Strictly Come Blogging

Louise. Lou. Loulabelle. Loulabelle44. Louby.
Proudly blogging about Strictly Come Dancing ALL YEAR ROUND since 2006. Always spoiler-free.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Service: Week 1

I hope you're sitting comfortably. This is going to be a long one...

Gemma & Aljaž had the unenviable task of going first, with a cha cha. For someone with no dance experience, Gemma did really well. She had to start the routine by herself, and looked a tad nervous, but who wouldn't? Her timing was good. It was powerful. She needs more control, but that will come. Great start.

Brian & Amy had the tango, a pretty challenging dance for week 1. Brian definitely had the performance, but the dancing wasn't so good. His timing was OK, but his topline was iffy. We'll see how he goes with the next dance.

There was no doubting that Alexandra & Gorka were going to be good, and they were. The chemistry between them was lovely, romantic and intimate, but I didn't feel excluded from the moment. Nice rise and fall, as you would expect in the waltz. A lovely start.

Those fingers. That stamping. Simon & Karen's paso was not pretty. I found myself literally saying "Oh my!" several times early in the performance. Four dances in, and I'm already thinking he could be bottom two material.

I definitely think Charlotte & Brendan drew the short straw with the foxtrot. There were some heel leads missing, but she definitely got some of them. There were some awkward arm transitions, but I'm sure the fluidity will come with time. She looked beautiful, like Debbie Reynolds. And we've already had a "this girl" from Brendan. Drink!

I enjoyed Chizzy's performance, but she didn't seem that connected with Pasha. It was like we were watching the Chizzy show. She was having fun. Her cha cha walks over to the desk were not very pretty. Her timing was off in places. A mixed bag. I hope she gets the chance to show us more.

I enjoyed Jonnie & Oti's waltz. Jonnie looks great, nice poise, although it started to sink as the dance went on. I liked the chemistry between them. I can't wait to see how he does with some of the more aggressive dances.

Joe & Katya's jive was high energy. Joe coped well with a packed routine. Great performance. It was cute and fun. Good timing. I think he'll be around for a while.

I didn't expect Susan to be that good, but she surprised me. The Viennese waltz was always going to be difficult with her little legs, and she did look like she was clinging on to Kevin for dear life. I enjoyed the story. It was enjoyable to watch.

Debbie's legs are amazing! Those kicks and splits were incredible. Her balance was off in one or two places, but otherwise it was a good performance. An aggressive and strong paso. A brilliant start for Debbie & Giovanni

Davood & Nadiya's cha cha was a bit frantic. I totally agreed with Darcey that Davood was leading the dance. He looked good, and I think he has heaps of potential. Transparent shirt for the first week is also a winner.

Ruth & Anton's waltz was very woolly. She really needs to work on her core strength. It would help with her posture and her balance. When you're with the ballroom king, the end result should be better. I really didn't like it as much as the judges seemed to.

There wasn't that much basic cha cha in Rev. Richard & Dianne's routine. His timing was good, but his technique wasn't. It was very camp, very stompy, but actually very enjoyable too. I want to see more.

Mollie's facial expressions were wonderful. Her timing was good. Her legs were too bent, which made it feel a bit stompy. I felt that routine was a bit too focused on AJ in places, I don't think he showed her off that well.

I'm not surprised that they saved Aston & Janette until last. What a performance! It felt more like an American smooth than a foxtrot. Aston lead Janette around the floor, and was in total control. A strong performance.

Aston is definitely the one to beat. Alexandra and Debbie will be nipping at his heels. If I was sending someone home tonight, it would be Simon. It's a good thing they all get another dance next week.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First Steps: Chizzy, Richard And Charlotte

Chizzy & Pasha have been working on a cha cha to Boogie Fever by The Sylvers.

They really don't give much away in this video. We will have to wait until Saturday night to see how Chizzy has got on.

Rev. Richard & Dianne will perform a cha cha to There Must Be An Angel by the Eurythmics, which is one of my favourite song choices of the week.

I still believe the public will love Richard, but I don't think he's going to be a natural dancer. There are some flat feet and some peculiar arm waving going on in the clip. But that was only day one. Let's hope he's had some time to tidy things up since then.

Charlotte & Brendan have a challenging one - a foxtrot to The Best Is Yet To Come by Michael Bublé. Giving anyone a foxtrot on week 1 is pretty mean.

Being in hold is going to be good for Charlotte, I think. Her topline looks good. Let's hope her feet end up looking good, too.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Recommended Listening

If you missed Puttin' On The Glitz: The Strictly Story on BBC Radio 5 Live on Saturday night, try and make time to listen. It's definitely worth it.

As a Strictly fan since day 1, there's not much that I don't already know about the show. I started blogging at Series 4, more than 10 years ago. I've seen and heard it all.

Nevertheless, when entertainment Emma Bullimore tweeted that she had a show about Strictly going out, I had to listen. And I'm glad I did.

The show covers how Strictly has changed since the start (obvious to those of us who have been watching), but not just in the obvious ways. Anton talks about the very first press launch. There are interviews with the unsung and unseen heroes of Strictly - props, the celebrity booker, the executive producer.

There in insight into costume, and Vicky Gill notes how costume fitting and design has changed over the years.

Of course, there are also archive clips of Sir Bruce.

It's an interesting show, which you can listen to on BBC iPlayer, or download and listen offline using the BBC radio app.

Another interesting recording, if you haven't heard it before, is the BAFTA masterclass with Lisa Armstrong (make-up), Vicky Gill (costume), Mark Kenyon (lighting), Nikki Parsons (direction) and Brendan Cole (on-screen talent). It was recorded in 2014, but it still relevant. You can listen on Soundcloud. You might even hear me clapping, as I attended the event which was recorded at BAFTA's headquarters in London.

First Steps: Gemma And Davood

Gemma & Aljaž will be performing a cha cha to There's Nothin' Holding Me Back by Sam Mendez on Saturday.

Gemma's basic action looks pretty good in the video. She has nice foot placement and hip action. If it translates when she's dancing up to speed with the music, she should do quite well.

Davood & Nadiya will also be doing the cha cha. They'll be dancing to Dedication To My Ex by Lloyd ft. Andre 3000.

Davood's technique doesn't look as strong as Gemma's, but he seems to be picking up the choreography quite well. If he can get the choreography quickly, there's plenty of time to work on polishing it.

Congratulations, Brendan!

Congratulations to Brendan Cole, and his wife Zoe, who have announced that they are expecting a second child.

Brendan shared the news on Instagram:

A post shared by Brendan Cole (@brendancoleinsta) on

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

First Steps: Mollie, Ruth, Aston, Alexandra And Jonnie

The 'first steps' videos are coming in thick and fast.

Mollie & AJ will start their Strictly journey with a jive to Good Golly Miss Molly by Little Richard.

Molly looks as though she's having to concentrate more that you might expect. She'll get there, I'm sure, but it's not coming as easily as one might imagine.

Ruth & Anton will be dancing a waltx to This Nearly Was Mine by Seth MacFarlane (yes, the Family Guy bloke).

You don't actually get to see a lot of dancing in this clip, but given that Ruth is finding changing feet difficult makes you wonder. At least she has what is generally considers the easiest ballroom dance, and will be firmly in the arms of the 'King of Ballroom', how badly can it go?

Aston & Janette will be dancing a foxtrot to It Had To Be You by Harry Connick, Jr.

The foxtrot is one of the more difficult dances technically, and Shirley will have her eyes on that footwork. Aston seems to be listening to Janette, so I think he'll be fine. If he can start well with the foxtrot, it can only get easier.

Alexandra & Gorka will be performing the waltz, to (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin. They are the fourth couple to have performed to this track in the show's history.

Her training footage looks pretty good for day one. I think she's going to nail it.

Finally, Jonnie & Oti will be also performing the waltz to When I Need You by Luther Vandross, another track on its fourth outing. Classic waltz track.

Jonnie looks great! Good frame, nice footwork. For a novice, he's looking like one to watch.

Friday, September 15, 2017

First Steps: Simon, Joe And Susan

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to see how the celebrities have got on on their first day.

First up, it's Simon & Karen, who will be dancing the paso doble to Song 2.

Simon looks like he is picking things up quickly, but will need to work on that technique.

Joe & Katya have been working on their jive, which will be to Rockin' Robin.

Joe's getting frustrated, but I think he'll do OK. His timing looks alright in this short clip.

Finally, it's Susan & Kevin, who will be doing the Viennese waltz to Mad About The Boy.

It's a tough dance to start with, leaving Susan queezy. She's keen to practice, and I think she might need it...

Monday, September 11, 2017

Strictly: The Pairings

The Strictly launch show was broadcast on Saturday, where the pairings were revealed. Thankfully, I had managed to avoid all but one spoiler, so I didn't know what to expect.

Gemma Atkinson & Aljaž Škorjanec
Gemma & Aljaž look great together. Gemma seems to be really up for it, and she's got a great partner in a former champion. I think they'll get on well.

Debbie McGee & Giovanni Pernice
There were lots of smiles and cuddles between Debbie & Giovanni, which is a good sign. Debbie has such great poise and posture that I think she'll do well. He's a little tall perhaps, but I think they'll make it work.

Chizzy Adukolu & Pasha Kovalev
Chizzy looks so excited to be in the show, and seemed glad to be partnered with Pasha. Pasha always seems the least tactile of the male pros to me, and the most 'professional'. But he has lots of fans, so maybe I'm missing something. I love Chizzy's enthusiasm, and she has a smile brighter than the national grid. Can't wait to see her shaking her booty.

Ruth Langsford & Anton du Beke
This seemed like an obvious pairing, and I think they'll have lots of fun. I don't think Ruth will go as far as Katie Derham, but Anton's fans will probably keep her in for a while. Ruth already seems to have a lot of support.

Aston Merrygold & Janette Manrara
Was there any chance that Aston was going to be paired with any other pro? Aston's trying to downplay his dance experience, but I think it's clear that he doesn't exactly have two left feet. I expect we'll see a few flips, too.

Reverend Richard Coles & Dianne Buswell
Richard is going to be fun to watch, in that comedy kind of way. Dianne needs to prove herself as a new pro, in the way that Katya did with Edd last year. I think she's got her work cut out, but Richard is such a character that I think the public will want to see him in for a while.

Davood Ghadami & Nadiya Bychkova
I don't have any strong feelings about this couple at all at the moment. An actor from a soap I don't watch, with a new pro. Difficult. We'll see...

Simon Rimmer & Karen Clifton
Mid-table for this pair, I think. Simon will work hard, but I don't think he'll have the ability to reach the latter stages.

Charlotte Hawkins & Brendan Cole
I don't have high hopes for Charlotte. Especially as she's from GMB, and celebrities from ITV breakfast are generally dance disasters (Susannah doesn't count, as she was with the BBC at the time she participated). Again, mid-table.

Mollie King & AJ Pritchard
This pair should do well. She's a pop princess, who despite her protestations, will be able to dance quite naturally. You don't end up in a girl band unless you can move. Apart from Geri Halliwell, but her personality got her through. AJ needs to push her and himself. He did well with Claudia last year, but I think she could have done even better if he'd pushed more.

Susan Calman & Kevin Clifton
I never expected Susan to react in the way she did to being partnered with her dream partner. She's really emotionally invested in the show already. I love it! It was about time Kevin got someone with less experience (I actually do believe Susan's protestations). Since Susan is one of the lesser known celebrities, she couldn't have got a better pro than the hugely popular Kevin.

Alexandra Burke & Gorka Marquez
Alexandra, West End star, is a ringer of Denise van Outen proportions. I like the pairing with Gorka, whose exit was premature last year. Hopefully we'll get to see more of what he can do.

Joe McFadden & Katya Jones
More mid-table here I think. Katya was great last year with Edd. Hopefully she'll have a slightly easier time with Joe.

Jonnie Peacock & Oti Mabuse
This is my favourite pairing. Jonnie is a driven, competitive Paralympic gold-medal winning athlete. Oti is an ambitious taskmaster. They should be amazing.

Brian Conley & Amy Dowden
Brian is an entertainer, presenter, comedian and West End actor, who was once the highest paid person on television with the biggest Saturday night show. He hasn't been on TV regularly for a long time, so I'm not sure younger viewers will know who he is. Amy is a new pro, without a fanbase. It's not going to be easy for them.

So that's it. Our fabulous fifteen.

Based on a few glimpses during the group number, the ones standing out for me were Alexandra and Aston. Chizzy and Debbie also looked pretty good. Standing out for other reasons were Richard, who is set to become a fan favourite surely, and Charlotte who was a bit out of step in a few places.

Here is the video, in case you missed it:

The competition begins on 23rd September.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Neil And Chloe To Sit Out Again!

Neil Jones and Chloe Hewitt will be sitting out of the competition for a second year running.

The launch show, where the celebrities are partnered with the pros, was recorded last night. The news was reported today by the Radio Times. The show will be broadcast on Saturday.

I am absolutely shocked and disappointed by this news. I think both dancers came across brilliantly in everything they did on It Takes Two last year, and are enjoyable to watch in the pro numbers. I am absolutely gutted for both of them. Chloe at least got to dance with Gethin Jones in the Christmas special.

I really don't understand this decision.

Monday, September 04, 2017

2017 Strictly Trailer

The new Strictly trailer dropped over the weekend. Here it is...

Only 5 days to wait now!

Next! Gyles Brandreth...

Former MP and current television personality Gyles Brandreth has revealed that he has been approached to take part in Strictly, but turned it down.

He told the Radio Times: "
I’ve been asked to go on Strictly, but I always say no because though in my head I’m Fred Astaire, in fact I’m Fred Flintstone. Also the older people who do well on Strictly are always round, whether it’s John Sergeant or Ann Widdecombe or Russell Grant. I’m just not round enough."

Of those aged 60+, Pamela Stevenson (60) is the most successful to date, coming in 3rd place. Certainly not round!

Ann (62) was next, who ended up 6th. Russell (60) actually came in 8th, while Anita Dobson (62), David Dickenson (63) (although perhaps series 1 doesn't count as there were only 8 participants) and John (64) (who quit, so technically might have come higher) all came in 7th.

So suggesting there is a success to roundness ratio is a bit unfair.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Next! Lacey Turner...

EastEnders actress Lacey Turner has revealed that she has turned down Strictly Come Dancing, because she isn't brave enough.

She told OK! magazine: "I have been asked to go on Strictly but I’m rubbish at dancing and I don’t really have the guts. I’d do it if it wasn’t on telly – I just don’t like being on TV!"

But she hasn't ruled it out completely: "Maybe one day I’ll grow a pair and put the shoes on."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Celebrity Nos. 13, 14 & 15: Debbie McGee, Jonnie Peacock & Alexandra Burke

The final three celebrities for Strictly 2017 were announced on The One Show last night.

Former magician's assistant and TV personality Debbie McGee will be joining the show, following in her late husband's footsteps. Paul Daniels appeared in Series 8.

She said: “There are no words to describe how I feel about performing on Strictly Come Dancing. The excitement is overwhelming. I can’t stop smiling. It’s been the hardest secret I have ever had to keep!”

If nothing else, Debbie must have great spacial awareness and body awareness, having spent part of her life squeezing into boxes. And she's not going to be afraid of a skimpy costume and a few sequins!

Paralympic gold medal-winning sprinter Jonnie Peacock MBE is also joining the show.

Jonnie said: “The opportunity to be the first contestant with a disability to take part in Strictly’s main show was too good to turn down. I’ve got no previous dance history outside of the occasional ‘worm’ at a mate’s party and I know this will be a challenge and a new experience. I can’t wait to see what I can achieve and how far I can push myself.”

I think Jonnie could do well. He has lots of personality, and lots of confidence, as you will be able to attest if you have seen him interviewed. And, of course, that's that sportsman work ethic. Sporting celebrities who have even an ounce of rhythm tend to do well.

Winner of The X Factor and West End actress Alexandra Burke, completes the line-up of fifteen celebrities.

Alexandra said: “I am so excited to be joining this year’s Strictly cast! I love this show and have followed it from the beginning, so being able to be a part of it is just a dream come true for me - I still can’t believe it! I am very nervous as I am a singer not a dancer, but I am going to give this my absolute everything and try my best to make everyone proud.”

Alexandra is a strong candidate on paper. She's a singer, she's been in The Bodyguard and Sister Act on stage, working with Craig Revel Horwood on the latter. She should have no trouble on the dancefloor.

So there we have it. Fifteen celebrities, all ready to do battle in the ballroom.

The BBC have not yet announced when the opening show will be transmitted, but as it is being recorded next week, I would expect it to be broadcast on 2nd September.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Celebrity No. 12: Chizzy Akudolu

Former Holby City actress Chizzy Akudolu was announced this afternoon as the twelfth celebrity be joining this year's Strictly.

Chizzy said: “When I was 13, I made the finals of a disco dancing competition once but there was this amazing girl who exploded onto the stage with a gorgeous sequined costume, throwing glitter everywhere… I knew it was game over for me. That was then, this is now and this is my chance to have even more sequins!”

I did see Chizzy on Let's Sing & Dance For Comic Relief, but that's the extent of my knowledge of her. Her limited moves at the mic stand looked OK, but she spent half the routine on the deck having 'fainted', so we didn't get to see much of her.

Celebrity No. 11: Charlotte Hawkins

News presenter Charlotte Hawkins was announced this morning as the eleventh celebrity to be a part if this year's Strictly Come Dancing lineup.

The news was announced on Good Morning Britain, on which Charlotte is a presenter. 

She said: "I am so thrilled to be one of the contestants on Strictly this year! I've always been a big fan of the show. It is a dream come true to be taking part and I'll be following in the footsteps of my Good Morning Britain colleagues. I'm looking forward to stepping out from behind the news desk to cha cha cha my way across the dancefloor!"

I am not familiar with Charlotte at all. 

GMTV presenters were generally a disaster area on Strictly - Fiona Phillips, Kate Garraway, Richard Arnold - but Charlotte is the first presenter from the new GMB to take part. Perhaps she can turn the tide.