From Come Dancing to Strictly Come Dancing, and from one televised Blackpool show to another, it was, as we kept hearing on Saturday night, a full-circle moment for Angela Rippon. It felt right, then, that her tea dance-themed American smooth wound up being her graceful exit from the BBC competition.
The judges bowed to viewers’ wishes after combined scores and votes placed Rippon in her third consecutive dance-off. She had out-lasted Adam Thomas and Krishnan Guru-Murthy, but couldn’t defeat Bobby Brazier’s bouncy jive. It took the baby of the contest, 20-year-old Brazier, to call time on the 79-year-old Rippon’s impressive run.
Still, we can add her wonderful Strictly performances to that unforgettable Morecambe and Wise moment – all of which made a nation smile. There is nothing like a dame.
Angela bids farewell
The undoubted highlight of this season’s opening show was our sprightly septuagenarian lifting that leg – and more, and more, and still more – in her Shirley Bassey cha cha cha, one fabulous diva dancing to another. In just two minutes, Rippon emphatically proved that you can dance at any age, and that it gives you a glorious new lease of life.
She continued to charm in routines like her Sound of Music quickstep, her sensual rumba and Argentine tango, her playful Charleston and her fight-back paso doble. She largely kept pace with an extremely strong cast; only in recent weeks has she seemed to flag, perhaps because of the rib injury that she mentioned in her Telegraph Strictly Diary.
But she can be very proud of her time on the show, majestically partnered by the lovely Kai Widdrington (who still deserves a real shot at the title after just missing out on the final with AJ Odudu – hopefully next year). She’s been a class act, and she’s beautifully bridged two significant eras for ballroom dancing.
Speaking to Tess Daly, Rippon called Strictly “the most terrifying, the most fantastic, the most glorious, the most joyful” experience, adding that it had been “the time of [her] life”. She called Widdrington “an old soul on young shoulders” with “the patience of a saint”, adding “You’ve got me here so don’t you dare cry!”
An emotional Widdrington echoed her saying that he hadn’t even been born when she did Come Dancing; he’d had to ask his parents about her Morecambe and Wise moment. But despite the 50-year age gap between him and Rippon, “we’re like mates”. He concluded: “Dancing with you has been such a celebration of yourself. It’s been my absolute honour.”
The judges are back on the same page
Last week saw head judge Shirley Ballas disagree with the rest of the panel for the first time this season. But this straightforward dance-off (Brazier had received 35 points on Saturday night to Rippon’s 28) saw them return to their unanimous decision.
Craig Revel Horwood said that Brazier and partner Dianne Buswell had given the standout performance, so they got his vote. Motsi Mabuse praised both couples for dancing beautifully, but agreed that Brazier should go through.
Anton Du Beke called it a marvellous dance-off, and was particularly tickled that Rippon thanked one of the backing dancers for lifting her so gracefully, however he chose to save Brazier. Ballas’s vote wasn’t needed, but she confirmed that she too would have saved Brazier.
Nigel is rescued by viewers
As we enter the exciting final stages of the season, we’re starting to get a sense of where our remaining couples rank with voters. Previously, many of them have been so high up on the leaderboard that they’ve been automatically safe; now, practically everyone is in danger.
Nigel Harman was second to bottom on the leaderboard after making a few errors in his otherwise delightful quickstep. Did viewers decide that the judges had marked him too harshly, given how much pizzazz his performance had otherwise? Revel Horwood’s 7 seemed especially mean.
Or is this an indication that Harman has a rock-solid voting base, either from projects like EastEnders, Casualty, Downton Abbey and his stage musicals, or from his charismatic performances with his creative partner Katya Jones – or both? He’s also the last man standing, in the sense that twentysomethings Layton Williams and Bobby Brazier appeal to a younger demographic, which could help him in this final stretch.
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe continue to win through with their fanbase – could they surprise everyone and go all the way to the final? Conversely, it’s a slight worry for Brazier that he slipped down into the dance-off this week. But then his show-opening jive was fun but forgettable, and this was a tight leaderboard with two sets of tied places.
We’re just wild about Harry
The pink- and purple-velvet-clad Strictly professionals – led by Nancy Xu and Carlos Gu – opened the results show by dancing to a limp medley of songs by Harry Styles. “What has this to do with the fabled Blackpool Tower Ballroom?” you ask. “When have we ever found logic in these increasingly ridiculous group dances?” I wearily reply, as the pros quickstep round this huge BALLROOM floor in my head.
We also had a performance from Madness – no, not one of their hits, but new song, from their 13th studio album, C’est La Vie. They were accompanied by pros Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Jowita Przystał, Gorka Márquez, Michelle Tsiakkas and Neil Jones, doing slinky Latin dancing and (in Bychkova’s case) majestic hair-ography. Still a waste of that big floor. No, I’m not over it.