Thursday, 4 November 2010

Spooky Saturday - the Strictly Hallowe'en Special Review

This show could just as easily been subtitled "make up department at play". It was great to see them emerge from their sparkly glittery world and go for the sinister approach.

The first indication we had of their talents was when the show opened with a display of cape twiddling by some half naked young men - the male professionals including former and much missed Strictly dancer Matthew Cutler.

Tess had decided not to go with Hallowe'en black, but wore a split to the thigh reddish brown sparkly dress with a belt that looked like it had bolts of lightening on it.

I always thought that James Jordan was a horny devil (sorry, couldn't resist) but seeing him clad in red, with red eye make up and devil horns was a sight to behold. He and Pamela's jive to a not very good version of Devil Gate Drive was very, very difficult. Starting on the mezzanine, Pamela let no trace show of the difficulty of her descent down the stairs, which included kicks on several stairs and a turn in the middle. I couldn't do that on a flat surface. The routine was tough and included James leapfrogging over her while she was standing up, and a complex lift in which she had to propel herself backwards. All I could say was wow, and I was expecting the judges to be as complimentary as usual. I couldn't believe it when Alesha says that it was messy and tippy toey and lacked punch. Bruno said she'd messed up the steps which I felt was really unfair. To give them 27 for such a complex routine was way out of order.

Then came Tina and Jared's Argentine Tango. How would Cuteness Personified cope with a dance that requires a bit of sleaze and sultriness. Tina was wearing a catsuit made of "pleather", plastic and leather, a concept which had Claudia Winkleman on the point of vomiting on It Takes Two.  Now, I have a theory that when Sandy in Grease was done up in the skintight leather and the high heels, she really wasn't that comfortable with it - and Tina's demeanour reminded me of it. In terms of the dance, I felt that she wasn't sharp enough on her kicks, and very unsure at the beginning when she was kicking towards Jared behind her.
I was shocked that she scored more than Pamela at 28, and that Len had said it was her best dance to date. I felt that their cheeky Charleston last week was much better.

Next were Kara and Anton with a fantastic, atmospheric and passionate Paso Doble to the Phantom of the Opera. Kara's lines were beautiful and her steps positive.Everything worked. Her blood red cape dress just added to the dramatic feel.  It was no surprise to me that she was given the first 10 of the series, getting 37 in total.

Patsy and Robin's Jive to the Monster mash was heaps of fun but the choreography was pretty simple. They acted it well and the expressions on Patsy's face as she regarded and danced with the monster she had created had great comedic effect. I loved Craig's comment that he wished it were as easy to make a man like Robin. Certainly many people admired his skin tight green shirt. I still don't think it deserved more than Pamela, though and it was well overmarked at 31.

Felicity and Vincent's Viennese Waltz started on the mezzanine where two caped strangers met at a masked ball. The difficulty is that their walk down the stairs took an age - although to have rushed down would not have been in keeping with the dance. I actually enjoyed the atmosphere, but the execution was a bit flawed in places. Their Fleckerl was a bit of a damp squib. Felicity's footwork wasn't fabulous, but her dress, studded with beautiful stone work on the back, was gorgeous. I think that 26 was maybe too generous a mark for them.

Thriller really had to feature in a Hallowe'en dancing show and it was Jimi and Flavia who had that particular honour. Their Paso was very good, with Jimi sporting some very weird zombie contacts. You would think he was a born zombie, honestly. He lifted Flavia using a cape which was very trusting on her part. I just keep thinking of what could have gone wrong. Len criticised the cape work afterwards, but (and here's the benefit of writing this up after seeing Karen Hardy's Choreography corner on ITT) apparently he'd picked it up by the wrong end so it was never going to flow as it should, no matter what he did to it. They scored 30 which I think was merited - although, at the risk of sounding boring, this was more the sort of mark Pamela should have had.

I felt the music choice of Time Warp for a Jive would be quite confusing but Brendan made it work for himself and Michelle. I was impressed that Michelle's footwork seemed to be a lot more positive than it has been. Len had a go at them for doing more Time Warp than jive for the last part of the routine, but what else can you do to that chorus? She's shown she could do the Jive stuff and I felt it was all in keeping. Brendan answered back to Len and the two of them had a bit of a barney which ended with Len telling Brendan to "turn up, keep up and shut up". There's nothing like a bit of a row to bring in votes for someone who's been in the bottom two for the last two weeks, some might say. Maybe I've been involved in politics for so long that I see conspiracy theories in everything.......... I reckon that it merited 7s, and Len was a bit mean with 6, and Alesha and Bruno over generous with 8s, so they ended up with 29.

Gavin Henson's trick to gain attention this week was to dance his Paso half naked and it didn't work for me. Craig was right that his dance was basically just posturing. I really don't see what he brings to the show. The Paso suited him better than other dances because he could just stomp around and be moody, but the sooner he goes the better as far as I'm concerned.  26 marks for stomping around the stage for a minute and a half was outrageous over marking.

I'd been a bit nervous about Scott and Natalie after failing to see what was so good about their Tango last week when everyone else raved about it, but Natalie had choreographed a Viennese Waltz that left me breathless. That's quite an achievement for a dance that is not known for its ability to thrill. Dancing  around a huge cauldron in the floor, their fleckerl up the steps was beautifully done and, like the song they were dancing to, it certainly put a spell on me. I'm not sure it was three tens good, but it was certainly atmospheric and dramatic. Scott's posture was much improved, partly because of the invention of a character for him to play, Farquhar, who's apparently very much the straight-backed toff. His arm placement is also getting better and better.

I had wondered if the thought of Ann Widdecombe dancing the Paso to Wild Things on Hallowe'en might cause some sort of fissure in the fabric of the Universe. Would we survive? Their training footage showed them being trick or treated by a load of children in costume and having a bit of a dance around to them.

Unfortunately, Anton was far too modestly dressed for the proceedings. Ann certainly seemed to capture the aggressive spirit of the dance and coped with a couple of throws, landing them well. When Anton spun her, she remembered to point her toes, which was a big improvement. I feel when she looks up at Anton sometimes, she has an almost childlike quality about her. Very sweet. There's something else I never thought I'd say about Ann Widdecombe. They did their best but I really think Anton needs to try to get her to sort her arms out.

With Ann it's always the confrontation with the Judges which is as much fun as the dance. Alesha laughed at Ann's habit of counting out loud to keep time, Len said watching her was a bit like rubber necking at a road accident, Bruno finding yet another nautical metaphor for her (HMS Aptitude this time), Craig just saying OMG. They went back to their week one score of 16, which I think was fair. Ann got her own back in Tess's tower, denouncing them as the miseries, who hadn't given her credit for getting every step right.

Whoever had the idea to put an Argentine Tango to Bat out of Hell should probably be shot at dawn. Quite a mismatch. Despite that, Matt and Aliona coped, with some good story telling. In a homage to Meatloaf, Matt was in an old fashioned leather jacket. It looked a bit like Gene Hunt on the floor, but a Gene Hunt who knew how to show a lady a very good time, if you know what I mean. The overhead lifts were fabulous and although Len had a moan about them, they were very bat like. I also loved the way Matt had had a flash of Aliona's hair colour dyed into his. I think they deserved their 34.

I ended the show very worried for Pamela and James who were had gone from consistently topping the leaderboard to fourth from the bottom. It appears that Ann, Pamela and Gavin all have an element of public vote because people wanted to save them - leaving Tina, languishing in mid table, to be the casualty. I suspected she might find herself in trouble but I'd hoped that Gavin would go. Maybe next week.

I really think the theme evening worked well. Sometimes the Christmas stuff is too stilted, but maybe they could do things like 60s, 70s or 80s themed nights. It was good to see them make such good use of their fancy new lighting walls with witches, bats moons and all manner of spooky things.

All in all, more good work, building this year's claim to be the best series for 5 years.

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