Strictly Come Dancing 2011: week one, part one review

The first seven contestants perform in front of the judges, but who dazzled and who disappointed?

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As Russell Grant swept down the Strictly staircase, a vision in his white ensemble complete with glittery eyes and bejeweled satin shirt, this year’s Strictly got off to a spectacular start.

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But while Brucie announced the beginning of “three months of ballroom and banter”, it was clear that just as much as Brucie has no clue what banter is, none of the contestants had really grasped the concept of ballroom.

They have all had three weeks to perfect their first dance and this evening, seven of them took their first tentative steps on the dancefloor. Anita Dobson gracefully waltzed her way to the top of the leaderboard, getting the best comments from the judges, with even Craig conceding it was “gorgeous”.  But it was hardly a fair contest, with her having more steps than the rest of the contestants put together – as partners go, Robin is brilliant at bringing the best out of his celebrity pairing.

Sharing that top spot is Holly Valance, whose performance couldn’t have been more different. In her VT she announced that the dancing and pressure “boggles my marbles”; her performance may well have boggled the viewers’ because, despite acknowledging that Strictly isn’t like one of her music videos, she pouted and wiggled her way through her Cha-cha-cha just as if it were.

Dan Lobb ended up below them on the leaderboard.  But with a wooden performance and a jaw that his partner Katya had to prize into a smile, he looked like he enjoyed the performance even less than I did.

Lulu, on the other hand, appeared to be having the time of her life. As she feared when I interviewed her three weeks ago, she blanked and forgot all the steps – but she is a pro and bluffed her way through. It may not have convinced the judges, who obviously place quite a lot of importance on the footwork, but I suspect the viewers won’t hold it against her at this stage.  She didn’t deserve to end up at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Audley Harrison was lighter on his feet than one would think but hardly lit up the ballroom, while Robbie Savage hammed up his football persona by playing the bad boy – beneath the bravado I suspect there is a good dancer, but Ola will have to work hard to make him comfortable enough in the spotlight to let it show.

And finally there was Russell Grant who, if anything, is a bit too comfortable in the spotlight. Did his dancing deserve the only standing ovation of the night? Probably not, but he knows his part in this year’s line-up is destined to be like that of Ann Widdecombe’s last year and he has embraced it. It was a brilliantly camp performance, despite his gormless expression throughout, and when he described himself as a “fairy elephant” he couldn’t have been more spot on.

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What a great start to this year’s Strictly – bring on the next seven!