Joanne Clifton: Charlotte Hawkins was the right celebrity to leave Strictly this week – and Gemma Atkinson is becoming the dark horse

In her weekly blog for RadioTimes.com, Joanne Clifton talks about why she felt an affinity for Alexandra Burke's high score and where Joe McFadden is going wrong...

Strictly jo clifton

It was a very exciting week on Strictly Come Dancing because I think a lot of people came out and smashed it.

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Alexandra Burke had absolutely the best dance of the series so far – and I think she fully deserved those 10s. She came out and attacked it. It was a proper, full-on performance and she danced it with heart. It was phenomenal and she deserved everything that she got. It must’ve been very emotional for her but she did her mum proud and the whole nation felt for her. I think she moved everyone to tears.

I don’t know whether there’s something about the Jive but it seems to go down really, really well. There was Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani’s Pulp Fiction performance in 2015, and it’s really strange because last year in week four, Ore and I did the Jive and we also scored three 10s and a 9! So I definitely felt a connection with Alexandra this week because of that.

Although I can understand the nine that Craig gave her, because she does have her feet turned inward and she and doesn’t always close her legs properly! It was the same with us last year – there were things wrong with Ore’s Jive – but to come out and do a dance like that in week four is amazing.

There were a heck of a lot of good dances this week, but I don’t think anyone else deserved a 10. To be honest, I’m really liking Gemma Atkinson. I know I said it last week, but her and Aljaž Škorjanec are creeping up and up and up the leaderboard. I think she’s actually turning into the dark horse of the competition.

She just did an all-round great performance with brilliant conviction. Technically it was great, but if anything, I would say she could’ve gone a little bit more with the performance. She seems to be doing this every week now – she’s consistent and getting better rather than having ups and downs unlike Debbie McGee and Joe McFadden!

It can go two ways at this point. The celebrities can either get used to it and start enjoying it and get over the nerves, or people can start feeling pressure more as more people get knocked out. They have got to be careful and I think that looks like what maybe Joe is doing. I know he got absolutely thumped by the judges for his Cha Cha, but I think technically there were a lot of good things there. I could see what Katya Jones had worked on with him and they were good high, level technical elements.

If you watch It Takes Two, you see clips of him in training and he can look so good. SO good. If he could do what he does in the training room on the actual night, that would be great. Because I think nerves get to him a little bit or he puts too much pressure on himself. I don’t know, but he doesn’t quite pull it off as good as it looks in rehearsals. He needs a bit of what Alexandra and Susan Calman have. They have bags of confidence and bags of performance. And he needs that to come out; to let go a little bit and not concentrate too much on the steps. After practicing the steps all week, you can’t do anything more with that. You’ve done your training, now you need to go out and perform it – and I think he just needs to let go a little bit more.

Aston Merrygold was still good this week. He had a great frame but I didn’t think it was as good as his last two dances, to be honest. He does have sickled feet and I know both he and Janette Manrara are only little, but they could’ve moved around the floor a little bit more. There was a lot of jumping up and down at different times – their bodies weren’t completely in sync when they were doing hops and jumps so I wasn’t as impressed with him as I have been recently.

But who I was majorly impressed with this week was Ruth Langsford. She did the whole routine with Anton Du Beke in hold, which is not easy. She probably improved the most this week. She was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. She has to pick up her sternum and stretch out to the left a little bit more but I think she’s getting more and more confident as the weeks go on and it’s paying off.

The thing with Mollie King is that she looks great and she has got talent, but she needs the movements to come from the inside of her body out to her hands and legs. It’s the difference between a puppet that’s on strings and a hand puppet. A puppet on strings is that her outer limbs are being moved whereas if it’s a hand puppet, the outer limbs are being moved from the inside out. But she is a great performer and it’s a great partnership with AJ Pritchard who’s doing a great job. She’s another one that could get better and better each week but she needs to be a little bit more co-ordinated.

Charlotte Hawkins and Simon Rimmer were at the bottom of the leaderboard, but it was Davood Ghadami who was in the dance off. It was a bit of a shock because for me personally he’s one of the celebrities that you think ‘Oh he’ll be alright’ – and I didn’t expect him to be in the bottom two. And he got quite good scores. Maybe the voters are kind of looking at him and going ‘The dance was OK, but it didn’t blow everyone away so they probably thought ‘he’ll be alright’ and so they instead voted for more entertaining, fun, striking dances.

Davood was just caught in the middle there so maybe he needs to step up his game a little bit next week – come out and blow us all away. I used to hate being in the middle of the leaderboard! Because if you’re in the middle, that’s really dangerous. The British public like an underdog so they’ll vote for the ones who are right down at the bottom and the ones who are right at the top will be dancers that have done really well. The ones that come out and are just fine, they don’t get voted for.

I do think Charlotte was the right celebrity to leave this week, although I think that it was the best dance she’d done. She listened to the judges’ comments and listened to people saying she needed to come out and be a bit more confident – and she really did. And that’s why I feel a little bit sorry for her. I do wonder what would have happened if she’d have been in the dance off with someone like Brian or Simon, because if Simon went wrong again – you never know. They might have kept her in.

I think Brendan was upset because she’s so lovely, he was having a good series and they were getting on. And it was good that Brendan didn’t talk back at the judges again this week. He’s known for that kind of thing and it does get him into trouble but he kept quiet. He made it about Charlotte’s moment and that’s how it should be rather than him stepping in.

It’s a tie between Alexandra and Susan for who my favourite was this week. I’ve got to be honest, I know he’s my brother and I said it last week as well, but they are amazing! I think the whole nation loves them, too. I didn’t expect her to be so light and quick on her feet, but I think to improve she needs to sort out the top half of her hold – picking up her sternum a little more with her head out a little bit more. But I can’t really fault her that much because for week four – for someone who we all thought wouldn’t be great – is amazing! She’s definitely improving.

I filmed a music video with my Flashdance co-star Ben Adams last week and it went really, really well. I was a bit aware of myself because I’ve never done it before and I was looking at Ben who’s used to doing music videos and he looked like he was really into the song – pulling all these faces and stuff. So I tried doing that but I just looked a div! I hate being myself on camera. Do you know what, that is one of the worst things about Strictly is that you have to be yourself and are filmed talking. That’s why I’m better off in musical theatre I think because I’m playing a character. But the song should be coming out this week, we might start playing it on some of the radio stations that we’re doing interviews on and we’re going to see if it can be brought out on Tuesday!

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Strictly Come Dancing will return on Saturday 21st October on BBC1. Joanne Clifton currently stars in Flashdance – The Musical in theatres across the UK. Visit the website for full details of tour venues and dates.