Strictly Come Dancing: Runners and riders 2011

The new series hasn’t kicked off properly yet, that doesn’t happen for another three weeks, but last night everyone showed up, booted, suited, sequined and spray-tanned, for the ‘mix n match’ celebrities to pro-dancer event. Reassuringly, very little has changed since the end of the last series, which was won by Kara Tointon and Artem ‘the chest’ Chigvintsev. Bruce Forsyth has been knighted in the meantime of course, but nothing about that man has really changed for forty years, it’s just the women he twirls who get replaced with a younger model. Tess Daly remains his Strictly Anthea Redfern, and last night was given a twirl in a slightly alarming canary yellow jumpsuit. But, hey, this is not a show for those who enjoy the understated. The judges looked exactly the same, in a good way, other than Alesha’s most peculiar pony tail (and the award for best description goes to Velocity Girl’s mother on Twitter who said she looked like: “a cheap Barbie doll rip-off where they can’t get the hair right”).

And on that note, of Alesha I mean, I’ve been pondering the still slightly radioactive issue of the removal of Arlene Philips as a Strictly judge. I support older women on telly to the hilt. Always loved Moira Stewart, feel Mary Berry kicks culinary butt as a judge on the Great British Bake Off  (as does Prue Leith on Great British Menu). But the problem with Arlene was that I didn’t really like her judging style, and not because of her age. She’s gorgeous of course, and she rocks as a Hot Gossip choreography legend, but when she was commenting on performances in Strictly, I found her over-worked, tortured ‘puns’ to be excruciating to listen to. Not worse than the pantomime donkey, Bruno Tonioli of course. So I’m sorry everyone. I like Alesha and I don’t really miss Arlene.

My favourites are the acerbic tongued Craig Revel Horwood and the down to earth, reassuring hand-on-the tiller head judge Len Goodman. And I think all four of them work well together.

But the good news, on the ageist issue, is that this year, as in previous ones, female celebrity contestants include a number of bloody hot and amazing older women. Lulu and Anita Dobson to name two (and yes, I am excited that it means that Dobson’s rock legend hubby, the brainy and apparently very decent chap, Brian May, will be in the audience). Lulu’s dance partner is the “bad boy” Brendan Foster, who threw her over his shoulder, Fireman Sam style, to carry her up the stars, which was silly but funny, in a macho John Wayne sort of way. The daft sexism of this was nicely countered by Craig later saying his perfect celeb dance partner this year would be the rather lovely Dan Lobb.

I’m not putting Edwina Curry in the ‘hot’ category, because she’s a Tory and I’ve never been that fond of her, frankly. And I’m dubious about Nancy Dell’Olio. I expect her to be good value, since she seems vain and enormously self-deluded. She’s teamed with Anton du Beke, who I’m sure can cope.

We’ve got some sporty contestants – footballer Robbie Savage (don’t like him so far, because once being named ‘dirtiest player in the Premier League’ is not endearing in my book, but we’ll see – his competitiveness might make for good telly, so long as his pro dancer keeps him firmly in hand – and Ola Jordan is no pushover). Gold medal winning boxer Audley Harrison is the tallest man I’ve ever seen on Strictly. Massively muscular men haven’t always danced brilliantly in the past – a bit stiff and inflexible – eg the ghastly peacock that is Gavin Henson.

It’ll be interesting to note how Rory Bremner does. He looked quite physically fit at the group dance rehearsals, where we also saw ex Neighbours star, Jason Donovan being a Try Hard (another Neighbours actor, Holly Valance, is also in this series). It was odd because I’d have sworn Jason had done Strictly before, but obviously not. He’s certainly had previous form as a dancer, in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, so it seems his dance partner Kristina Rihanoff has certainly a more physically able celeb than the sweet but hopeless John Sergeant.

And we’ve got some lovely young folk too. The tiny but beautiful Chelsee Healey from Waterloo Road. Harry Judd, drummer from McFly.

Then there’s Russell ‘I’d work best with a Pisces’ Grant, about whom I shall say nothing until I see him dance properly. He’s been teamed up with Flavia Cacace, one of my favourite pros, so I’m a bit sad she won’t get to strut her best stuff this year, I suspect.

Posted by Inkface

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