Nine couples remain on Strictly Come Dancing 2018 and the competition is anyone’s to win still at this stage.
Last weekend saw Dr. Ranj Singh and his partner Janette Manrara depart the competition. The couples are only one week away from Blackpool and this morning there were rumours of trouble between Red Dwarf star Danny John-Jules and his professional partner Amy Dowden, which they’ve both denied.
As the competition intensifies, and the celebrities start to get tired, tonight was the potential mid-point slump of the competition. Did the couples manage to pull it out of the bag?
Find out how everyone got on…
Kate Silverton and Aljaž Škorjanec
After last week’s wobble in their Argentine Tango, could Kate and Aljaz get back on track with their wedding-themed Quickstep to Letters To Cleo’s I Want You To Want Me? In training Kate struggled with the lock step, whilst her husband dropped in to reminisce about their wedding day.
The dance: Kate had the biggest grin on her face throughout and this routine definitely made me smile too. She captured the fun, playful nature of the dance really well, had good speed across the floor, nice synchronisation with Aljaz and great energy throughout. I thought she coped particularly well with the rotations too. She did lose her top line a bit towards the end, but this was a solid start to the show and she’s going from strength to strength in Ballroom.
The comments: Shirley said it was a bright, light, crisp routine and Kate didn’t miss a beat, but wanted her to stride forward in her pivots. Bruno thought Kate regained the freedom of movement and it was joyful, saying ‘welcome back’. Craig said ‘that’s a bit more like it’ and that there was a vast improvement, particularly praising Kate’s confidence and hands. Darcey agreed there was a lot of gapping but thought it was a ‘delight from beginning to end’.
The score: 7, 7, 8, 8 – 30 out of 40
Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden
It’s been a bit of a difficult week for Danny – he and Amy found themselves at the bottom of the leaderboard for their Quickstep before weathering rumours of a difficult relationship. Could they put that behind them with a Samba themed around Danny’s Dominican heritage, danced to Feels Like Home by Sigala, Fuse ODG, Sean Paul and Kent Jones? In training Danny spoke about wanting to celebrate his heritage and do his family proud.
The dance: This was more like what we’ve come to expect from Danny, with sharp moves, lightness on his feet and great hip action. He definitely brought his showmanship qualities to the routine and I thought he and Amy had a great relationship throughout. I would have liked a bit more bounce and his free hands were slightly unfinished, but this was a joyful and lively dance which should see him back near the top of the leaderboard.
The comments: Bruno said Danny went for it like a Dominican express, but wanted his movements to be less staccato. Craig thought it was stiff and spiky and needed more fluidity, and wanted Danny to calm down a bit. Darcey said there were no mistakes but it needed more undulating body action. Shirley thought it was a miracle compared to last week, but wanted more fluidity in Danny’s upper body.
The score: 6, 7, 7, 7 – 27 out of 40
Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev
Ashley topped the leaderboard for the second week in a row last week. Could she and Pasha make it three with their Contemporary Couples’ Choice routine to the X Ambassadors remix of Erich Lee’s Gravity? In training Ashley spoke about discovering her love of performing and pursuing her career in the Pussycat Dolls, as well as the impact of losing her dad. She also received an emotional phone call from her mum.
The dance: I thought Ashley did a brilliant job of conveying the emotion of this routine. Her solo opening was controlled yet balletic, the lifts were fluid throughout and she and Pasha were in perfect synchronisation. It was an incredibly expressive and dramatic routine which was full of storytelling and I found the whole thing incredibly moving. Another standout performance that showed why she’s still the one to beat.
The comments: Craig called Ashley ‘absolutely super-incredible’ and praised her extension and elevation, but wanted more breath towards the end. Darcey disagreed – she loved the fluidity and Ashley’s emotional expression, and said it ‘took [her] breath away’. Shirley said it was sincere and from the heart, whilst Bruno called it ‘a hauntingly beautiful tribute, danced to perfection’.
The score: 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39 out of 40
Graeme Swann and Oti Mabuse
This week Graeme and Oti took on a 1980s workout-themed Salsa to Follow The Leader by Soca Boys. In training Graeme and Oti worked with a specialist choreographer, as well as getting some tips from Kate and Aljaz. Graeme also spoke about his determination to get to Blackpool – would this dance get him on his way there?
The dance: The routine started with a dramatic lift before launching into a high-energy performance. I thought it really suited Graeme’s personality and sense of fun, as well as playing to his strengths. He and Oti had great synchronisation throughout, he had great hip action and coped well with the lifts too. At times it did get a bit too frenetic but thankfully he managed to rein it in, and it all added up to another entertaining performance.
The comments: Darcey ‘strangely loved’ it, praising the concept and Graeme’s body isolations and that he was fearless in the lifts. Shirley thought it was full of impact, bright and jolly with plenty of rhythm despite the mistakes. Bruno wanted Graeme to release a workout DVD, whilst Craig said it was one of the oddest Salsas he’d ever seen on the show but Graeme handled the complex routine well.
The score: 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31 out of 40
Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice
Tonight Faye and Giovanni danced a Jive to Jackie Wilson’s classic Reet Petite. In training Faye struggled with the speed of the dance, whilst she also received a message from British troops in Oman who are supporting her and Giovanni (as well as showing off some moves of their own!) which made her very emotional.
The dance: This was a light, bright and fun routine from Faye, who played the role of the 1950s siren to perfection. She and Giovanni were in sync throughout, her kicks and flicks were sharp and controlled, and there was a lovely humorous quality to the routine as well. It did take a little while to get going but this was another strong routine which should definitely see Faye heading up to Blackpool next week.
The comments: Shirley thought the dance lacked changes of energy and wanted Faye to delve into the dynamic a bit more. Bruno thought it was ‘picture-perfect’ and particularly praised Faye’s Anne Miller-esque series of flicks, calling it precise and compact with immaculate styling. Craig loved it, whilst Darcey thought Faye coped with the speed really well and had great balance.
The score: 9, 9, 8, 10 – 36 out of 40
Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton
Last week Stacey got her highest score of the series so far, and tonight she showed off a different side to her as she and Kevin danced a Waltz to Audrey Hepburn’s Moon River. In training Stacey spoke about her and Kevin’s weekly routine, as well as her struggles with the tumble turn step and determination to deliver a good performance.
The dance: What an utterly gorgeous routine from Stacey. The dance had a lovely flow to it and the most beautiful romantic quality, and her movement around the floor looked completely effortless. She pulled off the tumble turn very well too. I would have liked a bit more extension in her legs and her shoulders were a little high, but this was a dreamy Waltz which brought out Stacey’s elegant ladylike side.
The comments: Bruno said Stacey looked natural and praised the effort on her footwork, but wanted her to maintain the flow through her arms. Craig agreed she needed more expression in her upper body but said it was a well-studied performance. Darcey liked Stacey’s natural quality and connection but wanted her to finish every line. Shirley thought it needed more flow throughout but said it was ‘absolutely lovely’.
The score: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32 out of 40
Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell
Tonight Joe and Dianne performed a Samba to MMMBop by Hanson. In training Joe spoke about how much he’d enjoyed his Paso Doble last week, whilst Dianne talked him through the technical side of the routine. Joe also struggled with his co-ordination but it’s clear he desperately wants to go to Blackpool.
The dance: This was a bit of a mixed bag from Joe. He had great confidence throughout and I thought he had the best bounce and hop action I’ve seen in a Samba so far this series. His hands were finished off nicely too. However, the footwork alternated between skippy and stompy in places and his facial expressions were slightly over-the-top, and I thought it needed a bit more body action. But overall this was an entertaining and exuberant routine which was very enjoyable to watch.
The comments: Craig said it made him smile but was very over-exaggerated, whilst Darcey found Joe’s mouth distracting but praised him for giving his all. Shirley thought he gave it 100%. Bruno said Joe can bounce ‘if he wants to’ and praised how he pushed his hips.
The score: 7, 8, 8, 9 – 32 out of 40
Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard
Last week Lauren got her highest score yet – could she and AJ do even better tonight with their Viennese Waltz to Calum Scott and Leona Lewis’ You Are The Reason? In training Lauren spoke about dealing with the adaptations to the routine due to her disability, as well as the hope that she can inspire others and show you can do anything.
The dance: This was a sweet and moving routine from Lauren. Her posture and top line is coming on leaps and bounds, she had some beautiful footwork and I thought she moved across the floor really well. There was a nice blend of romance and passion in the storytelling of the dance too and I thought she and AJ had lovely chemistry together. It was nice to see yet another different side of her and I feel confident that she’ll make it to Blackpool next week.
The comments: Darcey said Lauren kept her flow and the transitions were seamless, as well as praising her body contact, but wanted a more exaggerated top line. Shirley said Lauren did the best pivot she’d ever seen and praised her top line and footwork. Bruno gave Lauren an enormous hug and said she’s getting better every week. Craig felt Lauren was dancing for the first time without judgement and called it ‘absolutely brilliant’.
The score: 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34 out of 40
Charles Venn and Karen Clifton
After finding themselves in the dance-off for the third time last week, Charles and Karen had a chance to bounce back with their Charleston to No Diggity by Minimatic. In training Charles spoke about his determination to keep fighting as well as dealing with the demands of the lifts and energy level needed for the routine.
The dance: I thought Charles captured the cheeky spirit of the routine really well, and his synchronisation with Karen was excellent. There were tons of tricks and lifts which he coped with brilliantly, the energy was great, and he completely embodied the character too. This slick and polished performance was a return to form for him, with shades of his breakthrough street dance routine from a few weeks ago, and a brilliant finish to the evening.
The comments: Shirley said Charles didn’t miss a beat and looked cool as a cucumber. Bruno thought it was sparkling and squeaky-clean and liked the hip-hop elements, calling it Charles’ best dance yet. Craig wanted Charles to go further with the eccentricity, whilst Darcey praised his strong characterisation and swivel.
The score: 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35 out of 40
The leaderboard for the evening was:
Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev – 39
Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice – 36
Charles Venn and Karen Clifton – 35
Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard – 34
Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton – 32
Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell – 32
Graeme Swann and Oti Mabuse – 31
Kate Silverton and Aljaž Škorjanec – 30
Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden – 27
Strictly Come Dancing 2018 continues tomorrow at 7.50pm on BBC One. Take a look at all the couples in rehearsal earlier today in our gallery below…