Ballroom & Latin

Strictly review: Week 5

Each week our Ballroom and Latin American dance tutors will dissect the highs and lows of the weekend's Strictly Come Dancing episode. This week tutor Nick Breakspear casts his critical eye of proceedings. 

The fifth week of Strictly saw Claudia Fragapane present her samba. On the show this style is referred to as a "party dance", although, given the number of celebrities who've left as a result of performing their samba, a more appropriate epithet might be "the dance of death".

While advanced dancers find the rumba the most challenging Latin style, among new dancers the samba takes that title. Compared to the other Latin dances the samba is technical, there are many different types of movements to learn within the basic figures, and these movements are not replicated elsewhere either on the floor or off it, so there's minimal learning effect from elsewhere. On Strictly it has proved problematic to the less able celebrities who don't have sufficient time properly to find their way into it; they are panned by the judges either for being technically inept or for ignoring the basic movements and instead offering a lightweight pastiche. Morley dancers, though, attest to the fact that with its characteristic bounce action the samba is a fun style and it certainly pays dividends to those who investment the time. Additionally, the amount and range of music in the 1 a2 samba rhythm is surprisingly large (from the fluffy Kusha Las Payas - Las Ketchup to David Shire's gritty twelve-tone score to the original "The Taking Of Pelham 123") so there's something for everyone - even the Strictly signature tune is a samba.

Although Claudia Fragapane is only 18 years old, as an artistic gymnast she's used to floor-work to music. This was certainly in evidence when she performed her samba. Her music was nearly 20% faster than normal and Ms Fragapane took us with her on a thrilling ride from the off. The generic movements in her choreography together created a disco-cum-carnival samba feel but her team also included challenging syllabus material such as promenade and counter promenade runs, criss cross bota fogos, reverse rolls, and plenty of open turns reminiscent of the rolling off the arm figure. AJ, her competitive partner, was not holding back and Ms Fragapane was on the edge throughout - she at 4' 6" the difference between their leg lengths was found out. The lasting impression was that she's very capable for not going off the track but I'm not sure that she took first place.

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