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.