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Brendan Cole on Strictly: Some serious over-marking but a shock elimination week is brewing and it could be now

It's about that time isn't it?

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We are getting close to the halfway point of this latest series of Strictly Come Dancing and we've certainly whittled down some of the less able contestants. I guess it must be almost time to start seeing a few shock eliminations. Could this be the week where a favourite goes home or do we still have a few hangers-on that need to Foxtrot out of there and leave the serious competition to the rest? Last week they closed the show, this week they opened it? AJ and Lauren performed a nice routine geared toward the kids and according to their Video Tape, a need to break their elusive 30 point score? Surprise, surprise… 31 Points! According to Shirley, Lauren attempted her 'signature move' and apparently to stand there and not wobble whilst AJ jumped over her head deserved congratulating. Fair enough, although this doesn't say much about her actual Jiving ability. Meanwhile Darcey seemed to think that Lauren out-danced AJ on the stamina front.

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AJ and Lauren were over-marked

Why is it that because someone is an athlete they automatically out-perform their pro? AJ put more energy into that Jive than I’ve seen from anyone to date this series, presumably to make up for the lack of it coming from Lauren. Don't get me wrong as she danced quite a good Jive compared to her normal standard and I liked the dance as a number but the praise and the comments were too high in my opinion for an ok and rather two-dimensional Jive. Did I miss something? 7-8-8-8 from the judges…where do they go from here?

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Up next, one of my favourite couples of the 2018 lineup, performing my favourite dance the Waltz. Graeme dressed to perfection in a tail suit and Oti in a beautiful gown, a romantic story even bringing in his parents into the VT… It's a big build up, so did they deliver? Absolutely! Definitely a beautiful dance and he certainly knows how to warm a heart or two. Over all, it really was a very pretty number and he's starting to understand the art of Ballroom, where with the right technique, frame, rotation and partnering between two people, a dance becomes effortless. Still needs work on all of these fronts but if he continues on this path, I for one will continue to be excited to see what they do next.

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Graeme and Oti gave a beautiful performance

Next up, Kate and Aljaz. I have been disappointed in the last two weeks with Kate's dances but an Argentine Tango (the first of the series), is one dance that can change everything. You can blow people away with it and a great one can be a free ride all the way to the final. Not for Kate on this occasion. It started well but once again, there was a stiffness within her dance. Her body doesn't seem to breath as she moves. Everything is held with a sterile stillness and any lift just looked heavy and cumbersome. With Argentine Tango being a foot orientated dance the attention to foot placement, of which there was some, just drew my attention to her lower heeled shoe and slightly heavy foot. On Strictly, every detail matters and none more so than in this style of dance. I feel really mean saying this about her as I really liked what they delivered in the first few weeks but she needs to step out of her comfort zone in a dance like this and blow us away.

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Dr Ranj! You cannot fault him for performance! He smiles throughout, he gives it everything he's got and in any Samba you need a little flamboyance. I wish he could dance bigger! Every step is just so little… I want him to break out and in a major way. As my wife Zoe has just said "it’s like being mean to a puppy, you just can’t be!" As a Samba and in the company he’s keeping on this series, it wasn't good enough but he is infectious and it's a great partnership.

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You just can't be mean to Dr Ranj!

Street Commercial for Stacey and Kevin. If you don’t know by now my feelings on Street Commercial being introduced to the show you can probably guess! It's very hard to like something that you don't enjoy as a style within this Strictly environment but I can’t say she didn't dance it well. Apart from possibly being a little too smiley, she got it spot on. Some great elements of choreography within it but compare it to other things we see on the show and I’m shaking my head. And then to the scores! 9-9-9-9! As an ex-pro, I always like to look behind at the other contestants when the scores are given… you can read what you like into anything I suppose but for me when the four 9’s came the fixed smiles on everyone’s faces behind spoke volumes to me. To give Stacey her credit on her dance, low training hours didn’t impact how well she performed what she was given so really well done to both of them.

Danny and Amy…looking at their training footage (which is nice to see, BBC), this should be good! I have to be honest, I hated the music and the choreography wasn’t to my taste. If he hadn’t gone so wrong throughout, it would have been a very good technical display of a Quickstep. Had he not made those mistakes, I would have liked to see him lose his stiff approach that we’ve seen in a lot of his dances. He’s so talented but yet I’m not excited yet. How you get a 6 and a 7 for so many mistakes is a worry for the other contestants! Here we go…

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Faye and Giovanni impressed with a dramatic Tango

Pasha and Ashley and a Foxtrot! If this isn't beautiful, I'm turning off the telly! Apart from Pasha not wearing a tail suit (or at least a tie), the only thing I could fault within this number is the sighting of a rope pulling the set (which still looked fantastic)! Sorry Props boys - miss you guys! A lovely Foxtrot and the tele stays on. Foxtrot action isn't an easy one to get and she was superb on this. If you want hyper critical critique, when going backwards there should have been a lifting of the toe or dragging of the heel to control the action and when going forward her feet were turned out when they should be more parallel! Perfection ain't easy!

Faye and Giovanni… my favourite girl…, brilliant as always. Very dramatic and a great performance. Technically I could go to town on this though. As Shirley mentioned and as with Ashley, the feet need to be parallel, in this, it’s vital. When closing the feet the right foot slips into the inset of the left foot, without this you can't achieve an amazing Tango. Their performance however - Bravo! From the judges 9-10-9-10. 10’s with these issues… Once again I’m shaking my head.

Charles and Karen doing a Viennese Waltz was beautiful - as were they on the dance floor. It did go up and down a little too much and needed more power. The judges were praising his musicality yet for me, he needed to sit behind the music more. He was absolutely in time but with this one you need to dance through the music not on it. I really liked it though and I’m chuffed for them both that they’re still there and still dancing beautiful stuff - they deserve it and a nice reaction from everyone one their scores.

Joe danced a pretty good Paso Doblé, slightly over acted on occasion but you can’t blame him for that. He was in character and stayed there from start to finish. I feel like the choreography let him down on this one and didn’t show him off at his best. I’m thinking the Judges might be angling for some of his followers as the hugs and the three 9’s was funny to watch - I actually yelled at the telly! But well done Joe for a really good attempt at a Paso, you didn’t need to be muscly, you needed inner power and you had it.

As we are nearly at the halfway point, I’m getting tough on the contestants but overall, still an incredible show and loads of excitement from the talent still to come.

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