Strictly Come Grade 1 Piano was much more Dan Walker’s speed.
Welcome to Week 10, where everyone is still recovering from the strange high of Musicals Week making for some erratic scoring and strange background shenanigans – Neil wasn’t getting enough attention, obviously.
The show continues to be haunted by the Phantom of the Covid Opera as while Craig returns, seemingly in the mood to make up for missed opportunity to lambast another contempowafting couple’s choice, Motsi unfortunately had a close contact Covid incident and had to miss the show BUT! It did mean another week of Cynthia Erivo who had come wearing a divine Murder Dress
I was very excited, I thought she had come dressed to kill and eviscerate some bad chaste rumba-ing and then… well, she gave it a 9. U ok hun?
Shirley on the other hand was shunning the white for the week and embracing blue sequins
Her makeup was particularly pretty this week – she had a very youthful glow about her
perhaps a week without Craig does the body good?
And it seems Anton finally got the message about the suits and showed up as the Las Vegas Casino restaurant wallpaper I always wanted him to
I’ll forgive him a return back to the black tuxes for at least the next two weeks for this, but I do expect big things for the final.
And all of this is of course helmed by our perilous hostesses
I have to say I do enjoy Claudia’s middle of the points table Scandinavian Eurovision backing singer entry look. And Tess makes a valid bid for red as her power colour – one can never be too coordinated.
Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice
Paso Doble / California Dreamin’ – Sia
We’re kicking off the show with a Paso Doble and Rose and Giovanni were very much drawing from the same baffling well as AJ and Kai with their routine that once again felt more like an America’s Next Top Model Photoshoot than it did a dance routine. It wasn’t quite as weirdly high concept as AJ and Kai, it lacked a delipidated windmill for starters, but it was deliciously Matrix-y
which was a relief because I didn’t know where this was paso doble was going given that on Thursday’s It Takes Two, Rose’s outfit looked like Vicky was halfway through making a spider costume for next year’s Halloween Week
Nobody tell Dave Arch about Spiders by Ashbury Heights because we will end up with a tango being danced by a pair of ungainly arachnids.
A paso lives and dies by how much attitude a dancer can bring to it and given that Rose played Reverse World Elsa on Halloween Week so well, I was pretty confident that she’d pull this off too and it started really well
however, this opening vamping was kind of the best part of the whole routine, not least of all because of the way her hearing aid occasionally caught the light and let off a little twinkle. I do also appreciate that the hairstylists clearly learned their lesson from the fact Rose’s wild whipping of her head in their frosty tango had resulted in her ponytail becoming one hell of a bludgeoning weapon and so this week’s impressively orchestrated ponytail had safely been tucked in
she’d have taken the entire front row with but a turn of her neck with that thing.
I think the strength of her styling also really highlighted the slight limpness of the routine at large – a lot of her movement across the floor felt very walk-y and bland to me
but I do appreciate that she really went for it with the vaginal wafting, so powerful was it that Giovanni got a full 4 feet off the ground
which somewhat redeems the couple of mistakes she made, particularly in the final move where she stumbled ever so slightly and I think in the beginning she may have gone to early with her fan crack – something seemed to happen in the first few seconds but she styled it out well enough and it was certainly better than Giovanni’s attempt in training
SOMEONE GET THE MAN A DRAG QUEEN.
Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova
Rumba / Desperado – The Eagles
Well, we’ve arrived, pillows at the ready kids
Nothing about this rumba boded particularly well given that usually the whole narrative throughout the week on It Takes Two is “It’s quite a sensual dance and I’m struggling to embody that.” while any discussion of Dan’s rumba did everything to not talk about Dan’s rumba. But don’t worry, they talked an awful lot about curries so at least there was some spice somewhere. Although who are we kidding, Dan absolutely orders nothing above a Nando’s Lemon and Herb.
Then they go to their pre-dance VT wherein Nadiya showed Dan some professional rumba footage and Dan watched it like he had just found porn in his kid’s bedrooms
and Nadiya has A LOT of this footage available because the rumba just so happens to be her favourite dance – a fact that does not surprise me in the slightest based on her penchant for a casual daytime negligee. But this was a Dan Walker rumba so her dress slit was 4 inches more conservative than your average rumba dress
GIVE HER A HOT OLYMPIAN NEXT YEAR, WE DEMAND IT. Because if this Dan Walker partnership has done anything for Nadiya it’s absolutely bumped her out of Interchangeable Blonde to Full Time Main Cast – sorry Luba, you can languish in Christmas Special Hell for a while longer and we’ll take you out the cupboard whenever we need to paint someone green.
Sorry, I realise I’m pulling a Dan Walker here and refusing to talk about this rumba… it wasn’t great, for a variety of reasons, the most glaring being that Dan Walker’s facial expression was set to “Think Unsexy Thoughts” throughout the entire routine
Stupid sexy Nadiya.
The only time he truly ever looked comfortable was when he could just hold Nadiya’s hand
daylight between us at last!
I do however think this rumba was less of a complete disaster than I expected, or at least the parts of it that I could see when it wasn’t completely obscured by modesty lights
which isn’t to say I thought it was good, it just wasn’t a completely unsalvageable bin fire, but nobody was more proud of this routine than Nikita who by the time Dan had finished dancing and Nadiya had survived the mortification of having to dance around the stiffening bird-man, looked like a very proud mother
Craig however wasn’t so keen and promptly showered it in a blistering critique that was almost as uncomfortable to watch as Dan Walker holding Nadiya’s waist as she thrashed around in front of him
he dubbed it “stompy”, “marchy”, “rhythmless” and described Dan’s feet as “looking like they had been velcroed to the floor” – which very much had Nadiya twitching in rage
RELEASE THE PISSY BYCHKOVA.
Cynthia and Shirley however were on hand to defend him, Anton by this point had been completely broken
Cynthia raves about it, calling it “utterly gorgeous” while Shirley justifies the fact Dan’s feet barely left the floor as him “being grounded” – week 10 and we’re finally getting inter-judge beef that isn’t Craig being weirdly misogynistic towards Motsi, Hurrah!
I personally fall more on the side of Craig’s 6. I can only imagine Cynthia’s wildly inflated score of NINE was because of the McFly fans that sat in her Twitter mentions all week trying to explain the plot of Les Mis to her, a RADA alumni. And if there’s one fanbase more wild than that of a not-a-boy-band band that peaked in the mid-2000s, it’s the mothers who watch early morning magazine news shows.
AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington
Couple’s Choice / Make Me Feel – Janelle Monae
Apparently Kai’s Edelweiss Waltz was enough for Florence to forgive him for his astonishingly bad pizza manners as this week he got to meet the Odudu family at large and because of social distancing requirements, it did look a bit like a pitch meeting on The Apprentice
the reason for this meeting being that they are this week doing a couple’s choice and in the grand tradition of the genre, the routine is of course being dedicated to AJ’s family, but more specifically the icon and legend that has become Florence Odudu. It’s certainly not as misguided as Tom and Amy’s couple’s choice but I did find it a little jarring that we had this very emotional and poignant VT about how AJ would have loved to learn to dance as a child but given the fact she isn’t from a not particularly wealthy black family in Blackburn, she just couldn’t and then BAM! we’re on the verge of a lapdance and AJ playing the part of Sexy Hat Rack
This is the first of many fedoras this evening.
But goddamn did I love this routine, it very much felt like it was cut from the same cloth as Giovanni and Faye’s jazz skeletons
and it’s certainly a routine that kind of justifies the genre sticking around, I’m not sure it can ever fully tip the scales in favour of it when we’ve had Sentimental Discowafting and Dan and Nadiya Take On Hollywood For No Discernable Reason, at this point it’s a lost cause.
I can somewhat see why it didn’t get the full 40, her spin was a little bit sloppy on the arms
but we have established that she does have the wingspan of an albatross and to fully extend those arms is to risk accidental take off, but really most of it was absolutely smooth as silk, the way she moved across the table to Kai at the start of the routine is almost unnatural
it’s like a NPC that’s lagging and suddenly just glides across the terrain to catch up to where it should be – Hi, I’ve been playing Runescape again, sorry for comparing AJ to Hans The Lumbridge Warden.
I just love that it was unabashedly sexy and I think it felt even sexier because it was following Dan Walker as The Nervous Groom Who Doesn’t Want These Stag Party Pictures To Go On Facebook – I MEAN COME ON
it’s the sort of routine that Brendan Cole wishes he had done – I always think about his allegedly Too Sexy For TV Cha Cha Cha and of course the complete backfiring of The SnowDance: A Tale of a Christmas Turkey Gone Awry
I’m sorry, I’ve been looking for an excuse to gif ALL of that routine for weeks now so I had to take my chance.
I was blown away by AJ’s dance, it’s one of the most exciting routines that Strictly has ever put out and a lot of that is to do with the unabashed, proud Blackness that the whole thing embodied from the Janelle Monae song choice, the styling and the choreographic nods to 80s funk and R&B. And I really do struggle to see how it got a whole 4 points less than Tilly’s slightly awkward Mathilda dance in the same genre.
Craig : 9
Rhys Stephenson and Nancy Xu
Waltz / You Light Up My Life – Whitney Houston
Having wasted their Couple’s Choice routine on Spiderman Is My Own Personal Jesus: A Street Performance during Movies Week, we probably should have seen the emotional suckerpunch that is an I Love My Grandparents Waltz coming from a mile off. Craig apparently did not as he promptly tore into this poor dance like he was opening the last packet of crisps left on earth. And the fact he did so after Rhys ended the dance having, in the words of the always subtle Tess Daly, “a little cry.” – a fact she honked like a goose with a megaphone just to make sure Cynthia knew Rhys was crying because nobody wanted a repeat of The Great Unweeping French Revolution from last week. SO HE WAS DEFINITELY CRYING CYNTHIA, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? HIS EYES, THEY LEAK. HE IS ENDING HARRY JUDD’S REIGN OF TOXIC MASCULINITY.
Apparently the tears of a Cbeebies presenter were still not enough to stop Craig from lambasting his frame, his feet, probably his clothes – at some point I had to stop listening because it genuinely made me feel as uncomfortable as Luba clearly was
her feet were suddenly ever so interesting. Meanwhile Dan And Nadiya recline in sympathetic mortification and Karen vows a silent but bloody revenge.
And he just wouldn’t stop despite the fact the life was slowly leaving Rhys’s eyes
and then his own personal Strictly Therapist, Claudia, completely betrayed him when he went to talk to her for his weekly Strictly Come Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy session because she showed him a video message from his grandparents and the boy promptly dissolved before our very eyes, leaving Nancy having to awkwardly answer questions and hug her sobbing dance partner. It was… just very uncomfortable.
The other three judges all loved his routine though, raving about his footwork and his now apparently completely restored ballroom frame. I absolutely thought it was Rhys’s best performance, mostly because it didn’t come with that gently simmering energy that threatens total chaos at any turn – it would’ve been quite the feat to make a Week 10 Waltz seem perilous. I still don’t think it was really a routine worth writing home about, for starters there was not a bench in sight, but we did have Nadiya Bychkova’s High Concept Sparkly Park Tree in full use
Somehow, this setting reads more like Avatar: The Last James Cameron Franchise than Adam and Katya’s Alien Landscape Obfuscated Rumba ever did. Given that the theme of the routine was “a secret garden”, I’m genuinely shocked that Nancy got to wear a proper ballroom dress and the two of them didn’t get flung through the Strictly Dressing Up Box and dressed up as a pair of Edwardian children. You escaped this time Xu, you won’t be so lucky next week when Vicky dresses you both up as a pair of storks for what I imagine is a deathknell rumba.
Craig : 7
Tilly Ramsay and Nikita Kuzmin
Samba / Levitating – Dula Peep
Given that all week everyone has been mentioning Shakira and Tilly in the same breath and that she’s dancing with the young, pretty male professional dancer, I was very much bracing myself for a samba disaster on the scale of AJ dragging Mollie King around the dancefloor like a slowly unfurling spring roll
and then of course they spent most of their It Takes Two segment talking about Nikita’s hair
and their pre-dance V was 80% roller rink hijinks
preceded of course by a post-Mathilda debrief involving questionably blue drinks
so it was hard to get a grasp of where this samba was going to land with the lack of training footage made available and given all of that, this was actually a much better routine than I think it had any right to be.
Considering Tilly started this competition quivering her way through the chaste-est waltz you’ll ever see outside of the Dan Walker oeuvre, she gave this some welly
a shout out to the unsung hero of the entire series: whoever is providing the supportive undergarments, the show wouldn’t be Watershed-friendly without you.
It wasn’t the cleanest samba you’ve ever seen, it got a little messy at some points towards the end, at which point the great big pair of roller skates just sitting at the backstage began to pull focus
given the size of Sara’s Origami Boat, Tess’s Not Quite Life-sized White Horse and Rhys’s comically large glitzed spanner I’m going to guess that the props department got hell of a deal on the abandoned props from the proportionally irregular CATS (2019).
But the first 20 seconds of the routine were really quite stellar, she hit the beats of the music perfectly – granted Levitating is an awkward song choice for a samba but it’s to expected as the show leans ever closer to just going full Discoification of the samba. Shocked to learn that “discoification” is an actual genuine word? Or at least my autocorrect has given up on me at this point, I can’t really blame it.
It did get quite sticky towards the end though and there were a few moments where she seemed to suddenly become aware that she was dancing this dance to an audience of millions and she got the far-off look in her eyes as existential dread seeped in
but she’d snap out of it and get back in the groove pretty quickly.
Will a disco samba in the lurid colours of your worst 90s nightmare be enough to save them from another visit to the dance off? I’m not sure, but they do have weepy Gordon on hand for an added voting boost
Rhys Stephenson’s influence. Toxic masculinity whomst?
John Whaite and Johannes Radebe
Argentine Tango / The 5th – David Garrett
Well, seeing as I spent most of my recap of John and Johannes last week opining the lack of Chimneysweeps That Fuck™, I think it’s safe to say they made up for that particular missed opportunity with this week’s Argentine Tango that was quite literally on fire
if that closing shot of their routine isn’t just The Shot of the Series, I don’t know what is. Well, I do have 1 alternative
I’M SORRY, I WILL NEVER STOP THINKING ABOUT HIS LITTLE FACE.
As Anton said in his critique, these two have kind of been chasing that same lightning in a bottle routine that was their Pirates of the Caribbean Paso Doble which they’ve always fallen a little short on. It’s is kind of fair because their dances have been a Canadian Bankers American Smooth, Pastry Chefs do The Charleston, Chimneysweeping Vienna, friendly Cuban neighbourhood Samba and Frollicking Werewolves – the one exception being the Sting pleasing Rumba. But this angry fedora’d Argentine Tango was The One
cannot believe that Graziano didn’t hook them up with his fedora monogrammer, RUDE GRAZIANO, DID JOHANNES MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?
Right from the jump you knew this was going to a dance to remember because of just how perfectly in sync they were
that’s just pitch perfect synchronicity, like absolutely faultless.
They admitted they were struggling to make the lifts look graceful given that John is a well built guy and Johannes is incredibly tall and leggy, so when he does do the sort of prancing deer pose, it does look a bit like a giraffe taking a nap
but there’s elegance to be found in a sedately reclined ungulate.
And really you can’t be worried too much about elegance in a routine with an extensive section involving karate kicking your dance partner
very me spamming the attack button in Mortal Kombat energy.
And of course when Johannes’s legs weren’t being used to perform a finishing KO, he was doing leg extensions the likes of which I haven’t seen since I watched Judi Dench hold her gummily furred leg aloft in CATS (2019)
apologies for repeatedly bringing up CATS (2019) in these recaps but I watched it 6 times in theatres and I need to process the trauma somehow.
My one frustration with John and Johannes, and it’s not even really their fault, is that the show still feels like it’s trying to justify having same gender couples as Craig launches into an extensive history bit about how the Argentine Tango was originally danced by two men to symbolise combat – which is true and interesting but I would like it, on the show, to just be appreciated that John is a gay man and he wanted to dance with another man because he thought it would make him more comfortable and easier to relate to the dances. And then we save the history lectures for Johannes Radebe Presents: The Big History of Dance, a 6 part BBC documentary series in which he only wears his Very Queer Crop-top
honestly, the fact he was allowed to wear this on the show feels like as big a step as having same gender couples competing.
And then despite his raving about the historical accuracy of it all HE GAVE THEM A 9 and he didn’t even bother to give them a standing ovation, much to Cynthia’s absolute disgust
DESTROY HIM CYNTHIA, you are our only hope.
And so, to our leader board:
- A Well Fedora’d Argentine Tango
- AJ and Kai’s Demi-Lapdance
- An Eviscerated I-Love-My-Grandparents-Waltz
- A Paso Doble But FASHUN 2: High Concept Boogaloo
- Your Da’ Doing a Rumba
- Kidz Bop Roller Samba
I fully believe we’re in for a Samba Curse narrative and I still feel like Dan is going slip through the net for just one more week with Tilly ending up going home in a dance off against Rhys. I just hope that AJ’s dance connected with the audience at large, I can see it being a routine that backfires in terms of a mass vote. I guess we’ll find out in the Results Show.
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