on last time, sure, but not a great score to get in the final when they're handing out 10s like Christmas cards at this point.

Time for Kimberley and Pasha, all dressed up for a Viennese waltz. Naturally, Kimberley is quite chuffed with how the semi-final went (I still think her American smooth was undermarked, but never mind). She and Pasha head in to see the judges, and officially win at Wearing Things because Kimberley is rocking some tight leather trousers and Pasha is all beatnik-chic in a suit and a turtleneck. God, they are both so hot right now. Len tells them he wants to reprise their Viennese waltz; Kimberley and Pasha's faces give nothing away, but you can tell they're thinking "...the one that put us in the bottom two despite being second on the leaderboard? Yeah, THANKS." Len claims that this one was chosen because there were one or two things he would've liked to have seen a little bit better, presumably "the public vote" not being the least of them. They got 34 for the dance last time (to be fair, throw a dart at the series 10 wikipedia page, you'll probably hit a dance that Kimberley scored 34 for. And you'll probably need to repair your computer screen), but Len thinks they can get the perfect 40 if Kimberley tidies up her hold and her footwork. Craig reminds Kimberley that this was her bottom two dance, and says he doesn't want to see it end like that this way. Well, it can't, can it? At least, not as far as the Dread Dance-Off goes. I suppose the bottom two is still technically a thing at this point. Kimberley admits she was surprised to get the VW, but hopes she can perfect all the things she got wrong last time. Pasha says that she needs to get her connection right, because that's the most important thing of all.

Kimberley's doing her very best "emotionally overwhelmed" face for this one, and throughout the entire routine she's at risk of strangulation from those dreaded chiffon wings they've given her, so frankly I think she deserves tens for still being able to breath at the end of it all. After two disappointing reprisals, it's nice to see this one genuinely show signs of improvement: Kimberley's posture in hold is a lot stronger than it was back in week six, and she manages to do the pirouette step without hopping, which is something she didn't manage either on the live show or in the Dread Dance Off last time (incidentally, would this be the first time someone's ever danced the same routine competitively three times in one series of Strictly? I think it must be). At the end, they're relieved to get through it, but I think they're quietly confident that they nailed it. There's a standing ovation, if that even still means anything at this point.

Craig tells Kimberley she's grown so much, both in dancing and in confidence, and her top line and her core have both improved immensely. He adds that he and Darcey were both grabbing on to each other for dear life during that infamous spin to watch out for a hop, and then none came. I can't believe I'm actually about to regret the absence of Len's Lens, but seriously? The one week they aren't doing that segment is the one week that Craig and Darcey spend almost an entire dance clinging on to each other? Because that I would actually have quite liked to see. Darcey agrees, she says Kimberley is not just a beautiful dancer, but she's also a true actress who is graceful and doesn't hop. Len says that last time he liked it, but this time he loved it. Bruno calls Kimberley "my darling" and tells her the dance had everything a Viennese waltz needs to have - grace, skill, and timeless elegance.

They scoot on up to the Tess Circle where Kimberley gushes that she feels like a princess in her dress, and Tess asks if she ever imagined she'd be in the final. Kimberley says it was weird dancing this again because it felt so different, and this was one of her favourite dances. Despite it being her Dread Dance Off memorial dance, she was glad to do it again, presumably so she could get it right this time. What's in store for her showdance? Something very different, Kimberley promises. Scores: Craig 9 (gasps of horror from the audience, Bruno shouting "ridiculous"), Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Not a perfect score, but enough to wrest the title of highest-scoring Viennese waltz of the series away from Denise. The audience boo Craig for not giving it a 10, and Tess is all "pfuh, the judges' votes don't count tonight anyway". Heh.

Our final couple is, of course, Louis and Flavia. Bruce reminds us that last week Flavia took Operation Glitterball nuclear by promising that Louis would do his showdance half-naked if they made the final. Coincidentally, they're wearing their salsa clothes. Their Dirty Dancing-themed salsa. So Louis has Dirty Dancing and shirtlessness in his corner tonight, and I take my hat off to both of them for playing this game impeccably, because they have secured an awful lot of hormone-votes with that combination tonight (and before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I'm not suggesting for a second that it'll only be female hormones that are affected. Louis is, lest we forget, a "gay icon" *rolls eyes*). Louis thinks his semi-final was "a tough week", and he thought he'd blown it after that jive - which was, let's be honest, an absolute trainwreck, but when we get to the point of semi-finals, I doubt that many people are voting for individual dances any more. Louis and Flavia arrive at the Sparkle Panel, where Bruno tells them he wants to see their salsa. Len reminds them that he wasn't hugely impressed with it last time, and he wants to see more of "that special flavour" in it this time. Keep on wishing, Len: we all know it's going to be eighty-five seconds of filler and then that bloody lift. Craig reminds them that they got eights from everyone apart from Len (who awarded it a six) last time, and at final standard they should be delivering nines and tens. Louis tells the judges he believes he can deliver more intensity this time.

Salsa. '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life'. Have I mentioned that Dirty Dancing is a bit rubbish? I have, haven't I? [You're still wrong.  But then I think it's perhaps the one thing that almost all women love but gay men just cannot get.  Not that it made me vote for Louis.  I voted for both Kimberley and Denise - Rad] Anyway, there's a bit more actual salsa in it this time around, but most people aren't really noticing the hips and the armography because they're all too busy remembering their sexual awakening. It's well danced, and it's not that I don't like Louis (as long as I don't think too deeply about that article I linked to in the previous paragraph), but at the same time, this feels deeply calculated and cynical to a degree that I suspect is frankly unnecessary. I don't know whether it's the producers or Flavia who should bear responsibility for that, so I'll just be moderately angry at both of them for a little while.

Another standing ovation, which of course Bruce won't let pass unnoticed. Darcey tells Louis this was "100 per cent better", because it wasn't safe (HA!), it wasn't controlled, and the armography was brilliant. Darcey liked the isolations, and thought "it was all happening". I bet it was. Len calls Flavia "flavulous" and says that she's completely changed the routine to include lots more salsa while keeping the essence of Dirty Dancing. He adds that last time Louis was like a budgie, this time he's like an eagle. Bruno tells Louis he's been hiding for so long, but it was worth waiting for him to unleash his A-game. Craig admits that he didn't really like the shoulder roll and pout Louis did before the big lift, and Louis does it again for Craig's benefit with some added pelvic thrusts, which is a bit of goodnatured sassing that I actually quite enjoyed. Oh, not like that. Get your minds out of the gutter.

They head up to the Tess Circle, where Louis does the shoulder roll one more time, this time with added eyebrow wiggling. Heh. Louis says that Flavia has worked wonders with him, and Tess says that Louis's mum is downstairs and went wild when the routine finished. Hang on: Flavia isn't Louis's mum? Blimey, I've been mistaken this whole series. Tess asks what they've got planned for the showdance, and Louis says that we've seen his flips before (fnar), but we've not seen the strength side of what he does, and Flavia hints that they've "saved the best for last" through gritted teeth. And by "best", she means "nipples". Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39.

Midway leaderboard:
1st: Denise & James (39)
1st: Kimberley & Pasha (39)
1st: Louis & Flavia (39)
4th: Dani & Vincent (36)

Coincidentally, it was around this time that Dani's odds of winning suddenly started crashing. I can't think why. Tess declares the phone lines officially "h'open" and runs through those all-important voting numbers again.

And now: it's showdance time! Tess pretends that this is a time to get really excited, even though my boyfriend and I worked out at this point that the last good showdances were in series five, and that ever since then even the most reliable of contestants (mentioning no names, Rachel Stevens and Kara Tointon) had turned out some real stinkers when it came to freestyling.

Up first are Denise and James. They're dancing to 'Flashdance (What A Feeling)' and Denise explains that they're going to put a lot into it to try to make it into the final three. We see them struggling to perfect the knee slide, as Denise pulls up her rehearsal-leggings and shows us all her war wounds from the competition as a whole, including a wicked-looking injury from the tango near her knee. And in case you were wondering, yes she does make the "Denise"/"de knees" joke. James has choreographed a bit of a greatest hits routine for them, with a bit of tango and a bit of salsa - specifically, the bit of the salsa that he forgot the first time around. Denise points out that as it's potentially(/likely) their last dance together, it needs to be the absolute best dance they can possibly do.

It's a real liftathon, with Denise starting by rolling up onto James's shoulders and he jerks her up, weightlifting-style. They do what I think is called a reverse trapeze lift, if I remember anything from recapping Dancing On Ice, and so far it's all very reminiscent of the infamous Snowdance, but with, as my boyfriend pointed out, the crucial difference of being performed by someone who is actually up to the task, because the lifts are very clean and well-executed. There are some endless spins (of course), some rather flat-looking tango, some more lifts, some more lifts, a floorspin, some more slightly strained-looking tango, some more lifts, and the splits. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of showdances that turn into an endless showcase of lifts, but I think that was one of the better ones we've seen for some years - it could've done with having a bit more of a coherent theme to it (I thought the tango section in the middle looked ridiculously out of place), but given that the biggest problem with the vast majority of showdances is that they're sloppy and underrehearsed, I think Denise actually nailed that one, so well done to her. She knows what's at stake tonight, and she delivered when it mattered most. I know people have called her a "pro" in a dig at her musical theatre background, but here I'm using it in a different sense: someone who just delivers exactly what she needs to at exactly the right time because failure isn't an option.

There's what feels like a genuinely spontaneous ovation after that, and James even sets himself apart from Denise to applaud her, Artem-style. There's a bit of confusion over who's speaking, but it's Len first: he says that if that dance was a game of poker, then Denise just went all-in. She had danger, attack, even some tango (Len must go to some very odd poker games - clearly Texas Hold'em means something very different where he comes from), and he thinks that dance justified what he always thought - Denise deserves to be in the final. Bruno calls it "vertiginous" and says that he doesn't think he's seen anyone outside of professional exhibition dancers pull off a routine like that before. Bruce snarks "I wonder what Mr 9 thought of that?" Frankly I think the joke is on this show for thinking a 9 is a substandard score. Craig thinks it was sensational and thinks she gave Hanna Karttunen (professional exhibition dancer and former Strictly pro) a run for her money. He can't believe what Denise's body did, and Denise jokes that she can't either - she's nearly 40! Darcey says that they could travel the world with that routine, and tells James that he made Denise look light as a feather and the whole thing look far too easy. James deadpans "it wasn't". Such a gent.

Up they go to the Tess Circle, knowing that they've done all they can, but hoping they peaked at the right time. Denise says it was scary, but she finally got the knack of the spinning lift on Thursday where before she'd been too scared to do it. She isn't sure if she's made the top three, but if this is her last dance, then she's happy with where she's leaving it. Scores: 10s all round for a perfect 40. Denise is flabbergasted, and James is very pleased with himself. He vanishes momentarily, and subsequently returns and explains that he "went to kiss Craig". Careful, James - I don't know what the rules are, but I suspect he can revoke that 10 if he wants to.

Next up are Dani and Vincent. Bruce reminds us once more that Dani started out "a shy, nervous little girl" (TWENTY-THREE. SHE IS TWENTY-THREE) before blossoming into a confident dancer. In the VT, Dani explains that her showdance is to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Ugh, that's her favourite song? I think I'd rather it had actually been Westlife. Dani reminds us that this is a very important time, determining whether she will make the top three or not. Vincent says they'll have to put everything they've got into it - and as a nifty little theme, he's going to include bits of paso doble and rumba because those are the only two dances he and Dani haven't done in this series. Okay, I quite like that approach. Of course, there are still LOTS AND LOTS OF LIFTS, because this is a showdance, and Dani is nervous because they haven't really done a lot of lifts so far. Dani swears that she trusts Vincent completely, so what could possibly go wrong?

Funny you should say that: here's Dani's rushed, under-rehearsed showdance. It's all a bit hesitant, delivered without any real conviction, and the lifts are unimpressive, particularly the one where she runs up to Vincent and wraps herself around his waist like a WWE championship title belt. Also, I realise it's difficult to condense 'Bohemian Rhapsody' down into 90 seconds, but the way it's been hacked apart to suit the various moods of the choreography is really distracting. Ultimately it's all just a bit of a confused, unstructured mess - not particularly egregious by showdance standards on this show, but since Denise actually did quite a good one and this has to follow it, the frayed threads around the sides are highly visible. It ends with Dani slumped on the floor, which is a rather handy visual metaphor for the entire routine.

Afterwards, Dani is verklempt and the audience are on their feet. Bruno calls it "ambitious" and "interesting", which is a warning sign - he felt her nerves, because the power was there but it wasn't quite as slick as Dani's usual standards. Craig thought the transitions in and out of the lifts were lumpy, but he really liked the content and how Dani danced it. Darcey thinks Dani has "it" and she can control "it", whatever "it" is. Len tells Dani that she has a huge talent for a small person, and the showdance was like an intoxicating dance cocktail. Now that he mentions it, it did look a bit like the sort of dancing I see people doing when they're hammered.

Up in the Tess Circle, Dani's all "YES I'M NERVOUS, DUH", and like Denise, she's happy with this as a last dance. Of course, she'd love to be back and make it into the top three, but "what will be will be". Speaking of which, here are the scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Yeah, she's boned.

Next we have Kimberley's hair and Pasha's eyebrows, both of whom are fighting for our attention. Kimberley interviews that Pasha has worked really hard to create a show-stopping showdance, and Pasha explains that it's a bit of salsa, a bit of a samba, a bit of cha cha cha and a lot of head rolls. They are, of course, dancing to 'Crazy In Love', and giggle adorably about how they are actually going a little bit crazy at this point. Then 'Something Kinda Ooooh' cues up on the soundtrack (man, I wish Kimberley had danced to a Girls Aloud song for her showdance - I bet Pasha could've done something amazing with 'Biology'). Pasha says that the lifts are going to be the difficult part, and Kimberley frets that if they work out, they'll look great, but if not...sloppy central.

I'm going to do something a little bit different for my recap of this dance, a sort of stream-of-consciousness based on what I remember of my reactions when I first saw it. So here goes:

"Okay, there's a giant paper hoop at the back of the set. Someone's going to come bursting through that in a minute. Oh, hang on, Kimberley and Pasha are both in front of it, so that's not going to happen for a while, then. Hmm, 'Crazy In Love'. Alesha's highly memorable cha cha cha routine. They've really got to work hard to overcome that ghost haunting the proceedings. Interesting pantsuit they've got Kimberley in - very Charlie's Angels. Makes her arse look huge, though. Ha, "It's your girl, Kimberley! It's your boy, Pasha!" Nice. Okay, this is very strutty. Actually this routine is mostly hair and pout. Not that I'm complaining, but I was expecting a little bit more. It's fine, but it's a bit fast and sloppy. Oh, okay, Kimberley's going behind the paper hoop so she's going to come bursting through that in a minute. Pasha's vamping for a bit, so maybe there's going to be a costume change? Oh, interesting: they're silhouetting Kimberley behind the screen and she's obviously got out of the pantsuit and now she's in a much more flattering and shorter frock. Now she's throwing her hair about some more and HOLY FUCK THE HOOP IS ON FIRE. THE HOOP IS ON FUCKING FIRE. THIS IS THE GREATEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. Okay, they can send everyone else home now because no matter what else happens, that is the showdance of the night for me. More shimmying. Some salsa. Some slightly awkward lifts. More hair. More hair. A drop into the splits. Okay, so 90% of the showdance was kind of sloppy and a mess but DID YOU SEE WHERE SHE WAS A SILHOUETTE AND THEN THE SET CAUGHT FIRE?"

Craig declares it "indecent, improper and absolute filth" - needless to say, he loved it. Darcey thinks Kimberley burned up the dancefloor with her wild spicyness, and she loved the pressage into the ponche lift. Although it was wild at times, she loved it like that. Len thinks it was Kimberley's greatest hits with all the party Latin routines (except her highest scores were in fusion, American smooth and charleston, so...). And Bruno hated it. LOL JUST KIDDING - it involved a sexy lady flinging herself around with wild abandon, I'm surprised Bruno's dance boner didn't knock the judges' desk over. "It's a hit!" he screams.

Tess encourages us to keep trying if the lines are busy, and asks Kimberley how it was to be on fire. Kimberley does a few more (slightly shamefaced) shimmies, and Tess outs Colin as the secret booty shaker in the Tess Circle. Once again I find myself disappointed that we don't have a Len's Lens this week. I think this demonstrates the obvious uselessness of Len's Lens, considering it's not around the one week it might have been able to show us something interesting. Kimberley says this was an amazing dance, but she doesn't want to think about the possibility that it might be her last one. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Kimberley shakes her boobs, and Pasha shakes his. Well, that's enough to convince me to vote.

Our final showdance comes from Louis and Flavia. Hmm, Louis is in a vest. This isn't what Flavia advertised. In their VT, Louis reveals that their showdance is to Take That's 'Rule The World' (oh well, at least it's not 'The Flood') and explains that their dance is rumba-themed, and they'll be really pushing the boat out. Flavia adds that Louis will "not be wearing very much, so hopefully the ladies will be happy." Such naked vote-grubbing, in a very literal sense. I love it. She thinks it's their last chance to show off Louis's skills. And by "skills", she means "nipples". Louis reiterates that it won't just be somersaults and flips, he wants to showcase the other side to gymnastics, which is strength and beauty. Louis says that their aim is to make people press the rewind button and watch it again and again and again, much as I did with the HOOP FIRE of Kimberley's showdance.

Okay, so there's a giant glitterball globe which Louis is using as an ersatz pommel horse. He is shirtless and wearing spandex trousers. Hey, I'm just reporting the facts here (sadly, for me, any benefits of the shirtlessness are immediately cancelled out by the exposure of the hideous tattoo on his back. I hate that shit). It's a lot of spindly posing with some rumba that segues into an Argentine tango midway through. A lot of it seems to be a Flavia showcase, to be honest, as Louis isn't required to do much for most of that. Then some lifts and a big balletic leap to finish. This is the sort of routine that's bound to be extremely divisive: clearly a lot of people will have found it breathtaking in its daring and artistry, and I'm not about to tell them they're wrong. Personally, though, I thought it was the sort of thing that would look like pretentious wank even on So You Think You Can Dance, the sort of thing I'd expect from Tyce Diorio. Also, I would've liked a bit more actual dancing from Louis rather than just lifting and/or framing Flavia. It wasn't bad, particularly, it's just not my cup of tea at all and so I was completely unmoved by it. [I utterly hated it.  So boring and not much "content" - Rad]
Bruce says that he hopes the Royal Ballet were looking in, because that could be Louis's future. Louis, very sensibly, realises that NostradamBruce once predicted that Alesha Dixon was going to be the British Beyoncé and ignores this comment as politely as he possibly can, which is about the best thing he could have done there. Darcey says that the performance had grace and fluidity and sensuousness. She thinks it was brave of Flavia to do a dance that was seamless and cool and calm. She loved the contemporary aspect to it. Bruce, never one to let an idea lie, asks Darcey if Louis is Royal Ballet material, and Darcey replies that Louis hasn't got a big enough instep. Bruce replies that he's got a big instep, and Darcey cackles. Despite the shaky start, she has kind of won me over this year. I think her judging still needs some work (mainly on the scoring side because she has a tendency to just chuck the same number of points at everyone regardless of performance, but her actual feedback has improved significantly) but as a personality, I'm really starting to enjoy Darcey. [Me too.  It was her getting drunk on Alan Carr/Graham Norton/whichever it was that did it for me - Rad] Len thought it was going to be "all gymnastics and flip-flops", but ultimately he enjoyed that element, as well as the Argentine tango and the rumba, but mainly he liked the weightlifting part. Len declares that if the show goes on for another 20 years (frankly, tonight's final is feeling a bit like it'll go on that long all by itself), he doubts they'll ever see such a magical showdance again. Bruno gets super-pervy about Louis finally revealing himself and nobody being disappointed. He thinks the routine was "creatively wonderful...deeply felt, extremely effective, and memorable." Finally, Craig adds two words "fab-u-lous" and "uh-may-zing". I think I smell a ten coming out from the left hand side.

Up in the Tess Circle, Louis mimes to Tess that he can't speak and Tess, with her typical tin ear for human expression, is all "you're overcome! So emotional!" and Louis points out that no, he just hasn't got a microphone on because he's half-naked. They soon work out a solution, though: he's just going to speak into Flavia's. Tess cracks that Louis "pulled out the big guns" tonight, and Louis says that they really tried to do something different and they weren't sure the judges would connect with it, but they did. Tess asks how much he wants to win, and Louis is typically sanguine about it, in a "I'd love to win, but I'd also love a turkey sub if anyone's offering" sort of way. A lot of people were down on him for "acting like he doesn't want it", but I think it always helps in these hyperbole-drenched finales to have someone around who appreciates that this is, ultimately, just a televised popularity contest with a bit of dancing thrown in and none of it really matters. Scores are in: tens all round for a perfect 40. Louis declares that even if they don't win now, that's good enough for him.

Updated leaderboard:
1st: Denise & James (79)
1st: Louis & Flavia (79)
3rd: Kimberley & Pasha (78)
4th: Dani & Vincent (71)

Tess reminds us that the judges' scores are totally irrelevant tonight, and that the votes will be frozen at some point during Merlin, then when we return for the results show, one couple will finish in fourth place. And while I came into the show utterly convinced that couple would be Denise and James, and I'm sure I wasn't alone in that, it now seems more likely that it'll be Dani and Vincent. The recap of the evening's performances seems to back this up, as they're the only couple who didn't really have A Moment with either of their routines.

As is customary at this point, we get some sepia-tinted highlights as the contestants look back on their time on the show: Kimberley says that it was her first time putting herself out there to be judged by herself without the girls (except arguably when she went into the West End to do Shrek: The Musical) and now the glitterball is so close. Dani never thought she'd be on the show let alone in the final, and winning would be overwhelming. Louis doesn't want to fall short, because anyone could win, but he hopes it's him. Denise thinks that winning would be the best thank you she could give to James for teaching her something she never thought she could learn. Oh, just buy him a Boofle and a box of Celebrations like everyone else, love. Dani says it would be nice for Vincent to win as he's never picked up the glitterball. Yes, and neither has Flavia, Pasha or James. Try again, dear. Louis says he's got Flavia a Christmas present, but a glitterball would beat it. Is it pyjamas? It's pyjamas, isn't it? Finally, Kimberley says that winning would be the biggest achievement of her whole life. Even more so than when she made a documentary about jeans for Sky1.

That's it - we're having a break, and when we return someone is getting kicked out. Thanks for your patience, as I know it's taken longer than usual to get this recap up (largely because it fell so very close to Christmas and Rad and I both had rather a lot of festive responsibilities to attend to) - hopefully the Results won't be too far behind.


jaljen said...

There isn't really someone called Tyce Dorio, is there?

You made that up. I'm too old for this sh!t.

Steve said...

It rhymes with "tasty Oreo":


tona said...
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