News: Strictly goes to Blackpool

Wednesday 20 November 2013 by Vikki Jane Vile

It would appear that the brisk air of the Blackpool prom got to the Strictly judges, dancers and producers as the series regular seaside weekend fixture proved to be a night of endless over-marking, unnecessary themes and the return of Brucie in overdrive writes Vikki Jane Vile, our woman with the TV remote control in hand…

The madness of Saturday evening was embodied by the bizarre opening group dance. What started as a typically high camp Blackpool samba by the professionals quickly escalated to something more alarming as they were joined by local child prodigies, senior tea dance regulars, carnival girls and finally the celebrities – wheeled on in what only can be described as glittery supermarket trolleys, dressed as extras from Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Perhaps this all seemed entirely logical after a few warm glasses of sauvignon at the producer’s post-show party last week? I was almost relieved to see Bruce arrive on the floor to signal it was over.

In a predictable voting decision the public decided it was the turn of Fiona [Fullerton] and her American Smooth to “Fly Away” as the lyrics to the Sinatra classic decreed. She and partner Anton delivered a rather lacklustre routine, ironically brought down by the very feature that should wow – the lifts. However full respect to Fiona for keeping her integrity and dignity at all times throughout her stay; she has been a joy.

Through surviving to week eight, this has been Anton’s most successful campaign in recent years, although it has been widely observed this year that the Strictly veteran, present in all eleven series may have let his partner down. Judge Bruno Tonioli drew attention to his less than shining performance in last week’s Pasodoble, telling him “She (Fiona) was better than you!” Other of his Latin routines have been widely mocked online, with fans noting his placement at the back of many professional set pieces.

After the departure of Dave [‘Hairy Biker’ Myers] last week, the remaining jester of the crop, Mark [Benton] produced a crowd pleasing Jive, although knowing performing a dance to Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop the Beat used to be his day job I felt a little short changed on originality. Abbey [Clancy]’s Quickstep indicated the start of the nonsensical scoring. Her performance was light and bright, although with obvious technical errors – such as the gapping between her and partner Aljaz. This was highlighted by the judges, but still somehow didn’t prevent three of them waving their ‘10’ paddles about. Ashley [Taylor-Dawson] and partner Ola also scored a healthy 35 for a rather uninspiring Pasodoble with an utterly pointless cowboy theme.

On the other hand, Sophie [Ellis-Bextor] suffering by performing her Quickstep first. The style of this Ballroom number suited her doll-like appearance perfectly and she danced with a confidence she has lacked in the previous weeks. She and partner Brendan scored a solid 34 but who knows how it might have fared post the outbreak of scoring hysteria.

The night however belonged to Susanna [Reid] and partner Kevin in their dramatic, dynamic epic of a Pasodoble. Performing to authentic music (hurrah!), Susanna was the perfect Spanish senorita. In no time at all she has learnt to use her arms and legs powerfully, which meant the performance never lost any momentum. Credit should be given to Kevin for choreographing a wonderfully traditional routine that accentuated all of Susanna’s strengths divinely. My prediction last time that they would be in the semi-final is looking like a dead cert.

Other moments I treasure: Bruce’s unsubtle defence of Mark to the judges: “for a guy of this size to do a Jive!” – met by a stony silence by all, including Mark. Seeing the professional dancers best attempt at faux-happy-face when in back of shot as Susanna received her 10s. Anton’s pilot uniform – part train ticket inspector, part SS officer.

As the show returns to Elstree Studios next week I can only hope the silly themes and gimmicks are put away for another year and the judges scoring returns to something resembling normal. Let’s hope they didn’t get too much Blackpool rock in their party bags then…

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1 Saturdays

Vikki Jane Vile is a freelance dance writer, contributing regularly to Dance Today and Dancing Times magazines – and a Strictly aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @VikkiJane.

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