By Matthew Gormley @MatthewPGormley
Strictly Come Dancing 2017 is well underway. Following two weeks of ballroom action and the first vote off, week three always brings with it the first theme night of the series. For the umpteenth time, Strictly rolls out the red carpet and heads to the Movies for a blockbuster evening of dance routines plucked straight off the silver screen. Much like Halloween, it’s pretty much become an annual tradition.
The stunning overture paid homage to La La Land, 2017’s biggest film phenomenon. Whilst it may not go down in history as a classic movie musical, it boasts a superb soundtrack, likeable characters and slick choreography. The Strictly professionals’ adaptation of the film’s opening sequence, set the gloriously catchy Another Day of Sun, oozed glitz and glamour and brought a touch of Hollywood to the Elstree ballroom.
Toy Story, The Sound Of Music, Saturday Night Fever and Doctor Zhivago were all tackled in what was one of the best Movie Nights in Strictly history. Simon Rimmer and Karen Clifton opened the show with a Quickstep set to Toy Story’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me. It seemed a bizarre choice of song for a Quickstep and, despite upping the tempo, the couple seemed off-beat in places. Though it wasn’t the technique which caught the attention of eagle-eyed viewers across social media, but rather why Jessie was dancing with Buzz Lightyear rather than Woody. Costume department, take note for next year.
Five star performances of the evening came, again, from the usual frontrunners, Aston Merrygold and his partner Janette Manrara, Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez and Debbie McGee and Giovannni Pernice. Aston has been a frontrunner since he bounded off the starting blocks, which wasn’t surprising, given that he performed many a polished routine during his JLS days. His Cha Cha Cha to the Justin Timberlake hit Can’t Stop The Feeling, from the soundtrack of Trolls, was the highest scoring dance of the evening (35). They were closely followed by Alexandra and Gorka, who scored 33 for their American Smooth to Wouldn’t It Be Lovely from My Fair Lady. This was one of my favourite routines of the night, with beautiful choreography and stunning characterisation. Alexandra’s musical theatre background may give her a slight advantage when it comes to dancing in character, but she’s also a naturally gifted dancer and thus far has excelled.
I was expecting great things from Aston and Alexandra, but Debbie McGee really took me by surprise with her debut Paso Doble two weeks ago. On Movie Night, she danced the Quickstep to the Fred Astaire classic Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off, from Shall We Dance. She glided around all corners of the dance floor, fleet of foot in a gorgeous golden gown. However, the couple were marked down for breaking the ‘ten second rule’, the maximum amount of time you’re allowed to spend out of hold in the Quickstep. Tess Daly hastily called Craig a ‘party pooper’. I, for one, am pleased to hear the judges pointing out the rules, as among the razzmatazz of a themed week, it’s important to remember the main purpose of the show. Dancing is, after all, a sport, and it’s of extremely poor taste for a professional dancer to break the rules.
Charlotte Hawkins and Brendan Cole also found themselves on the receiving end of a somewhat scathing review from the critics, as Head Judge Shirley pointed out that there was too much rise-and-fall in their Top Gun inspired Tango. Never one to take criticism well, Brendan dismissed her comments out of hand. It seems the professionals have become oh-so-used to being over-praised and over-marked by the judging panel that a little bit of honest, constructive criticism can sting.
Susan Calman and The Reverend Richard Coles are fighting out between them to be the Ed Balls of 2017. It’s a battle that The Reverend is so far winning. Susan is no natural dancer but puts every piece of her heart and soul into her performance and is thoroughly entertaining to watch. She’s popular, extremely likeable and I predict that she’ll still go far regardless of her ability. Sadly for Kevin, 2017 may turn out to be the first time he’s ever found himself in the dance off and, indeed, voted out of the competition.
Sunday night’s results show opened with a sensational celebration of all things Disney, complete with CGI animation which made the original characters a part of the routine. Featuring classics such as One Jump Ahead from Aladdin and Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast, it was joyful. With a songbook the size of a feature film script in itself, there are so many unexplored possibilities. Please, producers, let’s mix things up a little and have an entire week devoted to Disney.
In a welcome change from the general rule of thumb, it was the two weakest couples who found themselves in the Dance Off: Simon and Karen and The Revered Richard Coles and his partner Diane. The judges unanimously decided to send The Reverend Richard packing, after a second attempt at an unremarkable Flash Gordon inspired Paso Doble. The Reverend gave it his all and was mildly entertaining, but it was time for him to face the axe.
The remaining 13 couples return for a sequel next Saturday at 6:45pm on BBC One.