We’re halfway through this dramatic series of Strictly, but the stakes are particularly high for our celebrities tonight: no one wants to go out just before the all-important trip to Blackpool next week. It will be the show’s grand return to the ballroom after a forced Covid hiatus; Strictly last visit to the Tower Ballroom in 2019.
So, who is guaranteed a seat on the Blackpool bus and who might miss out? Ellie Taylor will pray for a recovery from her near-fatal rumba, and should fit a goofy Charleston – though it turns out to be a cursed style this series. Oddly enough, four celebrities have been eliminated on what is usually a crowd-pleasing dance.
Helen Skelton hopes to bring the party to the inescapable earwig Despacito with a salsa after she scored her first 10 last week, as did Fleur East with a samba on Hot Hot Hot (aka Mark Ramprakash’s infamous series four salsa number). ). But would Molly Rainford, who is already struggling to win over voters, suffer from a slow rumba?
Probably the two most eye-catching numbers come from both sides of the standings. Hamza Yassin, who got three A’s last week, brings us an Afrobeat Couple’s Choice number, while Tony Adams, who survived a salsa disaster thanks to crowd support, has a big test jive to Land of 1000 Dances. Can the People’s Champion reach Blackpool? Join all the action tonight at 6:55 pm on TBEN One.
Fleur East brings the heat
She’s had a rough time, landing in the dance-off twice, but East stormed back to Hot Hot Hot with a stunning samba. A brilliant routine by Vito Coppola mixed basic samba choreography with more ambitious figures, beautifully combined with a sultry solo moment for East. Most importantly, she maintained her musicianship and explosive performance – while also finding sharp, disciplined control and sharp isolations in this tricky style. The only flaw: their costumes that refer to red peppers, which looked more like unbranded Christmas tree decorations.
Revel Horwood: “If that dance doesn’t take you to Blackpool, honey, I don’t know what will!” A tearful Mabuse said she was so proud of East. “That samba really deserves everything.” Ballas praised her for constructive criticism: this was powerful dancing with beautiful control. One of the best samba’s she’s seen. Du Beke said it was absolutely perfect. Three tens for a fantastic 39.
Hamza Yassin returns to his roots
Yassin – certainly the breakthrough star of this series – shared his story: coming from Sudan, where he found his love for the natural world, and made it his profession, supported by his family. (Bonus points for his dad’s geeky homemade Strictly T-shirt.) Yassin’s Couple’s Choice routine introduced a new dance style to the show, Afrobeat, and it certainly played to its strengths: a beautiful rhythmic groove, inviting and upbeat performance, and more insane hitchhiking with partner Jowita Przystal. It almost justified the otherwise obnoxious inclusion of the vague Couple’s Choice category.
Ballas called him incredible. Du Beke: “You are sunshine.” He wants Yassin to teach him how to hitchhike. Revel Horwood noted that they ran out of time at the end, but dancing is his language – “it’s in your soul.” Mabuse, again in tears, said it was hard to talk about. “I never in my life thought I’d see this on Strictly Come Dancing,” she exclaimed, relating it to her own South African heritage. “It’s a special, special, special feeling.” An average 8 from Revel Horwood, 10s otherwise for 38.
Kym and Will get personal
Marsh kicked off her workout footage by talking about her late son Archie, who was born dead 13 years ago this week. While I certainly sympathize with her loss and desire to open up a conversation about that particular grief, I felt slightly uneasy about using it in a reality competition. It meant that her somber American smooth to Chasing Cars, which had good moments but also flaws, was more about the personal story than the dancing.
Revel Horwood loved the heel turn and storytelling, but noticed a mistake getting into the elevator. Mabuse felt the vulnerability, but the second half of the dance wasn’t as strong. Ballas thought she had recovered from the elevator mistake. Du Beke praised her topline as she moved back – now it needs improvement as she moves forward. 7 from Mabuse, otherwise 8s, for 31.
Will Mellor also went the emotional/voice-using route with his waltz to Three Times A Lady, dedicated to his mother – and was in tears at the end. Other than that, this was a beautiful classic track, with Mellor in a tail suit producing a wonderful collaboration with Nancy Xu, showing off a vastly improved technique: strong footwork, with heel lines guiding the dance, controlled rise and fall, and sensitive musicianship.
Mabuse called it beautiful. Ballas said it made her miss her own son (fun fact: he’s a pro on Strictly’s US version, Dancing with the Stars). Plus, the footwork was fantastic. Du Beke said it was the embodiment of two bodies moving as one in harmony with the music. Revel Horwood wanted to wave and wave more, but he made his family proud. 10s from Mabuse and Ballas, for 38.
Will Tony Adams be kicked out?
I don’t know about Land of 1000 Dances, but Tony Adams must have put about 1000 kicks into this jive. Unfortunately, it was more kicks aimed at a soccer ball – or perhaps an opponent – rather than actual jive action, and partner Katya Jones had to lead him across the floor as he furiously finished the counts. Adams also threw in some hefty air guitar action and a roly-poly series with Jones that would earn him points in an elementary school gymnastics competition, if nothing else. But will it be enough?
Ballas said he gave it his all, and as for the roly-poly, “I’m lost for words.” Du Beke said the stairs couldn’t be pulled back, but he did it right. “I did not mind.” Revel Horwood: “A technical disahhhster.” Mabuse said he looks good. From 4 (Revel Horwood) to 7s for a generous 24.
Molly Rainford gets sultry
Billowing curtains, fog, Whitney Houston and partner Carlos Gu conveniently forgetting his shirt buttons: Molly Rainford’s rumba was a far cry from her awful Grange Hill schoolgirl number. I much prefer this more refined version of her, and this was a strong, flowing, stripped-down and deeply felt rumba with beautiful technique – even if it looked like the cover of a Mills & Boon novel.
Du Beke, like me, enjoyed the mature performance and Rainford’s connection with Gu. Her spins could improve, otherwise great. Revel Horwood called it “quality”. Mabuse loved the rumba walks and passionate moments. Ballas praised Gu’s innovative choreography and ‘age-appropriate feel’. A 10 from Ballas, plus 9s, for 37.
Ellie and Tyler fight back
Well, that’s more like it. After a gloomy dive last week with the rumba, Ellie Taylor and Johannes Radebe were back in shape with a goofy, giddy, cute flapper Charleston, set to Friendship from the musical Anything Goes. A few too many slack comedic faces for my taste, and could have been more precise in her placement, but it was a sweet, well-executed opener — and a lovely celebration of the couple’s heartfelt bond.
Shirley Ballas praised the synchronization and connection between them. Anton Du Beke predicted that Taylor could become a musical star. Craig Revel Horwood thought it could have been sharper and more extreme, but praised the difficult rhythm patterns. Motsi Mabuse thought Taylor was the owner. Three 8s for a decent 31.
In general, the celebrity’s level of concern is reflected by the amount of meat on display. So a topless Tyler West — who also had a bad dance last week — didn’t take any chances with his paso doble. Add to that studio pyrotechnics and dramatic music (ES Posthumus’ Unstoppable), and West had a lot of help with this. The actual dance, however, was less convincing: strong but too plodding and posing, more like a weightlifter than a matador.
Du Beke was impressed by the power and timing. Revel Horwood disagreed: it lacked any Spanish line, and it was too boxy and placed. Mabuse enjoyed the atmosphere, but also wanted more expansion. Ballas thought he was in charge and managed to get his pro partner Dianne (not Diana) Buswell’s name right for the first time in this series. 6 from Revel Horwood to 9 from Du Beke, for a confused 31.