Strictly Come Dancing 2012: Semi final live blog!

by Gerard McGarry

Dani Harmer and Vincent Simone on Strictly Come DancingHello and welcome to our liveblog of tonight’s Strictly Come Dancing semi-final! Tonight, five couples will dance for our viewing pleasure. Who’s going home? We’ve no idea yet – the technically proficient dancers don’t necessarily have popular support, and the popular dancers *cough Lisa Riley cough* are entertaining to watch, but maybe not the best in the line-up.

Round one begins with Dani Harmer and Vincent Simone doing an American Smooth. They’re dancing to I Just Haven’t Met You Yet, and it’s a charming, elegant little routine. Dani looks cute as she and Vincent play off each other. There are some dazzling lifts in the routine and though there aren’t any WOW! moments, there’s a playfulness and romance about this that I love.

Len says “The more I see you dance, the more I like what I see”, while Bruno calls her a “foxy little dazzler” and praises the footwork. Craig likewise has good things to say, but moans about Dani’s hand position and a few other nitpicks. Darcey says Dani creates “a beautiful quality” in her dancing and notes her improvement. Scores: Craig: 8, Darcey: 8, Len: 9, Bruno: 9. Total scores: 34

Next up are Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace. I think this couple have found their sweet spot in routines that are lively and force Louis to do a little bit of acting. He and Flavia have great chemistry in this energetic routine. A straight up fun routine, and it would be wrong not to compliment Flavia on that skirt. Nice pins!

Bruno declares it a naughty routine, but saves his praise for the performance element in Louis’ dancing. However, he has grumbles about how sharp the dancing was. Craig felt it wasn’t snappy enough, but was also pleased with the performance. Darcey said she expected more, while Len cautions that “this didn’t cut it for me”. Uh-oh! Scores: Craig: 7, Darcey: 8, Len: 8, Bruno: 8. Total scores: 31

Third to perform, with a tango, are Denise Van Outen and James Jordan. Their costumes are fantastic this week – really striking. There are a few sloppy moments that I can see, but that’s more than made up for by the passion in the performance. The audience are even on their feet for a standing ovation. Really good.

Craig is overflowing with praise, only a handful of nitpicks, but he’s otherwise happy with the performance. Darcey praises Denise’s attack, but pointed out the bent leg during some of the kicks. Len picks on his fellow judges for nitpicking trivial things, but ends by calling it “a proper tango”. Bruno burbles on about passion and generally raves about the routine. Could it be 10’s for Denise tonight? Scores: Craig: 9, Darcey: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10. Total scores: 39

Oh, and it’s another sexy red dress affair for Kimberley Walsh and Pasha Kovalev for their routine, set to Fever this week. Walsh has definitely picked up her game for the last couple of weeks and this is no exception – the pair give a smouldering, sultry routine, led mostly by the Girls Aloud star. Exceptional. I think she may be on course for another full house tonight. Now, I’m off to get a cold shower…

Darcey said she loved the “amazing turn” that segued into double splits. Len stammers for the first part of his critique. He says he would have preferred it to be in hold, then goes on to compare Kimberley to Jessica Rabbit. He says that despite that, the rest of it was fantastic. Bruno gives his entire commentary in Tonioli-ese, which means only his mother could understand him. He’s clearly impressed. Craig says he would put that routine straight on stage. Not a single grumble. Okay, just one, but not worth mentioning. Scores: Craig: 9, Darcey: 10, Len: 9, Bruno: 10. Total scores: 38

Next up is Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor. I’m guessing from the amount of tassles on Lisa’s costume that this is her tango routine. They kick off the dance by fake bongo-playing on the judges’ heads. Then it goes horribly wrong. Robin tries to do a spin with Lisa, but ends up dumping her unceremoniously on the floor, where she comes to an ungainly stop. They improve things later on when Robin does an amazing handstand into a lift on Lisa, but the judges will frown on that mistake.

Len’s laughing at the routine, but he explains away the bad technique, preferring the fun of the routine. Bruno agrees, ignoring the horror of it all, saying it’s “pointless making a technical assessment”. Craig’s chuckling to himself, so they go to Darcey. She talks about the energy. WILL NO-ONE ACKNOWLEDGE THE BAD DANCING??? Nope. Seems not. Scores: Craig: 7, Darcey: 8, Len: 8, Bruno: 8. Total scores: 31

Round two – ding ding!

Time for the second round of dances. First up (again) is Dani Harmer. She and Vincent are doing an Argentine tango this time round. It starts off weirdly stiff, but when the pair move into lifts and spins things get a little bit more exciting. The music selection is dull beyond belief, but authentic, I suppose. Not a particularly exciting routine this time, I’m afraid, although the audience are on their feet for it.

Len says he loved the start, both of them dancing without the music. “You captured the mood, you mastered the technique and you stole my heart”. Bruno agrees, saying it was like watching two bodies morphing into one. Craig praises Vincent’s teaching, grumps about one particular lift, but says it was spectacular. Darcey talked about Dani’s intensity and control.  Scores: Craig: 9, Darcey: 9, Len: 10, Bruno: 10. Total scores: 38

The second dance for Louis Smith and Flavia is a foxtrot. I’ve always thought that Louis was very good technically, but the judges haven’t always agreed with my amateur assessment. We’re distracted in this routine by the screeching of the house band’s male vocalist, but the dance is…a bit boring. Louis is definitely at his strongest when he’s acting out a routine.

Craig is unimpressed. Ah, he’s bluffing. He says he loved it! Darcey is pleased too – she says he made it look too easy. Len was not as happy with the “rise and fall” that they were talking about. However, he says it was a stronger routine from Louis and Flavia. Bruno says the routine was “smooth, elegant, graceful”. Scores: Craig: 9, Darcey: 10, Len: 9, Bruno: 10. Total scores: 38

It’s a rhumba for Denise Van Outen‘s second routine tonight. Denise mentions the various fumbles that James and her have had over the last couple of weeks. They’ve got a nice musical selection for this number, and a flowing, graceful choreography that makes everything seem dreamy, romantic and ethereal. Beautiful routine. I hope the judges like it.

Darcey tells Denise that she has stunning arms, right to her fingertips. She felt the routine could have had better flow, but is otherwise happy. Len says the final wouldn’t be complete without James and Denise and Bruno says he was deeply moved by the rhumba. He’s enchanted. Craig praises the storytelling, but says he wanted to lift Denise’s dress up. Flirty James says he thought Craig would have been watching his hip action! Scores: Craig: 9, Darcey: 9, Len: 10, Bruno: 10. Total scores: 38

For their final routine of the night Kimberley Walsh and Pasha have drawn a cha cha. Oh, this is just excellent from start to finish. Kimberley’s got her comedy face on, and the entire routine is hilarious, but full of brilliant content, including that acrobatic lift that I have absolutely no name for! Fantastic – as entertaining as Lisa Riley, but without the falling over.

Len Goodman calls it fun and frivolous, and Bruno raves again, saying she looked good from every angle. Craig simply says FABULOUS! And Darcey calls Kimberley a quirky, naughty flapper! Amazing comments. I think we know where this is headed… Scores: Craig: 10, Darcey: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10. Total scores: 40

Closing out tonight’s Strictly semi-final, Lisa Riley returns to the dancefloor for an American Smooth Foxtrot. This routine feels deliberately flubbed. The timing between Lisa and Robin is sloppy at the beginning. It’s definitely not as sharp a routine as the others we’ve seen tonight. That said, All That Jazz is a great song choice, and the pair seem to be enjoying themselves. But will the judges crucify Lisa for poor form?

Not Bruno anyway. He loves her entertainment value. He notes stumbles here and there, and demonstrates a kick, almost connecting with an audience member. Craig was a big fan too, but notes gapping and timing issues. Darcey predicts that Lisa is the “next musical theatre star”, and has very few points to pick up on. Len gives a naughty comment about seeing Lisa’s razzle dazzle. Scores: Craig: 8, Darcey: 8, Len: 8, Bruno: 8. Total scores: 32

In the round-up, Kimberley Walsh and Denise Van Outen are at the top of the leaderboard, while Lisa Riley and Louis Smith are at the bottom. Little Dani Harmer is stuck in the middle of the board. Could this be the week that Lisa Riley goes home, or will it be Louis Smith – the last bloke in the competition – who gets sent home?

Gerard McGarry is a jet-setting, world-renowned Reality TV critic. In real life, Gerard works with web and social media strategy. His personal blog is at GerardMcGarry.com or follow him on Twitter @gerrybot