Strictly Come Dancing code name: Athena – the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, strategic warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. So basically, a bit of absolutely everything! This name was chosen for Gemma as she trains daily – like many of the heroes and warriors Athena was patron to.
The judges’ verdict: “There was a lovely aura between you,” said Darcey after Gemma’s routine, saying that she was really taken in by the couple’s performance and storytelling. Shirley wanted to commend Aljaz on his choreography and had “one small issue” with Gemma – that she lacked some “musicality” in the middle.
Bruno said it was “proper, correct, sensual – but not smutty. Even Grandma would approve” and that he could see the attention to detail with her leg placement. However, he told her to be careful about overthinking the steps and that she had to make sure there weren’t any pauses in the routine.
Craig said that her straight leg was great but that her upper body was a little bit “inanimate”. Saying that, he loved the “gorgeous” routine.
It was another big change of pace when Gemma switched from a Rumba to a Tango, and Shirley particularly loved the “surly look” that Gemma gave the judges during her routine and that she did “very very well”. “You were giving the judges their marching orders!” shouted Bruno. “I loved the sense of purpose, the determination…lovely figures, lovely lines,” he added. He also noted that the routine got “steppy” (that’s a bad thing, apparently) but that it only happened a couple of times.
Craig would’ve liked more V-shaping in the upper body and noted that her left hand was in the wrong position. But he also said he loved it and that he thought it was “great” and had “attack”.
Lastly, Darcey praised Gemma’s “determination” and “passion” and that she was “very happy” with the pair’s performance.
The judges’ verdict: Shirley thought that Gemma did “very well” but somewhat controversially said that Gemma’s routine could have had “20% more in the acting skills”. Bruno added that she grabbed his attention and thought that she held her own in the “razzle dazzle sequences” but that her character “lost impact” during the routine. Craig thought it needed to be “a bit lighter – for me it looked a little laboured and heavy” and said he thought her frame was “bouncing around” but he loved the theatricality of it all. Darcey said she was with Craig and that her posture needed to be “tighter”.
The judges’ verdict: This sadly wasn’t Gemma’s best week, with Craig saying that he found her arms were “a little bit haphazard” and that her hands in the promenade runs looked like “soup ladles” and it was “a bit awkward at times” and exposed her weaknesses. Darcey found the narrative of the dance confusing and that the routine “never woke up” for her. “I don’t believe this was your dance,” said Darcey.
Shirley said that the routine needed a bit more flow and Bruno said it was a “perfect Samba with a hangover” and that he thought the interpretation stopped the rhythm throughout her body. “Good for you for trying something different,” he concluded.
Dance: American Smooth to Downtown by Petula Clark
The judges’ verdict: Shirley said the dance made her “quite emotional” and Bruno noted that Gemma is “getting better every week”. Darcey love it, too – Gemma was definitely the best improver at Blackpool.
Dance: Viennese Waltz to You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Brenda Lee
The judges’ verdict: When Tess Daly asked Shirley Ballas if Gemma had upped her game this week, Shirley had a little pause before saying “erm…not for me this week” and explained that there was “some mess up” on the fleckerl and that there was “an awful lot of rise and fall going on” during the routine and that it wasn’t her best dance. Bruno said it was an “extremely difficult dance” and that she has to express herself. “You’re holding Aljaz, not a laundry basket!” he exclaimed. Craig thought that she was struggling to keep up and that it lacked motion in the body, but Darcey noticed an improvement. There was “a great difference” in Gemma’s eye level this week.
Dance: Salsa to Sun Comes Up by Rudimental ft. James Arthur
The judges’ verdict: Darcey said the dance was “hot and saucy” but the lifts looked “laboured”. Shirley, meanwhile, liked the “nice foot rotation and body co-ordination”. Bruno did a little rhyme, and said: “Don’t be timid, let yourself go and keep the continuous flow.” Craig wasn’t so impressed, saying that the lifts looked “clunky and heavy” but in spite of this he did “love the routine”.
Dance: Jive to Ever Fallen in Love by The Buzzcocks
The judges’ verdict: Darcey thought Gemma did “impressive kicks and flicks” and liked her “carefree attitude”. Shirley spotted some mistakes at the start and although she thought the rotation was “beautiful” she did note Gemma’s lack of posture. Bruno said she was “growing in confidence” and has “the joy of dancing”. Craig concluded that she “lost synchronicity” and it was all a bit “lumpy and messy”.
The judges’ verdict: Darcey admired Gemma’s versatility but scolded her for over-stretching her neck. Shirley contrasted last week’s ferocity in the Paso with this week’s “romance and classic elegance”, but the most favourable critique was surprisingly saved for Craig. He warned that “the front-runners in this competition need to start looking behind them, darling.” It’s a sentiment echoed by former pro Joanne Clifton, who told us Gemma is almost certainly headed for the final!
The judges’ verdict: “Gemma, you really are becoming a polished gem. You shine brighter and brighter every week,” said Bruno, who said that she had given him goosebumps. Craig wanted her to take command of the space when she was out of hold, but he did add that he “really and truly loved it”. Darcey thought it was a “gorgeous” performance and she couldn’t take her eyes off the dance. Shirley found it “powerful but sensual” and commented that “Strictly is a marathon – not a sprint” and that she thought Gemma was here for the long run.
The judges’ verdict: It was Gemma’s highest score of the series yet, although Craig was sad to see there was “no basic Charleston” during the routine. Apart from that he said it was “full of character and full of energy” and he thought it was brilliant. Darcey was pleased with Gemma’s stamina, although the character in her routine needs to stay throughout the whole performance. Shirley congratulated Aljaž on his routine and said that Gemma surprised her with the performance. And quite simply, Bruno loved it.
The judges’ verdict: Gemma’s Waltz was an “improvement” on week one, according to Craig who also praised her rise and fall during the routine. “You were classy, elegant – you had such control,” added Darcey, who also heaped praise on her rise and fall and said that her hard work had paid off. Shirley agreed that she had come on leaps and bounds from week one and was “very impressed” with her performance. “What was extremely impressive when that music changed from really very slow and it picked up the pace, you stayed with the pace.”
Dance: Cha Cha to There’s Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes
The judges’ verdict: Shirley thought that Gemma brought her “cheeky Cha Cha Cha”, but that she would like the former Emmerdale star to stand on a “good, solid straight leg” in future performances. Bruno compared Gemma to a catwalk queen at fashion week but that she needed to be careful of her foot placement. Craig described it as “all a bit blocky and square” and pulled Gemma up on the placement of her free arm, while Darcey gave Gemma a massive congratulations for being the first celebrity to come out onto the dance floor and perform.
Radio Times spoke exclusively to Gemma Atkinson:
Why are you doing Strictly?
“My mum! But it took me a while. Then I saw a line in Oprah Winfrey’s book: “If you can sit it out or dance, I hope you choose to dance.””
Are you competitive?
“Not really, but I’d love to get to Blackpool — it’s my birthday that weekend and I had so many amazing childhood holidays there.”
Hear more from Gemma and Aljaž in our exclusive interview below:
What is Gemma Atkinson famous for?
Soap fans will instantly recognise Gemma as she played Carly Hope in Emmerdale and also Lisa Hunter on Hollyoaks and Tamzin Bayle in Casualty.
Borin in 1984, Manchester-born Gemma first found fame in the early 00s as Lisa in Hollyoaks – a character she also played in spin-offs Hollyoaks: After Hours, Let Loose and In the City.
After five years in the soap, she left and went into the I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! jungle, as well as participating in the much-missed Soapstar Superstar – the Pop Idol-esque reality show where soap actors would perform for a panel including Cilla Black and Michael Ball as they tried to win viewer votes.
ITV really need to bring that show back.
After finishing fifth in series two, Gemma starred in a few forgotten films before landing the role of Tamzin in Casualty in 2011.
However it’s for Emmerdale that Gemma is best known for. She played the role of Carly for two years and appeared in nearly 250 episodes of the soap until she left earlier this year.
At the time, she said: “Like Carly if I get too comfortable I have to go and start something else and take a leap of faith before I get stuck. This job is amazing but I’m wary of just becoming part of the furniture.
“I’ll miss all the friends I’ve made, particularly Mark Charnock who plays Marlon. But I’m staying in the Emmerdale charity band Main Street so I’ll still be seeing my mates when we get together for gigs.
“So it’s the end for the moment but not forever, I’m 100% sure Carly will return as she has unfinished business in the village, it’s just a case of figuring out when and why – and who she can mess up when she gets back!”
Does Gemma have any dance experience?
Speaking about her previous dance experience on BBC Breakfast as she was unveiled, Gemma said she “did disco dancing from age 9 to 10”, but that it was basically just doing cartwheels across the floor.
“As far as any dance training goes, I haven’t had any,” she said, adding that “after a few drinks, I think I’m Britney Spears, but I’m absolutely not at all.”
She also revealed that she wants to be paired up with a professional who is “tall and strong” as at 5′ 9″ she’ll need a taller chap to spin her around the dance floor… as long as they don’t drop her. “That’s my only fear, being dropped!” she said.