United Kingdom

Strictly Come Dancing, week 8 review: Too many tears and too little technique, but who’s coming to Blackpool?

Strictly Come Dancing? Strictly Come Sobbing, more like. This was the most emotional episode of the current UKTN Hoof Race series, maybe even longer. Elstree’s ballroom was so flooded with tears that the famous glitter ball was in danger of rusting. Pass the twinkling tissues and a sequin-studded mop. Blub-ew-lous, honey.

When the competition was about to get halfway there, there was one thing on everyone’s mind: Blackpool. The excitement is understandably high to head north to the legendary Tower Ballroom for the first time since 2019 next weekend, but production had to be careful not to peak too quickly. Each time the B-word was mentioned. Perhaps the salt water pouring out of everyone’s eyes was an aperitif for the icy Irish Sea.

Kym Marsh dedicated her silky American smooth to Archie, the baby she lost just after he arrived 18 weeks earlier in 2009. Marsh said she hoped sharing her loss would help others open up about the pain of preterm birth. Her professional partner Graziano di Prima, with whom she has developed a palpably close bond, was just as touched as she was.

Will Mellor slowly waltzed to “Three Times A Lady,” the song his late father Bill used to sing to his mother Shirley before suddenly dying during the pandemic. Mellor had such a wobbly chin that he could barely speak. His professional partner Nancy Xu spoke for him, explaining what their beautifully classic coated routine was “for anyone who’s lost loved ones and hasn’t had a chance to say goodbye”. Chief judge Ballas said it made her miss her own son, which seemed rather far-fetched considering he’s a pro on the US edition of the show. Never heard of FaceTime, Shirl?

All this catharsis came before we got to the dance of the show. Hamza Yassin’s spectacular Afro-fusion song paid tribute to his homeland and heritage, complete with CGI wildlife and cameos from his family members in Sudan. South African judge Motsi Mabuse said she never dreamed of seeing such a dance on Strictly. Firm-cheeked, she suggested that Yassin’s partner Jowita Przystal do a UKTN test to check for African blood.

The Couple’s Choice category is vague, hard to mark and much reviled, but this demonstrated its potential strength. Yassin has risen from relative obscurity to popular status and increasingly resembles this year’s Bill Bailey – the unlikely dancer who combines natural musicianship and freedom of movement with hard slips, progressing all the way to the glitter ball trophy.

One point for him, however, was Fleur East, whose spirited samba blew the roof off Elstree Studios. Earlier panel criticism of East as “too powerful” and “wild” bordered on the racially charged. She has inappropriately appeared in two dance-offs, but took the feedback on board to deliver a controlled, compact Rio carnival cracker, scoring a near-perfect 39.

This really was a show of two haves. The opening routines — Ellie Taylor’s flat-footed Charleston and Tyler West’s blocky, bare-chested paso doble — scored a modest 31. Helen Skelton scored just one point higher for a party salsa spoiled by nervous mistakes. Then came fan favorite Tony Adams.

The 56-year-old with a metal knee had struggled with the energetic jive all week. Tonight’s effort had kicks but no flicks and was, according to Craig Revel Horwood, “a tech dis-ah star”. The former footballer looked like he was kicking a ball in Row Z, rather than jitterbugging. It would be a shame if Adams was not selected for the away game in Blackpool, but he is now at the bottom of the scoreboard for six out of eight weeks. It may be time for an early bath.