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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, 2 October 2011

WEEK 1 Friday Night Review of Couples

Unfortunately I didn't get to see the show on Friday or Saturday night due to various other commitments so, thank goodness for BBC iPlayer! It was also very difficult to stay away from Twitter/Facebook so that I  didn't form any preconception of the show but, I have managed to keep to myself and have had a chance to  review Friday night so far.  

Of course, these thoughts & opinions are entirely my own as a professional dancer & former Strictly Professional so, I hope I don't offend anyone but, as we all know, everyone is perfectly entitled to their own opinion and Strictly does have a tendency to develop an opinion in us all - That's what makes it so watchable & on that note, on with the show!

First up & to open this series of Strictly Come Dancing are:

Holly & Artem - Cha cha cha

At first glance, Holly looks very natural on the floor & fairly at ease considering she is first up to dance however, after a while, I expected the nerves to settle down and for her to really get into the dance and give it a little more 'wellie' or 'oomph'.  This just didn't happen so for me the naturalness turned into a kind of sluggishness and tended to make her arm movements look slow & unfinished & her leg action lazy which I am sure is not the case at all.  I feel that because Holly is a natural dancer, she will have to work harder than some of the others to make it look like she really is going for it in terms of energy, animation & interpretation when she dances.  I think for the future, Holly could concentrate on her ankle usage and beware of her leg positions.  At the moment, Holly has a tendency to dance with her legs apart a lot instead of brushing her knees when she passes her legs through positions & she needs to straighten her knees quicker in order to obtain a sharper leg & foot action which will help with her overall look in making everything look a lot more crisp.  There were a few timing issues however I felt that this was perhaps caused by the speed of their Cha Cha which I thought was quite slow and lacked a clear Cha Cha beat.  I will cover this more in my section at the end of each weeks Blog which I am going to call Nicole's Pet Peeves ;-) This seems like an awful lot of criticism BUT I wouldn't say it unless I thought she had the potential to be really good and I would love her to do very well. I know the Aussies never generally give up without a fight so I hope she takes on board everything the judges said and comes back even better next week! Saying all that I have though, I really did like it.
My Score:  6 (Needed more attack and sharpness in leg & arm movement)

Dan & Katya - Waltz

I thought Dan looked very handsome indeed in his tail suit & I think the Ballroom dances are going to suit him very much.  He did do some really good continuous spins towards Katya in their Intro which I was very impressed with & I like that fact that their intro was very short and they got straight into the dancing (This will also be covered in my Pet Peeves section!)  Dan has a lovely Ballroom shape and when he dances out of hold, he has a great sense of line and extension.  His rise & fall was very good and not too jerky, timing was generally good although I felt that he wanted to rush through some steps at times but this was more than likely just down to nerves and this is very normal for the celebs to want to go faster & faster. I thought he could have had a lot more sway which would have made them look more musical & would have also made their dance look more exciting but to expect this all in the 1st week would be asking for a lot.  Dan's head does tend to 'wobble' a little when he dances though & maybe he could be made aware of this sooner rather than later & it's important to keep your frame up from beginning to end no matter how tired you are or how sore your arms may get but again, this is something that will become better over time and I am sure that Dan & Katya have the time to work on all these things as they will be in this competition for a long time.
My score: 5 (Needed more musicality & interpretation)

Lulu & Brendan - Cha Cha

Oh dear! This is hard to write anything about as there really wasn't much to go on and it is hard to tell what Lulu really is capable of but, I will do my best to give my opinion on what I saw.  I felt that it started well, Lulu looks confident to a degree when performing & she initially looked like she was having fun.  Her walks & locks down the floor in the beginning were actually OK & her swivel section although a bit manic had a lot of rhythm but then it all fell apart & I really felt for her.  I did feel that she was left alone to dance for too long and that the choreography that Brendan gave her perhaps challenged her a little too much for their 1st dance and nerves got the better of her & that is why she forgot her routine.  If the routine was a little easier with more basic content & in hold, it may have been easier for her to remember & for Brendan to control her.  Sometimes, you never know what your celeb is going to get up to if you leave them alone for too long.  Let's hope they can both put this behind them and move on during this weeks training.  If they do a Ballroom dance, I am sure this will give Lulu her confidence back as she will be in the safe arms of Brendan.

My score:  2 (Simple routines that you can remember)

Audley & Natalie - Waltz

It's good to be tall for Ballroom and both Dan & Audley have demonstrated that they look fantastic in tail suits!  Audley has a lovely wide frame and good posture and was able to move his body in one piece rather than isolating his top & bottom half (which however is necessary in the Latin dancers).  This also helped him keep an elegant look and he managed to not stick his bum out too much while dancing which most men do in the 1st couple of Ballroom dances as they can't move their bodies forward or back in one piece. He looks like a gentle giant on the floor and has a lovely watchable personality.  He was however rather flat footed, especially in their standing spin & generally this created a lack of rise & fall for me.  Natalie's choreography was very clever in that she was able to provide the 'flourish' to Audley's frame & he didn't look as clumsy as I expected but I would have liked to have seen a little more basic content, it was however a very sweet waltz to watch.

My score:  4 (too flat footed & not enough rise & fall)

Robbie & Ola - Cha cha 

Wow, these 2 are mesmerizing & very watchable just for their glamour & that's without them even dancing a step!  Robbie has a great energy when he does dance & even when he's just standing and posing - he 100% believes in himself or so it looks anyway so I am led to believe that he is a bit of natural performer & I guess he should be after playing football to thousands of fans - this IS a different competition but the performance side of it isn't & I felt this part of their dance was very good. However, I did feel that there lacked a lot of dance content & foot patterns & instead we got quite a lot of posing while Ola danced around him, again a Pet Peeve. Although the poses were good, they were all the same and if the poses and lines were varied, it would look like he was doing more than just standing.  I think Robbie definitely can be challenged with more intricate foot patterns - he should be able to pick this up quickly and on the occasion when they did dance a New York section, his foot work was good & quick. More dancing means we get to see more hip & body action too which I only caught glimpses of which is also a shame as I think he is capable of a lot more & would rise to the challenge!  Ola can always get John Barnes in for a quick competition to see who can move their feet the quickest... John's score for Cha Cha was 26 (Len, I think you owe John an apology, I know how devastated he would be ;-)
My score:  5 (more foot patterns & less posing)

Anita & Robin - Waltz

Anita looks so very elegant on the dance floor & moves so gracefully!  What a lovely song choice too.  It was a very believable performance and had a lovely interpretation to it.  I love how Anita uses her arms and the extension she has all the way to her fingers really finishes the lines off.  I would however like to see her left hand placed lower on Robin's arm as it seems a little high for me and makes her look like she is dancing too close to him & hanging on.  She needs to work on extending her upper back away and to the left of Robin more to create a better shape, which will help her turn her head slightly to the left more as she will  feel that she has the room to do so.  But overall, I felt that her head position was rather good, this is just something to make it even better which I am sure she is able to do.  Anita uses her heels and toes very well & has neat feet & points her feet beautifully.  I hope Robin keeps within an 'elegant characterization' for the other dances they do as I feel this is where Anita's strength lies and she will be able to dance some beautiful, elegant & classic dances. This was a joy to watch as a first dance!

My score:  7 (work on upper body extension)

Russell & Flavia - Cha cha

This was sheer entertainment and all in a good way unlike Anne Widdecombe last year! It was energetic, fun, tongue in cheek & camp but it also had a good amount of recognisable dance steps mixed with a lot of Russell flavour!  Russell's Cha cha walks & lock steps weren't too bad & his New york section was OK too BUT they all had heel leads & that cannot be overlooked.  Please Russell, toe first in future unless Flavia tells you otherwise (another of my Pet Peeves).  There was however a lot of expression, characterisation and rhythm.  I smiled all the way through their dance with a genuine enjoyment.  It may not have been every one's cup of tea & some people will say that  Russell is relying too much on comedy & campness BUT at least he has learnt some steps, dances in time to the music & dances the routine together with Flavia whilst entertaining us in a well thought out choreographed way.  I liked it!

My score:  5 (only because of the huge amount of heel leads)

Nicole's Pet Peeves:

POP TIMING instead of dance timing:  I noticed rather a lot of couples using this sort of timing in their choreography meaning that instead of counting 2,3,4 & 1 or 2,3 cha cha cha, they seemed to be dancing 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 etc and therefore dancing without showing a cha cha rhythm & dancing across the accents in Cha Cha which are 1 & 3.  This tends to slow the choreogrpahy down a lot and although whilst watching it you may not notice it initially, you may feel that there is something wrong with how a step looks and how it doesn't fit with the music's timing.  This usually happens when a lot of walking or 'pop' styling is used & for me I find it difficult to appreciate this timing in Latin American dances, it just takes away the Latin feel, flavour, pace and rhythm of the dance.

POSING:  Sometimes it is nice to see someone hold a good line for a little while & there has to be a certain amount of still (not stop) positions in a dance otherwise it can end up looking over choreographed however, when there is more posing than dancing, I have to object especially when it is not absolutely necessary and the person can dance.  Even if someone is a terrible dancer, they usually will look better than posing, doing a very basic step even if it is just step-tap-step-tap as to stand still & look spectacular is rather difficult & too many lines or posing can make the dance look very empty choreographically & rhythmically.

HEEL LEADS;  There are very few dances in Latin American dancing than allow and actually necessitate heel leads, Paso Doble being the only one that absolutely requires it & the other times are certain in dances wthin a particular step eg. the Corta Jaca in Samba amongst a very few. So it is almost a sin in the usual Latin dances to do this. Toe-Heel is a must for many reasons but mainly to ensure the straightening of the knees, create pressure from foot to dance floor, create smaller steps and therefore faster foot speed.  The lowering of the heel also facilitates hip action.  Therefore there is a huge importance of Toe-Heel or Toe-Flat rather than heel leads to create a good action plus it just looks better!

In Ballroom, there are also different rules for heel leads for different dances and different steps but my peeve this week is only in the Cha cha cha.

Well, that's it for today... I will continue with my review of Saturday night's show hopefully tomorrow!

I hope you enjoyed my review as much as I enjoyed the first show! Bring on next week.

Strictly Come Dancing - A Professional's Opinion!

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