With 10 couples left in the competition, the heat is intensifying on Strictly Come Dancing 2018.
Last weekend saw comedian Seann Walsh and his partner Katya Jones leave the competition after a scandalous couple of weeks. They lost the dance-off to Graeme Swann and his partner Oti Mabuse.
With Blackpool now in everyone’s sights, no one wants to be the next couple to leave so everyone (tried to) put their best foot forward during tonight’s live show. Who soared and who crashed and burned?
Find out how everyone got on…
Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard
Lauren had a breakthrough last week with her Paso Doble – could she and AJ keep the momentum up for their Jive to Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend? In training AJ took Lauren to a skate park to get in the move for their dance, whilst she spoke about keeping her steps small and the challenge of AJ’s stunt moves, as well as her desire to break the 30 point barrier.
The dance: The routine opened with AJ skateboarding across the dancefloor and talking to a girl in the audience, before Lauren pulled him into the dance. I was really impressed with Lauren’s performance – she hit all the musical accents, had great synchronisation with AJ, sharp kicks and flicks and impressive armography, and moved across the floor well. She also coped well with the tricks and brought plenty of fun and personality too. It was an entertaining start to the show and should see her safely through to next week.
The comments: Shirley said Lauren’s confidence is growing week by week and praised her core strength as AJ leapt over her. Bruno ‘dug’ the attitude and coolness and thought it was sharp, cool and clear. Craig thought there was a slight hesitation in Lauren’s first series of kicks but it was the liveliest and most energetic he’d seen her. Darcey liked Lauren’s energy and stamina, but wanted her to work on expressing the character of the dance.
The score: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31 out of 40
Graeme Swann and Oti Mabuse
After being in the bottom two last week, Graeme and Oti were hoping to bounce back with their Waltz to The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck. In training Graeme spoke about wanting to do the dance justice as it meant so much to his grandparents, whilst he and Oti met up with his parents in the park and showed them some of their routine.
The dance: Dressed in white tie and tails, Graeme started his routine dancing in a gazebo before he and Oti moved onto the dancefloor. It was a fluid, romantic performance, with great posture and top line from Graeme and nice rise and fall. I also thought he led Oti really well and had some lovely footwork. There was a little wobble near the end, but overall this was a simple, classic, gorgeous routine and definitely a return to form.
The comments: Bruno said Graeme was like a swan and the improvement in the quality of movement was ‘insane’. Craig thought his topline was out and he lost his balance on the pivots, but liked seeing Graeme’s serious side. Darcey felt Graeme captured the style and it was a touching performance with good control, but wanted smoother transitions and more focus. Shirley said Graeme had hugely improved from last week and praised his whisk and natural turn, as well as the gentlemanly quality of the routine.
The score: 6, 7, 8, 8 – 29 out of 40
Kate Silverton and Aljaž Škorjanec
Tonight Kate became the first celebrity to take on the Argentine Tango this series, with her and Aljaz’s routine to John Powell’s Assassin’s Tango. In training Kate spoke about moving on from her mixed comments last week, whilst she found the precision of the dance difficult. She also received a visit from fellow broadcasters Katie Derham and Angela Catherwood.
The dance: Kate has always excelled when she gets to show her dramatic, sultry side and this was no exception. I thought she and Aljaz had absolutely smouldering chemistry and fantastic control, particularly in the lifts. There were a couple of balance issues and I’d have liked more pointed toes in her kicks, but otherwise it was a strong, powerful, dramatic routine that set a high bar for the Argentine Tangos to come.
The comments: Craig said it was stuck in the mud and needed to be lighter and looser. Darcey was impressed by Kate’s storytelling and the intimacy of the dance, but thought she needed more resistance in the lifts. Shirley said Kate’s ganchos were superb but missed the chemistry and thought it looked laboured. Bruno thought there were some great shapes and beautiful lines but warned Kate not to hold back.
The score: 4, 6, 6, 7 – 23 out of 40
Dr Ranj Singh and Janette Manrara
After last week’s disappointing comments on his Jive, Dr Ranj and Janette had a chance to return to form with their Samba to Freedom 90 by George Michael. In training Dr Ranj spoke about his mistakes in last week’s Jive and determination to work harder, whilst Janette took him to a fireworks display in a bid to lift his spirits.
The dance: I really thought this dance would suit Dr Ranj, but sadly it was a bit of a disappointment. Whilst he brought plenty of personality and fun to the routine as usual and pulled off the tricks really well, unfortunately for me it lacked bounce and was a bit too skippy. Not his strongest dance for me personally and I’m worried he could find himself in the dance-off tomorrow.
The comments: Darcey thought Ranj came out and sold it, as well as having good energy and natural bounce. Shirley said Ranj commanded the room and had lovely rotation, whilst Bruno thought he covered his mistakes well. Craig said the dance suited Ranj but the voltas needed work and there were timing issues.
The score: 6, 7, 7, 7- 27 out of 40
Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton
This week it was Stacey and Kevin’s turn to take on the Couple’s Choice with their Street/Commercial routine to Alicia Keys’ Empire State Of Mind (Part II). In training Stacey spoke about her unconventional career path and how much of a departure Strictly is from her day job, whilst battling on from bruising her ribs earlier this week.
The dance: I thought Stacey acted this routine brilliantly and really conveyed the emotion and character of the dance. It was precise and clean with a lovely celebratory feel, and I loved the romantic quality to it as well. She coped well with the lifts and changes of pace and it all added up to an utterly joyful performance.
The comments: Shirley said it was a ‘fantastic’ modern twist on Street/Commercial and Stacey has grown incredibly. Bruno loved the imagination and thought it was flawless and packed with different elements. Craig said it was ‘absolutely everything I love’. Darcey liked the contemporary fusion and lyrical moments, as well as Stacey’s sass and coolness, but wanted her to bring her weight forward.
The score: 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36 out of 40
Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden
Danny and Amy received mixed feedback for their American Smooth last week, and tonight they faced the challenge of a Quickstep to Pharell Williams’ Freedom. In training Danny and Amy spoke about their scores for their American Smooth, whilst dealing with the speed of the routine and remembering all the different techniques.
The dance: This was a lively and bright Quickstep with some lovely jazzy touches and really brought out Danny’s personality. I thought his footwork had a lovely lightness to it and he travelled around the floor really well, with good posture and top line. However for me there wasn’t enough speed and it all consequently felt a bit flat, but Danny’s showmanship should hopefully see him through to next week.
The comments: Bruno said Danny covered up his mistakes well and praised his confidence. Craig thought nerves and adrenaline took over because it went completely out of whack, whilst Darcey thought it was light and effortless in the moments that went right and Danny had almost superb top line. Shirley thought Danny didn’t recover from the misstep but appreciated his skill.
The score: 4, 6, 5, 7 – 22 out of 40
Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev
Ashley and Pasha topped the leaderboard with their Charleston last week – but could they stay there with their Foxtrot to Orange Coloured Sky by Natalie Cole? In training Ashley and Pasha met her former Pussycat Dolls bandmate Kimberley and her children in the park and showed them a bit of their routine, whilst Ashley spoke about the challenge of going back to a Ballroom dance.
The dance: I loved the storytelling and old-school romantic feel of this routine, which felt like something straight from an old Hollywood movie. Ashley acted the dance really well and moved across the floor nicely, with good top line and lovely footwork. However, in contrast to the gapping in her previous Ballroom routines, at times it almost felt like she was hanging on to Pasha. But overall this was another stellar performance and should see her scoring highly again.
The comments: Craig said it was a proper Foxtrot and that he loved it, whilst Darcey said Ashley made it her own and took the bait of Pasha’s complicated steps. Shirley called it exquisite and classic. Bruno said it was like watching Ashley Rogers and Pasha Astaire, and delicious down to every detail.
The score: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 out of 40
Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice
Last week Faye and Giovanni scored their first 10s of the competition – would they add to their total tonight with their Tango to Blondie’s Call Me? In training Faye spoke about finding it difficult to learn the dance and her determination to make it great.
The dance: Faye and Giovanni began their routine dancing around and inside a giant cube, with the routine featuring plenty of dramatic tricks (including one spectacular neck drop!) and sharp footwork. It was great to see a different side of Faye and I thought she coped really well with the precision of the routine, as well as bringing drama, attack and drive by the truckload.
The comments: Darcey praised Faye’s intensity, passion and clipped changes, as well as her control. Shirley thought there were phenomenal moments and lots of splashes of colour, but criticised Faye’s turned-out feet. Bruno said it was ‘tighter than Craig’s girdle’ and that Faye didn’t miss a beat. However, Craig felt the cube was a failure as not much happened in it.
The score: 9, 10, 9, 10 – 38 out of 40
Charles Venn and Karen Clifton
Charles and Karen found themselves back in the dreaded 25 Club with last week’s routine, but could they get past that tonight with their Viennese Waltz to Piano Man by Billy Joel? In training Karen took Charles to a pub to get them in the mood for their dance, whilst Charles’ son Lucas came to visit them in the training room (and even learnt a couple of moves himself!).
The dance: Charles definitely brought out his romantic side with this routine. He had lovely extensions through his hand and moved around the floor nicely, with a great top line and nice rise and fall. I also thought he showed off Karen really well and had good control in the slower steps too. For me he’s improving week by week and is becoming one to watch.
The comments: Shirley said it was genuine and sincere and that Charles had wonderful timing, but wanted more glide across the floor. Bruno thought Charles could play the romantic lead in his sleep and his musicality has improved enormously. Craig felt there was too much rise and fall and Charles’ posture was pedestrian, but loved watching him and thought he acted it beautifully. Darcey thought the storytelling was lovely but wanted Charles’ frame to be more consistent.
The score: 6, 7, 7, 8 – 28 out of 40
Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell
This week Joe and Dianne had the daunting task of closing the show with their Paso Doble, danced to Pompeii by Bastille. In training Joe spoke about how pleased he was with last week’s scores and comments, but struggled with getting into the masculine character of the dance.
The dance: Joe bravely took on a solo opening to the routine, with good shaping in his arms and plenty of command. I thought he had great control and led Dianne well around the floor, and had some nice sharp musical accents too. For me I would have liked a bit more Spanish line in the body and more polished hands, but he had excellent drive throughout and it was a very strong finish to the evening.
The comments: Bruno called Joe a ‘lean mean Paso Doble machine’ and liked how he stretched his lines. Craig thought it was wooden and overplaced at times, but ‘loved, loved, loved’ the routine. Darcey said it was dramatic and powerful and that Joe has turned into a very nice dancer, whilst Shirley gave him another hug and said it was ‘amazing’.
The score: 7, 9, 9, 9 – 34 out of 40
The leaderboard for the evening was:
Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev – 39
Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice – 38
Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton – 36
Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell – 34
Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard – 31
Graeme Swann and Oti Mabuse – 29
Charles Venn and Karen Clifton – 28
Dr Ranj Singh and Janette Manrara – 27
Kate Silverton and Aljaž Škorjanec – 23
Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden – 22
Strictly Come Dancing 2018 continues tomorrow night at 7.50pm on BBC One. Take a look at all the couples in rehearsal earlier today in our gallery below…