Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Strictly Come Dancing week 2: Crazy V gets her groove back

This is totally unrelated to Strictly Come Dancing, but, crikey, I dislike Rylan from X Factor. He is an embarrassment to... well, everything: men, people named Rylan, humankind, Essex, England, Britain, Europe, Western culture, and on and on. He sings only slightly better than a discarded can of Fosters and couldn't even manage to pronounce the word "oppa" in "Gangnam Style." He said "wahpa," as if affecting an astonishingly insulting Korean accent.

That routine he did last Saturday was, admittedly, amusing. But everything that was good about it had absolutely nothing to do with Rylan. People who voted for Rylan were, in fact, voting for the imagination of Brian Friedman, the X Factor choreographer. If someone wants to start a show called Mental Dance Routines From the Imagination of Brian Friedman (a), I will watch it happily. But Rylan –– a hyper-camp version of General Zod –– is a disgrace. I cannot stand him.

All this, of course, simply serves to strengthen my love for Strictly Come Dancing. Both Saturday-night programmes are ridiculous, but Strictly is ridiculously fun. It is the very definition of kiki, which is a word I had to look up after the Scissor Sisters performed "Let's Have a Kiki" on the Sunday results show. 

And to my mind the bringer of the most kiki this weekend was again Lisa Riley. Jenn and I are waiting for the moment when her dance partner, Robin, works motorboating into a dance routine. Until then, here's a look at all the fun of week 2, starting with the exiting couple first.

Johnny Ball and Iveta Lukosiute –– Waltz –– 20
In my "Chris becomes famous enough to be on Strictly" fantasy one of my biggest fears is that I would be the first to go. It is an ignominious claim to fame and I feel badly for whoever suffers it, even when, as in Johnny's case, it is deserved. Johnny was never going to last long in the competition. I am more sad at the fact this means seeing less of Iveta, who was starting to grow on me. I liked how relentlessly positive she was about her dance partner. Brought in to cover for an injured Aliona, she had to know she was never going to be anything more than a fiddler on the Titanic, but she did so with aplomb.

Michael Vaughan and Natalie Lowe –– Jive –– 15
Maybe I'm being too kind or perhaps it's that I was trying to fix dinner during this specific performance, but I really didn't think it was all that bad. It's week two, yo. They can't all be Denise van Outen. True, the dance wasn't good, and I found it a bit lazy that the costumes were exactly the same as when Natalie and Scott Maslen danced a Footloose routine in the second week of the eighth season. Did you not think I would notice this, BBC costumers? This show is my life.
Don't judge me.
But in terms of the dance, I'm not sure I agree with the comment I read somewhere that the dance was a "cross between The Shining and The Wurzels." It wasn't good, but it wasn't as awful as it could have been. But what do I know? According to Zoe Ball, it was the lowest scoring jive in Strictly history.

Nicky Byrne and Karen Hauer –– Cha cha –– 17
There was a point in the dance when Karen was shimmying toward the camera with her face showing the grim determination of someone on a bayonet charge.
"Yeesh, look at Karen," I said to Jenn. "She looks as if she has no idea what she's doing and is just hoping no one notices."
Turns out, this is exactly what she was doing. Because Nicky had gone rogue. He was doing his own thing, man, running free on the dance floor, unhindered by such constraints as timing or footwork or musicality. 
He had missed the count-in from the beginning of the song, so spent much of the dance just making stuff up. I would admire Nicky greatly if this were his overall response to adversity: when in trouble, boogie. You can imagine him in an elevator in a high-rise building. The cable snaps, the car begins to plummet, and Nicky decides the only thing he can do is bust a move.
"Thank God you were doing the running man as you went down, Mr. Byrne. You jumped at just the right time and it ended up saving your life."

Jerry Hall and Anton du Beke –– Waltz –– 18
Honey badger don't care. Honey badger does a foxtrot and doesn't break a sweat. Honey badger has seen and done things you can't even imagine, sweetie. Go on, think of something. Anything within the realms of physical possibility. Nope, honey badger's done that. Honey badger did it upside down. Remember when you were watching X Factor and Brian Friedman told Rylan, "Then you'll be followed on stage by 10 fashionista pandas," and you thought: "Is this real life?" It is. And honey badger does stuff like that when she has breakfast. So doing the foxtrot, well, honey badger can take it or leave it.
And by that standard I thought it was not too bad. Jerry "Honey Badger" Hall definitely performs better on the slow dances. But I'll admit I find it impossible not to be biased in her favour because of her Texas accent.
On a side note, if Craig Revel Horwood ever again attempts a Texas accent I will start sending him my poops in the mail.

Richard Arnold and Erin Boag –– Cha cha –– 19
The normally tolerable Strictly Come Dancing Band had some really weak moments this week, and the version of "Love Shack" offered up for this dance was one of them. The Guardian's Strictly blog loves to complain about the band, but I think one needs to be fair about the challenges presented by having to perform songs of all different styles within strict perimeters of time and tempo. Every member of the band is wearing an earpiece that has a soulless electronic bleep piped through it to ensure the song is exactly at the tempo the dancers have rehearsed. It's hard to really put a lot of musical expression into such a situation, and usually the band perform admirably and sometimes quite well. But sometimes. Oof.
The dude singing Fred Schneider's part for "Love Shack" was just oof. Nothing but oof. So if Richard and Erin were good or bad I didn't really notice. In the dance off, he seemed half interested and messed up a good deal of the footwork. I think he may be better at coming up with lines ("More Darcey, less Bussell") than dance moves.

Sid Owen and Ola Jordan –– Salsa –– 22
Come on, Ola chops!
Professional wrestler Chris Jericho (himself a previous performer on Strictly's U.S. version, Dancing With the Stars) used to do a move designed to get heat from the crowd in which he would knock down an opponent and arrogantly pin him by simply placing one foot on his chest. As he did this, he would flex and grin at the crowd, shouting: "Come on, baby!"
The face Jericho made when doing this was the exact same face Sid was using whilst dancing the salsa on Saturday night, which made me love him just a little bit. Sid was owning that dance. Not so much in terms of style and technique, mind, but most definitely in enthusiasm. No one –– ever –– has been so keen to do a bit of the spinny-spinny with Mrs. Jordan. My opinion of Sid is changing; I think I'm starting to like him.

Fern Britton and Artem Chigvintsev –– Viennese waltz –– 24
It's rare the Viennese waltz really does anything for me. There are times when it really works, when you sit and watch a performance and think: "Wow, that was beautiful. It was art in movement."
But the majority of the time my reaction is something along the lines of: "Meh. This is a good time to get up and go get some more port."
This Viennese waltz fell into the majority category. Meh.

Colin Salmon and Kristina Rihanoff –– Viennese waltz –– 24
"Have Kristina's breasts always been that large?" asked Jenn. "Were they that big last year?"
"I think so," I said. "We just had a smaller television."
"Wow. There's so much boob."
"Indeed. I like Colin's tie, though."
"I can't pay attention to it. All I can see is boob."
"I doubt they're real."
"For her sake I'd hope not. She'd have to eat 5,000 calories a day to maintain them. How does she walk?"
Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor –– Viennese waltz –– 25
It was not a Viennese waltz that I thought was beautiful, but it was rare in that I liked it. I like Lisa's facial expressions all through the dance: that of someone who's really enjoying it. She looks so happy, so genuinely delighted to be twirling around with big camp Robin that one can't help but love her. She managed to make a "meh" dance a little bit less meh.

Victoria Pendleton and Brendan Cole –– Foxtrot –– 26
Admit it: you were watching Crazy V thinking: "Just hold it together. Come on, Crazy V; don't crack." And with each tiny wobble –– her teetering on high heels or looking just a little confused or failing to place her arm correctly when going into hold –– you took in a sharp breath hoping it wouldn't set off a rapid unravelling that inevitably ended with Crazy V tearing out her own hair and eating Brendan's ear live on television. OK, maybe only I was thinking that. I want so much for Crazy V to do well, to be awesome, that it's sometimes hard to watch. I am dreaming of a Jade Johnson-like transformation. 
In 2009, Johnson was on the show with Ian Waite as her partner. She started out poorly, unsteady on heels, but soon became the Lioness, flashing her powerful sexy legs and inducing all kinds of fantasies that would probably remind Jerry Hall of her teenage years.
This is what I dream for Crazy V. I feel that, like Jade, she can overcome weaknesses through her endurance. I really think she can be good. She's not yet, but at least this week she was better.

Kimberley Walsh and Pasha Kovalev –– Foxtrot –– 26
What dance was Len watching? Thanks to quality song choice, the routine had a beautiful melancholy that almost had me getting teary eyed (I had, admittedly, by that time consumed a bottle of wine). For a second-week dance you couldn't really ask for more. But for reasons completely beyond anyone's comprehension Len decided to take a big poo-poo all over it and criticise everything. I actually booed the television (again, that's probably the wine).
My only guess is that it was some sort of cunning ploy by Len to ensure Kimberley stays in the competition. By drawing attention to her he won her sympathy and, by extension, votes. Perhaps he sensed there were many people like me who have a tendency to forget Nimble Kimble is even part of the show. Or he completely lost his mind. Kimberley and Pasha's was easily the best foxtrot of the evening and was arguably the second best of all the performances.

Dani Harmer and Vincent Simone –– Salsa –– 27
I think I mentioned before that Dani strikes me as a strange sort of person who looks to have been comprised of different bits. Like a Frankenstein's monster, but far more charming, she has been pieced together with arms, legs, torso and head each from different individuals. Taking this into account, one couldn't help but be impressed by her ability to move all those bits around more or less in time in Saturday's dance. Though, it was perhaps a bit worrying to see her doing all those flippy salsa moves, for fear a foot or arm might come loose and go sailing into the studio audience.
If we accept her as a person who has not been sewn together, however, I agree with the judges that there were points in the routine that lacked fluidity. Also, I was baffled by that one move in which Vincent flung her over his shoulder, then just sort of dropped her to the ground like a trawler fisherman emptying a catch onto his boat's deck.

Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace –– Viennese waltz –– 30
First of all, I liked that dance, yo, and I thought Louis' pointing to his face at the end and grinning, as proof of his ability to smile, was a tiny moment of brilliance. Secondly, the judges complained that they saw little connection between Louis and Flavia, but can you imagine anyone having an emotional connection with Flavia? She doesn't have a personality, she has abs. It took several years of my watching Strictly before I even realised Flavia could speak English, that she is, in fact, an English girl for all intents and purposes, having been raised in Surrey from the age of 4 and speaking with an English accent.
So, give the boy some credit. Also, I kind of like his too-cool-for-school look. Ever since Jenn pointed out he looks a tiny bit like Prince, I like to imagine Louis as akin to the tiny purple sex alien. Indeed, perhaps that look of concentration is a deliberate attempt to prevent a connection with Flavia. He is so sexay that if he weren't controlling his natural aura Flavia would be writhing around on the floor, and Jerry Hall would be leaning over to Elizabeth Jagger, saying: "That reminds me of when you were conceived. Of course, in that case the audience was naked. And there were more of them. And there were monkeys involved. And 78 gallons of baby oil. And we were listening to Sade. I don't mean we were listening to a record, honey –– she was there, on a horse. Also naked, obviously. Well, not the horse. It was wrapped in velvet..."

Denise van Outen and James Jordan –– Jive –– 32
According to the Daily Mail, which I suspect may be slightly less reliable than my own imagination, Strictly Come Dancing fans are upset that Denise is a good dancer. This is a claim proven by exactly two tweets, one of which is attributed to an unnamed source the other of which appears to be more observation than criticism. The claim of viewer anger over Denise's dancing ability is then contradicted below the story by several comments expressing support for the West End star. Yes, Denise is a better dancer than, say, Johnny Ball, or Michael Vaughan, but why is that a bad thing? It's a show about dancing. What's wrong with having someone who dances well on a show where the point is to dance well?
Denise and James kicked booty, yo, and were probably under marked because the judges didn't want to go throwing down 9s in the second week. You have to think James is in a constant state of joy because he has now a partner who may finally be able to earn him the coveted glitterball trophy.

  • Sid Owen's girlfriend is 16 years younger than him. I like him even more
  • If you don't love Darcey Bussell you have no soul.
  • Tess is going for odd dresses so far this season. Many of them have a look as if she showed up wearing a typical Cardiff slag's frock and someone in viewing standards insisted that she be covered up with a bit of mesh.
  • Hooray the return of Claudia Winkleman. I love her so hard.

I'm still putting Kimberley, Denise, Louis in my final four. I want to put Victoria in there, as well, but this week I'm less sure. It seems Lisa would be a better bet. I still think Denise will win.

(a) I also applaud Brian Friedman's choreography for Lucy Spraggan's performance, in which the out-of-the-closet lesbian happily perved on booty-shaking dancers who pawed at her as she sang. I doubt American television would have the guts to work such a routine into "family" viewing like "X Factor," even though they'd not think twice about having a male ogle women or a woman ogle men.

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