Strictly is back and so Tess has been thawed out of her year long hibernation, Claudia is tanned to the Gods, Bruno’s veins are pumped with gin and Darcey is now a dame! But how do our contestants affair… oops fair, I meant fair. Freudian slip. How do our contestants FAIR? As the series goes on I will add the eliminated contestant in to make a personal ranking order – based on both their efforts and how interesting they were. Also how they handle… certain hiccups. Yeesh…
I’ll admit, I, probably naively, had reasonable hopes for Susannah, or at least I thought Graeme would be worse – but what a revelation he turned out to be! She seemed game and determined to actually try – she wasn’t wanting to be the typical Anton Partner who is written off from the beginning… Unfortunately they had other plans and kind of lampooned her with a routine involving Anton bursting forth from her skirts like an amateur theatre production of Alien and I think she lost a lot of confidence. I mean, I’m sure she wasn’t the most gifted dancer but being made the obvious punchline just for being an older woman must be kind of demotivating. But her response to any critique she got was “Well why don’t you show me!” which is just lazy and aggravating. I also still find myself looking away whenever she appears in the opening title sequence because she can’t even point in time.
I am vehemently against stand up comedians doing Strictly because of the fact The British Comedy Scene™ very much aligns itself as the anti-culture and due to this I feel they take it upon themselves to be comedy contestant and not truly embrace the show. Susan Calman is the obvious outlier, but Seann very much fitted into this, with constant snarking and messing around lest he be seen to actually enjoy the process. AND THEN. The Glitch in The Matrix and The Kiss happened and so the next few weeks were spent with everyone in a constant state of anxiety that someone might say something that could be construed the wrong way AND TALKING IN VERY LOUD RUSHED SENTENCES BECAUSE THAT MAKES IT ALL LESS AWKWARD.
But in Seann’s own words “at least we’ll always have The Matrix Dance”, by which he means “at least we’ll always have That Lift”, which while, yes a great routine, is *slightly* marred by the fact it was essentially the catalyst for everything that stalled the series for a good 3 weeks and led to one of the most aggressively Charleston-y Charlestons the show has ever seen. Seann had initially showed some promise, his week 1 Bodyguard Tango – but lets face it Katya was the real Bodyguard in that routine, was a passable first dance (and how I wish the most drama he had caused was whether his hair should be tied back or not). Then we had his Jive and it became quite apparent that he has little to no sense of rhythm and timing and about halfway through he just gives up completely and thrusted a few times at a microphone stand – and he deservedly only scored 15. His quickstep didn’t fair much better and combined with his lack of ability, terrible prop use and rather dire costuming I was sure he’d have gone home but was only saved by the utter lack of focus that was Graziano’s cha cha choreography.
And perhaps is quite fitting that he ended up getting eliminated dressed a benign Tim Burton villain while duking it out against Zombie Graeme and 80s Oti doing a Halloween staple routine to Thriller.
From here on out everyone is actually a passable dancer and all round fairly good personality it’s just that Katie was a little wan when it came to both. I think she would have benefited from the older Strictly format of having the first two weeks be waltzes and cha chas – her first dance was a waltz and a 17 isn’t the worst score we’ve ever seen for a first week dance and it was pretty well established that Katie was extremely nervous. And then for her second dance she was given the paso doble which, for her this early in the competition was never going to end well – and it was kind of like watching a one of the kids in the videos sent in to It Takes Two who is being forced to dance by their parents just so they can hear their name on TV. But she was perfectly lovely during Movie Week during her La La Land routine – and arguable danced to about the same calibre as Emma Stone herself.
Overall I’m glad Katie went out fairly early because as she said in numerous interviews she had woefully underestimated the difficulty of the process and at least going out in week 4 she was still having fun and a jive is a good routine to end on – even if it did look a bit like it was being danced by a Loony Tune character who had just been bopped on the head.
I’d argue that on any other series Lee would probably have gone on for another couple of weeks but in a series where everyone was actually kind of good he had to really shine. It didn’t help that production didn’t quite know what storyline to run with him: Graeme had taken Cringe-Dad, Charles had Heartthrob, Sean(n) had (arguably) funny, Ranj had Camp, Joe had Youth and Danny had THEATRE DARLING so Lee was kind of just left to I don’t know… have a midlife crisis? It would explain the Back To The Future Routine that he was (wrongfully) very excited for, that cha cha arm “moonwalk” is possibly one of the more heinous dance moves we’ve ever seen. I guess it says a lot that in his partnership I felt sorrier for Nadiya being kicked out dressed as Sexy Einstein than I did for Lee having to dance his final dance in what I fully believe to be an outfit purchased at River Island. But hey, the first half of his Blue Suede Shoes jive was good, up until the point he completely ran out of energy and should probably have sat down and eaten a Nutrigrain.
Well yikes. Has there ever been a more spectacular Strictly burn out and self-destruction than Danny? I mean even Seann showed up for a goodbye interview (albeit possibly a little bit drunk). The press did really latch their claws into him in the final week with the bullying allegations and back stage divadom – the same allegations were made about Susannah and again she showed up for a goodbye interview dressed like a Victorian librarian and laughed at it. Danny however was busy running around in a dressing gown and trying to not get his car towed.
I don’t think there was a single person who didn’t have Danny pegged for at least making the semi finals and after his Red Baron Jive which nabbed him the first 10 of the series it seemed a surefire thing. Then his Quickstep happened and his potential weaknesses came to light as he seemed to forget how to operate his feet and I imagine this probably sparked what would become The Tension between him and Amy in the rehearsal for their samba that launched a million and one accusatory articles that they at first handled extremely well and then well… James Jordan got involved because of course he did and the whole thing went nuclear when Danny’s wife sent him a direct message to lay off Danny and that his joke about Danny’s mum as uncalled for which James Jordan then made public and well… the whole thing resulted in Amy having to do a goodbye interview alne because Danny has burnt all of the bridges. But hey, at least we got to celebrate Amy’s incredible performance in the Remembrance Routine. I hope they give her a younger, equally talented partner next year because she deserves only good things.
With her killerwatt smile, hair for the Gods, a shining personality and some natural talent to boot Vick had all the makings to be a Strictly star – there was just one barrier to overcome: nobody knew who the flying fuck she was. And I mean sure, being a Capital FM breakfast show host is debatable in its celebrity status – with a weekly total of 7.4 million listeners – 57% of which are aged 15-34 she was always meant for the young’ns.
I warmed to her really quickly during the launch show and I think we all decided that she had the potential to go far and then we hit The Jive and my God it was a mess. Luckily she managed to sweep it under the rug and followed it up with a trio of passable to good dances – the highlight of which was her Movie Week Mamma Mia salsa because it featured an homage to the Meryl Streep scarf which totally deserved an Oscar nomination for its role in the films. But the Quickstep was probably her best dance if not only because of her facial expressions.
The problem with many of Vick’s dances wasn’t strictly down to her and repeatedly Graziano was criticised for the lack of authentic choreography – we frequently have this issue with new pros: Janette, Karen and Katya being the main victims. And I think this ended up frustrating Vick because judging by the way she kind of threw Graziano under the bus because of “the language barrier” (HE WAS SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO HER) and Shirley apparently taking an instant dislike to her Vick seems kind of bitter about her Strictly experience and it’s kind of scuffed some of the shine off for me. But I still like Vick and maybe we’ll end up with her as a roving reporter for The One Show. Or probably not after she claimed the show is rigged and is now “BANNED” (LOL Daily Mail) from ever being on a BBC show.
The biggest injustice of them all is that Graziano didn’t get to dress up as a sexy pirate for Halloween.
Charles had all the makings of a Strictly finalist: he’s good looking, he could actually dance, is part of a show with a bizarrely voracious fanbase (CASUALTY 4LYF) and was partnered with one of the show’s more prominent and popular pros (I think? What’s the general consensus on Karen? I feel I might be more irritated by her if Janette wasn’t around.) But alas, it just wasn’t meant to be for Poor Chucky as he found himself placing in the bottom 2 pretty early on in both the second and third week of actual dance offs. He then seemed to turn it around with his incredibly good street routine that earned him 4 9s his Time Warp jive in the following week wasn’t exactly a highlight but Halloween does that to a man and it helped that Seann and Graeme were ~that much~ worse. It was the next week with his stellar Viennese Waltz (that was bizarrely set in a pub?) – which I thought was undermarked – where it became apparent that Charles was probably not going to make it as far as the semi finals. I think Charles peaked in Blackpool where they realised that they kind of needed to give him his Big Blowout Hen Party Stripper Routine before they lost the opportunity and my God he went for it and I’m just glad he managed to finish the competition with at least scoring 1 10 because he sure as hell wasn’t going to earn them for his abominable tango, which he deserved to be in the bottom 2 for but somehow evaded it – I will never understand the British Public.
I do think Charles’ biggest problem wasn’t anything to do with his dancing but his “to camera bits” where he became overly unctuous and bizarrely American and I just spent the whole time panicking that he was going to thank God without any sense of irony or humour and it just didn’t connect with people at home in a way that the other celeb’s managed to do.
God bless Kate Silverton – ricocheting between a trifecta of passable mum dancing, drunk dressage and PURE FILTH you never quite knew what you were going to get but it was always fun – we wont talk about her Famine Fighting Samba or whatever the Hell that was. Instead lets dwell on her Jessica Rabbit foxtrot, even if you did know a grim amount of dads around the country were sitting with a cushion in their laps. Kate had a fairly lucky run with her dances managing to get 9 weeks in with only performing 2 party Latins in the first 4 weeks, pulling 1 unfortunate card of getting lumped with a rumba on Halloween (sexy ghost jellyfish was an interesting look) and not having to do either a jive, a Charleston or a Couple Choice disaster. We were however robbed of getting her to do a paso doble but it might have required them to push the show to a post-watershed slot. But she made Blackpool, got to swim in the sea and she and Aljaz were always the best ones on It Takes Two.
Was Ranj the best dancer? No. By quite away, but all the same he was everything a Strictly contestant should be and, quite possibly one of the best contestants we’ve ever had on the show. He embraced it with such an energy and enthusiasm that it was impossible not to fall in love with him. And admittedly I had somewhat ruled him out as even a slight contender because of his partnership with Janette (I have a… complicated relationship with her). But she and Ranj just seemed to gel and it’s the best pairing that Janette ever had (soz Aston). It may have largely been their mutual adoration of Drag Race but hey, I’m all for a friendship bonded by a penchant for shimmying and tongue popping.
And then his routines were always fairly memorable – granted there was the 1950s beach themed American Smooth which is probably best forgotten and his Quickstep that quite literally left an elephant in the room. OK ballroom wasn’t his best friend but his Latins were SOMETHING ELSE – a salsa dressed as a Gay Pride Motorcycle Bondage Clown, a gaymazing medical Cha-Cha to How Will I Know and of course his Paso Doble that ran the entire gamut of the Fulch Scale. Ultimately I think his spectacular latin was almost his undoing – he danced the complete Salsambacha within his seven weeks and ultimately the spectacle became a bit mundane for a lot of voters and his samba just wasn’t much to write home about and finding himself in the bottom two with Charles dancing a Viennese Waltz to a bizarrely Christmas-y rendition of Piano Man was never going to go well for him.
But he did get to dance his goodbye dance to Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time while dressed as an entire firework display and if there isn’t a better note for him to go out on I don’t know what it. So one more time for Dr. Ranj.
Has there been a more pleasant surprise than the fact Graeme Swann can actually dance? Because having been clearly cast as the Jeremy Vine (ugh) LOLtestant, what with his first dance being a samba that involved him flying in on a giant sparkly cricket. He was then allowed to perform a fairly ordinary American Smooth that, sure landed him joint second last on the leaderboard and has penance for this they thought “Wait, maybe he is the comedy contestant” and made him dance a weirdly sexual Charleston in which he was dressed as Spiderman and Oti was a… very cold sex worker? Graeme’s themes were odd to say the least – he did get lucky and got the one Queen song of the series to dance to during Bohemian Rhapsody’s premier week. They didn’t manage to get him tickets to the premier but… the thought was nice. He was however lumbered with a compulsory Thriller routine during Halloween, a clanger of a 80s aerobics class salsa and his theatrical Couple’s Choice Trolley Song was… a choice. His sparkling moments though were his schmaltzy waltz dedicated to his grandparents and of course his Roxanne Tango! This was his turning point at which he became not only a surprisingly able dancer but also the Unofficial Thirst Trap™ of Series 16. And the only reason your mum has Instagram.
I’m not sure Graeme would have gone as far as he did if he didn’t have Oti – I can’t see many of the other dancers taking him as seriously as she did and truly pushed him to be better than the aforementioned LOLtestant. I’ll miss having her on It Takes Two every week, I’m sure the sound supervisor wont, but hey we go 2 Oti led group numbers and she’s a judge on The Other Dancing Show That Totally Isn’t So You Think You Can Dance.
I use a picture of Lauren from Halloween Week both because that is when she truly started to exist as a viable contestant and because I am still trying to work out AJ’s deep fried Chris Hemsworth hair. Prior to that Lauren had either wavered between an elegant but middling ballroom or a MAKE IT STOP LATIN – her Fame Cha Cha Cha will haunt me for a considerable amount of time. She did also have the dubious “honour” of ushering in the Hellfire that was Contemporary Couples Choice and I almost expected them to axe the genre following that routine. There was a power fist guys. A POWER FIST. I did think she was going to get a lot further than she actually should because of AJ’s increasing Thirst Trap content on Instagram. But as is par for the course with The Meek Contestant they have a mid-series transformation during Halloween Week when the costumes and laborious theme helps them get into character and it was very That for Lauren. Following Halloween Week she proceeded to show up on It Takes Two looking like an absolute vamp – and the possible secret granddaughter of Jaqueline Bisset. I mean her Latin routines never improved (that samba is an easy nominee for Worst Dance) but her ballrooms remained in the 30s throughout – and I would happily place her South Pacific American Smooth in my Top 10 dances of the series. Possibly because of Naked Johannes but sometimes that’s all it takes.
Ladies and Gentlemen, out winner! In another timeline I think I would have enjoyed Stacey more but in this one I just found the combination of her and Kevin to be EXHAUSTING and if anything can best visually represent this it is Stacey dressed up as The Doctor and Kevin as a Cyberman that looked more like a foil wrapped Teletubby. I still don’t understand that Tango and why everyone loved it so much BECAUSE WHY WAS THE DOCTOR DANCING WITH A CYBERMAN. Your theme has to make sense. Stacey was incredibly talented and a possible candidate for Second Best Dancer of the Series – I just don’t rate Kevin’s choreography and think he craps everything up to much – his street routine where Stacey was dressed up as a 1930s fashion Pennywise being the perfect illustration. This however worked for Blackpool where the massive stage managed to make everything look like it actually belonged and then Stacey was always going to excel at the Charleston and I’m glad she got it so late in the series when she had developed enough technique and competence to truly do it justice. Although I think the success of the Charleston lead to a lot of the issues I had with her showdance because it was so energetic and disparate that it just became a sort of frantic blanc mange that kind of just felt like a YouTube clipshow of fun dance moves. And the decision to dance the paso, which lets be honest was at least 40% stationary skirt wafting was a choice – I wanted them to do their Blackpool Salsa, but I’m not sure Blackpool routines were allowed. Would have settled for the Les Mis American Smooth (a phrase I didn’t know was even possible). I’m happy for Stacey and I hope this means we get to see more of her in the TV schedule – I’m just sad that so much of her win was then centred around Kevin. It felt like she got slightly sidelined – which has been a bit of a trend with Kevin and his partners.
If you asked me how much of me was rooting for Joe just because he was the only viable option to Kevin Not Winning I would have to admit it is A LOT. Although I do genuinely like him and think he was certainly one of the best dancers from quite early on (although his Week 1 Jive and Week 2 Charleston were absolutely the same dance so it’s no wonder). The most frustrating thing about Joe was the constant infantilization (HE WAS 27 AND NOT EVEN THE YOUNGEST CONTESTANT and was made to dance an American Smooth to a Highschool Musical song) and the body shaming – the week leading up to his Paso had some very problematic VTs and interview questions. His stand out dance – as far as scoring goes – was his Blackpool Quickstep although I didn’t think it quite deserved the 3 10s it got mainly for the fact his granny was in the audience. Even more egregious were the two 10s he got for his Godawful Street Routine which looked like it had been choreographed by a circus seal. I preferred his Halloween Foxtrot – even if I couldn’t really tell what the theme was because he had clearly been dressed with the remnants of the prop boxes – a theme that cropped up again in his rock showdance (lol at this show’s idea of rock) where he was dressed as some sort of contemporary version of Puck from Midsummer Nights Dream – there was a lot of questionable velvet. I enjoyed the routine although he was EXHAUSTED at about the midway point and Dianne politely choreographed a bit where he could run behind the massive prop speaker and have a 10 second breather while she did some Sexy Vamping™ and then he got to burst out of them in a move that would have been a better entrance or finish to the dance. It was a slightly confused routine to put it nicely.
Ok. I guess we kind of have to address it at some point. I’m 100% in support of Ashley Roberts’ casting. Her dance experience is a whole different realm to ballroom – I’m sure it may have helped in the Strictly Latin Genre (which is not at all the same as the Latin genre – let’s be real) and at the end of the day in order to ensure a series where there are SOME competent well performed dances they have to cast people who they can have a pretty sure bet on to dance well. Although it hasn’t always been the cast (see the case of Michelle Williams). Can you imagine a series where somehow we ended up with 16 contestants who danced like Seann? It’d be a nightmare. More to the point, I enjoyed all of Ashley’s routines, I thought her ho-hum Texan attitude brought a light to the show and she just seems genuinely lovely and had a pretty rough go of it with a lot of the fans – many of whom were coming at her from a very misogynistic attitude. Her stand out routines were definitely her emotional contemporary (although I’m not a fan of the genre I recognise that she did a pretty stellar job at emoting and performing) and her Blackpool Jive, special mention to her Funny Girl Quickstep too and I wish she had been able to do her tango later in the series when she was more confident and Pasha could have done more with it because it was bigged up the entire week and it never ended up being the dominatrix chess sex tango I wanted and needed. I will however not forgive her for making me sit through the Trollz Charleston TWICE – and in the second time Pasha looked eve more like a Frankenstein’d root vegetable. And was Trollz so culturally significant that it needs to be featured on this show twice?
That’s Fate Ozer if you’re Tess though. Faye was our Bland But Competent™ contestant and if Ashley hadn’t been there I’m sure there would have been much animosity towards her and she’d have been eliminated in week 7 or 8 which would have been a shame because we would have been robbed of her Batshit Insane Paso and her horrifying cursed Lonely Goat Turd Charleston which still haunts me every time I close my eyes. However we would have gotten her Jazzy Skeleton routine – which I am going to say is the only reason to keep the Couple’s Choice category. It was when Faye truly let go and stepped out from her slightly Stepford image – I mean she had to because she was dressed as a theatre school skeleton and it all culminated in her aforementioned insane paso and then what I fully believe to be the sexiest Argentine Tango since Kara Tointon’s. But that might be because it was actually the only decent Argentine Tango of the entire series. She was probably always going to be lost to third place, but honestly in the final – especially after her immaculate showdance and a pitch perfect rendition of her Scooby Doo chase scene Jazz Routine, although sadly without the skeleton makeup, I couldn’t help but hope for a surprise Faye win because she knocked it out of the park where other contestants started to drag a bit.