Top 6 performance 7 December 2013
Last week! It was musicals (and films that have music in them) week! Mark and Iveta did an adorable Lion King samba but for the sake of his knees he was sent home. And then there was that... thing... the judges did in reponse to that thing Abbey and Aljaž did which we shall not speak about. Unless it happens again tonight.
Tonight! Allegedly nobody wants to go home, but I think Ashley might beg to differ! And I luck out with another Bruce-free week! [I really need to work on my scheduling, don't I? - Steve]
Claudia and Tess enter with yet another variation on an opening pose. This one involves Claudia sneaking under Tess's armpit and then some sort of pointing. Not sure it will catch on but it's still better than the velociraptor/grope combo. DALY DRESSWATCH: Black (or Navy blue), quite short and a bit like a kids' party frock but with a slightly weird angle to the skirt. Not amazing but at least she's got something that flatters her bosom tonight. Claudia is in some neon pink combo that covers up her arms and neck that is basically what would happen if the 1980s met the 1880s.
We're reminded that it's the quarter finals and that it's also the return of the swingamajig. Then Claudia settles into Claudia's bosom and growls. Heh.
The couples enter. Natalie and Sophie have a good go at boogying to the theme tune but overall the standard of this bit remains lax this series. Claudia welcomes the dancers and makes a joke about lying down in 'Tess's area'. BAN THIS SICK BBC FILTH NOW!
Ashley and Ola are first. Last week they got a 35 again and ended up in the bottom two. This week they're doing a salsa and Ola has set up some kind of reverse assault course where Ashley has to knock items of podiums with his hips. And then the background music is only TURN IT INTO LOVE by Kylie, which gets me gushing so much I barely notice some of the cast of Hollyoaks turning up (For those unfamiliar with the show, they are: The fit one, the evil one, the awkward one, the other evil one, Darren's estranged wife, Darren's dad and Tony). Ashley isn't so keen on dancing in front of his mates and Tony gives him a 10 whilst Dennis can only stretch to 3.5. [Still, if you multiply one by the other, you get...no, wait, I was joking! Ashley, put that heavy implement down! Noooooooo.... - Steve]
Their salsa is to Gloria Estefan's Conga, starting off a week that is basically as much an 80s week as last week's was a musicals week. It's mostly an energetic routine although there are still parts where Ola dances around a static Ashley, but then - Ola Jordan choreography. There are some really funky lifts and a bit where Ashley springboards over Ola that would have been awesome except he lands with his crotch in her face and it takes them a moment to de-tangle themselves. [Was it meant to look like that? I mean, I can't imagine that they would have planned it any other way, but it looked SO WRONG. - Steve] Overall, though, it's quite fun and watchable as salsas go, and Ashley carries Ola over to the judges on his shoulders.
Len says it was a full-on and fast routine, there were a couple of little slips but it needed a bit more hip action. Bruno likes that Ashley is approaching the semi-final with such intent. Craig says he has hip action side to side but notsomuch on the rotation - he says it was an ambitious routine with great lifts but a bit too frenetic. Darcey says it was really impression but he needs to clean up his footwork. Ashley even has a glass of water, which I'm not sure I've ever seen, so it really must have been hard work.
Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 - during which Ashley and Ola realise they're going to get 35 again - and they duly do. Ashley threatens to have a word with the judges.
Natalie and Artem are next and Natalie does a flamenco pose right down the camera. Such a gurner. Tess says they've always been near the top of the leaderboard (except last week, Tess) and it's all about the night so they have to do well tonight. To get into the paso spirit, Artem takes Natalie to some Spanish bar or other to watch flamenco dancers and join in. Wearing a boater hat. And looking somewhat static.
They're dressed traditionally, in blacks and golds with traditional music playing. I like that Kevin seemed to bring back the PURITY OF PASO for this series. They both have some caping action going on here, with Natalie's huge skirt and Artem's big red and black cape. Artem's shirt is open, perhaps in a bid to court Ben Cohen's former voters. Natalie gives good paso face and it's quite elegant and matched (apart from a slight slip) - mainly out of hold - but it lacks *something* for me - it didn't seem that passionate or interesting, more like a series of poses and steps than a full dance. I mean, they were fabulous poses and steps, but it didn't have enough that was distinctive about it. [I thought it started well, but lapsed into tedium about halfway through. I'm more inclined to blame Artem's choreography than Natalie's dancing though, because she was giving it her all. - Steve] I can recognise that it was technically good, but I found Ashley and Ola's salsa more exciting and normally I'd expect to enjoy a paso more than a salsa.
Tess welcomes Dave Arch, the orchestra and the singers - I always welcome the singers in an instrumental too.
Bruno says if it were a series of pictures every one would be a masterpiece although there were a couple of slips. Craig says it was precise and almost too slick, lacking danger and surprise, but Natalie put too much weight on her leg leading to the slip. Darcey says it needed a stronger story and more sense of relationship. I can't believe I am agreeing with the judges about this. Len loved the intensity, passion and focus but thought they were never going to touch each other as they were out of hold for so much of it. And guess what? There was TOO MUCH FAFFING ABAHT so Len thinks they're in jeopardy after that dance.
Claudia says they were going classic and traditional to impress Len but he didn't like it. Natalie loved it though. Claudia asks Artem to wear his outfit for her for Christmas. Scores: 9, 9, 8, 9 for a total of 35. [I love that we have reached the stage in the competition where "in jeopardy" means "only getting eight out of ten" for Len. Well, I say "love"... - Steve]
Still to come - Sophie and Brendan taking us back to the 80s. Just a normal week for Brendan Cole, then.
The third couple of the evening are Patrick and Anya who gave a fun but floppy Charleston last week which received 38 but still managed to seem reasonably marked compared to THE THING WE WILL NOT NAME. This week they have the rumba, which we all know is DIFFICULT FOR MEN. Patrick's grown-up kids come out for a drink (of water by the looks of it) with him and say he's REALLY OLD to be dancing with all these YOUNG PEOPLE.
Their rumba is to 'When I Was Your Man' and it's quite upbeat for a rumba, although thankfully it's no Anton's Westlife Party Rumba (TM Monkseal). Patrick is quite static for much of it although Anya is giving it plenty and Patrick has ACTING FACE going on throughout. It's fine, but a bit boring and it doesn't flow as smoothly as the best rumbas do, with most of it being performed on the spot in the middle of the dancefloor. I think rumba is maybe one of the hardest dances to make interesting - this series the only one I've loved was Abbey and Aljaž's although I liked Artem and Natalie's fine. And Brendan's rant about DIRTY FILTHY RUMBAS of course (<3).
Craig loved the hip action being quite understated this week and says Patrick has good framework but found it a bit desperate and aggressive. Tess reminds us that it is DIFFICULT FOR MEN and Darcey says she loved it and loving the focus Patrick had on Anya throughout. Len liked the mixture of tempos but thought it too intense at time, with this being the BALLROOM NOT THE BEDROOM as if he's channelling Brendan's True Love Waits campaign. Also RUMBA IS DIFFICULT FOR MEN, lest we forget. Bruno says passion works and it had light and shade, then Len snaps at Bruno saying that he did say it had light and shade. Len shouts at Bruno and Bruno just laughs it off and Len looks like he might explode, while Patrick pisses himself laughing. Up in Claudia's counselling circle, Patrick gets in a last ditch attempt to compete with Natalie and Susanna for gurn of the series by spouting about passion. Claudia says she prefers this to his usual bot-like self. Scores: 8, 10, 9, 9 for a total of 36 and then Len tries to get in a huff with Bruno again as if it's the X Factor or something. [First ever 10 for a male rumba, incidentally. But it's a Darcey 10, so... - Steve] Claudia points out that Ola and Ashley are dressed for the swingamajig and says they look eleven. Heh.
Susanna and Kevin are next and Tess tells us that Kevin has never performed the Argentine Tango either. Last week, they made a bunch of mistakes in Kevin's very ambitious routine. Kevin tells us that Argentine Tango is not one of the normal ten-dances so he's struggling with it. And they get a Michael Jackson lookalike in to help them do his moves. So much for Kevin being an arbiter for the PURITY OF THE DANCE.
They are dancing to 'Smooth Criminal' (Best Michael Jackson singles? I'd say this, Beat It and Billie Jean). Kevin's trousers have a go faster stripe on them as if he's gotten into an 80s-off with Brendan. It starts OK with some nice leg work but then it doesn't seem to know where it's going and it gets a bit walky, then there's some random Michael Jackson moves and then they repeat some more traditional Argentine Tango moves. As with most other things tonight, it's OK but a bit boring in places. I'd say the issue was that Kevin didn't know how to choreograph it, but I thought that someone else usually choreographed ATs for the pros anyway, so I don't know what was going on there. He didn't seem comfortable with it though. [I thought it was an ABSOLUTE TRAINWRECK - Susanna's kicks in particular were lamentable. But it was so trainwrecky as to be delicious. - Steve]
Darcey loved the passion and attack but says the moves could have been crispy and she wanted it to be more steamy, but it's hard because it was so fast. Len says it didn't transport him to Buenos Aires - the steps were there, but it lacked mood and atmosphere. Bruno says Susanna danced well but an AT needs to be about a conversation with surprise and reaction and he found it a bit too mechanical. Craig says it's strange seeing a newsreader running her hands up her legs and she needs to be a bit looser of leg and have more improvisation but they did well with that particular piece of music.
Up in Claudia's Counselling Centre, Susanna and Kevin say they did think it was intense and passionate. Scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 32 and a likely spot at the bottom of the leaderboard, which prompts Susanna to look close to tears. Claudia then puns her way through Michael Jackon's back catalogue, but sadly misses out Liberian Girl. Come on scriptwriters, use your imagination!
Abbey and Aljaž are next and we won't talk about last week so, moving on, they're dancing to 'Delilah' and Abbey wonders if they will go to a Tom Jones concert to get in the mood, but no, they're going to dance to an empty Stoke ground and two of the fans sing it and wish them luck. I only care about VTs if they're going to involve Kevin going to watch the Mariners, I'm sorry.
Their Viennese Waltz is very, very spinny - to the extent that Abbey's hair comes out of hold and flops about the place distractedly. Other than the hair disaster, it's very polished and slick and much better than that which we will not speak of.
Len says it was a PWOPAH Viennese Waltz, other than some footwork issues which he doesn't have time to explain (because it's far more valid to snipe at Bruno instead of offering critique) but invites her to his hotel room later to discuss. SO MUCH EWW, especially given you're married and so is she (although I forget who to as the show hasn't reminded me for a while). Bruno says she looks like a music star and dances like a goddess. Craig says she's the biggest surprise of the competition and is absolutely brilliant. Darcey says her top line was wonderful and she gets better. Tess reminds us that Stoke beat Chelsea and Peter Crouch scored. Phew, so he does still exist!
Up in Claudia's counselling centre, Abbey says she loves the ballroom dances. Scores: 9, 9, 9, 10 for a total of 37. [And now I find myself on the opposite end of the Abbey Clancy Score Strop Scale, because this should not have scored three points fewer than her "salsa", because it was legitimately good. Bah. - Steve]
The final couple of the evening are Sophie and Brendan. Last week! They equalled their best score! This week they're doing a tango to Material Girl and Sophie has to be a mannequin at first [which surely HAS to be a shout-out to this? - Steve], so Brendan takes her to be a window display in Harvey Nicks to pretend to be one. Except the shoppers all go on about seeing her dancing in there with Brendan, so the pretending maybe didn't go to plan.
Sophie, looking like Dannii Minogue, poses in the window of a 'Strictly Store' wearing bright pink and holding a brolly, whilst Brendan comes on with a suit, briefcase and 80s mobile phone. I think he might have died and gone to his own heaven here. Their tango also includes moves from the video because of course it does (and these bits do work better than the random Michael Jackson in Kevin and Susanna's dance). I really like the pace and the fun of it, but Sophie's leg work is terrible in places and she pulls a few faces indicating things are going wrong. Her leg work then gets better and then there's a long bit where Brendan carries her in a static mannequin position to the shop again, which is great fun to watch but not exactly dancing. I really enjoyed it but it wasn't exactly technically perfect.
Bruno says it was unexpected and a campy treat with fantastic choreography. She stumbled in a few places though and he's sure she could do it better. Craig loved the choreography but missed some of the V-shaping. Darcey says she'd like more V shaping, it was a bit upright, but she enjoyed it. Len thought the performance quality was higher but the upper body laughed toning.
In Claudia's counselling centre, Brendan says Sophie is a real inspiration and she thanks him. D'aww. Scores: 9, 8, 8, 9 for a total of 34. Claudia says every time there was an 8, Ola was going 'Cam OWN'. It's not clear if this was in anger, or in excitement that she might end up higher than Sophie and Brendan.
Abbey and Aljaž 37
Patrick and Anya 36
Natalie and Artem 35
Ashley and Ola 35
Sophie and Brendan 34
Susanna and Kevin 32
So all quite close - and probably justifiably close rather than it being artificial score-boosting at the bottom end for this stage of the competition - in fact I think tonight, if anything, the scores should be even closer to each other than they are (I don't really think Patrick's static rumba was four marks better than Susanna's AT, for instance), but then that really would be a leaderboard pile-up. [Good grief, yes, the last thing we need this series is more ties. - Steve]
And now for the 'second dance'. Cue comedy VT time! Everyone is dressed as school kids whilst Len explains the swingathon concept. Sophie nods like teachers' pet whilst Ashley pays little attention. OBVIOUSLY. They can dance a mixture of swing, lindy-hop and jive with no rules and as many lifts as they want and then they get eliminated one by one and score points accordingly.
Claudia then reminds us of what we've just seen in case we'd just put on our auto-tune-out-Len hearing aids (can these be a thing please?) Len makes out that the leaderboard CAN BE TOTALLY CHANGED by this. Darcey is excited about them all dancing together and really wants Susanna to go for it.
They all bound on in bright purples, blues, reds and pinks to 'Do You Love Me'. As is usual with these things, we don't get to see much of everyone. From what I can make out, Abbey and Aljaž are spinning a lot and Brendan and Sophie seem to be taking it a bit easy. Susanna and Kevin are first out after a few seconds which she reacts badly to, shouting 'Oh come on!' with barely any camera time to show for their quick time on the floor. Ashley and Ola are next and he shouts 'What?' so maybe they've been primed to have comedy huffs about it? [Yes, although I think Ashley probably didn't need to dig into his years of (Hollyoaks) acting experience to convey those particular emotions. - Steve] Natalie and Artem look to be having fun. Abbey and Aljaž are next off, then Sophie and Brendan. Of the final two couples, Anya is giving it lots, but Patrick less, and the unsurprising victors (i.e. the only ones actually bothering) are Natalie and Artem.
Bruno says they had good transition and maintained the dance all the way through. Claudia asked why Susanna and Kevin were off first. Len says he wanted Susanna and Kevin to do well but you only have seconds to make a decision and the other judges were shouting in his ear and unfortunately they were the first to go. WHY THAT WAS SUCH HELPFUL CRITIQUE THERE. Head judge, everybody.
Updated leaderboard time!
Patrick and Anya - 36+5=41 for 6 points
Natalie and Artem 35+6=41 for 6 points
Abbey and Aljaž 37+3=40 for 5 points
Sophie and Brendan 34+4=38 for 4 points
Ashley and Ola 35+2=37 for 3 points
Susanna and Kevin 32+1=33 for 2 point
I'd say Ashley and Ola are the most likely to be in the dance-off. Pretty much anyone could be joining them at this rate, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was Abbey and Aljaž given that I expect both Sophie and Susanna have a decent voter base. Tomorrow, the Saturdays perform and someone goes home. Join me then!