Strictly Argentine Tango - some reviews

16th December 2010


As I always do, I've been watching Strictly Come Dancing this year, and I thought I'd share with you some of my comments on the quality of dancing in Argentine Tango by some of the contestants. After they've all done an attempt, I'll do a general conclusion also; and maybe a comparison with previous efforts.

Note: obviously, I'm not expecting them to be professional-level, neither am I expecting the style to be any more than "Show Tango". You have to judge these things on their relative merits.

So, here we go...

Kara and Artem, 13 November 2010

(Dancing to "Los Vinos" from Otros Aires.)

The video

Step-by-step comments

(Starts at 0:09)

At the beginning, there's a lots of "faffing abaht" around a coatstand, I've no idea what that's about... I start to thnk it's a pole dance.

However, this is redeemed by a lovely moment at 0:23 when they get together, Kara times it perfectly, she does a quick hook and passes over her hat, lovely timing on that move.

She multi-spins into a dip / splits, then Artem lifts her, and carries her down the steps at about 0:35. So far, to be honest, I'm not that impressed by the performance.

They do a promenade-style set of movements. It's much better than I thought it would be, but we're nearly halfway through the routine and they're still not in hold.

Finally, they get into embrace. It's not great, I preferred Matt's embrace, but at least they're in it.

Some, umm, skipping ocho movements, then a very nice back boleo, then gancho, then a wrap and straight into a lunge at 0:55 - now this bit, I like, it's clearly both led and followed, and it comes off nicely.

A pivot - a little unsteady - and then a nice deep half-planeo at 1:00, into another wrap-and-spin sequence.

Some more of those weird skipping steps at 1:06, then a nice little lustrada into a step over from Kara at 1:10, followed by a couple of overturned ochos with sacadas at 1:13, down into another full planeo movement at 1:18.

Some more skipping (!), then a man planeo from Artem, into yet another set of lifts and dips to a finish.

Overall comments

I like the musicality, I like Kara's free leg movement and posture. I very much like parts of the routine. It's a great effort, and Kara definitely looks almost as good as Artem.

However, that's partially because, well, Artem doesn't look that good... I don't like Artem's embrace, and I think overall he looks a bit hesitant in the dance - his steps are neither deep enough, nor is his lead authoritative enough, to really carry it off. I don't like that most of the dance is done out of hold, and I think he overuses both lifts and dips, again probably because he's simply not confident enough in the dance.

Overall, it reminds me very much of Darren Bennett's performance when Darren did the AT with Emma Bunton in Series 4.

Similarly neo music (Gotan's Santa Maria in that case), a similarly-good celeb partner, but similarly let down by a hesitant lead. I thnk Darren choreographed a better routine, with far more actual content, but Darren looked petrified all through it. That routine, in Season 4. scored 33 - which is a bit harsh I think.

Kara and Artem's routine scored 38, however, which is insanely high. 35 - 36, maybe, but no more. Simply, it was good, but not that good.

Patsy and Robin, 27 November 2010

(Dancing to "They" from Jem.)

The video

Step-by-step comments

OK, it starts with the now-obligatory Sitting On The Chair moment. I've no idea what the whole "Chairs and AT" thing is about, in the years I've been dancing AT I've never actually used a chair. Well, except to sit on. Anyway, it wastes 5 seconds whilst Patsy slooooowly looks up and runs her fingers through her hair with a pained expression. I feel your pain, Patsy, believe me I do.

Robin faffs around the chair for a while, then Patsy does a bicyletta movement - which frankly looks horrible and let's just say I'm glad she's not facing the camera - whilst still seated, at around 0:20.

She finally stands up and Robin takes her into an underarm turn to face him (0:26). If I were charitable I'd call it a soltada, but that's simply wrong - it's an underarm turn. So, we then finally get into something vaguely resembling a hold, except for the fact that both Robin and Patsy's left arms are dangling down by their sides. I've never seen a AT embrace where the woman's right arm is wrapped around the man's shoulder, so that's, um, 10/10 for originality at least...

After a couple of steps, they finally get into hold at 0:30, and it's all very wrong - Robin's left elbow is way too high and his right arm is way too low.

Then she screws up a sidestep! It's a step, to the side - how difficult can it be? But she manages to start off on the wrong foot, so it turns into a horrible-ocho-and-quick-recovery step instead. Although, of course, Robin should have put her on the correct foot to start with, but I guess he was too busy adjusting his Hat Of Moodiness to bother.

They then do a sort-of giro / ocho movement - and I swear it looks like she starts off on the wrong foot for that, again.

There are some travelling movements, then some strange open-out maneouvre, which looks more like Swing, at 0:42. They then spread their arms like airplanes and hug each other passionately. No doubt there is some emotion being expressed - at this stage I'm certainly expressing some - but dance-wise I see nothing here.

Robin then leads a volcada - which to be fair is at least recognisable as such - at 0:45. For some reason he decides to put wiggles into the volcada, but hell, at this stage I'm just happy they're not falling over. This is followed by the patented man-walks-back-quick-dragging-the-woman-in-hold-along movement, which seems to be for some reason mandatory. Patsy manages to fail at this, with poor body line, even though all she has to do is not move - she bends her knees towards the end, it looks ugly as hell.

Robin then does some ganchos - they're average at best, and he's supposed to be the pro - at 0:55, followed by a little sentada, then there's more walking-around-each other movements, for which I have no vocabulary, around the 1:05 mark. Getting back into hold, they do some extremely half-hearted ochos, but it's clear neither of them are really bothering at this point.

Some back ochos, Robin spins, then leads a lunge at 1:22. Some more back ochos - take it as read that they are incredibly badly-led and equally badly-executed - then a calecita (carousel) at 1:26 with Patsy lifting her free knee.

(Now, I'll admit, I quite liked that pose, and I had a play with it yesterday. But I can lead this stuff, OK?).

A lifting, spinning movement at 1:30, going into a rubbish lunge (both of them have knees bent on their extended legs), followed by another twirling spin, then plonking Patsy back onto her chair to finish.

Overall comments

In short, very little AT content. The content there was, was badly-led and executed. They looked like they were just trying to get through it.

Marks-wise, 30 was extremely generous. If you look at Tina and Jared's efforts, even allowing for their awful outfits, they had far more content, and it was far better-executed. And they got 28.

So if we compare Patsy's to that, I think this one should have got low-to-mid 20s.

Basically, the worst AT of the series.

Scott and Natalie, 11th December 2010

(Dancing to Epoca by Gotan Project).

The video

Step-by-step comments

So, we start off with some "hat-ography", with Scott on his own, dancing around a lamppost and playing with a hat - I quite like this setup, OK it's a bit Michael Jackson, but it's gutsy to have a celeb open a number solo.

Unfortunately, it starts going a bit pear-shaped when he starts moving (!). At 0:17 - 0:20, his walk to Natalie doesn't look good, it's a bit jumpy. Facing the same direction, they do some nice lapiz movements, then Natalie turns to face Scott at 0:24 for a bit of no-contact steps and sidesteps.

They get into embrace at around 0:30, do some reasonable ganchos (although Scott is not dissociating or leading them much), followed by a leg wrap into a turn-and-lunge movement at 0:38.

There are some boleos, a bicycletta, then a soltada, into a lif at 0:50, which ... hmmm... starts at an unfortunate angle to the camera, and frankly looks a bit naff:

After the lift-and-turn - which does nothing for me - there's some more parallel walking with a nice hook step, then a back leg wrap, then they get back into hold around 1:05 to do a fairly clumsy giro, then a nicely-executed close embrace:

This leads into a lovely rotating volcada movement at 1:12, then another chained-sacada movement leading to another lift-and-wrap at 1:22. Some more ganchos, then finishing off with another lift-and-turn sequence - again, not that nice.

Overall comments

First, the good news.

It's a good routine. It is. Natalie deserves credit for creating a routine which, I think, shows Tango fantasia well. There's a lot of excellent AT content in the routine; it flows well and - lifts aside - is pleasing on the eye.

Natalie, also, is good in this - unlike most of the other professionals, she seems to "get" AT more than most - she's showing dissociation, for example. I enjoyed watching her dance.

Now, the bad news...

Scott doesn't lead the dance. He's in the right places, at the right times, but it's clear that he's not giving Natalie any help; the judges comments about lack of free leg action were bang on the money. Natalie basically had to move her free leg herself into all these wrap and flick positions, and that was because Scott couldn't lead her into them.

So, whilst I liked the routine, I agree with the judges that there were flaws in it. On first viewing, I thought 33 was harsh - on review, I'd say it was actually about right.

Pamela and James - training footage, 23rd December 2010

Note: as their routine was not performed in the show itself, this shows the training footage for the routine.

Dancing to Peligro by Gotan Project

The video

Step-by-step comments

So, we start off with a strange pose, but hell, I should be used to that by now:

There's some dramatic kicking and flicking to start with - the knees are raised far too high for my tastes with these. They then do some work away from each other. Pamela spins around into a dramatic hold, then does an unusual spead-legs turning thing at 0:30. Mainly unusual because her weight is spread evenly.

They then come into a hold for about 1 second, then Pamela dramatically pushes James away, and walks away from him with arms up:

James' posture is very weird, the energy's all wrong... I think he's approaching this section almost like a Paso, maybe?

Anyway, after some more faffing around (technical term), they finally get into something vaguely resembling hold:

To be fair, this looks OK.

A chained (travelling) giro follows - this seems to be a standard movement in all routines, so I suspect this is part of the "toolkit" of moves that Kele provides to the performers when she trains them. There's a couple of male and female ganchos at 0:45 - again, I reckon these are part of the toolkit. Both movements are performed adequately; there's no real depth or authority there. I know it's training footage, but even so...

There's an interesting lunge at 0:50:

The angle's bad, but it looks like James has corrected the issues he had with it earlier. I quite like that lunge - it's original, at least. This is then followed by some ochos (not led at all) and then some straight-legged boleos - actually, I like these also, Pamela's showing some good free leg action in those movements I think.

It then goes into a lift-and-spin, which, well, it takes up a few seconds of time I guess... they come out of it into another deep lunge at around 1:06. Again, I find myself liking this lunge - Pamela creates a good line I think:

They then go back into the parallel walk position that they started with, and at 1:08 they repeat the dramatic kicking and flicking sequence from the start, which is a bit feeble. And then there's - again - a horrible knee lift bit at 1:14 which I feel obliged to show you in all it's awfulness...


Some more faffing, then there's yet another lift-and-jerk-and-turn sequence that, again, uses up time. I'm getting very bored of people throwing in inappropriate lifts to AT, to tell you the truth...

There's a parallel walk into a lunge. James then spends some time gropings Pamela's bum at 1:36. I think this is part of the routine... but don't worry, I won't capture the screen.

They turn, and James does the (again standard) "walk quickly backwards in lunge" sequence,, until 1:45. Again, chained giro movements, then Pamela jumps up and wraps her legs around James. I know, I spared you the bum-grope, but this one deserves to be preserved...

She waves her arms around, and then. Umm. Snogs James.

Overall comments


Firstly, James is rubbish. Obviously. He's treating it like a Ballroom Tango / Paso hybrid, and he's simply not leading - for example, there's almost no pivotting during the ochos.

Secondly, the routine is also rubbish. Obviously. The lifts are totally out-of-context, and there's not a lot of Tango content - for example, almost none of it is in hold.

But all that said, Pamela - groping and snogging aside - isn't quite as bad as I thought she'd be. She creates some good lines with her lunges, she has some free leg movement, and she performs her moves reasonably well.

So, given that the marks should be given based mainly on how the celeb does, I reckon I'd give her 7 or 8 for her work - say, 30 overall.

~ David Bailey, 10th December 2010

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