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How Did Those New Dances Work Out?

November 30, 2009

First of all, congratulations to Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson on winning Dancing With The Stars last week. Their freestyle in the final was amazing, and would, I think, have won them the contest by itself, although I still think that Donny was pulling in the most votes for most of the contest.

This dance captured Donny’s personality perfectly, and allowed him to perform to his fullest, so it never really looked like Kym was holding back too much. I feel a little bad for Mya and Dmitry, but their freestyle was not as good. She may have been the technically better dancer, and in some seasons that has been enough (yes Kristi Yamaguchi, I mean you) but she started on a different level and didn’t improve at all. It wasn’t all her fault, Dmitry made some bad choices with the choreography, but I think that if they had spent more time refining her already very good technique, and less on crowd-pleasing/judge baiting routines, she would have got more support. I just don’t know if it would have been enough to derail the Osmond train. At the start of the season, I was unconvinced about him, mainly due to my memories of Marie, but he won me round. Kym is now appearing on Burn The Floor on Broadway with Maks, and I would love to see that come over here and tour, as the chances of me getting to New York any time soon are tiny!

So, back to Strictly. This week, the remaining couples performed one of two new dances, Charleston or Rock and Roll, plus a group competition Viennese Waltz. Overall, it appears the Charlestons were more popular, as the two couples dancing Rock and Roll ended up in the dance off. I must admit, I found the Charlestons more entertaining, but we only had two Rock and Rolls to choose from, which skewed things a little, for me. This was never going to be a great dance for Natalie and Vincent, because much emphasis is given to the aerial elements, ie throws, lifts and drops. Whilst Natalie claimed this was hard for them, being the same height, that really wasn’t the problem. Rachel Stevens was about an inch or so shorter than Natalie, but she and Vincent managed some beautiful lifts in their AS and Argentine Tango last year, with a similar height difference.  For me, this was a failing of the outside choreographers. Rock and Roll should be fun to watch, so they should have found a way for Natalie to lift Vincent. There were a few clips on It Takes Two showing him trying and failing to do forward rolls and cartwheels, but the experts should have come up with something they could do. The routine they ended up with was sticky, flat and not nearly as entertaining as it should have been, and that was only in part due to the execution.

Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe were also criticised for a lacklustre routine, but Ricky has written on his blog that he did not get the time with the main choreographers that the other couples did, and a few hours before the show, when they finally saw them, he and Natalie were instructed to tone down their routine. If that was the case, I feel bad for them. If the show wishes to introduce new dances and the pro dancers need help, then they should get it equally if they want it. I thought the judges were harsh on Ricky, but at the same time, his dance-off performance was miles better than the original. I think it would be risky to deduce that he has no public support from his dance off appearance this weekend – he had a bad week in terms of PR, no appearance on ITT, and a lacklustre first performance. In addition, the fact that he has been safe every other week may have influenced voters. I think the show would be much poorer without him, as he is by far the most versatile dancer they currently have.

For the Charlestons, my favourite by far was Chris and Ola‘s. It wasn’t technically perfect, but it was so much fun to watch. Karen Hardy was on BBC Breakfast today, and she thought had Chris danced later in the show, he probably would have got a 10. Ali and Brian’s dance, whilst technically very good, didn’t have the originality that Chris and Ola’s did, which may have been a failing of the ‘experts’ but I thought the judges over-marked her for finally showing a bit of personality. Laila and Anton were better than I expected, although I admit to having very low expectations, but she had a strange, almost bored look on her face for a lot of it, which I can’t decide if was her acting the part or just trying to remember the routine. If I had been ranking them, I’d have gone for Chris, Laila then Ali, but I am not a judge, just a viewer.

The group competitive VW was very hard to watch, as we obviously only got to follow whoever the camera was on at any one time, so we are required to defer to the judges more than may be usual for this dance. I disagree with their outcome though, as Brian and Ali clearly collided with Ricky and Natalie toward the end, and Brian should have had the ability to avoid that. Given that the two remaining males were required to lead the dance, whilst the girls had to follow, I find it quite shocking that the judges believed Ali and Brian to be the best, and gave her a perfect score. I believe Ricky did the best job, and I would have put Chris and Laila second, followed by Ali and then Natalie.

I agree that the correct celebrity was eliminated, on the dance off performance alone, Ricky danced his socks off, whilst Natalie was really no better than first time around.

This week, we have two individual dances, for the first time since weeks 1 and 2. Chris and Ola have Waltz and Samba (eek!), Ali and Brian have Tango and Samba, Ricky and Natalie have Foxtrot and Cha Cha Cha, whilst Laila and Anton have American Smooth and Salsa. There is quite the possibility for a disaster for all four couples. Samba is a fiendishly hard dance, it’s rarely done well on Strictly and I’m not sure if Ola has ever danced this. Plus, if they get help from James, it’s not been a great dance for him in the past. Their waltz should be fabulous though.I don’t think either of Ali’s dances will suit her – Samba because it’s going to be out of her comfort zone, and I think her latin so far has all been overrated, and Tango because it requires an attitude she hasn’t yet shown – she grimaced her way through the Paso with the prevoius foot injury, which makes it hard to compare.

Ricky’s foxtrot should be very good, but he’ll probably get his pigeon toes pointed out again,  while he is likely to be the only one to go a really good latin with his Cha Cha Cha. Laila’s American Smooth could be great, but might suffer from being overhyped, in the same way their VW did, whilst the less I consider their Salsa the better. If she decides she doesn’t like it, then I expect it will rival the Samba and Jive for awfulness, but will probably be blamed on Anton again. She hasn’t yet done a good latin dance, in my opinion – she forgot half of the Jive, the Samba was woeful, there were lifts in the Paso, and she stopped in the Rumba, which she also didn’t like. I am half expecting another injury late on Friday/early Saturday.

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