Strictly's dance-off might have been a bit more predictable this week, with the lowest-placed couples in the bottom two and footballer Alex Scott going home. But that doesn't mean the weekend's shows were boring – far from it! From Craig's fab-u-lous drag and first ten of the series to Kelvin swinging from the chandeliers, it has to rank as one of the most memorable Quarter Finals we've ever seen. Thankfully, HELLO!'s exclusive columnist, head judge Shirley Ballas, had a ringside seat to all the drama. Read on to find out why she sent Alex home over Chris, who she thinks will make the final, and why taking to the floor herself meant so much…
The dance-off was not a surprise this week. It came down to me which couple to save and I chose Chris and Karen because I thought he conveyed the character of the dance and did some advanced Foxtrot steps. This is a man who started out with zero training and even though the footwork wasn't 100 per cent, his timing was outstanding, and he really attempted to do his heel leads. He needs to work on a more continuous flow, but it was a real feel-good number.
I couldn't really identify Alex's dance as a Samba, and I agreed with Bruno that it looked more like a Street Commercial number. I enjoy that contemporary feel but as head judge, I'm looking for at least 50 per cent Samba. Some of the judges felt that Chris didn't do that much Foxtrot, but he had more Foxtrot steps than Alex had Samba, and her steps were more basic, I was quite surprised that she wasn't pushed a bit more. She should be so proud of herself, though. She went from being under-confident to being one of the best performers from the waist up and even having to change partners when Neil was injured didn't seem to affect her. In the dance-off, she and Chris had the best sportsmanship we've seen. They're both winners in my book.
I have to admit I did have a tear in my eye during that opening number! It was on my bucket list to dance with Anton Du Beke so to get the chance to dance that burst of Viennese Waltz with the king of the ballroom made my heart sing. I also thought Craig was sensational and it obviously put him in a good mood. He said to me backstage, "I don't want to take my costume off!" And of course, Karim delivered. I have to agree with Bruno that that was the show's best Jive ever. Last week, Karim was clearly shocked to end up in the bottom two but this week he had a take no prisoners attitude and came out totally focused, extraordinarily immaculate, and left everything on the floor.
I gave three dances a ten and I couldn't choose between them so I thought I'd leave that to the viewers! I think they all brought something special. Kelvin played the role of Gaston so fantastically, it was outstanding. Craig said he needed to listen to the music and be a bit quicker, but I disagreed – his musicality was great, he kept the rhythm even when he danced on the table and he never rests on his laurels. Just when you think you've seen it all with Kelvin, he adds a bit more. Whoever makes it to the final, I think this going to be one of the all-time best. I wouldn't like to predict who the last three will be, but I know they'll be bringing everything they can to the table. I love their camaraderie but don't think for a minute that they don't all want to win that trophy. It's going to be a battle of gladiators for sure.
I am willing to predict that Emma will be in the final. I could always see her potential, but she had a bit of a slow start. Now it's obvious she's really putting the hours in as she's getting so many of the details right. She really captured the old-school Charleston and Anton looked amazing as well, they had magic between them. It wasn't over-choreographed, it was elegant, and she played the role terrifically, it was just fabulous. The key for the professionals is to hide their partner's weaknesses and push their strengths and this did that brilliantly. I always love musicals week and Thoroughly Modern Millie was the first film I ever saw with my mum so when the music came on it took me back.
I think it's marvellous that the BBC is releasing the microphone recordings from the couple's dances this year. They're like ventriloquists, these professionals. I know from being a dancer myself, if I had a new routine going into a competition I'd be saying things like, "Don't forget the pivot!" Whatever helps your student is brilliant and it all helps them have a flawless performance for the people at home. I feel like a lot of celebrities come to the show and think it looks like fun but they haven't got any idea of how much time it takes, how they'll be chucked about and have to remember the choreography and get the tan on and do the dress fittings and run to It Takes Two and then go back and practice, it really is the journey of a lifetime.
I've been dancing a lot myself this week as I start in panto in Darlington on Friday and some of the numbers the choreographer has got me doing are insane! I'm performing two big numbers of about three-and-a-half minutes long and six or seven smaller numbers plus all the lines. There was one lift at the beginning where they said, "If it's too difficult, we'll take it out," but I took that as a challenge.
How long does it take you to get ready for Strictly on the day?
A lot depends on my hair! Sometimes Jane my hairdresser has a lot of time to get me ready and sometimes she only has 40 minutes, so it depends what's going on. It can be a long process depending on whether she has to get it up in curls. On Saturday, she had to get it up in a hat and then out of the hat so she's there with me all day making tweaks. The time I arrive at the studio changes from week to week. Sometimes it's nine sometimes it's seven – it's earlier when we have all 15 contestants and then it gets a bit later as the series goes on.
Would you like to dance on the show every week?
I'd love it! The Viennese Waltz is one of my very favourite dances, so I really wanted to do that with Anton and one day, I'd like to dance a Jive with Kevin and AJ.
Come back next week to see what Shirley thought of the Semi-Final performances!
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