Rhys Stephenson bounces back, again
Poor Stephenson can’t seem to avoid the dance-off, but, as Ballas pointed out, it’s perhaps humbled him and inspired him to show the public that he can do better. This coolly intense Argentine tango to Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight was by far the most disciplined performance from this bouncy pair, though it did still have the odd wobble and some awkward steps. But the lifts were jaw-dropping: one where Stephenson flipped Nancy Xu in mid-air like a pancake, another where it appeared he was spinning her by her neck. Ouch.
The judges were mainly in raptures. Du Beke thought they’d nailed it, while Revel Horwood praised the sharp ganchos and drama, though noted that their grapevines got out of sync. Motsi loved their strong connection and Ballas praised the musicality. A 9 from Revel Horwood and 10s from the others. Will that be enough for Stephenson to finally escape the dance-off?
Rose Ayling-Ellis takes flight
Anything you can do, I can do better. Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice one-upped their rivals with a truly insane lift that saw the actress dive into the air and almost seem to hover before her partner wrapped her into a floor spin, like the Dirty Dancing lift with added jeopardy. It showed the incredible trust these two have – though it was yet another moment to make the Strictly health and safety team sweat. The lift was the high point of a charmer of an American smooth set to (This Will Be) An Everlasting Love, with foxtrot that purred round the floor like a Rolls-Royce, jazzy highlights and sweet storytelling.
Revel Horwood was wowed by the big lift, but had another niggle: her pivots lacked heel leads. Mabuse said Ayling-Ellis would in the semi-final if it was up to her, and loved the changes of mood in the routine. Ballas thought she’d delivered the performance of a lifetime and loved the literal leap of faith – although her praise for Ayling-Ellis blocking out Stephenson’s applause seemed ill-judged given that she probably couldn’t hear it. Du Beke loved the technique and said that when she dances, Ayling-Ellis touches his heart. Like Stephenson, a brilliant 9 and three 10s.
Dan Walker has a ballroom setback
He’s been this year’s surprise contender, but has Walker finally run out of steam? His tango to Gotan Project’s Santa Maria began promisingly, even if his pinstripe suit and the outdoor table set-up made him look like an accountant who can’t get served. But as soon as he took hold, Walker’s technical shortcomings became sadly apparent. He had rise and fall when the tango should remain flat, was too upright instead of softening his knees, he leant over his partner, and he twisted his shoulder when going into promenade.
Mabuse loved the opening, which she thought saw Walker nearing the level of his competitors, but he lost control in the second half. Ballas praised his focus throughout: no smiling. But Du Beke said he was sorry to be the party pooper – it wasn’t Walker’s best. The frame went and his hand on his partner’s back splayed open. Revel Horwood thought it was littered with balance issues, which made him feel uncomfortable. A score of 31, with a generous 9 from Ballas, leaves Walker in danger once again.