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Joanne Clifton: Strictly's Alexandra Burke and Debbie McGee are "flat, predictable and safe"

The former Strictly professional says she wants their performances to be braver – and the judges' scores fairer – after the pair failed to wow in Musicals Week

Published: Tuesday, 5th December 2017 at 4:00 pm

If I were to sum up Strictly Come Dancing’s Musicals Week it’d be that there were moments of frustration and moments of confusion – as well as some show-stopping moments. But not from who you think…


This might be a bit controversial, but if the dances were being judged on improvement, performance, production, choreography and difficulty, I would’ve put Debbie McGee and Alexandra Burke in the bottom two.

Strictly star Alexandra Burke

I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I just think at this point in the competition we’re expecting something wow from these two – and they weren’t wow. I’m kind of disappointed that Alexandra and Debbie come out and do the same thing over and over again every week.

Debbie’s performance of the American Smooth was just the same as the dances she’s been doing for a while – we all know she can kick her legs. And with Alexandra, you want to see her come out and do something amazing. I don’t know whether it was the routine for the Charleston, but she just didn’t do it. They’re just not doing anything where you go ‘Oh my God! That was amazing!’ It’s like ‘come on, we’re seeing the same thing from you two, week after week’. It’s flat, predictable and very safe.

They both have the ability so I’d say to them to just take risks – do something flashy and work your arse off for it. Because they could both do something incredible. I want to see Alexandra come out and do something like her Jive from week four, and hopefully with the semi-final next week they will.

I feel like the judges kind of ruined it for themselves this year because the one moment that should’ve been huge is Debbie’s Argentine Tango. But the problem there was that they’d already tried to give a ‘wow’ moment to Debbie’s Tango a few weeks before when Craig did the whole palaver of getting on his knees for a dance that was technically good – but wasn’t 'wow'.

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They gave themselves nowhere else to go once they did that. Why was Craig going on the floor? As a professional, the technique was great. It was a great dance. But it wasn’t a performance. It was a really well-danced Tango, but then when she came out and did that Argentine Tango it wasn’t so much of a moment as it should’ve been.

When you look back at Strictly over the years, you remember Danny Mac’s Samba, Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Charleston, Ed Balls’ Gangnam Style… you can remember the outfits, the mood, the setting. But I can’t even remember the song Debbie danced to or what kind of dress she was wearing or anything for that Tango. Basically, there’s not really been a ‘WOW!’ moment this series. Everybody wants to get to the final so maybe they’ll up their game a little bit in the semi-final. I'm really hoping so.

The other thing that annoyed me this week was Mollie and AJ’s lift in the Rumba. It wasn’t fair that they got 9s. I was like ‘seriously?’ They have to be penalised for that, and that’s the judges’ fault. Fine if AJ put the lift in – he should know better and it’s not fair on the other pros – but he put it in knowing full well that he would get points deducted. But the judges can’t give her 9s when it’s got an illegal lift in. And it wasn’t just a little lift – it was a massive lift!

Strictly star Mollie King

And then Gemma, who stayed in the rules and danced great, got a 6, 7 and 8s. It’s not fair – and it’s not fair on the pros because they won’t know what to do now. If I was one of those pros I would be like ‘maybe I should put in lifts in all of my routines? Because if people are getting 9s with big old lifts in there…’

And that’s not Mollie’s fault. She’s just doing what she’s told. And I thought she was greatly improved. Her footwork and her leg action in that Rumba – and Rumba is a really, really hard dance to look good in – she danced it really well, especially with the little ballet shoes on. I thought she was excellent. It was a shame there was that big lift in it, but I have to be fair and say it was over marked because of the lift, not because of her.

And then let’s talk about the 10-second rule. Gemma’s Quickstep was a great dance for her. She could’ve been a little bit better but the production value of it, the whole spectacle of it, the extra dancers, the fun, the performance… It was such a good number. I really, really enjoyed it – and she gets a 6.

Whereas Alexandra’s Quickstep at Blackpool, she had the same level of technique and there were problems in the hold, with the gapping – and plus they did so much more than the 10-second rule – and she gets a 10! Two Quicksteps, one’s Alex, one’s Gemma, the same level of technique a few weeks apart but such different scores. What is that?! You can’t just give Alex 10s when it’s gone against the rules. And this is nothing to do with the actual dancers themselves, this is the judges.

Joe McFadden performed the Samba well and is up there with Alexandra and Debbie as the three best dancers left in Strictly. He had a great number and was technically good. Mollie, Gemma and Davood Ghadami were all really good and I enjoyed their performances – but are the weaker dancers.

Strictly star Davood Ghadami

I thought Davood did a really good Argentine section. The choreography was great and he did a really hard flicky bit in the middle and some great lifts again, but he’s not the best dancer and maybe it was right that he went. But I’d have been in a little bit of difficulty with the decision of who to send home in the dance off, to be honest.

And Kevin isn’t leaving Strictly, no. He flipping loves the show and he’s going to be another Anton Du Beke – he’ll be on it until he’s 80!

He’s a great choreographer, so maybe he could choreograph musicals one day? He could also star in musicals because he can sing so maybe he’d like to have a go at being in musicals as well? Who knows!

For me, obviously having managed to win Strictly, I always had another goal in my head anyway – I had other dreams that I wanted to follow and I was quite satisfied with my dance career anyway in the competition world. I did absolutely love Strictly and I probably will (hopefully!) go back some day if they’ll have me. I’d also love to be a judge on the show one day, although I doubt that would happen if Kevin was still on it!


Strictly Come Dancing will return on Saturday 9th December on BBC1. Joanne Clifton currently stars in Flashdance – The Musical in theatres across the UK.


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