Strictly Come Dancing week five: swans and kilts

It was back to the ballroom this week for our ten remaining celebrities, each hoping to impress both viewers and judges with either a foxtrot or a paso doble. The dance of the bullfight, the paso doble showcases the man as the matador, whilst the woman takes the role of either the bull or cape; do it right, and you tell a compelling story, get it wrong and you just look like an idiot. On the other hand, the slow foxtrot (as opposed to the easier social version) is the epitome of ballroom grace and elegance, but even though it should look effortless and easy, dancing it is anything but simple.

Passionate Paso vs. Frothy Foxtrot

  • Kelly and Brendan opened the evening with a paso to Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, as previously used in season four of Dancing With the Stars. Like the tango, traditional music really does help to sell the paso doble, but the occasional rock number can work out well- unfortunately not only was it overused tonight, but it didn’t really help here. In an attempt to establish a bit of girl power, Kelly decided to be the first female celebrity to adopt the traditional male role of swirling the cape, a move that backfired when it came across as a few selfish bars of showing off. Worse yet, because she didn’t even throw the cape offstage properly, she stumbled over it later in the routine and got her heel caught in her dress, putting a crimp in a routine that already felt weak and lacking and content. Ultimately, it was less of a paso and more a lot of posing- a disappointing effort that the judges were quick to lay into. To be honest, though, after the arrogant way she came across on last week’s It Takes Two, my sentiments have gone somewhat against this couple.
  • John and Nicole were first to foxtrot, and after his poor effort in the American Smooth, I was somewhat pessimistic about his ability to pull off a decent ballroom dance. As it turned out however, whilst it didn’t grab me on first viewing, John’s foxtrot actually seemed solid on rewatch- his posture was improved and footwork well placed.
  • Letitia and Darren performed a paso doble to “Live and Let Die”, and it was a revelation to see how far Letitia has come since that shaky first week. Using all her skills as an actress, Letitia brought the dance to life with strong moves and plenty of drama- kudos to both Darren’s choreography and the lovely outfits.
  • Gethin and Camilla: having waited all this time for the opportunity to use it, Camilla finally got to use favourite song “Brown Eyes Blue” with a brown-eyed partner- and it seems that it was worth the wait. From his nervous first outing to achieving my mediocre level of skill, Gethin has upped his game to the level of being a proper contender in the competition- starting with this lovely foxtrot that went from a strong start to Gethin’s charming wink at the end. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the coming weeks- provided he gets the opportunity to do so, of course.
  • Kenny and Ola: as promised, Kenny donned a kilt for his paso, and whilst it wasn’t the tartan affair I had been imagining, even silver and black could not disguise the fact that this matador was effectively wearing a skirt. Now, whilst some women seem to find men in kilts attractive, I’m a firm believer in trousers, and so this unpleasant sight was the first nail in the coffin for a dance that seemed to be more macho highlander striding across the glen than matador working the cape. Yes, Kenny had the aggression and attack needed for the dance, but it just didn’t work for me due to the lack of finesse- and I don’t blame Ola for closing her eyes at the end.
  • Alesha and Matthew were not only dressed for the occasion, but danced a lovely foxtrot that was not only excellent, but seemed even more incredible when we found out on ITT that they both completely forgot the steps in the middle! After a whispered command from Matthew to ‘follow me’, they inserted a near seamless eleven seconds of ‘winging it’ before getting back on track, leaving me curious to see the original routine and in awe that it was seamless enough for no one to pick up on the mistake.
  • Dominic and Lilia: the paso doble is probably as far from Dom’s “cheeky chappie” persona as you can get, but to his credit, he did put in a good effort, although whilst the steps, content and traditional music were all there, somehow the whole didn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts- leaving Dom looking a little more like a wooden soldier than a matador. Even so, it was a good attempt, somewhat marred by Dom’s sniping at the judges backstage when he didn’t get the scores he wanted.
  • Kate and Anton: As well as being king of the ballroom and master of the foxtrot, Anton forbade Kate from watching anyone else’s performances on the night in the hopes that nerves would not get in the way again- and overall, it worked. Yes, it still had its problems when compared to the other foxtrots of the night, but this dance really marked a vast improvement for Kate, as she went from embarrassing to “there’s a dancer in there somewhere, and she’s trying to get out.” I don’t feel so bad for voting for her last week now.
  • Matt and Flavia apparently make up a story to describe the steps in each of their dances, and this one was based on a couple with a difficult relationship (fair enough), who go out for a walk and get attacked by a killer swan (no, seriously). Their dance to Smooth Criminal was more of a modern interpretation of the paso than the real deal, and like Len that didn’t really work for me- it was a good dance, but not quite in the bounds of what I was expecting. Nonetheless, Matt is another one who is shaping up to be a good dancer.
  • Penny and Ian: Penny’s Latin has disappointed me, but back in the ballroom she shone in Ian’s arms, pulling off a surprisingly competent foxtrot that proved that height does not always have to be a disadvantage. A strong dance to finish off the evening.

The results show

  • Pro Viennese Waltz: once again, all of the pros took to the floor for a beautiful Viennese waltz which showed that this simple yet demanding dance can also be beautiful in the right hands (or rather feet). The only problem with these group dances is that it can be hard to focus on your favourite pros, but that’s no reason not to be taken in by their skill.
  • Birmingham Royal Ballet: three couple performed a fusion of ballroom and ballet which was slightly bizarre for being neither one nor the other, but was still oddly calming. Unfortunately, with three couples all dancing their own interpretation of the music, it was hard to know who to focus on.
  • McFly performed a song that was again not particularly memorable, but Ian and Camilla enhanced proceedings with a beautiful ballroom number.

Dance-off
This week’s bottom two seemed more reasonable, with John Barnes and Dominic Littlewood ending up at the bottom of the combined leader board. Although both performed respectably enough in the dance-off, the judges unanimously chose to save John, which seemed the right decision- although good enough in his element, Dominic had a limited range in terms of performance and was struggling to overcome timing issues, whilst John has solid footwork alongside a slow but noticeable improvement over the weeks, with the potential for more to come.

Now strap yourself in and get ready for this Saturday, where our celebrities will performing either the whirling Viennese waltz or the informal salsa. Bearing in mind that some of the pros haven’t even trained in the salsa, this should be interesting.

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