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Former Latin American World & European champion. Open British, UK & International Latin American Champion. Professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing with Diarmuid Gavin, Nicholas Owen & John Barnes.

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Friday, 30 September 2011

Training Videos - Finally Russell & Audley

Whew, I didn't think we'd get to see these two in training but thankfully the BBC gave us all the couples in the final hours yesterday.  And here are my final thoughts!


Audley Harrison And Natalie Lowe


Shrek he definitely is not but a sweet nickname for him.  I have a feeling Audley may surprise us all and look and dance like a Prince on the floor.  He looks like he has a very fluid and easy style of moving and like Rory, seems to already understand rise & fall.  Natalie is absolutely right, due to Audley's amazing height, he can afford depth of movement and his rise & fall can be exaggerated more than if someone doesn't have his height. This will enable them to increase their movement across floor and will have a wonderful lilting feeling about it. As I mentioned in an earlier blog (I think when talking about Robbie) sportsmen tend to learn visually and Audley confirmed this so, the quickest way for Natalie to teach him is to literally just show him by dancing herself what he has to do and look like.  Audley's personality seems very sincere and I can see the audience  warming to him.  For a very tall person, he has good posture and doesn't look down too much. He also has a great frame but must be careful not to drop his elbows which could then pull his posture down but at least he doesn't seem to have the problem of raised shoulders.  I am looking forward to seeing some great movement and style on the floor from Natalie & Audley.


I do feel for the male celebs that have to dance Waltz in the first week as this is not the easiest beginner dance to learn & they have to try to lead their partner around the floor whereas the female celebs can be lead (possibly dragged) around the floor which makes them automatically look better. Perhaps a Tango would be better in the 1st week? I'm not too sure what the solution is though.


Russell Grant & Flavia Cacace


'That's Entertainment' should be Russell's moto! Whatever he lacks technically, he will undoubtedly make up for in performance.  That should take them a long way and I for one cannot wait to see what they bring to the competition as they will certainly up the stakes in a theatrical sense!
Saying that though, technically his cha cha doesn't look too bad at all. He has a nice little hip action going on and some basic positions like New York look very nice and neat and even in training he looks like he is having a ball.  He isn't afraid of using his arms which for some men can be a struggle but his arms, hands and fingers look precise & finished.


I have heard some rumours about a injury but I always ignore those rumours as sometimes they are rather embellished for sensationalism, unless proven otherwise.  Everyone has injuries of some sort in the beginning as they are doing something their bodies aren't used to doing and the hours are long and gruelling BUT as any champion will tell you -  'No pain, No gain' or my favourite 'Blood, sweat & tears makes a dancer through the years' (or series in this case).


I think Russell & Flavia will be very entertaining & hopefully they will also prove to everyone that you can be a performer, entertainer and learn to dance at the same time & not only rely on one aspect to get the votes!


So, there we have it.  All 14 couples getting ready for tonight's show.  Oh, I know how they feel & for some, I wouldn't want to be in their shoes.  The nerves, the excitement, the tension & the unknown can almost be too much! They may even want to run away or suddenly feel like they can't do this and definitely can't remember anything.  But this much I know, once they get on the floor, dance and do their best whether they make mistakes or not, they will come off the floor feeling the greatest buzz ever and will want to do it all over again!  The dance bug would have well & truly sunk it's teeth into them! So, I wish them all the very best of luck, they will need it and hope that they all enjoy the competition, the entertainment and the spectacle that is Strictly Come Dancing!


We all look forward to watching you! Break a leg x

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Training Videos - PART THREE


Harry Judd & Aliona Vilani


1st Impression - this looks good! Harry has nice arm placements in New York position, good weight placement and good posture.  It is difficult to tell but it looked like there were some good basic elements in the choreography too like, the Natural Top - I hope his footwork for this step is technically sound as it is a very difficult basic step to do well.  I am slightly concerned about Harry's lack of hip action or natural body rhythm present at the moment but to see everything in less than 20 sec of footage is impossible. Who is going to win this years 'Snake Hips' Title - I think Jason Donovan may just be in the lead on what we have been shown at the moment.  I think Harry & Aliona, together with Artem & Holly will have the greatest expectations on them this series so, I'm hoping to see a slightly different approach to choreography this year from Aliona & it looks as if she has listened to some of her critics.  There seems to be a good amount of basic steps coupled with some intricate trick steps - Great! Let's see what they've got then... So exciting!

Alex Jones and James Jordan

Hmmm, there's not a lot to go on from this training clip is there really? This slightly concerns me as it could mean that either they haven't had a lot of time to rehearse or that there really isn't anything that good to show or that we're in for a shock and they will be fabulous.  I have my reservations that it will be the last option I am sad to say as, I was really hoping that James would have a celeb this year that he could win with.  Alex has it all, good looks, great body & a lovely appeal about her but unfortunately from the little (and I can't stress enough... little) footage we have seen, she doesn't seem to have a very natural dance ability or gracefulness & even in comparison with some of the other older ladies, I would expect her to have a little more ability.  This seems rather harsh but, if Alex wants to stay in this competition and improve & do well, she will have to become a lot more serious about this and listen to every word James has to say.  James is a hard taskmaster but, if Alex wants to do well, improve and become a dancer, she will accept his way of training & working because it does produce good results.  You never know, there have been a few really bad dancers in the beginning who have gone on to be really good in the end and I hope Alex has that ability in her to do the same.

Holly Valance & Artem Chigvintsev

As I and I’m sure everyone else expected, Holly looks rather good in their training video. Out of all the ladies this year, I feel that Holly & Chelsee are so far the stand out ladies BUT it is earlier days, the competition hasn’t really begun yet and we still want to see improvement and that awful ‘J’ word (journey for those who are unfamiliar) will count for a lot.

Holly has great use and understanding of her arms and their placement as well as a very good co ordination between her body, hips and leg movement.  She has nice, neat feet and a good use of her ankles, which should hopefully stop her from looking flatfooted at times.  I think Holly will be more like a fiery, exotic and slightly ‘wild’ (in a good way) character on the floor rather than a demure dancer which for me is a good asset as her dancing won’t look too precise or contrived which can look a little boring at times.  She has the wonderful natural antipodean qualities of being feisty, direct, strong & competitive from what I have seen & I look forward to seeing how far Artem can push her and what Holly will be able to produce I just hope that the expectation on her won’t be too much too soon.

I doubt very much that we will get to see Russell Grant and Flavia or Audley Harrison & Natalie which is a shame as I was really looking forward to blogging about these two, especially Russell who has been very prolific on Twitter so, I was very eager to see what their training footage would be like.  However, if I don’t update my blog later today with some last minute footage from the BBC, I shall definitely be blogging a whole lot this weekend!

How very exciting – only 1 day to go now and all is revealed!  Good luck to everyone and I wish you all a very happy, exciting and successful series!


Monday, 26 September 2011

Training Videos - PART TWO

Nancy Dell’Olio and Anton Du Beke


Nancy is a lucky lady to have Anton as her leading man, who will be able to lead her around the dance floor & make her feel like a lady.  I do think that Nancy has got some good dance moves in her, as she seems to be able to dance quite fluidly with Anton and looks good in Anton's frame, I do wonder if she will look equally as graceful on her own though?  I do hope that Anton will sort our her head position as she was constantly looking at him in the video - this could just be because it was very early days in training and she may have been looking at him for reassurance.  Let's hope this doesn't become a habit.  I'm not entirely convinced that Nancy & Anton should be going down the 'comical/humerous' route in their partnership as this has already been done last year & I am absolutely 100% sure that Nancy is by far already a better dancer than Anton's previous partner! So I would like to see them take this seriously and see how far they can go in this competition.


Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev


Well, what a lovely surprise - I am not sure what I was expecting from Chelsee but for some reason, it wasn't what I saw in their training video.  Chelsee is a surprisingly elegant and graceful dancer!  She looks confident in what she is doing and has a lovely use of arms and arm extension all the way to her fingertips.  This is not something that can be taught so quickly and usually is just a natural understanding or feeling for movement. Her continuous 3 step turns (or shanae turns as Craig may like to call them) were very impressive as they are difficult to do, especially for a beginner.  Pasha is a great partner for Chelsee as I feel that he will work her to her potential and also keep her focused - something which she may find a little difficult due to her wonderful youth! I am hoping for a transformation with Chelsee from 'Cinders to Cinderella, who shall go to the ball and meet her Prince Charming' (Sorry, I got a bit carried away then!). I'm very much looking forward to watching Chelsee's transformation and in my opinion - she could very well be the one to watch this series.


Still waiting for BBC training footage from:

Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace
Holly Valance and Artem Chigvintsev 
Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani

Alex Jones and James Jordan
Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe

Let's hope we get to see them before Friday! Not long now & I CANNOT wait!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Training Videos - How it all starts! PART ONE


Unfortunately these videos are more of a teaser than anything else and we don't get a real feel for what is happening in those first couple of training sessions.  Generally, I can assure you that there are nerves from both sides as you don't really have an idea until that first training day what your celeb is capable of or if anything at all. So it will either be relief or a sense of dread & this is pretty much what the celeb will be feeling too as they won't have a clue what to expect either. It is a very surreal situation to be in and not one you can really fully explain to anyone who hasn't been there & done it.


The first few days will be the building blocks for the rest of their time together.  If they get off to a good start that's great but you can usually tell pretty much straight away if you will get along with each other or not - just like any meeting of new people in the real world!

Baby steps - this is how it all starts, just like a baby learning to walk, your celeb has to learn a few basics of a dance first. Then how to count in time to the music (that is if they have a sense of rhythm) and also get used to a 'hands - on' approach by the Pro they are dancing with as this is generally unfamiliar to them in terms of the proximity you have with each other almost immediately & can make them feel rather intimidated and awkward.

On top of all that, there are cameras watching your every move, listening to your every word, ready to be edited and then you have to try and act and feel natural in a totally unnatural situation! That is why I often think that the celebs haven't really a clue what they have signed up for until they start their training.  All the glitz & glamour only happens once a week, the rest is a lot of hard work.  BUT... there is a lot of fun too.  There is a lot of laughter whilst teaching & learning to dance, quiet a few painful moments of either been accidentally kicked, punched, slapped, dropped, stood on, frustration on both sides and the list goes on.

BUT it is all worth it in the end for that 1 and a half minutes of dancing on a Saturday night to an audience of millions of people watching Strictly Come Dancing & everyone is rooting for and hoping that the celebs will do well & be entertaining. Now, that's entertainment!

So, let's see how they are getting on in the first weeks of training:

Lulu and Brendan Cole

Lulu seems to be very keen to learn and although I fear she may not be as natural a dancer as we somehow expect her to be, her enthusiasm and eagerness to learn & get it right will help a lot & I am sure this will please Brendan.  He loves a hard worker & appreciates that even if someone one doesn't have a natural talent for dancing, if they are a 'trier' - he's very happy!  Lulu does look very good in the shapes she makes, with her arms and body and has a natural awareness for what 'looks' good & this goes a long way towards making a dance look correct in the beginning. I am sure there will be a lot of people including the judges perhaps that will criticise their height difference however, this should not be a problem at all. I for one would know having been very successful with Matthew Cutler.  All Brendan needs to do is to be clever with choreography & the height difference will actually be a bonus. They will be able to do a lot of interesting choreography that a couple of the same height won't be able to do! I look forward to seeing this development in their partnership and, now that lifts aren't strictly prohibited, these two could be the King and Queen of lifts this year! Very exciting indeed.
           
Rory Bremner and Erin Boag

Wow, at first glance this looks very good! Erin is a fantastic Ballroom teacher and her Waltzes have always been very memorable for being so classic and sophisticated. This I am sure will be no different.  Rory has a great physique for Ballroom - tall & elegant and his posture isn't bad at all.  His shoulders 'pop' up from time to time but this is natural in the beginning and I am sure Erin will sort this out very quickly.  His movements look very fluid & smooth already which in a Waltz is very hard to achieve as a first dance for anyone so this is very promising indeed & shows that even if Rory doesn't understand rise & fall yet, this is something that is fairly natural to him! I can't wait to see their Waltz on the night as I think it will be a very beautiful, sophisticated and classy number.
           
Edwina Currie and Vincent Simone

Who would have thought Edwina has such natural hip action? (no jokes please!) Seriously, I was very pleasantly surprised with how natural she looks doing something that most women can look pretty awful doing if not done correctly! I hope she uses this asset to her advantage but not to 'overkill' it either.  Edwina is obviously a very clever woman and I like how she thinks about all the dance steps already -she seems to compartmentalise them which will help her learn them and remember them quickly as a lot of the same steps are present in different dances. Edwina looks to be a very natural mover and with Vincent's humorous charm ;-) I expect to see a rhythmical & cheeky Cha Cha Cha if that is in deed what they will be dancing in the first show. I hope so as it might actually be rather good!

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff

If there was a glitter ball for the celeb who is totally engrossed in learning to dance, Jason would get it! Yes he is a perfectionist, yes he works hard but I think he needs to relax just a little so that he doesn't stress himself out about this too much.  Dancing is a hard skill to learn but this is a long & hard road which I feel Kristina and Jason will be on for a good length of time & I don't want Jason to frustrate himself to early - plenty of time for that later! If they are doing the Cha Cha as their first dance, this is quite a difficult dance for a man to master initially as there should be good hip action and a cheeky & sexy character to the dance. Jason already seems to have the same natural talent for good hip action as Edwina which is very impressive. I hope that we get to see Jason's 'showman' personality come through as I am sure he can be a wonderful entertainer if he gets in character in each dance - I just don't want him to concentrate too much on making everything perfect & forget that he needs to be entertaining too. I'm looking forward to seeing Jason wiggle those hips on the dance floor!
           
Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor

I like Anita! She gets it... This IS hard work & she knows what she has signed up for - learning to dance in firstly a dance competition & secondly an entertainment competition. But there needs to be both elements in order to be successful & win Strictly Come Dancing.  Anita for me has a natural & graceful look when she dances and moves, whether it be with or without Robin - something not often seen so early in training and I like the way Anita's head moves naturally when changing positions. The actual pace of movement they seem to have looks very good & they look very suited together.  The only thing that immediately bothered me was Anita's left arm placement on Robin but it is early days & I am sure this will be remedied. I feel that perhaps Anita & Robin won't have a traditional and purist look about their choreography & their dancing but, they will be very watchable and Anita will be very elegant in terms of arm placement and movement on the dance floor. 

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan

Another celeb who didn't think it was going to be so difficult! But... At least Ola has a sportsman & that is a tremendous advantage in the fact that they will not quit until they either get it right or physically cannot do anymore!  Unfortunately, I think Robbie is in the category that people will automatically think he will be a natural mover just because he is a sportsman & footballer however, I think that he's going to have to work extremely hard for us to believe this. He doesn't have a natural hip action YET and looks a little tentative & reliant on Ola but, on a positive note, he does have good posture, good neat footwork & straight knees where he should have.  I have been told (& it is true) that sportsmen are very good at repetition & copying things like body action & footwork & perhaps this approach would help a little.  Without a shadow of a doubt, Robbie & Ola will be the most glamorous couple of the floor & I hope that with his tenacity for repetition & hard work we will see that fancy footwork on the dance floor too.

Dan Lobb and Katya Virshalis

I didn't realise that there is quiet a big height difference between Dan & Katya & although I said earlier that just because there is a height difference, this shouldn't be a hindrance... it does however make a difference if it is the male celeb who is a lot taller than the pro dancer as it is a natural tendency when they are unsure to look towards or at their partner for assurance.  In a partnership of equal height this wouldn't be very noticeable as looking down but in this case it may pose a problem.  With Katya's persistence however, I am sure Dan's posture will improve & it was after all only the early stages of training.  I do think that Dan & Katya will be a very glamorous Ballroom couple though & look like they should have a good presence on the dance floor - I look forward to seeing what Katya can achieve with Dan as all the right tools are there to create a good dancer.

Still to come:

Nancy Dell’Olio and Anton Du Beke
Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace
Holly Valance and Artem Chigvintsev 
Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani
Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev
Alex Jones and James Jordan
Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe

As I said earlier, it is very difficult to make an accurate assessment of the couple's and the celeb's dancing after watching such a limited & edited amount of footage & I am sure that by the time we get to see everyone on the first show, they will be leaps & bounds from where they were in the beginning (well, we hope so anyway!) So, for now this is only my opinion on what we have been shown & I look forward to being proven wrong & right about some of my opinions - after all, that is what makes us tune in each week to watch Strictly Come Dancing isn't it?

Good luck to ALL pros & celebs for their final week in training before the first show - make it a good week and most of all enjoy the experience because come the first show, you'll be far to nervous to even think about enjoying it until it's all over!
       

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Celeb & Pro Pairings Launch Show


It's that time of the year already when the nights get darker, the weather gets colder & you know that Christmas songs will be playing in the shops very soon... 


This can only mean one thing; it's STRICTLY COME DANCING time! At least the glitz & glamour of Strictly brings brightness, warmth and entertainment to this otherwise gloomy time of the year when the seasons change & summer seems a distant memory (or non-existent memory this year!) And this year's series seems to be no exception I am very happy to say! 

As always, every year promises to be the very best series yet & possibly after the last few years, this would not be too difficult to achieve as I have found the last few years of Strictly to be a little lack luster and in Craig Revel Horwood's immortal words - DULL, DULL, DULL! I am not entirely sure why, I can't seem to put my finger on it but this year has gained my interest almost immediately when I heard a few rumors regarding which celebs may be taking part - this may after all be the very best series yet in the last couple of years!

I eagerly awaited the Launch Show on Saturday night which unfortunately I wasn't able to watch after all as I was visiting Matthew Cutler who has just recently moved into a new house and he 'forgot' to set up his telly - Thank goodness it was going to be repeated on Sunday but the suspension was killing me & thankfully a few friends kindly kept me informed via text as to who was paired with who... by the time Lulu was paired with Brendan I thought, this is going to be a very interesting series indeed!  I thought hurry up Sunday so I can watch it for myself & so I did and I loved it!

Right, here we go...

THE FEMALE CELEBS & THEIR PRO PARTNERS:


Ola Jordan and Robbie Savage

Well, aren't they a fabulous looking couple! I wasn't too sure who had more fake tan on though but at least we already know that Robbie will embrace the 'Strictly experience' on that front! He did look awfully shy though and not quite the show off footballer that I half expected from hearing various other reports about his reputation.  Just goes to show, you should never believe everything you read in the press ;-) 

I am really pleased for Ola that she has a younger celeb this year and a sportsman that she can work her magic with as this is where Ola's strength lies - getting her celebs to work so incredibly hard and only a sportsman can really fully appreciate that intensity!  Footballers however are a strange conundrum on the dance floor - they should have it all really - fast & neat feet, rhythm, be able to change direction quickly, remember foot patterns, have stamina & showmanship BUT this is not always the case - I should know after dancing with John Barnes MBE.  All of the above applied to John & he was a pleasure to work & dance with but, after sending a lifetime looking down on the floor at a football posture was a huge issue - I hope that this will not be the case for Robbie & if it is, Ola needs to nip this in the bud as soon as possible! 

I really am looking forward to watching Robbie & Ola & they will be a little bit of eye candy for everyone all in one beautiful partnership!

Natalie Lowe and Audley Harrison

I remember a few years ago when Erin was paired with Peter Schmeichel MBE who is equally as tall as Audley, many people said how a tall man like that would struggle to dance and make it look graceful.  Well, Peter probably wasn't as graceful on the dance floor as he would like to have been but it had nothing to do with height (and it rarely does), it just has to do with the ability to move in time with the music & a natural disposition for dance, some things that just don't come naturally to some.  In Audley's case I can hear many people saying the same thing, that he's too tall etc. however, Audley is used to a form of dancing already albeit in the boxing ring.   He should be very light on his feet and be used to learning different foot positions and having to move quickly in his space so let's see if he still has some fight left in him. With Natalie, he is in very good hands and she has proven twice how good a partner she is to her celebs.  Can Natalie do it again?  I hope so and hope to see Audley take up the challenge.

Flavia Cacace and Russell Grant

Wow... What a genius pairing of a couple!  Flavia, the tiniest of dancers with the work ethic of a racehorse and Russell who is in personality it seems larger than life and has a passion for understanding things most of us don't!  Russell is no stranger to reality TV programs so, he should at least understand the concept of Strictly...whether it be an entertainment or dance competition or both, it is still a competition and Flavia is no stranger to hard work, in fact I'm sure she thrives on it.  I do believe that Russell was once a Redcoat & so I hope he remembers some of his dance & performance days too.  Hopefully with the dedication from Flavia and the fun and jovial side from Russell we will see a very entertaining couple.  I am really hoping that Flavia & Russell will be one of the surprise couples this series as, they are secretly one of my favourite couples already!

Erin Boag and Rory Bremner

Erin 'Miss Whiplash' Boag & Rory 'The impressionist' Bremmer - wonder if he'll impersonate Erin?  

From they moment they were announced as partners, they looked truly happy and relieved to have got each other and so I predict that they will be a very good match in personality and work ethic. They look good together, great height match and seem to have already created a rather classical look about themselves.  Although I'm sure there will be lots of laughter in the training room, I can't see that translating to the dance floor in any gimmicky way.  Erin is too sophisticated for that and I hope she uses that wonderful strength to their advantage.  Their Ballroom dances will be their strongest and if they create some authentic Latin dances, I can see them being very popular.  Classy is always good!

Aliona Vilani and Harry Judd

It seems Aliona is very lucky to have had 3 young, good looking and able partners in a row now, let's see if it's 3rd time lucky.  On paper this looks like a fantastic partnership - full of youth, energy & sex appeal but sometimes what's on paper doesn't necessarily mean the same on the dance floor as we have seen in many series past.  It all depends on how the partnership works together & how the Pro creates the dance to enhance the celebs assets or disguise their weaknesses, not how to create a dance to show off themselves.  Aliona has been guilty of this in the past & has had this pointed out to her by the judges so, if she takes heed and has learnt from the past, perhaps this could be the year for her.  But it's not about the Pros - it's about the celebs! Hopefully Harry won't look as petrified as he did each time he goes out on the dance floor and it seems to me that he needs a lot of encouragement & I hope he gets it, as it would be wonderful to see what dance talents he has on the dance floor.

Kristina Rihanoff and Jason Donovan

Boy was Kristina happy to get Jason! Good for her, she deserves someone with potential & hopefully Jason is it!  We haven't really been given the opportunity to see what Kristina can really achieve with her partners yet as she as had some unfortunate celebs so I am looking forward to seeing what Kristina can give us with Jason.  Jason seems to be a very hard working person, a perfectionist and looks as if he is already taking this competition very seriously which I am sure is music to Kristina's ears BUT can he dance? I am not quite convinced but then again Darren Gough wasn't very good at all in the beginning & look what the lovely Lilia was able to achieve. So there is every chance that Kristina can turn him into the dancing machine that by the looks of things, Jason very much wants to be! I too have a soft spot for him & hope he does really well!

Katya Virshilas and Dan Lobb

Unfortunately, I hadn't heard of Dan before the Launch show but I am sure he has a huge early morning following ;-) and he will have enough people on set to ask for tips who have already done Strictly! I believe Dan was also a model as well as a tennis coach at one stage.  Therefore, he should have: showmanship, competitiveness, co ordination, dedication & the ability to think about this competition with a sportsman's mind combined with the smouldering looks of a model... interesting combination!  As we saw last series, Katya is a very determined woman when it comes to getting what she wants out of her partners & even managed to break the ice surrounding Gavin Henson & we actually got to know Gavin more than we thought possible so, hopefully Katya can do the same for Dan.

THE MALE CELEBS & THEIR PRO PARTNERS:

Brendan Cole and Lulu

Now that wasn't the reaction I expected & neither did Brendan by the looks of things! I don't quite know what to make of it but I do think that it was quite insulting & disrespectful to treat your chosen Pro like that.  Perhaps we misunderstood however, never before have I heard of or seen that reaction. I really felt for Brendan & despite what he is portrayed as by the powers that be, he really is a sensitive soul & would have taken that reaction to heart.

Hopefully Brendan & Lulu will be able to get past this & be allowed to get past this so that we can all enjoy what I believe to actually be a rather good pairing & hopefully Lulu will soon realise this too! Yes, Brendan is hard working and a stickler for perfection however this all comes from a very good place and has always worked for him in the past in his own professional career and also with his successful record on Strictly - Brendan is 'old school' and believes in hard work, dedication and getting the best from his partners & the one's who want to do well in the competition usually have no problem with this.  Let's hope this is what Lulu has signed up for as, she could & should be rather good at this sort of 'Showbiz' thing! I would love to see them do well & I am sure there will be fireworks along the way but that makes it worth watching right?

Vincent Simone and Edwina Currie

I was sure that Vincent would be paired with Nancy & by the looks of things, it almost looked as if Nancy thought so too... this did make me giggle as for once it looked like Anton was a little lost for words.  But no, the potentially fabulous for TV pairing of the 2 Italians was not to be. Possibly because we may have had to have had subtitles all the way through their training videos & VT's?

Anyway, Vincent & Edwina may just be as good a viewing as Russell & Flavia! I am sure that Edwina will do everything that Vincent tells her to do unless she disagrees with it ;-) and I am sure that Vincent will be his usual charming self and charm her into submission! It may be a close call as to who will win the battle of the wills but my money is on...

It did look that Edwina really did enjoy herself in the group dance and that she is in no way a shrinking violet & if Vincent can develop that side of her personality even more and give us some simple but beautiful routines, I am convinced that we will be quite surprised and impressed!

A little personal story springs to mind talking about Edwina - Matthew & I had the opportunity recently of working on the same cruise ship as Edwina. We were performing and Edwina had been doing a public speaking session just before our performance.  Edwina was brilliant and is a wonderful speaker & performer. She stayed afterwards in the audience to watch our performance and she looked like she thoroughly enjoyed it, clapping and smiling away.  Afterwards, she came over to speak to Matthew whilst I was getting changed & told him how very much she enjoyed our dancing BUT thought that Matthews public speaking in between the dances could do with some work! Well Edwina, the shoe is on the other foot now, so come on - show us how it's done!

Anton Du Beke and Nancy Dell’Olio

I think that Anton has finally met his match with Nancy & Nancy needn't look any further for that gentleman she has been waiting for - at least in the dance sense anyway!  I am not too sure what to make of Nancy as I am not entirely convinced she actually knows what she has signed up for.  Apparently she was not too happy about the 2 inch heel dance shoes she has to wear as she is far more used to 4 inch heels! Well, let me tell you - you CANNOT dance in 4 inch heels but perhaps she doesn't plan on doing much dancing and maybe Anton has some great choreography up his sleeves again where Nancy won't have to dance and she can just stand there in 4 inch heels.  I hope not as it is already a shame that so many gimmicks & props are now used in place of proper dancing.  But I guess sometimes you just have to make the best of what you have and I think Anton is one of the best when it comes to this.  It ain't going to be another Anne Widdecombe but it will be interesting.

Artem Chigvintsev and Holly Valance

So the Champion gets a chance to defend his title with the gorgeous Holly - wow Artem, you are a lucky guy.  We all know what a fabulous choreographer & dancer Artem is & in his dance career had also achieved some very good results so it is no wonder that he is able to bring out the best in his partners.  We also know that Holly is no stranger to some dance moves herself and that being a TV/Movie & pop star means she is also quite used to being in front of the camera, understanding different characters and portraying confidence.  So given this combination - I have to say that Artem & Holly must be one of if not the favourite to win this series without even dancing a step together yet.  A match made in heaven just like last year?  For me, I hope so.  We haven't had a double win yet in Strictly and perhaps these two have what it takes - Great dancing as always should win a competition as it did last year!

Robin Windsor and Anita Dobson

Aw bless - these two looked absolutely delighted to be dancing together and I think they will have a wonderful relationship in the training room and on the dance floor!  Robin is a very sympathetic dance partner and doesn't ever try to over shadow his partner but rather allow her to stand out which is what I like to see in a partnership. 

Anita therefore has the perfect partner for her as I feel already that Anita can hold her own on the dance floor and is already a capable dancer and performer.  She actually seemed to look like one of the most comfortable celebs on the dance floor in the group dance & didn't seem to mind being left on her own to do her own thing which was rather good.  

I think Anita will also have a great advantage in being such a wonderful actress and she should also be able to portray the various characters in each dance beautifully and hopefully she will really understand about this not only being a dance competition but also a entertainment competition too - there is something to be said about age, wisdom & experience & Anita has that advantage & she looks absolutely phenomenal too.  Anita is one of my other favourites and I am sure there will be a few gentlemen of a certain age who will be watching and admiring her too!

Pasha Kovalev and Chelsee Healey

The 'New Boy' & the 'Single to mingle' Chelsee.... does Pasha have any idea what he is in for? Yes, of course he does ;-)

Pasha certainly did make an impact didn't he – I’m not sure if the other Pro boys weren't a bit jealous knowing how competitive they all! But Pasha looked like he was really enjoying his moment.  It was really nice to see someone new on the show who is a good Ballroom & Latin Dancer & who is representing our dance world on the show as are all the other Pros! And in Pasha's intro dance, it was great to see some recognisable cha cha steps in their basic form - showing how it should be done, well done!

Pasha is no stranger to competitive dancing where he has had a very successful career and he is also no stranger to reality TV dance competitions so, he will know what this is all about.  Make no mistake he won't be the naive new boy on the block!

Chelsee has made no qualms about one of the reasons why she is on Strictly but I hope she takes it a little more seriously than a dating show.  She's young, fit and able and with a partner like Pasha, they could go all the way - oops I'll rephrase, they could do very well! I am sure they will be the 'young, exuberant, bubbly' couple this year that will appeal to the younger audience and I look forward to seeing what they have to offer!

James Jordan and Alex Jones

James is now officially together with Anton & Brendan one of the 'oldies' in the show - or rather one of the more experienced Pros ;-) This is not a bad thing at all as James has some great results under his belt too and this makes him one of the best Pros for Alex to be partnered with.  He has shown and proven time & again that his work ethic works and I hope Alex appreciates that she is getting a tough but fair teacher.

Alex seems to be a quiet & reserved person & it may be more difficult for her to 'come out of her shell' on the dance floor as easily as some of the other's i.e Holly, Anita, Chelsee as she isn't an actress or performer but, I'm sure that James will find the right buttons to press to bring out the best in her.  Alex does look stunning on the floor and together her and James have this wonderful Masculine/Feminine look going on which is very attractive to watch on the dance floor - a true Man/Woman partnership that could raise temperatures - ooh la la!

On a little side note, both James & Brendan sometimes get a lot of flack for being so tough on their partners but, this is a dance competition & their job is to teach someone to dance to their best ability.  It isn't a little bit of dancing and a lot of time for fun, it's HARD work & there really isn't that much time for laughing and joking about but it is still fun if you want it to be! 

I thought the Pro dances were good - I did miss seeing more authentic Latin American & Ballroom steps and partnership dancing in the dances though as this is what our Pros do best & felt that it was a little too 'stagey' & contemporary for me.  Perhaps I am a little old fashioned in that I would still like Strictly to be more about Ballroom & Latin American dancing. I am sure many will disagree with me but this is only my opinion.  I did however love the themes & effects and I am always looking forward to seeing the creativity & professionalism of all the Pros in future Pro dances.

So there it is, my humble take on this series of Strictly Come Dancing.  I am sure there are a lot of differing opinions out there and that is great! That's what it's all about.  Someone likes one couple for whatever reason and someone else likes a different couple for entirely different reasons but it's all good competition.  

It is a dance competition firstly as there wouldn't be Strictly without the dancing but it is also a personality and entertainment competition so may the best dancer/personality/entertainer & performer win! 
Good Luck to you all!

Strictly Come Dancing - A Professional's Opinion!

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