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It’s finally here! The nation eagerly gathered around their TV sets this weekend for a much needed Strictly fix. But who sparkled under the spotlight, and who was more dustcart than dancer?
Week one’s tan-factor: Lightly tea-stained.
Kicking off Friday night’s action was soap star Ashley Taylor Dawson, who was loud and proud in a fushia shirt, and danced the cha cha with gorgeous partner – and Strictly stalwart – Ola Jordan. It was an admirable perfomance, not least because he had the added fear-factor of performing first. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the fact that his wife was due to give birth at any moment! Ashley talked about how exhausting he was finding his schedule – Tess seemed too kind to point out that there’ll be sleepless nights to add in to the mix shortly!
The judges seemed to like his moves, and we even saw Len’s first ‘Severrrrrrn!’ of the season, to the collected delight of audience and viewers.
Then it was time for Strictly’s first ever golfing contestant, Tony Jacklin. Tony looked dapper alongside partner Aliona, and we loved their train station-inspired set, which brought to mind Sunday afternoon favourite Brief Encounter. However, the judges weren’t quite as swept away by the romance, and Bruno even described him as a ‘Galapagos tortoise!’ Poor Tony, we hope he’ll come back fighting next week.
We were pleasantly surprised by actor Mark Benton’s tango – as were the judges, with even Mr Meany Craig Revel Horwood admitting it was ‘intent, and full of purpose’. We’ve always considered tango to be one of the tougher dances, thanks to its combination of fancy footwork, head jerks and smouldering intensity – so an extra big pat on the back for Mark and partner Iveta Lukosiute. Our appetite is well and truly whetted for next week’s salsa!
Mark was followed by Susanna Reid, who we have high hopes for thanks to her obvious stamina (she’s used to long hours from her job at BBC Breakfast) and high fitness levels (she recently ran the London Marathon!) She didn’t disappoint, with an energy-packed jive, and even a (slightly less successful!) cartwheel. It was great to see so much drive from the first show, and it’s clear that new professional Kevin will get the best from her. The judges enjoyed it too, with Len calling her ‘chicken soup for the eyes’, whatever that means…
Next was Sophie Ellis Bextor, and we caught a glimpse of her teary-eyed mum Janet Ellis in the crowd – bless! Sophie looked like a china dolly with her porcelain, and had the most beautiful dress of the night. But it wasn’t a case of style over substance, and her elegant dance to Moon River earned her a run of four sevens.
Finally for Friday, Corrie star Natalie Gumede and her partner Artem took to the floor, and (perhaps unsurprisingly, given her previous dance training) were rather brilliant. Craig was on the money when he called her a ‘front runner’. She gets three eights and one seven – amazing for a first dance.
We’re back again for the remaining dancers – those who have got it out of the way look rather smug, those still to dance look somewhat peaky!
Hunky rugby star Ben Cohen is first, and admits he struggles to hear the music with a 50% hearing loss, so it’s perhaps no wonder his timing is a bit out. Still, he more than makes up for it by keeping a dazzling smile plastered to his face throughout!
We’re excited to see former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton shaking her tail feather, and she looks incredible as a lady in red for a tango with Anton. She starts out full of vigour, before self doubt begins to creep in. Don’t worry Fiona, as Len said: ‘At the beginning you were sharp as a lemon tart!’ We predict that with a bit of a confidence boost (sure to come from lovely Anton) she’s one to watch.
Then comes comedy, courtesy of Hairy Biker Dave Myers, and his stunning partner Karen – who admits from the start she’s concerned about his posture. Well, one thing she doesn’t need to worry about is his ability to cheer up a crowd! Darcey is left in hysterics by his lively cha cha, and she claims to be: ‘strangely in love’. Craig, predictably, is less enamoured, describing the number as ‘terrifying’.
Time for maths whiz Rachel Riley to wow with a graceful waltz, which the judges feel is too ‘careful’ but has natural elegance.
Fashion designer Julian Macdonald reaches an almost feverish level of excitement during his cha cha to Madonna’s Vogue, and wears so many sparkles that we have to adjust our sets!
Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meadon and the lovely Robin Windsor take to the stage for a sultry tango, and the judges receive a pleasant surprise – even Craig is pleased! The consensus is that mistakes were made, but it was a confident start for the business expert.
Then actor Patrick Robinson bursts onto our screens, with a zingy jive that leaves our toes tapping. It’s almost impossible to believe that a) he’s pushing 50, b) he has a knee injury and c) he’s actually rather shy! Craig praises his rhythm and energy, and we agree.
Next up, Vanessa Feltz, who says her decision to take part came from her daughter’s pregnancy – she wants to ‘do it for all the grandmas out there’. Her notorious confidence hasn’t yet translated itself onto the dance floor, and the result is rather restrained – Len wants more ‘flash, bang, whallop.’ Her inner feisty lady comes out, and she stands up for herself, complaining about wearing a tight girdle and suffering a hot flush – you go girl!
Finally, model Abbey Clancy sweeps across the floor for an effortless waltz. The music, the lighting and, of course, the quality of her dancing, closes the show on a dreamy note, and she manages to scoop four eights!
All in all, it was an exciting first weekend, demonstrating plenty of promise from our newbie dancers. We can’t wait to see Fiona try her feet at Latin dances, or Dave whirling around the ballroom – bring on the weekend!