Monday, 26 September 2016

Tie me up, tie me down

Week 1: Six Couples Perform - 23 September 2016

Once upon a time, in a TV studio in Elstree, 15 celebrities were partnered with 17 professional dancers (look, just don't question the maths, all right) and the Strictly Come Dancing cast of 2016 was born. They were given just a few weeks to train for opening night, and it appears to have severely impacted on their mental health because now they're all hearing voices. Kim Fox-Hubbard off EastEnders sits at the breakfast table in her déshabille listening to her voice saying "you can do this! This is what you've been waiting for!". Dodger Savage from Hollyoaks goes to wash his face in his hunk vest and hears himself saying that he can't believe they're dancing live this weekend. Louise from Eternal gets ignored by her kids as they eat cereal and considers her internal monologue telling her that she has all the support she needs. (Considering the way they dressed her for the launch show, I wouldn't take this as a given.) Claudia Fragapane off the gymnastics on the telly kisses her parents goodbye, telling herself to remember her training. Melvin Odoom from being the one who isn't Rickie lectures himself on all the steps he's gone over while walking through a puddle in his white Converse, the bloody fool. Dorien Green from Birds Of A Feather hops into the back of a car while reminding herself to breathe, which I find to be good advice in most scenarios. Greg Rutherford from that folder of pictures I keep on my computer for personal reasons sits in a car instructing himself to stay cool under pressure. Naga Munchetty from being the best one on Breakfast yes she is don't write in sits on a train with her headphones on but can still hear her own voice instructing her not to panic if she makes a mistake. Somehow, Laura Whitmore of hosting-everything-on-ITV2-that-isn't-already-hosted-by-Caroline-Flack fame also hears Naga's voice in her head and completes that thought, telling herself (and Naga?) that even if you do make a mistake you just need to keep going. Judge Rinder from being Judge Rinder watches Ore Oduba from that other folder of pictures I keep on my computer for personal reasons getting changed (he's a man of fine taste) and rules that he must face his fear head-on. Ed Balls off of tweeting his own name states the importance of believing in oneself (presumably that was the point of that infamous tweet), while Daisy Lowe off of some catwalks and Anastacia off of being Left Outside Alone that time experience a psychic bond wherein they state that they can do amazing things and look fabulous at the same time. Finally, Will Young off of being a pop idol tells himself that this is Strictly Come Dancing. Observant, innee?

Titles! They're a bit more lively than last year, and points of interest include: Lesley Joseph's hand explodes, Ed Balls and Katya are a couple of Pointer Sisters, Daisy pushes Aljaž out of frame, Tameka keeps trying to hide Gorka's face, Louise and Kevin do a dorky fist-bump, and Neil and Chloe get the Jo Clifton Memorial You've Not Got A Partner This Year But You Can Be In The Credits Right At The End slot, so that's nice.

Tess (fitted white V-neck dress, a good start) and Claudia (black off-the-shoulder dress split above the knee, with a little flash of orange around the neck just this once because it's the start of the series) appear at the top of the stairs and are escorted down by Brendan and Anton respectively. In the audience: Stacey Solomon, Joe Swash and Linda Robson, all sitting together. Like the Algonquin Round Table, but in a straight line. Tess runs through the basics for us: six couples tonight, the other nine tomorrow, and then the judges make their way in. Craig does his usual series of spins, while Len appears to have already decided he won't be faffing about like that now he's working out his notice. I have a feeling that Len's final series might be one of those Best Of compilations that only gets released as a contractual obligation, with a front cover put together in five minutes on MS Paint using a press shot from six years ago.

We've not got long tonight, so there's no time to chat to the judges. Instead we go straight to our Strictly stars: TV presenter and singer Louise Redknapp and her partner Kevin Clifton, star of Judge Rinder Robert Rinder and his partner Oksana Platero, actress Lesley Joseph and her partner Anton Du Beke, TV presenter and radio DJ Melvin Odoom and his partner Janette Manrara, Olympic gymnast Claudia Fragapane and her partner AJ Pritchard, BBC Sport presenter Ore Oduba and his partner Joanne Clifton, model Daisy Lowe and her partner Aljaž Skorjanec, actor and pop star Will Young and his partner Karen Clifton (already doing 'a bit' where Will pretends to be looking in the wrong direction and Karen shows him where the audience is and then he waves exaggeratedly, and I think I might hate this couple before they've even danced a single step), from BBC Breakfast Naga Munchetty and her partner Pasha Kovalev, world champion long jumper Greg Rutherford and his partner Natalie Lowe, EastEnders star Tameka Empson and her partner Gorka Marquez, former shadow chancellor Ed Balls and his partner Katya Jones, TV host Laura Whitmore and her partner Giovanni Pernice, actor Danny Mac and his partner Oti Mabuse, and finally singer Anastacia and her partner Brendan Cole. Gosh, there are a lot of them at this time of year, aren't there? And I wonder how long it will be before I can spell "Empson", "Platero" or "Anastacia" without having to go and check I've got all the consonants right. (And yet I'm already completely confident I know how to spell "Munchetty" without looking it up.)

Claudia reminds us that there is no public vote this weekend, but there will still be paddle-waving aplenty from the judges, and then it's over to Laura and Giovanni to open the series. Laura, we are told, has interviewed some of the biggest names in showbiz (like Apu Nahasapeemapetilon), but how will she cope with the Strictly ballroom? Mostly by telling us how SEXXXY and Italian Giovanni is, good lord but they are getting this showmance off the ground right from the word go. Training-wise Giovanni thinks Laura is good, but needs to increase her confidence, as the "week one cha cha cha for an attractive young woman" script dictates. Laura mentions to Giovanni that the only dancing she has experience of is Irish dancing (RINGER!) so she teaches him a few Irish dancing moves, and then he laughs and tells her he's not doing that any more, the end. Sexxxy!

They are doing a cha cha cha to 'Venus' by Bananarama Shocking Blue, in which they play statues of Venus and Adonis made flesh. Her former life as a statue might explain why Laura's legs are a bit inflexible during this number, which is the most distracting part of it for me. She's clearly got natural skill as a dancer and a good sense of rhythm, but she's not really finishing any of her leg movements properly so all of the action is happening above the waist. It's a bit stuttery and stilted, though that's not to say it's a failure - it's perfectly acceptable for a first dance, I just expected a little bit more from her out of the gate. Also the choreography's kind of boring, sorry Giovanni.

When it's all over Laura has a little flap with Tess about how she accidentally looked Craig in the eye mid-routine and almost smiled before thinking better of it, and then Len opens for the judges by saying it was a lovely way to start the show - it was fun, with a lot of cha cha content and a lot of rhythm, but she lost time near the end. He tells her to work on straightening her legs, but otherwise well done. Bruno starts clambering all over the desk and calling Laura a "little tease" for playing with Giovanni (not like that) in her role as the goddess of love/a pink disposable razor, and declares her "a keeper". Can we get Joe Hart for next year? Or Hugo Lloris, either's good. Bruno finishes by asking Laura to finish her arm extensions to make them even more gorgeous. Craig says it was all danced on flexed knees and her shoulders kept creeping up, but he thought her turns were clean and efficient and she looked good. Darcey closes by saying she lost character towards the end, but she liked the upper body even if the legs weren't as accomplished, and it was a good effort for a first dance.

Up they go to the Clauditorium, at which point I realise Giovanni's shirt is actually buttoned (or pinned) to the waistband of his trousers so that it can be open at the chest without the shirt tails flying everywhere. They've probably been doing this for years, I'm sure, but that's quite a neat little trick. Laura tells Claudia that she isn't really sure what her legs were doing because she couldn't feel them anyway, and Claudia tells her that the hard bit is over and now she can spend two episodes just "sitting and pointing". Just like Denise Van Outen in Chicago! Giovanni says that Laura did very well. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 25. I had that in my head as a solid "27-scoring week one cha cha cha", so this is exactly why I shouldn't be a gambling man. Laura is happy anyway because she got a "SEV-UN!" from Len, and that's what she wanted. [And now I feel so sorry about the terrible life Laura must have had for that to be her ambition - Rad]

Next we have Naga and Pasha. Tess points out that Naga was in Salford presenting Breakfast 15 hours ago, and it does seem like she got a little bit of a rum draw here considering that this is that one random episode of the series that plays post-watershed and makes everyone perform unusually late in the day. No wonder her posture's shot to pieces (spoiler). Naga recalls the general weirdness of the giant glittery spaceship in the launch show, but says that the minute Pasha's name was called out and he ran over to her, she knew they'd work as a partnership. Pasha says that he likes that Naga is really focused and wants to do well, and all she needs to do is listen to him. Naga is this year's designated tomboy who prefers to be in jeans and "a sloppy top" (nope, not going to make any jobs about Pasha and that turn of phrase, sorry) but has nonetheless embraced the full Strictly glam experience. Naga has the waltz for her first dance, which she tells Pasha she was dreading because she doesn't do "elegant". Pasha, at his most Pasha-like, assures her that she has nothing to worry about as long as she trusts him and they get to work. Over the course of the VT, Naga starts to feel more ladylike and less tomboy, but will it come together on the night?

Well, sort of. Pasha has choreographed a very nice, elegant waltz to 'Run To You' by Whitney Houston', and Naga has lovely sway and is very light on her feet, but the posture starts to slip quite quickly and the performance as a whole is just quite hesitant. Whatever chemistry there is between them in training - and they do seem to get on fairly well - just isn't turning up at Elstree yet. But there's time for that to develop, and she definitely shows promise. Let's see what she can do when she isn't fatigued from having been up for the last 17 hours.

Naga tells Tess that she's relieved but she loved it. Bruno describes her as "ethereal" and "lyrical", and he likes her natural ballroom poise, but she went on the wrong foot somewhere in the middle of the routine. He also warns her to be careful during the drag - "if you drag, drag well. Ask Craig, he knows about that" - and finishes by calling her a "beautiful, elegant lady", which sounds a bit Emily Howard. Craig says her rise and fall was a bit bumpy, and the "incident" didn't help things, but she has wonderful potential in the competition. Darcey says that the quality was serene, but she has such a beautiful neck, and that's one of the best attributes she has in her top line. There's a brilliant cut to Naga's face shortly after this where you can see her trying to figure out if this was a backhanded insult or a strangely-worded compliment. Don't worry Naga, I'm right there with you. Anyway, Darcey thinks Naga's beautiful neck will be a real asset to her in ballroom, and also if she'd just like to stop by Darcey's dressing room for a quick drink any time outside of daylight hours and avoid having any garlic with her dinner, that would be just lovely. Len says that the waltz requires great control and mistakes are more obvious than they are in the cha cha cha where nobody cares because it's Latin, but he loves Naga's elegance and her potential.

Naga and Pasha scoot up to the Clauditorium and she seems to have shrunk by about five inches by the time she gets there, either through relief or exhaustion, I can't quite tell. We cut to Naga's proud parents in the audience, and then we go straight to the judges for the scores: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 23. Everyone's all "good scores, room for growth, that's fine".

The third couple dancing tonight is Judge Rinder and Oksana, so I guess that is officially what we're calling him for this series. I was really hoping he'd go by "Robbie", like he does on Twitter. Tess fumbles a joke about "illegal lifts" and then we go into the VT where Judge Rinder says he's going to give 150 per cent, before realising that's "utterly absurd" and going back to a nice, mathematically sound 100 per cent. He says he feels "quietly confident" because Oksana is beautiful and brilliant, and she's going to be a proper taskmaster and he can't wait. His willingness to explicitly label his relationship with his partner as some sort of BDSM effort is already endearing him to me hugely. More kink on teatime BBC1, say I. (Although perhaps this is why they put him on the post-9pm episode.) They appear to be training in what looks like a courthouse, and Oksana is speaking in Russian again (and I wish I knew why they keep insisting on this when she's Ukrainian, because it seems a bit politically insensitive right now). Oksana tricks him by asking him how he talks to people in the courtroom and then using his own rapid-shushing move against him. She tells us that he has good hip action but he's overthinking it all so far, so he needs to learn to trust his body and obey Oksana's every command. I feel like somewhere in the last paragraph this turned into the dark side of Tumblr and I'm not sure how.

They're doing a cha cha cha to 'Mercy' by Duffy that starts with Rinder rhythmically banging his gavel while glitter erupts from the the sound block, after which Rinder springs out from behind the bench and twirls rapidly across the floor, so enthusiastically that he almost goes right over at one point. "Enthusiasm" is very much the watchword here - the technique's a bit ropey, he's doing more acting with his face than Bérénice Bejo in The Artist and everything's quite flaily, but Rinder is just going for it with such utter commitment that it's really hard not to get swept up in the whole thing. I absolutely wasn't ready for the bit where he ripped off his judge's robe to reveal an open shirt with his nips very much out, but that's probably my fault anyway. Credit to Oksana though for choreographing a truly memorable week one cha cha cha, which is quite hard to do these days. [I love this pairing already - Rad]

Afterwards Tess asks him how he feels about being the one getting judged for a change, and Rinder says that he's nervous, but they seem sensible - "most of them". Obviously we're opening with Craig [ironically the only one who ever makes any sense, and even then, only sometimes - Rad], who says it was certainly frenetic and tells him that the facial expressions made him look like he'd had "extensive cosmetic procedures". The crowd boos, and Tess starts making a loud shushing noise which for a brief moment feels phenomenally un-Tess-like to the extent that it really catches me off-guard, and then I realise she's doing Judge Rinder's shushing thing, just like Oksana did in the video - or trying to, anyway. Bless her. Craig comes back in, crediting Rinder's sense of rhythm and also his recreation of the chaîné turn that Craig does at the start of the show "with reckless abandon". Ha. Darcey declares it "extraordinary" and "the wildest surprise I think I've ever had". Len tells him he puts the "boy" in "flamboyant", and while it was a bit wild in places, it was guilty of being highly entertaining. Bruno makes a "hung jury" joke and says that he loved the gusto. In fact he'd like some delivered to his dressing room later.

Up in the Clauditorium, we discover that Tameka is Rinder's biggest fangirl, and Rinder credits Oksana for putting the whole thing together, saying that "it always helps when there's a moderate degree of threat". I bet she's still not nearly as terrifying as Erin used to be in her heyday. Scores are in: Craig 6, Darcey "a wild 7", Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 25. Claudia points out this is the highest score Craig has given so far, and Judge Rinder is mollified.

Next up, it's Lesley and Anton. Tess reminds us that Anton was a finalist last year, which is funny because I think a lot of people actually managed to forget that had happened during last year's final. Lesley tells us that the whole experience is a bit surreal, and then tries to convince us that she wanted Anton "because he's a Strictly legend", and Anton says "Lesley Joseph? Merry Christmas to me!" as though reading it from a cue card. Let's just say I'm not exactly getting much chemistry from these two - I think Lesley really wanted someone younger (and shorter) and Anton is very much just turning up to cash his cheques now that he's had his sprint for the trophy and discovered it wasn't really worth the effort. Anton says that all he needs from Lesley is personality and enthusiasm, and they'll create the rest. Lesley points out that she is Of A Certain Age, so there are limitations to what she can do. On the first day of training, Anton reveals they'll be waltzing to 'What'll I Do' - which Claudia's Helpful Voiceover confirms is the theme song from Birds Of A Feather, just in case any of us hadn't quite got that yet. Lesley is pleased that they're blending her two shows together because it will lend her courage and help her to channel her inner Dorien or something. She points out that Anton is much taller than she is, so she has to take big strides to keep up with him, and while she's exhausted, she's gradually getting there and she's loving it.

We start in black-and-white, with a wistful Lesley looking at a photo of her and Anton in happier times, before what I can only assume is The Ghost Of Anton appears behind her and they have one final waltz together, as colour bleeds back into the screen. It's rather nice - not as saccharine as you might think, and Lesley acquits herself well - the height difference remains a problem and plays havoc with her top line throughout, but she's put a lot of work into getting the footwork right and it shows. I still suspect that anything much faster than this is going to be a real struggle for her, but at least she can hold her head up high and say she pulled off the waltz. And there's a lovely shot of Linda Robson crying in the audience, and I look forward to Crying Pauline Quirke at some point soon.

Over with Tess, Lesley says that her mouth has gone all dry. I think that's probably just Anton leeching the life force out of you Lesley, nothing to worry about. Darcey calls the routine "sophisticated, romantic, elegant" and says that there was great control throughout, but warns Lesley not to get lost in Anton's chest. Hey, we've all been there. She points out that the shoulders were very high, but just encourages Lesley to relax when she comes back next week. Len enjoyed the traditional waltz, it was very clean and precise, and he thinks Lesley is a "lovely lady". And a swell gal. Bruno says he found it "very touching and almost moving". He agrees with Len and Darcey that the top line was too tense, and suggests that Lesley could press her pelvis against Anton more to assist with that. Craig adds to the consensus that her posture is her biggest concern, but he thought she danced with ease.

Their mics are still up as they trot up to the Clauditorium so we hear Lesley asking if that was all right and Anton saying "beautiful!" through slightly clenched teeth. Claudia points out how much Linda Robson loved it, and Lesley says it was lovely to do something different with a song that's been part of her life for 25 years. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 23. "Not too bad," says Lesley. So tonight's two waltzes have both had the same score, and the two cha chas have both had the same score. Either it's too close to call quality-wise or the judges are just quite unimaginative this evening. [This show, Rinder aside, did feel quite flat.  They didn't even bother with any of the razzmatazz you get on the Saturday show, giving it an air of shoving the also-rans in to be the support band whilst everyone's still getting leathered at the bar - Rad]

Up next? Ore and Joanne with the first tango of the series, and Tess asks Len to remind us what we should be looking for, not that it's going to matter much tonight. Len says it's all about flexed knees, sharp and crisp movements, and a bit of passion, by which definition you could argue that I am also doing a tango when I hobble to the bathroom first thing in the morning. (Yes, I am passionate about urinating, and you will be too when you get to my age.) In his VT, Ore tells us that he's been dreaming of this moment for a very long time, and was very excited to be partnered with Joanne. In turn, Joanne reveals that she knew they were a perfect match when they both started spontaneously doing the robot at each other on the launch show. Ore wants to be the best dancer that he possibly can be, and is looking forward to finding out if that's a good one or a bad one. As far as training footage goes, he looks pretty competent, and Joanne thinks it's going well, though we quickly abandon training in favour of Ore taking Joanne off to meet his wife Portia, who looks...not unlike Joanne. Like, if I hadn't already seen pictures of Portia on Ore's Instagram (shush, I just follow it for the articles) before I saw this segment, I would've thought it was a comedy VT with Joanne playing both roles. Anyway, I don't know whether this is supposed to make us think that Ore is less likely to fall under TEH CURSE OF STRICTLY or more likely, but Portia seems nice? [I read it as them entering into a polygamous triad (/trio?), especially given the post-watershed slot - Rad] Also she tells us that Ore is scared of birds, if that's useful information to you at all.

Then we're back in the studio, and what follows is almost as confusing as the VT we've just watched. Ore is wearing geek glasses, a plaid shirt, a bow tie and the tightest trousers you will see on this show all weekend, which is no mean feat (just wait until you see Gorka's paso outfit). For a second I thought he was meant to be Urkel until I realised a) no braces and b) braces or not, that's not a visual reference most people in this country are going to recognise anyway. So he's just your standard geek riding a bike from one side of the dance floor to the other because...nope, I've got nothing. Then he sees Joanne sitting on a park bench reading the latest issue of the Outstanding Ore comic, so clearly he's meant to be an incognito superhero. After failing to get Joanne's attention, Ore does a very elegant butterfly kick on the back of the bench, at which point Joanne's all "omg it's him!" and then they do a tango together...for about five seconds, which is all the time they have left at this point. I don't mind the odd bit of faffing here and there, but this was all surface and no depth, and considering that the bits of tango we actually do see from Ore look quite promising, I'm disappointed we didn't get a proper one. I don't know how much of this theming was Joanne's idea and how much of it was forced upon them by the producers, but I hope this isn't the sign of things to come because I like Ore, I think he's got real potential, and I don't want it to all get lost in one of Joanne's Candy Crush Saga fever dreams. Because if this whole thing was her idea, I think she might be happier on Dancing With The Stars.

After joining Tess on the sidelines, Ore apologises to the gentleman in the front row who he thinks might've lost an eye after Ore discarded his glasses during the routine. Well, in those trousers, somebody was bound to lose an eye at some point. Len's grumpy because he thought it would never get started, and also "the tango is thunder and lightning, it's not lollipops and roses". (Coming soon to ASOS: the Lollipops And Roses Handbag Collection by Joanne Clifton.) Once he got going, it was great, and he thinks Ore is too good a dancer to waste time with all the palaver. Bruno thought the "mise-en-scène was original" (that it certainly was) and allowed him to act two different roles. He thinks Ore is a good dancer, and he loves seeing something different. Craig loved all the storytelling at the beginning, and it was strong and dramatic. Finally, Darcey enjoyed the attack and the strength, and she thinks Ore has a lot of potential.

Up in the Clauditorium, Joanne throws herself at Ore (attagirl) and gives him a big hug while Claudia and Ore attempt to convince us that Ore wept at the mere sound of the Strictly theme tune three weeks ago. (I don't know why I find all of this schtick much more bearable coming from Ore rather than Will, but to be fair it might have something to do with Ore being hotter than the sun.) Ore says Joanne is an incredible coach who pushes him really hard and calls her "Choreography Clifton", so I guess we do know who to blame for the...excesses of that routine. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 6, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Joanne says that she's so proud of Ore, and accepts full responsibility for "the bit at the beginning", so I have some hope that she might rein it all in somewhat in future weeks, if only to because this is her last chance to get on Len's good side before he goes to LA to seek his fortune.

Our last couple for the night - and if you thought my behaviour towards Ore was bordering on the obsessive, you're really not going to like what's around the corner - is Greg and Natalie. They've got the jive first, ostensibly because Greg said he was looking forward to it on the launch show, but I suspect it's more because the jive is Hard For Tall People and Greg is like 8ft4 and Natalie thought it would be a good idea to get it out of the way when it wouldn't be the only dance they were being scored on. Claudia's voiceover in Greg's VT says that he has "long-jumped his way around the sandpits of the world", which seems like a slight under-selling of the accomplishments of a world champion athlete, but perhaps I'm just being picky. Greg claims that he was so nervous for the launch show that he "forgot" to invite anyone, and then says that he hasn't had a new coach for a long time, so he's very excited about working with Natalie. Natalie says she's very happy about Greg, although I can't remember a time when Natalie ever wasn't happy about her partner because she's such a relentlessly optimistic person. I think if you partnered her with the decayed corpse of Mao Tse Tung she'd still think this was her year. Greg says that he's not on the show to be a joke, and he wants to do well.

In training, the main obstacle is Greg's feet - he's been long-jumping for 15 years and the foot position you need to hold for a long jump is very different from the foot position you need to hold in a jive. Natalie very patiently trains him over the weeks to remember small steps and pointed toes, and in return Greg invites her to come and watch him jumping into some sand. Natalie clucks that she "feels like a proud mother" watching him, and I love how utterly invested she is in this partnership already. Greg does a long jump, everyone claps, and then they do a bit of jiving on the run-up track, which Greg complains "feels horrible" because he's having to point his feet the 'wrong' way. Still, at least he's managing to do some proper training alongside the day job, so he's already ahead of Iwan Thomas at this stage last year.

They're jiving to 'Get Ready' and Natalie has opted for them to start by running down the stairs, then having Greg jump onto the dancefloor and run around flapping his arms to hype up the crowd. It's a nice idea, but like most gangly people (and I speak from experience here), this just makes it look like the hand driers weren't working when Greg went to the loo before the performance. Once they get into the actual jive, it's...better than I expected. There's a general sloppiness to it around the edges, but all of Natalie's training paid off handsomely as Greg remembers to take small steps and point his feet. His energy level seems to sag about halfway through, but for the most part he keeps up with Natalie well, and the obvious showboating bits where she gets him to jump off things aren't too distracting. If we rank this on the Grand Pantheon Of Natalie Lowe Jives, it's not Scott Maslen level but it's not Michael Vaughan level either, it's a very respectable mid-placer, and a much better jive than I thought Greg would be capable of pulling off given his status as a Tall Person with no prior training.

Tess asks Greg if he feels like a dancer yet, and he replies "more like a prancer, to be honest". Bruno says it looks like Greg could go all the way, and he really went for it - it "wasn't exactly the paragon of precision", but he clearly has talent and Bruno loved watching it. I wonder if Bruno loved watching it for the same reasons I loved watching it? Craig says it was flat-footed and stompy, and Greg's extremely pigeon-toed and he needs to sort out his free arm placement, but nonetheless Craig enjoyed it enormously. Darcey liked it too, and says that Greg is built to jive, "like some blue frog". She thinks Greg's going to go far. Len says it was "as good as we've seen tonight", and says that for a bloke who just "larks about jumping into sandpits", Greg gave it real attack - the kicks at the start were good even if the ones at the end were less so, and as Craig said, Greg needs to sort out his free arm, but he's a really good dancer and Len's looking forward to seeing more.

Greg and Natalie are clearly both thrilled with that feedback and can barely contain themselves as they gambol up to the Clauditorium, to the point where Natalie yelps "fuck yeah!" and then realises where she is and covers her mouth. Luckily the crowd's loud enough that it's barely audible - I only caught it on the third go-round myself - and I guess if it had to happen, the one post-watershed show of the entire series is the best place for it. Claudia confirms that Greg has never danced before, not even at parties, and Greg says that it was "out of this world" - he's got an incredible teacher and he loved doing that routine. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27.

So let's have a look at that opening night leaderboard then:

1=. Ore & Joanne - 27
1=. Greg & Natalie - 27
3=. Laura & Giovanni - 25
3=. Judge Rinder & Oksana - 25
5=. Naga & Pasha - 23
5=. Lesley & Anton - 23

Helpful! Claudia joins tomorrow night's dancers for a quick chat, starting by asking Italia Conti Graduate Louise Redknapp if the quality of Greg's jive has put the fear of God into her ahead of her own jive tomorrow, and Louise says yes it has. Claudia asks Tameka for a flavour of her paso, and Tameka flaps her skirt and says "brrap! brrap!" like, calm down Tameka, she asked for a flavour of it, not the entire thing. Ed Balls continues his quest to talk real pretty one day by saying that tomorrow night is going to be a real challenge, but he's going to give it a go, and delivering the whole speech like he's just been doorstepped by a reporter from Newsnight shoving a camera in his face while he's still finishing his toast.

We then get a quick preview of tomorrow's dances: Louise has never known anyone with as much energy as Kevin, Janette is teaching Melvin how to walk from scratch, Daisy is really panicked that she'll never get it right, Danny is worried Ore's pushing him too hard, Tameka is LOVING THE DRAMA and giggling a lot, Claudia is doing some gymnastics, Ed mangles a joke about having already done a lot of spinning in politics, Anastacia isn't sure she and Brendan speak the same language yet, Will is a perfectionist who gets dressed in the dark.

That's it for opening night. Stay tuned for our recap of Saturday's show, which we'll have ready for you later this week - unfortunately Rad and I have found ourselves with very busy lives for the first couple of weeks of the competition which is why these are going up a little bit later than usual, but we hope to resume normal service by week three or so!

1 comment:

F a t i m a said...

"Will pretends to be looking in the wrong direction and Karen shows him where the audience is and then he waves exaggeratedly, and I think I might hate this couple before they've even danced a single step"
I was feeling the same way. Will has got it all wrong, hasn't he? This, the silly training outfits and now the injury fuss. In any case he's been out-injured by Anastacia. Tearing a mastectomy scar easily beats a little bit of cramp in a hamstring. I'm reminded of the French & Saunders sketch ending in one of them saying "I actually died yesterday".