The Week Before Blackpool it is then. And this year sees the contestants and pros go further than ever before to get their arses parked on that Megabus to The North. Normally this week is just another week, marked out by more mention of rock and donkeys than even those…special videos I watch sometimes but this year? Even though a Jamelia boot feels like the most bolted on thing since Mark Benton crawled his way through three weeks of dance-off in a row, the sheer levels of pyrotechnics going on in some cases make me fear that these couples are going to have nothing left for the Tower Ballroom itself.
Anita, for once, feels like she’s delivering one of the more traditional and understated routines of the evening – a quickstep based around a first date. With Gleb Savchenko. In a park. In full evening dress. And, I repeat, this is one of the more subdued dances of the evening. She does a good job, almost gap-free, but it does still linger slightly under the weight of the shadow of Harry’s effort to the same song (“Don’t Get Me Wrong”). Requiring a performance breakthrough in foxtrot of all dances, Aliona goes full American Smooth contempowaft to a Sam Smith number. It’s a very good job and personally I feel the smouldering romance to it, but he does do a massive stumble right in front of the camera, and Craig sticks rigidly to the “ONLY GURNY DANCES COUNT FOR PERFORMANCE BREAKTHROUGHS!” rule, leaving him perilously close to the bottom of the leaderboard in ballroom again. Helen also feels somewhere in the middle – doing a great tango and finally shaking off the weeks and weeks and weeks of hip-waggling latin by being as stiff as she wants to be – but the whole thing is undercut by an awful music choice on a week that’s choc with oddities (“Hold Back The River”). Doesn’t really scream “tango” does it?
Everyone else though? Full throttle all the way down the A1. I can see a lot of differences in opinion of what worked and what didn’t, but at least everyone’s erm…trying. For me the only real stinker is Kellie’s samba, a 90s hip-hop infused effort to “Boom Shake The Room”, that only increases the sense that having hit the dance-off she’s getting a bit desperate. Twerking, body-popping and frenetic colours abound and it’s all…a bit much, only topped off by Craig fully morphing into Simon Cowell mid “I didn’t like that…I LOVED IT” and giving it a 9. Peter’s theming as well could come close to provoking a vomit break (Dead Cilla AND His Kids? IN THE SAME DANCE?!) but mercifully there’s no real traces of them in the dance itself, which is nonetheless still a pretty mediocre Viennese Waltz.
Everyone else? I kind of love. Jeremy’s quickstep is as dreadful as you’d expect given the height difference and the speed problems and…everything he’s done in ballroom so far but the bizarre 90s PC Text Adventure Mining Game choreography is legitimately a hilarious confection and if he was ever going to get the Pimp Slot I’m glad it was for this. The audience oddly seem not at all into it compared to weeks past which leaves me utterly confused both in terms of what makes *me* like a Jeremy routine and also what makes the public like one. Maybe there is no answer here. Jamelia similarly fails to come to grips with the technicalities of samba but goes out and has the sort of rump-shaking party you can tell she’s wanted to do all along, to “Respect”, with a prom theme. Given that it’s likely to be her swan song, not a bad job at all.
The night though, and hopefully a guaranteed slot for an embarassing VT centered around the Blackpool Tower next week, is owned by Katie, who does a GALACTIC SHIRLEY BASSEY RUMBA that exceeds all limits of what you’d expect either from her or Anton in latin, and Georgia, who finally gives the show, after several abortive attempts in years past (Patsy Kensit’s Charleston, Holly’s Cellblock Tango, Lisa’s American Smooth) the definitive Chicago theme dance it deserves, as she absolutely nails Hot Honey Rag to the floor and makes it pregnant. It all makes Peter’s effort from last week look pretty small beer and stakes a convincing claim to be the best Charleston on this show ever YES BETTER THAN SOPHIE’S I WENT THERE.