After Tess and Claudia’s opening cuddle came the judges, pirouetting into their seats, and then:
Frankie and Kevin danced a cha cha to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe – a chart hit for a hit couple. They were well received, but though Darcey dubbed it ‘sleek and clean’, Len was first to point out that Frankie’s footwork wasn’t quite what he’d expect from a pro. Frankie confessed over Sunday evening’s credits that she was looking forward to Week Five, as it wouldn’t involve any cha cha! A solid performance, however.
Following them were Mark and Karen, quickstepping to Tiger Feet. We were impressed to see not only synchronised footwork, but almost mirrored jumping, too. Loveliest of all was Mark’s exclamation of, “I did it!” as the final chords rang out. The judges were equally impressed, noting an improvement from Week Three and Craig even praised the couples’ use of arabesque leg extension.
Next were Judy and Anton, set to whip up a frosty tango. And though unfortunately worded, Len made the fair point that Judy’s usual stiffness and tennis-watching-action of the neck proved an asset this week! But what excited us most was her leap into Anton’s arms at the end of the routine. It was totally unexpected and thoroughly entertaining. As Len also said, it was Judy’s best dance so far.
Now we held our breath: would Simon and Kristina bounce back from last week’s dance off? Well, if Simon’s confidence had been knocked, we couldn’t tell. Their Charleston as the Pearly King and Queen of Strictly was bloomin’ marvelous. Simon’s grin ran from ear to ear throughout their performance, and then some more, as the judges eagerly welcomed him back to the competition with a more-than-average score of 31.
Then it was the turn of Alison and Alja�, in a ‘Bootylicious’ samba to pop queen Beyoncé’s hit. Though Bruno and Craig pointed out that Alison’s footwork was lacking, Darcey was keen to mention that she “saw those hips working”, and as far as we could tell, Alison didn’t miss a step. We were also mightily amused by her positive reactions to the scoring, belting out an almighty, “yes, Len!” as he awarded the couple a resounding “Seh-van!”
But after a successful evening so far, here came Scott and Joanne with their American Smooth to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. Poor Scott’s turn as the vocalist sang “turn around,” was too much for us. In all honesty we couldn’t watch a lot of his dance but we really do admire Scott’s courage and tenacity. For someone who constantly seems on the verge of being ill while concentrating extremely hard, we think he deserves kinder praise. At least Darcey said she saw “moments of improvement” and offered some constructive advice.
(Gosh, these early weeks of the competition take a while to air, don’t they? Just as well that the costumes are gorgeous and this year’s contestants are likeable…)
Next was resident columnist Lizzy’s favourite, Steve, and his partner Ola. His salsa to Jump in the Line could have flowed a bit more, but: once again he was entirely enthusiastic, and the way he threw Ola over his head and swung her with gusto was very enjoyable viewing. Though his hip action could do with some work, the judges were generally pleased with the performance.
Now for blonde bombshells, Pixie and Trent. Their gorgeous rumba was a beautiful mix of slow, soulful movement and faster, impetuous flourishes. Clearly the dance made its impact on Pixie, who shed a tear at the end, though the judges insisted that the pop princess could have given more. Len wanted more rhumba steps and Darcey thought Pixie’s performance was just missing that extra something. But Craig was a fan of their “gorgeous” split drag across the floor.
Then Tina Turner rang out, while Tim and Natalie did their best Paso Double. Tim began with a good effort at capework, and Natalie’s dress was my favourite of the night. But though Bruno’s criticism that Tim appeared to be a “mildly irritated goat” was unnecessarily harsh, it wasn’t far off the mark. Tim is just too much of a gentleman to pull of the Paso, unfortunately. However his final score of 19 just narrowly beat Scott’s 15.
Time for Sunetra and Brendan to salsa! The actress’s wonderful armwork came into play but unfortunately a wardrobe malfunction on Brendan’s part meant a lot of the dance came across as self-conscious, and not really in keeping with the samba feel. For someone who had never been lifted before, though, Sunetra coped marvelously well with some impressive moves – Brendan clearly has confidence in her ability.
A strange combination of the slower-paced Build Me Up Buttercup with a quick-smart foxtrot left us a little confused about Thom and Iveta’s choice of song – but we were really impressed by Thom. His characterisation was good, and as Darcey pointed out, despite his height Thom doesn’t stoop to dance with petite Iveta. Could he be the dark horse this year?
Jake was a brilliant reincarnation of Elvis, as he jived with Janette to All Shook Up. Whenever we watch Jake dancing we find ourselves with our mouths a little bit open at the end. His “strong leg action” (Darcey) resulted in a formidable leading score of 33. Who knows what dizzying numbers Jake might end up with, once he’s got his top half to match his bottom, as Bruno implored him to?
The final pairing of the night was Caroline and Pasha, who danced a beautiful Quickstep to Grease classic, We Go Together. We enjoyed the seamless inclusion of props (which can sometimes seem a little unnecessary and over-the-top) and were thrilled for Caroline when Len pronounced hers as “the dance of the night.” Despite a few mistakes, the management of which were praised by Craig (!), the pair ended up tying with Jake and Janette on 33.
All of which saw the last two couples tied at the top of the leaderboard, and Scott at the bottom, closely followed by Tim.
Then, of course, there was the shock inclusion of Mark and Karen in the dance off... but they were pitted against Tim and Natalie, which was less of a surprise. Understandably, the “Fancy White Wright Knight” (Bruno) lived to dance another week as the judges’ unanimous decision saw Tim and Natalie take to the floor for their final dance.