Strictly 2021 – Week 8, Main Show: Unportmanteauable Showmance

When you get halfway through a Quickstep and remember you left the stove on.

As we hit the midway point of the competition the pros are bringing out the big guns: more boats, an obscene use of disco and of course a divisive avant garde paso doble that was seemingly made just for my tastes.

Before we get to the recap, I was a guest on The Keep Dancing Podcast this week to have a mid-series chat about the direction the show is going, who the show is most invested in, predictions for the final and most pressingly: who the new Anton is! I had a really fun time recording it so if you want to put a voice to the recaps, you can listen to that HERE. Or where all good podcasts are found!

On with the show, which starts with a montage of training and rehearsal footage and clearly whoever was on poppy duty on Friday afternoon was slacking because not even The Sweetheart of the Season was wearing one

And that’s why Jowitza got the lead in the Remembrance Day pro dance, Amy.
And Sara hadn’t yet found a way to glue her bespoke, hand-crafted poppy to her Argentine Tango dress

at least Tilly was wearing one and apologising for everyone

‘orry indeed.
But don’t worry, they had made sure to attach one to every single flimsy shirt in that ballroom on the night lest we dance a disrespectful Samba.

In order to show maximum respect, Claudia and Tess were dressed in red and black and embodying both a poppy and the two different modes of Hen Party: polite afternoon tea where to drink more than one (1) mimosa is considered uncouth and Friday night rager where if someone doesn’t end up standing on a bar counter flashing their tits to all and sundry it’s considered an ill omen of the marriage

I’m mostly jealous of the anime character levels of volume in Tess’s ponytail – that thing did not budge all night, she was defiant to the laws of physics.

Shirley was in blue, imaginably to make sure that everyone could see her poppy

it’s a valid tactic.
And Motsi was just here to sear your eyeballs in a glorious shade of tennis ball yellow and apparently wearing Vanity Milan’s elbow length gloves as socks

a look is a look.
And Anton and Craig were both at maximum formality, for the respect.

A Parisian Balloon Ride
Quickstep / I Won’t Dance – Damita Jo

for the second week in a row the Bottom 2 survivor is kicking off the show and they’re gunning for that Bottom 2 Bounce with a surprise birthday visit from Tilly’s family (sans Gordon because he’s still not talking to his obvious long lost son, Nikita)

they’re mostly here to really stress how super special the connection between Tilly and Nikita is because we’ve apparently lost a few Daily Mail headlines in the last couple of weeks

Mother Ramsay, that’s just how choreography works.

They are also quite fortunate that they got another ballroom routine right after their Tango, I think it would have been considerably harder for Tilly to come in fighting with a rumba, samba or a salsa but a quickstep suits her quite nicely. But this wasn’t any Quickstep, this was a Parisian aeronautical quickstep

which does rather beg the question as to why Nikita is in a blue leopard print suit and Tilly dressed as a sort of throw pillow flapper

still a more convincing pair of balloonists than Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones managed in The Aeronauts: A Complete Erasing of Henry Coxwell (2019).
Thankfully we were also spared an extensive scene of Niktia chucking dead pigeons out a balloon as a comedic beat… I’m sorry, I have a lot of feelings about The Aeronauts apparently.

Back to the dance at hand, I thought it was a fun routine, if there’s one thing that Nikita has excelled at it’s choreography, I don’t think it quite had any of those moments of genius that some of his other routines had but with the critiques of the previous Quicksteps hinging so much on how classical and true to DAHNCE AUTHENTICITEH they are, I can’t blame him for maybe playing it a little safer with this routine. Unfortunately that also made Tilly’s mistakes that little bit more glaring as there were numerous dropped steps and slight pauses as she tried to work out quite what their timing was. BUT, she moved fantastically across the floor

I think it’s a little unfair to directly compare it to her Tango, which I didn’t think was as heavy footed as the judges seemed to. And while they may have fallen out of sync in the beginning when Tilly dropped a few steps, by the end of it, they were on perfect form

and the ending was cute

but because we’ve reached the halfway point the judges are being a lot harsher (when it suits them… not to go all Adam Peaty’s mother on you all…) so Tilly might be in a little bit of trouble again, especially going at the front of the show and then getting the deathknell “meh” of a critique – we’ll just have to hope that Gordon’s threatening dad aura is enough to make people really vote for them

Gordon’s threatening dad aura was not enough to make people vote for them.

Judges’ Scores:
: 7
Motsi: 7
Shirley: 7
Anton: 8

AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington
Paso Doble / Game of Survival – Ruelle

If you want to know how AJ and Kai’s unportmaneauable showmance is going:

I imagine Florence has decided that a man who doesn’t eat his pizza crusts and puts his plate on the floor is not good enough for her daughter. GET IT TOGETHER KAI.
Florence is also there to do more damage control for Craig’s 9 and apparently to act as a clairvoyant as to how this Paso Doble was going to go

because every so often there comes a dance that is so supremely baffling, so confused and just so… odd that I can’t help but love it and while I thought Dan and Nadiya Take On Hollywood For Absolutely No Rhyme Or Reason might be that dance this year, I’m afraid that AJ and Kai’s Abandoned Kansas Farm Paso Doble has just clinched the title of Extremely Specifically My Shit™

quite what’s going on here I don’t know, it doesn’t help that no matter how Kai dresses he always looks like an investment banker and I imagine with his contractual obligation to only wear pinstripes, it was hard to figure out a way of dressing him up as a Kansan farmhand so I guess Lost Saloon Keeper who inherited a farm was the next best thing? What I will say is Michael Fassbender in Slow West cosplay was an option Vicky, IT WAS AN OPTION

but alas, Kai got his stripes and I imagine that Neil is FURIOUS that they ended up wearing the same thing

As for AJ I guess she’s… The Personification of the sun? The cursed gold in them there hills? The Santa Ana Winds? That bad omelette he shouldn’t have eaten?

I am obsessed with this dress, from the the colour looking phenomenal on her to the sleeves that could hide all of a woman’s secrets – it’s just incredibly striking and has shades of Rihanna’s infamous Guo Pei MET Gala dress about it. So while the dance might not have been quite what everyone wanted it to be, she looked phenomenal doing it. Quite why Vicky decided that with the colour, the sleeves and everything else that was going on, that it was a good idea to give her a glittered gusset I don’t quite know

it did just take me by surprise every time it caught the light and dazzled you like the Naica Caves.
I can’t really blame Kai for going quite this high concept and modern with this routine, they’re fresh off the back of a dance that everyone except Craig seemed to think deserved a 40, everyone is excited for the Paso Doble to be The Argentine Tango 2: Sexy Cassowary Boogaloo and unfortunately I’m not sure that quite worked out for this paso. It all felt very posed and geometric – like watching a contestant on America’s Next Top Model going through a very niche photoshoot for the Middle America Tourism Agency. Not a lot of it felt like dancing, especially her backwards running

which is fair, you’re in heels and having to wrangle both a pair of statement balloon cuffs, a skirt and a bedazzled gusset – it’s a tough ask!
I still quite liked the drama of the dance though, it wasn’t quite the ferociously sexy one we wanted, but it packed a punch every now and again

Shirley calling this a “death drop” because she’s evidently been binge watching Drag Race <3.
I do think the dance was undermarked, mostly by Craig who decided that this weekend he would indeed be choosing violence


Judges’ Scores:
: 6
Motsi: 7
Shirley: 7
Anton: 8

Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova
American Smooth / King of the Road – The Proclaimers

Welcome to Caroline Peaty’s Villain Origin Story.

With the tide seemingly turning on Dan Walker’s specific brand of vanilla dad dancing, it was time to call in his BBC Breakfast Colleagues of Strictly Past

and none from Naga Manchetty because she still hasn’t forgiven the show for THIS

and who can blame her?
Carol Kirkwood isn’t much help in this situation considering she was sent home for an American Smooth because lest we forget the British public didn’t warm to a routine about an overly demanding woman in a trench coat marching into a shop and being every retail worker’s worst nightmare

The way she absolutely WALLOPS that poor bell, ART. God, I miss Pasha so much, ill-advised mermaid Charlestons, Primark: The Musical and all.
Kate Silverton also got sent home for her American Smooth which happened to feature a balloon so I look forward to finding out this weekend if it’s hot air balloons or Breakfast presenters doing American Smooths that are the most cursed. She did however get 30 for it, so it wasn’t a bad routine necessarily, it certainly didn’t get her the 3s and 4s that Mike Bushell got for his AMerican Smooth. Sorry, why did they choose to do this advice session this week? Nobody here is qualified.
So with that free marketplace of ideas a dud, all that was left was to hope that Dan would be safe in the hold of ballroom once again.

Dan was not safe within the hold of ballroom once again. Although, that does depend on who you ask and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the judges on such wildly different wavelengths, and nor has Nikita apparently who was utterly aghast at Craig thinking that Dan Walker mostly walking around the dancefloor looking like he was trying to solve a doozey of a cryptic crossword puzzle was bad dancing

Nikita, just be happy he didn’t aim this at you!
Personally I’m much more on Craig’s side, it was just thoroughly lacking in any sort of substance and I’m a little mystified as to why they chose King of the Road for an American Smooth but I daren’t question the methods of Dr. Bychkova. I also can’t see how this routine deserved a 9 considering the quality of the final lift

Caroline Peaty would like to know where the exacting standards applied to AJ and Tilly are now, please.
Also, while we’re here, whoever made the decision to cut from Shirley saying “You’re representing all of the men who have never danced before” to a lingering shot of Graziano and Cameron

you’re RUDE and I adore you.

Judges’ Scores:
: 4
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 9

Rhys Stephenson and Nancy Xu
Charleston / The Charleston – Bob Wilson and his Varsity Rhythm Boys

Rhys and Nancy’s Charleston was, for no reason other than the show to flex their ever increasing boat budget, accompanied by a rowing boat

missed opportunity to just recycle Sara’s Origami Warship.
And so to prepare them for this, the two of them were put in a rowing boat and sent out on a reservoir and told to hope for the best – the whole segment being accompanied by Happiness by McFly as a backing track

to both make sure we know that Rhys is happy and not spiralling towards a complete mental breakdown but also to distract from the fact the two of them were having a miserable time because this was some of the worst boat manoeuvring I’ve seen since Aisling Bea tried to power a boat with the power of the wind and knickers alone on Taskmaster.
To say Rhys was excited to be doing The Charleston was an understatement

most of it I’m sure being because he was going to get to wear a boater that he wasn’t taking off for love, money nor his hoodie

very much the same energy as Sara pulling a Veronica Green and wearing novelty socks and heels

couldn’t commit to the full leotard experience could you Sara?

and that excitement very much never waned, it was like he was possessed by the spirits of 1000 children off their faces on Haribo because this routine was like watching The Penguin Dance from Mary Poppins in fast-forward

the effect only heightened by the fact Vicky Gill had given up on dressing them up as a pair of cricketers for the weekend

it is nice to give Rhys a break from the Strictly Fancy Dress Box for a week and Vicky is still very much trying to figure out how to dress Nancy because high street dress put through a paper shredder feels like a last ditch effort after something wasn’t quite working.
I don’t know if this was my personal favourite Charleston of all time, it certainly leaned towards the frenetic obnoxiousness that Strictly tends to favour but that’s not to say I wasn’t highly impressed, if only for this sliding fall from Nancy

I think it really speaks to how good their partnership is and like Shirley said, he’s a fantastic partner and has a knack for knowing where Nancy is and how to react all the way through a dance.
I do think they could have maybe toned the content of it all down just a tad just to make sure that absolutely everything was as tight and clean as possible, the one insane seemingly never ending lift got a little hairy at one point

but I’m sure Nancy doesn’t regret that as much as she regrets the final pose

did Katya having to crawl out of a piano teach you NOTHING, Nancy?
It might have also meant that Rhys didn’t end up crawling across the floor like someone had robbed him of his bones

don’t worry, the effect didn’t last long as he was back to his usual self by the time Craig gave him a 10

Judges’ Scores:
: 10
Motsi: 10
Shirley: 10
Anton: 10

Sara Davies and Aljaz Skorjanec
Disco Argentine Tango Apparently / No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) —Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer

Apparently we’re taking a break from the Sara Owns a Company themed dances this week, imaginable because in musicals week she will be dancing to… well, I would’ve said 9 to 5 but we needlessly burnt through that routine last week so I guess it’s… How To Succeed In Business Without Even Trying? The Pajama Game? What a Girl Wants from Kinky Boots? Whatever it is, Aljaz will insist on there being prosthetics.

Instead they’re playing this Argentine Tango completely straight, mostly. It is weirdly disco, not as disco as I feared when they announced their song choice but still disco enough for the whole thing to centre around a giant throbbing discoball of lust and passion

and of course enough dry ice to make you slightly suspicious of the quality of footwork, which ended up being mostly ok but some of her flicks, kicks and ganchos were extremely sticky but the rest of was immaculate

I just adore how that synchronisation looks with the lighting and the sweeping camera – they really did a fantastic production job on this number.
I was surprised by how much I loved this routine and I’m relieved they upped the tangoiness of the song – I had visions of this being a repeat of both Greg Wise’s Sentimental Disco Wafting The Ill-advised Fusion Week Quarter-final From Series 10. I really did think we were in for a full Disco Finger Breakdown in the middle – it’s been a few years since Aljaz got to do an Argentine Tango and we saw what that dry spell did to their Couple’s Choice routine. Saying that, we could have done with 100% more kinkwear, but Sara’s styling was EXCELLENT

That hair and lip colour are *chef’s kiss*.

Judges’ Scores:
: 7
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 9

John Whaite’s Pectoral Muscles and Johannes Radebe’s 100mph Arse
Samba / Acuyuyé – Dark Latin Groove

First of all, the award for Most Ridiculous Poppy of the Year Award is definitely going to the little one desperately clinging to John’s barely there tanktop

a pay rise to whoever had to spend an entire week making sure poppies remained glued to athleisurewear.

They were of course doing the Samba this week, which is Johannes’s favourite dance and this would be the first time he’d have a shot of doing a real samba given that he got dealt the dance in week 2 with Catherine Tyldesley and he never got to do it with Caroline Quentin because she was joining JJ Chalmers in a complete boycott of Latin routines, finally being knocked out by a Cha Cha Cha that will forever haunt my dreams

We were still in the height of the pandemic at this point, I hadn’t seen another person’s tongue FOR MONTHS.

So with 2 years of pent up Samba in his veins, it was no wonder that Johannes’s arse was going like the clappers from the off

and he put everything into this routine which was a glorious sight to be hold but I do think hindered John who by the 40 second mark was nigh on willing to give up and just let the floor consume him, meanwhile Johannes was still going like Rhys Stephenson doing his Cha Cha Cha.
It was a nice mix of samba styles, John very much suited the slightly more reserved ballroom samba, never quite fulling letting himself go with the freer African elements that Johannes clearly enjoyed so much

but even with John occasionally lagging behind or just generally struggling with letting himself go, it was one hell of a party dance and it had Motsi dancing by the end of it

but she mostly appreciated John’s wristwork

meanwhile without an Adam Peaty on hand, Tess had to get her thrills from somewhere

John evidently being too tired to even shimmy <3 Who knew Tess could be such a taskmaster? DON’T ANSWER THAT VERNON. I distinctly remember Tess Daly in an interview saying that whenever she buys knew heels, she makes Vernon wear them to loosen them up. We could discourse forever about why I remember that but I have a Viennese Waltz to be angry at.

Judges’ Scores:
: 7
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 9

Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden
Viennese Waltz / Iris – Goo Goo Dolls

Having seen how taking on Hollywood worked out for Dan and Nadiya, Amy had grand plans of her own with their dance being set overlooking the city lights of LA and with them dancing to Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, this is indeed another Stealth Movie Week – just say you really enjoy watching City of Angels (1998) Amy, it’s fine. Sadly because it’s November, Amy couldn’t do the full Meg Ryan cosplay because she is contractually obligated to only wear vaguely vintage look tea dresses for the entire month

they could have maybe put more effort in on Tom’s behalf so that he didn’t look like the world’s most disgruntled office worker – the slouchiness of his outfit I think did him a great disservice and made him look a lot less upright than he actually was.
This was an odd Viennese Waltz to say the least, I’m not sure Iris is a particularly waltz-y song and this particular cover gave it a strange tempo that often felt more like they were doing some Grade A Contempowafting rather than a Viennese Waltz

and Tom was very much still hitting poses like he was doing his paso doble

which I imagine is what Craig meant when he said the whole thing was “a bit snatch and grab” and Anton meant by the two of them getting a little lost within the music as they desperately tried to create big enough movements to live up to it, although I did love Anton specifying “as a musician you must know what I mean!” and Tom just looking utterly blank

My biggest issue with the whole thing is that I could still very much tell that Amy was steering Tom around the floor while they were in hold and I just wonder if they’ve maybe not had as much time to train this week because Amy tends to have a lot of stuff going on whenever Remembrance Weekend comes around, especially fresh off the back of her JJ Chalmers partnership last year.

Judges’ Scores:
: 7
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 7
Anton: 8

Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice
Couple’s Choice / Symphony – Clean Bandit & Zara Larsson

Every now and again there’s a dance that transcends the show, and it can be for a display of technical prowess

(I just like that gif)
a well executed theme

a uniquely baffling costume

My biggest regret is that I never got to recap that routine.
or a uniquely baffling move

bring back The Gleb please.
but what the show has always missed and has been desperately trying to capture, especially with the introduction of Couple’s Choice, is a highly emotionally charged routine. But where I think they’ve always gone slightly wrong with them is they tend to lean towards the melancholy, see Ashley Roberts’s routine, which was beautiful but kind of what you expect from contemporary dance. And that’s why this routine from Rose and Giovanni just hit differently – it’s an astonishingly captivating routine and effervescently joyful, particularly the moment she cups Giovanni’s ears as the music fades in the middle to give way to the silent portion of the routine

it was gentle and loving, making sure that this part of the routine wouldn’t be seen as loss or absence but as rich and beautiful in its own right. They achieved everything they set out to achieve with this dance and I lose it every time that the music comes back and Giovanni looks Rose in the eyes and nods to assure her that the routine is going well

I will protect these two with my ENTIRE life.
It’s that lightning in a bottle of a routine and by the end Motsi was barely holding it together

and Nadiya was GONE

The face of Couple’s Choice regret.
I think Motsi said it best, this dance was beyond marks and scores, it kind of just defied the entire concept of the show and Shirley and Anton very much understood that too and then you get to Craig and well, opening by telling Rose she needed to have more strength in her legs made me want to cringe myself inside out and then he scored them a 9 and my soul left my body, and I seemingly wasn’t the only one as the rest of the panel revealed their scores of 10 in incredibly subdued, non-euphoric manners, seemingly crushed by the weight of embarrassment over the 9.

Judges’ Scores:
: 9
Motsi: 10
Shirley: 10
Anton: 10

And that’s it for the show, so all that’s left to do is check out the leader board:

  1. Rhys and Nancy Row a Boat AND IT’S VERY FUN.
  2. Rose and Giovanni WUZZ ROBBED
  3. Johannes Arse Gets a Speeding Ticket
  4. Sara and Aljaz’s Discoball of Lust
  5. A Disgruntled Office Worker in LA
  6. The Parisian Balloonists
    • Dan Walker being Dan Walker
  7. An Avant Garde Paso in Kansas

And in the results show we’ll found out who doesn’t make it to Not-Blackpool-Musicals Week!

And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the Strictly’s Week 8 Main Show and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

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