Who's performed best on Strictly Come Dancing so far?
Strictly's strictest judge Craig Revel Horwood awards gold stars to the best in class – and reveals the celebrities who need to pull up their socks…
It’s Blackpool Week! The Tower Ballroom is the home of ballroom dancing and it has such an exciting atmosphere – we judges love going up there. But also, we’ve reached the halfway mark and that makes everyone focus.
There have been some big revelations with the celebrities this year, including Stacey Dooley and Joe Sugg. I thought it was brilliant of the BBC to ask an internet star like Joe to take part. We’d never done that before. I didn’t know who he was to begin with – but it’s brought a whole new audience to Strictly, which is just wonderful.
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The introduction of the Couples’ Choice as a new dance category was also a genius idea. As we saw, it gives someone like Charles Venn an opportunity to do something he’s really good at. I’m absolutely championing it and I think it should be part of the show from now on.
There have been a lot of headlines this series, but it hasn’t detracted from the dancing. I just think there’s either a lack of news, darling, or people are so loving the show they can’t get enough of it! Seann Walsh came back after that week with flying colours, and it probably helped push him a bit harder. Like any professional, you have to leave whatever’s going on behind that door and just perform.
When it comes to who will win, I just can’t predict it. I’m always wrong and I can never second guess the audience at home – they always surprise me.
Greatest Strength: Ashley is consistent. Not only does she have great technical ability, she also performs each dance very, very well.
Biggest Weakness: She’s at the top of the leaderboard all the time! That might discourage people from voting for her — she really needs to canvass the votes because that can change everything.
Room to Improve: She’s having to unravel everything she’s learnt as a pop star. Ballroom and Latin are completely different disciplines, and muscle memory — unfortunately — can be your enemy.
Verdict: She’s one of the best dancers I think we’ve ever seen on the show.
Greatest Strength: He’s applying himself, learning the dances properly and really trying to perform them technically. He also has a lot of followers who will be voting for him!
Biggest Weakness: The acting side lets him down.
Room to Improve: Although he’s got a great frame for ballroom dancing, it can also be a weakness in dances where he needs to be super-strong, like the tango. He needs to learn to be less wooden, and to dominate the dance.
Verdict: I think he ticks a lot of boxes. He’s not only entertaining and very enjoyable to watch, but he’s also getting to grips with the technical side of the dancing, too.
Greatest Strength: She’s not afraid to go out there and give it her all. She just gets on with it, and I think that’s one of her biggest strengths. Also Stacey seems able to pick up routines very quickly. She’s been quite a bombshell.
Biggest Weakness: Technically, she’s a little bit behind the other leading dancers, like Faye and Ashley, who are very good technicians.
Room to Improve: If she polishes up her technique, she’ll go a lot further.
Verdict: I can see her winning. She has a lot of the audience on her side, she’s very popular and so far she’s getting through this with flying colours.
Greatest Strength: When Charles did Street for his Couples’ Choice performance, that was fantastic. He has an inner funk, and he’s really great at isolation — moving one part of the body while keeping the rest still.
Biggest Weakness: I’m not sure he’ll be able to find enough hours in the day to get his ballroom and Latin sorted!
Room to Improve: If he maintains that isolation throughout all the other dance genres, I think he could definitely have a chance of going further.
Verdict: He’s got the hardest job out of all the celebrities because he’s hit an almighty high. And generally, after a high, comes a low…
Greatest Strength: I think Faye is fantastic. She’s learning a lot on the way and is a great performer. She really commits to every routine, and brings every dance to life
Biggest Weakness: She needs to throw more of herself into it. She’s very good at putting on the act, but I think it’s really important that the people at home can see a little bit of vulnerability when you’re dancing.
Room to Improve: If she promotes her acting, and brings more of her life experience, I think she’ll do very, very well.
Verdict: Faye’s a really solid performer and is most definitely a serious contender.
Greatest Strength: Her focus. She really wants to do well and puts in a lot of hours. She never thought of herself as sexy, but she’s proved that she can be.
Biggest Weakness: Kate doesn’t express everything through her body. Her mind is working and she thinks she’s doing it, but it’s not actually happening.
Room to Improve: It’s about being efficient on the dancefloor — having a tone to her body. If she can achieve that, I think she’ll go further, but she really needs to buck up her ideas because there’s a lot of celebrities who have already learnt that.
Verdict: When she does something like a paso doble, she comes into her element. She’s not a naturally gifted dancer, but when she gets a dance that suits her, she can be really good.
Greatest Strength: Lauren is a fighter. As an athlete, she’s used to competition and taking criticism — plus she’s also super-fit, which obviously helps in dance.
Biggest Weakness: Her energy is sometimes misplaced and she needs to be aware of putting the focus of each dance into her body.
Room to Improve: She needs to feel a more vibrant energy.
Verdict: Lauren has shown some improvement, but perhaps not enough at this stage of the competition.
Greatest Strength: Graeme has a huge amount of energy — he’s great at doing all the boisterous and high-octane dances, and what he brings to the table is full-on characterisation. The charleston worked really well for him.
Biggest Weakness: He lacks elegance, and there needs to be more quality than quantity.
Room to Improve: On occasion, he floats around the dancefloor and looks like he’s losing control of his limbs here and there.
Verdict: I think it would be great for him to get to the semi-finals, but he’s been landing in the middle of the leaderboard so he needs to pull his socks up a bit more. At the moment, he’s not one of the best dancers.