#StrictlyLiveBlogging Week 2: First Live Show

Welcome back one and all to another week of #StrictlyLiveBlogging, our weekly live blog of the BBC’s hit celebrity ballroom contest Strictly Come Dancing, as it returns for its long awaited new series. 

Two whole weeks have passed since the launch show, and tonight, 15 nervous celebrities and their professional partners are taking to the floor for their very first dances. We will be here bringing you all the happenings from the dance floor as and when we get them from 6.25pm, and with a warm up from 5.45pm looking ahead to tonight’s show and the dances we can expect to see!

Please don’t forget to comment below with your thoughts or Tweet me using the hashtag #StrictlyLiveBlogging!

5:45pm

So here it is. Our Saturday and Sunday nights from now until December are officially starting right here! As we left the last live blog, the fifteen new celebrities were paired up with their professional partners on the launch show.

Tonight, in a whopper of a two hour and 20 minute live show (best get some drinks and snacks in), all of them will take to the floor for their first dances. A quick reminder, courtesy of the BBC Strictly Twitter, of who’s been partnered with whom – and more importantly, what their first dances are and which songs they’ll be dancing to:

And here’s the class of 2017 shortly after finishing dress runs today:

5:50pm

As with previous first shows in recent years, the judges will score the first dances tonight as usual, but there’s no dance off this week. Instead, their scores from this week get carried over and added to the scores next week, along with the public votes which go live next week also – details on how to register to vote for free are on the Strictly website here.

5:55pm

Several former Strictly alumni have been reminiscing/sending their good luck wishes to the new class of 2017 today – amongst them, 2006 runner up and Spice Girl, Emma Bunton, and 2012 runner up and Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh:

6:00pm

Looking at Twitter, it’s safe to say the new celebs are a mixture of raring to go and cacking their pants (metaphorically):

18:05pm

20 minutes to go!

It’s worth mentioning at this juncture, to our delight, that last year’s winner and current reigning champion Ore Oduba is still very much a part of this year’s series, as he is hosting the first ever official Strictly podcast every Monday from next week:

18:07pm

Big shout out has to be given at this point as well to our fellow Strictly nuts on here, Strictly Support Group, who are just as excited as we are about tonight’s live show (Hi guys!):

6:10pm

15 minutes to go! Also to mention here that the delightful Zoë Ball is back with It Takes Two, Monday to Friday at 6.30pm on BBC Two from next week. It appears she’s a bit excited, yes:

6:15pm

10 minutes to go!

6:20pm

Nothing like a bit of banter with the band pre-show…

18:25pm

Here we go people!

18:28pm

Loving this professional dance to ‘You Got the Love’! Oti looking very graceful it has to be said!

18:31pm

That is some entrance from the judges there. Darcey and Shirley looking lovely!

18:34pm

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec opening the show tonight then, with a Cha Cha Cha. A standard first week dance ahead? Let’s find out…!

18:36pm

Gemma says she wanted to bring out her inner J.Lo…safe to say she is doing that so far! Very good New Yorkers!

18:38pm

My score: 7. Really great first dance to open the show, lots of potential.

Shirley loved the cheekiness of the dance. Bruno says she’s like an Amazonian catwalk queen. Craig thinks it’s a bit blocky and square. Darcey says that it’s fast and full but congratulated her on breaking the ice for the others!

18:41pm

Scores for Gemma and Aljaz:

Craig: 4

Darcey: 5

Shirley: 5

Bruno: 6

Total: 20

18:42pm

Brian Conley and Amy Dowden up next, doing the first tango of the series. Not expecting much for this I’ll be honest!

18:44pm

I think it’s safe to say one of the places for next week’s dance off is secure…

Our score: 2. Don’t expect Brian to be around long with performances this wooden!

18:47pm

Bruno loved the intensity, passion and tragedy…almost. Craig said his posture was poor and that he wasn’t leading, but it was something to work on. Darcey says the intensity is there but he has to work on working the dance into the ground. And Shirley? She loves Brian’s character and promenade and a good performance overall.

18:49pm

Brian and Amy’s scores from the judges:

Craig: 3

Darcey: 4

Shirley: 4

Bruno: 5

Total: 16

18:51pm

Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez next with a waltz…will they deliver the romance and passion needed?

18:52pm

It appears Gorka is anti-caffeine, ladies and gentlemen…

18:54pm

Safe to say Lexy is moving with all the grace of a leading lady!

Our score: 8. As beautiful a first waltz as you could hope for!

18:55pm

Craig says her hold and shoulders need a bit of work, but loves her expressive arms and feel for the dance. Darcey says she loves how Alexandra gives the musical expression to the dance and that sold it to her. Shirley said she could see the dance meant something to her and that she could be a front runner. Bruno says he felt so good and like he was enveloped by silk. That’s some good scores coming I feel!

18:58pm

Alexandra and Gorka’s scores are in:

Craig: 5

Darcey: 6

Shirley: 6

Bruno: 7

Total: 24

19:00pm

Sunday Brunch’s Simon Rimmer and Karen Clifton are next with the first Paso Doble of the series. Will he be able to stand the dancefloor heat?

19:03pm

Hmmm. He’s got the command and intensity of the dance right but his footwork is a bit stumbly. Not a bad first go though!

Our score: 5. Not bad but a lot to work on!

19:04pm

Darcey agrees with us on the determination and focus not being aimed correctly but that with time this will come. Shirley (with some nice glasses) said the choreography was strong but that he needs to rotate more. Bruno said it was like a pressure cooker about to explode but that he was like a crashing cockroach(?). Craig said there was a lot of ‘standing there and stomping around darling’ and that it was lacking a lot of shaping.

19:07pm

Here comes Simon and Karen’s scores:

Craig: 3

Darcey: 5

Shirley: 5

Bruno: 4

Total: 17

19:08pm

Charlotte Hawkins from Good Morning Britain, and Brendan Cole are next with, unusually, the first foxtrot of the series. Shirley’s expecting a lot as it’s a notoriously difficult ballroom dance!

19:10pm

Oooh. Definitely getting Katie Derham vibes from Charlotte. Very graceful like a Hollywood film star from the golden age of movies! Good navigation with the bench too!

Our score: 7. Stunning first attempt at a foxtrot, lots of potential here!

19:13pm

Shirley got everything she was looking for. Bruno said it was classy, elegant and traditional. Craig saying lots of potential, as does Darcey who says she needs to use her back.

19:14pm

Time for Charlotte and Brendan’s scores:

Craig: 5

Darcey: 5

Shirley: 6

Bruno: 6

Total: 22

19:15pm

So at this halfway stage have to say Charlotte and Alexandra are our favourites so far. Who are yours?

19:16pm

First of the Holby City stars now as Chizzy Akudolu dances with Pasha Kovalev for a Cha Cha Cha…expecting a lot of exuberance and life here!

19:19pm

Woop! Chizzy is shaking it like a disco queen! Bit of wobbly feet placement but she’s selling it for me!

Our score: 6. A fun and fab-u-lous first dance!

19:21pm

Bruno says he could get addicted to ‘Fizzy Chizzy’ and loves to see her on the dance floor! Craig said it was a bit too disco but a great sense of rhythm. Darcey says she’s a sassy lady and wants her flirty attitude. Shirley said she wants to get fizzy with Chizzy also. An order of Chizzy all round I guess!

19:23pm

The scores for Chizzy and Pasha are in:

Craig: 4

Darcey: 5

Shirley: 6

Bruno: 6

Total: 21

19:24pm

Jonnie Peacock and Oti Mabuse are next up with the first waltz from a male celebrity…will he be the perfect leading man?

19:26pm

Very good placement it has to be said! Jonnie’s really selling the feel of the dance. Great choreography from Oti as well.

Our score: 7. Surprisingly lovely first dance!

19:29pm

Craig is impressed despite some minor movement quibbles. Darcey says she’s impressed by his focus and determination but needs to bring the character. Both Shirley and Bruno loved how endearing and charming it was. Got to say I agree!

19:31pm

Jonnie and Oti’s scores are in:

Craig: 4

Darcey: 5

Shirley: 5

Bruno: 6

Total: 20

19:33pm

Joe McFadden is the next of the Holby City actors to take the stage with Katya Jones with the first jive of the series.

19:35pm

Hmmm. Bit stompy and lacking flicks and kicks that really bring this dance alive. Joe needs to let go a bit more I think!

Our score: 5. Not quite polished but a diamond in the rough!

19:37pm

Darcey loved the focus and choreography but agrees with us re: kicks and flicks. Shirley loved Katya’s choreography also. Bruno said he rocked the house and was handy with a chamois cloth. Craig says HE. LIKES. JOE. That’s him impressed then!

See? Craig. Likes. Him!

19:39pm

Joe and Katya’s scores are in:

Craig: 7

Darcey: 7

Shirley: 8

Bruno: 7

Total: 29 – top of the leaderboard now!

19:41pm

Comedian Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton are up next. How will they fare with the first Viennese waltz of the series?

19:43pm

Susan’s definitely brought a light hearted, comedic air to this dance. Bit flat footed in places but a lot of grace too!

Our score: 6. We’re going to be quite mad about this partnership for sure!

19:46pm

Bruno said like a weird and wonderful arthouse film. Shirley says she needs to work on focusing the technique. Craig said she got the essence of the dance. Darcey says she captured the storytelling of the dance but to tone down her (obvious) love of Kevin!

19:47pm

Here comes Susan and Kevin’s scores:

Craig: 5

Darcey: 5

Shirley: 5

Bruno: 5

Total: 20

19:49pm

Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernici are next up with the second Paso Doble of the night. Will they cast any magic spells of dance tonight?

19:51pm

Big surprise from Debbie there. A lot of finnesse and attack for a first dance, and for a Paso too!

Our score: 7. Dramatic and full of content. Really good first go!

19:53pm

Bruno said it had a lot of bite and content. Craig said she danced like a 20 year old (I agree) and that Darcey said she was on fire and is going to go a long way. Shirley said she’s got it all and is outstanding. A dark horse indeed I think!

19:55pm

It’s time for Debbie and Giovanni’s scores:

Craig: 8

Darcey: 8

Shirley: 7

Bruno: 7

Total: 30 – that now puts them top of the leaderboard!

19:59pm

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya Bychkova are next with a Cha Cha Cha. Will it bring the entertainment factor of an EastEnders epic storyline?

20:02pm

Sparky but a bit of hip action and feet placement lacking. Good start though!

Our score: 6. Lots to work with but a lot of good too.

Craig agrees with us on the hip action. Darcey and Shirley admires the capturing of the partnership. And Bruno said he couldn’t think about dancing. I wonder why…? 

20:04pm

Davood and Nadiya’s scores are in:

Craig: 6

Darcey: 7

Shirley: 7

Bruno: 7

Total: 27

20:06pm

Ruth Langsford from This Morning and Anton Du Beke up next with a waltz. Will she make her hubby Eamonn Holmes proud?

20:10pm

Ruth is so graceful and elegant, quite rounded shoulders mind.

Our score: 7. Very beautiful and elegant waltz!

20:12pm

Darcey and Shirley agree with us on the shoulders and upper part of the body but agree about the elegance. Bruno says she doesn’t need to grab Anton so hard. Craig agreed by saying it was ‘Stumble and grab’ time (bit harsh)!

20:13pm

The scores for Ruth and Anton are in:

Craig: 3

Darcey: 4

Shirley: 4

Bruno: 5

Total: 16

20:14pm

So excited about this next one – it’s the Rev Richard Coles and Dianne Buswell with a cha cha cha! Praise be to the heavens…

20:17pm

He’s on a cloud with a harp. Just give him the glitterball now! A bit like the parson’s eggs – good in parts!

Our score: 6. For the sheer entertainment factor he has my blessing!

20:19pm

Shirley said it was a fantastic surprise and says he’s loveable. She was also impressed with the syncopated Cuban break. Bruno said it was full of heavenly delights and diabolical technique! Craig said all the problems began when the cloud landed (bit harsh to the cloud I think) and Darcey said absolutely divine and can’t wait till next week. Nor can I! Heaven knows we need a laugh (yes I just went there)!

20:21pm

The scores are in for The Reverend and Dianne:

Craig: 2

Darcey: 4

Shirley: 6

Bruno: 5

Total: 17

20:22pm

Mollie King and AJ Pritchard are next up with a jive. Come on Team Sats!

20:25pm

Good golly Miss Mollie indeed! Loving all the kicks and flicks. Nice, fun and feel good!

Our score: 7. Best jive of the series so far I think!

20:26pm

Bruno loves that she wants to impress but that she has to work with her partner and following their lead. Craig agrees and says she needs to react to AJ but great rhythm. Darcey said she will get stronger and get the attack required but she delivered with style. Shirley said a good job and lots of potential.

20:29pm

Mollie and AJ’s scores are in:

Craig: 4

Darcey: 6

Shirley: 7

Bruno: 6

Total: 23

20:29pm

Closing the show tonight it’s JLS star Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrara. Can he end the show on a high with his foxtrot? The water bottles seem to agree!

20:32pm

Aston is Mr Foxtrot indeed! This year’s Ore Oduba? Quite possibly!

Our score: 8. A very solid start indeed!

20:34pm

Craig’s not fond of the flashy show off moments but likes his sense of musicality. Darcey said it was controlled, confident and stylish with a modern twist and is one to watch. Shirley said it had elements of traditional foxtrot with a decent frame. Bruno said Aston’s his favourite – slick and flowing like a DB11 – a classic in the making. Seems like the best came last!

20:36pm

In come Aston and Janette’s scores:

Craig: 7

Darcey: 8

Shirley: 8

Bruno: 8

Total: 31 – he ends top of the leaderboard for the first live show!

20:41pm

That’s it for another #StrictlyLiveBlogging. The first Charlestons and Quicksteps are next week and I for one can’t wait. See you back here next weekend at 6:45pm (with our warm up at 6:15pm) and in the meantime…keeeep dancing (and live blogging)!

😄😄😄 🎉🎉🎉 💃💃💃 📝📝📝

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#ProjectHappyJanuary: Week 2

So we’re now on week two of a new year, and thus on the second week of this here blog’s new initiative, #ProjectHappyJanuary. If you missed it last week, this is our one man/blogger mission to make the first month of a new year suitably awesome.

Last week was all about bringing a bit of joy to loved ones, and this week is all about bringing joy to ourselves. It can be incredibly easy, with the days still short and dark and cold, to sit in darkened rooms and let the four walls get to us. So this is my little guide to embracing a lighter, more joyful lifestyle.

When the Christmas decorations are down and packed away, first thing I tend to do is break out the candles. Oh yes. Usually I’ll have been plentifully supplied with a batch of fresh scented tealights – although these don’t have to be scented, standard ones work just as well. 

Home value stores like Wilkinson or B&M Home Bargains often stock packs of 100 regular tealights for as little as £2, and placed in some inexpensive holders will add some friendly, warm light to your immediate surroundings. 

It’s also a prime excuse to invest in a quirky light fitting. My most recent one, pictured above, is this carnival style lamp I got from Not on the High Street – again, inexpensive but looks great and makes for a real talking point.

When the TV schedules and radio airwaves are cluttered with repeats or the same playlists of music, it’s always key to have some feel good stuff to wind down with or listen to on the go. These are just my personal choices, but hopefully they’ll give you a bit of inspiration.

FILMS

  • Amelie (2001) 

This French language film has English subtitles, but ups the heartwarming factor to 10, as Audrey Tautou stars in this charming story about a simple Parisian girl practicing random acts of kindness.

  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2003)

One of the proper laugh out loud, romantic comedies of recent years, Nia Vardalos and John Corbett star in this tale of weddings, interfering families and ten bridesmaids in turquoise meringues for dresses.

  • Friends with Benefits (2011)

Sharp, sexy and very funny, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis put in great turns here as two friends that try to eschew the unrealistic stereotypes of romance with a no strings attached approach.

MUSIC

  • Stevie Wonder – “The Definitive Collection”

There is something about Stevie – and Motown music generally – that I find so passionate and uplifting. Songs of his like “Sir Duke”, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “Signed Sealed Delivered” are real good mood boosters for me because of their soul and energy.

  • Girls Aloud – “Ten”

OK, I do realise I’m cheating here slightly having two greatest hits albums on my list of feel good music, but the mighty Aloud never fail to get me going, especially on early mornings where my energy might be at its lowest possible berth. “Biology” and “Love Machine” in particular, with their hotch potch structure and bonkers production, are as infectious as anything.

  • Jack Johnson – “In Between Dreams”

I always refer to this as my “January album”, for no other reason than the fact that unseasonable music is one of the best mood boosters possible. And by that I mean listening to music that reminds you of better times. I can count on my hands the number of winters since I got this album in 2006 where I’ve listened to Jack strumming his ukulele, singing about banana pancakes and trains breaking down and imagining I’m on a hot sunny island instead of snowy rush hour traffic.

Don’t forget to Tweet me and let me know what your uplifting music and films are, or how you’ve made your living space a bit brighter – use the hashtag #ProjectHappyJanuary when you do!

The next #ProjectHappyJanuary will be up at the same time next Monday.

😄😄😄😄