Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Week 6 Part 1: Anton's Hounds Of Love

Let the coloured contact lenses and plastic cobwebs be unconfined, it's Halloween Week! Halloween Week, you notice, not Actual Halloween because that is over and done with, but a) when did the show let accuracy get in the way of its fanatical devotion to theming, and b) in these straitened times, why not take the opportunity to buy all the costumes and props at a discounted price after the event.

I bet the Strictly producer buys her Christmas cards in the January sales.

To open up Halloween Week, which is now A Thing, whether you like it or not – and I actually do – there's a group dance to Bat Out Of Hell, the greatest tune Bruce Springsteen never wrote. This song later features on The X Factor too, which is the kind of exposure that keeps Meat Loaf in shiny motorcycles and plain black T-shirts, as well as the reason he can afford to keep taking bit parts in creatively challenging arthouse movies (e.g. Fight Club, Spice World).

I love it, and I love the judges' Thriller walk-on too. Anything with Thriller hands and I am all over it. Darcy, predictably, is not really living the spirit of the song. Do buck up, Darcy.

(As an aside, after the occasional glimpse of It Takes Two this series, I've been moved to wonder how Zoe Ball would work out on the main show. This is neither the way I wanted to find out, nor the precise line-up of personnel I had in mind. Still, well done, Zoe. You can stay.)

This week, Kate and I have divided up the dances in a more random and experimental way because we are nothing if not punk, and also, anything goes because it's Halloween, except it's not because it's NOVEMBER THE FIRST. I get jives and American smooths. Kate is your paso correspondent. We've split the rest.

First up for me, Sunetra and Brendan with a jive. Sunetra says she's pleased to get to Halloween Week. You see? A Thing. Halloween is the new Bloody Well Blackpool. As far as I can surmise, their routine is about the strains placed upon a young couple by the tribulations of modern life – specifically where to position the double bed in the tiny bedroom of your small rented property because you'll never be able to afford to buy. Under the window? But then it will block the radiator! Opposite the door? But this contravenes the principles of Feng Shui, which neither Sunetra or Brendan actually believe in but you can't be too careful, can you? Brendan begins the routine under the bed to demonstrate the abundance of storage space to be found there. I recommend Wilko's comprehensive range of plastic boxes. I really believe that the correct storage can save a relationship. I'm a fan of this routine, but their styles seem mismatched. Brendan's all big, bold jive arms. Sunetra's all floating, soft Sunetra arms. Possibly Brendan tried to pull her up on this and she was all like, 'Don't talk to me about arms, Brendan. Everyone loves my arms. I WIN ARMS.' This disconnect is another sign that their relationship is doomed. The where-to-put-the-bed debacle was just a symptom. Domestic strife and not enough sharpness adds up to mid-table vulnerability for Sunetra and Brendan.

Alison and Aljaz are dancing the American Smooth. Aljaz seems particularly giddy tonight. I think Jeanette has promised she'll take him trick or treating after the show as long as he goes straight up to bed with no story afterwards, and now all he can think about is the number of mini Halloween Haribo bags he's going to score. No one's broken the news that IT'S NOT ACTUALLY HALLOWEEN. They are dancing to Wuthering Heights and at this point, Kate Bush, watching at home, spits out vegetarian shepherds pie all over her TV screen because she signed off on the use of one song for Strictly and expressly requested it to be Hounds Of Love, featuring Anton Du Beke (Kate's favourite ever since Vincent left), Judy Murray and a pair of live dalmatians, and she can't believe they've gone over her head. If Kate Bush now retreats from the limelight for another ten years as a result of this artistic violation, the BBC have some big questions to answer.

Anyway Alison looks beautiful and it's soft and romantic and, judges, brace yourselves, because the world doesn't actually stop turning just because Alison's not doing a 'fun', 'bubbly', Latin dance. The world doesn't stop, but apparently the public stop voting. Ah. My main problem with it is that Alison's face isn't doing what she thinks it is. I believe she's aiming for intense, lovelorn, lyrical. What we get is beaming, cloying, vacant.

Steve and Ola are dancing the Charleston to Them Bones. I love everything about this, apart from the part when Steve forgets most of the routine. Poor Steve and his lift anxiety. I can relate to this. It used to make me nervous when I had to change the massive bottle in the water cooler at work. I would worry I wouldn't be able to lift up the new full one in front of everyone with my puny, untoned arms and would have to drop it halfway up, making a big CLUNGGGGGG noise and spraying everyone with water. I am a very anxious person. Anyway, the blame seems to lie with Ola and her ferocious expectations. Dear Ola, just because Steve can lift a rhino with one hand doesn't mean he has to every week. I am not comparing you to a rhino here. You are not the rhino. I'm just saying poor Steve and be gentle. Does Steve have a partner? I am thinking that post-Strictly he will have his pick of ladies to take to The Rainforest Cafe for some kind of wildlife-themed burger dinner. Anyway, with echoes of Matt D'Angelo, Steve is very generously marked for his brain freeze and sympathy will save him from elimination.

It's a good job that Kate Bush has now turned over to X Factor in a sulk, because they've stolen her dalmatians concept and slayed it. The good thing about being the worst dancer in the competition (it's OK, she said it herself) is that you get the pick of the props. For Anton and Judy, it's a flying car AND live dogs. Judy looks incredible, seems to be having a brilliant time, lands at least some steps roughly in the right place, within several beats of the right time, so I'd call that a decent day's work. As a tribute, I've spelt her name right, in contrast to the first week when I spelt it Judi throughout. I've realised my mistake and I apologise for it.

Despite the fake blood and phantom phantoms, Strictly does accomplish some genuine witchcraft this week. How else to explain the extraordinary feat of transforming dashing, poloneck-wearing Pasha into something totally sexless. I've seen his moodboard from the wardrobe department and it says 'ghost of Cleo Laine meets Glen from Nighty Night'.

Why are we, as a blog, so underwhelmed by Caroline and Pasha? Kate said it last week. I'm saying it now. It's a question that merits some kind of midweek discursive post all of its own, which I for one will definitely never get round to writing. Their samba is technically wonderful but... I have no interest in ever seeing it again, and that can't just be down to the wigs. Maybe if someone had let the dalmatians loose again and hidden some sausages behind the cardboard gravestones, there may have been more of a sense of jeopardy. I mean, dalmatians are expensive. You may as well get your money's worth. The BBC are all about the budgets.

Also, Pasha, if in doubt: Thriller hands. Just a tip.

Mark Wright is doing the jive and the judges totally lose their shit over it. I mean, it's great – I love Mark. I love his conviction, I love his lack of inhibition, I love his infinite number of nans. I never question the sincerity of his over-emoting. But still. For starters, he looks like he doesn't quite know what to do with his hands. When people say this, it's usually because they've recently given up smoking, so if you want my advice, Mark should try jiving with a fag in one hand and a pint in the other for the perfect relaxed yet structured upper-body execution. This could be a solution to the perpetual 'placement of the free arm' issue we always hear about on Strictly. Fill your free arms with fags and booze, is what I'm saying. I also feel as though Mark is constantly pausing to wait for Karen to finish what she's doing before carrying on together. Where is the fluidity? Where are the Thriller hands? Still, it's energetic and committed and I don't begrudge him a few 9s. Also, I was so distracted by Karen's ill-fitting double wig arrangement. What was with the ginger? Who can explain this to me? Was she halfway through an audition for Annie in another part of the BBC, and forced to rush back and forth between the two, Mrs Doubtfire style? We may never know.

That's my half of the draw. Mark or Frankie FTW. See you next week.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog. Love your analysis of Steve and his lift anxiety, and howled with laughter at the "free arm" solution. I am finding it hard to get behind any of the contestants this year. I'd love Sunetra to storm through and surprise us, but something about Brenda's dodgy choreography and her intermittent flashes of mediocrity keeps getting in the way no matter how much I like her sass..and I remain unable to commit...