As we wait for the most exciting Strictly Final in years, I thought I'd do a profile of each of our deserving finalists, look at their pre Strictly life (as if that actually matters), and Strictly story with their first, best and my favourite of their dances. Matt's is here and Pamela's is here.
Pre Strictly Life
Kara's been acting since she was a child, playing Brigitta, one of the Von Trapp children, in a production of the Sound of Music,then roles in various team dramas like Dream Team, before playing Dawn in EastEnders for four years. After leaving the show last year, she became the face of Michelle for George underwear at ASDA.
She also has Dyslexia and filmed a documentary about it, called Don't Call me Stupid earlier this year.
Russian Artem Chigvintsev made it to the final of So You Think You Can Dance in the US and has been dancing all over the world since he was 15. My friend Elspeth will be particularly interested to know that he was once in the OC - being seduced by an older woman. I think I want to borrow that episode.
He can be quite fierce and exacting and has pushed Kara way beyond her comfort zone. He's given her very complicated choreography from Day One. She's had to master lifts and drops and props and all sorts. Doing the Argentine Tango with a hatstand takes some skill.
If the tabloids are right, though, his ferocity doesn't seem to have put her off him as there is all sorts of speculation in the tabloids about their off screen relationship. I have to say, though, it must make it a lot more difficult in some ways if a Strictly couple are getting it on for all sorts of reasons.
Kara and Artem don't know what it's like to get a Strictly score of less than 30. They have been that good, from the beginning. They did get away with murder, though, in the lifts department as, until Len laid the law down about half way through the series, all their dances contained some sort of lift. They've also played fast and loose with the format of some of the dances, much to Len's dismay. If their adherence to the rules has not been total, their performances have always been excellent. Their American Smooth caused the biggest division of the judges all season, with a grumpy Len only giving it a 6 while Bruno and Alesha gave them 10. They are taking a risk by doing it again in the final, especially after poor Artem was injured during rehearsals for it. My view is that so what if they were only in hold for a few seconds - it was fabulous.
It looked for a while as if Kara might go the way of people like Emma Bunton and Lisa Snowden who were always panned for being technically good but not giving enough emotionally to their dancing. I wonder if that had more to do with the fact that she had to spend so much time mastering the incredibly difficult choreography Artem gave her. He will squeeze every tiny nuance out of every single phrase in the music. Maybe that intensity was hard to get to grips with at first.
It wasn't until her Paso Doble, danced to the Phantom of the Opera, in week 5, that her performances really started to join head and heart. That was strong, passionate and dramatic and she looked Artem's tempestuous equal on the floor.
I am, frankly, very annoyed that her semi-final performances of Viennese Waltz and Rumba didn't get 40. The Rumba certainly deserved it and Craig really needs to be slapped about the head for that. The Rumba is a hellish dance to master - although it may have been easier if the speculation about their relationship is true. The routine was technically very complicated but still captured the emotional frisson of the dance.
Kara is incredibly graceful and she manages to produce beautiful, fluid, elegant lines. She has this great awareness of what each part of her body is doing - but makes it look effortless. She's also really gone for it in the costume department - really flaunted everything she has, but in a very tasteful way. From the vampish cha cha outfit, to the tinsel two piece she wore for her Charleston, she's looked fabulous.
First - Cha Cha Cha Dominatrix style with wardrobe malfunction and fantastic recovery
Best - there are two here, so I might as well put them both up. First a graceful Viennese Waltz, secondly probably the best Rumba on Strictly ever. Up there with Rachel Stevens.
Now, my favourite. I have found it really hard to choose between their Paso, Charleston, Tango and Argentine Tango. I've had to watch them all again several times. In the end, though, the Tango wins. I mean, a hatstand is one thing, but overbalancing a chair and then continuing, seemlessly, a complicated routine is quite another.I also think it shows how everything combines to make a fabulous performance. It's not always about the dancing - the props, dress, make up, acting and music all mix together to give an outstandingly intense performance. It made me think the unthinkable - that it might be better than Zoe and Ian's from five years ago.
Kara is one of the best dancers ever on Strictly and I'm looking forward to seeing their showdance tomorrow. It will no doubt be full of drama and deep intensity.