Strictly Come Dancing, week 7 review: Judges steal the show for all the wrong reasons

Strictly Come Dancing, week 7 review: Judges steal the show for all the wrong reasons

Updated: 2 months, 23 days, 11 hours, 48 minutes, 48 seconds ago

© BBC

Helen Skelton and Gorka Marquez pulled off a coolly confident monochrome jive - BBC

What is going on with the judging on Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One)? Shirley Ballas suddenly whipped out two pairs of tiny shoes to demonstrate her footwork quibbles. It was like she’d spent Saturday afternoon raiding the children’s department at Clark’s. Meanwhile, her colleague Anton Du Beke seems so intoxicated by his status as fan favourite that he’s habitually over-scoring. Three 10s and four nines, Anton? Really?

Marking the midway point of the contest, this episode was mercifully theme-free. After two consecutive weeks when fancy dress drowned out the dancing - the BBC centenary bizarreness was followed by Halloween overload - it was back to proper glitterball business.  There weren’t even any of those much-maligned Couple’s Choice numbers. Instead the 10 surviving pro-celebrity pairs performed proper Latin and ballroom routines. Who’d have thought it? 

For the first time this series, there was no doubling up, with each couple tackling a different dance style. It made for 90 minutes of eclectic and electric hoofing, albeit not quite as high in quality as Tony Beak tried to convince us.

Top of the pops was Hamza Yassin, who has soared from being this year’s least-known contestant to among the best-loved. The wildlife cameraman scored a near-perfect 39 for his last Latin number and fell just one point short of repeating the tric with a fluid, technically impressive cha cha cha. Light on his feet, a natural mover and hugely likeable, Yassin is surely a finalist in waiting.

Tucked in behind were two female celebrities who might just be joining Yassin in the final. Helen Skelton notched her highest score yet for a coolly confident monochrome jive. Kym Marsh sizzled during an Argentine tango so intense that it ended with her holding a face-to-face pose with partner Graziano Di Prima for fully 15 seconds. It was like a passionate version of a playground staring contest but boy, did it work.

Down the bottom, it would be a shame if fan favourite Tony Adams failed to survive the salsa but risky lifts couldn’t conceal the distinct whiff of dad-dancer. The routine did him few favours - he had to faux-DJ, then dance to a dreadful tune by Pitbull - but it was riddled with footwork errors. Adams gamely admitted getting carried away -  “I was so busy having fun, I thought ‘Oh sugar, what’s going on down there?’” - and it could be time for the former footballer to see a red card.

© Provided by The Telegraph

Tony Adams' footwork let him down this evening - BBC

Comedian Ellie Taylor fared little better, struggling with the fluid sensuality of the notoriously tricky rumba. When Craig Revel Horwood gave it a three, the devastated Taylor looked like she might burst into tears.

Bouncing back from her shock appearance in the bottom two and subsequent controversy was Fleur East. She won last week’s dance-off but it has since emerged that East was allowed to restart her routine following a prop malfunction and fall. Tonight’s flowing, floaty waltz took her into the top half of the standings. It would be unjust if negative headlines and harsh judging put her in jeopardy again.

On Bonfire Night, there were indoor fireworks at Elstree Studios. “Ooh”s and “aah”s ensued - some of them for co-host Claudia Winkleman’s star-spangled pyjamas and Ballas’s disco Yeti outfit. The head judge not only needs to lose the creepy footwear fetish but after five years on the panel, really should have learned the professional troupe’s names. Her calling Dianne Buswell “Diana” is becoming embarrassing.

Du Beke should also remember that he’s a judge, not a cheerleader. He routinely raised a paddle one point higher than his fellow panellists. For Taylor’s rumba, the gap between his and Revel Horwood’s scoring widened to a frankly absurd four points. Make your minds up, gents.

Who might face the red light of doom and Sunday’s dreaded dance-off? Weepy Taylor and wobbly Tony were cut adrift by seven points. By rights, it should be them. In this unpredictable series, though, anything could happen. Not least a pair of dinky shoes dancing on the judging table. 

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