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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, 9 October 2011

Week 2 - Review of couples

This is going to be a rather long post I’m afraid, as there are so many couples to get through.  It’s a lot of fun to watch so many couples entertaining us on a Saturday night but, it’s not as much fun to write about it afterwards.  It’s been quite a while since my essay writing days at school & as you all know I am a dancer, teacher, judge & lecture and in no way shape or form am I a writer or author.  All this blogging and getting to grips with grammar etc. is new to me so, please forgive the odd grammatical or spelling error (even spell check isn’t infallible).

On with this weeks show & what a show it was! Lots of good dancing, lots of drama and lots comments, here we  go…

Chelsee & Pascha – Salsa

First things first, when it comes to Salsa music I am a traditionalist as I feel that the best performances usually are combined with the music that gives us the right flavour to the dance and therefore in this case, I was not keen on their music choice as it felt far to ‘Pop/disco’ in my opinion.  I feel that this actually contributed to Chelsee dancing the salsa in the way she did – very POP or DISCO like.  For me it was a little too bouncy and 'steppy'.  She picked her feet up off the floor too much instead of working the balls of her feet into the floor first and then lowering her heel to help create a hip action and depth of action.

I found their salsa to lack a genuine Cuban feel even though all the basic & more complicated salsa steps, arm work, spins & salsa Shines (separation from your dancer to highlight some complicated & interesting footwork patterns) were there & were executed really well, just lacking a salsa feel.

I am also not a fan of trousers in latin, fringed or not and feel they tend to hide good leg & foot action instead of enhance it – very few can get away with this look and I really feel that if Chelsee had worn a skirt, she could have used the skirt to her advantage to create that salsa feel that was a little lacking.  However, boy can the girl move and shake her hips – rhythm is something she is not lacking and is a natural performer on the dance floor and for that reason, I feel that she saved herself in this dance.  Her spins as always were really good and her energy on the dance floor is very infectious.  If she could just tone down a few styling issues, and let us see how very talented she is, I do think she could be at the top of the leader very soon.

My score – 7 (appearance counts for a lot, let us see the dancer)

Edwina  & Vincent – Foxtrot

Again, a poor song choice.  The intro was so long, I wondered if they were meant to be doing an Argentine Tango instead of their announced dance of Foxtrot and then when they did start dancing, I was left wondering if they were doing an American Smooth Foxtrot rather than a Foxtrot!  There really wasn’t a lot of Foxtrot to comment on really and from what little dancing they did, I can say that Edwina has to work on her head position, there was no body sway & it lacked movement across the floor.  If the choreography had included more basic steps instead of acting and ‘faffing’ around I could comment, as even basic Foxtrot steps have good movement around the floor and you really don’t need to include many to create an easy, danceable foxtrot.  A Three Step, Feather Step, Natural Turn, Basic Weave would have sufficed.  All in all, a disappointing routine due to a lack of content as I do feel that Edwina is capable of much more.

My score: 3 (lacked considerable basic content)

Audley and Natalie – Salsa

At last a decent song choice with a good salsa rhythm and feel.  Didn’t Carol Smillie & Matthew Cutler use this in Series 6?

There is a lot of man there for Audley to shimmy and shake around and generally I felt that he did an OK job.  He looks much better  & more comfortable when he is actually dancing steps than when he is just standing still with his feet apart not doing much! At times, I felt that there wasn’t enough opportunity for Audley to show this off & left him looking a little lost and awkward while Natalie literally danced  rings around him.  Natalie is a very good distraction in their partnership and I would say that she is a great foil for him as she can draw the attention to her instead of him but in a positive and nurturing way.  I would like to see Audley loosen his hips up a bit as we got to see a brief glimpse of his hip action near the judges table but then it disappeared – He obviously can wiggle those hips so a little more of that please.  He does have a wonderful smile on the dance floor that seems to light up the room when he dances and I think he will really disappointed if he goes out early in the competition as he still has a lot to give.

My score: 5  (more foot patterns & hip action)

Alex & James  - Foxtrot

Wow, what an improvement from last week & as I said last week I think Alex feels a lot more confident in James’s arms & Ballroom really suits her. I loved their music and thought it really suited their dance.  Alex has great showmanship on the floor & looks amazing.

There was good rise & fall in their dance and although rise & fall isn’t as prominent in Foxtrot as it is in Waltz for example, it is still required and necessary.  I felt that she could have ‘dragged’ her heels when moving backwards a little more  - meaning backward walks are taken with the toes first, with the heel lowering as the body moves over it and at the same time, the toe of the forward foot should release from the floor as the body moves away. This creates a light dragging of the heel & gives more control of the body & feet when moving backwards.  At the same time, there could have been more use of heels when moving forward to create more power.  I felt Alex danced a little too much on her toes and unfortunately, I didn’t see any Heel Turns which really is a required element in the Foxtrot. BUT it was good and I would only analyse this much if I thought she was capable of doing it.

Alex’s posture was good & her head placement was nice, more extension is needed but this will come in time as well as better balance with her spins.  Great improvement though.

My score: 7 (work of the spins & upper body extension)

Dan & Katya – Salsa

I liked their song choice but what was the handspring all about? It didn’t seem to fit in with the story of their dance. A gimmick for gimmicks sake doesn’t usually work.

Dan isn’t a natural Latin dancer and I think Ballroom will be his strength.  His movements didn’t seem very easy or natural to me and it all looked a little 70’s dancing – lots of arms and legs but no rhythm.  A felt that their Salsa lacked a Salsa feel too it and there wasn’t much interaction between Dan & Katya.  It lacked a lot of proper Salsa content probably due to the time taken up doing lifts & it felt a little ‘steppy and walkey’ to me.  Dan does look like he is enjoying dancing though and isn’t as shy as I expected him to be & he does go out there and gives it 100%. On this occasion though, I just feel that Salsa is not his dance and that Ballroom will be his genre.  He may look very good doing the Paso Doble though – just a thought!

My score:  4 (just not a salsa for me)

A little side note:

Salsa is notoriously one of the more difficult dances for a man to look good in on Strictly Come Dancing.  Salsa needs to be free, rhythmical, sexy, a bit ‘down & dirty’, have a lot of hip action, rotation and the men need to be in command of & lead their partners all whilst looking like they are having the time of their life.  This is a lot to ask in week 2 and I feel that those doing the Foxtrot tonight will have an easier task in looking fairly respectable of the floor. There have only been a few male celebs that have done very good salsa’s namely Mark Ramprakash, Matt di Angelo & of course I couldn’t leave out John Barnes.

Lulu & Brendan – Foxtrot

Well, it couldn’t have got any worse than last week so, it was with a great sense of relief that I watched them dance a much better Foxtrot. Whew!

Yet again though, there was an awfully long intro & also exit this time but at least there was some good content to their dance & she remembered it.   Unfortunately, for Lulu & Brendan, in Ballroom their disadvantage IS going to be their height difference although in Latin it can work to their advantage.  It is impossible for Lulu to grow any taller and there is only so much she can stretch or dance ‘up’ to Brendan without constantly dancing only on her toes & although Brendan can dance down to her by bending his knees more, their height difference is still going to be a little hurdle.  However, I think they both coped well with this & minimised it as much as they could tonight.  I wondered why they spent so long in ‘practice hold’ in the beginning of their routine though but once they got going, they resumed normal hold – perhaps this was a safety measure? Their Pivots were really good & they covered the dance floor well.  Lulu needs to work on extending her head away from Brendan though and this will also minimise their height difference and create a more elegant look for her.  And I was pleased to see her do a lovely heel turn too – well done, not the easiest step to learn and execute.  All in all, much improved & I hope it continues.

My score:  6 (head and posture problems)

Holly & Artem – Salsa

Hmmm, I’m not too sure about this song choice. I know it rather as a Samba and it feels a bit heavy for a Salsa for me but I loved her outfit and thought she looked sensational.  They had a good short intro and just got straight into their dance with some great solo Salsa shines.  Holly’s balance was a little off in the beginning but once she settled down, it improved however, I was surprised with some of her timing issues where she appeared to be dancing ahead of the music.  Perhaps her nerves got the better of her but this has to be solved quickly as dancing after all is ‘movement in time to music’ so this is a big NO for me. Thankfully this also improved during the dance.  Their dance was a fun & exciting routine but I felt it lacked in intensity and playfulness between them – it’s as if they are being too careful around each other & looked a little like 2 people dancing separately rather than together.  I feel than Holly can attack her dances more.

Dancing is a form of acting and the chemistry between 2 dancers needs to be believable even though it is just acting in most cases.  I thought this would come more easily to them both & felt that their salsa lacked a certain ‘rawness’ that is great to see in Salsa.  Salsa is one of the few latin dances where you can really let loose and be free without worry too much about technique, unlike the other latin dances… I felt Holly didn’t really take advantage of this & it lacked competitiveness to it.  I am sure that Holly is capable of a lot more & it’s up to Artem to find the right way of challenging her.

My score:  6 (Needs to up her game and compete more)

Rory & Erin – Salsa

This is a great traditional salsa – where have I heard it before?  Matt Di Angelo & Flavia possibly?

Rory has great clean lines when he dances and looks really good on the dance floor.  Plus he looks like he really is enjoying the whole experience.  His posture is good but a little too straight for Salsa, I feel he needs to relax a little more to get into the groove of Salsa.  His knees were nicely flexed – in Salsa you need to have one knee bent and the other straight to create a good salsa hip action and felt that he did this rather well.  However because of his posture being too upright, this stopped the rhythm in his hips & upper body coming through completely.  His salsa turns with Erin were good and his shimmy’s were fabulous!  There was good Salsa content that was generally well danced and as I mentioned, Salsa is a difficult dance for the man in week 2 so I thought he did OK.

My score:  6 (just a little too ‘nice’)

Robbie & Ola – Foxtrot

These 2 just make me smile when I watch them dance.  There is a lot wrong but also a lot right in the entertainment and watchabilty scores!  Again, there was a long intro but it contained a reasonable amount of dancing and it had a lovely story.

Robbie’s head position & posture was a little over extended at times but rather this than have him hunched over Ola.  There was a good rhythm and Foxtrot feel to their dance however I felt that Robbie could use his heels to move through his movement more instead of stepping onto his foot and then stopping his body flight.  His feet were a little too turned out for me and this could have caused the problem as you can’t roll your weight easily from heel to ball of foot if your feet are too turned out.  A little work on footwork is needed but overall their Foxtrot had a wonderful feel to it and it was a pleasure to watch a very entertaining and watchable dance & I love the chemistry between them.

My score:  8 (over extended head & posture)

Anita & Robin – Salsa

Oh dear, as I mentioned previously, I am not one to usually comment on the dresses but I just have to when I think the look is a distraction to the dancing and when I think instead of enhancing the abilities of the dancer, it hinders it and this is what Anita’s dress did for me – It enhanced the bad things and did nothing for her good qualities.  But, each to their own and many people may have liked it.

Their song choice was a bit dubious too as it was more of a Calypso rather than a Salsa but it did have a Cuban feel to it so it was more passable as a Salsa than some others.

I felt that on this occasion, this just wasn’t Anita’s dance and at least she won’t have to dance it again.  I love Anita’s dancing usually but thought that her Salsa lacked hip action and movement & she appeared a little stiff & although there seemed to be a lot of rotation, it was more whole body rotation rather than isolation and rotation.  I felt that she could also have danced more into the floor rather than on top of it, which would have created more depth & fullness of action.  There were a few times when Anita was caught with both knees bent and apart and in Salsa and generally, this is generally not a good look.  There should be one knee bent & one straight or both straight if need be – 2 bent knees = not a pretty look on anyone.  It just looked like a bit of hard work throughout & there were quite a few moments when I thought she forgot & made a few mistakes.  It was a disappointing dance for me, as I really like Anita and want her to do well as she has a wonderful gracefulness & elegance about her.  For me, this just wasn’t her dance though – onwards & upwards.

My score:  5 (lacked hip action & salsa feel)

Jason & Kristina – Foxtrot

Glamorous, elegant, sophisticated & entertaining!  I would have loved for Jason to have worn a tail suit though to complete the look.

The Foxtrot is a moving & turning dance with it’s main characteristics being sway, rise & fall together with leg & body swing & Jason had most of these qualities at one point or another during their Foxtrot.  He has a good posture & commits 100% to everything he does.  His Top Spin in the corner was rather good and is a difficult step to do but he coped very well with it. As with Robbie though, I would have like to have seen a little more rolling from his heel to toe over his foot to create a smoother movement but it was a very good effort anyway – I just wonder how much further he can go? I look forward to seeing his progress each week as I feel we have a proper dancer in the making!

My score:  8 (technique will improve your movement)

Nancy & Anton – Salsa

Their song choice was definitely Mambo & not Salsa which automatically hindered their performance as Mambo is a lot slower than Salsa & this is what they ended up dancing – a Mambo.

Possibly someone should have warned Nancy that their lift in the beginning was going to expose her rather a lot and I am NOT a lover of any kind of ‘crotch’ shot. Nancy’s ‘Mambo’ was rather steppy and she picked her feet up too much & it was all very messy. That’s about all I can comment on in their dance though I’m afraid as again like Edwina & Vincent, there was not a lot of content.  It was all a bit ‘bad comedy’ & I found it really difficult to watch as I felt it was a bit humiliating for Nancy.  I wish Anton would choreograph a simple, slick, clean & readable routine for her as I still think she can do it.  If however this is the route that Nancy has agreed on taking, I have no pity for her at all.

My Score: 3 (more content & commitment)

Harry & Aliona – Foxtrot

Another male celeb not in a tail suit – a shame as I think a tail suit can really make a dancer & surprisingly can actually help with correcting bad posture and Harry needs all the help he can get in this department as I felt his posture was rather bad.  He was very hunched over, his left arm was far too far forward & his head kept moving around a lot.  Some of this could be due to Aliona’s choreography & her own dancing with Harry, as she is very ‘flexible’ with her upper body and head movements. Therefore, if the male celeb hasn’t got a good, stable frame & posture this could cause them to move with their partner rather than just be there to provide a stable frame.

There was not a lot of softness in his movements & at times it looks as if he was walking rather than dancing  & this is due to a lack of knee, ankle and foot usage to create movement as I have mentioned previously.  This is a common fault but, because of a lack of basic content, on this occasion it was even more noticeable and at times it looked as if Harry was almost standing still.   On a positive note, Harry does have lovely use of his arms in their open work and he does look very handsome on the dance floor.  In my opinion it just lacked substance and finesse although, I can see that there is a lot of talent & potential there.  Let’s hope we get to see it.

My score: 6 (posture & frame)

Russell & Flavia – Salsa

Again not a typical Salsa song as it is a bit too slow and doesn’t really have a Salsa feel to it – rather a Samba but very appropriate for Russell so I can almost forgive it.

It was fun, entertaining, well rehearsed & well presented.  Russell has fabulous rhythm and attitude & when it comes to Salsa, it isn’t all about technique.  It ‘s about bringing the party to the dance, being free & expressing yourself and this is certainly something that Russell is brilliant at doing.  He is just sheer entertainment. 

There is a lot to criticise but, Russell knows what he is here to do and that is to entertain us & he takes this role very seriously.  He is very importantly learning to dance while entertaining and makes us all want him to do well because he hasn’t completely gone down the comedy route - He is still being respectful to our art form & I truly believe that he really appreciates this opportunity he has been given to learn to dance.  It was captivating for all the wrong reasons but it made it so right too.

My score:  6 (just keep doing what you’re doing)

And this week, my PET PEEVES are:

Music choices:  It would be nice to see the correct tempo used with the correct dance and the correct style of dance danced to the music. 

Correct tempo:  Most of the Salsa’s were too slow which takes away from the feel of the dance.
Correct Dance:  Some choices of music could have been another dance completely e.g. Argentine Tango/ American smooth instead of Foxtrot or Mambo/Disco instead of Salsa.

Good comedy/bad comedy and Entertainment:  Comedy is actually very serious & very hard to master – ask all the failed comedians out there. It requires hard work, dedication, choreography, construction & rehearsal.

Bad comedy lacks imagination, commitment & all of the above & only makes a fool of itself & those that laugh at it.  It has no place in a dance/entertainment show as there is no talent in that & makes a mockery of all the other contestants who do take their role in the show seriously. 

Judges marks: (just a little niggle) where do you go if you get 9’s in week 2?

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and I look forward to writing for you again next week –at least there will be one less couple to comment about ;-) xx

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