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Strictly Come Dancing - Opening Weekend (Review)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THIS weekend, the BBC’s hugely successful Strictly Come Dancing made a welcome return to our television screens and, as we’ve come to expect, slick routines by the show’s professional dancers and fireworks from the panel of judges were as much a part of the proceedings as the competition itself. It did, however, produce a couple of surprises.

Tipped by some to become this year’s champion, former tennis ace Martina Hingis instead became the first celebrity to be knocked out of the competition – somewhat unfairly I thought for she performed infinitely better than some (and I’m mentioning no names!).

However, her routines – a waltz and a rumba – with professional dance partner Matthew Cutler who, you may well remember, won the competition in 2007 with Alesha Dixon, failed to impress either judges or the voting public and she found herself in the ‘dreaded’ dance off with Crimewatch presenter Rav Wilding and his partner, newcomer Alioni Vilani.

In the event, it was left to head judge Len Goodman to cast the deciding vote which went Wilding’s way, leaving him to dance at least one more day! But who knows, Strictly has proved before that it’s anything but predictable and there’s no denying the whims of the British voting public. Which, of course, makes for great debate.

Of the 16 celebrities, only eight competed this weekend – it’s the turn of the remaining eight next Friday and Saturday – but in a departure from normal, all 16 must perform two dances over two days, making it, as hostess Tess Daly was quick to point out, “the toughest Strictly yet”.

But let’s be fair, it’s never been easy, particularly for those – like me – who have two left feet. And although the cynic in me believes money is a powerful incentive, the optimist can’t help but admire the courage shown by competitors.

Best of the bunch were The Bill‘s Ali Bastian and BBC Breakfast presenter Chris Hollins with their respective professional dance partners Brian Fortuna and Ola Jordan.

While Ricky Groves, EastEnders‘ hapless mechanic Garry Hobbs, provided the second surprise of Saturday evening with his enthusiastic and highly entertaining performance, which prompted roars of approval from the studio audience.

On the negative side, new judge Alesha Dixon is no match for the experienced and delightfully droll Arlene Phillips. For as much as I enjoyed and admired the younger woman’s performance as a competitor, she’s clearly out of her depth in her new role and consequently contributed little to the proceedings – except to offer words of encouragement, which is perhaps no bad thing.

Daly’s co-host Bruce Forsyth was in good form, if a little embarrassing at times. However, his inherent kindness to contestants makes his shortcomings instantly forgiveable. And let’s be honest, Strictly just wouldn’t be Strictly without him – would it?

All in all then, a promising start to a new series.