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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, 28 October 2011

Week 4 - Review of couples

Week 4 – Review of couples

It’s been a chaotic week for me as I have been moving house so up until yesterday, I was surrounded by boxes & hopefully I won’t have to see another box for a little while! So, I’m very sorry for the delay in getting my Blog to you but it is finally done and I guess ‘better later than never’ applies.  Hope you enjoy it even though last Saturday seems like an age ago now!

Jason & Kristina – Paso Doble

I love knee walks in Paso Doble, they create so much atmosphere and character to the dance and are also surprisingly difficult to do.  Jason had some lovely shapes in his Twist Turns and I could see that Kristina had worked hard at trying to teach him the correct technique for this step.  Paso is a difficult dance as there is so much going on in the music & feel of the dance BUT it is vital that the Man remain composed and calm in his movements and to not make it look like hard work.  There needs to be an inner calm about the dance and Jason was a little to frantic for me in the Paso.  He has great leg and bodylines in lunge positions- straight line from foot to finger without distorting the hip or chest line. Their side-by-side Bots Foga section was good however, his Lock steps lacked strength and looked a little ‘tip-toey’ & they do very good pivots together which is a huge bonus as you can use pivots in ALL dances.  Overall I thought they portrayed the dance very well and for those who know about dance, it reminded me of a Paul Killick Paso Doble as there were a lot of typical PK steps in the choreography and this is a good thing as Paul was one of the best at Paso Doble.

It wasn’t their best dance but I somehow think that if they had used a traditional Paso Doble song, this would have improved the entire look and feel of the dance as for me, what you see & what you hear should compliment each other & I felt that their song choice didn’t allow for the strength required in a Paso Doble.
I don’t think that this is a step back for Jason though, just a learning curve and do think this is a good thing as I am sure he will come back even stronger from this.

My Score: 7 (continue to work on technique & developing an inner strength & calm to create more control)

Alex & James – Rumba

This is notoriously a very difficult dance for a female celeb to look good doing and I haven’t seen too many do this dance justice over the years – perhaps Cherie Lunghi being one of the very few who bought us a beautiful classic rumba full of dance and class.  Perhaps this expectation on both James and Alex to reproduce the same or similar was too great?  I liked the beginning, which reminded me of Torvil & Dean’s Bolero, but it was too long. Eventually when they did start dancing, I felt that Alex’s hip action was very lacking and this wasn’t help by the lack of movement in her outfit either.  An outfit choice like this is only for the brave and for someone who has tremendous body action, leg action and line as this shows up every flaw and inability…. I think Ola & generally the other female pro’s are the only ones who can get away with this kind of outfit whereas someone of lesser ability should really wear something a little more flowing & revealing in the right places which can actually enhance movement & body action – sadly, I think this was a major flaw in their dance and one I found difficult to look past even though Alex certainly has the body for it! 

Back to the dancing – there were too many tricks and any type of rolling on the floor I am not a fan of either – it is time wasting and really doesn’t represent a Rumba for me.  Rumba’s aren’t necessarily always about being sexy and some of the most beautiful Rumba’s that I have seen haven’t been full of sexy poses, actions or steps.  It is the dance of love and this can be interpreted in so many ways.  So for Alex, I wouldn’t worry too much about all the lack of  ‘sexy’ comments – That is NOT what a typical Rumba is anyway & very few people look good doing ‘sexy’ anyway.  It did however lack Basic Rumba Variations and I don’t think I saw 1 Fan position or even a simple step like Sliding Doors.  For me this was more of a Show Dance than a Rumba and the choreography lacked the content to show us Alex’s ability to show hip action, timing accents, body movement, foot pressure and leg action.  I felt a disappointed as I was sure that Alex was on the path to great improvement but on this occasion it wasn’t to be.

My Score:  5 (Lack of action and content)

It has become increasingly popular to use so much of the Intro and exit in the songs to choreograph very long intro’s & exits and whilst this may be a good idea to introduce a theme to the dance, more often than not, it doesn’t do the dance any justice as it leaves such little time to show actual dance content which is essentially one of the things the judges would like to mark and the audience would like to see  - Ballroom & Latin American dancing. Otherwise, this may as well be So You Think You Can Dance with Celebs – all about other types of dance and not Ballroom & Latin at all.  I do also feel that it IS the responsibility of the Pros to choreograph a dance suitable for the celeb and to enhance their abilities, hide their inabilities and give us a form of recognisable Ballroom or Latin American dances as this is their (the Pro’s) profession.  However, I also feel that if the judges feel that there is not enough dance content this should be bought up privately and the pro in question be given the chance to defend their teaching methods one professional to another.  Who knows, there may be some very good reasons for some choreography choices that aren’t even up to the Pro in the first place. But I do think that bickering about it during the show is detrimental to the show, makes for very awkward viewing & is disrespectful to both Judges & Professionals.  Lets hope this situation can be amicably sorted out, as it would be a shame for the arguments to become the focus of the show instead of the dancing.  Just my opinion.

Rory & Erin – Cha Cha

The start of their dance wasn’t great as straight away Rory made a mistake and then lost his rhythm & timing but he carried on admirably and soon got back into the dance.  He doesn’t have a great hip action and is rather stiff in the hip region & when he did try to show off his hip flexibility is was a little cringe worthy as I felt that he was trying to be sexy and it just didn’t suit hip.  Hip action in Cha Cha is very important as this is the characteristic of the dance however, there are many very good Professional dances who aren’t naturally blessed in this department either & they take on a more masculine, less rhythmic character which could have worked a little better for Rory.  There was good content in their Cha cha even though their New York section (chorus) was repeated but generally his feet were sloppy and his knees were bent which hindered his hip action & leg & foot speed.  As always though Rory looked like he really was enjoying the dance and having fun.

6   (Needs to work on body action and footwork)

Audley & Natalie – Foxtrot

Foxtrot is one of the most difficult dances footwork wise of all the Ballroom dances due to the correct use of heels and toes to create the correct gradual rise & fall over the group of steps. Audley has worked hard at this and generally created a very pleasant rise & fall action.  He has a really good frame and it is consistent and looks very comfortable for him – no bum sticking out or rising shoulders.  There was quite a bit of standing around mid dance which although it didn’t interrupt the flow of the dance because Natalie continued to move and dance around him so well, it just left Audley in some positions that weren’t very dance like positions. They are also very good at pivot spins however his Standing Spin is still flat footed.  I again felt that as a whole, it lacked content from the 2nd half onwards but what they did do in the 1st half was good, recognisable dancing.

My score:  6 (Find better non dance positions & keep working on using feet more)

Nancy & Anton – Paso Doble

This was a great Paso Doble song choice and it automatically enhanced the atmosphere of the dance without them even dancing a step.  Unfortunately the expectation of their interpretation of the song wasn’t to be! It was a better start – Promenade to Counter Promenade movement with a Pivot ending. Their side-by-side Bota Foga section was OK, timing was a bit questionable & Nancy’s spins were very wobbly.  Their content was 100% better & included a Grand Circle and Separation but there were so many lifts that weren’t necessary or even allowed! My general thoughts though were that is was rather stampy, clumpy, off balance, looked like Anton was literally dragging her around from step to step & lacked positive Paso characterisation. However, Nancy learnt the steps & there wasn’t any deliberate comedy.  It was a big improvement!

My score:  5 (keep up with the proper dancing)

Lulu & Brendan – Samba

I remember this song well, it was the song John Barnes & I danced Samba to the week we went out in the dance off against Brendan & Kelly Brooke – I hoped this would be a better dance for them than it was for us.

I watched a documentary during the week on BBC about Lulu life, it was fascinating and I was surprised to learn & see that Lulu can actually dance & has danced with many dancers over the years and has learnt many styles of dancing so I hope she can tap into these memories & experiences and bring them to the show as, she is such a natural performer.

The content of their Samba was good & contained Rolling off the Arm, Whisks. Samba Walks & Locks, Promenade runs & a very nice side by side solo section.  There could have been more & without the repetition or the break in dance half way through but it kept the party feeling of the Samba going so wasn’t completely out of character although I do think Lulu is capable of more.  It lacked a definite Samba bounce action and there were some mistakes but it was fun filled & had great characterisation and atmosphere – I liked it even if it wasn’t a traditional Samba.

My score: 7 (neater footwork & technique)

Holly & Artem – Vienesse Waltz

What a long intro again before they actually started to dance a proper V. Waltz – a shame really as this was a good dance for Holly as she looked very elegant and in character.  I still feel that she is somehow very shy on the dance floor and I am not really seeing her character shine through yet which is a bit frustrating as, I feel that with the right encouragement and finding which buttons to push, she could be very good! Her posture and head position was very good and she looks more comfortable in Ballroom hold.  It was a little skippy for a V.Waltz and lacked sway & upper body extension & Holly needs to work more on using her feet and ankles to control her movements – her feet and legs need more strength & tone to be able to control what the rest of her body is doing.  For me, it was their best dance so far! Well done.

My score:  8 (more personality and strength & tone in feet & legs needed)

Chelsee & Pasha – Quickstep

WOW! I was completely blown away but this week’s transformation in chelsee’s look and dancing! She looked so much better & loved her ‘uncluttered’ look that made it possible to see her dancing rather than have to look for it.  Their interpretation of this dance was wonderful – so quick, full of content & lots of fun.  Chelsee created great bodylines, kept up with Pasha in movement and their body contact was remarkable considering the speed of the dance.  Chelsee’s posture is much improved and she looks very natural in hold now.  I found their dance mesmerizing and was very excited to see this level of Quickstep so early on! For me it was ALMOST ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ perfection!

My score:  9 (keep working like this & loved the toned down look!)

Harry & Aliona - Waltz
I have to say that even before they danced, I was so impressed with their VT, which I felt was so much better than everyone else’s.  It was a great and very clever story line that led beautifully into their dance – I wondered why everyone else’s couldn’t be like that as it was really lovely.

They started off with a very difficult slow Contra Check and then into some great Waltz content – great standing spin up on toes, & readable and recognisable Waltz variations with very good rise, fall & sway from Harry.  His posture still needs a lot of work as I found him to be sticking out his bum quite a bit especially on forward steps – perhaps due to the slight over exaggeration of his heel lead and lowering action which can cause a distortion in the upper body.  But this is very, very good and then, the unthinkable…. Faffing where it was absolutely not needed especially when the dance was flowing so beautifully! The 1st half was wonderful and the 2nd half was just ruined for me as it lacked comparable content to the 1st half and the whole dance became disjointed. What a shame as this was Harry’s best dance by far in terms of technique, characterisation & style although I still find Harry not quite at the top of his ability in a performance sense however it was very, very good!

My score:  8 (work on posture & performance)

Anita & Robin – American Smooth

Anita brings a lovely ‘Old Style’ glamour to her dancing especially in the Ballroom dances and this was no exception.  This dance really suited her and she really took on the character of the American Smooth.  The lifts were great and elegant although the ‘Horse & cart’ step lacked extension and wasn’t an elegant as it could have been.  Unfortunately Anita did make a few mistakes but she managed to cover them up rather well and didn’t let it affect the rest of the dance.   It was a pleasure to see some Heel Turns as, they are very difficult to master and do properly and I thought she did a great job with them.  Their side by side solo section was well synchronised and overall the characterisation of the dance was very good however, I would have liked it to have been a little smoother in transitions from one group to another.

My score:  7  (try not to make mistakes and work on the flow of movement)

Robbie & Ola – Jive

I love how Robbie absolutely embraces everything Ola asks of him and also how Ola choreographs a look & dance around what Robbie is good at – it works very harmoniously and they come across as a real team on the dance floor.  This was a very good Jive in my opinion as it contained a lot of basic content – great flicks & kicks (which could have been sharper and faster, but at least he dance them), some Drunken sailor steps with good sway, Pivot chasses, American Spin, Stop & Go & basic Jive with Jive chasses – good enough content for me.  Robbie really captured the character of the dance and stayed in character all the way through, he looked like he was really living the dance and this is what Jive is about – fun, energy & entertainment!

My Score:  8 (work on straightening the knees faster in Flicks & kicks & getting weight over the balls of feet more to create better Jive bounce action)

Russell & Flavia – Tango

Russell never fails in the entertainment department and this dance was no exception! Great story telling in the intro and there was a good flow of choreography throughout the dance.  There was good basic content in the form of a Rock Turn step, Chasses, Open Reverse Turn & 5 step. It wasn’t staccato enough and lacked a certain aggression that the tango needs but, I would have been very surprised if Russell had been able to incorporate this in their dance as I really don’t think this is in Russell’s personality…to see it just a little would have been a nice surprise though. As always though, this was very entertaining and kept me watching to the very last beat & I love Russell & Flavia for the spirit they bring to the competition!

My score: 6 (not your best character dance but think the ‘fun’ dances are more for you)

Whew, I finally have made it to the end and can now finally post this after a very long week of moving, being without Internet and loosing my laptop charger along the way! I can’t believe it’s already a week and I will be doing this weeks write up in 2 days – Halloween week! Will it be just a scary version of Broadway week or will we see innovative choreography and themes based on Ballroom & Latin dances with a Halloween twist? Can’t wait! X

Strictly Come Dancing - A Professional's Opinion!

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