• Pages

  • Site Sections

  • Tags

  • Archives

Strictly Come Dancing – Saturday 22nd November

didn't he do well?

didn't he do well?

Strictly Come Dancing – Saturday 22nd November

The tension – unbearable. The competition – fierce. We were all, well some more than others perhaps, on the edge of our seats from the opening seconds of this week’s Strictly: which would triumph, how would the intense conflict be resolved? Yes of course I speak of the heroic battle between Tess Daly’s décolletage and potentially the most embarrassing moment on nationwide TV since John “I’m going outside…I may be gone some time” Sergeant beat the Paso Doble by two submissions and a drag a couple of weeks ago. If you watch or re-watch a recording you will see Tess look frantically down to do a panicky pre-flight check before she gingerly strikes her arms-raised pose with Brucie to open the show, more in hope than certainty that two unexpected guests wouldn’t pop their heads above the parapet.

Don’t think too badly of me dear reader: in a show where a succession of very beautiful, graceful, and yes… sexy women perform thrilling, romantic, feisty dances looking like a million dollars in dresses usually backless, sometimes sideless, occasionally almost frontless or now and then an enticing combination of all three, it really is impossible for red-blooded, even English males, not to at least notice. Tess’s frock, see I know the technical terminology, was great, and if it had lost the battle of the beautiful bulges, I would have been mortified for her and simply have had to avert my gaze. I know, but gentleman is as gentleman does I always say.

If you think this a somewhat salacious way to open a review of a mere dance competition my only defence is that this week has shown beyond peradventure that Strictly is now a world news event occasionally at the top or at least second or third item on national TV bulletins. Also I have some latitude left in such matters when Louchéy Len Goodman having last week offered to dance naked with Claudia Winkleman (“please gentlemen keep this queue orderly”) this week suggested that Christine Bleakley, to inject a bit more ‘freedom’ into her Char Char Char, as Craig calls it, might go smokeless and cast her knickers to the winds. As this wonderfully unerotic English word refers to the only garment on Strictly save a few additional vestigial shreds of hopelessly outnumbered fabric, that stands between the women contestants and complete freedom of movement, Len’s coaching should perhaps be taken under advisement. Craig, who is revealing a curiously prurient subconscious, certainly took Louchéy Len to task for this bit of Freudian wishful thinking. A bit rich really as Cuddly (not) Craig, following Tom’s torrid Tango, offered himself for a visit to Tom’s fictional Holby Hospital for a “good slapping”. I don’t know what kind of hospital CC has been going to but I doubt if it’s NHS. Over Arlene’s instruction to Tom and Camilla to get in some concentrated hip-to-hip practice I will draw a discreet veil.

All this explicit language and innuendo is of course, as innocent and harmless as a Humphrey Lyttleton – may his name be praised – lubricious pun on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. It is extraordinary how many British attitudes and instincts are being tweaked and exercised by Strictly Surreal Come Dancing. The Samurai Serge affair this week has had the bolshie, especially English viewers rebelling against authority and exercising the national psyche by turning their underdog into a world news hero. This is a people, deeply suspicious of all forms of exercise, most forms of dance, especially Latin, and whose only folk-cultural flirtation with the art of moving to music is to seek the safety in numbers, usually men only, we’re-only-here-for-the-beer excuse of Morris Dancing. The Scots and the Irish let the side down a bit with some great indigenous prancing, but I guess an innate discomfort at holding a woman very close and moving in time to music with her, is one of the few things the English and the Welsh have in common. Even then, you bug***s can at least sing so have some sense of rhythm.

Based on a prefect score of four tens, (Craig’s point-pinching mind must have been elsewhere – Holby City perhaps) Rachel remains the one to beat. It has been striking to watch the effect of confidence, an empathic partner and professional determination, on this young lady who has certain physical advantages anyway especially for the bête noir of the English – Latin dances. The speed and sinuous nature of movement required in Latin ill-suits tall women like Lisa and Jodie. And British men, however athletic and light-footed, and Tom and Austin are both, always intentionally or not, look at any moment as if they are about to burst out laughing at the jerking heads or wriggling bottoms as Latin dancers. Indeed the immensely likeable Tom’s jaw-jutting Paso a fortnight ago ran John’s sack-o’-coal Kristy delivery a close second. I’m beginning to think everyone should have to do a Paso every week – it is inherently and deliciously ludicrous to the terpsichoreally challenged British. But we do have a genius for taking the p**s – out of everything, including ourselves.

Christine wears a dress better than any woman on the show, even with the appropriate complement of undergarments, pace Louchéy Len; but she needs ballroom ‘hold’ dances so she can slipstream the smooth continuity of Matthew’s grace of movement. While Rachel is now completely at one with music, dance, steps and partner, we can occasionally see Christine thinking her way though the gears.

Jodie never gives up, even when laid genuinely low this week with flu. Still clearly suffering, she proved tall women not only can move elegantly but also sinuously and with speed in a jive that was great fun but could have been improved with a better choice of song – almost any Jerry Lee Lewis song e.g Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On would have been easier to jive to than Great Balls of Fire – great rock classic that it is. Lisa and Brendan were bouncy and bubbly in their quickstep but one wonders how they’ll fare next week when everyone does dances from two genres.

And so to the guys. I know ladies that I give you short measure on Tumbling Tom and Athletic Austen. I share my daughter’s view that it is a travesty that Tom didn’t get at least one 10 for his brilliant Billy Elliot routine two weeks ago. As for Austin, the bright idea of getting some of his rugby mates to stand awkwardly by and watch him rehearsing with Erin rather backfired I thought. Built like a brick public convenience, Jason Leonard could only admit an interest in the programme by proxy through his daughters wanting Austin to win. In the rehearsal room the rugger-types looked about as comfortable as a bunch of guys waiting in a fertility unit to give sperm samples and Austin still offers little grimaces and winks as he dances the campy bits of Latin, to signal that he is light on his feet but not in the loafers. I do wish they’d put the camera on Arlene when Austin is dancing I’m sure she’d be sitting cross-eyed with excitement. My hunch is Jodie and Christine to dance-off tonight and that’s a 50-50 call.

And so to dear John’s letter of goodbye to his British public. Were the rules of the competition that the most improved dancer should win, this quintessentially English gentle man was a real contender. His trademark beatific smile now allied to a newly acquired graceful charm of movement and served well by a pretty good sense of timing, made his sedately impressive last Waltz more of a dying swan than dead duck performance. Again a perfect image of Englishness – John instinctively displays the ineffable politeness of the English guy who would die rather than allow the slightest hint of the inner thrill of being so intimately connected to a beautiful woman, to escape into the public domain – so he holds Kristina like a china doll with an air of apology and fear she might break. It was both touching and painful to watch him with Kristina on It Takes Two during the week, when his Siberian beauty became tearful. Suppressing a shudder at cheeky Claudia’s injunction to “go on – give her a hug”, John contented himself with a gentle, sensitive, but rigorously non-tactile “come on, come on”. The unspoken words “old girl” hung in the air.

To avoid the judges’ own pitfall of taking themselves too seriously, I will simply observe that their u-turn hypocrisy on John was a bit grisly. But what the hell – it’s just a dance programme right? But I’m going to miss it.

If the Dambusters’ march came to mind as Jonjo and Kristy took on the combined might of the poison-tongued judges – watching their dignified arm in arm disappearance from Planet Strictly, a different melody drifted into to my head:

Ground Control to Sergeant John
Ground Control to Sergeant John
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Sergeant John
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Lift-off

This is Ground Control to Sergeant John
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

“This is Sergeant John to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today”

(With apologies to David Bowie)

Leave a Reply