A new year, sixteen new celebrities, three new pros (we miss you, Nicole)- add them to all the usual ingredients and you’re all set for a brand new series of Strictly Come Dancing. Who will shine on the dancefloor and who will hobble their way to an early exit? Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll find out.
The first four weeks are single gender only nights- this week, the boys took to the floor for the cha cha and waltz, whilst the girls only had to perform a group cha cha. At the end of the night, one man would be booted out right after his first dance, but who would be the unlucky fella to face the chop?
Elegant waltz vs. cheeky cha cha
Tom Chambers & Camilla Dallerup (cha cha): There must be nothing more nerve-wracking than having to go out there and perform the first dance of a series, but for a first dance, Tom did a good job, covering the nerves to produce a solid, fun routine. I think Camilla may have another Gethin on her hands here, good raw material with which to get far; the only thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the jacket Camilla was wearing over her dress- yes, it matched with Tom’s shirt, but other than that there wasn’t much to commend it.
Phil Daniels & Flavia Cacace (waltz): After getting to the finals last year, Flavia must have had high hopes for Phil, but whilst it wasn’t particularly terrible, nor could his waltz be said to be all that good. He seemed to be trying hard to maintain the posture and hold, but as far as footwork went he was stumbling all over the place. An average start.
Don Warrington & Lilia Kopylova (cha cha): When it comes to Lilia, you can’t fault the dancing, music or choreography, but where she was absolutely fantastic, Don was more of a dad dancer. Still, he looked like he was having fun, and if anyone can make a dancer out of him, Lilia can.
Austin Healey & Erin Boag (waltz): Before we get onto the dance itself, I just want to comment on how different Erin looks this year- in last week’s preview show, I barely recognised her. From some angles she looks very elegant and dignified, but in others she does look older- although for this dance she was nothing short of lovely. Austin also proved to be well capable of tackling the waltz, pulling off what was probably the strongest performance of the night- if he continues in this vein, he’ll go far.
Mark Foster & Hayley Holt (waltz): As a swimmer, it’s no surprise that Mark turned in a somewhat understated performance- not bad when it came to the basic steps, but lacking in real flair and engagement with the audience. Provided he stays in long enough, perhaps a session with the acting coach could help him blossom the way Matt Dawson and Gethin did.
On the subject of the dress, if Karen had ‘raspberry froth’ for her waltz last year, then Hayley got lime froth- not many people could carry off that colour, but somehow she managed it.
Gary Rhodes & Karen Hardy (cha cha): As a newly confessed lover of cooking shows, I felt I should be supporting Gary, but in all honesty, I didn’t like this routine one bit. The music was more suited to the jive, and the choreography did very little for me- there was too much showing off (especially that ‘pasta making’ section in the middle), and even the moments of actual dancing weren’t that good. Perhaps not quite worth a 1 from Craig (I would have given it a 3 or 4), but certainly a damp squib.
John Sergeant & Kristina Rihanoff (waltz): At first glance, John seems like the sort of person who gets voted off in the first round without question, but just like Willie Thorne before him, he managed to acquit himself well in the waltz. An elegant and understated routine, John performed well with the classy Kristina, the show’s newest Russian minx. I can’t seem him doing well in the Latin, but it’s heartening that he did so well here.
Andrew Castle and Ola Jordan (cha cha): If Ola was attempting to distract everyone with that catsuit, then she certainly managed it- although personally I didn’t like it even on someone with a figure as great as hers. If it was meant as a gimmick, however, it was hardly needed- if not the best, Andrew did at least put in a solid performance, and certainly came in head and shoulders above fellow GMTV presenters Fiona Phillips and Kate Garraway.
Edit: forgot to mention the illegal lift! Must admit I didn’t pick up on it the first time I watched, and neither did the judges.
Ladies’ Group Cha Cha: Last year the ladies blew away the men with a packed group dance, but this year they were just plain disappointing; the choreography let them down by consisting of very little beyond posing and a few lifts, whilst performance was affected by first night nerves. I’m reserving judgement on the ladies until they do their solo dances next week.
- Alesha Dixon: just as Mark and Karen did their salsa to death, so too did Alesha choose to reprise her cha cha with Matt once again for this return appearance. Although the dress wasn’t quite the same style as the previous ones used for this routine, it was good to see Alesha back on the floor, strutting her stuff to Beyoncé, but having seen this in the flesh once and several times more on TV, I would have rather sampled one of her other dances.
- Pro foxtrot: All the pro couples came out to show the celebs how the foxtrot is done- I absolutely love seeing our pros doing what they do best, and this time around was no exception. Here’s to more pro demos throughout the series.
- Bette Midler: after some banter with her old friend Brucie, Bette Midler performed Wind Beneath My Wings, whilst James and Ola accompanied her with a rumba. One life in particular looked like it had been re-used from last year; of course it was a good dance, but I hope we don’t have as many rumbas this year as we did last time- I like a bit of variety.
- Group dance: All sixteen couples took to a rather crowded floor to perform a group number; I liked the black and white ballroom dresses (although Flavia’s looked like one from last year), but although the pros did their best, the celeb standard of dancing wasn’t too impressive overall- Andrew in particular looked a bit stiff.
- Dance-off: The bottom two amongst the men were Phil & Flavia and Don & Lilia, both of whom had to perform their respective dances again. Although he stumbled less, Phil seemed to be almost vacant during his routine (did he even breathe once), whilst Don was a lot more with it. Both made mistakes despite a good effort, and there wasn’t much in it (even the judges were divided), but ultimately Don got through, which is probably what I would have gone with by a hair’s breadth. Personally, neither of them seemed as bad as Gary, but then I would have felt bad for Karen if she’d gone out first two years in a row.
Strictly Come Dancing is like a drug to me; I didn’t realise how much I missed it until the familiar opening theme started playing and all the endorphins got released. I can’t wait to see how the ladies perform with their foxtrot and salsa next week (I’d be just as happy to see them waltz and cha cha as well for a more direct comparison, to be honest), but in the meantime, here are a few thoughts.
- Craig seemed determined to balance the scores by undermarking, and Len by overmarking- with that in mind, the individual judges’ scores seemed pretty meaningless, with only the comparative rankings mattering. I do think the marks were too high last year, but I’d like to see some constructive criticism, not pantomime personalities.
- Voting lines are now only open after everyone has danced, and don’t open during the week- this is a good change that should help people vote based on the dancing rather than just ringing up for their favourites all week.
- Sixteen couples is rather a lot- I would have been happy to just have 12 as with season three.
- It’s a shame Nicole wasn’t asked back- even if they need to refresh the pros, just losing one seems a little mean. It would be better to rotate pros in and out as they do with DWTS, giving them a season’s rest and then bringing them back.
More SCD and DWTS posts coming soon!