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Vacation (9) : Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, O2 Arena, London, Feb 2015, Part 1

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I'm a huge dance fan, both ballroom and modern dance, even though my dancing efforts lack, should we say, technicality, LOL! Hence, I jumped at the opportunity of watching the Strictly Come Dancing (SCD) Live Tour at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday, 7th February. Well, we all did really and jumped into the car to make the one hour and fourty-five minutes pilgrimage up to the Greenwich Peninsula, in London, where the O2 is located. Here is the first part of my narrative of the matinee event.

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During the cold war the now defunct Soviet Union was was keen to extol the virtues of communist and socialist values, over capitalism, through propaganda. Those that were prepared to listen were constantly bombarded about the liberating values of collectivism. Today, we know differently. Likewise, in the West to counter communist propaganda James Bond, more popularly known as 007, led us to believe that all Russian woman, typically, looked and behaved like the SMERSH high ranking operative, Rosa Klebb (From the movie "From Russia with Love"). Today, we also now know differently.

In fact, the greatest Russian export since the collapse of the Berlin Wall has to be the steady stream of ex-soviet state dancers that have graced our shores. We have had the pleasure of watching many of them and seeing Kristina Rihanoff in flesh would be the icing on the cake (She's the one on the left in the "Hello Boys" pose and not the one on the right, in the image above, in case you are wondering, LOL! - Ed). Apparently, men find her so tempting that The Beeb will only partner her with single male celebrities on SCD!

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On arriving at the Greenwich Peninsula one firstly notices how the O2 Arena, which used to be visible from miles away, is beginning to be blotted out by the endless construction of luxury, high rise apartment blocks. This is not unsurprising, since it is right next door to London City's financial center. When I was a kid this whole area of London was barren wasteland. How times have changed.

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The weather was overcast when we arrived, although not that cold and everyone was in a good mood. The Bambinos immediately started discussing food and seeing who would be the first one to spot where we could get something to eat. We arrived about 45 minutes before the start of the matinee show, so I suggested that we firstly queue to get in, then I would shop around for the stable diet of we-are-away-from-home therefore we can eat unhealthy burger  and chips with a soft drink. I'll have to give them a double portion of spinach tomorrow!

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Once located, in row 108 our seats turned out to be quite nice and I was rewarded with an all round pat on the back from everyone for providing all with an excellent view of the dance floor. The congratulatory pats on the back made me feel like Victor Laszlo, from the film Casablanca. Looking up we could see the poor, not materially speaking, audience on the third-tier, which looked just  way to high and far away from the action IMHO. Never mind, sometimes just soaking up the atmosphere of a live event is enough, for some.

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Once, the male equivalent of an airliner announcer's voice informed us that the show would start promptly in two minutes time the auditorium quickly began to feel up. By then I had located the fast food stand and returned with the burgers and chips, cheese burger and chips with large cups of coke and Fanta, that were requested of me. I ignored the thankfully grumpy comment about there not being any sausages and waited for the show to start.

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Next, across the tannoy the overtly masculine male voice informed us that the show was to about begin and the lights went out. Yes, this is what we were all waiting for. Where is she, no I mean where are they. Well, they were about to appear.

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There she was, no I mean there they were. The curtain covering the center stage was titillatingly raised and we got our first glimpse of her, of them. You know what I mean. The music being pumped across the amplifying apparatus was the familiar da da, da  da, da, da, da da da da da. Strictly come dancing had began to a rapturous applause and wolf whistles. If I didn't have a bite-size chunk of cheese burger in my mouth and fries in my hand I might have been able to wolf whistle and clap too. Never mind, during the show there would be many more opportunities to do so.

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Once the initial demo was over the celebrities, along with some of the professional dancers, stood on the center stage and we were able to get our first proper glimpse of Thom Evans, Caroline Flack (Yeah! - Ed), Alison Hammond, who looked like she had lost  a few of pounds, compared to when she appeared on last season's show. Also, there was Scott Mills (He he he - Ed) and the gorgeous-looking Rachel Stevens (Is she really 36 years-old? Maybe if they could reinforce the stage I could get the apple of my eye to start dancing too! - Ed), who stepped in for the pregnant Frankie Bridge.

We were also introduced to Simon Webbe, the luckiest man alive and Mark Wright, the Essex (Barking? Dagenham?) boy trying to win votes by claiming London as his home town. I've heard of greater London, but his claims stretched the imagination of where the London border ends and the sticks begin.

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Next, came the Judges introduced to us by the pristine host, Zoe Ball. (Is she really 44 years old? Must definitely have words with my other half - Ed). First we had Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup, who won the show for the first time, in 2008, and are still active in the business. Tom described winning the show, as the proverbial, life changing experience and now performs regularly in West End theater productions.

Craig Revel Horwood, looking more sprightly after his hip operation and Len Goodman, looking not so sprightly after his recent knee operation were the other two judges. Len informed us that given his recent knee operation he couldn't be asked to cross the Watford Gap. However, he made the extra effort to judge the London shows, being his home town and all. He apparently only lives about 20 minutes down the road, although he didn't say exactly where, especially after making such friendly banter with the whole of the North of the British Isles.

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The format of the show was similar to the TV performances, where the judges were to offer their pearls of wisdom to the contestants before discouraging and disparaging them with a low mark out of ten. However, for the live tour the judges score did not count towards who would be the eventually winner of the evening's glitter ball.

Instead the audience would text vote for their favourite couple. This realisation quickly led to an enthusiastic ruffling of pockets and bags, as mobile phone were eagerly reached for. However, when we were also informed that calls would cost 25p per text, with 10p being donated to comic relief, the mobiles were hastily and less noisily returned to their original locations.

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Mark Wright and his partner Karen Hawer were the first celebrity and professional dance couple on the floor. Their performance was followed by that of Allison Hammond and Aljaz Skorjanec, who at some stage both claimed they were from London in an attempt at winning the sympathetic Londoner's vote, too. Such talk wold have definitely riled that politician bloke, with the pint, at the bar.

Alison looked like she had lost quite a lot of weight (How big was she before then? - Ed) and is a good advertisement of the health benefits of dancing. The judge's comments of her performance was that they liked her infectious and larger than life personality. However, they noted that she still does not glide around the dance floor on the balls of her feet. Alison's response was that she was trying, but could not yet command her body to do so, which was met with jovial laughter and a hearty round of applause from the audience. I also applauded this time having relieved my hands of my french fries. One could immediately sense that a lot of female members of the audience connected with Alison (My Mrs would have too. LOL! - Ed).

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Next up the wait was over. I remember once listening to someone who had the honour of watching Diego Maradona playing football for Napoli who left the match thinking that lad can play. The same feeling could have come over the audience watching Kristina dance, one was left with the feeling that, that lass can dance. Her femininity reminded me  of  a Jackie Collins book I read many years ago (LOL! -Ed) where she described a woman as being so beautiful that other women instinctively held onto their  husband's hand when she walked into a room.

Her lines, the way her body moved in time with the music or her musicality as a professional would say was, em, wow. If only we knew and James Bond had not misled us for all those years the Cold War could have been over sooner than it was. Although given the current situation in the "Donesk People's Republic"  maybe we are on the verge of another one. Maybe Russia want their Kristinas back! Oh, I forgot to mention she danced with the celebrity Simon Webbe.

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 Oh dear. Next on was Scott Mills and Joanne Clifton and you had to feel sorry for Joanne, as she tried to keep a straight face. This was a poor performance and according to the judge Craig Revel Horwood, he politely described it as being a "disaster darling". In reality it was much worse and left me feeling that his  performance on TV highlighted his best moves. If his dance performance could be likened to a donkey then he would be a thoroughbred! As much as Joanne tried she couldn't make him drink. An awful, awful attempt and performance, Joanne looked fit though. The Beeb will hopefully compensate her in the next series with something less comedic.

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Next on was the thirty something year old Londoner Rachel Stevens, from S-club 7, partnered with Kevin Clifton, from Grimsby. She first appeared in the show a few years ago and by the looks of things still dances, as her performance was polished. Very nice indeed, especially after the previous one. Kevin has done extremely well to single-handedly put Grimsby on the British map. Before his appearance on SCD most people had probably never heard of the place, let alone know where it is.

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Also we had rugby player Thom Evans and Iveta Lukoiuite, with Thom who in a cunning ploy, to disguise his limited dancing ability, deciding to wear a sailor's outfit. Considering the amount of lack of consternation and the flustered commotion that appeared to come from the ladies in the row behind us it clearly worked.

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 Finally, we had Caroline Flack and her replacement professional dancer Tristan Mac Manus. After watching Scott Mills' performance, then watching Caroline dance left one with the feeling that cream also rises to the top. Her performance could only be described as beautiful  and one could immediately tell why she won SCD 2014. She was lovely to watch and if she decides to perform in the West End, as she may have hinted, then I would be happy to pay hard earned money to watch her perform. An accomplished and great performance.

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The end of the first round and another joint display by all of the professionals and celebrities alike followed.

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At the end of the first round and after a few "Ten from Len", "Se-ven" and a "Tommy Ten". We had, not unexpectedly, Caroline at the top of the leader and Scott at the bottom. The judge's scores were met with the usually gasps of delight and with boos of disbelief. Craig rewarding Scot's dance with a generous 2 led Len to comment that the score made him feel like doing a number two on Craig's head. The crowd loved it, as this part dance show and part pantomime came to the end of its first part. Time to top up our refreshments before part two.

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