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Strictly Dances Week 6

October 24, 2009

For our entertainment this Saturday evening, we have the Samba and American Smooth to look forward to, on Strictly Come Dancing.

American Smooth

American Smooth is not a specific dance, it refers instead to the style used in American dancing competitions. In Strictly, the ballroom dances are danced in accordance with the International Style, as used in competitions here and in Europe. International style is more formal, and for Strictly, this means that the dance must be performed in hold and without lifts, In the American Smoooth style, it is permitted to dance extended sections out of hold, either side by side or in reverse hold, and lifts are allowed (and luckily Brendan is not dancing this this week, so we’ll probably escape an illegal lift saga!). It also means that the dance itself can be a waltz, foxtrot, Viennese waltz or tango based American Smooth, and should display some of the character of the original. The dance is usually described as being ‘old-style Hollywood glamour’, and has produced some beautiful performances in previous years. Kelly Brook and Brendan Cole would likely have got about 38 for theirs, had it not been for the additional lift, wich Brendan felt was required. It was a truly stunning performance, despite being ever-so-slightly illegal, and she was one of my least favourite contestants, so it must have been good:

In the same year, Alesha and Matthew showed why they would go on to be champions with this performance (and one of my favourite dresses):

Last year, the only one I truly enjoyed was Rachel and Vincent, who didn’t get the appreciation I think they deserved from the judges for this performance, despite landing their highest score at that point:

Her dress in that was also fab. There have also been quite a lot of less-good American Smooths, and the presence of lifts always introduces an element of chance – Andrew Castle nearly dropped Ola last year when he failed to lift her properly. The year before, she was lifted one-handed by Kenny Logan, so don’t be surprised if she decides to miss the lifts altogther tonight! The couples dancing American Smooth tonight are Ricky G and Erin, Natalie and Vincent, Ali and Brian, Chris and Ola and Zoe and James. In theory this should be a straight fight between Ali and Zoe for top spot, but if Chris can remember his steps, he could be an unlikely contender. In reality his competition is really Natalie, with Ricky G somewhere in between.

Samba
The most technical of the latin dances in terms of technique, we are always reminded that this is a party dance, and should be invoking the spirit of Rio at Mardi Gras. The Samba is a traditional Brazilian dance, and is deeply ingrained in the country’s history. Like the Tango, it is listed by UNESCO as a cultural intangible, and has developed in many ways over the years. One of the key elements for the Samba is a bounce action, mainly from the knees. If this is absent, then the whole dance will look and feel flat, and if the bounce comes from the feet, it will have a completely different look. There also has to be rhythm, and a gregariousness to the dance – it has to feel as if the audience is being invited to join in.  You will see a lot of dancers stepping to the side with one leg passing over the other. This is called a Volta. Another familiar move is the Samba Roll, which occurs in the upper body of the performer, the couple stand male behind female, bend forward from the waist together, then across to the side, up until they bend backwards then upright again, whilst extending the leading arms. If the couple are very close in height, it can often look as if the woman is being lifted off her feet as they lean back. This all has to be done at a considerable speed, too, so has the potential to go badly wrong.

My favourite Samba was Zoe Ball and Ian Waite, which you can see them performing on the tour:

Alesha and Matthew (yes again!) also show how many different changes of rhythm there are:

For some reason, we get a lot of disco tracks for Sambas, and very few traditional Samba tracks. I think all of tonight’s dances will have a disco song, or disco remix. I don’t know why this is, as it doesn’t entirely say ‘Rio’ to me! Tonight’s Samba dancers will be Laila and Anton, Phil and Katya, Jo & Brendan, Jade & Ian, Craig and Flavia and Ricky W and Natalie. Favourites are Ricky and Natalie, with the only real competition likely to come from Jade and Ian. The interest here, after last week, will really be exactly how bad will Laila and Craig’s dances be?

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