Sunday, 27 September 2015

The long and the short and the tall

Week 1: Nine Couples Perform - 26 September 2015

Last night: six couples made their Strictly Come Dancing debuts - EastEnders star Kellie Bright got things rolling nicely, boxer Anthony Ogogo jived through a shoulder injury, Call The Midwife's Helen George got the Darcey Bussell seal of approval that she's been working towards for her entire life, weather presenter Carol Kirkwood faced a frosty reception, Daniel O'Donnell disappointed fans at every level of the spectrum by being blandly competent, and GLEB SAVCHENKO! performed with something called an Anita Rani in the background. Tonight, that noble band of comrades informally known as "The Other Nine" will also be dancing for the first time. Shall we get on with it, then?

We begin with a pro-dance to 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon. I am reliably informed by my boyfriend that this song is everywhere at the moment, but I must confess to being completely unfamiliar with it so if you'll excuse me I'm just going to go outside and yell at some clouds. The dress code is black and white, and for some reason that means they've dressed Giovanni as an escaped convict from a 1950s cartoon. Careful, Giovanni, there's only room for one 1950s cartoon on this show, and his name is Kevin Clifton. And speaking of the Clifton dynasty, those of you on JoanneWatch will no doubt be interested to mark her appearance in this routine, and I'm kind of digging her new hair colour. Not as much as I'm enjoying Pasha as a leather-jacketed greaser though, so I'm just going to file that one away for later.

Tess and Claudia arrive, and they also got the "black and white" memo - Tess is in white, and Claudia is in black, naturally. Although it would've been fun if they'd swapped. (Yes, I know my definition of "fun" is clearly so loose that it loses all meaning.) Tess reminds us of the salient details from last night's show - chiefly that Anthony Ogogo ripped his trousers - and Claudia summons the judges. I know I shouldn't keep harping on about what everybody's wearing but I will say that I love what Darcey's got on tonight - a floor-length purple gown with a fishtail and an asymmetric neckline that makes her look like the backdrop in an Art Deco cinema. She looks fabulous, is what I'm trying to say.

After that, the couples arrive, and I typed out their official introductions in full yesterday so forgive me for abbreviating them on this occasion: Kellie and Kevin, Anthony and Oti, Anita and GLEB!, Daniel and Kristina, Katie and Anton, Ainsley and Natalie, Helen and Aljaž, Iwan and Ola, Georgia and Giovanni, Jeremy and Karen, Jamelia and Tristan, Peter and Janette, Carol and Pasha (yes, Pasha's shirt is still open, let's make the most of this while we can because I don't think we're getting that much Pasha this year you guys), Jay and Aliona, and Kirsty and Brendan.

Claudia and Tess remind those of us who are unfamiliar with how the opening weekend works that there's no public vote or elimination, but the scores are still important(ish), and then move things right along by introducing our first couple of the night: Jay and Aliona, who'll be doing a cha cha cha. Just so you're all aware, Jay is this year's designated guardian of the Abbey Clancy Memorial "ME NEHHHHHVES" Narrative, and we will be hearing about it a lot. Like, a lot. Jay's VT reminds us that he used to be in a boyband, and he also used to have a much more flattering haircut, but I guess all things in this life are fleeting. Jay's very happy to be on the show, but he's NERVOUS. Aliona's all "I'm really happy with my partner but it's such a shame we're only going to be on the show for two we--oh, hang on, that's the script I've been using for the last two years, they actually gave me a new one this time, lemme go find it." Jay says that he's used to being on stage with four other guys - you know, The Little One, That One That Was In Glee, and The Other Two - but he's just going to get used to only having Aliona there. Maybe don't even bank on having that, Jay - if you fuck up you're on your own, just ask Gregg Wallace.

In rehearsals, Jay is NERVOUS about performing in front of millions of people, so Aliona takes him to The O2. She asks him what it's like to perform there, and he replies that "it's like nothing you would believe". That's true, I do have a hard time believing The Wanted were ever popular enough to play The O2. Aliona encourages him to channel that feeling when they do their cha cha cha.

They're dancing to 'Reach Out, I'll Be There' by The Four Tops (I don't care what the website says, it is fucking not by "Human Nature", whatever that is), and Jay is playing a singer (huge stretch there) while Aliona plays a broken-hearted girl who learns to overcome her problems with MUSIC and DANCE. Aliona's cry-acting is just delightful, especially for those of us who just assumed she'd lost the ability to feel anything at all after the last couple of series. It gets off to a slightly wobbly start, although I think that's because Jay isn't yet skilled enough to cha cha around the tiny little podium that he's standing on at the top of the routine, but when they get out onto the dancefloor proper, he's actually quite good - his timing's fine, his moves are sharp and there's some decent chemistry between him and Aliona. I'd say that it's a little bit mechanical (you can almost see him checking off the list of positions in his head as the routine goes on), his free arm is frequently a bit limp and he needs to smile more, but it's a very solid start. And speaking as one of that small but determined group of people who have always quite liked Aliona, it's nice to be reminded of what she's capable of doing when she doesn't just get automatically lumbered with the duffer du jour. It ends, and Jay appears to be apologising to Aliona for something and she assures him that he was really good. Yeah, we're going to have a lot of this, aren't we? Self-assurance wise, he's going to make Abbey Clancy look like Austin Healey.

Jay tells Tess it was "really fun" to do the routine and Tess squeals "HE'S SHAKING LIKE CRAZY, BLESS!" Seems like the classy thing to do would be not to call attention to it? Jay and Aliona back-and-forth with the "no, you're amazing" bit for a while until the wheels come off dramatically when Jay says "you pulled it out of the bag". I think he might be reading from a script he found lying on the floor of the Porn Train (neva 4get). Jay waves to his mum in the audience, who was apparently Very Moved. Tess reminds Len that Jay has been SUFFERING WITH NERVES, and Len compares Jay McGuiness to "a glass of Guinness", because he was full-bodied with a lot of froth on the top. I think maybe Len needs to start going to better pubs. Len adds that he thought there was nearly a lift in there but it wasn't an actual lift, but warns Aliona (and, by extension, everyone) that he's going to be watching "all season" (you've left Dancing With The Stars now Len, you can go back to saying "series") to make sure that there are no illegal lifts and if anyone sneaks one in Len is going to DOCK THEM A POINT. I'm sure that's going to make all the difference when he's got Darcey next to him trying to find her "14" paddle. Len tells Jay that he is "wanted", and Bruno tells Jay that he's "glad you came", and this is unbearable but at least we're getting them all out of the way early. Bruno says Jay has great potential, and he was really impressed by the way Jay pushed through the leg and extended his feet. Craig agrees with Bruno, and then Bruno FALLS OFF HIS CHAIR ENTIRELY SPONTANEOUSLY, just like he does every year. I bet he'll be disappointed to discover that the camera was on Tess the whole time so we didn't actually see it. Craig continues that he was impressed with Jay's isolation, but the whole thing needed a bit more showmanship. Darcey says it's so hard for the men, and *fast-forwards*.

Tess instructs Jay to go and "reach out to Claudia", and up in the Clauditorium we hear a little bit more about Jay's nerves. Jay's nerves, everybody. Claudia reminds us all of what the leaderboard looked like last night, and the judges give their scores: Craig 5, Darcey 8, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. I don't want to look like I'm piling on Darcey here, but fuck off was that an eight. I mean, I suppose it counterbalances Craig's 5 which was also pretty ridiculous in the opposite direction, but maybe we could just all start scoring sensibly instead? Claudia tells Jay that the whole audience went "what?" when Craig announced his score, but sensibly does not reveal the general reaction to Darcey's score because, unlike last night, we are on the polite side of the watershed.

Our second couple this evening is "sports news anchor" Kirsty Gallacher and her partner "Brenda Cole". Looks like Tess has been reading Monkseal, which is brave of her really. Kirsty's VT opens pretty disastrously with her talking about how there are lots of misconceptions about her being really sporty and tough, "but I'm actually a very girly girl", like these things are not mutually exclusive and being sporty does not mean you aren't feminine. Good grief. Kirsty says that Brendan's reaction to being partnered with her was great, but she wonders if he knows she can't dance. Brendan scoffs at this, and declares that she just hasn't found the right boy yet. (Brendan Cole is 39.) [Is that his stage age? - Rad] Kirsty says she thinks she's going to be a good student, but she's not sure what sort of teacher Brendan is. Yes, the man who has been doing this show for 11 years is such an enigma! She hopes she doesn't let Brendan down (lol foreshadowing).

Brendan asks Kirsty how she's feeling ahead of her first performance, and she says she just hopes she doesn't let her nerves take over. Kirsty tells us all that her mum has been very supportive and just keeps popping in unannounced, because apparently Kirsty lives in a sitcom from the nineties. Kirsty's mum says that it's great to see Kirsty dancing with Brendan, and she hopes that she can offer some encouragement to stop Kirsty from feeling nervous. Kirsty hopes she can do her mum proud (lol foreshadowing).

There's some bizarre framing at the top of the routine, and I mean that entirely literally because a picture frame surrounded by hotel wallpaper has been superimposed around Kirsty and Brendan, which has the unfortunate side-effect of causing me to check I haven't accidentally sat on the remote control and switched over to Dave just as they're going to an ad break. They're waltzing to 'Vincent' by Don McLean, and I think it's supposed to be all dreamy and romantic but honestly? Kirsty looks a bit drunk. Like, the whole thing looks like she had too much wine at the office party and Brendan's the guy who was sober enough that everyone else made him escort her home, but she keeps running off down side roads to yell at taxi drivers or throw up in someone's front garden and it's just taking them forever to get there and he's wishing he'd had a bit more to drink so someone else would have had to do it. I mean, it doesn't help that she's dancing to a song that really isn't in waltz time but even so, this is disastrous. And it's personally devastating for me because I wanted Kirsty to run the Gabby Logan arc by being sporty and competitive and flawless and making everyone fear her until she suddenly gets shock-booted, but looking at this mess, I don't think it's going to happen. Still, people have come back from worse starts than this, right? [We were wrong about her being Gabby redux - she's Pendledrama redux.  Hopefully with the drama - Rad]

Bruno says that it would have been gorgeous "as a series of pictures", but the problem was all the stumbling in between as she was clinging on to Brendan for dear life. Kirsty says that it's nerves, and Bruno says that he's sure she can improve. Craig reports that it lacked the flow that is crucial to the waltz and there were some serious balance issues. You can tell that Brendan's already far more invested in Kirsty than he was in Sunetra last year because he pipes up in her defence, saying that he's never seen her as nervous as she is at this point, and they will absolutely work on sorting all of this out. Darcey says that it's so hard to control the rise and fall when you have all those nerves on top, and assures Kirsty that she'll feel like a different person next week. Len finishes by saying that some people don't appreciate that the celebrities are beginners and haven't yet learned to control their nerves (swear to god if I hear the word "nerves" one more time tonight I am going to fill the bathtub and drown myself in it), and he wants Kirsty to be more relaxed next week for her salsa and come out there and wiggle her bum and just enjoy it.

Kirsty flees to the sanctity of the Clauditorium, and says that she's just glad the whole process has started. Claudia assures her that the salsa will be her dance. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Oof. Even Brendan doesn't try to protest that score, he just attempts to draw a line under it and move on. Come on, Kirsty, come back next week and terrify everyone with sporty brilliance, I'VE ALREADY BEEN LET DOWN BY DANIEL O'DONNELL NOT BEING COMPLETELY HOPELESS, DON'T YOU BETRAY ME AS WELL.

Benefitting from lowered expectations next, we have Jeremy and Karen with their cha cha cha. Jeremy says in his VT that he's been "a serious journalist since 1987" (lol no, you're the guy who hosts Eggheads and a Radio 2 show where people just phone in and say any old awful shit about The State Of Britain Today). Karen says she was quite surprised when she saw Jeremy's hip thrusts in the launch show, but she quite liked it at the same time. I've started to quite enjoy watching Karen never having anything in common with any of her partners. There's a bit of business in his training footage about him being unable to shake off his journalistic instincts, to the extent that he brings a notepad to training and writes everything down. Karen's all "ehh, whatever works for you" in much the same way that Karen usually is.

There's a swingometer projected onto the studio floor so he's obviously going to do A Bit before they get started, but the way he starts it by calling out "laaaaaaaadies and gentlemeeeen" makes it sounds like his day job is as a carny rather than a journalist. Anyway, the whole thing is so gloriously incoherent that I must transcribe it verbatim and preserve it for the ages: "Today we are discussing the cha cha cha, but what does our election swingometer say about the cha cha cha? Oh dear, only 18 per cent. I wonder if that might be different in...September!" And then the band starts playing 'September' by Earth, Wind and Fire. I really, really hope he improvised that bit because if that was actually scripted, God help us all. Anyway, Karen emerges from a Sexy Polling Booth and Jeremy takes off his jacket and they dance together, and that awful opening might turn out to be a shrewd move because I can't imagine anything he could do afterwards that would look more cringeworthy in comparison. His cha cha cha is absolute dad-dancing and he seems a little unsure of his moves, but Karen has at least choreographed an actual routine for him to do and Jeremy's giving it his best shot, which is my most palatable brand of comedy contestant: I don't mind you being crap, but at least be crap in the process of trying to be good rather than just admitting from the outset that you're not going to be any good and trying to force lolz out of it. Also, he's not completely hopeless anyway - his hips move, and he seems to know where he's going most of the time. He's never going to be great, but he might just claw his way up to being decent if he's here long enough.

As Jeremy crosses over to Tess, we cut to the judges so we can see Darcey doing the full head-back-hands-flapping-in-front-of-face-trying-to-dry-tears thing and calm down Darcey, it wasn't that funny. Karen giggles that Jeremy's heart is about to pop right out of his chest. Craig tells Jeremy that he would have qualified for the world dad-dancing championships (which are apparently a real thing, held in Devon) and it was all very flat-footed and his free arm had a mind of its own. Darcey calls it "strangely fabulous" (oh god, she's giving it a crazy nine, isn't she?) [Just give her the Overs on X Factor in Cowell's next 'pinch a Beeb reality judge' swipe and let's be done with her - Rad] and commends Jeremy for throwing "everything" into it. She advises him to watch his legs though, because they give away his lack of technique. Len says it was like a vine - a little bit out of control, and you never know where it's going next. And only six seconds' worth of content? Len tells Jeremy that he came ahhht and went for it, and that he thinks "this underdog's got a bit of bite". Bruno tells Jeremy he "dances to his own tune", but he looked like a "rubbery, gangly" Hallowe'en spider. There was no control, but he thought it was funny.

Jeremy receives a hero's welcome at the Clauditorium, where Claudia reports that Iwan just said "he makes me happy". Jeremy says that it was a bit wrong at the start (you're telling me), but it all came to him about 15 seconds in, and he thanks the audience for spurring him on with their support. You can tell he works with politicians. Jeremy thanks "partner, here" (psst, Jeremy, her name's Karen) for everything, and announces that he won't be bringing the notepad next week because it clearly didn't help. Heh. Scores, then: Craig 2, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 19. Claudia reminds us to register for our BBC ID if we want to vote online next week, which is good advice. Do it now! (In a new tab, don't you dare close us down.)

Next, we have the sexxxy sexxxxy sexxxx pairing of Georgia and Giovanni. In her VT, Georgia is introduced as "actress and star of Coronation Street", possibly because she doesn't really have much of a profile outside of Coronation Street, not hating, just saying. She gets off to a bad start by refering to herself as "little Georgia from Bury", which had better be the first and last time she or anyone else refers to her that way. Georgia is hoping to do The North proud. Giovanni and Georgia have already started referring to themselves as "Team GG", so start compiling all of your horse jokes.

Giovanni starts their training by giving Georgia a t-shirt with "BORN TO WIN" on one side and "TEAM GG" on the other. Say what you like about him, but he knows the importance of #brand #engagement. Georgia is horrified to learn that she's got the jive first (even though I remember her saying in interviews that the jive was the dance she was most looking forward to, so I guess this is a "be careful what you wish for" scenario), and as they practice, Georgia tries to get the hang of pronouncing "Pernice" correctly. This leads to all sorts of "she's from Oop North, he's from Sicily" hijinks that are played more or less note-for-note as they were during When Chelsee Met Pasha (except he was Russian, obviously, not Italian). Georgia tries to teach Giovanni some reet northern slang like "it's nippy", he's all "what ees theese 'neepy'?", we all laugh at the funny foreigner and the little northern girl, job's a good'un.

They're dancing to 'Dear Future Husband' by Meghan Trainor from the album Yes They Actually Let Me Record One Of These, Lol I Can't Believe It Either. [It has the same tune as some Olly Murs thing as well SMH - Rad] It's set in a salon where Giovanni is the slick groomer (STEADY) and Georgia is...Katy Perry, I think. That seems to be the look they're going for, anyway. She's pretty good, as I think we all knew she would be, but there's definitely an ongoing balance issue throughout the routine - a couple of times she comes out of a spin and almost goes right over, so I'd suggest Giovanni does a bit more work with her on spotting. The kicks and flicks are a little bit sluggish as well, but it is a very fast routine for a week one jive, so in general I'd say she keeps up with it all impressively well.

Tess and Georgia have a brief northern-off after the dance, and Darcey says that it was an incredibly impressive first dance in terms of the content and the speed. She thinks the two of them work very well together, but points out that Georgia needs to control how she exits her turns. Len embarks on an extended hairdressing metaphor that basically amounts to "I liked it", and Bruno cracks a joke about feeling "the g-force". Well, at least he didn't mention the g-spot, although...give it time, I guess. He says that they ran out of steam towards the end, but it was a wonderful first outing. As for Craig, he thought it started well, but he thinks Georgia didn't quite have the stamina to carry that through to the end. He did think it was "lively" and "bubbly" though, and enjoyed it very much.

They bounce up to the Clauditorium where Georgia cops to being equal parts excited and terrified to be here, and Tess tells us that Giovanni's parents are here. Giovanni says that this is his dream come true, and he thinks it's his parents' dream come true as well to see him here. Aww. I like Earnest Giovanni a lot more than Italian Stereotype Sleazebag Giovanni, if any of the scriptwriters are reading this. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. A lot of 27s so far this weekend.

Ainsley and Natalie are up next as we approach the mid-point of the evening. Ainsley says in his VT that he was so excited to be partnered with Ainsley, because you would be. He says that he and Natalie are a prefect combination like tomatoes and basil, and he's always loved dancing in the kitchen so he's hoping to incorporate that into his routines. Natalie says she's already seen the salt-and-pepper-shaker, and the stirring-of-the-pot, and then she started having Celebrity MasterChef flashbacks and had to go and lie down in a darkened room for a bit.

Natalie has planned a tango to 'Voulez Vous' by Abba and is setting it in a Parisian bar, and honestly if I were a judge I'd be gripping my 10 paddle already. Ainsley decides to thank Natalie by cooking her some French food, so of course they both wear berets and Natalie accessorises it with a necklace of garlic bulbs, she literally cannot get any better. I love this pair already. NOW MAKE NATALIE COOK SOMETHING!

The routine is magnificent, because a dance choreographed by Natalie Lowe that starts with Ainsley Harriott in a beret sipping a martini can't possibly be anything else. The whole thing is so camp that it's already set up a Grindr profile with "MASC4MASC" at the top, and I love it. I mean, on an objective level Ainsley's posture is pretty terrible and actually gets worse the longer the dance goes on - by the time it ends he's practically Uncle Fester - but at least it delivered everything I wanted from this couple. Please, voting public, at least keep them around for a little while. I'm already set to lose Pasha very early, I can't cope with Natalie being an early boot as well.

Ainsley tells Tess that he's been doing a tango face for two weeks, and Natalie giggles "it's not him!" Seriously, they're a match made in heaven. If we must give up on the #RINGER4NATALIE mission, I'm glad they're at least giving her people she can have fun with. Len says it's the longest he's ever seen Ainsley go without smiling, and follows that up by saying that he captured the flavour of the routine but not necessarily the technique. He adds that it "had a touch of the gallops", and really there's no excuse for that in the age of Imodium. He's looking forward to Ainsley's salsa next week, as am I, because I've got all sorts of jokes about chopped tomatoes and lime juice lined up. (That's a lie, I have no jokes about chopped tomatoes and lime juice.) Bruno was impressed by the variety of different "flavours" in the routine, particularly the point where Ainsley became "a rooster chasing a hen". He encourages Ainsley to stick to one character per dance in future. Craig says that he needs to sort his posture out because you need to create a v-shape in this dance. I should think Craig needs to be careful of encouraging people to make a v-shape at him. He loved the acting, though. Darcey couldn't take her eyes of Ainsley's lips, and tells him that he took the emotion into his shoulders, so he just needs to learn to relax them.

Atop the Clauditorium, Ainsley admits that Natalie's been telling him for weeks to keep his shoulders down, but he got carried away. Claudia compliments him on "the best tango face I have ever seen", describing it as "livid, yet charming". She also asks them to to reveal what song they're dancing to next week - 'Don't Touch My Tomatoes' by Josephine Baker, apparently. I CAN'T WAIT. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Ainsley Harriott getting the same week one score as presumed ringer Kirsty Gallacher is giving me life, I can't lie.

Ahead of a preview of the four dances yet to come (including Peter Andre rehearsing in a bloody leather t-shirt, good grief), we arrive at our next couple: Katie and Anton. Katie tells us in her VT that her dance experience only amounts to a bit of ballet when she was a kid, but she's not sure that knowing "good toes from bad toes" is going to help much. Honestly, Katie, compared to some of Anton's previous partners, just knowing where your toes are is going to put you ahead of the pack. Katie was pleased to get Anton, describing him as "the legend", and I don't really need to tell you that Anton's pleased, because of course he's thrilled with anyone who's going to talk about him like that.

Katie turns up for her first day of training, which is in a bleak brick room that I'm not entirely convinced isn't actually situated within a prison, and Anton tells her that they're starting with the jive. Katie tells us that the jive is terrifying (perhaps because Anton hasn't done one in six years, and the last time he did one it looked like this) and apparently theirs is to have a Last Night Of The Proms theme, so she invites Anton to join her for the real thing. They do a bit of their jive in the Royal Albert Hall (sans audience, sadly) and Katie says she just wants to be able to recapture a bit of that atmosphere on the show.

It starts with Katie miming to a harp while Anton conducts some classical music that I do not recognise because I am a pleb, sorry, but then the band rebels and starts playing 'Roll Over Beethoven' and Katie is overcome by the URGE TO JIVE so she strips off her formal suit to reveal a sparkly gold fringed Latin dance dress. The good first, then: Katie has legs for days and a good sense of rhythm, and does a good job of her kicks and flicks. The bad: it's a bit wobbly generally, and not really the trainwreck I hope for when Anton does Latin. It's not great, it's not terrible, it's just somewhere in the middle, which is a bit disappointing. [Katie was better than Anton though, as per the case every other year when he gets someone OK - Rad]

Bruno tells Katie that he couldn't take his eyes off her because she has "radiant stage presence" (translation: always looks a bit drunk), and warns Anton that he's actually got first-class material this year so he'd better not fuck it up. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. Tess tells Katie that she's obsessed with "those legs" in the tone of voice that she normally reserves for men with gunz, so Katie should probably be quite careful. Craig tells Anton he's loving finally seeing him actually dancing, but says that the side-by-side section was a little out of sync in some parts, and there was a ropey under-arm turn at the end, but declares it perhaps "the most sophisticated and stylish jive we've ever had on the programme". (Craig is going to give it a 6 in a minute, just FYI.) Darcey says that it's very impressive to keep a jive neat and clean with long limbs like Katie's, and while it could've been sharper, it was very classy. Len hopes this could be "the glory year", and says it could be the year that Anton's gainfully employed in the show right up to Christmas.

Katie giggles "I love you!" at Anton as they make their way up to the Clauditorium, adding further fuel to my theory that she's that exact level of posh that makes you always sound a bit drunk. Everyone's cheering for them when they get up there, and Claudia jokes that Anton's never really understood how the show works - when everyone else gets on a bus to Blackpool, he's just assumed that was the end of the series and gone home. (I hate to be that one serious guy that ruins the joke, but the last time Anton made it to Blackpool was...last year, with Judy Murray.) Claudia asks Katie if it's as much fun as she imagined, being a big fan of the show, and Katie says it's better and more terrifying and also brilliant. I love her. Scores for the bestest posh jive the show's ever seen: Craig 6, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 26. Suddenly Anton seems even drunker than Katie, and starts screaming about how he's not used to getting 26 points in one go: "it takes weeks of accumulated numbers!"

Our antepenultimate couple for the evening are Iwan and Ola, who will be doing a tango, apparently. Over a montage of photos that remind us of his bygone days as a proud ginger *sniff*, Iwan says that as an athlete he knows what it's like to push your body to the limit. As a recapper, I too know what it's like to push one's body to the limit because I've been sat here for nearly four hours now and my back really hurts. Ola says that she is a strict teacher, and will be strict with Iwan.

In training, she tells him that he has the tango first, and Iwan says that he's not a quick learner but he is a perfectionist. Iwan's perfectionism manifests itself in a strange way where he doesn't actually bother to clear enough time in his schedule to train properly, so he's jetting off to Italy to cover Moto GP - Ola goes out there with him, but he ditches her because he's got work to do. I guess he's like Pixie Lott, he's just BUSYBUSYSOBUSY. I mean it's not as if it's not well-documented that you need to clear a fair bit of your diary out to give yourself enough time to train for this show, so don't sign up and then go "oops, I'm busy". Also, lack of training is no excuse for turning out shoddy product, remember Louisa Lytton's jive that came on the heels of about five minutes' worth of actual training.

They're doing a tango to 'Keep On Running'. There's an athletics track superimposed on the dancefloor and, I shit you not, Iwan and Ola are on their marks and there's the sound of a starting pistol and then Iwan does a circuit of the "track". And then they do a tango. I can just about tolerate some pre-performance faffing if you try to actually tie it in with the routine, but I've seen actual pornography with more coherent plotting than this. And if you're wondering if the actual tango is worth the wait - no, it isn't. It's painfully obvious that Iwan is under-rehearsed, and Ola's kind of on autopilot so she's not even doing anything interesting to distract us from his limitations like, say, Janette or Natalie or Iveta (sniff) might. It's all just a bit of a non-event, really. A false start, if you like.

Tess asks Craig if it was a winning performance and Craig says no - there was gapping, it was lumpy, his posture was terrible, and there was no real storytelling. But, he does think that Iwan's bottom is lovely, so there is that. Darcey says that he started really well (he did?) but he's inclined to get wild, so he needs to fix that hold and that topline. Len thinks it didn't have enough attack, but he thinks Iwan will come back and improve next week because SPORTSMAN. Bruno says he wishes Iwan had kept running because that was much better than the tango, and tells Iwan he needs to learn to assume a character for his performance if he really wants to master dancing - and he tells him he needs to properly commit to being here too, so that's Iwan told.

Claudia says that Iwan is adorable to be around, and Iwan replies that he knows he has to improve because that's the whole point of the show, adding "I can't get worse, can I?" Don't count on it. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Len 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 17. Ola says that they will come back stronger. Iwan has a cha cha cha next week, so we'll see.

Last-but-one are Jamelia and Tristan. Tess tells us that Jamelia "stars in Loose Women", which is a mind-boggling concept in itself. In her VT, Jamelia said that the group dance in the launch show made her realise how much she misses performing, and she was ecstatic to be paired with Tristan. In turn, Tristan thinks that the fact that Jamelia really wants to learn is definitely a good thing.

Tristan tells Jamelia that they'll be starting out with the waltz, and Jamelia puts her head in her hands, which sort of belies that whole "wanting to learn" thing from 10 seconds ago. Jamelia says that the waltz is graceful and elegant and she is not, and adds that she has a serious giggling problem, which she urges us not to confuse with her not taking this seriously. Tristan attempts to get Jamelia to stop giggling, but deploys peculiar tactics like "stare at my face", "wear a silly hat", "ooh chase me chase me", all of which unsurprisingly only make things worse. Jamelia says she'll try to contain her giggles on the night.

Unfortunately, giggling is the least of her problems because despite a promising start to her waltz (to 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man') and despite Tristan being in one of wardrobe's ever-reliable pairs of Snug White Men's Trousers, the whole thing gets away from her quite early on and the whole thing feels a bit stuttery and tentative. Also, the end-pose is just really ugly, and I don't know if that's Jamelia's dancing or Tristan's choreography, so I'm going to split the difference and assume it's a bit of both. [Not yet sure why Tristan got to be the sole survivor of last year's new pro crop - Rad]

Darcey says it was a very charming waltz, and she enjoyed the beginning when Jamelia was making fine use of her long arms, but the further she got into the dance, the more she lost concentration. Len agrees - it was a great start, but then there were some mistakes and those threw her so she lost her place. But he thinks she's beautiful and elegant and the waltz suits her. Bruno says it started like a dream - it just didn't continue like one. He advises her to try to catch up if she goes wrong, rather than get into a muddle, though I daresay that's the sort of thing you only really learn to do with a bit more practice. I've never tried to improvise a waltz on the spot but I imagine it's much harder than it looks. Craig points out that the basic waltz step is "step-side-close" and that Jamelia wasn't actually closing a lot of the time. Always Be Closing, Jamelia! But he thinks it was great and it got a good reaction from the audience.

A rather subdued Jamelia makes her way up to the Clauditorium - still giggling, though - and Claudia tells her she was fantastic. Jamelia says she enjoyed it, but she's just disappointed that she let Tristan down. Claudia tells Jamelia that she loves her because everyone else has been going on and on about their nerves all day (PREACH, SISTER) but when Claudia asked Jamelia, she just said that she was nervous but she was mostly just excited to be here. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. Jamelia's clearly a bit disappointed by that result, but puts a brave face on nonetheless.

Predictably enough, Peter and Janette are closing the show. Peter's VT includes a lovingly-shot scene of Peter and his own reflection, which probably says quite a lot. Janette says that she's the smallest female pro on the show (I like the implication that there are male pros shorter than she is, like perhaps Brendan has secretly been three children standing on each other's shoulders all this time).

In training -- well, actually, we don't get to see much training, to be honest. Peter says that he's not really feeling the cha cha cha yet because he's used to the sort of dancing you do in pop videos and Iceland advertisements. Janette decides that she wants to get all of that "hip hop" (lol okay) out of his system by doing a 90s-style dance battle. So they wear some silly clothes, trash talk each other, and flail around aimlessly for ages. I feel like we just got a macro-version of Steve and Ola's narrative from last year.

They're dancing to 'Ain't No Other Man' and can we please have a moratorium on people dancing to Christina Aguilera songs? No disrespect to the singers, but they can't really keep up with Xtina and they never have been able to in any iteration. It's a bit disappointing considering how über-pimped Peter has been leading up to the start of the competition, because his performance is rather flat to me: he's not required to do an awful lot other than wiggle his hips while Janette cavorts around and his movements are a little too aggressive.

Len says that the action was a little clipped, but that aside it was the best dance of the weekend. Bruno loved the performance level, but he thinks Peter's got more smooth hip action - "the cha cha is not angular all the time". Tess asks Craig if it was a showstopper, and Craig says it was and he really enjoyed it", but he advises Peter to work on his hip action because he's going to need that for all of his Latin dances. Especially with Janette as his partner. Darcey finishes by saying that Peter was overflowing with attitude, and she's very excited about next week.

Claudia asks Peter if he's over the moon, and he says he's speechless. Claudia says that they're training really hard (just not to the extent that any of it gets shown in their VT) and Peter reminds us that they're Having Fun And Bants as well. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 30.

So, after a quick recap of all of this weekend's performances (I've been here for hours, please don't ask me to recap the recap), here's the leaderboard:

1. Peter & Janette - 30
2. Helen & Aljaž - 29
3=. Kellie & Kevin - 27
3=. Anita & Gleb - 27
3=. Jay & Aliona - 27
3=. Georgia & Giovanni - 27
7. Katie & Anton - 26
8. Daniel & Kristina - 24
9=. Anthony & Oti - 21
9=. Jamelia & Tristan - 21
11=. Kirsty & Brendan - 20
11=. Ainsley & Natalie - 20
13. Jeremy & Karen - 19
14. Iwan & Ola - 17
15. Carol & Pasha - 16

I realise that it's very hard to manage these things when you're a) spreading a competition over two nights and b) allowing four individual people to score as they see fit, but even so: that four-way tie for third place is ridiculous. And having watched Anita again in the recap after seeing everyone perform, I'm still convinced she was undermarked. So, I guess I'm stanning for Anita this year, basically. (Don't even get me started on how she's being sidelined so they can build up the profile of her pro.)

Anyway, next week everyone gets to perform again, and we'll be kicking out our first couple of 2015. Rad will be here with all of the detail, so make sure you're here too.

1 comment:

RainStorm said...

I still totally love your posts! In particular, I had exactly the same reaction to Darcy's dress (it was stunning!) and all I could think during Ainsley's tango was that he looked like Uncle Fester!