Feature: So far, so Strictly

Thursday 27 October 2016 by Vikki Jane Vile

Actress Lesley Joseph, with partner Anton du Beke, leaves Strictly Come Dancing, 23 October 2016. Photo: BBC/Guy Levy

Much like half the cast of Strictly 2016, I’ve had to take the odd week off here and there, but I’m back now where I belong of a weekend – on the TV centred sofa watching the UK’s favourite dance show. This year’s crop of contestants have been such a poorly lot the Daily Star actually published an article suggesting Brendan Cole was dead. (He isn’t, to confirm). Add into the mix Laura Whitmore’s dodgy ankle, Will Young and his ”personal reasons” and I’m surprised they aren’t filming the show live from Borehamwood A&E. So my scorecard for the season so far?

2016 is the year of the stage school ringah (the prior dance-trained contestant), with Louise Redknapp, Danny Mac, Will Young (now sadly missed) and Ore Oduba all having previous on the dancefloor. However, Danny Mac’s Quickstep with the flawless Oti Mabuse is worth two minutes of your time.

Will Young’s inexplicable departure has been well documented and Oduba’s blubbing on cue is getting a little old considering that we’re still in October. However his Jive was pretty special, I won’t say better than Jay McGuiness’s last year because the internet would hunt me down but … it was up there.

Pint-sized gymnast Claudia Fragapane promised much but other than her kooky Charleston, full of swivel and Hollywood glamour, her routines have mostly been filler interspersed with acrobatic tricks and flips. Newbie pro AJ Pritchard seems more at fault than her for this, she’s still prime journey fodder and still has time to come up with the goods.

It’s not only been crowded at the top of the leaderboard but at the bottom too, with singer Anastacia dodging death several times. Middle England not liking the loud, brash American, who knew? Actress Tameka Empson had the dubious honour of being the obligatory “shock boot”, an unfortunate combination of a mid-table score, poor-concept, cop-themed Tango and a professional partner the audience is unfamiliar with and it’s probably not quite the shock the media would have you believe.

Much was also expected of BBC Breakfast presenter, Naga Munchetty with her petite, lithe figure and the strong prior efforts from her newsroom colleagues. However, even under Pasha’s nurturing supervision, she never appeared comfortable and prompted possibly one of the most philosophical judges comments ever, “I’d have liked you to have nailed it better.” Thanks for that Len.

Last week saw Birds of a Feather actress Lesley Joseph become the latest departee, a great shame as she was perhaps one of the greatest ladies of a certain age ever to grace Strictly. Her Charleston is one of my favourite dances of the series and it was nice to see Anton Du Beke have to up his game to keep up with this spritely 71 year old.

Oh, mighty Ed and your discoballs. Where to start? And where will it end? Despite being bottom of the scoreboard every week without fail, former Labour Chancellor Ed Balls has been graced with safety from the public every time. Truly John Sergeant levels of popularity. In the same way Sergeant became synonymous with dragging hapless Kristina Rihanoff across the floor like a bag of spuds, Balls will be known giving the BBCs insurance company a workout with television’s most heart-in-mouth moment, ever.

A lift so royally botched, the studio audience audibly yelped.

But that is not all Ed has given us! Oh no! Week three and movie week saw him take on The Mask, cavorting around in a yellow suit, like an excited teenager off to a school prom, only occasionally stopping to yell “Somebody stop meeehh” with his face painted lurid green. The man has school age children who are presumably seeking alternative identities as a matter of urgency. All this, dear reader, and that’s without him forgetting his entire Pasodoble routine in week four. I’m working on Londondance.com to let me do a weekly blog just on Balls … I’m hopeful. Balls for Blackpool!

Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC1, Saturday and Sunday evenings

Vikki Jane Vile is a freelance dance writer and regular contributor to Dance Today and Dancing Times. Find her on Twitter @VikkiJane

Photo: BBC/Guy Levy

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