The BBC promised us shocks and frocks this week, and they were right, with an unexpected bottom two and the ultimate loss of Gabby Logan causing shockwaves that rippled throughout the relevant internet forums (“rest assured, I was on the Internet expressing my displeasure within minutes.”). Even so, I must finally chime in with my thoughts on the relative safety of this backwater blog, and so here we go.
In a change to the usual order of dances, this week our celebrities tried either a samba or an American Smooth. Infamously disliked by most of my dance class, one of our teachers and even Anton du Beke himself, the samba is meant to be the fun dance of the Rio carnival, but trying to keep up with the tempo whilst mastering the bounce action and samba walk can make it a tricky one to master. Meanwhile, the American Smooth is not technically a dance per se but rather the American style of dancing ballroom- using tango, foxtrot, waltz and Viennese waltz rhythms but with more steps danced out of hold. For the purposes of SCD, 40% of the dance is to be done in hold, and up to two lifts are allowed- oddly, quickstep rhythm also seems to be permissible. I find it an odd choice for inclusion so early in the competition, however- shouldn’t it be something to dazzle the judges once the celebrities have danced and mastered the standard ballroom dances?
Samba vs. American Smooth
- Alesha and Matthew started proceedings with a commendable American Smooth (albeit a quickstep-based one)- this may be Alesha’s first attempt at ballroom, but she still handled it well. Orange seemed an unusual colour for her dress, but somehow it worked and still looked elegant- there now seems little doubt she will go far, although I don’t really need so much backstage talk with her grandmother.
- Gabby and James performed a samba that was technically very good, but a little inconsistent in terms of communicating the samba feel- sometimes I sensed the carnival atmosphere, but at other times I was left out in the cold.
- Dominic and Lilia: despite injuring his shoulder in a move that was entirely his fault, Dominic took to the floor and even performed the planned lifts in his American Smooth. His performance was generally good, but he looked a little uncomfortable leading the dance (it is his first attempt at ballroom, however), whilst the bum grabs were a little unnecessary for what is meant to be a smooth and elegant number. I applaud Lilia for choreographing to his strengths, but that was perhaps a bit too much.
- Kate and Anton: alas poor Kate, I voted for you but only because I thought your samba was better than Kenny’s, who I wanted to go out this week. Anton makes no bones about the fact that he doesn’t like the samba, and given Kate’s lack of ability he ended up choreographing a dance that was to the samba what a paddling pool is to an Olympic one. Although not an entire loss, the dance was slow, Kate stumbled as Anton dragged her and a spin seemed to turn into an accidental lift when she couldn’t keep her feet on the floor. Anton, much as I love you, it isn’t fair for Kate to continue in the competition much longer.
- John and Nicole chose a waltz rather than the usual foxtrot rhythm for their American Smooth, but it was not to save the routine from mediocrity. The routine felt very light on content, and even the lift at the end seemed a little laboured- not a winning performance.
- Kenny and Ola gave us another disappointing attempt at the samba- Ola tried her best but Kenny seemed to be doing little more than walking around the floor and fluffing up her dress.
- Kelly and Brendan performed an excellent American Smooth overall, but spoiled it by breaking the rules with an unnecessary third lift. I’m not sure what the point of ruining a good routine was with an extra lift, but whilst the other three judges penalised it, Bruno wrongly gave them a ten. Perhaps it’s time for Karen Hardy to become a judge on the show, given her sensible comments on ITT. Meanwhile, Kelly’s sequinned black dress was somewhat odd- in one sense it was glittery and elegant, but viewed from another perspective it seemed like black plastic.
- Gethin and Camilla: this week, Gethin discovered his hips and seemed determined to put them to good use, but I still feel that he and I are kindred spirits on the dance floor- enjoying ourselves and just coming out of the self conscious phase, but still lacking that polish and wow factor that makes people take notice. Still, his samba was solid overall with a good variety of steps, although on another note I was distracted by the stiffness of Camilla’s netted skirt.
- Letitia and Darren: Letitia’s dresses are still making her figure look a bit top heavy, but in the arms of the lovely Darren Bennett she performed her best dance so far- a beautiful American Smooth to the oddly addictive song “Makin’ Whoopee”. She seems to be finding a real flair for the ballroom.
- Penny and Ian stretched the definition of samba with a 60’s style number that saw her dress in short skirt and knee high boots to perform to “These Boots are Made for Walking”. If I was just appraising this as a dance then I would judge it as a fun piece that was well choreographed to the song, but as a samba it just felt lacking in the right vibe. Also, leaving Penny to undulate and walk towards the camera on her own at the start was not a good idea.
- Matt and Flavia concluded the evening with an American Smooth that showed just how far Matt has come since week one- he seemed confident in hold and able to lead Flavia around for an elegant routine. I must admit, however, that I was not a big fan of Flavia’s choice of flared trousers over a traditional skirt.
The results show
Although it was a difficult ordeal, I patiently waited until Sunday evening to find out the result, resisting checking the internet at various points during the day. And once we got to the results show, there was more than just the bottom two to see.
- Pro Paso: Once again, all of our pro dancers took to the floor for an electrifying paso doble, complete with drama, cape swivels and a chance for the females to lie on top of their male partners (jealousy abounds).
- Ballroom champions Timothy Howson and Joanne Bolton took to the floor for a foxtrot, and while I felt as if I was supposed to enjoy it (they are champions after all), it just didn’t click with me. I’m sure the dance was oozing with technical merit which a beginner like me cannot appreciate, but from an observer’s point of view it looked forced and overexaggerated; my image of the foxtrot is classy and elegant ‘pastel froth’ and this did not fit the bill. It also didn’t help that Joanne was wearing a dress that included ‘furry sausages’ dangling from the arms.
- Wet Wet Wet provided the obligatory singing segment, and whilst I was indifferent to them, Matthew and Nicole put on a worthy rumba to keep me occupied. If only the cameras would stick to the dancers.
Finally, the time to announce who had got through to next week arrived, and to mine and everyone else’s surprise the weakest dancers made it through with overwhelming public support, leaving a shock bottom two of Gabby Logan and Penny Lancaster-Stewart.
Both women performed their routines much the same as before, and had it been up to me, I would have gone for Gabby’s superior technical performance and more-appropriate-for-the-dance-in-question routine. The judges, however, had a different opinion and ultimately saved Penny with a 3-1 vote. I won’t deny I’m glad to see Ian still in the competition and also relieved that James won’t waste away to nothing, but even though I didn’t always warm to Gabby she seemed a much more solid technical dancer overall. Penny on the other hand is a little gawky and coltish, and has yet to truly impress me with any dance.
That’s all for now; join me next week when our celebrities will either re-enact the bullfight with a hopefully stunning paso doble, or bring sheer elegance to the floor in the foxtrot.