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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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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...


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.


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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