On a gloomy day in the real world, this silly dancing show continues to provide some much-needed joy.
Halloween has for once fallen on a Saturday in Strictly Season, but there were no costumes in the studio tonight. With the series truncated as a result of coronavirus restrictions, it was decided that of the three iconic theme weeks (including musicals and movies), Halloween had to go. It makes sense: week two is too early for a theme night and, let’s be real, the tension of waiting for The Press Conference Of Doom and all that it brought was enough scariness for one Saturday evening.
As we watched amazing performers with dazzling costumes, makeup, lighting, music and everything else that goes into putting on a show, it was hard not to think of the many people who have been working night and day to get live theatre and performance back up and running safely in person, work which is now not going to be able to come to fruition anytime soon. But Strictly Come Dancing never fails to be an oasis of fun, so what happened in the dancing!?
Max and Dianne had the job of getting my mind off the impending apocalypse by jiving their little feet off, as they opened the show approx 30 seconds after a terrifying governmental PowerPoint presentation. They had a lovely pink and red colour scheme and I’m sure when I rewatch it on YouTube later I’ll notice the dancing too. Claudia called it “a total gear change” and never has a truer word been spoken. With the edge having been taken off the tonal shift, Clara and Aljaž were next with a Viennese Waltz featuring lush red and black stylings and a cobwebby dinner table, bringing us all the spookiness we thought we were missing out on this year. Clara served face and I loved this whole routine – a waltz with all the fire of a paso. The judges were a bit more “meh” on it, but Craig loved the drama, natch.
Bill and Oti performed a quickstep which we all knew would be interesting if nothing else. But the dancing was once again fantastic and the judges adored it! They probably didn’t get as distracted as I did by the enormous CGI elephant ex machina that appeared at the end (a technique pioneered so memorably in The Greatest Showman) which inexplicably made it into the highlight reel at the end too. And nobody mentioned it! Am I the only one seeing these things?? He scored three eights and any remaining naysayers were roundly silenced. The Bill Bailey Arc is so exciting! And let’s not forget the heroic work being done by Oti’s gorgeous culottes.
Jamie and Karen performed a straight-down-the-line American Smooth to a Frank Sinatra song – hard to get wrong, and indeed they didn’t. Anton and Jacqui were landed with a Samba (or as Anton insisted on calling it, a “sarmba”) in week two – hard to get right, and indeed they also didn’t. But they had fun! Someone else who was having fun was Jason who, just like last week, danced with a huge smile all over his face, this time a Salsa with his partner Luba.
Maisie and Gorka were at the top of the leaderboard after last time and their Tango this week was utterly brilliant. I prefer traditional music normally but Miley Cyrus’s ‘Midnight Sky’ was an inspired choice. With plenty of dry ice and a bold lip, Maisie brought the Halloween theatrics and gave us another solid routine. HRVY and Janette also had a lot to live up to, after Motsi’s comment last week that theirs was the most impressive week one dance she’d ever seen. This time they performed a Viennese Waltz to Stuck With U by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber and it didn’t totally work for me, but the judges lapped it up.
We had two paso dobles this week – a bumper crop! – and both promised to be spectacular. Caroline and Johannes danced to ‘El Gato Montes’ by Ramon Cortez, a.k.a. #ClassicPaso. This was the first time Johannes has performed this dance on Strictly and we have been missing out! He and Caroline were decked out in full traditional costumes and his leaps, in adorable scarlet socks for maximum impact, were truly sight to behold. Vibrating on a totally different frequency, we also had JJ and Amy dancing to Believer by Imagine Dragons, a song I have sung countless times with my choir, so excuse me if I just considered them to be narrowcasting to me. And yes, it was great! The futuristic green lighting gave it a Matrix vibe that suited the song perfectly. And, like Clara, JJ brought fantastic intensity with his face. Where could all these contestants be finding the inspiration for haunting expressions of bones-deep rage, today of all days??
Ranvir and Giovanni were given a dramatic paso doble last week and got the chance to demonstrate a totally different tone tonight, dancing a delightful quickstep to Stevie Wonder in a field of sunflowers. Their storytelling was very compelling and their dancing was bright, sunny and reminded me of the summertime – exactly what we needed.
Speaking of things that we all need, they were followed by Nicola and Katya who performed the first Couple’s Choice of the series, choosing Street Commercial. These more modern dances are almost always ultra-emotional and this one was no different. Nicola explained in their rehearsal clip that the dance was telling her life story, from a council estate in Leeds to Olympic glory. Katya has always been a phenomenal choreographer and the work she is coming up with in this series is in another class. “It’s important to be able to look into the mirror and be happy with who you are,” Nicola told us. Their dance was truly beautiful – moving, entertaining and artistic – and their partnership continues to show the millions of people watching at home the magic that can be created when you enable people to express themselves and everything that makes them who they are.
I can’t pretend that this wasn’t an unusually tough watch. Today is hard and cutting away from a press conference about death to go to a frivolous dancing show was always going to be a challenge, vibe-wise. But once again, Strictly Come Dancing has been a shining light in a dark weekend: at this point this weekly dose of colour and fun is practically a public service. For sixteen years, Strictly has been there for us as nights draw in and temperatures drop, paving the way into the festive season. We don’t know what the next couple of months will bring, but as long as they involve a bit of dancing on Saturday nights, maybe we’ll be okay.
(No, literally, we do not know what we’d do without it.)