Sunday, 29 December 2013

Strictly Christmas: Snow Snow Quick Quick Snow

The usual feel good/pressure off fun fest that is Strictly at Christmas was another wonderful show, with a battle of fan favourites, Elaine Paige and Rufus Hound, at the top of the leaderboard. Producers, please note: We want them on the main show!

It was Team Flufas (I can't imagine any other name now, so they have to bring Flavia back) who delivered the winning routine, with a lipsmackin' tango full of rhythm, timing and attitude but with added comedy. And huskies! And sharpness, by way of a fish-slap!

Elaine and partner Pasha dished up a tasty cha cha - she's the epitome of fab-u-lous and it was only Len, of all people, who denied her a top score. You can see clips of all the performances here.

I loved the breakout into streetdance in Ricky and Janette's quickstep, together with the other little touches of different styles, while Sara and Robin's waltz was a sweet attempt. Rochelle and Ian's salsa was a bit scrappy but with more training, I think she'd be fantastic - her vibe reminded me of Alesha, very real with plenty of kick ass rhythm. Matt and Aliona charmed with an American Smooth but he needs to be more confident and relax.

The entire cast finish off with Fairytale in New York - I've been waiting for that to accompany a Viennese Waltz for some time - and Craig looking totally at home on a banjo! Who knew?

Dancing on Ice next, for their final, All-Stars series, which will be a mixture of the comic acts (Joe Pasquale and Todd Carty) but a serious competition for the crown featuring Jorgie Porter, Hayley Tamaddon, Sam Attwater, Kyran Bracken, Beth Tweddle and Ray Quinn. The show begins on January 5th at 6.15pm, ITV1. Till then x

Monday, 23 December 2013

Strictly Grand Final: Dancing on Sunshine

Our Strictly Come Dancing Champions of 2013 are Abjaz!

Bubbling over with happiness, Abbey and partner Aljaz lifted the Strictly crown following an emotionally charged waltz, a dynamic and powerful showdance (Sweet Child of Mine) and a joy-filled quickstep.

Brenphie were sadly knocked out first, which meant we didn't get to see that brilliant charleston again, although we were treated to the improved My Favourite Things Viennese Waltz. The showdance had some fabulous lifts which, with hindsight, maybe should have been incorporated into a charleston-esque routine as as opposed to a Latin one.

Kevanna began with their Good Morning quickstep, a surefire vote winner for me, along with Abjaz's waltz in the first section. Bright and lively - and no mistakes, hurrah! Compared to the others, their showdance felt slightly muted but was lovely nonetheless, with a 'wow' pivoting swingy-around lift (Your Song). There's probably a correct technical term for it. They finished with their rousing Paso Doble - having had a taster of Spanish dance recently, I now appreciate how much harder that is than it looks.

Showdance of the night was Artalie but it wasn't enough to give them the title, although deservedly got them though to the final three. Channelling Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly, it was a riot of musicality and panache (Stepping Out). The cha cha was the judges choice and delivered competently as usual, while the American Smooth was emotive and well acted.

From a shaky start and an appearance in the bottom two early on in the series, we saw the effervescent Abbey grow in confidence as she fell in love with dance. Allied to gorgeous choreography courtesy of Strictly debutante Aljaz, her hard work and natural exuberance shone through which - for someone with no formal training - culminated in Len telling her she had the best top line of any celebrity ever, here or in the USA series. Excitable and nervous, yet demonstrably full of what the show is all about, Abjaz are deserving champions.

Just the Christmas Special and then it's all over for another nine months! 5pm, BBC One, Christmas Day. TTFN x

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Strictly Semi Final: It is what it is

If they're not opening the Final to Ladies Night, I shall be Most Upset! Big group cha cha charrrr ...

But I'm getting ahead of myself - this is the semi blog, with our one remaining man, Patrick, unable to fend off the women, in spite of a rather lovely waltz. A bit of a 'meh' Paso Doble let him down, lacking the artistry we like to see, and not helped by the song choice. And we knew from the week before he was always in danger.

Onto the ladies then, and all we know for sure after the semi is that Susanna was at least second favourite with the public, and Natalie last out of the girls. So will she be first out? Denise VO was bottom two in the semi but apparently stormed to 2nd place in the final ...

My semi-final winners were Brenphie - absolutely loved their Paso, may have been the music that clinched it - can it be any more dramatic? The dance was full of drama and passion, just like the play itself. I was on the edge of my seat. Brilliant attitude, fantastic timing. Together with a gorgeous traditional American Smooth - I had a stupid grin on my face from the moment Brendan slid down the banisters - the only other couple who came close was Abjaz.

It seemed an odd song choice for Abjaz's American Smooth, but Aljaz seems able to effortlessly choreograph to all the little nuances in the music and makes it a joy to watch, especially coupled with Abbey's enthusiasm. She's nailing both ballroom and Latin consistently, and picking up a lot of fans on the way. Their samba had a natural spontaneity; they've something indefinable.

Kevanna, if I'm honest, didn't knock me out this week, though I still love her energy and performance value. The foxtrot felt a little safe and the salsa was too stiff but she gave it everything with her usual oomph.

What does Artalie have to do to impress me? Well, the salsa garnered just one word: MATTESHA! I'm sorry, but it was never going to compare, was it? Technically very good, although far too placed for my liking, and danced more like a cha cha, she didn't get down and dirty enough - where was the rawness, the unleashing, that we saw with Alesha? Maybe a different song would have helped? Suffered from the comparison, sadly. The AT was, again, technically very well placed and precise but I felt they could have played with the music highs and lows a bit more. And no 'A' line. Picky, aren't I?

Don't miss it - Grand Final Saturday night, BBC One 6.30pm. Whoop whoop!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A double dose of Strictly speaking

Apologies that I'm lacking seriously behind - old job, new job, temp job, home, family, birthday curries - oh, hang on: Life in general! But it did give me a chance to approach the week 10 and the quarter final slightly differently.

Basically, I've got my own leader board based on the last two weeks and this is how it stands: Abjaz ftw! Maybe.

Now what this tells me is: I'm very fickle and really can't decide. And that maths really isn't my strong point (but at least I show my workings out!) And I need handwriting lessons.

But we're at that stage now where there are no bad dancers (hence the 4 way tie from last night). I enjoyed Marketa's samba too, but it seemed a bit rubbing-his-nose-in-it to shove them at the bottom on a '1', with them having lost out to Asha last week.

Abjaz, by virtue of a very enjoyable salsa with lots of attack and energy, a dramatic VW with gorgeous choreographical touches, and a very creditable showing in the Swingathon, take top spot.

Asha next, as their salsa was soooo dangerous and totally full on - and that leap where he pulled Ola down by her neck?! Tricky and a major WOW, plus plenty of dance content again, backed up with a majorly underscored Swingathon place. The rumba, well, that's always the dodgy one to get on musicals weekend, but I thought it believable and romantic. And he made it through, so yay!

Patya are in third, due mainly to their wonderful charleston - the only routine out of all of them that I've played twice. An absolute joy. And their rumba was dramatic and masculine, with added hip action! The swingathon, for me, looked a bit flat footed.

Artalie next, although overall my least favourite - but only because I do like to see a journey. Sorry, but I do. And there, I've said it out loud. Whatcha gonna do? They were definitely tops in the Swingathon, which you can only judge on technique, but their American Smooth had barely any hold section and therefore seemed very much like their VW - all lovely wafty arms and beautiful lines - but their Paso I thought was fabulous and probably my favourite of theirs to date. Constant flow and movement and Flamenco touches to a traditional song. But you get the impression she could've done that right from week one, and that's the problem I have. It's mine, I'll deal with it.

Kevanna I'm very surprised to see down in 5th, because I think she's a fabulous performer. The AT was sharp and full of attack, with very neat footwork. The quickstep was bright and lively, a killer song interpreted brilliantly, the out of hold stuff was wonderful, and, although there was major footwork fluffing and so nearly a disarrrrster at the end, she sold it beautifully as usual. But the Swingathon looked dreadful, the little we saw of it.

Brenphie simply don't deserve to be at the bottom but then, who does? Loved the VW, and the tango storytelling was great - she's coming to life again. Middle of the pack in the Swingathon.

It's anybody's game and anybody's guess who's going, staying and who'll make it to the final. The public are very hard to read so we really don't know who their real favourite is.

We'll have a better idea after the results tonight - 7.20pm, BBC1.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

No More Diggity Dancing for Ben

Gutted tonight as I write this, as Bentina was my journey couple, I really wanted to see Ben get through and carry on improving. I personally loved their Charleston, it had everything it was supposed to have and an extra point on the leader board may well have seen them safe. It was light, animated, there was plenty of movement and for me, possibly his best.

Marketa also had his best dance so far, with improvement in the dance off. He put some swing and sway into it and I didn't notice his mistake so I can't argue with the judges decision. It was very sweet and joyful.

The judges have been given a reality check, so plenty of constructive criticism and more realistic scores. Other than Bentina, it was Kevanna and Asha who again got my votes. Susanna is just so brilliant, if not technically on it in the cha cha, she gave it plenty of sassiness. Ashley is staking a claim for the final - another beautifully executed dance, he's very natural - I'm not even thinking about his head!

Artalie's tango was very well danced, as always, though I didn't find myself excited by it; Brenphie's rumba too, nice lines, warm, but a bit safe. The Abjaz Paso Doble had great movement in delivery of the content and she wins Dress of the Night again. And Patya - perhaps one week they'll get through it without any drama! Beautiful choreography, particularly the balletic arms at the beginning (and I should know, cos I did a ballet workshop today ;) It was for a charity called Trust Sulha and you can read all about it here. A blog will hopefully appear soon.) However, it did get a bit clumsy towards the end - Patya's Viennese Waltz, not the workshop.

Onto the results show, in which the Beeb confused Sunday night viewers by a Great British Bake Off inspired routine, complete with Mary Berry; Il Divo provided the music for Kristina and Aljaz to bewitch us, and in Len's Lens, Bruno failed to set off a confetti gun and Craig confirmed that there will be no tens from him unless it's perfect!

So all that was left after that was to bawl our eyes out with Kristina. *sob* Till next time - it's Musicals Night! *cheers up*

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dazzling dancing and silly scoring

I say dazzling dancing, mainly because all the couples had a really good week. No-one put in a bad performance and it highlighted how tough this is going to be, even with eight couples still left.

But the multitude of tens, many undeserved, is going to do my head in if it carries on! You cannot give a ten if it wasn't perfect! Really, the scoring was super-crazy inconsistent last week. I expect normal service resumed tonight, please.

I loved Abjaz, it put us all in a happy place (on a beach, with ice cream and candy) the energy and fun in their quickstep was terrific, although I found it a little frantic in places and had to agree with Craig, although the 7 was harsh - nines across would've been a fairer reflection - how can you have a 7 and three 10s? Dress of the Night though.

Likewise, much as I love Kevanna, Susanna didn't have half as much content as Ashley to deliver in her Paso Doble - it was the music that set the atmosphere and got everyone wound up. Her attitude again though, was spot on, along with strong lines and expressive Flamenco hands. Nines again for me.The Charleston from Artalie was more like a pro production and Artem was incredible, I could watch him over and over. BUT, after a bright start I felt Natalie's energy faded and she looked very heavy legged and slightly ragged. The trouble when someone is that good though, is that the judges (except Craig) tend to score based on what they're expecting, hence three more tens. CUT IT OUT! 8s and 9s at best.

Anyhoo, based on those scores, then Asha ought to have had four tens, because Ashley was blooming immense! It's like they took a point off because of the wild west look - but it's just a tiny step from the bullring to the rodeo ring. There was the swagger, mighty fine cape work, superb attitude, attack and intent, great shapes, he properly danced the Paso and was soooooooo dominant I may have a new pin up. (Sorry, England Cricket, Alistair, James and Kevin really need to take note and apply the same purpose. Ok, I know they'll bounce back.) The only tiny thing I would've liked, was a leap instead of a kneeslide.

Brenphie saved their best for Blackpool, a terrific crisp and clean quickstep, and she let herself go in a spirited routine, the ending of which I adored - had it been on last it would've got the tens. Likewise Patya's samba was wonderful, so groovy and how well they coped with the wardrobe malfunction. A proper carnival samba and overall, the right score.

Another gorgeous routine from Kristina, making the most of everything she can lay her hands on, preferably Ben's arms, with some amazing lifts, showing off again how attentive he is, great partnering. A very smooth American Smooth all the way from Smoothsville for Bentina, with kudos for using a VW base.

The bottom of the board was occupied jointly last week by Antiona and Marketa, but with completely different dances. A very nice American Smooth , if a little pedestrian from Antiona, but a lovely feel and a nice soft shoe shuffle break. Marketa's jive was fun all the way, with him perfectly at home with the Hairspray track, and his timing and musicality almost making up for the lack of bounce.

Unsurprising then, that it was the bottom two again in the dance off, with all things equal with the judges and a split fully expected. But I wasn't expecting Craig to save Antiona! Fiona's nerves did get to her, whereas Mark embraced the chance to do it again and was rewarded for the life and expression he put into it, safe for a second time.

Elsewhere in the results show, Len's Lens picked up Darcey's disco dancing; the ballroom babies from the big opener Saturday night; Kevanna's human cape; Bentina's pressage lift; Natalie's footwork - but in showing it off you saw she was out of time with Artem! And Abbey's fabulous whoop of joy in the jete.

Till later then! TTFN x

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Greenwich Dance - The Ball

Dress up and join Greenwich Dance for a decadent evening of dance.

Blend a bit of ballroom, a splash of swing, sprinkle with festive magic and throw in some unexpected performances, and you’ve got the recipe for a show-stopping party!
Live big band music and workshops will get the dance floor started, followed by a DJ into the night.
So dust off your diamonds, grab a cocktail and celebrate with them as they round off their 20th birthday year in spectacular style.
20th anniversary special offer: 20% off bookings of 10 or more - perfect for Christmas parties.

Date:   14 December 2013
Time:   8pm-Late
Cost:    £18 / £15 concessions
Venue: The Borough Hall, Greenwich, London

To book tickets call 020 8293 9741 or visit the website for information on other events.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Latin Dance Fusion - on line!

Latin Dance Fusion is a newly launched social media site aimed at connecting people who love Latin dance in all its forms.

If you'd love the chance to attend live shows, blog about Latin dance or simply connect up with like minded others via forums, this is the place for you.

It's free to join and you can share your favourite Latin music, videos and upload pictures. You can also share your own events, classes and parties, and even recommend your top-rated restaurants, clubs and dance venues.

For any and everything about Latin Dance, check out the community here.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Dragonflies in a dance of courtship

Oh god, it's the week before Blackpool. Did you know we're off to Blackpool next week? Trust me, if you didn't, you will ...

No Artalie tonight, due to illness, and no Bruce either, taking another break. I've said it before, please can we keep Tess and Clauds together once he retires? Please? If I keep asking? Nicely?

A very definite tale of two halves tonight, with the top half of the table on fire, and the bottom two on possibly Mogadon or steroids or something.

Abjaz did a lovely job with their Charleston, Abbey's long swingy arms and legs just made for the Fosse inspired routine. Stylish and detailed and really enjoyable. A beautiful traditional waltz from Kevanna, gorgeous storytelling and those stunning pivots in a warm and engaging routine, with the sublime touch of their arm wafting in sync at the end. And, to top it all - dress of the night. Not just for how it looked, but how it moved, too.

Battle of the ballroom hit new heights with Patya and Asha both excelling. Firstly, Asha's fabulous, pulsating quickstep, with flair and expression and brilliant choreography. Packed full of content and nifty footwork, it inspired Bruno's title quote. Patya have finally got that chin up and what a huge difference it made. "Wow" was the first thing I said. Stunning routine, his timing and musicality and the sheer joy of it - now that's what I call an American Smooth. I can see these two in a  private battle each week now because they're equally at home in Latin too!

My middle ground was held by Brenphie. Excellent technique but I totally agreed with the judges. Sometimes a little fragile, and still that aloofness, which you do need for an AT but it also needs fire and passion. I have a soft spot for Bentina - oi, don't make up your own jokes - I love that he's so tactile and keeps hugging everyone. I thought: Is he mad? when they said about the back flip but there was my soft spot, a crash mat, just in case. A fine effort I thought, he got down into it and his legs were neat and tidy, mostly. Nice vibe with the song and character. Loved seeing the other judges all ticking off Craig!  But there will be complaints about someone grabbing Pasha's ... erm, packet. Paso Doble for Antiona but no Bond theme. No Bond theme?! Well, they really missed a trick there, didn't they? Good attitude, nice arm shaping, footwork a little ploddy but a proper Paso to enjoy.

Alas, Marketa. Fancy getting a rumba this week. With hindsight of course, they'd have gone traditional and tried for warmth and romance, but ah, Bond theme, I've been expecting you. Although I, like Bruno, couldn't get Dr.Evil out of my head. At least there was characterization, if not much movement. Sorry Foxy, not Mark's fault - fingers crossed. 

And so, to Kave. A tango, which I have to say kind of had the right idea, and he certainly did enough walking to have covered the 500 miles on that dance floor but just waaaaaaaaaaay too stompy for me. I found Len's comments the most entertaining thing about it, but we love a trier, don't we? And Dave, like most of the celebs every series, is putting in the hours to try and improve and clearly loving being involved, which is all you can ask. Maybe the Scottish vote will come through for him.

The leader board:

Two worrying score draws there tonight, so best prepare for another shock.

A super swingy jive opener with the Peppini Sisters (check out their version of Crazy in Love) to mark Remembrance weekend.

And out with the shocks tonight, as the bottom two face each other in the dance off. Marketa versus Kave and is it a forgone conclusion that Kave will go? If Mark has a nightmare and Dave is able to improve, it could be closer than we think.

An emotional time at Covent Garden and then it's Len's Lens: Claudia's glittery shoes; Susanna's pivots; Brenphie's lift into-spin-onto-floor; Patya's close call; Abjaz's acting skills; Bentina causing an argument; Mark's faces (again!).

There's no argument in the dance off: Marketa through to Blackpool, and Kave out - although, Len pointed out that Mark had made a lot of mistakes, and, had he had a deciding vote, would've kept Dave! But Craig, Darcey and Bruno saved Mark for being a better mover overall.

Best wishes to Natalie for a speedy recovery then, before we board the Blackpool Bus. Showtime is 6.30pm; don't be late.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival 2014

YDance is looking for 20 youth dance groups from counties in the UK to take part in a 3-day festival of workshops and performances at the first ever Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow.

The festival will celebrate the best of youth dance from across the Commonwealth, and be part of an exciting cultural programme surrounding the sporting events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Festival will take place over three days and nights from 10–12 July 2014, and involve around 30 groups from across Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and other Commonwealth countries at Glasgow’s Tramway.

As well as performances by up to 400 young people from across the Commonwealth, the festival will feature choreographic workshops and classes led by internationally-renowned dance artists and companies.

Groups can enter a maximum of 15 dancers aged 12 to 21 years (or up to 24 years old for companies with disabled dancers). To enter, send a DVD or YouTube link of a recent performance.  Pieces should be no more than 7 minutes in length.

If you have a youth dance group and would like to apply visit their website for more details, send them an email or call the CYD office on 0141 552 7712.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Torvill and Dean swap the ice for the ballroom

In a stunning move, guaranteed to send dance audiences into a frenzy of excitement (or is it just me?) the Children in Need Strictly Come Dancing special will feature Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

Competing against a host of other stars as well as each other, Jayne will partner James Jordan while Chris will be guided by Aliona Vilani on the show when it airs on Friday, November 15th.

With the creative flair T&D have for interpreting music on the ice, I cannot wait to see what they can do in stilettos and Cuban heels!

And what a great excuse to share my favourite routine ...

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Gothic theatricality

Everyone on the floor for the Time Warp, including the Judges, before Dress of the Night makes an entrance - Tess! Don't often get the chance to bestow that honour upon her, do we? And so begins our Halloween special ...

The Gothic splendour of the opener is carried on by Patya, whose quickstep I absolutely loved. A stuttery start became a fabulous romp of theatricality with energy, personality and terrific timing. A great comeback after last week. Having to follow was Antiona with their Charleston, more "Halloween at Doris Day's house" according to Bruno, but a delightful effort - Fiona's got the swivel and Anton was enjoying himself immensely.

My first vote of the series - since I've not seen it live till this week (I refused to go out this time) - and it went to Bentina for a totally owned Paso Doble (and not because he was topless, really, I'm not that shallow *ahem* But nice to see the Powers That Be decided that a couple of complaints weren't worth the fuss) Loved the strong, aggressive nature, and his partnering with regard to the arm work was fantastic, so fluid and didn't miss a beat.

Sadly, Brenphie's jive didn't work for me at all. Great characterisation but lacking bounce, flicks and kicks. Artalie's Viennese Waltz was a gorgeous concoction of lyrical wafting arms and floating whirliness - but there simply wasn't enough in hold to actually be a VW, so scoring tens seems a little naughty - especially considering later remarks, which I'll come to shortly.

When I say shortly, I mean now, and Marketa's Paso Doble. Personally, I loved it, there was fun and a good stab at the attitude and I felt there was plenty of Paso content to allow for the super disco break near the end. So Bruno's comment about not enough Paso to be a Paso, after a 10 for Artalie's VW that actually wasn't, hacked me off a bit, and resulted in a vote for Marketa from me. So there.

Pashel's American Smooth I thought was a little bit limp? No? I didn't really get into at all, although a second watch convinced me it was Ok to do a Viennese Waltz Smooth, which is why, presumably, on the SCD website, they called it an American Waltz.

And then to a bloody fantastic interpretation of an awesome song choice, with Asha's tango. Taut, electric, menacing. Beautiful, monster! My third vote. Another unusual but effective performance in the rumba for Abjaz, she really seems to get it and I'm beginning to like them a lot. Kave had more hand jive than leg work but it did actually resemble a routine, in that he seemed to know where he had to be at any given moment. Scariest thing about it was his panda eyes.

Kevanna ended the show with their charleston, letting us have the full benefit of SmileySusanna again, tons of proper charleston content, really well done and "freedom on expression" according to Craig, I just think it deserved a more traditional song to really capture the feel. Still got my fourth vote though - it's too close to call not to.

The leaderboard:

Those draws are not doing the mid table peeps any favours - best prepare ourselves for another shock tonight. See you later x

And so we return with another inventive and pulsating performance, with Claudia and Tess dropping in, literally. And then for the shock - Abjaz into the dance off! I was praying it wouldn't be versus one of my other favourites, but still a bit peeved when it turned out to be Pashel.

Elsewhere, before the Big Decision, Madness showcased their new single - I've always wanted to see Suggs on Strictly, but next time please let it be in tails. In Len's Lens, Dress of Sunday Night is Darcey's, and loving Craig's glittery crutch; Len enjoys the Time Warp but warns about the plethora of illegal lifts; Darcey's scared face at Brendan, and Sophie's knees; high fives between Bruno and Darcey for the 10s; Claudia's descent into hell, you'd have thought, with the air lift in!

I thought the Dance Off might come down to nerves; on balance, with both at their best, it would always be Abjaz, but she's a wreck - her and Rachel are best friends on the show and she's setting me right off with her sobbing. As it happens, she focused the emotion into the performance and it was even better than last night. Rachel also much better but it was a unanimous judging decision. But so, so sad for Pashel :(

How can a show that brings so much joy cause so much pain? I'll leave you with a little Frankie Beverley and Maze to think about it. Well, why not, you dig? Go ahead, get down y'all, till next week anyhow.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Always sunny in Susanna-Land

So says Bruno, and who are we to disagree?

Once again, Kevanna topped the lot for me, with another animated performance. It's not just about putting your feet in the right place, it's about the emotion a dancer elicits from its audience: Kevanna make me happy.

Natalie is a fantastic rhythmic dancer and I should've been into Artalie's samba a lot more than I was. Likewise, I thought Brenphie's cha cha could've been more cheeky, and Antiona's quickstep I didn't find that interesting, it didn't pick out any highlights in the music. Anton, you're supposed to be King of this stuff!

A good effort but more still to do from Pashel, Rachel needed more attack, while Kave are beginning to bore me a little now. In the 'lovely' camp were Abjaz, with an unusual but flowing foxtrot, and Marketa, a rather delightful waltz. Another great effort by Bentina in their quickstep, he's mastered smiling-while-dancing, anyhow. Asha's jive was lively and toe tapping, although prompting a "be aware that you do have feet, darling, at the end of those legs" from Craig. Nice sparkly chair, by the way! And Booooo to those bastard complainers, stopping us getting an eyeful of Ben and Ashley, making them wear vests. I think the rest of us should all complain about that. Who's with me?

And so to Patya and our desperately-sad-to-go Robrah. Get used to the shocks every week now, unless this result gives a bit of a jolt to the voters. Deborah was one of those who came into the competition and totally fell in love with dancing, and they usually get a decent journey as a result. Patya did a very groovy salsa, considering his injury, a damn fine job. And Robrah's Viennese Waltz was their best dance yet, a nice flow and elegance. Tiny consolation - dress of the night. Gorgeous.

Elsewhere in the results show, the professionals brought us a captivating Japanese inspired lyrical hip hop mix to 'Halo', Earth Wind and Fire are still throwing the same shapes they did all those years ago. Len's Lens highlighted Natalie clocking Artem's fractured nose with her elbow; Anton's face; Ashley's leap frog; Patrick's one handed lift and Dave's hairography. And Claudia came to the party wearing an amniotic sac. Why would she do that?

It's Halloween next! Wooooooooohooooooo ...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Whipsnappy and wafty; groovy and fearless

A three way tie at the top for Brenphie, Abjaz and Artalie, with Juliette's sparkle-fest finally over. But a shock for sure, seeing Pashel in the dance off! They definitely improved though and the judges voted unanimously to save them.

My favourites of the night: Abjaz, for their superb, very tight tango, great musicality and yes, whipsnappy a perfect description. And Patya, his whole routine was so groovy, really nailed the cheeky cha cha - would like to see him bring his chin up like Darcey said, definitely makes it look a bit odd at times! Moments of pure joy though, loved it.

Dress of the night belonged to Karen, if not dance of the night. Needing more movement in the waltz, Kave did probably the best they could but Karen will start having to challenge him soon. Brenphie danced a gorgeous foxtrot, cheek to cheek, while Antiona worked a rumba with nerves getting her again. Marketa had a ball with the Cha Cha to U Can't Touch This, pure fun.

I loved Asha's armwork, thought them gorgeous - I like wafty too, Bruno. Just wish Ashley would smile more, but he's making it look effortless, this time in the Viennese Waltz. Juliette worked hard as usual  but we all knew his salsa wasn't going to be enough. Pashel still losing focus, this time in quickstep and it cost her - clearly not getting away with it, whatever Bruno says. And then falling off his chair: I LOVE THIS SHOW! Bentina showing some good arm work and impressive, fearless throwing around of Kristina, although I would've liked to see a lot more basic salsa steps.

Robrah's jive footwork and bounce looked so much better in training, it's a shame it didn't translate to the live show but, hey, it was a Eurovision flashback so who cares? Artalie were fantastic and snazzy but I agree with Len - far too much out of hold for a quickstep. And finally, Kevanna, full of gusto again but just needed to be a touch more fluid.

So what do we deduce then, following the dance off? Well, clearly Mark, Dave, Fiona and Deborah were more popular than Rachel. So, Mr. Bookie, what do you make of that then? Seven points for bottom couple, out of a maximum 13? We're going to see a lot more shocks I think, as the remaining couples are all capable of being in the mid-late 20s.

The tightest series yet? See all the dances again to make up your mind. Until 6.30pm on Saturday, ttfn x

Friday, 18 October 2013

Sweating like a dumpling in a stock pot

Quote of the week up there, courtesy of Dave. Spared the dance off as People's Champion, it was Janessa we said farewell to, in what was a very close week. Fourteen couples but the one at the bottom on six points!

Kevanna again a favourite this week, just that shoulder needing a nudge downwards but otherwise simply lovely movement and flow in their waltz. Asha also impressed, the samba can be a real wreck but his was full of bounce and rhythm, likewise Brenphie, although we could've seen a little more abandon, maybe. Loved Bentina's rumba - great partnering, steady and secure, fluid and connected. Artalie were again magnificent in the rumba, she certainly knows how to work it. Patya rocking the Nat King Cole foxtrot but could've done with more movement around the floor and a little more swing and sway - and oh, Craig - almost word for word. My brother from another mother! Lovely quickstep from Robrah, full of joy.

Kave had great Paso attitude all the way through; Karen is becoming one of my favourite pros. Abjaz with great energy in the jive although Abbey needs to get on the balls of her feet. Antiona's charming waltz - she has lovely arms, and Pashel have clearly been studying cha cha technique, although I still think her hips looked a bit forced. A delightful yet liftless American Smooth for Marketa.

So it was Juliette in the dance off once again, this time with Janessa and both improved on their jive and tango respectively, technique may be lacking but there's no denying they get stuck into the spirit of the dance. I think Julien's more natural feel for dance is what got him the nod over Vanessa.

The pro dance choreographers - I think they take it in turns - are really on it. Another fantastic routine with high flying Iveta, so moving to Whitney's I Have Nothing. Andrea's vocals too, stunning.

All the gossip and the clips can be found on the website. In the meantime, I'll apologize for the lateness of this year's blog. I'm working on some writing for a charity book and have just finished co-ordinating a literature festival, so my focus isn't fully on it this year and - fair warning being given - I may have to take a break with it to focus on developing the Litfest next year. But for now, we'll always have the custard pies.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Awesome Artalie, Bravo Brenphie, Amazing Asha - and Ta-ra Toniona

Firstly, wishing Brucie all the best for a speedy recovery. I'd say I want to see him back but the thing is, Clauds and Tess together are brilliant. If and when Brucie does go, there's no need to look any further.

So, from the best dresses awards (Kristina and Vanessa) to could-Julien-wear-any-more-crystals-is-it-possible, we move onto the top three of the night.

I adored Artalie's waltz and take back my earlier comments about chemistry, her musicality and the headography were gorgeous, a sumptuous performance - I love the song, which always helps - and everyone clearly moved. Beautiful routine.

"Dance is a performing art: Every move is like a word for an actor" - Bruno Tonioli

Brenphie's Charleston, in Week 2?! Astounding, brilliantly executed. Maybe a few more silly faces and/or smiles but no, I'm really not complaining. Love them.

And Asha, proving the girls aren't going to have it all their own way. A groovy American Smooth, lots of swing and sway - he was so relaxed, loved the effortless leap down the steps. Lots of panache. What a week for him - congrats on the new bub :)

Good follow ups on last week from Kevanna (Tango, great attitude, fast and sharp) Kave (American Smooth, loving the chest bump; they're so lovely together) Patya (Tango, looked like he was holding his breath all through) Robrah (Cha Cha, you can't teach zuzz, she enjoyed, so did we) Pashel (Salsa, basic salsa steps a bit suspect, hips too forced but she's so sweet) Janessa (Waltz, Run To Me gets me every time, lovely emotion. A moment here to congratulate the singer (Andrea?) for this and Artalie's waltz, wonderfully done). Antiona (Cha Cha, going so well until near the end) Marketa (Salsa, although not so much with the salsa step, the character and rhythm is all there) Bentina (Waltz, Kristina's dress has more fluidity but still improving - smile please!) Abjaz (Cha Cha, occasional lapses in focus but not a bad effort. Although I had to watch Ramps cha cha to Let's Get Loud straight after). Ok, so now I'm back after watching it again. And the Argentine Tango and samba .. Ahem

And so it was a dance off between Juliette and Toniona, neither of whom got to grips with the nature of each dance; Tony too relaxed, Julien down to orange smarties but still has potential, he gave it some attitude but I thought I was watching a Paso attempt. The judges were unanimous as Tony failed to engage both them and the public.

Paso of the results night was of course the urban street Paso by the pro dancers to Crazy in Love! Crazy, but it worked. Len's Lens is back talking Susanna's Viennese Crosses, Natalie's swan neck and deep back, Bruno's counting and Mark's many faces.

Strictly Love Week next - the songs and dances are all released, the teasers ... see you then.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Strictly Come Dancing: Do Not Disturb!

It's started - and the producers capture the feel of the nation: Sparkly popcorn, Len & Craig cushions, drawn curtains and "Get off the phone, don't you know what time it is?"

It's Strictly time! Belly laughs and soppy grins at the ready ...

The Belly Laughs were provided by Hairy Biker Dave, who Karen has clearly decided not to tame, but to join instead. Fabulous partnership, with Kave channelling Mick Jagger. Terrible technique but absolutely loved Dave's joy in the cha cha and the judges (bar Craig) joining in the spirit. Boom! Darcey summed it up: "I want to cry with happiness".

The Soppy Grins made an appearance for the Sophie and Brendan (Brenphie) waltz to Moon River, her topline a little floppy but lovely movement and gentle phrasing. Proud mum Janet was in tears; I loved Sophie's honest appraisal: "I was terrified but I didn't throw up!" Also, Tony and Aliona (Toniona) made me smile. Yes, posture needs work but I thought he had quite lyrical arms. Very sweet.

In between the laughs and soppiness, Kevanna (Susanna and Kevin) were my favourites of the weekend; I was smiling all the way through. Smashing partnership already and I do love seeing someone really let themselves go and have a good time. Bags of natural personality and energy, just needed a touch more bounce - it was there in training - so more to come from them.

Credible performances, high likeability factor and good partnerships from Ben and Kristina (Bentina) once he's loosened up they could be ones to watch; Fiona and Anton (Antiona) *Hand Darling Hand*; Robin and Deborah (Robrah) keep up, Debs; Patrick and Anya (Patya) flat footed but groovy; Ashley and Ola (Asha) elongate the arms, don't stab; Mark and Iveta (Marketa) were terrific, a great pairing and lovely characterisation and attitude.

Julian actually might need to calm down a bit - I need to see him dance properly, because I think he can; Rachel is nice but will also need to be sassy and more focused; Loved that James is immediately protective of Vanessa - never been a fan, but she worked hard and did everything he asked, so well done - they seem to have well gelled *ahem*. Abbey and Aljaz are indeed the beautiful couple and also seem very sweet; gorgeous lines in a lovely routine gave them dance of the night. But can she rock the Latin? Natalie and Artem hit the floor confidently, very good technically - they didn't seem to match the chemistry off it though.

The leaderboard:

Bruce quote of the night: "The Floor Manager's job is to stop the presenter looking stupid. I wish we had one of this show."

Best Dress (es): Rachel and Abbey's - simple, classy and elegant.

Tess' look: The Purple One ;)

The Pro Dance was a belter, all feathers and Bruno on the table, ballroom drama and Latin tricks - quite tough to follow, but it was the opening weekend so ...

Next stop: It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, 6.30pm BBC 2 TONIGHT! She's here all week :)

Week 2 begins on Saturday at 6.20pm and to keep you going, here's the link to the clips from week one.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Live: Strictly Come Dancing On Ice

Tickets for the sparkly seventh Strictly Come Dancing Tour 2014 have gone on sale.

Choreographed once again by Craig Revel-Horwood and featuring him, Len and Bruno on the judging panel, some our favourite competitors will complete for the chance to lift the arena glitter ball.

This season's cast is yet to be confirmed but this is immaterial - if you have not been to the live Strictly show before ... what have you been doing with your life?! Click here for the official BBC Live site, to book tickets and to sign up for the newsletter. And GO!

Whilst there is still mixed info coming out about the possibility of another series on TV, former Olympic champ and Dancing on Ice head judge, Robin Cousins, has decided to keep doing what he does best in the meantime, taking a new show on the road.

Robin is bringing world class skaters together for a spectacular show, touring at the beginning of 2014. With a soundtrack of original music and reworked classics, the show, called simply ICE, promises a unique, dynamic and atmospheric world where the performers will fly, glide, soar and flip. See the official website for more details and to book.

Are we just a teensy bit spoilt, or what?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Dance like everyone's watching!

There's another dance movie due out in 2014 - because we just can't get enough! This one takes it's cue, ever so slightly, from the classic West Side Story update of Romeo and Juliet (but hopefully without the tragic ending!) and sits somewhere between Pitch Perfect and Save The Last Dance meets The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

Platinum: The Dance Movie  from Across The Floor Productions, promises a tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy set against the backdrop of competitive dancing. The star-crossed lovers on this occasion are Brandon (Shane Harper Good Luck Charlie) and Jasmine (Kathryn McCormick Step Up 4) rivals for the $25,000 top prize of the Platinum Platinum.

Excitingly, the choreographers on board for this include the completely awesome NappyTabs - Outta Your Mind and Mad (see Fave dances below) - as well as the likes of Kent Boyd, Mark Goodman and Mandy Moore.

Just to give you a taster and whet your appetite further, there's a whole bunch of behind the scenes videos on Youtube, plus you can connect with the team on Twitter and Facebook. See you at the premiere!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Strictly Come Dancing: Couples Reveal

You know it's Strictly time again when you're sat in front of the telly wearing a happy smile and sequins, eating cake and watching a sparkly extravaganza with a warm fuzzy feeling.

And this is just the launch, where we find out the couples! The show proper gets under way on Friday, September 27th.

In the meantime, cast your eyes over the pairings - who do you think has the chemistry, skill and personality to go all the way this year? Will we have a slow burner again like Louis, or a stand out turn from week one, like Alesha? As always, I've portmanteauxed the names so I don't get arm ache ...

Brendan and Sophie (Brephie)
Vanessa and James (Janessa)
Rachel and Pasha (Pashel)
Deborah and Robin (Robrah)
Karen and Dave (Kave)
Kevin and Susanna (Kevanna)
Iveta and Mark (Marketa)
Anton and Fiona (Antiona)
Ola and Ashley (Asha)
Janette and Julien (Juliette)
Aliona and Tony (Toniona)
Artem and Natalie (Artalie)
Kristina and Ben (Bentina)
Abbey and Aljaz (Abjaz)
Anya and Patrick (Patya)

The money will go on Abjaz, Artalie, Asha and Pashel, because the bookies and national press still don't get it. I'll be reserving judgement till I've seen them all dance a ballroom and a Latin and found out about their work ethic, chemistry, personality and how they cope with the pressure.

On first glimpses, new pro Kevin seems a fun bloke, Ben's been paying attention to his arms, Natalie was very confident and Tony was totally enjoying the moment. Without exception, they were all loving it. Three weeks to wait? That's far too long, naughty Beeb!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Strictly Come Dancing - The Class of 2013!

Darcey Bussell put an end to all the speculation, thankfully, revealing this year's line up on The One Show.

There's the usual mix of someone for everyone, from sport to fashion, to pop and food. Our contenders are:

Our excitable darling of the wardrobe, Julien Macdonald couldn't have taken much persuading - there's a little dance history there, before the fashion design skills showed up, so he could be one to watch on the dance floor as well as being adorable and funny.

Abbey Clancy, best known as WAG to Peter Crouch, will have to win us over by proving she's not just a pretty face - always much harder for the stunners, because the tabloids just presume they'll be elegant and sexy. And we know it doesn't work like that, so good luck Abbey.

Ashley Taylor-Dawson would have been a 'Who?' for me, but for the fact that friend and fellow Rochester Litfest personage, actress Emma Dewhurst, was in Hollyoaks recently! So I suppose I shall find myself kinda rooting for him by association and not because he appears to be quite hot *coughs* so that's all good.

World cup winning rugby player Ben Cohen joins and for once we have a sportsman with no fear of getting his kit off and the spray tan on! Star of numerous calendars and nothing-but-pants advertising, Ben will hopefully be letting himself go early on.

Dave Myers, hairy biker and foodie could split fans. On one hand, his diet cook book knocked Fifty Shades of Grey off the top spot, and on the other hand, his diet cook book knocked Fifty Shades of Grey off the top spot.  He can trip up, go the wrong way and have a major wardrobe malfunction - I shall still sling a vote his way on behalf of writers everywhere.

Dragon's Den entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden takes a break from business for some r'n'r on the dance floor. Straight talking and obviously a major work ethic; her male pro will be happy with that I think.

Isn't it funny how connections pop up? Fiona Fullerton is the person I visualise whenever someone says Alice in Wonderland, which, incidentally, is the theme for the final event in the Rochester Litfest's Other Worlds, Other Voices festival 3-13 October (yeah, best get used to the plugging for the next couple of weeks. Sorry.) And with experience in ballet (we've got half the City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra accompanying a mix of dancers) I'm sure Fiona will be Queen of the Ballroom with no need to call for anyone's head!

Mark Benton is one of those familiar faces I couldn't have put a name to but seen countless times on TV and in film. A recent starring turn as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray the Musical has rekindled hs love of dance - and that's something we all want to see.

I don't watch soaps, so Coronation Street actress Natalie Gumede is a new face to me. The Street stars don't generally do as well as the Walford lot, though; be interesting to see if Natalie can get an extended run.

Patrick Robinson loves to dance and will try anything so, Woohoo! A funky soul fan like myself, I will be expecting Great Things in the Latin, Patrick - no pressure :)

Numbers queen (cue lots of scoreboard related remarks) Rachel Riley from Countdown loves a bit of bling but is concerned, as an Essex girl, that the spray tan will put her in the stereotype bracket. No-one would've known if you hadn't said anything!

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has music in her soul and loves to shake her groove thing. I'm desperately trying not to mention her biggest hit, oh, but hang it - I'm sure it won't be Murder on the Dancefloor where Sophie's concerned. *hangs head in shame*

Newsreaders have always done well, with the public if not always with the judges, so Susanna Reid stands a good chance of a decent stint. We love it when they do Children in Need; that may be where our affection for them as a genre comes from.

Tony Jacklin, golfing legend - didn't see that one coming, did we? Will he be putting Craig in his place? Can he drive off across the dance floor? Will he end up doing the Birdie Dance? And so on ... yes, I'll still be here next week.

And finally, TV presenter Vanessa Feltz makes the number up to 15. The chat queen will have plenty to say - but she'll need to listen to her partner and learn when to button it if she's to get on.

In other news, Aliona Vilani, who'd lost her place in the pro line up this year, has had a reprieve. Sadly, it's due to Natalie Lowe fracturing her foot and being forced to rest up. Pretty gutted, as Natalie is such a fantastic choreographer and did such a brilliant job with Michael Vaughan last year. Get well soon!

Two more professionals have also joined: Anya Garnis and Kevin Clifton.

There's a short Red Carpet show on the red button on Wednesday at 6pm, with the launch proper on Saturday night, 6.50pm BBC One.

Keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep dancing!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Snippets: The Voice; Strictly Come Dancing on Ice

Changes afoot in the world of The Voice, as both Danny and Jessie are stepping away from their coaching roles to concentrate on their careers.

In Glitterland, four professional dancers have left Strictly Come Dancing: Last year's winner, Flavia Cacace and pro partner Vincent Simone, former champ with Harry Judd, Aliona Vilani and  ever-present in each every series so far, Erin Boag. Their places will be taken by Iveta Lukosiute, who stood in for Aliona last year, Emma Slater, Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara.

Dancing on Ice could exit with an All-Stars series next year, bringing favourite contestants together - which might be interesting if they left it purely to the public: Todd Carty ftw? Much tougher would be if they brought the previous winners together but hey ... there's also talk that ITV will go it alone without Torvill and Dean - would you still watch?

So I'm playing about with the domain name, lost it and apologise now if you have to re-save the link, the original blogspot address. Sadly, Blogger, from being an incredibly simple set up has made it all very complicated and I will have to begin a new Rhythm of Life sometime soon. This one will be archived on there though, and I will give you a new link :)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A win for Danny's Team: Andrea Begley is The Voice

Was it a shock? Really? The moment Jessie told everyone to Vote Leah was probably the turning point, cos us viewers are a bit funny like that.

I think it will always be the most mainstream artist to win - the demographic of the audience suggests it. But like last year, all the finalists will get their shot.

Andrea is a deserving winner, any of them would have been. With the right songs she'll gain an appreciative audience, and Danny has proven himself when it comes to the right songs. I wouldn't say she blew me away on the night, but I could definitely sit and listen to an album quite happily. Ho Hey was my favourite by her.

Leah did blow me away with the extended version of Lovin' You. The way her voice soars and dips I find incredibly moving, although I wasn't so sure of I Will Always Love You, a good start gave way to a bit of dodgy section, I thought. As for the duet, fantastic production but really dear Will, a little bit indulgent, maybe? More Leah, less Will next time, eh? But I loved her dad. I reckon he probably got as many votes as she did.

Mike did well but I guess it's not really my thang. But if there is a market for country here, he will do well. Biggest shock and final 'One that got away' was undoubtedly Matt, who won the first and second rounds for me, by far the strongest performances. My only explanation is that soul singers are less of a novelty now, it could have easily been Trevor up there. Only topped by Leah's Lovin' You as far as the performances on the night go.

So there we go, over for another year and I can hopefully get back to more straight dance news. In fact, I'm musing on changing the blog ever-so-slightly so it can be a bit more consistent on the dance/theatre front, with less on the reality shows - the Sleeping Beauty post I did recently proved to be far more popular!

So I shall see you soon, probably with a few snippets while I decide how to re-design. Not sure I can part with the Glitter Balls though ...

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Voice: Semi Finals

Not one but perhaps two shocks? I thought Joseph would have made it through but it looks like Tom's earlier instinct was correct with Mike. And if left to Jessie, I'm pretty sure Ash would be sitting pretty in the final, although on the night I have to say I also preferred Matt.

Our finalists then: the Gentle Folky sound of Andrea, whose pure vocal again created goosebumps, versus Country Boy Mike, with that lovely tone that's gotten stronger each week, versus Soul Boy Matt, as watchable as he is listenable, versus In-A-Genre-All-Her-Own Leah, smashing it again. I agree with Jessie though - a safe song for her. They couldn't be more different and we have no idea who the public are favouring. Isn't that fantastic?

The team performances were also a major contrast. Jessie and her boys just saaaaang it; Danny has a knack of choosing great songs to show them off and delivered again; Tom tended to drown out his two and as for Will? Love him to bits but that was pants by the girls, it was fun but Will was the star.

Losing Ash was a blow to my team, but appearances suggest Jessie will not let him fade away. I'm left with just Leah although Cleo went out fighting, giving it everything. Karl seems assured of support from Danny, while Will told Joseph and Cleo he wanted to work with them.

Relive the semi final performances again here. The final begins at 7.15pm, see you then :)

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Voice: Quarter Finals

It's public vote all the way tomorrow - who'll be the shock exit, I wonder?

My team of four are intact: Joseph; Leah; Cleo and Ash, although that will definitely be reduced to three at most, since both Leah and Cleo are Team Will. And since Leah went to no.3 in the downloads this week with her awesome rendition of I Will Survive, I'm pretty sure it'll be her going through. Star of the week again for me.

Joining Leah in the Semi's on a Fast Pass were Ash (Lego House, good interpretation), Andrea (Hey Ho, got the place rocking) and Joseph (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher, didn't blow me away as much as I thought it would).

Through on the public vote were Cleo (Imagine, brave and great to just hear her sing) Karl (A Thousand Years, quite lovely) Mike (When I Was Your Man, the best I've heard him) and Matt (Wonder, such amazing presence).

Out went Sarah and Leanne, both given high tempo so so songs (Love Sensation and  Where Have You Been respectively) which showed off their voices but didn't capture emotionally, whereas Alys did turn Jamaican reggae into Welsh folk but with a few wobbles (Is This Love) and Mitchel, the best of them, with a terrific performance of Radioactive, full of energy and confidence.

Song choices will have a major impact tomorrow, let's hope they choose wisely!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Voice: Knockout Rounds

Last weekend saw the coaches cull their teams down to three each. By and large you couldn't argue with their decisions, although I lost a lot of my favourites *sad face* And most of the performers excelled, making their coaches decision much tougher than anticipated.

Due to the odd number, each team had one member sail through on a Fast Pass to the live shows. They were able to show off what they can do at the end of their team's section. For Team Will, Leah was the Chosen One, with the absolute best performance of the night for me, singing Minnie Ripperton's Loving You and making it her own. Goosebump City, absolutely stunning.

Tom chose Mike Ward and while he's a nice guy, I thought vocally he was one of the weakest. Danny sent Karl through, whose performance didn't really set me alight, while Jessie opted for Ash, who did well with Beyonce's Sweet Dreams but I think can do better.

The one that got away - best performance that didn't make it through was Trevor (Team Jessie), who was awesome, losing out to Sarah, who I again found too screechy. Danny, sadly, never got into his stride. Tom and the other coaches were a little perplexed, because Trevor was That Awesome, with a fantastic song choice delivered perfectly.

Revelation of the night was Alex (Danny's steal) who I actually preferred to Andrea and Abi. His lower register was actually quite lovely, although he did most in the falsetto - but he was in tune this time! It was always going to be Andrea though, the emotional response she induces in Danny (blubbing like a baby) sending her through. Connor's energy wasn't enough to counter the power of Mitchel, sent through to join Andrea and Karl, though Sean ran him close, his version of Ain't No Sunshine the best I've heard him.

Jessie's other group was just as tough, Lovelle's lovely tone and unusual vocal not enough to oust Matt, who was just On It. Letitia was more confident but the vocal lacked a little something. My fave, Jamie (Team Tom), lost out to Alys, but no complaints because her voice too is wonderful. Cherelle gave her best performance, although lost her way a little halfway through.

And we lost one of the Medway boys, as Adam was up against Joseph and Ragsy in Team Tom's other battle. All three were excellent but Joseph has that special indefinable something and duly made it through.

Disappointment of the night was losing Moni, who only had to repeat his rehearsal for Will to put him through. But he went over the top, and Leanne's stunning vocal gave her the nod. Jordan was terrific too, and a close third. Cleo was succesful over Lem and John - although, had Jessie not intervened, I think Will may have put Lem through. He has a special quality too, although  enjoyed Cleo's scatting.

The Teams:
Tom - Alys, Mike and Joseph
Jessie - Ash, Sarah and Matt
Danny - Andrea, Karl and Mitchel
Will - Leah, Cleo and Leanne. He can at least call them all together at once: Cleahanne.

The remnants of my nine, sadly reduced to a measly four: Ash, Joseph, Leah and Cleo.

The live quarter final is this Friday at 7pm. If you want to re-live the knockout performances, you'll find them all here.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Voice: Battles Weekend 2

It's all very well having a mammoth two hour show, but with the cutting out of all the non-essential chit chat (I know, I told them to do that) I'm watching with crossed legs ...

Travesty of the night was Alex getting through, where other much better voices didn't. What was Danny thinking? But with four acts leaving from each team next week, I guess it won't make much difference. I'll just hope my nine are among the twelve left standing: Abi; Adam; Ash; Lem; Jamie: Joseph; Leah; Cleo and Moni.

Team Danny went from hosting four of mine to just one - and unless Abi can be more commanding on stage, she won't last. He chose Mitchel over Ricardo, Abi over Laura, Sean over Paul and Karl over Nadeem. Mitchel deserved it, much as I'd have like to hear more from Ricardo. Laura I really enjoyed but want to see how far they can push the Ragga with Abi. Paul for me was just more exciting than Sean, while Nadeem's tone was so lovely and his vocal so pure, against the boy-bandish sound of Karl.

Team Tom were all fantastic and apart from Joseph v Diva really could have gone any way. A lovely country love story from Emma Jade and Mike saw Mike just get the nod, while Alys's more unusual voice took her through over Lareena. Ragsy and Colin were excellent, light and shade and really strong - I thought Colin might nick it but no, Ragsy got the vote. Diva are wonderful but Joseph just outshone them.

So far, so strong - Tom and Danny nail the song choices for their acts to bring out the best in them. If only we could say the same for Jessie and Will!

Mary J Blige, Jessie? Really - lots of attitude needed but Alex was merely annoying and Letitia intimidated. Never really got going. Letitia the far better vocally and Jessie puts her through - leaving Will and Danny to fight over Alex??! It's just ... weird. On the other hand/complete opposite end of the scale/and other cliches - Trevor versus Lem was bloody awesome, with a fantastic song choice they clearly both relished: Soul Man. Super epic battle, Trevor put through; Lem stolen by Will. Eventually. Jeez, Will, take your time!

Will, for some inexcusable reason, gave Liam and John the Phil Collins/Philip Bailey song, Easy Lover. The other coaches shared my *eek* at that. I couldn't choose between them, due to the screechyness. John is taken through; Jessie upset she can't steal Liam. Who I didn't take to, really, after initially liking him. Will made up for it with Emily v Moni which was another barnstormer and could have gone either way. The performance of Moni gets it - Emily's an artist, I'm sure she'll do well.

You can see all the battles on the website. The first of the knockout rounds airs at 8.30pm on Saturday; the second at 7.15pm on Sunday. Each act gets to choose their own 'killer' song they hope will see them through. Till then :)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Snippets: Dancing on Ice; Strictly Confidential

Sadly, but perhaps not totally unexpectedly, Dancing on Ice is being axed by ITV.

I think it's a mistake, it still has a big audience in relation to other shows and only a few tweaks were needed in my opinion to make it more viewer-friendly.

Jayne and Chris spoke about their time on the show on Daybreak, calling it "absolutely fantastic" and promising not to hang up their skates. The show will finish after Series 9 next year, with a farewell tour planned.

And talking of tours, the Craig Revel Horwood written and produced Strictly Confidential will be touring in June and July, starring Lisa Riley, Natalie Lowe, Ian Waite and Artem Chigvintsev.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A fairy tale beauty, re-awakened: Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

An age old tale of magic and wonder, retold darkly and sensually - Disney this ain't! Matthew Bourne's Gothic Romance re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty won my heart.

Sumptuous was the word repeatedly popping into my head: sets, costumes and of course, the incredible score by Tchaikovsky, beautifully interpreted. Add to that the divine dancing, with Matthew's trademark capacity to interchange genres: contemporary ballet gave way to flashes of Paso Doble and balletic Argentine Tango in the palace of the bad vamps; devilish costumes in traditional Flamenco red and black intensified the passion and impending aggression. If the trailer doesn't make you wish you'd been there, I don't know what will:

Depending on if you believe the official Twitter or the official website, Tom Jackson Greaves or Adam Maskell (my money is on him for last night, at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury - but I was in the Upper Circle, so I could be wrong!), is the most charismatic of baddies as Caradoc, son of Carabosse (also played by him), in this most moving vampire love story since Buffy met Angel.

The decision to show Aurora first as a playful baby by way of animated puppetry was inspired; her transformation into a coquettish 16 year old - a captivating Hannah Vassallo - continued the playfulness; charming to all, innocent yet knowing.

There were audible gasps from the audience when good fairy Count Lilac 'turned' Aurora's young lover - for how else would he survive to awake her with a kiss? Those of us who'd seen the Imagine documentary of course, just nodded sagely. "Be careful, though, with those racquets!"

All ended as it should (after an awakening, subtle, but maybe a little too adult for under 11s) happily ever after, with every aspect of the whole production simply stunning. If you get the chance to see Sleeping Beauty or any of Matthew Bourne's New Adventures there's no decision to be made, just do it.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @New_Adventures and keep up to date on the website. News already there is that Swan Lake returns in the winter!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Voice: Battles Weekend 1

There were the epic ones, the so-so ones and a couple that made you want to gauge out your ears with a spoon.

In the epic category was Jamie versus LB - plus the added bonus in rehearsal of Tom showing his mastery, with the U2/BB King song When Love Comes To Town. Both compelling performers, LB sweet but Jamie's power just edged it for me. Three coaches plumped for LB but the man that mattered - Tom - chose Jamie: "I think I can see something that the other coaches can't." And then no-one stole LB, sadly.

Also at battle standard was Matt versus Jordan, with the dreaded Stevie Wonder Song of Death - doing a fabulous job with my samba song, Do I Do. Matt much more comfortable on stage - love the slide- Jordan so controlled vocally. Coaches split, Will takes Jordan through and Jessie steals Matt: "I have him nooow!"

Ash versus Adam was another power performance, but with a beautiful James Morrison song I Won't Let You Go, allowing them to both saaaannng, as Jessie would say. A close decision, won by Ash but with Danny already saying he would steal - Tom is chosen by Adam though, as he's listened to his music most.

Last of the battles I really enjoyed saw Leah versus CJ, with The Way You Make Me Feel, their interplay and dynamic was great and charismatic though CJ is, Leah definitely has more potential overall, vocally. Will duly takes her through but we lose CJ.

Good performances with not much to choose between them saw Andrea triumph over Alice, her raw emotion giving her the decision; Leanne beat Barbara & Carla, who to be fair, none of the coaches knew what to do with, all three showing their fantastic range, albeit with karaoke favourite 'Hero'. The much improved Cherelle got Tom's vote over the the accomplished Elise, surprisingly not stolen. I loved the falsetto/rap combo of De'Vide but Danny was Jessie's pick. Lovelle and Nate didn't quite give me the goosebumps I was hoping for, with No Air, although mighty close. Lovelle was my choice, and it was she who Jessie put through. Conor just nicked it for me, up against duo Smith and Jones, all of whom though sounded lovely. Danny agreed but no-one stole the couple.

Over in the *my ears, my ears* corner, due to a couple of shocking song choices by Jessie and Will, respectively, was Sarah v Katie with Katy Perry's 'E.T' which was a god-awful dirge fest so bad, I left it to go and check on my spuds. Two good voices, thoroughly ruined. Sarah got the nod; Katie bravely criticised the song, thus ensuring no-one stole her. And as for Nu Tarna v Cleo ... jeez, it was a case 'Finally' when it ended. What a racket. The mouthy one in Nu-Tarna needs to learn that being loud and shouty doesn't = personality. Cleo did enough to justify Will's choice. I'll hope for better from her next time.

So my team has lost two and now stands at twelve: Abi; Nadeem; Paul; Ricardo; Adam; Ash; Lem; Jamie; Joseph; Leah; Cleo and Moni.

Catch all the clips on the website and don't think it's all gone to pot when you tune in this week - it's Eurovision. The Voice will be back the week after. Till then folks.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Voice: Bring on the Battles!

All the teams are complete - especially mine, for which I've decided to ignore all the rules and have 14. Because I don't actually count, see, it's all just pretend!

Successfully through and who impressed me enough to swivel were Moni Tivony (Team Will), bravely going for Bob Marley and seriously impressing me and all four coaches - I reckon he could sing anything, really strong vocally; Abi Sempa, East meets West to great effect, thought her vocal simply lovely. Tom was twitching and finally Danny went. Good man - she completes his team. Gillingham lad, Joseph Apostol I thought would be Jessie all the way - his diction coupled with a beautiful voice saw her turn, but along with Tom - and Joe's mum's a big Tom fan ... he completes Team Tom. Jessie nabbed the other Medway lad, Chatham's Adam Barron, whose voice reminded me of a more gravelly Lou Rawls. The girlfriend needs to control herself though, really, that was a bit embarrassing. He won't die if he doesn't make it, chill out!

The ones I need to hear more of: CJ Edwards, the final auditionee and Will's last chance - I loved the hand claps at the start but I'm not sure how strong he is vocally, although he certainly has charisma. Letitia Grant-Brown (Team Jessie), controlled passion, quite raw, odd duff notes, impressively mature for a 17 year old. John Pritchard (Team Will) was quite different, I liked then I didn't then I did - didn't like the screechy ending.

The one that got away BIG TIME: Bronwen Lewis - a shame that Will and Jessie felt they had similar already, she had a lovely, original tone - Danny and Tom both upset they couldn't go.

The 'Nos': Adenike never hit the notes she needed due to nerves; Danny Foster (ex-Hearsay), although imaginatively reinventing a Spice Girls' song, and Jay Aston (ex-Bucks Fizz), just weren't vocally strong enough, while Brett Davison was far too boy-bandy. Others just not outstanding enough included Sophie Mendoza, Georgia Thursting, Julie Gordon, Rita Payne, Laine Hines and Rob Reynolds. The most gorgeous voice not to get through belonged to Gemma Louise Edwards, opera singer - but with an operatic duo already in his team and he the only coach with a spot left, Will just couldn't take her on.

So we're ready for the Battle Rounds! And this is where it can all get a bit canny, with The Twist! Acts the coaches were hankering after but didn't get could well be jettisoned by their existing coach, so will they pounce and steal someone at the expense of one of their own? These are the teams as they stand now, and my team is beyond complete: Abi; Nadeem; Paul; Ricardo; Adam; Ash, De'Vide; Lem; Jamie; Joseph; Carla&Barbara; Cleo; Leah; Moni.

Till next week :)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Voice: Almost there ...

My team is nearing completion, as a few Soul Men made it on there tonight! And the show seems to be swinging along a lot quicker now, thank you PTB, with less chat and more audition time.

Builder and landscaper carpet fitting chef, Jamie Bruce got an oh, yes from me, with a voice like Galaxy silk - first time I've been quite moved. Sweet yet raw, powerful yet subtle, get in my team, you! Will or Tom? He seems like a Tom guy but ... yes, he joins Tom.

Ricardo Afonso (Team Danny) had a similar effect, all groovy and got the coaches rocking. He's got a lovely little kid too, and a touch of Hugh Jackman about him, so what's not to love. Oh, he's a West Ham fan too! Ah, no #hearingaidforDanny. And then up stepped Paul Carden, another strong but smooth more on the rock side of things, he also made Team Danny - I'd like to hear him really stretch himself.

And I would have loved to have heard more of De'Vide, the singer/rap duo; Jessie did hear enough and took them in, I'm happy to gamble. Jessie also turned (eventually) for Nate James, a name some of us knew. Like him but thought the song choice shocking and it nearly cost him. Will chose this audition to confirm that he is officially nuts.

Jordan Lee Davis brought forth a "Well, I wasn't expecting that!" So different and really deserved a shot - Will and Danny finally turned to give him it and Will nabbed him. And Tom took on the clearly talented but nervous-as-hell-so-she-missed-her-music-cue-on-a-really-dodgy-song-choice Cherelle Basquine. Great potential if she gets it right. And Tom also took Colin Chisholm, proper rock singer aiming for a second stab at fame, after a previously taste of it with the Bilbo Baggins Band. His voice certainly had a ring to it although I found it a bit middle-of-the-earth. But he certainly wasn't dwarfed by the other performers, although his hair is a bit of an elf and safety issue on its own. You can groan now.

The Yes But Nahs - there were quite a lot. Good, but didn't make me swivel: Sean Rumsey and Alice Barlow both impressed Danny sufficiently though, as Nutarna did Will. But the long haired one is getting on my nerves already. Lareena Mitchell had Tom written all over her. Really, they pinned her down and used marker pens all over, just so he got the hint. Ok, not really. And no, it's not Leanne Mitchell come back re-incarnated or anything.

The Nos: Contestant no-name we all thought was a girl was a boy who sadly went as flat as a three day old bottle of lemonade with the top off. Katie Evans, not strong enough; Gemma Marshall, we just didn't hear enough; Eva Iglesias (any relation, we wonder?) shouty club singer; Em Brulee. Seriously. If everyone she knows isn't calling her Crem then clearly this nation has lost its sense of humour. Ant Henson, weak; Cassie Chan, again not enough heard and Gill Forster, good but we've heard similar before.

The Ones That Got Away - I was willing the coaches to turn for these, thought they had great voices and sounded original: Charlie Ryan, who they thought was two people, such was his range; Aret Kapetanovic was way better and different from some they've put through, so I was pretty shocked no-one turned. I disagree with Tom that you should sing how you look - you should be yourself and have your own style in both. Wear what you wear, sing what you sing - who wants to be labelled?

Only seven spots remain now - Danny and Tom just one place left in their teams, Jessie with two and Will with three. See them all here. I've added Jamie Bruce, Ricardo Afonso, De'Vide and Paul Carden to Nadeem, Ash, Lem, Carla&Barbara, Cleo and Leah, leaving me just two spots.

Did you play the Predictor game last week? I did and got five out of six correct, so I'm feeling rather smug - I may even do it again. Till next time :)