What a week it's been for Strictly Come Dancing. Just a week after losing Jade Johnson to a ligament injury, and a fortnight after Laila Rouass sprained her ankle hours before the show, Ali Bastian fell on her foot in training for the Charleston on Monday. A shell-shocked looking Brian Fortuna told Claudia on ITT on Wednesday night how he'd taken her to a specialist on Tuesday morning and she's had all sorts of tests. Thankfully there's no fracture or ligament injury, but her bone is badly bruised. Ouch.
The Charleston is a lively and energetic dance which requires lots of jumping and swivelly ankles so I can imagine how painful and unpleasant training must have been for Ali this week. Team Awesome, as Ali and Brian are colloquially known by their ever growing legion of fans, are usually right up at the top of the "hours trained" leader board, but as of Thursday's ITT were 10 hours down on Chris and Ola. It would be a miracle if their performance came anywhere close to the perfection they achieved with their Viennese Waltz at Blackpool.
For that reason, I'm quite worried about them tonight, so they are going to need every single vote. There's only five couples left and if they end up mid table, they could easily end up in the dance off. Natalie and Chris are, rightly, very popular. They may not get as high marks from the Judges but I suspect they run away with viewer votes. Neither has yet been tested with a dance off. Laila and Anton have had a couple of off weeks but the Charleston should suit them and they seem to be having fun with it.
If their performance has already been compromised by Ali's injury, then there is a possibility that the they could be eliminated in the dance-off. We know that this is only a blip in a series of amazing dances from them and it would be so unfair if they had to leave before their time.
Ricky may have the torso and the tricks, and he can certainly move, but Ali's graceful, often fragile, balletic style of dance is absolutely gorgeous. The Judges keep commenting on her arms and they are right - always so perfectly and precisely placed. Her attention to that sort of details is great. Ricky and Ali are by far the best dancers in the competition, and I guess the difference between them is like that between exquisite crystal and a marathon fireworks display. Both are great to watch.
Apart from the brilliant dances they've given us, from that perfect, enchanting Viennese Waltz, to last week's beautiful foxtrot, to the cheeky cha cha cha to their elegant and glamorous American Smooth, they are such a lovely pair. They obviously get on, whether or not they are actually an item. If they're not already, my guess is it's only a matter of time, but it's up to them.
I've been impressed too with the way that Brian goes out of his way to engage with their supporters. He often has some marathon Twitter sessions and he does make an effort to respond to everybody. I've had several replies from him, much to my surprise. He's also active on Facebook, too, not that the technology will let me into his page to link to it.
So, for great dancing by lovely people who are proactive about keeping in touch with their fans, there's no better team than Ali and Brian. Here's hoping they stay in tonight.
Here's a reminder of their brilliant American Smooth.