7 weeks in, and it’s time for WEMBLEY WEEK! Now this was my least favourite week of last series, as the cavernous space, props overload and rampant misuse of the space swallowed up any and all dancing that anybody might have been trying to do. Which was not a lot. And whilst all of the above was still present this year, fortunately there were three or four stand-out dances, which is three or four more than last year had, depending on how you feel about balloons.
First let’s get the bad out of the way. Lisa’s samba (representing 70s disco explicitly for once) is a clompy incoherent mess, which she periodically forgets, underperforms, and generally half-arses, culminating in Robin treading on her and some samba rolls that are basically her stood upright whilst he dry-humps her. She then does the splits at the end, and all is forgiven. By everybody, as she gets 8s across the board. Nicky’s 50’s themed rock n roll jive also perhaps fails to live up to the hyping it received on It Takes Two during the week, but then again if you WILL listen to Ian Waite’s opinion on jives then you deserve everything you get. It’s still better than you would have expected a month ago, and, you know…Lisa.
The real short straw of the evening though falls to Victoria who is stuck with this year’s worst most overblown prop (a flying bicycle that looks ridiculous and which it takes her half an hour to be disentangled from) and worst song-choice. How anyway expected anybody to do ANY sort of dance to “Bicycle Race” let alone a paso doble is beyond me, and certainly it’s beyond Victoria as she jumps around like Frogger whilst making the Bunton Paso Face look subdued and dignified. She’s also wearing the remains of Geri Halliwell’s most iconic dress, fed through a paper shredder. All round NOT GOOD.
Somewhere in the middle are Tracy & Vincent and Louis & Flavia. Tracy & Vincent in that all I can see in their 60s theme quickstep is the same old aimless bouncy trotting that made Holly Valance look so ridiculous last year, but which everybody else seems to have found enchanting and delightful. Can we at least agree that all the references to her height are beyond tired at this point? I think we can. Louisa & Flavia sadly fall victim to one of Flavia’s occasional hyper-modeish choreographic brainfarts, as she puts a donk on their Great Depression themed American Smooth with a breakdancing dubstep laser show breakdown. I still can’t quite believe I lived through it. The horror of her paso doble for Matt Di Angelo was bad enough. I LOVE YOU FLAVIA, BUT MAKE BETTER CHOICES.
So that’s enough of the bad, let’s get on to the good.
First of all, ERIN ISLAND HAPPENED. ERIN ISLAND HAPPENED FOR REAL! Erin Boag, on an island, dancing Latin, surrounded by palm trees, accompanied by Lovely Shem from the Dance Troupe in tiny yellow budgie smugglers, to Wham! Of course the dance itself is bobbins, and Richard is still there, cracking jokes that nobody cares about until Bruce actually has to tell him to shut up (SO AMAZING), but still. ERIN ISLAND! FOR REAL! Truly a highlight of my recapping career. Quite frankly, I’m still flailing now.
The show’s leading ladies also both perform out of their skins, with Denise nailing a sassy, heated Egyptian themed Charleston, getting the first 10s of the series. Apart from Craig, who holds out on the dance he calls “the greatest Charleston he’s ever seen on Strictly” by marking it lower than Chris Hollins’ FOR SHAME. Not that I would have given it a 10 either, but I also wouldn’t have tied myself in those verbal knots. Kimberley also GOES for it for the first time this series, throwing her arms and legs and tits and ass and everything about to Ricky Martin for a 90s style samba. It’s got no finesse, but bags of personality, which is pretty much exactly what she needs at this point. Pasha also gets his belly button out. HEY, I’M NOT MADE OF STONE!
Undoubted highlight of the show, and the series, and possibly every series ever though, is Michael Vaughan’s American Smooth to “New York New York”. It is 90 seconds of utter triumph, on a choreographic, staging and performance level, climaxing his journey in dancing, from inept beginner to competent performer, and Natalie Lowe’s journey in Strictly, from hated overdog to beloved underdog. If I have any other dance at the top of my end-of-series ranking I will be very, very surprised. It almost made Wembley worth it.