Joanne Clifton is unimpressed with Strictly’s Halloween Week: “The judging was all over the place”

Why were the judges so harsh to Susan Calman but so nice to Ruth Langsford? And were their comments to Davood Ghadami unfair?

Strictly jo clifton

Can I be a real killjoy and say, Halloween Week is the show that I’ve enjoyed the least? The judges all seemed to be in a really bad mood and were criticising a lot. At the same time, if I was a judge I would have been criticising the couples a lot as well – because there were a lot of mistakes and a lot of people went wrong.


But the judging was all over the place. Two couples, Kevin Clifton and Susan Calman and Nadiya Bychkova and Davood Ghadami, got slated because there “wasn’t enough content”. I disagree – I think there was.

And then you get Aston Merrygold at the other end, who was definitely amazing, but he got absolutely praised out of this world from Craig who was saying:  “Yeah there was a  lot of bopping and popping and you don’t do that in a Paso Doble but I loved it anyway!” And tens!

Aston Merrygold

Well you can’t really do that. First of all, these comments are mainly directed towards the pros rather than the celebs, because the celeb can’t do anything about the routine – they don’t know what should be in a Paso Doble or what should be in a Foxtrot or what should be in a Rumba. You can’t really say, “I’m going to take marks off because there wasn’t enough Rumba content” or whatever, because that’s not the celeb’s fault and that’s no judgement on the celebs and how well they’re doing.

And you can’t then say, “Oh I’m going to give this one really high marks because there was bopping and popping but I loved it in a Paso Doble.” That sends really confusing messages to the pros and the celebs and even the audience. Now what do they do next week? As an ex pro, if I’d have seen that, say I had a Paso Doble next week, I’d be thinking: “Should I put some kind of other style of dance in? Should I put some tap in a Paso Doble to make it interesting? Or will they absolutely slate me for it because they want to see more Paso Doble content?” 

But I think a lot of people made mistakes, a lot of people went wrong. I expected better.

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Other people got marked tens when there were quite clearly some mistakes in there. Debbie McGee made some mistakes so I wouldn’t have given her a ten. She was off balance and she nearly fell –  although performance-wise she was absolutely brilliant. If you’re going to be harsh then you have to be harsh on everybody, and there was an obvious bit where she nearly fell. So you can’t really give it a ten, although I do agree that she is amazing, especially at her age and she’s a performer as well and she’s technically great, she got all the swivels, she’s very flexible for someone her age.

And then Susan didn’t go wrong, she didn’t make a mistake. I know Kevin’s my brother and I know this will come across as though I’m defending him because he’s my brother, but I don’t agree at all with what any of the judges said about there not being enough content and not enough Foxtrot and “it wasn’t graceful”.

First of all, Kevin did answer back – but it was just more of an Anton Du Beke kind of way, that actually made everyone laugh. And secondly you’re not going to make a graceful Foxtrot out of a Mother of Dragons Game of Thrones Halloween style dance are you, really? It’s not exactly the thing that they were going for, the gracefulness of it. But the judges saying that there wasn’t enough Foxtrot content and stuff like that – I don’t agree with that at all, in the slightest. They even put quite difficult steps in there, like a Tumble Turn. They were quite difficult steps, and she did them.

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In the end, it was time for Simon Rimmer to go. He hasn’t been great and he has been in the dance-off the last few weeks. Bless him, he was injured and he only had three days’ training, and he had eight hours in total to learn this dance. It was technically not great and he was doing some crosses instead of closes, he wasn’t closing the feet properly.

But Mollie King being in the dance-off was a surprise. I thought she did quite well on Saturday night! She got a few harsh comments as well from the judges but I quite enjoyed it. The Cha Cha is probably one of the hardest dances to do, just for the speed of it and moving the hips and getting the straight legs, getting the feet turned out, getting the strong arms and stuff like that. I think she did really well actually.

By contrast, Ruth Langsford did make a lot of mistakes, but she kind of got praise for making mistakes and then getting back into it. Whereas other people made mistakes and they got slammed for it!

I feel like I was seeing a different show to what the judges were seeing, and it was the same with Davood Ghadami. I agreed there weren’t enough basic Rumba steps, I think they went a little bit too heavy on the tricky steps, but again that’s not his fault. That’s Nadiya, but she’s a new pro and she’s come straight out of the competition world, so she’s choreographed him a competition number – which I actually think he performed really, really well. I sat there and enjoyed watching it, but then the judges didn’t like it.

It can be hard for the new pros. The first year I came in was with Scott Mills, and I didn’t really know what to do. I made a lot of mistakes with Scott. The first week I came out and I’d given him a competition Cha Cha, and I gave him quite difficult steps. I’d given him a step that was a crowd pleaser, but obviously that didn’t come across on someone like Scott who was a complete beginner and couldn’t dance. So you’ve got to bring them up from basics first, which is a lesson that I quickly learned.

I think Susan will get to Blackpool – at least I hope she will. I hope that people will get past the fact that they think she’s just a comedy act, because she’s not – it’s the same as Ed last year. He wasn’t just a comedy act. They both can dance, they both try really hard and if they focus a lot on technique, and getting the steps right – it’s what makes them great. So I’m hoping that people will get past that soon and just stop thinking that she’s the comedy or entertainment one. She actually can dance.

Talking of Blackpool, I’m performing Flashdance there this week. We’re in the Opera House, which is in the Winter Gardens. Which is really weird! Because I’ve obviously danced in the ballroom at the Winter Gardens all my life.

And then I’m actually filming something in Blackpool on Thursday for Strictly – you’ll have wait and see what that is…


Strictly Come Dancing will return on Saturday 4th November on BBC1. Joanne Clifton currently stars in Flashdance – The Musical in theatres across the UK.