Pixie, that’s your Lott. Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One) delivered by far the biggest shock of this 12th series as popstrel Pixie Lott was unexpectedly eliminated at the quarter-final stage. It was a result to knock the glitterball off its axis and cause head-scratching on sofas nationwide.

This year’s youngest contestant at 23, Lott had looked like a nailed-on finalist and even potential winner. “Pixie Come Dancing” headlines were waiting to be written. So how come the script wasn’t followed and arguably the ballroom competition’s best dancer has been booted off early?

There were two major factors behind this sequin-spangled surprise. The first is Strictly’s tendency to penalise contestants with previous dance backgrounds. Lott was educated at the Italia Conti Academy Of Theatre Arts, well known for turning out all-round entertainers for stage and screen. During her teens, she starred in West End productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sound Of Music.

There was always a chance that Lott could face “ringer” accusations and become the annual “they could already dance” scapegoat – a fate previously suffered by the likes of Lisa Snowdon, Natalie Gumede and Denise Van Outen.

Talent show audiences like a “journey”, a plucky underdog, a triumph against the odds – but Lott was bookie’s favourite from the off. Starting out with too high a skill level simply isn’t in the spirit of Strictly – a world where stiff Judy Murray can last until week eight. She showed little progression, whereas others – especially Mark Wright, Simon Webbe and Caroline Flack – have been on a steep earning curve.

Lott’s record this series has been good – perhaps a little too good. She topped the leaderboard four times in 11 weeks, never finished lower than third and had the highest average score (a very respectable 35.4 points). Nobody likes a swot. She impressed the audience but didn’t make them warm to her, root for her and crucially, vote for her. There was technical admiration but no emotional connection.

The second factor is that Lott ultimately fell victim to head judge Len Goodman’s tetchy, tricky mood. After her dance-off against the blossoming Webbe, Goodman had the casting vote. On Saturday night, he’d criticised Lott’s cha-cha legs and sternly took her to task for including illegal lifts in her routine with pro partner Trent Whiddon. The 70-year-old veteran duly struck a blow for traditional ballroom values, while voting for Webbe’s potential and improvement rather than Lott’s sheer talent.

Wright, arguably the weakest dancer remaining, looked genuinely shocked that he’d dodged the dance-off bullet. Elsewhere, there was a puddle-based, shoe-ruining group dance from the professionals, complete with brolly-ography, plus a drab performance from US boyband OneRepublic. The lack of a space in their name is just one of many irritating things about them.

The dance-off saw Webbe and his partner Kristina Rihanoff reprise their jazzy American Smooth to Michael Buble’s ‘Heartache Tonight’. If anything, it was more accomplished second time around. All-blonde pairing Lott and Whiddon had another go at their Cha Cha Cha. The rendition of ‘Love Shack’ by Dave Arch’s band was ropy and Lott’s leg action still inconsistent.

The two routines scored the same last night and again, the judging panel couldn’t call it. Bookends Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood opted to save Lott, but Darcey Bussell and Goodman disagreed. Grim-faced and pained, Goodman muttered: “I know when I drive home, in my heart, I have the right result for me.”

Webbe was so sure that he’d lose, he was virtually making farewell speeches. When the verdict came, he collapsed to the ballroom floor with relief, while Lott seemed sanguine and took defeat coolly with no tears. Whiddon should shoulder some blame for bending the rules.

Lott won last night’s group ‘waltz-a-thon’ but that wasn’t enough to save her skin. Her exit sent ripples through the remaining five hoofers as they realised that nobody is safe. It also leaves the contest wide open. This promises to be an intriguing Pixie-free final fortnight.

Articles December 7th,2014 No Comments

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