Strictly Come Dancing: week eight – live | Strictly Come Dancing

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Key events

Judges’ comments for Layton and Nikita: Tess is shook. Audience go wild. Motsi says “speechless for once, epic, iconic, special, the bomb, end of”. Shirley says “beyond perfection, breathtaking, lost in the Layton magic”. Anton says “you’d pay good money to see that performance, extraordinary”. Craig concludes “a-may-zing”. Are we about to get a pre-Blackpool perfect 40?

Layton and Nikita’s Argentine tango

Last dance already. He’s got the contest’s highest average score of 34 points. Is there anywhere for him to go as the series enters its business end? Will there be more Lay-tens here? It’s the stripped-back story of a break-up. We’re on a darkening purple ink set. They’re wearing matchy-matchy purple tailored suits. Passion, drama, love and lust. Sharp silhouettes, small precise steps, push-and-pull storytelling. Emotional and intense. Cracking chemistry and connection. A couple of early whoopsies, but the leaps, lifts and legs have serious wow factor. Storytelling has oomph and wallop. Sudden ending. Brilliant.

Song: Tattoo by Loreen, the electro-pop ballad which provided the Swedish diva’s second Eurovision win just six months ago. Loreen became the only two-time winner after Ireland’s Johnny Logan and the song was streamed 4.3m times the day after the contest – a record for both a Eurovision song and a Swedish artist.

Judges’ comments for Angela S and Carlos: Craig says “grace, style, story but unforgivable gapping”. Motsi says “I disagree, your best dance yet”. Shirley says “beautiful feet, some of the best footwork I’ve seen in the waltz, so much to like, you’re on a great track”. Anton concludes “you’re still on an upward climb and are becoming an exquisite ballroom dancer”. Well, pick the bones out of that. Six from Craig and eights from the rest?

Judges’ scores: 7, 9, 8, 9 for a total of 33 points. She’s back, baby.

Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu.
Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA

Angela S and Carlos’ waltz

Penultimate dance now. Irish TV presenter Ms Scanlon has been in the danger zone lately but managed to evade the dance-off thus far. Can going back to ballroom propel her up the table? She’s wearing a traditional floaty, soft frock in cream with pearls and feathers. She needs soft knees, rise and fall, smooth glide and that classical flower-in-a-vase shape. Starts in a kneel, then into hold and swirling well but the judges will be eagle-eyed on those feet. Romantic, spinning, one-legged ending. Rather magical.

Song: With You I’m Born Again by Billy Preston & Syreeta. The soulful 1979 Motown duet was written in 22 minutes apart from one line – which came to writer Carol Connors at an ace cream parlour, where she requested the waiter’s pen and paper to scribble down “Come show me your kindness, in your arms I know I’ll find this”. Label boss Berry Gordy later grumbled they would have sold many more singles if they’d titled the song “Come Bring Me Your Softness”, as that’s what customers went into record stores and asked for.

Judges’ comments for Annabel and Jojo: Anton, momentarily lost for words says “you had speed for the first time, terrific, hypnotised by your hip rotation, hint of uncertainty but wow”. Craig says “I was nervous but you pulled it off and have finally given yourself permission to go wild, place and lumpy moments but bounce and rhythm”. Motsi says “foot positions and arms lovely, you went ahead of music but got back on time”. Shirley concludes “full of samba spirit, great line and isolations, I was so excited to see you let yourself go”. Slightly generous eights a-coming?

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 31 points. Enough to see her safe?

Annabel and Jojo’s samba

After last week’s ethereal and emotional Couple’s Choice, here comes a massive grinding gear change. It’s four weeks since Annabel’s last Latin. Channelling Shakira, will her hips lie? She needs to let go and enjoy herself for this flamboyant party dance. Brilliantly camp hotel reception desk segment to start. Elegant promenades, more like a disco dance than a Rio carnival. She’s making mistakes and struggling to keep up but kicks into gear for the side-by-side section. He’s talking her though it. That was patchy but oddly fun.

Song: Whenever, Wherever by Shakira. The Colombian popstrel’s debut English-language hit had additional lyrics written by no less than Gloria Estefan. No word on whether she penned the line “lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains”.

Judges’ comments for Ellie and Vito: Shirley says “beautiful core, great leg action, poise and balance, covered all seven walks, spectacular with stunning basics”. Anton says “loved the rope spin, couldn’t see anything wrong”. Craig says “a bit stiff in the upper body but a difficult routine, executed spectacularly”. Motsi concludes “you are the perfect student, your centre was strong, I wanted more Cuban rotation but pure quality”. Nines?

Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 35 points. Top so far, one point ahead of Nigel. From turtle feet to penguin feet, apparently. Adorable.

Ellie and Vito’s rumba

They’ve topped the leaderboard for the last two weeks. Can they make it a hat-trick? This week’s showmance rumours might lend this rumba extra spice. No pressure but their scores have been rising incrementally for the past three weeks – 37, 38 and 39. Can they continue the sequence and notch a 40? This is only the fourth rumba of the series after Amanda’s, Angela R’s and Adam’s. It’s slow and technically exposing, so she needs straight legs figure-of-eight hip action and undulating movement right to her fingertips. Stripped-back moonlit staging. The trust they’ve built is helping their body weight and balance. A bit stop-start in spots but she’s so elegant and expressive. Passionate. Lovely lift. Stars fall. Gaw-jus.

Song: True Colours by Cyndi Lauper. The 1986 synth-pop ballad has become something of a gay community anthem. Lauper said the song resonated with her because of her friend’s recent death from AIDS and she later co-founded the True Colors Fund, an LGBT youth homelessness charity. Last year, she sang it at the ceremony where US President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law.

Judges’ comments for Nigel and Katya: Motsi says “beautiful story, stylish movement, loved everything about it”. Shirley says “I’m having an emotional moment, mistake-free, marvellous leg extensions, you really are amazing”. Anton says “leading man quality, back to week one form, clean and beautiful, Gene Kelly quality to your upper body, my favourite thing you’ve done”. Craig concludes “La La Land-esque which I liked but understated and didn’t blow me away”. Eights and nines?

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 for a total of 34 points. Top so far.

Nigel Harman and Katya Jones.
Nigel Harman and Katya Jones. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA

Nigel and Katya’s Couple’s Choice

Halfway mark now. After topping the leaderboard way back in week one, Nigel “Mini-Den” Harman has made mistakes and never quite fulfilled his potential. Can his Couple’s Choice become a breakthrough moment? It’s jazz/theatre style, inspired by An American In Paris and golden age Hollywood in feel. Red colour pop costumes against a grayscale backdrop. Nigel giving Gene Kelly vibes. He took a while to get off his chair but romantic mood, great connection, freedom out of hold, risky lifts and joyous, leaping choreography. Katya is so good at this. He’s not bad either. Red poppy petals fall. That was lovely.

Song: Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars. The Hawaiian’s 2010 debut solo single was inspired by Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight, Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful and the late, great Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2U. It was offered to CeeLo Green before Mars decided to keep it for himself. X Factor viewers might remember Matt Cardle’s cover version but nobody could blame you for suppressing that memory.

Judges’ comments for Angela R and Kai: Craig says “can’t see enough of your leg extension but you clawed Kai’s shoulder with all your life, timing wonderful”. Motsi says “daring, dramatic, you went all the way and gave it everything, this paso’s going to Blackpool”. Shirley says “bounced back from dance-off well, a little slip but you collected your core and didn’t give in, you’re all about content and did the job”. Anton concludes “full of stuff, wham, have some of that, hold the leg, more noises”. All very positive. Eights, do we reckon?

Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 32 points. Tied with Bobby. Blackpool bound?

Angela R and Kai’s paso doble

She got her highest score yet for her Argentine tango and this might tick a similar box mood-wise. However, there have been social media grumblings that La Rippon’s routines have been “strategically picked” to avoid upbeat, fast-paced dances. Still no jive, samba or salsa. There’s a lot of goodwill for Angela to reach Blackpool where she used to host Come Dancing back in the 80s. Clockwork visuals. Drink! She’s looking regally haughty and thoselegs have been unleashed again. Fancy footwork, flamenco flourishes, fierce passion, swishy skirt. Beautiful shapes but footwork and frame wobbles. Picked up as it went but a bit walky-aroundy and lacked Spanish line. More tango than paso at times. Decent but not her best.

Song: Hung Up by Madonna. The queen of pop’s 2005 dancefloor banger got permission from Benny and Björn to sample Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight). They don’t grant clearance often. Madge’s brief to co-writer Stuart Price was a disco song that sounded like “Abba on drugs”. The video paid tribute to John Travolta’s celluloid dancing and the New York club scene but was actually filmed at London’s Trocadero centre and Pineapple Dance Studio (Louis Spence alert!).

Judges’ comments for Bobby and Dianne: Went down well in the studio. Anton says “This is what me and Tess are going to do at the Blackpool after party, it was exquisite, your nicest yet, footwork immaculate, lifts divine, loved it”. Craig says “long arms, big spatulistic hands look robotic and need shaping, they ruined it”. Motsi says “you were so engaged, storytelling, smooth flow, amazing partnering but keep working on your upper body expression”. Shirley concludes “proud of you, covered the floor space well, lovely footwork and leading skills, you did more than enough to get to Blackpool”. Eights from the girls, six from Craig, nine from Anton – that’s my weirdly specific prediction.

Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8, 9 for a total of 32 points. Right in his scoring area. I was one pesky point out.

Bobby and Dianne’s American smooth

This year’s youngest contestant has scored between 29 and 32 points every week. Has he hit a plateau or can he raise his game? It’s a Viennese-style smooth and he only danced the Viennese waltz three weeks ago, notching his joint highest score , so he should’ve had a head-start in training. Ethereal feel, set in an attic for some reason. Wonder if it’s Alisha’s or Virgina Andrews’? Nice partnering, into hold early, dreamy feel. Nice lifts, some stair-ography and drama when it cranks up a gear mid-routine. Perhaps a little safe and sedate but terribly sweet.

Song: Ghost of You by 5 Seconds of Summer. The Australian boyband are clearly a favourite of Aussie pro Dianne Buswell’s. She and now-boyfriend Joe Sugg foxtrotted to their hit Youngblood five years ago.

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