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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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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Week Review


AS you all know from my review of Broadway Week, I am not a fan of themed weeks & so far this series, the couples haven’t needed an additional excuse to limit their content & increase their use of props.  This is a shame really as many of the couples don’t need all this ‘ embellishment’ as they are good enough to produce some really beautiful & memorable DANCE routines.  For me the stand out routine so far has been Chelsee & Pasha Quickstep last week which I really hoped would set the tone and standard for this weeks dances BUT it wasn’t to be and again I felt a little let down & disappointed with mostly the celebs who can actually dance & those who are on the right track to improvement.  This is only my opinion and again, I am sure many of the millions who watch the show probably feel otherwise & perhaps I need to look at the show through their non professional eyes – I doubt that will ever happen though ;-)

Russell & Flavia  - Samba

Unfortunately this was not Russell’s week.  It seemed to lack his usual exuberance and flair – perhaps all due to the troubles & worries regarding his knee? It was still enjoyable to watch and as usual Flavia did a great job with the content of the dance, there certainly was plenty of it! He had a very routine full of basic content including: Cruzado walks & locks, Volta’s, Rolling off the arm, Solo samba section, Circular Voltas, Spot Voltas, Bota Fogas, Criss Cross Voltas & Walks in shadow position – WOW that’s a lot of content to remember & learn but well done to Russell for rising to the challenge which he always does.  Perhaps there was a little too much (I can’t believe I am saying this) though considering all the problems he was having with his knee & he made a few mistakes, lost his timing and generally he lacked the sparkle that is required for the Samba.  Saying all that though, it was still an enjoyable dance to watch and I hope he will be back to his usual bubbly self next week!

Content:  8     Theme:  6       Overall:  6

Chelsee & Pasha – Tango

It was a great intro that wasn’t too long and introduced us to the dance very nicely.  It had a very nice Tango feel with great neat and sharp lines.  The content was fabulous again and consisted of:  Open promenade, Open reverse turn, Progressive link progressive side step, Reverse turn, Rock step, Tango walks, locks & chasses, Fallaway promenade, Swivels, Contra check, Fallaway reverse slip pivot and Oversway – absolutely wonderful display of including so many basic recognisable steps in a complex and interesting routine & Chelsee copes so well with all this choreography!  I do feel that Chelsee still needs to work on her upper body strength and frame and also her core muscles, as she can sometimes look a little floppy, especially when she gets tired as the routine progresses.  She made a little mistake coming out of their Contra check in the beginning but generally I found it to be a very entertaining dance with great story telling.  I won’t comment much on the wardrobe malfunction except to say that perhaps the wardrobe department should have known better than to put her in such a revealing dress with too little support however, the malfunction made no difference to me in their dancing.

Content:  9     Theme: 8        Overall: 8

Audley & Natalie – Jive

I thought that although their Intro was rather long, it couldn’t have been much shorter as the song only started properly after all the faffing at the piano anyway.  I did find the song a bit slow but thought Audley portrayal and character so enjoyable to watch – he really looks like he enjoys every minute of dancing.  For me there was too much use of Lindy hop steps instead of Jive flicks and kicks & this can make the Jive look heavy – you don’t need to point your feet or use a fast straightening of the knee in Lindy Hop kicks either like you do in Jive so this can slow the whole look of the dance down.  The chorus contained a lot of messing around and repetition & looked a little messy and unrehearsed.  There wasn’t enough proper Jive content and their dance only contained the following:  a small Jive flick & kick section, chasses, Fallaway throwaway, chicken walks and a variation of rotating check American Spin. Within this content, I felt that Audley needed to pick his knees up more & get his weight over the balls of his feel more to create a light and bouncy Jive action instead of it looking flat footed & heavy.  But, I cannot fault his enthusiasm and enjoyment no matter what dance he is doing!

Content: 5      Theme:  6       Overall: 5

Alex & James – Paso Doble

This is a difficult song to create a great Paso dance to – I remember Brendan & Sarah Manners using it in series 2 & it was a good song choice for them so hopefully it will be a good choice for Alex & James too.

Alex’s interpretation of the song in the long intro was very good and believable, the acting part usually is always very good for her apart from last week but I was glad to see her back to herself.  They began their Paso content with:  Promenade to Counter promenade into Twist turns into Pivots, all nicely done but I felt it lacked upper body strength, shape and extension from Alex – she can give it a bit more ‘oomph’ I feel! They had a nice Paso highlight and drop but it looked a little like Alex hangs onto James sometimes and in turn causes her to look like James is pulling her into the next position instead of Alex moving her own body weight.  I feel that this is a general problem for Alex and one she should focus a lot more on fixing.  Their Chasse capes were good although there was a timing issue.  On the whole I thought the use of Alex’s skirt was a little excessive and instead of enhancing her movement, it exaggerated the overuse of the skirt use in place of movement.  Despite Alex not being a very aggressive dancer in this Paso, I did feel that her characterisation was in keeping with the theme James created as Alex still looked herself in the dance without compromising herself.

Content:  6     Theme:  7       Overall:  7

Holly & Artem - American Smooth

This was a risky, brave, inventive, characteristic, theatrical & spell binding routine but I was left wondering what type of American Smooth this was supposed to be as there really were no recognisable American Smooth steps.  There were however lots of American Smooth lifts, tricks & theatre but for me, that doesn’t make an American Smooth dance.  This therefore is very difficult to comment on dance wise as there it had hardly any content to comment technically on – although I thought Holly’s frame, head position & poise was excellent when she was in hold with Artem.   She is very elegant and has beautiful use of arms and length of line but I would like her to ‘live’ the dance more in expression and give herself more to the dance… there is a dancer in her just waiting to break free I am sure.

Content:  4     Theme:  9       Overall:  7

Nancy & Anton – Rumba

This was a great Rumba song choice & I hoped to see some good, basic Rumba dancing…
Nancy is naturally sexy without even trying to be but, as for so many female celebs, when it comes to being sexy in Rumba, they just look the complete opposite and it doesn’t work.  Their Rumba consisted of the following:  1 back basic into a type of underarm turn, Hand to Hand, Rope spin, double Spiral & Opening out section. It was more recognisable content than usual but, so poorly executed - The timing was rushed to the point of being almost out of time, there was no hip action, straightening of knees or foot pressure into the floor.  There was a lift that was really unflattering and didn’t do anything for Nancy.  To be fair though, when Nancy was posing and not doing too much, she actually looked OK and less is more is definitely what she could concentrate on when getting into character in the dance however, I would have like to have seen that she actually was taught basic fundamentals and work on them instead of all the time wasting and faffing that went on.

Content:  4     Theme:  5       Overall: 4

Harry & Aliona – Tango

I loved the theme and look for their set & their song was a good choice to set the theme of the dance.  Again, a very long intro but it was captivating and had good story telling and Harry & Aliona were very precise in their movements and very in tune with each other.  Once they did get going, their Tango lacked considerable basic Tango steps and consisted manly of lines & lunges revolving around turns and spins to create effect.  The basic steps that I notice were: Walks in promenade, outside Rock step with flicks, Oversway, half Standing Spin, Turning Locks & Backward rocks however, there was a lack of movement around the dance floor i.e. using all available dance space in a moving dance along the line of dance & this is reflected in the lack of moving Tango steps and rather too much usage of static ‘effect’ steps.  It is a shame as Harry really is a good dancer and has a good frame & looks the part on the dance floor.  I would just like to see him do more of what he is capable of doing.

Content:  4     Theme:  9       Overall:  7

Robbie & Ola – Paso Doble

I thought their music choice could have been great if they had used all the musical accents & syncopations but instead, they used too many whole beats consecutively to dance to and not enough syncopations which in turn made it look heavy & slow instead of their Paso having pace & power.  A little too much ‘walking timing’.  It surprisingly lacked Paso shapes due to a lack of bent knees and pelvis forward posture with upper body rotation, which in turn creates a strong Paso shape.  Paso shape also needs to be created by using your sides in opposition to each other meaning that whilst one side is stretching, the other is compressing to create side shaping. 

Their dance also lacked enough basic steps to show off these tradition Paso features and only contained promenade & counter promenade with Pivot ending repeated, lots of Paso walks but not a lot of Paso dancing & a variation of Chasse Cape.  I felt that there was a lack of commitment to the steps with power & aggression & a lack of strong heel leads & foot speed to create more of marching feel rather than a walking feel. It also looked as if Robbie wasn’t really in charge of the dance or of Ola.

I felt that the over use of the ‘crotch grabbing’ was inappropriate & excessive for the theme of the dance and generally I was disappointed with this dance as I am usually a fan of Robbie’s exuberance and love for dancing.  On this occasion however, it didn’t look like he was truly into this dance.  However, I thought his cape work was very good & brave of him to attempt when so much could go wrong.

Content: 4      Theme:  6       Overall:  5

Anita & Robin – Tango

Great acting & characterisation from Anita & she is at her best when she can sink her teeth in to a strong role & theme.

This was thankfully a good and quick Intro and straight into some great Tango choreography:  Fallaway reverse, Forward locks, Turning locks, Oversway, Swivels, The Chase & Flick tap steps in Promenade & all done within character.  I would however like to have seen a more staccato Tango action & it could have been a bit more aggressive & attacking in leg & body action with more of a staccato foot action.  Anita’s frame was a little passive for me and she could have used her head more sharply & had more of an ‘aloof’ upper body extension.  I felt it lacked speed and for me it never quite got going in terms of power & movement  & there were a number of mistakes in The Chase step & a little too much time wasting in the middle of the dance however, the characterisation was superb & lovely to watch.

Content:  7     Theme:  7       Overall:  7

Lulu & Brendan – Paso Doble

Theatrically, Brendan never fails to impress & come up with some entertaining routine whether you like it or not! I liked this & it seemed so did Lulu.  Once again a very long intro but, it was very entertaining and theatrical and leant itself to the theme of the dance so almost forgiven.  Lulu was very convincing in character and I felt that this was definitely one of her better dances.  She has put her trust in Brendan and this shows and great to see that Brendan also trusts her with more content and that she will work hard at remembering it.  There was great movement and coverage of the dance floor and I enjoyed the use of their bat wings to enhance their shapes and not detract from it – they looked like choreographed arm movements.  Their Paso consisted of a number of great basic steps: Bota Fogas in shadow position, Paso Locks. Grand Circle, Flamenco group, Twist Turns & Chasse Capes.  I did however feel that the basic steps in hold lacked strong shapes fro Lulu & that she needs to work on strengthening her core & frame to stop her looking like Brendan is also pulling her around.  She sometimes looked unsure of her timing & exact footwork but she is getting better at covering these things up & is such a fantastic performer to the point where if you blinked you’d miss the errors.

Content: 6      Theme:  8       Overall:  7

Jason & Kristina – Quickstep

Jason is the ultimate performer, great at characterisation  & so watchable & this dance was no exception.  I thought him to be very brave to dance a bit of Quickstep without Kristina & therefore proving that he can dance on his own without relying on his partner dancing around him to make him look good.  I loved their look – classy, elegant & non-detracting from their dancing but rather enhancing it.  They danced very in sync with each other with great body contact in some very difficult steps & the content of their dance was very impressive: Series of hops, skips, chasses & Jumps in Promenade, Charleston, Standing spin, Chasses in Promenade, Locks & runs, Running Finish, Running right turn & 4 Quick Run.  Making for a well-rounded Quickstep.  Jason also has a very strong frame throughout, it looks natural and easy to maintain and not contrived at all.  There Quickstep had a great energy to it and maintained a good Quickstep feel although I do think at times that Jason does get a bit carried away and needs a little more refinement & finesse.  It is such a shame he made a mistake in the Promenade run section – I am sure he will be so angry at himself for that but don’t dwell on it Jason.  It was my 2nd favourite Quickstep of the series!

Content:  9     Theme:  9       Overall:  9

As you can see, I’ve decided that the only way to fairly mark this weeks dances is to divide the marks into sections of amount of content (not necessarily how it was executed, the theme of the dance and an overall mark).  This was because so many dances lacked content but had good themes.  Let’s hope this will be the last time I will have to do this until the ‘show dances’ but, perhaps it is time to revise how we look at and mark the dances on Strictly Come Dancing now, especially since it is so far removed from what the programme was originally all about – the dancing. It wasn’t too long ago when the use of props, themes, long intros & effects wasn’t allowed or even considered i.e. When Alesha & Matthew Cutler won with pure dance ability.

Perhaps the marks should now be reflected something like this:  Content, Technical Merit & Overall mark?  Perhaps we may get fairer marks this way as it really is becoming increasingly difficult to mark this competition on dancing alone especially as there is so little of it these days.

Although the addition of all the ‘extras’ makes for entertaining viewing, it does make it more difficult to watch & judge purely as a Ballroom & Latin American dance competition which for me is a shame as I enjoy watching the progress made in the dancing more than watching the spectacle. 

For me, it is always a pleasure watching someone actually learning to dance, mastering the steps & gaining a sense of achievement from learning a very difficult skill and a beautiful art form that is Ballroom & Latin American dancing.
See you all next week. x


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