The Strictly Sweep – Week 12 #scd

Right then folks, we now know who’s made it to the final. Was it who you were expecting? Is there a totally left field couple that got all the way who you thought wouldn’t make it past week 1? Is there someone you believed was a shoe-in who went out weeks ago? None of that of course matters now…because now it’s one last effort to go for the Glitterball. But first of course, there’s the Semi-Final. We know that Semi-Final week is hard, because of the having to do two dances. But, the couples that have made it this far are usually the ones that can put on the good performances, and this time round was no different. First off was Stacey & Kevin’s Charleston, of which the first thing I said was “that’s better”. You may recall last week that, even in spite of them gaining a perfect score, Faye & Giovanni’s effort didn’t win me over, as I felt it too precise, too technical. By contrast, Stacey & Kevin did it well proper, with wild limbs, waggling legs and the like that made it look like an unholy mess, which is what the best ones are supposed to look like.

Their second routine was a delightful Viennese Waltz, that I enjoyed, although Judge Craig, as he seems to (do we have a psychic link?) put his finger on the thing that I did find wrong with it, which was taking too long at the beginning to get into hold…he likened it to an American Smooth Viennese Waltz at the start, which went into a straight Viennese once they got going. There are times when I do find it hard to articulate, even to myself, what I see that is wrong with a routine, given my lack of knowledge about dancing. This was the case with Joe & Dianne’s Viennese Waltz. I knew that there was something about it that I didn’t like, but I couldn’t identify what it was – I just knew that there was something wrong with it. then the judges helped me along by saying that there was too much rise and fall, which you shouldn’t have in a Viennese Waltz. For the Semi-Final, this was not Joe & Dianne’s week, as their second dance was an Argentine Tango, which was far too stompy – a sentiment with which Judge Craig and I were in agreement (although I said it first!!). Faye & Giovanni meanwhile opened with a Samba, which we all know is difficult. I mean, even me, who’s never done a Samba in my life know how difficult Samba is, because of the bounce action.

Faye acknowledged that the Samba wasn’t her dance, going so far as to say she’d like to burn her shoes, which is fair enough I suppose. To me, it certainly wasn’t worth a 10, even though it got one from Judge Bruno. But then there was HER second dance, which was also an Argentine Tango. And goodness me was it scrumptious. I absolutely loved it, and I will say so repeatedly to whoever wants to listen. I love it when Argentine Tango is done to a traditional piece of music, so that is always going to get a thumbs up, but then Faye did it so well. Judge Bruno was purring about the cadenza towards the end of the routine, although what he was really talking about was the rapid sequence of voleo adelantes that she did, and which you can enjoy for yourselves.

To me, that was worth a perfect score. Again, I’m no expert, but I didn’t see anything wrong with it, or at least, enough that could warrant taking a mark away. But, as is so often the case, Judge Craig is the hardest to please, and so they only ended up with 39. Suffice to say, I was not impressed by that.

But there we are. Despite their potential tribulations, all three couples went straight through to the final, leaving Lauren & AJ (for the first time) and Ashley & Pasha (for the third time in three weeks) to slug it out in the dance-off. Ashley & Pasha had started off with a Paso Doble that didn’t wow the judges, but for the dance-off chose their American Smooth, which certainly did, as it gave them their second perfect score of the series. It also wowed me – people can say what they like, but first and foremost they have to admit that Ashley is a beautiful dancer, and this was no exception. On the flip side, I’ve said for some time that Lauren has reached a plateau, and has shown no sign of being able to get past it. It isn’t so much a glass ceiling as one made of reinforced concrete. They started off with what was a reasonably decent Tango, although again, Judge Craig and I were in agreement about her body shape, which to me didn’t have enough of the ‘Y’ shape we’ve come to expect. Unfortunately though, they got stuck with doing a Samba as their second dance, which doesn’t do anyone any favours. Faye hated it, didn’t do especially well, in her opinion, mine and some of the judges, and got 37. Lauren, the weakest dancer left, was on a hiding to nothing and it showed when they only scored 23, which you should not be scoring at this stage. Needless to say, it was the Tango that they chose in the dance-off. I’ll be honest, the decision for me seemed harder than it might have been, because Lauren looked as if she did slightly better, while, having chosen the routine for which they got a perfect score, Ashley’s was not a perfect score performance. But, as we may have expected, it was Ashley that got the decision with the judges, and so, if you had Lauren & AJ in the sweep, then you’ve unfortunately fallen, much like Devon Loch, with the end in sight.

Moving to the leagues, we find that Ashley & Pasha’s perfect score has allowed them to open up a ten point advantage over Faye & Giovanni in the main table, while Stacey & Kevin are in third. In the ballroom table Faye & Giovanni’s lead has gone down to six points over Ashley & Pasha, with Stacey & Kevin another four points back in third, while in the latin league Ashley & Pasha’s advantage is five points over Faye & Giovanni, with Joe & Dianne this time in third. In the minor competitions, Ashley & Pasha have a 0.6 of a point advantage over Faye & Giovanni in the average score competition; their score of 39 back in Week 8 remains the highest individual weekly score, while their total of twenty 10s is one more than Faye & Giovanni.

The odds for the final, according to William Hill, are:

  • Stacey Dooley – 4/9
  • Joe Sugg – 11/4
  • Faye Tozer – 7/1
  • Ashley Roberts – 20/1

I don’t think I’ve seen it be the case that the best dancer going in to the final has been given the longest odds, but I think it’s fair to say that even Ashley has accepted that she can’t win now, as the Grand Final is based solely on the GBP’s vote, and the GBP have seemingly made it apparent that Ashley is not their choice. If that’s the case, will it be fifth time lucky for Kevin?

From the BBC

You can always tell when Strictly gets to the business end of the series, because multiple stories about it start appearing on the BBC News website. This week has been no exception:

Tabloid Titbits

 

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

So, that’s that then – we now know the line up for the Grand Final of Strictly 2018. If your couple is there, then congrats. You have a week to look forward to as you get yourselves thinking of what you might be able to do with the dosh that you could win, while for the rest of you, you can just settle down and enjoy the final as it happens. Which is more than I will be able to do as, thanks to BT Sport, Fulham v West Ham is scheduled to kick-off at 1730 on the night of the Final. So, while you’re enjoying three dances from the final couples, I’ll be freezing bits of myself off at Craven Cottage in hopes of three points.

2018 finalists

strictly-glitterball-trophy

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The Strictly Sweep – Week 11 #scd

So, we now know the semi-final line up, and I guess it was to be expected. Well, almost. What was your thinking of it? Do you agree with who has made it? I mean, obviously there will be one of you that doesn’t, because, you know, you went out of the competition and all. But what about the rest of you? And what did you think of Musicals Week? Personally, I do have reservations about the set up – I realise that the routines are being set to famous pieces of music from musical theatre, but I am not especially fond of the grand set ups, especially when they don’t really meet my expectations of what a musical is. Take Stacey & Kevin for example. Everyone raved about their American Smooth, which was to “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Miserables“. But Kevin has previous when it comes to Musicals Week, with his routines with both Kellie Bright and Louise Redknapp being absolute showstoppers.

But, they were showstoppers with plenty of the content of the dance in them. Now obviously, there is a difference between a straight Quickstep and an American Smooth, which uses a type of dance as its base. But even so, this American Smooth didn’t even feel (to me anyway) like a ballroom dance. There’s no question that she did the routine brilliantly, but I felt a bit let down by it. Mind you, that could be my innate prejudice against “Les Miserables” (It’s not a proper musical!!). Similarly, there was Faye & Giovanni’s Charleston, which ended up giving us our second perfect score of the series. It was a flawless performance…which isn’t really the point of a Charleston in my mind. It seemed very precise, and not with the manic charm that I’ve always thought a Charleston should have. As an example, here’s Danny Mac with Oti doing their Charleston:

Obviously they need to know the routine back to front, but there is an element of chaos about it as well, which I felt Faye & Giovanni simply didn’t have. Joe & Dianne meanwhile did a Salsa from “Joseph” that I did find innovative, as it involved a number of lifts, but in this case, it was Joe himself being lifted…

joe and johannes

In this instance, I did enjoy a bit of innovation, and so it seems did the judges, with another 10 being awarded by Judge Bruno. However, Judge Craig gave it an 8, and, based on his comments, I was able to predict that score using my patented split scoring system, which I maintain they should adopt, as again it would allow us to see more of the judges’ thinking. Not that the judges’ scores mean much at this stage – all of our couples scored over 30, but there are so few couples left that no matter what their score, they are in danger as the points from the leaderboard are so few. So, at this stage, with the best dancers (in theory) left, and only four to get to the final, so decent couples will be going out. But, as it stands, that won’t be Lauren & AJ. In my opinion, Lauren should have gone out some time ago, as she is the weakest dancer left, in spite of the fact that she did well with their American Smooth. But, the GBP elected to vote them into the Semi-Final, meaning that it was Ashley & Pasha and Charles & Karen in the dance-off. Something that I said when watching on Saturday was that it doesn’t matter if Ashley is in the dance-off every week from now on (let’s not forget that this was her second dance-off running), because she is going to get to the final. I loved their Quickstep, and maintain that she is possibly the most gifted celebrity to take part, which no doubt has gotten up the collective noses of the GBP. In this case, once again, it didn’t matter a jot, although Charles & Karen did themselves no favours trying to do a Rumba to “Maria” from “West Side Story“. Ashley & Pasha went through unanimously, and so, if you had Charles & Karen then I’m afraid you fall just short.

Moving to the leagues, Faye & Giovanni’s perfect score means that they close the gap in the main table on Ashley & Pasha to just a single point, with Stacey & Kevin moving up to third. In the ballroom table, Faye & Giovanni have an eleven point lead over Ashley & Pasha, with Stacey & Kevin in third, while in the latin league it’s Ashley & Pasha with the eleven point advantage over Faye & Giovanni, and Joe & Dianne in third. In the minor competitions, Faye & Giovanni are closing the gap in the average score competition, with just 0.7 of a point between them, while Stacey & Kevin are a full three points further back in third; Faye & Giovanni’s perfect score means we now count back in the highest weekly score competition, with that now being Ashley & Pasha’s 39 from Week 8, while in the number of 10s competition it’s Ashley & Pasha top on a total of sixteen, with Faye & Giovanni just one behind on fifteen.

The current odds, according to William Hill, are:

  • Stacey Dooley – 8/11
  • Joe Sugg – 9/4
  • Lauren Steadman – 13/2
  • Faye Tozer – 8/1
  • Ashley Roberts – 14/1

I don’t know what to make of the fact that the two best dancers have the longest odds.

Claudia and Janette – comedy gold

Now, we all love Claudia. Well, you may not, but I do. It would be a source of delight if Tess wasn’t around, but I would be bereft without Claudia. However, i think the BBC are missing a trick not coming up with a silent comedy format for her and Janette. Every week, when the telephone lines are opened, and Claudia is reading out the Ts & Cs, Janette is always up the front trying to put her off. I think they are delightful, and something should be found for them as a duo. But what do I know? I watch Strictly religiously.

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

So, just two weeks left, and we’ll know who is this year’s champion. Semi-final week means two dances, two chances to impress both the judges and the GBP, but also two chances to f*ck it up. Are you all set?

The Strictly Sweep – Week 10 #scd

I was having a conversation with one of you this week, and the excitement that you feel when, after years of getting the useless ones in the draw, you finally get someone that could possibly win. But, I was at pains to point out that it is not always the best dancers that end up winning the Glitterball, as we have often seen in the past. This week proved no exception to that. We’re getting towards the endgame now, and so it is getting to the point where the couples of real quality are now in danger of the dance-off. You hope that, with one or two of the bottom end surviving that the GBP will do ‘the right thing’ and treat it as a dance competition. But, never let it be said that the GBP, in their infinite wisdom, do the right thing. But, to the good first, and boy was there some good. I refer of course to both Faye & Giovanni and Stacey & Kevin. First of all, hats off to Giovanni, who started the week choreographing an American Smooth but, having injured his back, meaning he was unable to go through with the lifts, on the advice of the physio he switched the routine to a Waltz. And WHAT a Waltz it was. A routine of such exquisite grace, that Faye accomplished so beautifully, that it had me almost speechless. Actually, it didn’t really. What it had me saying was…

And then it had me saying “WTF!!??” Because I for the life of me couldn’t see why Judge Craig didn’t give it a 10. I know he’s incredibly picky by this stage of the competition, especially compared to the other judges, who can have a tendency to throw maximum scores around like confetti, and I know that, in spite of having watched every series of Strictly, I’m still but an enthusiastic amateur, not really knowing a great deal of what I’m talking about. But I’d love to know what it was the he saw to knock a mark off and only give it a 9.

And then there was Stacey & Kevin’s Paso Doble. We know that Kevin is the king of the Paso, so he generally doesn’t hold back when that comes up in the rotation. But he almost literally threw the kitchen sink at that routine. It had everything you could possibly consider putting into a Paso routine, and Stacey handled it like a pro. So much so that they got their first 10s of the series, scoring a total of 39 (yes, it was Judge Craig again), and putting them joint top of the leaderboard. This was the first time since Week 5 that Ashley & Pasha were not at the summit, and you could see the reason clearly, even before the judges gave their feedback. In their Samba, she was too hard and staccato, with none of the smooth bounce that you’d expect. I knew that it wasn’t going to be a good one with the opening Samba Roll (remember that?). Almost all of the judges marked them down on various things, with the one exception being Judge Bruno who, as we might expect, has latched onto his favourites now and won’t allow any problems to get in the way of him getting his big one out. But, on this occasion, I think my thoughts chimed with the thoughts of the viewers:

Then there was Joe & Dianne’s Couple’s Choice (Street & Commerical) routine, to one of my top tunes of the nineties, “Jump Around” by House of Pain. I wasn’t really sure to what to make of it in all honesty. As I’ve said before, it’s difficult for me to appreciate both the Contemporary and the Street & Commercial categories, as that is not dancing I have paid a great deal of attention to in all of my years. I do know however that it struck me as not having been done especially well, which does explain why both Judge Craig and Judge Darcey marked it down. As you would expect, Judge Bruno gave it a 10, but what was unexpected was the 10 from Head Judge Shirley. That being said, it’s clear that there is a gap in the standard between those at the top, and those at the bottom. Charles & Karen have a tendency to blow hot and cold – last week they were very hot, whereas this week they were lukewarm at best, having admitted to a number of problems trying to get their Tango right. But, both Graeme & Oti and Lauren & AJ have reached a plateau that they really don’t look like breaking through, and it was really no surprise to have both of them bottom of the leaderboard, and no surprise also to have Graeme & Oti in the dance-off for the third week running. What was a surprise was that Lauren & AJ got through, which did lead me to say out loud “are people voting for Lauren because she’s missing an arm?”. So, the tense music as the final two couples waited to find out who was in the dance-off and it was…not Charles & Karen but Ashley & Pasha.

when you find out
“Are you absolutely positive about that Tess?”

That to me summed up something that I have been considering for a while – Ashley is a brilliant dancer, possibly the best celebrity we’ve ever seen on Strictly, but how much support does she have with the GBP? She’s American, and she’s had a considerable amount of dance training in the past. That has a tendency to put the GBP off, which is also what I said in the conversation I mentioned at the beginning. It’s likely then that, if they are to avoid the dance-off again, they will have to be top of the leaderboard every week. Of course though, the dance-off was the closest thing to a foregone conclusion you’re likely to see, and so, if you had Graeme & Oti in the sweep, then that’s it for you for another year.

Moving to the leagues, it’s very much as you were. Ashley & Pasha remain top of the main table, although Faye & Giovanni have cut their lead to fifteen points, while Joe & Dianne are thirty points back in third. In the ballroom table, Faye & Giovanni are sixteen points clear of Ashley & Pasha, who have a two point advantage over Stacey & Kevin in third, while in the latin league it’s Ashley & Pasha with the seventeen point advantage over Faye & Giovanni, who are a point clear of Joe & Dianne in third. In the minor competitions, Ashley & Pasha are still clear in the average score competition, although the gap to Faye & Giovanni is now less than a point, with Stacey & Kevin still in third; Ashley & Pasha’s perfect score in Blackpool remains the highest weekly score, while their 10 from Judge Bruno puts them on a total of 14, three ahead of Faye & Giovanni, with Joe & Dianne a distant third with a total of five.

The odds, according to William Hill, are:

  • Stacey Dooley – Evens
  • Joe Sugg – 7/4
  • Faye Tozer – 8/1
  • Ashley Roberts – 9/1
  • Charles Venn – 14/1
  • Lauren Steadman – 20/1

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with odds that short with this many people left in the competition. Is Stacey going to be the one that finally gets Kevin the Glitterball?

Tabloid Titbits

 

Who are you?

Like anyone, I’m interested to see how much this particular venture of mine is read, so I periodically look at the stats that, amongst other things, tell me from which countries people have found their way here. Obviously, the vast majority of you are in the UK, while there are also regular clicks from both the USA and Finland – this is unsurprising, as I post the link to each post on Facebook, and I know people in both of those countries. However, there also seem to be regular readers in both Austria and Hong Kong, which puts me at a loss, as I’m fairly sure I don’t know anyone in either of those places. I can only imagine that someone there is clicking on the #scd hashtag as it comes up on Twitter. Still, it would be nice to know who they are, and what has drawn them, if not specifically to this place, then to Strictly generally.

Zoe likes me

It’s always nice when you get a like on Twitter from a celeb. So it was nice when this came up in my notifications this week:

Zoe likes me

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

Next week is Musicals Week, the antepenultimate of our Milestone weeks. It’s also the week that is classed as the Quarter-Final, which means there are just three weeks left until the Grand Final. Just three more weeks of myriad musings from Yours Truly. I bet you can’t wait for it to be over. But it isn’t yet!! So, I’ll leave you with a routine to “Hot, Hot, Hot” by Arrow, which was also used this weekend.

 

The Strictly Sweep – Week 9 #scd

Well, that was one hell of an opening wasn’t it!! Sod the competition; let’s just have more of the brilliant Gloria Estefan. In fact, just for you lot, I’ve put together a full playlist of the five track medley she did in the intro to Saturday’s live show. But, of course, there’s the dancing to think about too. So yes – Blackpool. What can we say about Blackpool? We can say that a number of couples definitely brought their A game up the M6 with them, given that there were a total of eleven 10s awarded, one of which came from Judge Craig. I am becoming more of the opinion that Ashley could be the most gifted celebrity we’ve seen on Strictly yet – yes, I know that she has a history in dance that many of her predecessors don’t, but in a situation like that there is all the more pressure to actually perform. She should be getting big scores every week, so the fact that she is shows what a fabulous dancer she is. And thus it was that she ended up with the first perfect score of the series – no mean feat when you consider it was in the Tower Ballroom, and she and Pasha were doing a Jive. All you would have needed to throw in was ‘I’m Still Standing’ as the song. Still, I’d imagine it would still take a pair of glitterballs THIS BIG to award a Jive a perfect score in Blackpool, so we know how good it was. Below Ashley & Pasha though, you had a queue for second spot on the leaderboard with not one, not two, but three couples scoring 38. The ubiquitous Faye & Giovanni were there, naturally enough, but were joined by both Charles & Karen and Joe & Dianne, each for routines of differing style but similar quality. First, there was Faye & Giovanni’s fierce Paso Doble. Again, Faye has something of a background in dance (although possibly not as extensive as Ashley’s), so it is only to be expected that she should be getting high scores each week. But again, she does have to live up to it, and we see each week that she is, as she and Giovanni are almost constantly on the shoulder of Ashley & Pasha. But, neither Charles nor Joe has any such background, and so for them to do as well as they did, in such difficult routines (Samba and Quickstep respectively) shows how far they’ve come along since the start of the competition. Indeed, not only were they Charles’s first 10s, but they were also Karen’s. And I mean ever. I had no idea that in the six and a half series she’s been doing Strictly, Karen had never been awarded a 10 before. I wonder if their Tango next week will get them there? Although, looking at Charles’s camp Tango face, I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

Charles tango face

However, something else that I have noticed, particularly this series – there has been something of a lack of Samba Rolls whenever we’ve seen a Samba being performed, which have been a staple of the Samba since I’ve been watching Strictly – are they going out of fashion or something?

Then there was Joe & Dianne and their Quickstep, with Judge Darcey so impressed that she likened our erstwhile thatcher to Fred Astaire. That’s going some I think, but there’s no doubt that Joe has innate natural ability, which he has been showing since week 1. Although, did anyone else notice the long section in the middle of their routine where they were out of hold? Again I raise the issue of the 10-second rule that Judge Craig made so much of last year with Debbie McGee (and yet made no mention of with Alexandra Burke). Although, he did score Joe & Dianne an eight, when the other three judges gave 10s. Perhaps he would have given a nine had it not been for the extended period out of hold.

This brings us to the rest, although I feel somewhat aggrieved that Stacey & Kevin are down among ‘the rest’. They kicked the show off with a Salsa that Kevin almost literally threw the kitchen sink at, and which Stacey performed admirably. While they got a fairly good score of 33, with two nines, Judge Craig only gave it a seven. I have to come clean with you all and say that this annoyed me, as I thought their performance was better than just a seven. Then I got really narked when he subsequently gave Graeme & Oti a seven.

And I apparently was not the only one, as there were a number of posts on the Strictly Facebook group (yes, I have joined that) saying much the same.

stacey undermarked

I don’t want to suggest she is being victimised, but one does have to ask why are Stacey & Kevin’s marks lower than some of the others (discounting their Couple’s Choice, the highest they’ve received is 35 for their Tango). As for Graeme & Oti, well, their Couple’s Choice did seem a bit ‘am dram’ to me – Judge Craig was right in his criticism, as it just wasn’t the right routine (and yet he gave it the same score as Stacey & Kevin); doing a proper musical theatre style routine takes a skills set that Graeme, for all his pluck and gameness, doesn’t have. Kate & Aljaz meanwhile did an American Smooth that really was just…meh. As with the lack of Samba Rolls, there seems to be an epidemic of safeness with the choreography of American Smooth – always go for the Foxtrot. So, in spite of a wonderfully uplifting song (‘Everlasting Love’ by Love Affair), that could have lent itself itself to a Quickstep, with exaggerated movements thrown, instead Aljaz made it something of a staid Foxtrot. Now, we have seen American Smooths in the past on Strictly that have been based around something other than a Foxtrot, so it isn’t beyond the realms of an imaginative choreographer to do something daring. But, even if you do use a Foxtrot as the base of the routine, it’s still possible to get a stellar routine out of it if you throw the kitchen sink at it.

And finally there was Lauren & AJ. Oh dear. Everything about that Argentine Tango was wrong, starting with the song and working down. I wonder if AJ managed to catch some disease when he was out being Celebrity Hunted for Stand Up To Cancer that has buggered up his ability to determine the right music for the right dance. I do also think though that Lauren may have reached her limit – I mentioned a few weeks ago when they did their Couple’s Choice that she wasn’t extending and pointing her toes, which made her lines look unfinished and ugly (and this in spite of the fact that she has fabulous legs), and this was apparent with their routine on Saturday. I would have put good money on them being in the bottom two. As it was though, it was Graeme & Oti against Kate & Aljaz. This was a hard one for me to call, as I didn’t feel Graeme & Oti did worse than in the live show, while Kate & Aljaz were competent in getting through the routine. As it was, the judges were unanimous in bringing Graeme & Oti with them into next week, meaning that if you had Kate & Aljaz in the sweep, Blackpool is the end of the line for you.

Moving to the leagues, Ashley & Pasha’s perfect score, and the bonus points that go with it, have seen them take a nineteen point lead in the main table over Faye & Giovanni, who in turn are a whopping 26 points clear of Joe & Dianne in third. In the ballroom table it remains as you were, with Faye & Giovanni retaining their nine point lead over Ashley & Pasha, who themselves are two points clear of Stacey & Kevin in third, while in the latin league Ashley & Pasha have a twelve point advantage over Faye & Giovanni, with Joe & Dianne in third. In the minor competitions, Ashley & Pasha now have a massive 1.3 point lead in the average score competition over Faye & Giovanni, with Stacey & Kevin and Joe & Dianne 3.4 points further back. Ashley & Pasha’s perfect score is now the highest individual weekly score, meaning that we are now moving into countback territory should anyone else get a 40, while their four 10s this week means they now have a total of thirteen, which is five clear of Faye & Giovanni in the Number of 10s competition.

The latest odds, according to William Hill, are:

  • Stacey Dooley – 6/4
  • Joe Sugg – 2/1
  • Ashley Roberts – 11/2
  • Faye Tozer – 6/1
  • Charles Venn – 9/1
  • Lauren Steadman – 14/1
  • Graeme Swann – 66/1

Now, normally I wouldn’t comment on the odds, but that does seem a little harsh on Swanny.

“Strictly Come Dancing: How (and why) it moves to Blackpool every year”

Tabloid Titbits

Sporting success

We know that sportspeople are regulars on Strictly, so it’s interesting (at least to me) to look at some of the statistics:

2003: Martin Offiah (rugby league) – out week six
2004: Denise Lewis (athletics) – runner-up; Roger Black (athletics) – wk 6
2005: Darren Gough (cricket) – winner; Colin Jackson (athletics) – runner-up; Dennis Taylor (snooker) – wk 5
2006: Mark Ramprakash (cricket) – winner; Matt Dawson (rugby union) – runner-up; Peter Schmeichel (football) – wk 7
2007: Kenny Logan (rugby union) – wk 9; John Barnes (football) – wk 8; Gabby Logan (gymnastics) – wk 4; Willie Thorne (snooker) – wk 3
2008: Austin Healey (rugby union) – runner-up; Andrew Castle (tennis) – wk 7; Mark Foster (swimming) – wk 6
2009: Jade Johnson (athletics) – wk 10 (injury); Phil Tufnell (cricket) – wk 9; Joe Calzaghe (boxing) – wk 5; Richard Dunwoody (horse racing) – wk 2; Martina Hingis (tennis) – wk 1
2010: Gavin Henson (rugby union) – wk 11; Peter Shilton (football) – wk 4
2011: Robbie Savage (football) – wk 10; Audley Harrison (boxing) – wk 7
2012: Louis Smith (gymnastics) – winner; Michael Vaughan (cricket) – wk 9; Victoria Pendleton (cycling) – wk 8
2013: Ben Cohen (rugby union) – wk 9; Tony Jacklin (golf) – wk 1
2014: Judy Murray (tennis) – wk 8; Thom Evans (rugby union) – wk 5
2015: Anthony Ogogo (boxing) – wk 3; Iwan Thomas (athletics) – wk 2
2016: Claudia Fragapane (gymnastics) – wk 12; Greg Rutherford (athletics) – wk 9
2017: Jonnie Peacock (athletics) – wk 9
2018: Graeme Swann (cricket); Lauren Steadman (triathlon)
strictly average scores

What is interesting is that, although gymnasts overall have the highest average score (33.7), which is perhaps to be expected, the sportsperson with the highest individual average score is Austin Healey, who took part in the first year I started doing this (34.5). Yes, rugby players have done well, but it is possibly a little surprising to find one as the highest scoring sportsman. Except when you watch Austin dance…

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

So, we’re now through the third of our milestone weeks, and it’s back to business as usual at Elstree on Saturday. Except not quite, as next week is the annual ‘-a-thon’. You may recall in the past we’ve had Waltz-a-thon, Quickstep-a-thon, Swing-a-thon and numerous others. Well, next week we’re getting Lindy hop-a-thon. This is in addition to the couples’ regular routines, and is their first taste of learning two dances in a week. That should make life interesting.

The Strictly Sweep – Week 8 #scd

Controversy seems to stalk the halls of Strictly this series, given the number of stories that we seem to be seeing in the press. I mean, obviously that happens every series, but we aren’t talking about those right now. Would it be fair to suggest that negative publicity does for a contestant with the GBP? I did say that, following their difficulties, Seann & Katya would need to smash it every week and not give the GBP the chance to put them in the dance-off. Because once you’re in the dance-off, you’re at the mercy of the judges. Is that something we saw this week?

First off – the leaderboard. Once again, we saw Ashley & Pasha at the summit, with another almost perfect score, this time following their Couple’s Choice (Contemporary) routine. I’ll say here and now – I don’t know how to react to a routine like that, because it isn’t one that falls into my experience. I am a fan of musical theatre, and a fan of the classic Hollywood musical, so I can watch one of the Theatre/Jazz routines (such as Charles & Karen’s) quite happily, while being a child of the 80s means that I have grown up with MTV and music video, and so I can also enjoy the Street/Commercial style (like Stacey & Kevin’s). But the Contemporary does leave me a bit cold. I can appreciate it, but it doesn’t really stir me. Clearly though it stirs the judges – I said last week that Ashley is a joy to watch, and that hasn’t changed. However, I am conscious of the fact that the GBP tend to resent when the judges apparently favour one competitor over the rest, as we’ve seen in the past. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the best dancer will win the Glitterball. Faye & Giovanni remain constant as the Northern Star on their shoulder with a delightful Jive that I really enjoyed, and that Judge Bruno certainly enjoyed, even going so far as to say that Faye’s chaîné turns bore the hallmarks of the great Ann Miller. Watch for yourself and you can see what Judge Bruno was talking about.

This was a routine that was much more up my alley, which got me a little annoyed at Head Judge Shirley’s unfathomable criticism, not to mention it being one of the few occasions where Judge Craig awards a higher mark than another judge. Indeed, there is a degree of anger apparently making the rounds that Head Judge Shirley scored this an 8, which was the same as she gave to Kate & Aljaz for their Quickstep. No doubt that was a good routine, sparky, light, just as a Quickstep should be, and a vast improvement on last week’s Argentine Tango, but was it worth the same score as Faye & Giovanni’s Jive? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. But another one that was right up my alley was Charles & Karen’s Charleston that had Judge Bruno purring almost as much, combining traditional Charleston with a soupçon of hip-hop. I do feel that Charles has been hard done by, getting stuck on 25 as a score for so long, and being in the dance-off three times. Obviously who is in the bottom two is up to the GBP, so one does wonder what he’d have to do to get them on side, rather than having to smash it every week. Of course, the best thing would be for both to happen. And so, the bottom two, and the controversy that I mentioned. Since they topped the leaderboard and got the first 10 of the series in Week 5, Danny & Amy have been on a downward trajectory, with this being the second week running they have been bottom with the judges. Last week they avoided the dance-off, but this time they had the red light, where they were joined by Graeme & Oti. For the second week running, it went to a split decision, this time with Judge Craig going for Danny & Amy, while Judge Darcey and Judge Bruno plumping for Graeme & Oti, leaving the decision to Head Judge Shirley. So it was that she elected to put Graeme & Oti through to Blackpool, leaving Danny & Amy at the side of the road. And so, I’m afraid that if you had Danny & Amy in the sweep, you too have missed the coach to the seaside.

Moving to the leagues, it is much as you were, with Ashley & Pasha extending their lead in the main table over Faye & Giovanni to six points, while Stacey & Kevin are now a long way back in third. In the ballroom table, Faye & Giovanni have an advantage of nine points over Ashley & Pasha, with Stacey & Kevin two points further behind in third, while in the latin league it’s Ashley & Pasha with a five point lead over Joe & Dianne, while Faye & Giovanni are another six points back in third. In the minor competitions, Ashley & Pasha have extended their advantage in the average score competition to 1.25 points over Faye & Giovanni, and a massive 4.5 points over Stacey & Kevin in third. For the second successive week, they also received an almost perfect score (with only Judge Craig not giving them a big one), while they are now three 10s clear of Faye & Giovanni in the number of 10s competition.

William Hill have the remaining competitors’ odds as follows:

  • Stacey Dooley – 5/4
  • Joe Sugg – 2/1
  • Faye Tozer – 11/2
  • Ashley Roberts – 6/1
  • Lauren Steadman – 12/1
  • Charles Venn – 20/1
  • Graeme Swann – 40/1
  • Kate Silverton – 100/1

Tabloid Titbits

We know that Danny escaped the dance-off in spite of being bottom of the leaderboard in Week 7, so can the negative publicity that has come out in the week just gone be seen as a factor in his apparent downturn with the GBP? Again, that’s for you to consider. But, it’s fair to say that his Mum, who was in the audience, didn’t appear to be especially cheery.

Shut up Tess

The weeks go by, and my annoyance with Tess shows no signs of abating. She is taking inane comments to a new level every Saturday. Indeed, it amuses me no end that Judge Craig does actually do what he said he does, and avoid her comments and questions when he is speaking. I’m happy to entertain suggestions as to how Tess could be made to be quiet. Petition? Deputation? Psychopathic assassin? Given that there was a psychopathic assassin in the audience, looking especially sinister, evidently someone else has had the idea.

Villanelle Strictly

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

So, we now know the lineup for the trip to Blackpool, and we can board the coach to the seaside. Blackpool is the Wembley of Ballroom, and can bring the best out of competitors. Just like Wembley, the floor is huge, not to mention being sprung, and therefore much bouncier. We’ve seen over the years some fabulous Blackpool routines (you can tell where this is going); we saw the first ever perfect score in Blackpool, but I’m not going to show you that one. Instead, a classic routine that everyone should remember, but might have faded into the mists of time. Blackpool Week in 2014, and it’s Simon Webbe and Kristina Rhianoff’s Argentine Tango.

If there’s any routines you’d like to see on here – classic routines, classically terrible routines, or just ones that you liked, let me know and I’ll add them on here.

 

The Strictly Sweep – Week 7 #scd

So, that was a week then. What a pair of performances at the top of the leaderboard; significant improvements from a number of competitors; and someone totally unexpected right at the bottom. And let’s start with the very top. It was totally appropriate that you had Ashley & Pasha followed immediately by Faye & Giovanni in the running order, because they are unquestionably now the class of the field. Heck, their performances led me to make a couple of my very infrequent social media comments about Strictly:

We’ve seen some wonderful routines this competition so far, but I think Ashley & Pasha’s Foxtrot has to be the pick of them. Head Judge Shirley said it was the best Foxtrot she’s seen on Strictly, which is going some, but there was no doubt that it was wonderfully light, packed with content, brilliantly danced, and an all round credit to the show. But then we had it followed by Faye & Giovanni’s Tango – Judge Craig annoyed me somewhat in saying (at least that’s what I got from his comments) that if it hadn’t been for the cube concept, it would have been worth a ten. While yes, his experience comes in musicals and theatre, first off he’s there to judge the dancing, and not the stage set-up. If he thought Faye’s dancing was worth a ten, he should have given it a ten. But then we have the chasing pack to consider, who would probably be considered to be Danny & Amy, Stacey & Kevin, and Joe & Dianne. Of the three of them, Danny is probably the most naturally gifted, given that he does have a history in dance, as you may have been aware beforehand:

So, it was perhaps a surprise, given that they topped the leaderboard, not to mention getting the first ten of the series only two weeks ago, that they were now bottom with the judges after their Quickstep. But, even I could see that it was not the greatest performance in the world – in the VT beforehand, we heard how Amy had chucked stuff upon stuff upon stuff into the routine, which was also pretty quick. With a routine like that, you need to be on it from the first step, and Danny just wasn’t. But, it’s Stacey that is without question the most improved. Week on week she gets better and better, and her scores keep improving – four nines this week, which will lead to a ten before too much longer. Given that she is always there or there abouts, has been the favourite with the bookies for the last few weeks, and is just so damned nice, putting a fiver on her may not be the dumbest thing to do. We also had the first Argentine Tango of the series. You probably know that the Argentine Tango is my favourite dance – possibly my favourite routine in all of Strictly is Mark Ramprakash and Karen Hardy’s Argentine Tango from the semi-final of Series 4 (back in the days when it was the Semi-Final dance). So, imagine my disappointment when I learned it was to be Kate & Aljaz doing it. Now, I do like Kate, really, but as the competition has advanced, it has become obvious that she is less Natasha Kaplinsky and more Naga Munchetty. So, it was such a shame to see the first Argentine Tango, which should be light and flicky in its movement be so plodding and heavy. As an example, you may have seen in the pre-dance VT that Kate’s friend and colleague Katie Derham came to watch their rehearsal – the same Katie Derham that got to the final three years ago. Just to provide a contrast, you can see Katie’s Argentine Tango with Anton from their competition, to give an idea of what it is more supposed to look like.

However, it seems that the GBP are on the side of both Danny and Kate as, despite their poor scores, they both got through without recourse to the dance-off. Instead it was two couples in the unfortunate middle zone of the leaderboard that had to go again, with Ranj & Janette up against Charles & Karen – yes, despite getting out of the 25-club for the first time in a traditional routine, Charles & Karen were in the dance-off for the third time. But, as I mentioned way back at the time of the launch show, I could see that there was something of a dancer about Charles. The fact that he and Karen have gotten through two dance-offs says that the judges feel the same. This time though, they were up against a similarly competitive couple. I for one wouldn’t have wanted to make a choice based on the dance-off, and was hoping that it would have to go to Head Judge Shirley for her casting vote. So it proved, with her vote going to Charles & Karen. So, alas, it means that if you had Ranj & Janette in the sweep, then your time is up.

Moving to the leagues, it remains as you were at the top of the main table, with Ashley & Pasha just three points ahead of Faye & Giovanni, and Stacey & Kevin a massive 21 points further behind in third. In the ballroom table it’s Faye & Giovanni with the advantage, this time nine points ahead of Ashley & Pasha, with again Stacey & Kevin in third, while in the latin league it’s Ashley & Pasha with a ten point advantage over Joe & Dianne, and Ranj & Janette back in third. In the minor competitions, we find Ashley & Pasha still top of the average score competition, by a full point now over Faye & Giovanni, with Stacey & Kevin now more than 3 points behind in third; in the highest weekly score competition, Ashley & Pasha’s 39 this week now puts them top of that competition, while their three tens to Faye & Giovanni’s two this week now puts them on a total of 6 for the competition.

The latest odds, according to William Hill, are:

  • Stacey Dooley – 6/4
  • Fayer Tozer – 10/3
  • Joe Sugg – 10/3
  • Ashley Roberts – 6/1
  • Danny John-Jules – 12/1
  • Charles Venn – 20/1
  • Lauren Steadman – 20/1
  • Graeme Swann – 40/1
  • Kate Silverton – 40/1

Tabloid Titbits

I don’t know if you saw the picture of Stacey this week – you may have noted on the VT that she ended up in hospital, and it looked serious enough to have us thinking “yikes”:

As it was, we all saw what came out of the two days of missed training. But no doubt we’ll be seeing more tweets, Instagram posts and the like of strained muscles, collision injuries and the like, now that we’re through halfway.

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

And now that we’re through halfway, the eyes are on the next prize – whoever gets through next week, gets a place on the coach to Blackpool. Of course everyone goes into the competition wanting to lift the Glitterball Trophy – but how many of them, once the dancing actually starts, say to themselves, “I want to get to Blackpool”? Because getting as far as Blackpool means anything goes. It’s gonna be a good one.

The Strictly Sweep – Week 6 #scd

So how was Halloween Week for you? I have to say, it’s all getting a bit dreary as far as yours truly is concerned. I haven’t seen anything spectacularly innovative for ages – it is being overshadowed by the costumes, the make-up, the props. Not that we didn’t see interesting stuff. People seemed to love the end of Stacey & Kevin’s Tango, which saw her take the lead, while Faye & Giovanni’s Couple’s Choice (Theatre/Jazz) routine was, to my amateur eye, a veritable frisson of Fosse like fantasticness, which was right up Judge Craig’s street.

faye giovanni
Guy Levy/PA

But there was little in any of it that was especially “halloweeny” – Ashley & Pasha’s Charleston could have just as easily been done with Ashley in a flapper dress and cloche hat and Pasha in a dinner jacket, while did AJ really need the hair extensions to do his and Lauren’s Paso Doble (as FIERCE as it was, and boy was Lauren fierce)? Indeed, there were things that really weren’t that good – Kate and Aljaz did a Rumba that was, frankly, pretty dull. I know we can’t really compare Kate and Ashley as dancers, because it would take a quantum leap of Sam Beckett proportions for Kate to be on the same level as Ashley as a dancer, but Ashley’s rumba, which you may remember scored 36, had a good level of “oomph”, which Kate just didn’t have. Similarly, Ranj & Janette did a Jive to “Monster Mash” (again with “Monster Mash”?) that probably would have worked better as a Charleston. Let’s face it, there were some pretty poor routines, and some good routines, but (as the scores showed) two outstanding ones. We pretty much saw at the start of the series that there were likely to be two couples WAAAY out ahead of the rest, and this week showed it, as both Ashley & Pasha and Faye & Giovanni scored 39. That is a statement of intent and no mistake. Possibly the other three major contenders, on skill levels, were all some way back. That says something. But what about the other end? Well, we had three couples level at the bottom of the leaderboard, and one of them, Seann & Katya, did end up in the dance-off, where they were joined by Graeme & Oti. Neither of them were particular good in the live show, and neither of them were particularly brilliant in the dance-off either – Judge Craig pointed out that one of them had timing issues, and the other had footwork issues. As it was, it wasn’t second time lucky for Seann & Katya, who went out on a unanimous vote. And so, alas, if you had “The Bad Boy”, your time in the sweep is done.

Moving to the leagues, it’s as your were in the main table, with Ashley & Pasha still a single point clear of Faye & Giovanni, while Danny & Amy and Stacey & Kevin are level on points, but a long way behind, in third. In the ballroom table, Faye & Giovanni are still top, with a seven-point advantage over Stacey & Kevin in second, while Danny & Amy are two points further back in third, while in the latin league Ashley & Pasha have opened up a big lead of 17 points over Joe & Dianne, with Danny & Amy another point behind in third. In the minor competitions, Ashley & Pasha have a full point lead over Faye & Giovanni in the average score competition, while Danny & Amy and Stacey & Kevin sit 3.33 points back level in third. In the highest individual weekly score competition, the 39s scored by Ashley & Pasha and Faye & Giovanni mean that Danny & Amy’s 37 from last week remains the highest individual score, while both Ashley & Pasha and Faye & Giovanni’s three tens put them joint top of the number of 10s competition.

The current odds, according to William Hill, are:

  • Stacey Dooley – 7/4
  • Faye Tozer – 7/2
  • Joe Sugg – 4/1
  • Ashley Roberts – 11/2
  • Danny John-Jules – 12/1
  • Charles Venn – 16/1
  • Lauren Steadman – 20/1
  • Graeme Swan – 33/1
  • Kate Silverton – 40/1
  • Ranj Singh – 50/1

Tabloid titbits

The elephant in the room

elephant

I guess we should discuss the elephant in the room – or at least the elephant in my room – which is Stacey & Kevin’s Tango. Many of you will be aware of my history with that particular programme, which goes back a very long way. Some of you may also be aware that my history with it has ended for now:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.

And yet, that’s not the reason. Some of you may be aware of why. So imagine my disappointment when I learned what Stacey & Kevin would be dancing to, because I knew precisely how it would be done, with Stacey as Thirteen. And so it was. They could have done something interesting – a look back at perhaps an iconic pairing from the Classic series, as a way of bringing it back to the consciousness (I thought the Seventh Doctor and Ace).
landscape-1500657893-doctor-who-aceOr, something even more radical – if there was an insistence on Stacey dressed as what we have now, then the Doctor dancing with himself, with Kevin in a big curly wig and overlong scarf. Now that would have been an interesting routine. It would certainly have meant that he wouldn’t have had to keep pushing back his handles to hear what was going on.

Milestone Tracker

  • Movie Week
  • Halloween Week
  • Blackpool
  • Musicals Week
  • Semi-Final Week
  • The Grand Final

Well, that’s two milestones down. The next one comes in three weeks, and that’s the big one – Blackpool. We often say that the Tower Ballroom is like the Wembley Stadium of ballroom dancing. Oh, it’s Wembley, Lord’s, Twickenham, Wimbledon all rolled into one, and as grand a venue as any of them. Which explains why everyone is so desperate to get there. Who will make it? Well, you’ll just have to watch and find out.