Feature: Strictly with Vikki

Thursday 1 November 2012

On an Autumn Saturday evening there’s only one place to find Vikki Jane Vile – and that’s in front of a TV tuned to BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing. If you’ve lost the Strictly habit, she’s here to tell you why you should give it another try…

Strictly has successfully ridden the highs and lows of prime time TV for eight years now. In that time we’ve seen everything from Arlene-gate to voting fiascos and if you wait long enough – the occasional mesmeric dance performance. On average, the show pulls over nine million viewers a week so the producers can rest easy in the knowledge that they are doing something right. So what has this series delivered so far?

For a start, prima ballerina Darcey Bussell has joined the judges, restoring some credibility to the line-up after three series of Alesha “You guys was amazing!” Dixon. Although undoubtedly first and foremost a ballerina, Bussell danced an American Smooth in the launch show [see video clip], banishing any chatter that she is simply a ballet girl. It was beautiful, with both extensions and technique to kill for. Moreover, she is articulate, knowledgeable and has the strong grasp of English grammar that her predecessor rather lacked. Gone are the empty statements about how ‘fierce’ everything is and in are the helpful critiques on dance technique – Dani Harmer (of Tracey Beaker fame) was advised to ‘exaggerate every movement’ of her Cha Cha and ITV Breakfast presenter Richard Arnold (no, me neither) told to clench his glute muscles to help with the tilt of his hips. And it’s all delivered in a fascinating hybrid accent which is worth a listen in itself, falling some between home counties Pony Club and a middle class student on their ‘gap yah’ to Sydney – but I’ll leave you to see for yourself.

So what of the competition then? As ever it’s “The biggest and best series ever and so tense …” Oh my God, can you deal with the tension of what awful dress Tess will have been squeezed into? Of course not!

Olympic Golden Girl Victoria Pendleton and bad boy of Ballroom, Brendan Cole certainly made for an eye catching pair in the launch show, and so the nation made a collective gasp when it transpired in her Cha Cha that most citizens can negotiate the staircase after a heavy night on the town with more grace than Pendleton. Annoyingly, however, she comes with the “Nations Sweetheart” tag swinging around her neck and the judges seem nervous of criticising her.

The big surprise of the series so far has to be Emmerdale actress turned TV presenter Lisa Riley. At the launch all assumed she would be the comedy joke act every series features – but no, it turns out Riley can move. Her opening Cha Cha was something of a sensation and her Jive was similarly energetic and rhythmical, even if costume did dress her as a boudoir lampshade. It remains to be seen whether she is exposed as a one trick pony as she has now danced most of the faster Latin styles.

Another Olympian, gymnast Louis Smith, has fared rather better than his medal winning counterpart and his Tango from this weekend prompted the judges to dust off their ‘9’ paddles for the first time this series. Smith and partner, Flavia (Strictly veteran and target of girl crushes throughout the country) are aesthetically perfect in stature as well as technique and I can easily see them pulling out stunning routines on a weekly basis, in what has at times been a bland crop of celebrity hoofers.

All in all after four series without her, I still miss the passion of Arlene Phillips dreadfully but Darcey’s fresh and insightful words enhance the show with dance credibility. If you haven’t seen Strictly yet this year it’s definitely worth catching so you can see for yourself that Miss Bussell rocks. Ok yah?

Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC1 every Saturday evening.
Check the website for details: www.bbc.co.uk

Vikki Jane Vile is a freelance dance writer and regular contributor to Dance Today and Dancing Times magazines, having won their Young Writer of the year competition in 2010. We’ll be hearing more from her on Strictly in the coming weeks…

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