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BBC – Strictly Come Dancing – Midnight: Cinderfella went to, and had a ball.



To Infinity and Beyond!


Strictly Come Dancing – Midnight: Cinderfella Went to, and Had a Ball.

In one of those moments when the British people display their often underrated good sense, Russell Grant got fired – from the programme and a cannon. In perhaps the zaniest, most surreal moment in the history of a programme renowned for both, our new roly poly national hero was shot, skidlid at a jaunty angle – to infinity and beyond. Like a cross between Buzz Lightyear’s grandad and Ronnie Corbett, our Russell, for he is for ever ‘ours’ now, flew 50’ feet up across the cavernous Wembley Arena to the delight of 5,000 at the show and many millions more at home. Gently and safely lowered back to earth, literally and metaphorically, this immensely likeable little guy finally bowed to the inevitable, and out of a programme which he has enhanced with a puckish, child-like sense of fun that has made us laugh out loud and feel just a little better about people over the last few weeks. Russell has proven a vanity-free island of fun amidst a sea of often over-solemn egos and I for one am grateful to him for it. Nice one Russ.

Compliments are also due to the BBC production team. Taking a studio-based programme with a certain intimacy as part of its appeal, into the massive space of Wembley Arena and making everything big enough to fill the space was a testimony to their professionalism and flair. Aided one might say, apart from the incomparable, aforementioned flying munchkin, by the dancers, especially the celebs, who really upped their game and went big on the night: from Robbie and Ola’s rock-show opening romp to a glitzy ending that gave show business for once a good name. Thatwas Entertainment. And everyone joined in: the judges had a ball, the audience’s standing ovations began to look like Mexican waves, and Dave Arch upped the volume and arrangements to fill the intimidating space and all on the same little sparkly bow-tie. (Dave rabbit-in-the-headlights Arch must represent about 0.0001% of the costume department’s budget). If the finer points of the dances were a bit lost and the impact of the pro’s dancing was a little bit diffused by the sheer scale, great thought went into lighting and sets with impressive results.

The necessities imposed on the production by the sheer scale of Wembley further stretched the distinction between ballroom and stage/show dancing and the judging criteria from strictly ballroom to showbiz razzamatazz. But this challenge illustrated the ‘Strictly effect’ where over the weeks the performers bond into a kind of touring troupe mutually supportive and committed to the show. It is no surprise that the TV show programme spins off into a highly profitable touring ensemble once the series ends.

Cruella de Craig became chirpy Craig for an evening, flying in as an air-guitar Brian May and showing some nifty flick and kicks (very pointed toes darling) on the way to the judges’ desk. Len still has that bemused smile on his face, continually astonished that world-wide fame and trans-Atlantic commuting has come to him so late in life. Aleesha thankfully has at last shed her solecisms for perhaps rather repetitive observations (‘proud of yourself’ becoming an ‘A’ for effort) but at least grammatically correct. Bruno went ape (as the Len’s lens feature on Sunday showed) as only he can and continues to ‘groom’ Harry in front of millions of witnesses and flirt outrageously with everyone else.

The odds are shifting. Jason is worrying himself into weaker performances – completely ‘drying’ on some Jive steps this week. We need a word for the dance equivalent of drying: ‘lefting’?(2 left feet), ‘stiffing’? (legs stop working), ‘fluffing’ perhaps? Any suggestions dear readers?

Alex and James did the ‘straightest’ dance of the show with a convincing Tango which offered the best dance and the best dress of the night. Robbie’s kamikaze jumping and knee-slides threaten his life, limb and not inconsiderable nose. We can only wait for some waggish footballers to ‘do a Strictly’ when they score a goal. Nobody seemed to know whether Harry did a Samba or a Salsa: Tess called it a Salsa twice and Len a Samba. Some arcane deficiency called a ‘back-step’ produced a rare agreement between Len and Craig and apparently had a dire effect on his hip-wriggling. Things don’t get worse than that. As everyone seems to be obsessed with Harry’s bum it’s not surprising they notice minor imperfections in the thrust and wriggle department.

Artem survived the pins Brendan has been sticking in his effigy all week to dance a slightly subdued Quick Step with Holly winning the worst dress of the night award – nothing like the very fetching little hot-pant number in the show’s opening number. (Forgive that tiny digression dear reader – but I am part of the target audience here). Chelsee is that rare animal, even among the pros: someone with an instinctive feeling for the weird, literally off-beat rhythm of the Samba. If they can get her to the final without starting to think about what she is currently doing by guided instinct she could easily win. On dancing ability Anita should be the next to go as her acting skills, enthusiasm and sheer energy, mask a relatively modest dancing ability.

A great night’s way OTT entertainment – but you have to be 10 times larger than life to make any impact at the Arena which when empty looks more like an Aircraft Hanger than a show venue.

But it was Russell’s night. Cinderfella did go the ball – for 7 weeks – and he charmed princes and public alike. With an hilarious exit more like a dying duck in a thunderstorm than an elegant Swan song; as he walks into the Strictly sunset in my mind’s eye I see him give a little Chaplinesque skip. Delightful.

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