Strictly: Angela Rippon performs her Paso Doble
We knew it. We were waiting on red alert for it, every fibre and sinew tensed with anticipation. It happened within seconds.
Yes, Strictly Come Dancing fans worldwide, here it was: the first portentous uttering of the ‘B’ word. Blackpool!
“Big night tonight. Lots at stake,” breathed Tess Daly, imbuing every syllable with lashings of awe. “Next week – Blackpool!”
From that moment, Blackpool was dangled like a juicy carrot in every judgely pronouncement.
Was the palpitating celebrity going to be not simply “dancing next week-ready”, but – drum roll if you please – “hallowed floor of the Blackpool Tower Ballroom-ready”? We could feel the heat from our sofas.
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Blackpool is Strictly’s Mecca. Over 21 series the illuminated seaside resort has acquired the magical properties of Narnia, Oz and Shangri-La with an extra sprinkling of stardust.
I’m as much of a Blackpool enthusiast as the next woman – and of course would have loved to have lingered long enough to have made it there – but I can reveal that behind the scenes there are mutinous mutterings about schlepping to Blackpool.
The majestic hair and makeup department find the relocation the most arduous. The space is small and dark; the inconvenience is immense.
The wizards of the wardrobe – secrets from their sewing machines to be unfurled anon – dread the move.
The pressure to make each Blackpool gown a tour de force, added to the precious time taken up travelling and cramped conditions, makes for frayed nerves.
Tess is a Northerner so she’s happy walking down memory lane, but her co-host Claudia Winkleman’s thoughts on being ousted from her Metropolitan bubble and shoved into a Blackpool hostelry are shared only with her closest confidants.
Celebrities are hit with a double whammy. They are dazzled with delight at surviving to dance at Blackpool and beset with nerves so pulverising they worry about collapsing at the door.
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Alas, poor Krishnan Guru-Murthy will never inhale the sacred Blackpool air. From the moment he declared himself “dreaming of Blackpool” as he and dance partner Lauren Oakley opened Saturday night’s show with a spirited samba, a question mark hung over his head.
Standards are sky-high. The very few duds departed long ago. Krishnan has surprised everyone, not least himself, but how long could he avert the fateful decree?
Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington ended up paso-ing for their lives in the dance-off. They didn’t deserve to be anywhere near it.
Angela’s leg extension is miraculous and her transformation into a gothic punk in pleather infused every movement with attitude.
When head judge Shirley Ballas charmingly told her “You, young lady, are about content content content” we applauded. Angela is a young lady. She dances like a teenager. If anyone should sweep gracefully around the Blackpool ballroom it is she.
So farewell Krishnan. You were a pleasure to watch and we’ll never hear your announcements on the Exchange Rate Mechanism in quite the same way again.
This year’s Strictly is supersonic. Bobby Brazier, despite Craig Revel Horwood’s dismissal of his “spatulistic” hands, is so fluid, he looks like a human lava lamp.
Nigel Harman seems destined to star in a West End musical and I loved the detail that his wife wasn’t watching because she’d bobbed off to Paris on a jolly with the neighbours and was drinking champagne on the Champs Elyse.
Annabel Croft’s metamorphosis from timid, grief-stricken novice to fabulously assured samba dancer is sheer joy. She’s so tenacious and talented. I want her in the final, on the tour and everywhere else she can be nurtured in the Strictly embrace.
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola appear to be obliging us by (a) dancing divinely and (b) falling in love. He can’t stop showering her with kisses and calling her “baby”. We don’t want him to.
Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu finally seem to be winning the judges over, despite what Craig brutally called “unforgivable gapping”.
The most soul-stirring spectacle of the night bar none was Layton Williams and dance partner Nikita Kuzmin’s ferociously ingenious Argentine Tango.
We all realise Layton is a professional dancer who has starred in a host of shows including Billy Elliot, and many have wondered if he should be in Strictly at all, but this mouthwatering routine was so electrifying it was a privilege to behold.
And – just in case you didn’t realise it – next week is Blackpool!!
Express.co.uk has contacted the BBC for comment.
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