Sunday, 12 December 2010

There Will Be Showdances

It's Friday night and Strictly Come Dancing is on. It must be some kind of special occasion. It is, of course. It's the semi bloody final. This means I have to curb my usual Friday-night activities which may include any combination of burlesque dancing in a Hackney dive bar, handing out nourishing home-made soup to street children or performing my Spenserian sonnet cycle told through rap at a poetry slam event on Brick Lane.

Instead I am sitting on the sofa eating roast chicken and watching television. I can't tell you what a dramatic curb this is on my lifestyle. I literally can't tell you.

So who is first to dance for their lives? (In the case of Natalie, you could believe this is really the case.) It is Pamela and James, who are dancing a paso doble to
Bad Romance, which is almost as awesome as it sounds, but not quite. Pamela seems to be channelling an evil doll while, with his hair and his waistcoat, James is looking particularly Wolverine this evening. Perhaps this explains how he has managed to train Pamela, WHO IS 61, to such a high standard. If ever she starts getting sloppy, he draws his terrible claws on her, and suddenly she finds new reservoirs of concentration.

Next, Kara and Artem do something I never thought I'd see with my own two lovely, lovely eyes. They make the Viennese Waltz sexy. They said it could never be done. By 'they', I basically mean 'me'. Kara is so good, even readers of this blog in Australia who have never watched Strictly Come Dancing know she should rightly win. Yet again, Bruce Forsyth seems to be totally surprised by the standing ovation that follows. Maybe, between each show, he simply forgets that they happen. After all, he is even older than Pamela, WHO IS 61. Kara and Artem only fail to get a perfect score because of some matter of a lift. Regular readers will know that these technicalities rarely bother me – other than when its suits me, of course.

Gavin and Katya are dancing the samba, a sexy, uninhibited party dance. For Gavin, this is a challenge akin to climbing the north face of the Eiger. Despite a valiant effort by Katya, they're not really demonstrating the appropriate levels of sensuality. When Gavin is called on to run his hand down Katya's thigh, it's as though he's wiping up a spillage of ketchup that just dripped off his portion of chips. The judges aren't keen, but afterwards Tess is particularly eager to see Gavin recreate his almost-perfected hip-swivel, and he is more than happy to oblige. This, you feel, is a new element he has introduced to his morning mirror routine – Blue Steel face, that twitchy pec thing people do who have more muscle mass than sense, a kiss for the 'guns', and now a swivel of hips. As he does it, Gav thinks: 'Yes! Now I am the complete package!'

Next up are Scott and Natalie. It's Scott's turn to wear the Ill-Advised Trilby this week. Artem must be sulking. In their training VT, Natalie says that Scott is the best partner she's ever danced with. Somewhere in his chrome-and-glass Cheshire bachelor pad, Ricky Whittle is tearing up his Strictly Come Dancing calendar and shouting 'Did what we had mean NOTHING to you?' Scott and Natalie dance the tango to the kind of wine-bar chill-out tune that makes me really aggressive. Scott seems to be lacking in conviction but luckily Natalie has more than enough intensity for both of them. She has 'Intensity' tattooed on one of her eyeballs. She has 'Ricky' tattooed on the other, now hastily covered up with a large flower design, and 'Scott' etched underneath.

Believe it or not, I have a bad feeling about Matt tonight. You can't help but feel a sense of dramatic irony about his somewhat over-confident training interview. Matt, don't you have any grasp of narrative? Don't you watch any TV when you're not, like, on it? OK, I know you are kind of busy perpetuating the miracles of nature on your farm, but still. Tune in, now and again, and see how it works.

Sure enough, their salsa is a troublingly bizarre combination of incredibly basic steps that I learnt on a Saturday-morning class in Kennington about seven years ago, and writhing, gyrating and thrusting. Three of the very grimmest '-ings', I think you'll agree. It all adds up to a big pile of Unsexy. Where are the spaghetti-junction arms? Where are, like, the good bits? They are dancing to Kylie's Spinning Around, which is more hands-in-the-air disco than grind-in-your-face salsa. Also, Aliona kind of has her jugs out. The whole thing just doesn't work – and the judges are lining up to tell them. They really go to town on the harsh stuff. Aliona doesn't really seem to grasp what's going on, but Matt is completely taken aback. Please don't cry, Matt. Oh God, I actually think he's going to cry. When Tess turns her sensitive and subtly probing interviewing beam on him, he can hardly speak.

The scores are in the 7s and 8s. OK, now what's going on? Matt is the new BBC primetime pin-up. Other contestants have danced this badly and got 9s. Why the slating? Are the judges undermarking Matt to jumpstart a huge sympathy vote from his supporters and ensure his progression to the next round, just in case the Handsome Droid is in danger of robotically ploughing his way through to the final, lights flashing and head swivelling?

But if this is a secret pro-Matt exercise (cruel to be kind and all that), then way to challenge him by making him go straight from the energetic salsa into the Swingathon – a dance so long it ends in 'athon' – with barely time for a towelling-down. Not to mention the fact he has to pick himself up emotionally from a place several hundred feet below devastated. Still, that's showbiz, Matt. Surely you learnt this on Blue Peter when you had to keep grinning like a simpleton through yet another exhibition of sarcophigi. Fortunately, Matt is at the peak of physical fitness as he races sheepdogs in his spare time.

The Swingathon should be the best thing ever, but it's something of a challenge to camerawork. You can't really see enough of the dancing. Predictably, Gavin goes out first, followed by Scott. Shock result! I thought Maslen would have this in the bag, what with him being full of 'personality' and all. Matt claws back some self-respect in second place, but Kara and Artem win. They also have the best outfits, so it's a victory for fashion too. Pamela is wearing hideous black clumpy trainers. It's as though she's forgotten to put her proper dancing shoes on. These tiny lapses of memory come with increasing frequency WHEN YOU ARE 61.

Ding ding! Round two! It's Saturday night! I am on my sofa again, but I am about to go to Camberwell and eat delicious tapas. You might think those things would be mutually exclusive but you would be very, very wrong.

Scott and Natalie are first up. After turning Scott into James Bond last week, Natalie is indulging another of her fantasies tonight, dressing him as a sailor. He's not exactly Richard Gere in An Officer And A Gentleman, but I expect she's not too fussed. They are dancing the Charleston, and I am fully expecting four 10s. Unfortunately, Scott's face seems to be working a lot harder than the rest of his body, and Natalie is doing most of the work. He's still very good, and we all know he's working incredibly hard and he's tired and blah blah, but he really could do with a bit more, as Len – and Chas and Dave – would say, 'Gertcha'. There is no standing ovation at the end which, from the usual studio audience, is pretty damning. Almost as damning as a panel of judges who have just sat through Matt Baker's salsa. Considering he has been gifted two of the most crowd-pleasing dances in the semi-final, Scott is not – as The X Factor judges would say – smashing it.

Unlike Kara and Artem, who have been given the two dullest dances. After the miracle of the Sexy Viennese Waltz, can they produce the Miracle of the Sexy Rumba That Is Actually Sexy And Not In A Way That Makes You Do A Little Bit Of Sick In Your Mouth? Yes, is the answer. Yes. Kara does stumble a couple of times and borderline-infringes the lift rules again, but that doesn't stop three of the judges giving her a 10.

Next, Matt and Aliona are dancing the tango. Matt still looks like he's about to cry. Come on, Matthew. Think of all those animals on the farm, with their noses pushed up against the windows of your house, watching their master on the telly. Do it for them! Do it for the pigs! Do it for the cows! He does do it for them. It's brilliant, principally because they are dancing to Hung Up by Madonna. It would be hard to fail. He does do a 100% laughable hands-on-hips pose at the end, but compared to last night, this is a triumph. The judges are full of praise. Is this the completion of some triumph-against-adversity, comeback-kid vote-generator for Matt? I think I'm right in saying the phone lines weren't open last night, after his downfall, but they are tonight, after his get-back-up. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Gavin and Katya dance the waltz. The most exciting thing about it is Katya's red dress. Len gives him a 9. I swear at Len.

Pamela and James close this week's competition with a quickstep which is not particularly quick. Maybe this is because of her fitness levels what with her BEING 61 and a GRANDMA. It's very classic Hollywood though and the judges think it is the best thing they've ever seen.

They score it 40. Really?


Finally, Take That perform The Flood. I love this song. If you like, my friend Stef and I could come to your house and present our one-hour thesis on the symbolism of the video. It's not a complicated interpretation, but we are particularly enthusiastic about it. Robbie and Mark do some dancing and larking about together. If you do not squeal at this, then you did not live with a houseful of girls at university in the early 90s. Or maybe you did, but you were quite a lot cooler than us. Wait, no, it can't be that.

Also, Jason looks SPECTACULAR.

We end with a montage of 110% journey-speak from the contestants. Scott says he's given it everything he's got. I don't know about everything, but he's definitely given it about four stone.

I do not see the results show because I AM AT WORK. ON A SUNDAY NIGHT. I KNOW. But I have heard the outcome and, for me, it is the right one. Also, I know that Take That performed Back For Good, which I'm not sure I could sit through without combusting with excitable nostalgia.

Join me for The Actual Final next week. There Will Be Showdances (this is the title of Daniel Day-Lewis's next film project). About the prospect of Matt and Aliona's showdance, I feel the way I did about queuing up to see the body of Lenin in his mausoleum in Red Square when I was an impressionable 18-year-old. Nervous, excited, scared. Nauseous.


InvisibleWoman said...

...'but he's definitely given it about four stone'; laughed out loud. Which drew a few stares in the office I can tell you. Very satisfactory outcome I thought. You missed Matts temper tantrum on the results show. Only lasted a millisecond but hopefully Claudia will follow it up on ITT. He flounced, I tell you. Flounced.

Becca said...

Oh the thrill of it all! Your summation was masterly as ever. I don't know if you realise it but Pamela, at 61, is the oldest person EVER to reach the Strictly final; Matt is the most agricultural person EVER to reach the Strictly final. Kara is clearly the best dancer but cannot win on account of the fact that being a young, pretty actress who dances well is not enough of a vote-winning gimmick even allowing for snogging exfoliated Russians with overly groomed eyebrows. Bring it, as they say, on.

Beccy said...

I'm so disappointed for you that you didn't see Take That sing Back For Good. Gary sang it for Robbie! I had tears in my eyes all the way through! And Robbie was playing it cool, but would occasionally look over and catch Gary's puppy-dog eyes singing just for him! It was about the most moving thing I've seen since that episode of SOS DIY that I cried at a while back. And, yes, I lived in a house full of girls at university.

Alison Cross said...

I am despondent. I FORGOT that Strictly was on at an earlier time and tuned in just in time to see Take That on Saturday.

Watched it on Friday though and I BET you Matt did cry. I tweet about it, during it, with some girlfriends - tis the best fun to be had this side of a horizontal waltz with Gav ;-)

I have a theory about Take That. It's gone back to being the Robbie Show, hasn't it? Plus, the body language between Robbie and Jason and The Other One who is not wee Mark or Gazza fairly SCREAMS 'we fookin' HATE you Robbie.'

That's m'theory.

Brilliant reporting as ever.


Alison said...

Matt did flounce, I saw it too! It was worthy of Brendan Cole. The showdance was weird, I was really looking forward too it but they all seemed kind of awkward. And Pamela's shoes! Why!? I think someone mentioned that she might be 61, but even so...

Oh Jason, Jason, Jason...he is beautiful. I think Take That exist just to give women in their late 30's (like me) something to perv over. I love all of them, except Mark who is kind of cute but reminds me of Willie Carson.

Can they be on TV every Saturday please?

Anonymous said...

If Pamela wins, do you think they will bring Arlene back? (Alesha may live to regret that "inspirational" comment.)

We were so incensed by bizarre judging on Friday that we voted for Matt six times (hey, it's all for charity!). We had to pretend the last one was for Natalie to placate our 4 year old daughter - is that wrong?

Go Matt! Power to the people!! (I am showing my age now...)

Nicky said...

I have a feeling that any horizontal waltz with Gav would be accompanied by a handheld mirror and some in-situ grooming ...

Lindsey said...

Sorry to be slightly stalker-ish, but tapas - Angels & Gypsies?

Miss Jones said...

Yes, Lindsey, Angels & Gypsies. Lovely food, terrible name. Keeping thinking it's a Cher song.


Alison, you are so right about Mark/Willie Carson. Hahahaha.

Anonymous said...

Hey Miss Jones, re. Take That, and that there Flood, the beloved would like to do a rowing critique for you. Apparently, they are rowing 'square blade' - nope, means nothing to me either, Lady Cx

Lindsey said...

It's taken me a couple of days to register my displeasure, such was my horror on reading your words, but are you suggesting that sounding like a Cher song is a bad thing????

Oh Miss Jones, and I thought we were of like mind! Chowing down on some delicious pork belly whilst the faux-mysticism of Cher's haunting ballad ching-chinga-chings through your mind - what could be finer?