It’s hard to believe that we have reached the halfway mark of a record-breaking season of Strictly Come Dancing, with the most tens to ever be awarded at this stage of the competition. We have come to that point where all the Ann Widdcommes of the dance floor have gracefully exited stage left, and now we are left with the cream of the crop. Which, is bittersweet as we are guaranteed some killer performances, but it does mean we have to watch one of our favourites bow out for the last time.
It’s all about Tom on Saturday night.
After a tough Halloween week for Tom and partner Amy, not reaching the scores they originally wanted, they have come back with a vengeance this week and they have brought in reinforcements. Tom got a special surprise from fellow bandmate and former Strictly winner, Harry Judd. It was reassuring to see a friendly face for the pair, especially one who knows the unique experience of the world of Strictly; it’s evident Harry’s advice helped Tom with his Paso Doble on Saturday night.
The couple took the traditional route with this dance, sticking to the original Spanish orchestrations that perfectly completed the classical choreography, giving the dance a Spanish bull-fighter feel. The performance was filled with leaps, pirouettes and immense cape work. When it is done correctly, it adds much needed drama that carries the dance’s intense narrative, if not, you look like your struggling to put your jacket on in the wind.
However, Tom successfully completed these skills with skill and grace. It’s clear to the audience he was channelling his inner matador by maintaining his strong, iconic frame while keeping his movements clean and precise.
The judges were astounded by his progress. Craig said that he had never seen a “Paso that was so convincing from a male celebrity”. Motis was on her feet praising Toms work and his ability to lead Amy, which is a skill that the majority of male celebrities have struggled with repeatedly through the season. Head judge Shirley commended his “Spanish lines’ which is dancer speak for the flow and stature of your body throughout the dance, which is a crucial element of the Paso Doble. The judges awarded him with not only his first ten (two in fact) but his highest score of the series so far, 38.
Shirley the Rumba queen bows down to John and Johannas
It’s safe to say, John and Johannas have captured the nation’s hearts; the public was a little apprehensive to their partnership at first, being the first all-male pairing on strictly come dancing, but they soon changed their tune. Not only the warm response from the public, but the pair have also been ranked on the top end of the leaderboard consistently through the weeks. The pair performed a Rumba last week, traditionally a sensational and very intimate dance. If done correctly, it’s a beautiful and emotional piece, but it can be pretty cringey and uncomfortable to watch if done wrong.
Johannas stressed the infamous nature of the Rumba and how it’s a notoriously tricky dance, but that hasn’t stopped him from filling it with complex choreography and intricate moves to put John through his paces. The Rumba also gives John the challenge of leading Johnannas, a skill they have previously shared in other dances. This gives John all the control over Johannas positioning, which is a critical fixture to the success of this performance.
The two mesmerised the judges with their performance by creating a beautiful romantic narrative through the dance yet, gave the piece a needed intensity. Rumba walks (ways of travelling across the floor) are a key element to this dance which John executed flawlessly by being totally in-sync with Johnannas on the side by side areas of the choreography. As well as letting the movement extend the right to the end of his arms and creating a gentle fluidity throughout the dance.
The judges agreed, gaining a standing ovation from head judge Shirley which is no mean feet as we saw earlier in the programme that she has been extra harsh this episode on fan favourites such as Tilly Ramsey. Shirley applauded the pair for their simple production, which allowed the technique to shine through, coupled with the emotional quality which constitutes as an award-winning Rumba.
Craig praised the pair on the emotional quality of the dance as he said: “he might steal the choreography and teach it to his fiancé for their wedding dance”. You could also see him get a bit choked up which is unusual yet comforting to see, from the self-proclaimed stone faced judge. The judges deservedly awarded them a 35 for their dazzling performance.
AJ tops the leaderboard with the Charleston
It’s clear that AJ and Kai are frontrunners in this competition, as they have consistently in the top (apart from that one Sanba, but we don’t need to talk about that). Hopefully, the pair can continue this lucky strike with their Charleston; they have decided to take a more traditional approach with their dance, transporting the Strictly ballroom back to the roaring 20s. So grab your grammar phone and flapper dress, and hopefully the pair will be seeing tens at the end.
The pair’s performance is packed with tricky elements vital to the Charleston’s style and time period, one of which is the iconic swivel that will make or break the dance. However, the part that AJ was fearing the most was the lifts. She has done lifts before, but Charleston lifts are much different as they add drama to this spirited performance. They are much quicker and detailed than the ones AJ has attempted previously.
Yet, AJ had nothing to worry about, as she killed it. She handled a complex routine with the right combination of passion and professionalism. Right from the word go, AJ gave us the glamour and attitude with fully released character, which is crucial to the performance value of the Charleston. Her kicks and flick were incredible. She performed a broad range of skills varying from traditional savoy kicks (where the couples bounce and kick while turning together away from each other) and some quicker, more compact kicks to keep the pace of the dance going. To top it all of, her lifts were impeccable, showcasing not only her bravery in performing overhead lifts but her talent and her natural dancing ability.
She had Motis on her feet screaming with excitement, exclaiming that she loved it, saying she has improved immensely and had the audience in the palm of her hand. Not only that, she had Shirley reaching for her ten paddle and left her speechless. Even Charleston King, Craig himself was astonished as he graced the dance with an iconic, A-MAY-ZING. The couple topped the leaderboard with a well deserved, 39.
A shock dance-off
The dance-off is the last place the contestants want to be on Sunday night. However, last week, a shocking decision with a potential leading lady at risk of going home left audiences gob-smacked. Sadly, it was no surprise for a frequent resident of the bottom two, Adam Peaty, was announced to be at risk. Especially after producing a lacklustre Jive that was off-beat and lacked the necessary technique and fitness to succeed as a legendary Jive, only giving the couple 27 and landing at the bottom of the leaderboard.
However, the real shock came from fan favourite and dark horse of the competition, Tilly and Nikita, landing at the bottom of the leaderboard. Admittedly, her Paso Doble was not up to her usual standard, only awarding her a 31. However, this doesn’t change the fact she is a brilliant dancer with growing technique and skill. She took a very optimistic view of the situation and looked forward to dancing again. She also got reassurance from Anton to build her confidence.
Despite a difficult decision, it was obvious to the judges and the audience that it was a clear win for Tilly and Nikta, which meant we had to say goodbye to Adam and Kayta. It was an emotional goodbye. However, Adam expressed how much he enjoyed his time on Strictly.
Featured Image Credit: BBC