It’s that week. You know, the one where everyone pretends that they want to go to Blackpool. They don’t, of course, but part of Strictly’s charm is pretending to like things when you patently don’t. Ed Balls, for instance. There must be quite a few contestants who would like Ed to be knocked down by a Blackpool tram, but nobody says so because that’s not the Strictly way. Not me. I’m 100% #teamballs. Er, #teamEd.
Yes Blackpool, the “Vegas of the North”. People say that. They really do.
Blackpool is usually where the novelty act gets booted out, so this week could be the end of Ed’s Strictly run, but then, in a world where a hamster-crowned kumquat can be voted the leader of the free world, who knows?
Claudia and Tess maintained current hideous dress form, Claudia dressed as a 1960s primary school teacher in navy polyester, Tess in a red confection that probably looked okay until the caretaker’s cat mauled it.
Up first were Claudia and AJ, dancing the Jive to ‘Hey Mickey’ by Toni Basil, a song I hated in 1981 and didn’t sound any better in 2016, as it was murdered by the Dave Arch singers. In typical AJ style it was fast, probably too fast for Claudia, who went wrong right in front of the judges. Len was on hand however to provide reassurance, and his customary unfunny word-play. “Verr woz no takin’ the mickey wiv that darnce!” he yelped.
Peter Kay turned up to read out the terms and conditions and was funnier in his allotted 90 seconds than any other comedian manages in an hour. Behind him, the dancers giggled wildly and Claudia gave up any attempt at control.
Next up, Ore and Joanne danced the Viennese Waltz to ‘That’s Life’ by Frank Sinatra. I have tipped Ore to win, but I am now going to hedge my bets and say Ore or Ed. (Now Ed will be voted out. I am rubbish at predictions. This is why I haven’t won the Lottery.) Their dance was gorgeous, notwithstanding the extra dancers milling around the floor which I find an annoyance, not an enhancement. There was a fleckerl that went on for a week and a show-stopper of a finish.
Louise and Kevin danced the Paso Doble to ‘Explosive’ by Bond. Louise has gone from tentative “don’t look at me” to full-on hoofer and it has been a joy to watch. Their Paso was passionate, dynamic and perfectly choreographed. Even Craig liked it. Just as it seemed as though the judging panel might all say something informed and constructive, Len blasted through their measured intelligence like an ice cream van fuelled by amphetamines: “Ar woz blown away on the beach diss mornin’! An’ arm blown away nah!” Shut up, Len.
Danny Mac and Oti (love her) danced the Charleston to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Gregory Porter. He was supposed to be playing a waiter, but was dressed like a circus ringmaster; no matter, it was really, really good. Her choreography was terrific, a sort of American Smooth Charleston, and although Danny looked a bit knackered in the middle section, there was no denying it was a full on performance. Craig gave it his first 10 of the series.
Ooh Ed Balls and Katya! They danced the Jive to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ by Jerry Lee Lewis. The Jive is where many dancers trip up (literally) but my worries that Ed’s dancing would be flatter than a platypus nailed to the floor were unfounded. There were genuine kicks and flicks in his routine. Of course the judges have now given up attempting to provide any form of critique because he is just fun to watch and the public love him. His marks were rubbish of course.
Next it was Greg Rutherford and his huge bottom, dancing with Natalie to the Quickstep to ‘Hand Jive’ by Sha Na Na. Greg looked nervous throughout, skipping round the dance floor like a kangaroo keen to let the townsfolk know that young Barry Dingwall had fallen down a disused well.
Finally, Judge Rinder (now spray tanned to a shade known as Donald Trump Max) and Oksana who danced the Salsa to “Spice up your life” by – do I really have to tell you? I LOVED it. Lots of hip action, and Rinder unable to stop himself singing. He and Oksana really seem to have struck up a genuine friendship. Craig, amazingly, loved it. “Hip-tastic, dahhhling. I think I’d like to call you Judge Grinder.” Darcy gave him The Look.
but Craig was unapologetic. Len whinged about piffling detail relating to footwork, but Rinder was too happy to care.
Will this be the week that results in Balls being buried at Blackpool? I’ve no idea, but clock that alliteration.