Strictly Come Dancing 15/16th November
Noticeably missing from the supportive group of fellow competitors commiserating with Cherie Lunghi on her ejection this week from the increasingly surreal Strictly Come Dancing, were John Sergeant and his partner Kristina. To paraphrase an old saying – a joke is only a joke, but a good cigar is a smoke. As his Cha Cha (Cha) and Salsa have shown, the closest John is ever going to get to anything Latin American is a good Havana and a brandy. Jonjo’s insouciance about the rules and the democratic public vote, is beginning to wear a bit thin and he risks the perversity of the British public making him genuinely if paradoxically, unpopular. That would be as much of a shame as it was to see him continue in a dancing competition at the expense of Cherie Lunghi’s professional determination allied to a body with the elegance and grace the envy of women of any age.
Having once seen Bruce Forsyth on stage match the late great Sammy Davis Junior step for step, his octogenarian tour-de-force with Anton Du Beke, looking more like Brucie’s son every day, was more a delight than a surprise that almost made up for the catch-phrases and octogenarian-plus jokes. Almost. One delicious consequence of this weekly Carry On Sergeant farce is imagining the teeth-grinding fury of BBC Executives as the public give them the finger and threaten the most valuable television-format ‘property’ they’ve had for years. I’d enjoy this much more were it not for the fact that this year’s genuinely likeable and interesting group of celebrities who have demonstrated such commitment and no little talent, have got through to me.
It is for this reason, if no other, that the public should stop playing silly-buggers and let the judges wave John a fond farewell into the dancing sunset. In comparison to the ‘You’re a has-been celebrity – get off my box’ and the unspeakable Big Brother, Strictly has shown us why many of these contestants have been successful in their own fields before accepting the challenge of something new: professionalism, rigorous application – and talent. It has been fascinating to watch gifted people in one field accept the challenge of something new, outside their comfort zone. This applies as much to Jonjo as anyone else – more so perhaps for his recognised talents have no direct application to the dancing challenge he took on. And if there was a degree of ‘not-bad-for-a-celeb-ness’ about Strictly why shouldn’t he stay in? But the sheer professional quality to which the other contestants have raised their dancing game, makes us want to see the last few weeks as a genuine dancing competition where the best dancer, not the most popular ‘celebrity’ wins. I cannot believe that John Sergeant in his heart of hearts would want to think that people rated his abilities as a political commentator purely on the basis that he has a wry wit and nice line in self-mockery.
Assuming John’s given his marching orders next week, the remaining contest is wonderfully balanced.
Jodie – massively improved. Her unremitting competitiveness has fuelled her self-belief helped by Ian’s intelligent choreography and support. Shows the surprising, breath-taking grace one finds in a giraffe at high speed: it shouldn’t be possible – but somehow it is. And all the hold ballroom dances show this off to perfection.
Christine – has discovered that she has a body that can be as expressive as that light-up-the-room smile. The easy intimacy of her relationship with Matthew informs their dancing and adds a sense of joie de vivre that is great to watch. I don’t know much about these things but it seems to me Christine can wear a dress better than anyone in the show – including Jodie.
Austin – Mr Muscles moves with the music. The muscles thing is a bit bread-on-bread for me and he might more play it down than up – but I get where the women are coming from: and maybe with a touch of envy, where they’re dreaming of going to. I’m not sure there is a British guy alive who can genuinely look at home with the hip-wriggling, shoulder-shaking Latin stuff, but he is after-all named after an iconic British sports car and has a certain nonchalant style that works.
Tom – everyone’s favourite brother: ladies please, I was trying to get away from the sexy stuff with the guys, so I could indulge myself with the ladies. Er…sorry…..that didn’t come out quite right – pace Mr Freud. Last week’s Billy Elliot piece was Tom’s masterpiece – recalling a dance genius, in his own genre at least the equal of Fred Astaire – the unmatchable Donald ‘make-em-laugh’ O’Connor. That’s praise indeed. His Salsa shoulder-shimmys this week almost persuaded us that the shaking wasn’t with laughter. Almost. And Camilla’s maybe the sexiest mover in the show.
Lisa – with those Indian-Rope-Trick legs (cf: my review October 25th) moves with enough speed and confidence to convince on the Latin stuff in a way that Jodie perhaps never will. Once in ballroom mode she proves that tall is an advantage for elegance and grace. Brendan is also perhaps the best choreographer among the pros and knows how to stick-and-carrot his celebrity partners way beyond their own expectations.
Rachel – until she moves, Rachel is simply pretty in a less striking way than perhaps Jodie and Lisa, and attractive in a less sparkling and effervescent way than Christine. But – and it is a massive but: as the weeks have gone by and responding like the thorough-going pro she is, to Arlene Phillips’ advice about using her eyes etc, once Rachel moves she blows you away. She has given three stunning performances in a row. Being a Northern Climate guy, this week was the first time I realised what the Rumba was all about – we could have turned off the central heating for the duration; last week’s quick-step based American Smooth (God I’m really getting into this stuff) was a sheer celebration of fun and being alive; while a Waltz a few weeks back was extraordinarily, tenderly romantic.
At this stage my money’s on Rachel – assuming the British public don’t go completely do-lally and choose Sergeant Schlepper – she’s the only one who can cover the whole range of genres with equal conviction.
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