It is traditionally a big week for Strictly and signals a stage when most of the less impressive dancers have left the competition. Although there are no doubt some fans who would have loved to see Hairy Biker Dave Myers here at the Tower Ballroom it is probably right that last week saw him leave the competition.
Tonight we were treated to a number of really great dance performances with the stand-out moments coming during the last 2 dances of the night.
The show started off with a spectacular group dance number that also featured lots of extra dancers of all ages and apparently had nearly everyone in Kevin Clifton’s family on camera.
After his planned mid-series week off it was Bruce Forsyth who returned to host the show with Tess Daly who was wearing a particularly glam dress tonight that had slits high up both legs as well as a cut-out section to show off her cleavage.
First celebrity on the dancefloor was Sophie Ellis-Bextor who was dancing the Quickstep to the classic Rodgers and Hart track The Lady Is A Tramp. A good performance from Sophie that had more of the personality and acting that the judges have been asking her for over the last few weeks. The judges were pleased with what they saw and Sophie ended up with a total of 34 points, comprising a 7 from Craig and 9s from the others.
Next on was the ever stylish Patrick Robinson who seems to have been making a serious bid for the title in the last couple of weeks. He and partner Anya Garnis were dancing a Samba to Barry Manilow’s Copacabana and unfortunately the routine has a shaky start as Anya has a Strictly wardrobe malfunction early on, getting one of her heels caught up in the feathers of her outfit. They both recover well and apart from a small stumble from Patrick later on in the dance they cope very well with the wardrobe malfunction which could easily have made a less competent dancer than Patrick fall apart.
The judges are mostly impressed by their Samba (apart from Craig) and they emerge with a score of 35 points, maybe a little generous but probably reflecting how well Patrick coped with Anya’s outfit problem.
Ben Cohen up next together with his Russian dance partner Kristina Rihanoff. Ben and Kristina are dancing the American Smooth this week to Alicia Keys’ Fallin’ and the American Smooth gives Kristina a chance to choreograph in plenty of lifts to show of Ben’s strength and power.
Scores of 8s from all 4 judges (Craig finally in agreement with his fellow judges) sees Ben and Kristina achieve a total of 32 points which equals their best score so far in the series and seems to rightly please both of them.
Ashley Taylor-Dawson and danced a rather unusual cowboy-themed Paso Doble to Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name. The cowboy theme received a mixed reception from the judges with Len also loving the timing or what he called the ‘whip it and wait’ but Craig, although confessing a liking for the bizarre, found the theme not to his taste.
Fiona Fullerton was on the floor next with partner Anton du Beke wearing an airline pilot’s uniform for their American Smooth to Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me. Now we know why Anton is wearing the pilot’s uniform!
A competent but not very exciting performance leaves the audience and the judges a little underwhelmed and they finish with a total of 29 points. Could be in danger this week we feel.
Abbey Clancy and Aljaz were next with a Quickstep to Dancing On Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. A nice fast and accurate performance from Abbey and most of the judges are full of compliments for her. Craig however goes on about gapping and several other minor problems which seems to upset Bruno who tells him loudly enough to caught on the microphone to ‘cut the crap’. This earns Bruno the equivalent of a Strictly yellow card from Tess as she quickly issues an on air apology for the ‘language.’
37 points from the judges for Abbey’s Quickstep takes her and Aljaz to the top of the leaderboard.
Mark Benton was then performing the Jive with his partner Iveta Lukosiute. Iveta seems to have quickly settled into her new role as a Strictly professional and has already won herself a solid fanbase. They danced to You Can’t Stop The Beat from the musical Hairspray. If the performance was a real winner this might cause some Denise Van Outen style complaints as Mark actually toured as part of the Hairspray tour from February this year until Strictly began in September.
Sadly for Mark his Jive was not that great although he was much more entertaining than he has been for the past 2 weeks. The judges seemed relatively pleased with the return to entertaining form and he escaped with what we thought was a rather generous 29 points his best score yet. Not enough however to lift him off the joint bottom place with Fiona Fullerton.
Things then picked up dramatically as one of the competitions dark horses took to the dancefloor. Apart from her winning smile and personality presenter and newscaster Susanna Reid has really impressed the public and the judges as Strictly has progressed this year.
She and her partner Kevin danced a traditional Paso Doble to Bizet’s Los Toreadors from Carmen. As well as the traditional music both Susanna and Kevin wore traditional Paso outfits and their performance was superb. There were no gimmicks just some fantastic dancing.
The crowd ended up on their feet as Susanna stayed on the floor unable to move for a few moments seemingly overwhelmed by the whole thing. Like the audience the judges were also most impressed and Susanna received 3 19s and a 9 from Craig which gave her a 39 points total, the highest score of the series so far from any dancer.
Final dancers of the night were Natalie Gumede and her partner Artem Chigvintsev. Natalie did of course miss last week’s programme after being taken ill during rehearsals but was declared fit to take part this week. She and Artem produced a great Charleston to Will.i.am’s Bang Bang and although we thought it not as good as Susanna’s dance (and no great audience reaction) the judges disagreed and they also awarded her a total of 39 points leaving her joint top with Susanna.
As always tomorrow night sees the Results Show, which surely must contain either Fiona or Mark, or both, in the dance-off.