Brendan Cole on Strictly: Gloria Estefan, extra dancers, cheese and sparkle! The perfect Blackpool but a major error in judgement

There wasn't a lot not to like about Blackpool

I think I'm going to find it difficult to be negative about this one! Blackpool week is a favourite on the Strictly calendar for all taking part and of course the Strictly masses…the fans! Big viewing figures will be expected and nothing but cheese and glitter will burst through our screens. I for one am not a fan of cheese on my telly (don't mind a little glitter) but on this occasion it works and it probably wouldn't work without it. Quite the coup to get the real 'Queen of Latin' Gloria Estefan! She's had hit after hit that I for one have danced to many throughout my entire career! A big opening number with Gloria singing a medley of some of those very hits whilst being lead around by the Pro's - queue obligatory Blackpool feather and a massive dance celebration including the lucky few Celebs who have made it to this milestone week… and of course me old mucker Anton Du Beke! Brilliant!


Stacey and Kevin were the first couple to kick off the show

First up to kick off the contest is a Salsa from Stacey and Kevin. It's a full on fromage experience from start to finish. Their VT is as Blackpool as it gets, a bit staged and silly but spot on for the show and a fun set up for their number. In terms of the dancing, quality was lacking on some of the technical aspects. Simple things like the execution of coming in and out of the lifts let them down a little but with the difficulties of time constraints the couples face this week, it can be hard to perfect this kind of thing. Overall it was a very fun Salsa. Probably not what I would have started the show with but I'm not the Strictly producer and let's face it, they run a pretty successful show! Their outfits didn't match for me and the judges were rather generous with their praise as well as two nines, but it would be wrong to start this magnificent week on a downer.

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Ok, it didn’t take long! I've found a negative and I'm quite horrified! Cut to the introduction of Dave Arch, the band and Singers and OH MY BLOOMIN’ WORD! They are in their casual clothes, including a beanie hat on Tommy Blaize. This is the home of Ballroom dancing and there is no place for this on Strictly! Whoever made and/or allowed this decision is in the wrong job! I actually can't believe what I'm seeing!


Is there a potential romance blossoming between Lauren and AJ?

Back to the dancing and here we go.… Lauren and AJ delivering their Argentine Tango. This is the real reason people tune in in their millions to watch the show. Chemistry! Lauren and AJ have buckets of it including a long extended glance and a held position at the end of their very passionate dance. Wow, if my radar is firing, there is a potential romance blossoming on the dance floor and the chemistry is pouring out from my telly! I cannot agree in the slightest with the judges and their comments? What on earth did they not see live that I'm seeing before my very eyes on the TV? The dance was really good for her. I have said it before and will again now, she certainly isn't a natural dancer and she has the tendency to look quite stiff and two dimensional within her movement but what she achieved was once again higher than her usual standard and that is what this show is about. From where you start, there has to be a journey of improvement and the all-important 'chemistry' between you both as a partnership. At this rate, they're almost on course to win it!


Graeme and Oti bounced back from last week's Salsa

It's Theatre Jazz for Graeme and Oti and what a lovely VT showing Graeme's story and route to Strictly. This should be a great dance and it certainly is. He beams from ear to ear throughout, completely in character and executes everything to match the brilliance of his partner Oti. It's a proper Blackpool number, uplifting, fun, happy and a wee bit old school. Just to put it into perspective and this is not to take anything away from what they did but technically this style doesn’t have the same technical difficulties as any of the Ballroom or Latin dances so much easier to achieve a great dance. However, what they delivered was really lovely and it’s nice to see him recover from what I thought was a fairly disastrous Salsa last week. I normally agree with Craig but how Oti kept tight lipped during his nonsense evaluation I'll never know?

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Faye and Giovanni complement each other so well

On to Faye and Gio… I'm looking forward to seeing the actress in her come alive during what should also be a very strong Blackpool Paso Doblé. Once again they do not disappoint. They both complement each other so well and the production during the number couldn’t have been better. Fire, good choreography and attention to detail once again show them as true contenders within the competition. There is a slight lack of technique in certain areas but like I said earlier in the piece, hard to achieve perfection on this big week. It was a strong finish to the routine with Gio on his knees throwing Faye across them to the floor. Very, very good!

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The judges loved Kate and Aljaz's American Smooth

I actually got a tingle seeing the Strictly flag raised on the top of the tower during Kate and Aljaz' VT but that is where the tingle finished. I'm going to be a bit of a music snob now. Music choice is everything on Strictly and never so more important than in Blackpool. You have a beautiful venue, the magic of the big show, everyone rising to the occasion and one chance to get it right. For me, if you are dancing American Smooth, you need big band, highlights galore and a song from the likes of Bobby Darren or Sammy Davis Junior! This choice of song (Everlasting Love) had nothing in it to make it American Smooth. This is not Kate's fault but the technical aspect of the dance was. Not nearly enough Foxtrot action, fairly tame Ballroom position and generally a sense that she’s not grasping the dancing the way she did in the first few weeks. I did love Aljaz' choreography and Kate had a beautiful look and always has an infectious demeanour however and maybe it's just me and my thoughts on what AS should be? I was surprised to hear that the judges loved it as much as they did so what do I know?


Karen and Charles have had quite the ride

It wouldn't be Blackpool without a rollercoaster ride and I loved Karen's 'I don't do that' comment as she sent Charles off on The Big One! It's so Karen, I love this girl! Samba in Blackpool has to be as big as the ballroom and it really was. They had a blast out there on the floor. It was a little flat in places but the energy was there for all to see so you could almost forgive that. The scores from the four with the paddles were particularly high for what they delivered but they have had a rollercoaster of a ride just to get there so I'm chuffed for them both for their vibrant Samba.


Joe and Dianne danced a lovely Quickstep

Joe and Diane are dancing a Quickstep to Dancing Fool. Great idea for the big show and they certainly delivered. Very good choreography (and so far I haven't been the biggest of fans) so well done Diane. He held his frame, timed the dance very well, they both looked the part in a tail suit and beautiful gown. What's not to like? It was a pretty good dance and possibly the first time I’ve really enjoyed what they are doing so well done both, it was a great job! I have to make comment here on the scores 8-10-10-10. The praise was very well deserved but this wasn't better or even close to say Faye's 9-9-10-10 Paso Doblé and it certainly wasn’t perfection. There just seems to be a lack of consistency within the marking and I really don’t get it! To end on a positive though, it really was a lovely Quickstep and perfectly placed in the Blackpool Ballroom.

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Will Ashley and Pasha go on to win Strictly?

The big finish. On this special show they have to save the best till last! I really liked the fish and chip VT. It had feel-good factor and was perfect for their dance set in a Fish 'n' Chip shop. What this girl has is an ability to deliver clean, slick actions, attention to detail and an ability to perform. She is a dancer on a mission to show she can still improve and once again, Pasha is rising to his partner's ability and pushing her. 10-10-10-10 from the judges… spot on. Can they keep this going and win this thing? I guess time will tell!

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