Monday, 1 December 2014

A Greek tragedy

Week 10: Top 7 Perform - Saturday 29 November

Last! Week! Blackpool's hangover was short and sweet, and Steve's journey was scuppered by trying to jive on ankles made of nought but string.

Tonight! Another theme week! Oh goody, it's been what, a whole fortnight since the last one? I was having withdrawal symptoms, I don't know about you. Apparently the theme is 'around the world' and I therefore look forward to Sunetra and Brendan rumba-ing to Lisa Stansfield, Pixie and Trent Viennesse Waltzing to a re-timed Oasis, Jake and Janette Argentinan Tango-ing to Daft Punk, Mark and Karen salsa-ing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frankie and Kevin jiving to Aqua, Simon and Kristina waltzing to East 17 and Caroline and Pasha Charleston-ing to the theme tune from Willy Fog.

Oh, what's that you say? The ACTUAL theme is going to make even less sense than that? Oh goody, can't wait!

We open with a Bollywood themed pro-dance featuring support from actual Asian dancers and plenty of Jai Ho! I am not sure whether to feel a bit gross about the cultural appropriation going on (less the dancing, more the whole women wearing bindis and so on) - but this is probably nothing compared to what's about to come, and I suppose at some level, many of the international dances involve at least some degree of cultural appropriation. Still... here's Aljaž, Pasha and Kevin with their tops off to try and detract from any icky feelings caused either by the slightly racist aspects or the very dubious female singing. It's at least energetic and fun but I'm not sure we need to go the way of Dancing With the Stars and incorporate it into the repertoire of regular dances yet. Although, rather this than... what happens tomorrow.

Tess and Claudia enter with Anton and Brendan, both deemed too old to get their chests out in an opening number, presumably.  In protest, Brendan has his buttons pretty much undone to the waist anyway.  Daly Dresswatch - black with some odd bits at the top.  What Winkleman's Wearing: Black, strapless.  Tess thanks the pro dancers, the guest dancers from Bollyflex and the guest male singer for actually being amazing.  Such shade.

Claudia introduces the idea of this evening - all the dances will be themed to a different country. Well, apart from two of them which will be themed by the same country because apparently there are only six countries. The judges enter in their usual 'please can this bit die the same unlamented death as the home videos bit' waft-on. This time there's the added novelty of funny hats: Bruno in a fedora, Len in a beret, Darcey in a (vague, Sunday-market kind of) sombrero and Craig in a cork hat. I briefly lament the lack of an Australian week which could have had Natalie and Brendan front and centre [Brendan might have objected to that, considering he's from New Zealand - Steve] [you mean I have been lied to by the medium of comedy VTs?! - Rad] and given us Kylie, Dannii, Jason, Craig McLachlan and Check-12, Stefan Dennis, Rogue Traders, INXS, Midnight Oil, Gina G, Savage Garden, Angry Anderson, the theme tunes from Neighbours, Home and Away and Prisoner Cell Block H (all of which, by the way, would probably be better choices for waltz music than we've had this series), guest perv judge Barry Humphries and a lot of uncomfortable skirting around the whole Rolf Harris issue.

Tess says that it usually takes 80 days to go around the world but our stars will be doing it (/going to Merca and a couple of bits of Europe) in less than 80 minutes. At least it's not TWO DANCE WEEK, I guess. The celebrities enter and the theme tune jiggery rating is mild to moderate.

The first couple of the evening are Pixie and Trent. Last week's Pixie showcase was something Pixie enjoyed, even though it was a point less in the scoring than BLACKPOOL. Trent takes Pixie to a canal to get her in the mood for their Dutch dance. A canal in London. They then tit about in clogs but chances of clogs making it into the dance are, I'm guessing, slim.

Their Viennesse Waltz is to 'Tulips From Amsterdam' and you'll be "delighted" to see that the dances tonight will be encumbered by both giant props AND troupes of prop dancers.  It was bad enough in BLACKPOOL which was at least a cavern of a room. We open with Trent in lederhosen doing something akin to the sugar plum fairy dance with a bunch of other male dancers in lederhosen and clogs. Is one of them lovely Shem? I'm not as au fait with superfluous dancers as Steve so maybe he can clarify. [His Twitter suggests he was elsewhere on Saturday. - Steve] Pixie then twirls on with a load of tulips while they check out her arse because this dance is so super hetero. They twirl around a bit grinning and it's every bit as twee as the theming can make it. At least it's in waltz time. Pixie is also wearing a MAGIC SKIRT that twirls on its own accord. Then the male dancers come on and do 'Single Ladies' for some reason or other, then Trent joins them, then Pixie has a solo ballet showcase because no-one is really going to be arsed with the PURITY OF DAHNCE when you're setting an Austrian dance in Holland and an Argentinian dance in Greece, are they?

Pixie gives the judges flowers and then she gives Tess one and Tess gushes like mad. I don't think Vernon has bought her flowers in some time, bad Vernon. Tess welcomes Davearch - in a fez, and the band and singers. Tess says every couple left has scored over 30, so what are the judges looking for? Len says it whirled more than the windmill and he thought it was lovely but is concerned whether Craig will like it. Tess goes over to Bruno, who is fluent in 'double Dutch' which is his cue to babble in French and Italian (I think) and then shouts TAKE YOUR PICK. I love Bruno when he's a bit snarky.  In 'plain English' it was like a delicate bloom in the breeze. Not sure your understanding of plain English and mine are the same, Bruno. Craig says it didn't disappoint and he liked the classical stuff out of hold and the storytelling. Darcey says it was dainty and she noticed the ballet moves and wondered if they were for her.

The Clauditorium is decked out like a Eurovision green room and Pixie reveals she has a little bit of Dutch heritage 'like years and years and years ago'.  Scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 38. Claudia wears a Dutch Bonnet in celebration and tells us Caroline's dance later will be in a Turkish bazaar - how bizarre.  It's the way she sticks her tongue right into her cheek and winks that makes it art.

The second couple of the evening are Mark and Karen. Their VT, yet again, is MARK WRIGHT WORKS SO HARD in Tenerife. To get into the ‘spirit of Vegas’ for their dance, they go to a tacky American theme pub and hear a poor Elvis impersonator. I love how authentic these VTs are at getting into the spirit. It's almost like everyone thought 'well this is a half-arsed theme week so we may as well be half-arsed about embracing it'.

Their salsa to ‘Viva Las Vegas’ sees them both wearing fuchsia and Karen with tail feathers that seem more samba-suited but since this show has rarely distinguished between the two I guess I am being super-picky. The dance should be sort of fun but it's lumbered by Karen embracing her inner Robin Windsor and giving Mark choreography he really isn't up to, as well as by random backing dancer girls who fumble to get Mark's shirt off his back at one point. There are some vague break-dancing esque moves that work quite well, some Ola Jordan knee-slides and some sub-Jake Wood bum wiggles and overall, whilst this routine has some fun elements, it ends up being a bit of a scrappy mess of bits and pieces rather than a unified dance - Mark clearly struggles to join the pieces all together although some individual backwards kick-things and lifts look pretty good - and his timing gets thrown a bit in trying to get everything done. Still, I like the dice pattern floor projections and the cards on the backdrop, so that's something.

Bruno says it was ‘very hard’ because Mark had to ‘play with three girls’ at which the audience groan. Bruno tells Mark to watch his timing as he lost it a bit. Craig says he lost the timing quite a lot. Len starts to moan and Craig snaps that he lost it four times as far as he could count. However, Craig did like the hip movements. Darcey says the lifts were very professional and they were a part where the timing worked but he needed more finesse coming in and out of the moves, although it was a hot salsa. Mark says he didn’t put as much time into rehearsals as usual because he was WORKING SO HARD. He normally gives it 20 hours but didn’t manage that this week. Len says it lacked refinement but Mark put it all into it and then snarks that Craig DONE A MEEN and he didn’t notice four timing issues because he always looks for the positives. Except when he has his random snit-fits about the PURITY OF DAHNCE (LOL the Halloween dance-off) [or when he's scoring Kara Tointon's American smooth - Steve]. Incidentally, I refuse to recap Tess's commentary on the dances as I refused to dignify Bruce's, but script-writers note, we do not care what the presenters think about the dancing, thanks. Just let Tess do what she's good at: being faintly patronising, fondling gunz and/or Claudia and pulling goof-faces at bad puns. Nothing more.

Scores: 7, 8, 9, 8 for a total of 32. Claudia asks Karen if she thought the 7 was too harsh, Karen says she loves Craig and will accept the 7.

Sunetra and Brendan are next. Sunetra is glad to still be here despite being in a couple of dance-offs because she's got further than she expected. AND NOW HER JOURNEY IS AT AN END. /Subtle VT messages. Their training goes well and then she puts her finger in Brendan's eye and struggles with the sexy as we all knew she would, including Sunetra.

Their rumba is a Brazilian-themed thing to a horrid Buble-esque version of 'The Girl From Ipanema' and, like the previous two dances, has the narrative of the pro dancer competing with backing dancers for the celebrity's attention. As a result, parts of it involve Sunetra dancing with the other dancers rather than with Brendan, and whilst I get that the 'storytelling' is about someone who basically passes Brendan by, it makes it problematic for her and Brendan to then have the sexy [No dirty filthy rumbas here thanks - Brendan] lovely and romantic interactions a rumba requires. Her arms are good, as usual, and her steps seem pretty decent, even if her sexy face mainly looks sarcastic and the floor drag and the lift are somewhat clumsy. It ends with her dancing solo for ages and then dancing with the other two dancers before walking off. I get the ending in terms of the 'story', but in terms of a rumba, it's... odd, to say the least. Which is not Sunetra's fault.

Craig says it lacked strength and pressure through the floor and lacked the sureness and steadiness required. Sunetra says it was dreamy. Craig says there were too many wafty arms. Darcey says the upper body is Sunetra's strength and the feeling carries through but her feet needed to caress the floor more, but it's not an easy dance (even though Sunetra is not a man?). Len liked the mix of steps but says it could have done with more hip action and sparkle but she coped well with a difficult dance. Bruno reminds us of the story and like the way she interpreted the song, as if Sunetra had any control over that, but she needs to work on her hip placement which comes from the feet. Sunetra says dancing is out of her comfort zone, but the rumba is another zone in the world.  

Up in the Clauditorium, Natalie strokes Sunetra a lot (slash pairing of the weeeeeek) and Iveta hangs around in the background in a ballgown and fedora looking like a total boss. Claudia reminds Brendan he's done all twelve series and he's like don't remind me, I KNOW and still only won series one and everybody knows that series doesn't even count. Bets on Brendan sticking this out another year? [I reckon he gives it at least one more year to see what chance he's got of landing another Sophie-type, but if it doesn't happen next year he's gone after that. - Steve] Sunetra says it was always going to be difficult doing unusual things with your body and Anton gives a hear hear.  Brendan makes some comment about Anton's trousers and the camera cuts to Anton with his hands strategically placed and I just want to think happy thoughts and nothing at all involving Fiona Fullerton and 'incidents' thank you very much. Scores: 5, 7, 8, 7 for a total of 27 and an Anton 'undermarked!' as if you haven't figured out who the bus is aimed at. (It will be interesting next week given all six of the other contestants have been highly favoured).

Caroline and Pasha are next with a routine in Turkey. Tess sits introducing this with a box of Turkish Delight and is sat next to an uncomfortable-looking woman who clearly only let Tess sit there because she bribed her with sweets, and when Tess offers her one, she pounces on it with a look of 'my God I thought you'd never ask'. Heh.  

Caroline had a wardrobe malfunction last week and kept going but blames herself even though we all know wardrobe are out to get her for stealing their Pasha (or Harry Styles or whatever). Their comedy VT involves them going to a Turkish baths to 'relax' where they get rough-housed with a massage and Caroline makes Pasha jump into an ice bath. For research purposes.

Their Charleston is to 'Istanbul (Not Constantinople)' which is an inspired choice of music but I hope they didn't theme the whole week around this song choice because it could have stood on its own in any other week, unlike... pretty much everything else tonight. Their dance is set in a Turkish bazaar with lots of extra dancers behind. Caroline is in YET MORE GOLD tassling, although this is more a yellow-hue and the dress at least is typical Charleston fare. Pasha is basically dressed as Aladdin in a fez. You can tell Caroline is enjoying herself because she gurns maniacally throughout. Then the curse of wardrobe strikes again and Pasha's fez leaps off his head and makes a bid for Caroline's feet and I spend a long time worrying about her falling over before Pasha kicks it away like a sweetheart. The dance works better than the others so far partly because the music suits the dance but also because the props and prop dancers are mainly in the background and don't interfere. [I think Caroline actually benefitted from having prop dancers because she was perfectly in sync with them, which made her look even better than if it had just been her and Pasha. - Steve] In fact, the one time they do interfere, for a complicated lift, is the most awkward and ungainly part of it. Otherwise, I really loved that, although I am pretty easily pleased when it comes to Charlestons (except this series where they've mostly been a bit crap).

Caroline says it was lots of fun and she'd been really looking forward to it. Darcey says it was amazing, her swivel was clean and crisp and the dancing was quirky and fun. Len says she's a great dancer as she can take different dances and interpret them and he had a good vibe because she's Caroline and the dance comes from Carolina. Bruno says the dance was so rich, it was like a sparkling mosaic where every piece fitted well and she never lost timing. Craig calls her a little Pot Noodle, exploding everywhere. Craig, you have been doing Pot Noodle wrong if that's what happens to them.

In the Clauditorium, Caroline recalls Sophie's blessed Charleston from last year and says that inspired her to do Strictly. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 which Caroline is just a little pleased with.

Coming up! Simon struggling! Frankie being excited! Jake looking forward to his dance (oops)!

Claudia enters as an air hostess and asks Tess to choose chicken or fish. Tess says she's fine and Claudia says she has to choose otherwise they'll run out of her favourite. Tess says, 'OK, chicken' and Claudia says it comes with an oven-roasted potato. And Claudia is BACK everyone <3.  

Fifth out of seven are Simon and Kristina. Their VT involves Simon being SO BUSY on tour (unlike Pixie for a change, who just titted around a canal all week), so he takes her to Belgium along with him to make chocolates. They're dancing an Austrian waltz. Hey guys, you know that there is an ACTUAL STYLE OF WALTZ ON THIS SHOW THAT ACTUALLY COMES FROM FRIGGING AUSTRIA SO WHY NOT DO THAT ONE? [Now that's just crazy talk. - Steve] FFS this theme week.

Their waltz is to ‘Edelweiss’ (no, not this one, although it's probably a Charleston waiting to happen) and as cheesy as the song is, at least it’s a song that's in the right time signature. Simon is dressed as an Austrian ambassador and Kristina his lemon-dressed... consort? Their backing dancers mainly remain on the balcony without interrupting the dance-floor which is the second time they've been the only couple to get away with it. I can only guess the WRATH OF KRISTINA deterred the choreographers. It snows at the end and there's a nice lift and they nearly snog and it's lovely and everything, but it's a waltz at the end of the day and surely we should have got all those out of the way ages ago.

Tess says they made it look easy but it's a difficult dance and Len says it's a very very difficult dance. For men, presumably? Also, fuck off show, everyone knows it's the easiest dance which is why it was always the first one (along with cha cha) until recently. Come now, you think we all started watching this yesterday? Bruno thinks it was a wonderful waltz. Craig would like to see more in Simon's hands but he's come a long way. Darcey says he moved effortlessly with control and it was a VERY DIFFICULT WALTZ.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says they all had full body goosebumps and Simon reveals Kristina's training technique is to put hairbands over his hand. Simon waves to his embarrassed looking daughter and wishes his uncle Michael a happy 60th birthday. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 9 for a total of 38.

Frankie and Kevin now and Frankie says she felt really sick after their Viennese Waltz last week. To prepare for their American theme (because we've run out of countries), Kevin takes Frankie to an indoor surf centre which actually looks quite fun even if it only has a marginal amount to do with dancing.

Their jive is to 'Surfin' USA' and involves them floating in on a surfboard before actually jiving on surfboards which is random but looks pretty hard. They're both in red and Frankie has some mad hair extensions that make her look a bit like Kelly Brook. The routine is a bit sloppy and clumsy and all over the place but it's fast and lots of fun.

Bruno says they were on the crest of a wave, like watching two teenagers on summer break (not SPRING BREAK?) trying to do everything but the speed meant she sometimes threw away the free hand but the 'pumping action' was brilliant. Craig loved the synchronicity and was surprised she could dance on a surfboard in heels. Tess takes over the annual 'will Craig get his 10 out?' that Bruce always used to do. Darcey loved it. Len makes some puns I refuse to dignify by repeating.

In the Clauditorium, Kevin says he got his knees out for Claudia and she thanks him. Frankie, still breathless, talks about how hard it is to keep up with Kevin. Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 36.

Jake and Janette are the final couple, although... they may wish they weren't. Their Argentine Tango is set in Greece so they go to an 'authentic' Greek restaurant to smash plates (which Janette gets into a lot - unsurprisingly - slightly scaring Jake) and watch Greek dancing.

They're dancing to 'Zorba the Greek' and Jake opens shouting 'OPA'. He and Janette are both mostly in white, which seems odd for this dance and they have three dining tables and two other couples behind them. Some of Jake's posing is OK and there's a nice bit where he twizzles Janette between his legs, but his legs are super bent throughout in a very ungainly way and it's sloppy rather than sharp. Then they crash into the prop dancers and it goes really skew-whiff then they all dance in a line, Greek-style and Jake shouts 'OPA' some more and then the prop dancers half-heartedly drop some plates on the floor. THE END. Now let us bury this theme week with Rock'n'Roll and Fusion in the graveyard of things we will never speak of ever again.

Craig declares it a complete dance disahster, which went wrong from the beginning and they ended up crashing into other dancers and Jake agrees there was a little crash at the end. Darcey says it started well and she liked the fusion of Greek and Argentine moves but he lost his balance and it got messy and what he did well were the vocals.  Note: vocals are not dancing.  Len speaks a load of nonsense which doesn't bear recapping and his only critique is that it was tough to combine the Greek and Argentine themes.  Bruno calls it a Eurovision tango and says it missed Graham Norton and Conchita Wurst and he says he wants to see it again. What is it with Bruno and telling couples they should be in the dance-off this series?

In the Clauditorium, Jake says it went better in rehearsals and his kids emulate his dances at home and they'll probably do a better job tonight. Claudia asks if they can smash plates. He says they're having a sleepover (presumably at someone else's) so they can smash all they like. Scores: 5, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 29. Janette says 'no comment' on the 5.

Leaderboard time!

Caroline and Pasha 39
Pixie and Trent 38
Simon and Kristina 38
Frankie and Kevin 36
Mark and Karen 32
Jake and Janette 29
Sunetra and Brendan 27

Claudia and the gang open the voting lines in different languages and Karen, Kristina and Janette go a little crazy. That glitterball rampaging madness has truly begun.

Shall we recap? Pixie and Trent ballet dancing without clogs, Mark and Karen's overambitious salsa, Sunetra and Brendan getting thoroughly bussed (on recap, I'd say they were better than Jake and Mark), Caroline and Pasha doing the evening's only fun routine, Simon doing a HARD WALTZ OK, Frankie and Kevin surfing and conclusive proof as if it were needed that a Greek Argentine Tango is not a thing any of us ever need to hear of again. Tomorrow! The world's smuggest guest performers! And Sunetra, I mean someone, going home! Join me then!

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