It was a homecoming for Angela Rippon as she returned to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom – the venue from which she once presented Strictly’s forebear, Come Dancing. However, her American smooth left her trailing the others with a score of just 28. Blackpool might well be her fitting swansong.
Elsewhere, the 10s were falling like confetti for Ellie Leach’s energetic Charleston, Layton Williams’s club-style Couple’s Choice, and – in a breakthrough for the other Angela – Angela Scanlon’s intense Argentine tango. But Craig Revel Horwood refused to succumb to the Blackpool hysteria and kept his 10 paddle hidden. The wait for the perfect 40 continues.
It’s surely Rippon in the dance-off on Sunday night, but who will join her? Most likely Nigel Harman following several mistakes in his quickstep – but voters may intervene. Join us for the results show on Sunday night at 7:20pm on BBC One.
Bobby gets the party started
Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell opened the show with a rocking jive to Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. He had surprisingly great control of his long limbs: sharp and accurately placed kicks and flicks, compact steps, he matched Buswell perfectly in the side-by-side sections, and good basics like the toe heel swivels. The sprung floor definitely helped add impact, especially as his energy dropped significantly towards the end and his feet got flatter. 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35. My score: 8
Angela has a full-circle moment
A vintage tea dance for Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington, dancing to Ella Fitzgerald, plus a great frock for the Dame with huge feathered shoulders. Alas, she never really took flight on the massive floor; the sedate foxtrot was more walking than dancing, the transitions were bumpy, and we missed the pizzazz of the American smooth. The kick line was a fun touch, but she got out of time with the group, and the big lifts involved a lot of work from Widdrington and the others. Still, Rippon was a joyful performer as always, and it was a lovely moment of dance history. 6, 7, 7, 8 –28. My score: 7
Layton splits opinion with pole-dancing
Well, this will prove to be a Marmite routine. Williams has been accused of over-relying on his pre-Strictly experience – this leather-clad, club-style, commercial dance Couple’s Choice to Christina Aguilera pretty much exemplified it, with its booty-shaking and (a first for Strictly at Blackpool) pole-dancing! They also didn’t quite deliver the routine in sync. Williams looked even more like a soloist, especially with the extra dancers on the floor. But some amazing full-on choreography here, and jaw-dropping leg lifts and tricks; no one else in the show could have managed it. 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39. My score: 9
Annabel is a ballroom beauty
What a gorgeous Viennese waltz-based American smooth from Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe, dancing to Unchained Melody. They whirled around that huge Blackpool floor, combining power with serenity. These two have quietly become an inspiring partnership, with Johannes’s emotional expressiveness meeting Croft’s quiet stoicism and creating something new and rather moving. Generally strong technique here too: calm frame, good but sometimes skippy footwork, and beautifully placed arms – she just needs to soften her hands too. 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35. My score: 8
Ellie takes big risks with huge lifts
A bit too much “messing about” at the beginning of Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola’s upbeat Charleston to Girls Aloud’s Love Machine, plus her trainers made her foot placement look messy, but fab bouncy, lindy hop style, and athletic, extraordinary lifts – I loved the one where she flipped right over Coppola’s head and into the arms of two backing dancers. Wow! She’s become totally fearless, but overall not my favourite of theirs – ambitious, yes, but frantic. 9, 10, 10, 10 – 39. My score: 9
Angela dances a red-hot tango
The Argentine tango is a counterintuitive choice for Blackpool, but Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu gained some measure of intimacy, and lots of drama, via a circle of flashing red lights (plus no extra dancers, thankfully). Add in Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and this was seriously atmospheric. Scanlon matched it with her best performance to date, really connecting with Gu, plus great control over her leg action and posture. But it did lack that spontaneous feeling of lead/follow in places, and could have used a few more dramatic accents: Scanlon just needs to let go. 8, 10, 10, 10 – 38. My score: 9
Nigel brings the showbiz glam
The fabulous old-school Blackpool number came from Nigel Harman (in a white tail suit) and Katya Jones, dancing a quickstep to It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). This routine was Harman the consummate leading man, in and out of hold – the latter’s jazzy sections really played to his musical theatre strengths, and made him look like a pro. What a shame about the numerous mistakes, though; Harman can be maddeningly inconsistent. At least he kept it going, and kept a smile on his face. 7, 8, 8, 8 – 31. My score: 8
Layton and Nikita – 39
Ellie and Vito – 39
Angela S and Carlos – 38
Bobby and Dianne – 35
Annabel and Johannes – 35
Nigel and Katya – 31
Angela R and Kai – 28
Everyone joins the group dance
Even the judges couldn’t resist taking to the Blackpool floor in a giddy Charleston-based opening group number. Johannes Radebe and Luba Mushtuk (who both looked like sparkly Christmas trees in their green jumpsuits) led us into a secret speakeasy, where all the professionals, plus extra dancers, the remaining celebrities and the judges joined forces. Bonus points for Angela Rippon flirting with Nikita Kuzmin, Angela Scanlon really embracing the party spirit, and for Anton Du Beke dancing on the table.
Angela Rippon talks ‘foxtrot with knobs on’
That’s how she terms their glamorous Hollywood number, danced to Ella Fitzgerald, in her latest Telegraph Strictly diary.
Rippon also shares her Blackpool memories, how tense the competition is getting, and how all this of training necessitated a trip to the physio.