The results show for the Strictly Come Dancing quarter-finals will be aired tonight, when Pamela Stephenson, Ann Widdecombe, Kara Tointon, Matt Baker, Gavin Henson and Scott Maslen will wait under those nerve-wracking spotlights to hear if they will be participating in the 2010 semi-final – where the couples will be expected to perform three dances, including a four-way swing-a-thon.
But the tonight’s result will not just determine who is one step closer to lifting that glitterball. Tonight’s result will set the tone for the rest of the competition, and for the rest of the Strictly seasons in the coming years.
Friends of mine will be shocked when they read this post, because quite frankly, I – a massive Strictly fan – am getting a bit fed up of the BBC’s Saturday night dancing entertainment. It’s all getting a bit too gimmicky, too cheesy and, I would even push to say, tacky.
I don’t mean to blame this all on the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, but she is my first point of attack. I commend her in every respect for giving something a go which is miles out of her comfort zone and puts her as the focus of criticism – and often ridicule – every Saturday night. But I can’t bear to watch poor Anton push and pull her around the dance floor like a Tesco shopping trolley anymore. The poor girl has cringeworthy timing, no idea about grace or line, and clings onto Anton as if her life depended on it. The only thing that impresses me each week about the performance is Anton’s incredible patience with his assigned partner.
Ann Widdecombe and Anton du Beke dancing the American Smooth at the Strictly quarter-finals 2010
It’s even gone so far as to using a trapeze to fly the old bird in – a cunning strategy of a Strictly first to cover up her lack of talent, yet give the audience the bizarre yet entertaining sight of an MP being flown onto the stage in a harness, like a mothership coming in to land.
And this is the key thing here – entertainment. It’s the debate which has gone on since Strictly begun in 2004 – is the show a dancing competition, or merely Saturday night entertainment?
The fantastic thing about Strictly is that you really see the development of a contestant throughout the show. Take Pamela Stephenson for example, this year the British public have seen her grow from a mediocre contestant who the bookies waved away as a no-hoper to the shining image of grace, and the first 40 of the season. A huge achievement for a 61-year-old lady, I think you’ll agree.
Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan dancing the Viennese Waltz at the Strictly quarter-finals, earning them the first 40 of the season
But are the audience even registering this? I appreciate the fact that the studio audience acknowledge the effort that each contestant puts into their performance – you cannot deny that each contestant really works and lives for each Saturday night – but does every single performance really deserve a standing ovation? To me, a standing ovation is the symbol of complete perfection and a breathtaking performance, not just an exaggerated pat on the back. Are the audience and the public really looking at dancing talent, or pure entertainment value?
Having the Widdecombe in the semis would seal the argument that Strictly is nothing more than entertainment – her place in the semis would take one away from another deserving contestant, and would prove that the public really just want to see “a Dalek in drag”, as Bruno so politely put it last night.
Ms Widdecombe’s potential place in the semis is not the only thing which is starting to grate on me however. It’s all just getting far too showbiz for its own good, and it’s drawing the attention from the thing which is really important here – the dancing.
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old cynic, I don’t want to see tacky props at the beginning of dances (the iceberg in Ann’s performance last week really just crossed the line) or themed, X-Factor feel nights. I’m not a huge fan of the new studio, as shiny and sparkly as it is, and the new intro to the show reminds me of Strictly‘s tacky American cousin, Dancing With The Stars.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of camp and bucketfuls of sequins, but it’s just starting to get that little bit annoying. Let’s get back to the dancing here, which, in Strictly‘s defence, is always to a sky-high standard come the final.
Let’s have a semi-final which really dazzles with dancing talent, and not because they’ve put Ann in another pair of sequinned trousers.