Week ten of Strictly Come Dancing was full of surprises – from judge Bruno Tonioli's Vegas-style opening performance to top-scorer Karim ending up in the bottom two. Thankfully, HELLO!'s exclusive columnist, Strictly's head judge Shirley Ballas, is here to help us make sense of it. This week, she shares why the judges sent Saffron home, who she thinks would bring something special to the final and whether we'll ever see her follow in Bruno's all-singing shoes…
Who would have thought that Karim would be in the bottom two? He was at the top of the leaderboard and is one of the best dancers in the whole show, so both the judges and the audience were shocked. I was really moved by his video where he talked about his background. It was clear how much he cares about his mother and his sister which reminded me of my mum and my brother when he was alive so I could identify with him 100% and I thought his Couple's Choice routine was outstanding, I don't know why he didn't get more votes. I'm sure his heart was racing and his mind was all over the place but he took it on the chin and managed to stay calm and focused in the dance-off.
Saffron got extremely emotional before she had to perform again but she carried it off and displayed some magnificent dancing to say she started as a beginner. It's a shame to see any of them go at this stage and Saffron had seemed like she could be a front runner. It's just unfortunate that she got the Samba this week because it's a difficult dance and she was a little bit fast on the music and her foot positions weren't great. But she and AJ had a great connection, she brought a little bit of Brazil to the ballroom and I don't want to over-critique because she had an amazing run and can be extremely proud of herself.
Speaking of which, I was so proud of Bruno! I had no idea he was such a singer-performer. I thought he was fabulous, the whole setting, the stage, and the fact that he had the courage to open the show, it was outstanding. That song is also very is special to me because when my son Mark was playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys on Broadway, he would move to the front of the stage and sing it to me, so I got rather emotional hearing it. You won't be seeing me pick up a microphone, though! I did get offered a cameo in a musical once but when I sang the song for my son he said, 'I don't think so, mum!' Dancing is one thing, singing is quite another.
We're in the last few weeks now so emotions are running high but Kelvin is an exception to the rule. He stays very cool and calm and never looks like he's struggling. His and Oti's Couple's Choice was a difficult routine, but he made it look super easy and very watchable. It wasn't in your face, it was more subtle, it was synchronised and he made zero mistakes, with great leaps and turns. It was the highlight of the night for me. You can tell they'd practised a lot and have a great connection. I think he'll make the final, and I think he'll bring something ultra-special if he does.
I also wouldn't be surprised if Emma and Anton are in the final, even though she had a little bit of a dip this week. The Quickstep requires an extremely fast foot rhythm in time to fast-paced music, so you've got to be on time, keep up with your partner and not leave a space between your bodies, and unfortunately, she missed a little bit on those fronts. But she was upbeat, high energy, and light around the floor. Although she had a couple of flaws she's developing into a sparkly little diamond.
I know I didn't give him a top score, but Chris was one of my favourites of the evening. I'm in awe of him. What's fantastic is that he's very funny when he chats to the judges but on Saturday he role-played really well. Paso Doble is one of the most dramatic dances you'll ever see. It's modelled around a Spanish bullfight and it's a very upright dance with a lot of twisting and he showed us some of those moves and gave us a passionate portrayal but still with dignity.
Alex also brought a lot of passion to her routine. There's no dance that connects people more closely than the Argentine Tango. When she came into the competition, she was very stoic and quite firm but she's learned to lighten up. The dance is based on building blocks of walking, stopping, turning and micro details such as where the hands and arms are placed, and I think she captured it well. Craig disagreed, but he was tough on everyone on Saturday – I think he needed a hug! I wasn't aware that Alex and Neil had a wardrobe malfunction and got stuck together, but I don't give any leeway for that, you've got to learn how to get on with it and save it. She didn't do that completely, but I thought she did exceptionally well, especially for a dance we haven't had on the show so far.
Any of the celebrities could make it to the final, it's all up to the audience, the judges only have so much say. Ever since Dev left, there have been dance-off shocks, and this Sunday was no exception. The British public is unpredictable – but we love that about them! I've had a lot of positive messages from people this week and I just want to say how much I appreciate those; I'm really touched and humbled. We're in the final countdown now, so I want everyone to enjoy these last few weeks.
HELLO! readers ask the head judge their burning Strictly questions…
Who is your favourite fellow judge?
Oh, I can't pick! Of course, I adore Motsi. As a teacher and adjudicator, I've known her for 25 years, and I'm very close to Bruno who I've known for 14 years now. Craig was the first person who sat in with me on my Strictly audition, so I love them all.
Are you friends with any of the dancers in real life?
I'm friends with them all, although when the show ends everyone goes their separate ways with touring or other events, so we don’t see each other that often, but I follow them on social media. They've all been dancers in my industry all their dancing lives so I know them all very well and I truly think we have the best selection of professionals in the world.
If you've got a question for Shirley, tweet it with the hashtag #AskShirley and it might be answered in the column next week. Come back then to find out what the head judge thought of all the quarter-final performances!
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