Strictly Dance Fever - The Blog

In 2005, Lindy Hoppers Paul Crook and Natasha Hall competed in BBC TV's Strictly Dance Fever show. They were finally voted out on Saturday 7 May, the fourth couple to leave The House. Their voting numbers were 0901 121 4008 or text 8 to 63633. 

The official site is Strictly Dance Fever and the couple have their own pages. Watch the behind-the-scenes programme on weekdays at 7.30pm on BBC3 and the dances on Saturday at 6pm followed by the results (times vary, usually sometime after 9pm). 

This site features images from the original TV programmes. The copyright in these images is owned by the BBC. The image above was supplied by jk, the webmaster of James & Claire's site.

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Added 14 June 2005

Strictly Dance Fever - The History

Now the series has ended, The Blog has been busy gathering together some of the behind-the-scenes stories of how it came into being. One person who was in at the beginning of the project was Robert Austin. This is his story:

The basic story is that the BBC approached me in January after seeing that we had [US swing dancer] Erik Robison  teaching for us. They probably picked it up from our website.

I arranged a meeting with Erik, myself and [producer] Berry English at Daddy-O's and we had an initial talk about the series. At that point they didn't quite know whether they would be looking at Erik as part of the judging panel or as a teacher. Berry English then asked about other people who would be suitable to teach, Erik and myself suggested Ryan [Francois], Steven Mitchell and a few other top calibre teachers.

There was a long discussion about styles of swing including the differences between Lindy Hop & Jitterbug (so they did know better). We talked about, Savoy Hollywood, Boogie Woogie, Shag, Balboa, Charleston, the Big Apple and things like Jam circles.

I then left further discussions about Erik's role between Erik and the BBC. Later the following week Erik went for a screen test and then a further meeting. I know that Erik was very keen to include Ryan in the series especially if they were dealing with earlier Harlem Lindy Hop styles.

Just before they were about to do the auditions I got a call from Berry English as they were desperate to get hold of Erik, but, I think he was just flying back to LA from Paris. I am assuming this is when they got hold of Ryan.

I had several long conversations with Berry English separate from this about the structure of the show.

I pointed out at the time potential problems in having theatre/video choreographers who weren't specialists teaching various dance styles. I also pointed out that it would be sensible to have some judges who had experience of partner dancing rather than just performance.

You can read all about Robert's regular clubs and classes at www.swinginter.net/

Hunting Down The House

One hot topic of conversation during Strictly Dance Fever was the whereabouts of The House. The BBC asked for it to be kept secret while the show was on, but now it can be revealed. It was Hedsor House in Taplow Buckinghamshire. You can read all about it and see some photographs at www.hedsor.com

If you fancy hiring it out for your own event, be warned - it ain't cheap. The site quotes weekday hire at £4,000 a day, and weekend will cost you £10,000. So that works out at some £30,000 per week. Wonder if the BBC got a discount?

Let's Talk SDF!

SDF has been a subject for discussion amongst all parts of the swing dance community. There is a thread on the Ceroc Scotland Forum that was started last December at the start of the show and continues through to the final last Saturday. There's forty pages of comments for you to read at www.cerocscotland.com/

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 Added 5 June 2005

Joseph and Sadie
Winners of Strictly Dance Fever!

Congratulations Joseph and Sadie!

In a tense and exciting final on Saturday 4 June, Joseph Hall and Sadie Flower were crowned Strictly Dance Fever champions. They won a dance-off with Danny and Jodie, having survived the first elimination decision against James and Claire at the beginning of the results show. Joseph and Sadie wake up this morning £50,000 richer and off to join Burn The Floor.

Obviously a huge disappointment for the losing couples, but there's no reason why they can't continue their competition-winning ways and work their way into shows as well. So good luck to them all

The final programme was triumph for the BBC and the producers must be delighted. Graham Norton said that there were over one million votes so the viewing numbers should be good. But will they be good enough to get a second series commissioned?

Final Moments

Saturday night was full of some great TV moments. Here's some of the SDF Blog's favourites:

No doubt you have your own golden moments burned into your minds - and quite possibly a few recordable DVDs  - forever. Mmm - wonder if the BBC will bring out a box set of the programme?

P&N montage
Paul and Natasha SDF memories

James and Claire sited!

James and Claire have their own web site at www.jamesmclauchlan.co.uk There's lots of photos, biographies of the couple and a list of the dance awards that they've won. A professional and well-presented web site. Well done!

Very special thanks to the site's webmaster jk, who has sent through many pictures of Paul and Natasha taken from the broadcasts. The SDF Blog has turned a selection into a montage, pictured right.

More on Jodie

Jodie Binsteed has her own site at www.jodiebinsteed.com. You can see where she is appearing, a photo gallery of past events, and the quite staggering number of competitions she has already won at the tender age of 21. You can understand her disappointment at not winning SDF - this girl's clearly used to finishing first!

He Shoots He Scores!

This whole blog was inspired by Paul and Natasha's efforts in the competition. During the four weeks they were in the house, and even after they left, they had to endure a seemingly endless stream of spiteful comments from Jason Gardiner. So exactly how great was it to see Paul get the final word in on Saturday? Here's how it unfolded:

During the first BBC3 programme, ZoŽ Ball interviewed the judges. She had sensible questions for Arlene, Luca and Stacey, but asked Jason "Who would win in a dance-off between you and Luca?" Fair play, it was a crap question, but when Arlene led the cheerleading to get him onto the dance floor, the best he could come up with was "It's not going to happen. I'm wearing a five grand suit. There's no way I'm going to dance in it". Weak or what?

Later when ZoŽ spoke to Paul, he said "At the end of the day, Jason didn't get up there, did he?" Top man! Too true! When it came right down to it, Gardiner was all mouth and (a very expensive pair of) trousers!

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Added 1 June 2005

The Big Prize!

The late night BBC3 programme on Monday revealed that the SDF winners will go into the 'dansical' Burn The Floor. Director/choreographer Jason Gilkison spoke with host Joe Mace and assessed the finalists as follows:

When asked to pick his likely winners, Jason said that "the public is going for James and Claire". 

Get Well Gem & Gemma!

Cem Ahmet
Gem in his Jason Gardiner tribute gear

After last Saturday's show, Gem and Gemma were driving to late-night restaurant Tinseltown near London's Smithfield Market. On the way, they were hit by another car.

Gemma has her leg bandaged and Gem is in a neck brace, but both say they are well enough to participate in this Saturday's finale.

It's Another Dan Guest Update!

Dan and Christi Guest have been working with the couples on their Lindy Hop, Charleston and Jitterbug routines. Here's yet more fascinating insights into life behind the scenes at SDF:

We have got to know all of the couples whilst working on the program so it was always going to be a little sad for us whoever got knocked out in this penultimate show. Having got so far we know how much it meant to all the contestants to make it to the final week. To come so close and fail at this late stage was always going to be particularly disappointing for the couple that gets knocked out. 

Nevertheless, it was a real pity that Nathan & Kristy got knocked out after making such a good job of their Lindy routine. To be placed second after the judges voting but still get knocked out after the public vote was very sad. We were really proud of their Lindy piece and thought they showed excellent partnering and captured the styling and personality of the dance. Their 'over the head' air-step looked fantastic live in the studio with Kristy getting great height and nailing the landing too. 

Their only let down came at the end when they failed to pull off their ambitious air-step combination grand finale. After the 'down the back' and jump into 'straddle', Nathan was supposed to lift Kristy into a 'candlestick/needle' but lost his balance falling backwards with Kristy coming down on top of him. Thankfully the judges had the wisdom to ignore this recognizing that the rest of the routine was worthy of praise and thus gave them very good marks. It would have been interesting to see what marks the judges would have given if they'd pulled off the ending too. Maybe even a 10 or two perhaps! However, with the low scores from the public I don't think it would have made any difference to the final result. 

James and Claire weren't quite so happy with their Jitterbug and knew they could have done better. In their defense, the music wasn't very inspiring. However, they didn't manage to adapt to this style as well as they have for many of the other dances. For example, their first dance of the evening the Waltz was excellent. I certainly wasn't alone in thinking theirs was the best of the four Waltzes. Claire was very emotional on the night and had a good cry in Christi's arms after the main show. It was all smiles after the results show though! They are such a genuine and lovely couple it was great to see them so elated to make it to the final. 

Danny & Jodie really nailed their Charleston piece and deservedly got high praise from the judges. Their perfect score of 40 showed once again what an entertaining dance the Charleston can be. The 'buzz' in the studio when the judges raised their scoring paddles was electrifying. This was the first time we'd worked with this couple and it was gratifying to see that the Charleston brought out a side of their personalities not seen on the program thus far. 

They've come across as quite serious at times and I think this has limited their popularity with the public. Maybe this week's Charleston will help them gain some public support which they'll need to stand a chance of winning next week. They really enjoyed the dance and were all smiles afterwards being absolutely delighted by the reaction from the studio audience and judges. 

We didn't work with Joseph & Sadie this week but it was great to watch their Hustle piece live in the studio. Their Waltz was weak but they thoroughly deserved to make it through to the final. They have been one of the most consistently strong couples throughout the series and seem to have quite a bit of support from the public too. Most of the couples who were knocked out in previous weeks came back to watch this week's show. 

We talked with Paul & Natasha in the backstage bar afterwards and they have now adjusted back into normality and seemed very happy. All the couples return next week and will get to dance a short cameo in the final show. Paul & Natasha are really looking forward to this and are 'hell bent' on doing some Lindy regardless of what the program makers actually want! The three final couples get to choose their favourite dance from the series to repeat in the final show. The only constraint being that they can't repeat one of this week's routines. 

Some people have been asking how successful the show has been in terms of audience viewing figures. There's been some conflicting numbers but the show's researcher told me that the BBC are delighted with the success of SDF. He said that SDF is the 5th most successful program of all time for its Saturday early evening time slot. He also pointed out that the top two historical viewing figures for this time slot were grabbed by football matches. 

This further demonstrates the real success of the program making it an effective 3rd in the all time list. Viewing figures for the first few shows have been published at around 5 million peaking at 7 million. The researcher said that current estimates for the later shows are around the 9 to 10 million mark. Apparently there is always a delay of several weeks before actual figures can be calculated and published. 

Another point of contention that we've heard lots about from the Swing community has been the dance coaches Vanessa Leagh Hicks and Kevan Allen. Some people took a dislike to them due to their apparent lack of support towards Paul & Natasha in the early weeks of the program. I'd like to stand up for them and let people know just how supportive they have been throughout the series. Vanessa has been present at many of our coaching sessions with the contestants and has always been very constructive. 

All the couples we've worked with seem to get on well with her and she's generally a fun and positive influence. We have really enjoyed working with her and it was quite touching to see her wiping back the tears several times during the show on Saturday. She has a strong bond will all the contestants and is very much the mother figure in the house, often standing up against the judges and offering encouragement to the dancers. Both she and Kevan are highly professional but also very 'down to earth' people. It has been a great experience working with them and they've both really enjoyed the Swing dances on the series. 

Kevan said he wished he'd got to work with us particularly for the Charleston. He loved the routines that the couples put together and thought that the Charleston has been the 'stand out' dance of the series. Vanessa feels very much the same way about the success of the Swing dances on the program. She said that she'd really enjoyed working with us, saying that the swing dance weeks were the ones she'd had most fun with. We wish them well and hope to work with them again in the future. I'm sure that both of them will shed a tear or two next Saturday whatever the outcome!

Down With The Kids

is the title of a piece by Jacques Peretti in The Guardian. It's about the difficulties of managing children hooked on SDF. In it he claims that it is possible to vote using the red button on his remote control and that the results come out after 10pm at night. Is he watching the same programme as the rest of us?

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Added 30 May 2005

Lindy Hopped Out

Nathan Potter and Kristy Cullen were voted out of SDF on Saturday. This despite a very creditable Lindy Hop routine. So the finalists next week are Danny & Jodie, Joseph & Sadie and James & Claire.  Meantime you can find out what Nathan and Kristy are up to by visiting their very good web site at www.nathanpotter.co.uk

James & Claire
James and Claire: Glad to be in the final

In keeping with the improvisational approach to the weekly routines, no dances were handed out by ZoŽ Ball, but just the clue that couples would be allowed to dance a style that they have already performed well. For James and Claire this may be the Foxtrot, for Danny and Jodie the Milonga, and Lindy Hop returns for Joseph and Sadie. But it may be street jazz for all by the end of the week.

The idea of America from West Side Story seems to have well and truly bitten the dust, as this week the group dance was The Flamenco. Next Saturday all of the contestants will be back for a last dance as part of the show for the final . 

Do These Numbers Add Up?

Once again, the results showed curious voting patterns. When Nathan was injured, he and Kristy were given one point but avoided the chop on the night Adam and Rebecca left. On Saturday night, despite finishing second after the judges' vote, they went out. That means that they must have finished last in the public vote, and James and Claire must have been either first or second for the public.

As we know the position after the judges' vote, and the final position of the couples, the public vote can be inferred as something like this:

Judges' Position Final Position Judges' points Public points? Final
 Danny & Jodie 1 1 4 2 6
Nathan & Kristy  2 4 3 1 4
Joseph & Sadie 3 2 2 4 6
James & Claire 4 3 1 3 4

Why did Nathan and Kristy lose so much support? Are people really switching couples in such huge numbers every week?  And why is the BBC being so secretive about the voting? A friendly internal inquiry about the public numbers was met with the response that these figures were "confidential".  They are acting as if they have something to hide - so have they?

[Note: A reader emailed in on June 4 to point out that it was more likely that Joseph and  Sadie won the public vote, and that James and Claire survived by getting more public votes than Nathan and Kristy. The table previously showed these positions reversed.]

Cruising For A Bruising

EasyJudge (that would be the Orange one in case you're wondering) was at it yet again on Saturday's show. To ram it home to James and Claire that he was disappointed with their Jitterbug routine, Jason said "I thought Paul and Natasha had come back!" 

Sorry, OrangeyTan Man - you're wrong again! As we all know, P&N could jitterbug these couples off the floor, as it's one of their specialist dances.

Once again this idiot resorts to spiteful and vindictive insults. In the immortal words of Groucho Marx: "You have the brain of a three-year-old and they must have been pleased to get rid of it!" Lindy Hoppers are not known as being aggressive or violent people, but in the case of Jason Gardiner we should really make an exception.

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Added 27 May 2005

The Dan Guest Report

Dan and Christi Guest are back in the House teaching Lindy Hop, jitterbug and Charleston. Here's Dan's report on the week so far:

We've been working in the SDF house on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week. We have been coaching Danny & Jodie in Charleston, Nathan & Kristy in Lindy Hop, and James & Claire in Jitterbug. Joseph & Sadie are doing Hustle this week so we haven't been working with them this time. 

As well as these dances all the contestants are also learning to Waltz for the second dance on Saturday. In addition, they are also doing a group Flamenco number and a backing dance routine for Geri Haliwell. All this means that they have an extremely busy schedule with less time available to put their swing routines together. The pressure is therefore really on now! 

Danny & Jodie seem to be coping with the extra workload very well. They have put together an excellent choreography to a piece of music that was initially very challenging. Their music is Bad Guys taken from Bugsy Malone and is not an obvious choice for Charleston. Jodie hated the music to start with and was very disappointed not to get a more typically Charleston piece. However, they have got over this and developed some great ideas for a Gangster styled routine. They will undoubtedly be very strong on Saturday's show. 

By comparison James & Claire are struggling to put together their routine! They are finding it difficult to adapt to Jitterbug and keep falling back into the West Coast stylings that they are more comfortable with. Their music is not particularly suited to Jitterbug and isn't very inspiring for choreography. James has a shoulder strain and is now avoiding the lifts and airsteps during rehearsal. We did spend quite a bit of time helping them with airsteps but I suspect they won't actually be able to include many of them for Saturday's show. They really need to work hard over the next couple of days otherwise their routine could be disappointing! 

Of all the couples Nathan & Kristy have the biggest challenge this week. Our coaching sessions with them have been dogged by problems. Firstly, Nathan has missed about half of the coaching due to his foot injury. They've been sending him to a Harley street specialist for treatment but this has meant that he missed half the session on Monday and only arrived for the last five minutes of today's session. Secondly, the music that they were initially given was inappropriate for Lindy Hop (it wasn't possible to even force ourselves to dance to it). 

Another piece of music had to be found with resulting delays. Late yesterday the BBC agreed it could be changed to Mack the Knife but the version they gave us this morning was too slow. We've therefore had to ask them to speed it up so Nathan & Kristy won't actually get the proper version until late this afternoon.

 All this has made it doubly hard for them to complete their choreography. It's not all bad news for them though! On the plus side Kristy is thrusting herself into the Lindy Hop with some gusto. I have been dancing with her when Nathan has been in therapy. She soaks things up very quickly and is brilliant with airsteps. They are both keen to make their routine as impressive as possible and want to include some big airstep sequences. 

Nathan is really loving doing the Lindy Hop and his injury doesn't seem to be inhibiting him much now. They have the potential to pull off some great airsteps but will also have some really nice partnering sequences in between. Despite having the odds stacked against them they are really enjoying this week and are confident they can impress the judges on Saturday. It all rests upon whether they will be able to make their piece work nicely to their new music.

We've now finished our work for the week but we will be at the show on Saturday to cheer them all on.

Show Times!

Third set of times in three weeks: We're back to Saturday with the first show back at 6pm and the BBC3 review at 7pm. The results show is on at 8.35pm for ten minutes, and then there's 20 minutes on BBC3 at 8.45pm.

Life Copies Art Part II

On Tuesday night's BB3 programme, Joe Mace interviewed judge Jason Gardiner. And what did Joe call this part of the show? Why, Gardiner's Question Time! Just like the SDF Blog of May 6! It may not be a particularly original idea, but come on Beeb, if you can't be original, at least be first!

Post Reality Show Stress Syndrome

While it all seems to be fun and games in front of the camera, those leaving reality shows sometimes have trouble adjusting back to normal life. Carina Stephenson, who appeared in The History Channel's reality show The Colony, committed suicide in a wood near her home in Doncaster last weekend. Earlier this year, a contestant in the US boxing show The Contender, shot himself three weeks before the show was due to be screened. A participant in the  Swedish version of Survivor killed herself after being the first voted the show.

While the contestants need our support, it seems those leaving these shows need it even more.

Viewing Figures

The BBC posted some news about the first edition of SDF. The first show was watched by an average 4.9 million people, peaking at 6.3 million. The results show had an average of 4.7 million viewers, peaking at 7.2 million. The article adds that additional viewers were 'gained' because due to a technical fault, Graham Norton could be heard during the opening scenes of Doctor Who. (Full article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4385801.stm)

Not Everyone Likes SDF

A well-argued dissenting view: blog.markaw.com/

Thanks for visiting

A Google search for "Strictly Dance Fever" produces some 38,900 results. The SDF Blog is in the top 30, so thank you for making this such a popular page!

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Added 22 May 2005

He Who Lives By The Crystal Ball Must Learn To Eat Broken Glass!

Gem and Gemma
No longer in The House

And so it was this week when neither the judges' lowest-placed couple (Nathan and Kristy), nor, as predicted, James and Claire were voted out of Strictly Dance Fever. Despite last week's wake-up call, Gem and Gemma will be home on Monday. Was Gem's persistent baiting of Arlene a factor? Who knows, but it couldn't have helped.

Certainly Arlene hit out at Gem for his sexless performance in his Saturday Night Fever routine. But the public vote showed that they had fallen out of favour with more than the judges.

Next week the remaining four couples must all tackle The Waltz. Deep joy. There's an exciting high-energy dance that they can really use to excite the crowd. But as revealed on May 19 - swing is back! So Danny and Jodie will be Charlestonning the week away, James and Claire are the Jitterbugs, Nathan and Kristy will be Lindy Hopping and Joseph and Sadie will learn to Hustle. 

The instructors in the house tomorrow will be Dan and Christi Guest (see May 19 below), so hopefully we can look forward to some more of Dan's fabulous behind-the-scenes updates.

And if that wasn't enough, the boys were told that next Saturday Geri Haliwell will be singing on the results show - and they will be her backing dancers. No word of the girls getting their paws on Robbie Williams, though.

Top Moment in this week's show

No contest. Jason Gardiner awarded Danny and Jodie nine points - then held up the one point paddle! In the BBC3 show, Stacey Haynes owned up to switching his paddles around. His reaction? To turn on her and exclaim "Ooh! You little minx!" This is exactly the phrase attributed to him in the spoof play on this very site! A case of life imitating art? 

This Week's Mystery Moment

Having announced on last Saturday's BBC3 show that the group dance would be America from West Side Story, the contestants launched into Fame. Not a word of explanation on that, so don't be surprised to see them all having a go at Agadoo or The Birdie Song next week.

P&N at Daddy-Os
Paul and Natasha at Daddy-Os

Paul & Natasha's Escape Party

Daddy-Os put on a party to celebrate Paul and Natasha's release from The House on Friday 19 May. A good crowd turned up at the cosy little club near Euston in London to wish them well.

They are now lining up some teaching gigs at camps as they return to normal life. Last week they treated themselves to the classic car they said they'd buy if they won SDF. So now they will be travelling in style!

The couple are continuing to go to the broadcast shows of SDF. They were there again on Sunday 22 when, with the cruelest of ironies, they could be seen mainly when the camera was on Jason Gardiner.

New Dance Show Formats In Development

Such is the success of Strictly Dance Fever that producers are scrabbling around for new formats. SDF Blog trawled through their waste bins to bring you a sneak preview of some of the ideas. Only one of them is true. Can you spot which one?

Slightly Restrictive Dancing: Couples are bound together with bungee rope and then given dance moves to do.  Losers are thrown off a bridge.

Dancing While Severely Fevered: Patients in the malaria ward of the Institute for Tropical Diseases learn a dance and display it to a panel of doctors. The winners are awarded a program of experimental drug treatment. 

Death Dance Island: Couples are stranded on an island in the Outer Hebrides and each week must learn a new dance outdoors while RAF fighter aircraft strafe the terrain with gunfire. 

Tabloid Celebrity Transvestite Dance-Off: Publicity-hungry nonentities cross-dress and partner up before going out to dance in night clubs. Winners to be decided by the amount of newspaper column inches they get the following week. 

Beachy Head Blindfold Boogie Challenge: You can probably guess this one. 

Surely Shocking Shim Sham Shame: Swing line dancers are eliminated by wiring up the phone vote system to electrodes attached to the contestants. Each week the person with the fewest votes is electrocuted. Based on the US show Extremely Jittering Jitterbugs.

Celebrity Shark Bait: Particularly annoying celebs are bundled off to South Africa, stuck in a cage and shoved off the back of a boat in shark-infested waters.

You Know When You've Been Tango'd!: Strange orange-coloured people coerce strangers into performing the original Argentine dance style. Inevitably hosted by Jason Gardiner.

Oscar Foxtrot Fever: Bizarre show where police arrest people at a Hollywood film award ceremony and force them to compete in a cheesy smile contest.

Help! Get Me Off Celebrity Death Dance Love Island!: All of the above.

Strictly Gone Bonkers: TV production company executives have a one-hour deadline to come up with a new reality/talent show format.

To find out which of these is apparently true, go to this page of The Times and scroll down to the last paragraph.

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Added 19 May 2005

Swing Revisited!

The SDF producers were so pleased with the swing week on the show that they have invited Charleston teachers Dan and Christi Guest back to do it again. 

Dan writes: "We will also now be going into the house as dance coaches again next week. It will be a 'Swing Revisited' week. The idea being that the  people who didn't get to learn the dances first time round will now get  the opportunity. Hence we will be teaching Danny & Jodie the Charleston and we'll teach the other couples either Lindy Hop or Jitterbug depending on what they've already done.

They are also going to be doing some crazy dance record breaking antics on the same show. Something along the lines of most number of repetitive air-steps!"

SDF Blog has suggested the following 'challenges':

Any other suggestions will probably also be ignored.

Nathan's Fine - Probably!

Wednesday night's BBC3 SDF programme announced that Nathan Potter has recovered from his foot injury and is dancing again. But he might not be able to dance in the competition. In which case Toby Beal will partner Kristy Cullen. Have we actually got anywhere with this?

Don't Forget - this week it's SUNDAY night

Strictly Dance Fever has been bumped to Sunday night this week, so you can enjoy the live delights of the Eurovision Song Contest. The first show is 5.35pm to 6.30pm and the results show is only ten minutes at 6.50pm. The BBC3 post-results show is now fifteen minutes, starting at 7pm.

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Added 17 May 2005

Paul and Natasha's Official Release Party!

Swing club Daddy-O's is hosting a coming out party for Paul and Natasha on Friday 20 May at the usual venue, St Aloysius Social Club, 20 Phoenix Road London NW1. The DJs will be Voodoo Doll and guest Groove Jackson. For more information see www.swinginter.net or call 020 8829 0919.

The couple has been busy on the social dance scene again, visiting Stompin', Jitterbugs, Swing Cats Corner and this Thursday 19 they can be found at Swing Thing in Hammersmith.

Paul & Natasha in Gloucester
Back in the old routine
Nathan Potter
Nathan adds to his video diary in Gloucester

Best Foot Forward

 Nathan Potter has been given until Wednesday this week to prove that he is fit enough to continue dancing in the competition. He's still on crutches, but on Monday night's BBC3 programme he told host Joe Mace: "I've had to ice it every hour for ten minutes, but the swelling has gone down. I can get my shoe on now and even walk on it a bit".

Meanwhile, partner Kristy Cullen has been learning The Milonga with previously-eliminated contestant Toby Beal. It seems that if Nathan can't make the deadline, Toby and Kristy will continue as a couple. This means that Toby could be the first contestant to be voted off twice! 


What's the difference between a zoo and Jason Gardiner?

One has an orangutan, and the other has an orangey tan!

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Added 15 May 2005

Non-Shock Result!

In probably the most unsurprising outcome in the contest so far, Adam and Rebecca were voted off SDF on Saturday 14 May. Gem and Gemma were the other couple sweating it out, and hopefully that will give them the kick up the bum they need to focus on dancing, and get Gem off his "Arlene fancies me" fixation.

Nathan and Kristy
Nathan and Kristy in happier times at JATW

The unexpected element was Nathan's injury. He was unable to dance and he and Kristy were given one point. Yet the public were able to save them from the chop, so the Blog prediction (see May 10 below) was only half right.

Nathan's foot has a soft tissue injury, which apparently is more serious than stepping on a Kleenex, and he may be forced to retire from the competition, which would be a great shame.

Christy was forced to sit out the Mambo, but threw herself into The Big Apple and was partnered by caller Ryan Francois for her spotlight moment.

Mambo Minimalism

What went wrong with The Mambo this week? The judges were not happy with any of the performances. OK, ok, no change there you say, but even Vanessa chipped in to say that they weren't given enough moves to fill a routine. Was this down to Mambo teacher Janet Fuentes (?) or was there another reason for the confusion?

Next Week's Dances

There's three dances next week. All couples must tackle The Milonga, a tango-style dance with a salsa beat. The group dance will be America from West Side Story. And on top of those, each couple will be given a routine from a film to interpret. Danny and Jodie have Cheek to Cheek from Top Hat, Gem and Gemma get More Than A Woman from Saturday Night Fever, James and Claire must tackle The Lendler from The Sound of Music and The Time Of My Life from Dirty Dancing is the subject matter for Joseph and Sadie. If Nathan is able to dance, he and Christy have the fabulous Dancing in The Dark scene from The Bandwagon.

This is an excellent idea by the SDF producers, as we'll get to watch a variety of dances and styles, and a reference point for what we're seeing. A glance at this week's Radio and TV update shows that West Side Story is on TCM on Sunday 15. 

Single Transferable Vote

Martin Lister writes in to suggest that James and Claire are worthy of our vote now.  "They came through the auditions in the Swing category with a brilliant spinning diva West Coast", he says, adding "Every hour that I dance adds two hours to my life".

What The Press Say

Dance couple Ian and Victoria are following the series closely, and putting all the results on their web site. You can also find links to press articles on the programme and the dancers.

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Added 13 May 2005

Play Time

Friday the 13th - unlucky for some. In this case, it's bad news for the judges and coaches, as their now stereotyped behaviour is mercilessly lampooned in SDF - The Play! Does it have a Jason joke? Does Frankie dance the Lindy Hop?

Big Apple Update

The SDF Blog interrupted Ryan Francois as he and Jenny Thomas made their way to The Choreographers' Ball on Thursday night. They were greeted at the entrance to The Hippodrome by BBC cameras and asked to take a bow on stage during the evening. The event was making a lifetime achievement award to judge Luca Tomassini

So what's happening in The House with The Big Apple, Ryan? "They're getting it slowly, but the whole atmosphere is more lax because a few of them are beginning to think that they're already stars. I've been in on Tuesday and Wednesday to teach them the moves and I'm going back on Friday to see how they've been getting on". 

The dance captains this week are Danny and Jodie, and on the night, Ryan will be there as the caller. The BBC is trying to get clearance to show a clip from the famous Jittering Jitterbugs routine, where Frankie Manning can be heard shouting out the moves to the rest of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.

Rampant Sex

Lock a bunch of youngsters up in a house for four weeks and what can you expect? Yup, there are (allegedly) lots of post-dance shenanigans going on between people, some with partners on the outside. Wonder why the Beeb is coyly avoiding any of these stories?

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Added 12 May 2005

Hey! Good to see you! Great to be back! Say! Is that an orange on your neck or are you Jason Gardiner? So without further ado, except for a brief apology to Natalie Cole, here's the first number!

Orange Colored Guy

They were dancing away minding their business, 
When along came an Orange Colored Guy,
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! He did his best to make them cry!

They were swinging away, digging the music, 
Again came The Orange Colored Guy,
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! They shouldn't care and here's why

He was in Cats, he was in Fosse, now he's got an Orange Colored face!
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! Bet they're glad to be out of that place!

They Salsa-ed and they Hustled, 
They Charlestonned then Foxtrotted away,
Now SDF ends and they're back with their friends
Hip hooray! Hip hooray! Hip hooray!

Now that they're gone, out of his combed-over
Hair which also has dye!
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! 
No more out-of-work, total jerk, utter berk,
Orange Coloured Guy!

Out Of The House, Back On The Floor

If you are missing Paul and Natasha and their style of swing, you can see the whole routine they performed at The Lindy Hop Open at The 100 Club in 2003. You can find it on their web site at www.swingtimedance.co.uk/videos.htm

Paul's Past Life

If you caught one of the BBC3 shows with P&N, you will have seen Paul's past life as a New Romantic in a band called The Trudy. If you missed it, catch up with it here.

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Added 11 May 2005

SDF - The Visit

You can now read all about what it was like to be in the studio last Saturday night in the SDF Visit.

Lindy Hop vs. Jitterbug

Chris Sherwood writes: I've been Lindy Hopping for several years now. I have read up and viewed a lot on Jitterbug /Lindy Hop, the History the music, and I'm afraid I was left in some confusion over the way they were described on the programmes recently on BBC 1 & BBC3. Even Ryan's description - who I respect as a dancer - did not clear the matter and certainly did not align with my research. It's the use of the two words Lindy Hop and Jitterbug I'm referring to. 

SDF Blog replied: The short answer is that there is no clear answer. Frankie Manning is on film saying that what he calls Lindy Hop, other people call Jitterbug. The famous 1939 Big Apple sequence, where Frankie also dances Lindy, is actually called Jittering Jitterbugs

The difference that the BBC tried to impress upon us is that Jitterbug is a cut-down version of Lindy that originated later, mainly by college students. Personally I don't buy into that at all. If anything, it is the 'white' version of Lindy Hop brought over in the early 40s by the American GIs.

Can anyone out there help further?

Class Act Has Class Site

Unlike some people we (don't) know, Anton du Beke and partner Erin Boag have a fabulous web site. Take a look at www.antonanderin.com/ Are there any enterprising organisers out there who would hire them to teach a Foxtrot class?

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Added 10 May 2005

Leading the Shim Sham
Paul & Natasha lead the Stompin' Shim Sham.

Back Where They Belong!

Paul & Natasha are already back at their old swing haunts. On Sunday they dropped by Mojo Boogie to enjoy The Hep Cats, and on Monday night it was Stompin' at The 100 Club with The Sugar Ray Ford Orchestra. Surrounded by friends and supporters, they are clearly enjoying their freedom. Paul says he's looking forward to catching up on some sleep, but that may not stop him going to Swing Cats Corner tonight!

Natasha smiles
Natasha struggles to hide her disappointment

The SDF Blog Ejection Projection!

SDF is a show where who stays and who goes is decided on a weekly basis by a combination of votes from judges and the public. So if you don't want to know the results, look away now:

Saturday 14 May (week 5): Adam and Rebecca are voted out.
Saturday 21 May (week 6): James and Claire are voted out
Saturday 28 May (week 7): Nathan and Kristy are voted out
Saturday 4 June (week 8): The Final. Runners-up: Danny and Jodie, Gem and Gemma. Winners - Joseph and Sadie.

Of course, that's the judges' plan, but such is the organisation of the show that the Great British Public (GBP) may mess it all up. We've managed to do that already by keeping P&N in the competition way past their allotted exit date. So apart from being a superb advert for Lindy Hop, they also managed to subvert the whole process. Good job!

While Nathan and Kristy may be seen by the judges as better dancers than James and Claire, the GBP may want to keep the cute Scots kids in. Similarly, Danny and Jodie, the best technical dancers, may struggle to get to the final. 

As each week passes and fewer couples are left, it will become increasingly difficult for the public votes to change the judges' rankings. With an estimated one million calls and texts coming in each week (ker-ching!), the simple maths means that it will be harder to lift to safety whichever couple is left in last place after the judges' votes.

If this theory holds true, then we will see the lowest-placed couple after the judges' vote goes out over the next three weeks. If that happens, it will be interesting to see whether the public will continue to bother voting if they don't think their calls and texts change the overall result.

Wanted: More dance styles!

With three weeks to go, the only dance styles on the BBC list that haven't been used are Classic Disco and Rock 'n' Roll. Mind you, The Big Apple isn't on the list, which seems to give credence to the view that the producers are pretty much making it up as they go along!

Meanwhile, Paul and Natasha have invented two new dance styles: Lindy Salsa and The Lindy Hustle. Good for them! Visitors to Herrang a few years ago were treated to Katrine Llundgren's Swingo - or was it Swango, no wait Twango, anyway, a combination of Swing and Tango. No doubt when she hears of this, Arlene will be seen on the grassy knoll behind the tents with a high velocity rifle!

Lindy Hop is fundamentally an improvised dance based on social moves. So taking a dance and adding your own style is what some people would say Lindy Hop is all about. However, doing this to any other kind of dance seems to be heresy!

For The Record...

Although the general tone of The Blog may appear to be poking fun at the programme, Strictly Dance Fever has been a great effort by the BBC. It's given dance not one but TWO prime time Saturday night viewing slots, added a daily update on its digital BBC channel, and generated a huge amount of interest.

So - for the record - The SDF Blog says Hats Off To The BBC!

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Added 9 May 2005

Warning: some readers may think that it is totally unfair to make unjustified attacks on people who have no right of reply. Hey - we don't make the SDF rules, we just play by them! 

P&N left SDF with more grace, dignity and style than everyone else in the programme put together. Despite weeks of relentless slaggings from not only the judges but also their own dance coaches, they didn't have a bad word to say about anyone. They even departed with gracious words about the judges. Paul and Natasha are clearly far too nice a couple to say anything negative about the whole SDF set-up - so once again, The Blog steps into the breach!

Thanks for Nothing

Neither the judges nor the coaches offered P&N any thanks or credit for their work as dance captains or their performance in The Group Shag. Yet a week earlier, they were singled out as the worst couple on the Fosse routine. In fact Vanessa L-H said in a very patronising way that they were 'expected' to be good at Shag because it was 'their thing'. 

A doctor writes: "Having submitted Vanessa Leigh-Hicks to a full examination, I can now confirm that it would kill her to say anything nice about Paul and Natasha".

Poor Judgement

The Lindy Hop routines were all flash and no basics. Arlene and Jason Orange criticised P&N for not performing the Foxtrot glide correctly, yet failed to spot the lack of a proper Lindy Turn in either routine. Gem and Gemma's routine was at least 50% Charleston, which they did the previous week, but the judges saw nothing wrong with this. 

Top marks go to Graham Norton for spotting that the judges gave better reviews to Danny and Jodie than they did last week - and then rewarded them with lower scores! 

Age Shall Not Weary Them

35-year-old Zoe Ball referred to Paul (40) and Natasha (39) as 'ageing swingers'. Wonder how this went down with now newly-dubbed 'ageing game show host', 42-year-old Graham Norton? Nothing like perpetuating the media stereotype of "youth is beautiful, age sucks", is there? Shame she didn't get the chance to discuss her views with Frankie Manning

Unprofessional Coaches

Surely it is part of Kevan and Vanessa's job to support the competitors? VL-H's comments that Adam and Rebecca were given a worse time by the judges than P&N were ridiculous - has she seen the TV footage? And what about Kevan Allen's repeated criticism that P&N 'failed to adapt' to other styles? So we can lay this 'fault' entirely at their feet, and absolve the coaches of any responsibility, can we Kevan? Excellent!

Gardiner's Corner

Thanks to Mr Kieran Millard for emailing in with this:

Q: What's the difference between a mobile phone company and Jason Gardiner?

A: One's for Orange customers whilst the other is a customary orange!

And The Answers Were...

On May 2 (see below) three points were made about the show that were never followed up. So here we go: 

SDF gossip! We're lovin' it!

Be sure to check back tomorrow, when the results for the rest of the series are revealed!

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Added 8 May 2005

"Thank God For That!"

All smiles with Anton in the bar after the show

And with those words, Paul Crook greeted his eviction from Strictly Dance Fever on Saturday 7 May 2005. Together with partner Natasha Hall, the couple had delighted the TV audience and defeated the judges' verdicts week after week. But, as Natasha said in the post show interview, "It was our time to go".

"VE Day. What a perfect day to go out" Paul told Graham Norton as he attempted to console the clearly far-from-unhappy couple. They then made the most dignified of exits with a fine piece of freestyle to close the results show.

Swing Time was lucky enough to secure tickets to the show, and even though our favourite couple has gone, there's plenty of stuff and gossip to print in the coming week. For instance, did you know that the judges submit their votes half way through the routine?   This is because the Beeb needs the numbers to put on screen at the same time that the judges raise their paddles. So forget the big finish guys - it ain't gonna help!

But the most important thing to know is that after they have finished the BBC3 programme on Monday night (May 9), Paul and Natasha plan to head to The 100 Club. So if you want to offer your congratulations, be sure to be there!

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Added 6 May 2005

More News From The House!

This week the couples have been learning Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and The Foxtrot. Taking the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug couples through their paces are Ryan Francois and Jenny Thomas. The SDF Blog caught up with Ryan to find out what's happening behind the scenes.

Ryan has been spending his time between The House in Windsor and the studio in Covent Garden, where he's showing Joe Mace how to jitterbug. As far as the teaching goes, that was pretty much started and finished on Monday. Three hours of aerials for both groups was followed by two hours of floor moves for each group. So - what you see on Saturday will be the result of only five hours' tuition.

On Tuesday the couple get to work out their choreography for the show, and Ryan and Jenny checked in for an hour with each couple on Wednesday to review it and give them notes. Any favourites, Ryan? "Joseph and Sadie are looking good - but Nathan and Christy are the nicest couple!"

The group dance this week is The Shag. Ryan choreographed and taught the routine in three hours, and our own Paul and Natasha are the dance captains for the rehearsals.

P&N with Frankie Manning
Paul and Natasha with Frankie Manning in Gloucester

So what's the deal? Why is so little time given over to dancing in this dance competition? The answer is easy: places to go, people to meet. The BBC is whisking couples away from The House for photo shoots, to meet celebrities and go to parties. Not to mention playing to camera so that there's enough material to fill the BBC3 nightly half hour programme.

Some things were told - like Gem's foot problem - and some things we're not, like how he dislocated his shoulder doing an aerial. 

So what's it like working on the programme, Ryan? "It's hectic, with lots of last minute decisions and not a lot of forward planning. We only got the music for last Saturday's cabaret 90 minutes before the performance, and then Jenny and I had to run through our routine four times for the cameras before the show! By the time our slot came up live we were exhausted!"

Another problem is the studio floor; it's solid wood, not sprung, so very tiring on the legs. A point certainly worth bearing in mind when the dancers are coming in to land after an aerial.

Jodie and Claire
Claire and Jodie enjoy the JATW jam session
Joseph & Sadie
Joseph and Sadie looking good

Ryan also explained what happened with Kevan Allen's remark that Jitterbug was a faster version of The Lindy Hop (see below). "He wasn't expecting the question" said Ryan, "So he just said what he did. Afterwards he came and asked me if that was right - and I set him straight!"

Next week it will be The Mambo, and Ryan may be staying on to act as caller for a group Big Apple on the results show.

Ryan and Jenny have their own web site at www.ryanandjenny.com and if you've enjoyed their work on SDF, be sure to sign up for their Summer Lindy Hop dance event, Camp Savoy.

Gardiner's Question Time

What's the difference between a piece of Red Leicester and Jason Gardiner? One's orange and cheesy - and the other makes a nice sandwich filling!

The judge with the embryonic Bobby Charlton tribute haircut is still taking pops at Paul and Natasha, especially Paul. On Wednesday's BBC3 programme, after Joe Mace's somewhat inept Sugar Push, he just had to have another go and said "That was at least as good as Paul Crook!"

It's clear that he wants P&N off the show, but he doesn't have the intelligence to realise that by continually trashing them he's more likely to get them votes and keep them in it. His attacks have now passed beyond dance comments to the personal, and it's beginning to resemble a vendetta. 

Obviously P&N have no right of reply - they probably don't know it's going on - so The SDF Blog will take on the onerous task of getting back at him at every available opportunity. If you want to know more about him, you could try his official web site - except as you see, it's not working. Interestingly, it is run by a web mistress, not master. There's a message board, but no one has posted anything there for over four months. Even his own last post was nearly a year ago! Clearly he's a popular guy!

Surely someone must have heard of his towering achievements in Cats and Fosse? Let's try What's On Stage, the home of British Theatre. The results for "Jason Gardiner" are:

Person/Company/Website: Person/Company not found
Current Plays: Person/Company not found
Current Productions: Person/Company not found
Current Performances: Person/Company not found

But he's really big, isn't he? Surely The Internet Movie Database must have loads of stuff on him? Actually no. His "Notable TV Appearances" list is two items: "Big Brother's Efourum" playing "Guest Panelist" 13 January 2005 and "GMTV" playing "Himself" 13 May 2004. Playing Himself? Oh well, it's a rubbish job but someone has to do it.

That's enough for now. The last thing the SDF Blog should be doing is trying to generate any sympathy for him.

So anyway, what's the difference between a tangerine and Jason Gardiner?
One's an orange-coloured fruit, and the other... no wait a minute, that can't be right....

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Added 2 May 2005

SDF dancers outside Gloucester Cathedral

Through Again! Finishing third from bottom after their Charleston, P&N won through to week four of SDF. They will be tackling the Foxtrot this week, with guest teacher Anton du Beke

Returning from Jumpin' At The Woodside with a hundred stories and lots of photographs, Swing Time will be bringing you some hot news from behind the scenes in The House. This week you can look forward to reading how the BBC is:

Seriously, people - is this we what we pay our licence fee for? 

The sad news is that they are ALL lovely people. So here's to all the dancers in the competition!

Quote Of The Weekend: Coach Kevan Allen explaining the difference between Lindy Hop and Jitterbug: "Jitterbug is a faster version of The Lindy Hop". One word - Hellzapoppin'. The two-minute routine is danced at a pace somewhere north of THREE HUNDRED BEATS PER MINUTE! That's five beats per second. Let's see you go faster than that, Jitterbuggers!

The Dan Guest Report Part III

The show went off great on Saturday night. The BBC were ecstatic about the Charleston this week. There was a real buzz around the studio and even Vanessa and Zoe Ball were wearing Charleston style dresses. We were really proud that all four of our Charleston couples made it through to dance again next week.

Paul looked comfortable dancing and seemed to enjoy himself much more this week. He seemed happier with himself and less nervous than in previous weeks. Natasha looked fantastic in her Charleston dress and was so fired up for the performance that she even forgot about her back problem! Having said that, she is still having back pains so they'd decided beforehand to leave out the final lift from their routine and replace it with a simpler one.

The atmosphere in the bar afterwards was upbeat with everybody seeming happy with their performances. We took along a couple of bottles of champagne and presented it to the four Charleston couples to share. Graham Norton is great, he's really friendly and spent plenty of time chatting with everyone. I managed to get him to pose for a photo with Paul and Natasha which he happily agreed to whilst chatting away with Paul like old buddies.

The competitors will be learning either Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, or Foxtrot for next week's program. Paul & Natasha will be doing Foxtrot so they were understandably disappointed not to get the chance to show their Lindy Hop. However, it wasn't too much of a surprise since the BBC had already said that couples wouldn't be given dances that they already have expertise in.

I asked Natasha if she had any messages to convey to the outside world. The only thing she could think of was to thank everyone who's been voting for them and to keep voting again this week!

 Many thanks for your news, Dan!.

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Added 29 April 2005

The House Is Jumpin'! All surviving SDF contestants will be treated to a day out on Sunday to visit Jumpin' At The Woodside. As it's Lindy Hop week, where better to learn than at the feet of Frankie Manning, who is teaching there for the weekend.

The coach will be arriving late morning to allow the dancers to get some time with The Great Man. No news on how long they'll be staying but they'd be daft as brushes to leave before dancing to The Jay Craig Orchestra in the evening.

The Hounslow Gazette will be running an article on the local Strictly Dance Fever connection. It will include a photo of Dan and Christi Guest in full Charleston costume and news of Lindy Circle's Chiswick classes. It will also refer to Paul & Natasha (Paul also being local). Christi did the interview over the phone and gave the paper lots of information about how P&N are getting on, as well as some background on the Charleston.

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Added 28 April 2005

Next week will be Lindy Hop week in SDF! Following The Charleston, it's a swing takeover. Part of the reason is that it's the lead-up to VE Day, and if you squint at it from a distance, Lindy can look just like The Jitterbug, the version the American GIs brought over in the early forties. Ryan and Jenny will be teaching, so we can expect some quality stuff, and the contestants can expect  to be worked hard. You can now read more about the Beeb's VE Day programme.

Dan and Christi Guest now have some pages on the BBC's web site.

Another site! Paul and Natasha have their own site for their activities, and naturally it is supporting them in The House. You can find it at www.tonyrusecki.co.uk/swingtimedance/ 

Dan Guest's House Report Part II: Dan and Christi Guest have been teaching The Charleston in The House  this week. In the second of his two reports, Dan tells us how everyone is shaping up:

"Arrived at the house at 8:30 and had breakfast with the contestants (yummy fry up). Dropped by the production office to pick up some notes left for us by Vanessa. She had taken the day off but left notes for us on how the couples routines were progressing. One of the beeb's production assistants warned us that P&N were pretty low this morning. They'd struggled to finish their routine and weren't confident with it yet. She said Natasha's back was still causing her problems and this was affecting their morale. We had hour long individual sessions with each of the four couples. 

It became apparent that they'd put their routines together in secrecy and didn't know what the other couples were doing. Our first session was with P&N. They were indeed in a downbeat mood and the physical and psychological strain is obviously getting to them. We did our best to pep them up and re-focus their energy on their routine. They said they weren't happy with it but when they showed it to us it actually had a lot of potential. They were heartened by this and started to become more enthusiastic about ironing out the problem areas and finishing it off. 

By the end of the session they seemed to be enjoying themselves much more. Natasha was clearly holding back due to her back problem. They have a few lifts and drops in the routine but she was having to just mark these through. We helped them to come up with some alternative moves so they could at least run the whole thing through and begin to practice performing and refining it. If her back problem subsides then they will put the lifts back in again for Saturday. 

Joseph & Sadie had their routine completely finished and ran it through first time. It is a slightly more funky Charleston but has absolutely the right spirit. They will undoubtedly be very strong on the night. 

James & Claire's music is quite different to the others but works very well. They have put together a really cute routine that could go down really well with the audience. 

Gem & Gemma are the wildest and most ambitious of all the couples. They have been really imaginative and put together the most challenging routine. If they can hold it together it will be a lot of fun. 

Despite being friends of P&N we nevertheless really like all the other couples. They have all put together great pieces that should be a fantastic showcase for the dance. We are going to the show on Saturday and really hope that all four of our Charleston couples make it through. It would be really sad to see any of them leave after working so hard. We have got to know them all and will be cheering loudly for all of them. 

The other interesting thing is that several of the competitors have become hooked on Charleston and love the videos we left for them of Charleston and Lindy Hop. Rumour is that the Lambada couples all wish they were doing Charleston. 

Joseph has said that he would like to get some Charleston and Lindy in the schools he works with in Nottingham, and felt that the Charleston has been a revelation in terms of its link to Hip Hop and street dancing. Tobey said he was inspired by going out to the club on Sunday night, and both Danny and Nathan have mentioned that they would like to learn more of the Harlem style tap."

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Added 26 April 2005

Miss Aloha writes in with the following news: Hula Boogie regulars Paul Crook and Natasha Hall were given a night off from the trials of the competition and brought down their fellow Strictly Dance Fever competitors to Hula Boogie on Sunday 24 April. They were also joined by their celebrity sponsor Anton du Beke. Punters who joined in the beginners jive class and Hukilau Hula class at the start of the club got the opportunity to dance not just with him, but the other Strictly Dance Fever dancers who also participated. Paul, Natasha and all the competitors bopped, strolled , stomped and really got into the spirit of the night.

Miss Aloha adds: "Paul and Natasha looked really relaxed - I think a night out is what they needed! - I had really fab dances with Joseph and Toby - obviously running of the club meant I couldn't get around to everyone - and Andrew (Hall, her hubby and Reverend Boogie) has a inner ear infection which is affecting his balance so he laid off the dancing (except for some bopping)". You can see photographs of the evening at Hula Boogie.

Dan and Christi Guest of Lindy Circle are teaching the Charleston on Monday and Wednesday this week. Dan has kindly contributed this fascinating account of the teaching and life in the house:

"It was raining at the house when we arrived in the morning. The BBC's plan was to shoot our Charleston 'How To' demo on the gravel forecourt in front of the house. This would have looked great with the period house in the background. However, a rethink was forced by the bad weather so they moved all the furniture out of the competitors common/play room and we shot the demo inside instead. 

They put plenty of potted palms in the background and in the end it looked like a pretty good Charleston set. We did lots of takes with the camera at all angles so hopefully it will be a really interesting sequence that they produce. The Charleston classes went really well with everybody having lots of fun getting into the craziness of the dance. 

The four couples we have for Charleston are Paul and Natasha, Gem and Gemma, Joseph and Sadie and James and Claire. They are such a lovely bunch of people, it was a real pleasure teaching them. Each of the program's resident dance coaches are working with one of the groups. We have Vanessa with our Charleston group and we got on fabulously with her. She was really interested to hear and learn about our take on Charleston and really supportive to both us and the competitors. She joined in and took the classes alongside the competitors which was great and also asked some good pertinent questions. 

People shouldn't think that P&N have an easy ride this week. If anything this week the pressure is really on them because they already know the dance and the judges will expect them to be better than the others. However, Joseph and Sadie and Gem and Gemma have the potential to pull out fantastic Charleston routines. Joseph and Sadie pick up steps up at a fantastic speed and work really hard together. They also have pretty good lead and follow, so I reckon they'll be very slick on Saturday. 

Gem and Gemma could also be really strong. Gem initially struggled in the morning but got into it in the afternoon and together with Gemma they will probably be the craziest couple. At lunch time P&N showed us around the house. Despite the pressure on them this week it helped them to have Christi and me as friendly faces around the house. We spent quite a long time talking to them at the end of the day. 

Luca says 7 points!

I promised to smuggle in a bottle of beer for Paul on Wednesday! ;) [Should I be printing this?? Ed]  They do have an additional problem in that Natasha has been suffering from some back pain for a while now. It affected her during the Hustle performance on Saturday and the problem is not going away. She had to drop out at times during today's classes. Vanessa was great about this and often stood in and danced with Paul when Natasha was resting out. They have a resident physio at the house and Natasha was just going in for a session with him when we left. Hopefully she can recover in time for Saturday's performance."

Dan Solves The Score Puzzle! More thanks are due to Dan Guest for solving the strange scoring (see below). He explains: "The second judge, Luca, actually gave P&N 7 points and the card that he held up was indeed for 7 points. However, the digital scorecard at the bottom of the screen incorrectly displayed 6 points. It then seems that whoever then produced the overall league table noticed this scoring error and actually gave P&N the correct score." An enlargement of the picture below shows that Luca is indeed holding up a "7" paddle (see right). Sorted!

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Added 24 April 2005

They're through! Paul and Natasha made it through to week three in the house with a fine display of The Hustle, or as Paul puts it:  "Our Lindy Hop moves with some 70s disco thrown in!" Once again, the judges were not particularly impressed. Arlene had a go, as did mulleted Jason, but again to no avail. They have the guns, but we have the numbers, and this week the public vote saw them go through easily. And the good news is that this week they are learning The Charleston. Hey! Home ground at last!

But certain things cannot go without comment - and first up: what the hell happened with the points total on Saturday? Can you spot the Beeb's obvious, if not deliberate, mistake?

The Axis of Evil
The judges' votes total 23 for Paul and Natasha
...but the scorecard clearly shows 24 points!

 So come BBC - give it up! An explanation, that is. It probably didn't make a difference. But transferring a two-digit number from one place to another - it's not rocket science, is it? And wouldn't it be better all round if the Beeb published the public votes? Come on Auntie - we pay our licence fee, let's have some electoral transparency!

Next point: the telephone judging system is officially a farce. The telephone lines were originally open on a Saturday night for voting after all the dancers had strutted their stuff. They were then closed to count the results. It's still true - except now the lines are only closed for an hour a week! So you could vote on Sunday for a couple a full six days' before they actually dance! How nuts is that?

Talking of voting, such is the BBC's greed to get it's paws on our cash, multiple voting is possible. So there's nothing to stop you supporting them as many times as your bank balance allows.

It was Katie and Alex that went out this week. In the BBC3 post-results show with Zoe Ball, they showed a lot of dignity and control as they said goodbye to their fellow competitors. Katie said: "We look forward to going back to our ballroom dancing", so well done and best wishes for the future to both of them.

All smiles this week!

On Thursday, Paul and Natasha were allowed out of the house to be interviewed by Natasha Kaplinsky on BBC Breakfast Television. Once again,  they came over as  a charming couple, and it's no wonder that Zoe Ball has dubbed them "the nation's favourite".

On that evening's BBC3 show, Paul told host Joe Mace "I was sat between two beautiful Natashas!" Their celebrity sponsor Anton du Beke showed up to give them some advice on The Hustle. His main tip to Paul was to turn Natasha the other way when he lifted her so she didn't get dizzy!

It certainly showed in Saturday night's performance, as Paul looked much more relaxed and happy, smiling throughout the routine. Naturally judges Arlene and Jason couldn't resist having another pop at Paul, but this time he took it in his stride. The Charleston should hold few terrors for them, so let's hope they have an all-round relaxing week in the lead-up to the next dance off.

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Added 22 April 2005

Paul and Natasha called in to pass on their thanks to everyone who is supporting them in Strictly Dance Fever. They are holed up in The House somewhere in South East England, with no Internet, email or mobile phones. The one landline phone can only be used to make outgoing calls, and these are limited, so it was indeed a privilege and an honour to chat away with them about all things SDF. 

This week their allotted dance style is The Hustle. Natasha says "It's really tricky to master, because you are doing such different steps on the count to Lindy Hop". Paul is still suffering a bit from the judgmental mauling his Cuban Salsa received, and is longing to get back to his old haunts and Lindy Hop. Paul says "The judges have been really supportive", which is somewhat at odds with what we see on screen. He singles out Arlene Phillips as someone who is on their side. About time she showed it a bit more, we say! 

Another area new to them is the choreography. Natasha again: "We not only have to learn the dance, but also put together our own routine. All the other couples seem to be able to do it in 20 minutes - and we're struggling for days!" However they both seem happier with their Hustle routine, and once again, Natasha is promising some serious frock action as well.

If you want to send your support to Paul and Natasha you can write to them c/o Strictly Dance Fever Room 3317 BBC Television Centre Wood Lane London W12 7RJ. On Saturday the numbers to know are 0901 121 4008 or text "Vote 8" to 63633. The official site is Strictly Dance Fever and the couple have their own pages. And you can now vote on the outcome of the competition with Paddy Power.

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Added 18 April 2005

They're Still There! Paul and Natasha secured another week in the Strictly Dance Fever house after securing enough public votes to lift them above bottom place after the judges' points. Paul looked like he'd been struck by the proverbial thunderbolt, as fellow contestants Dan and Michelle hugged them and confirmed they were through. Sadly. it was Dan and Michelle who were voted out.

It was a real slap in the face for the judges, as their opinions were clearly not shared by the voting public. Top moment on the Saturday night show was dance teacher Vanessa laying into Arlene Philips. Well, that and Natasha hitting back superbly at Jason Gardiner, the orange-faced judge with the bad combover. 

It looks like the real competition is between all dancers on one side and the judges on the other. Luckily the teachers are on the dancers' side and are supporting them all at every opportunity. Perhaps the judges are struggling to understand that it is the dancers, not they, who are the stars of this show. Making nasty comments to try and get a Simon Cowell-style reputation is not working for any of them.

This coming week the two dances are The Hustle and the Argentine Tango, so let's hope P&N get to grips with their one early, to soothe the inevitable performance nerves next Saturday.

Alistair Randall has started a site for Paul and Natasha at www.paulandnatasha.co.uk You can leave a message there, although unfortunately the couple have no internet access in the house. The official site is Strictly Dance Fever and the couple have their own pages. You can see this week's BBC3 programme times in the TV and Radio highlights.

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Added 15 April 2005

News From The House: Paul and Natasha were featured on Thursdays BBC3 update, when they were introduced to their celebrity sponsor, Anton de Bek. He's a champion ballroom dancer and will be showing our Lindy Hop flag-bearers how to perform better in front of an audience. Don't forget that the first elimination round is tomorrow night at 6pm, so get on the phone and vote vote vote! There's more news on line at Strictly Dance Fever.

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Added 13 April 2005

More News From The House: Paul and Natasha are now safely tucked away in the Strictly Dance Fever house with the other contestants. This week, they're learning Cuban Salsa - and from the first clips on BBC3 look like they are doing very well. They have a room to themselves, but no means of contacting the outside world - no internet and no mobiles. 

Each couple is getting a celebrity supporter. So far, the likes of Aled Jones and Bonnie Langford have been put forward. No news on who P&N will be getting yet. But they are both coming over as utterly charming, which is bound to be in their favour come this Saturday's vote.

One of the other couples is already very homesick, and there have been tears. Check back for more House news soon.

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Added 11 April 2005

It was a great weekend for Lindy Hop as Paul Crook and Natasha Hall were voted into The House on the BBC's latest talent-cum-reality show Strictly Dance Fever. Having won through the two rounds of London heats during last week, the Lindy Hop couple made it through to Saturday's TV vote.

Despite having the trauma of being first to dance, they put on a wonderful one-minute performance to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. The usual decision-delaying drama ensued before the viewers' votes were announced, but the pair's names were first out and that's it - they're off to be The House for a couple of months of dancing and intense public scrutiny. Commiserations to the other couple in the swing category, Viktor Andeke and Carol Haines, who lost out on the viewer vote. 

Those with BBC3 have been able to enjoy daily updates on the auditions, which in some cases, quite scary, in particular the man who dressed up as Kyle Minogue. From Monday 11 April onwards the programmes will be showing behind-the-scenes glimpses of the ten couples inside the house.

The next task is to learn the new dance styles with the guest teachers. Later we have Ryan Francois and Jenny Thomas teaching Lindy Hop, but first up it's Cuban Salsa and Boogie Woogie. Each week from now on, a couple will be voted off, so remember to vote for them and tell all your friends to do the same.

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All material © 2005.