Just like last year, Strictly Come Dancing began with a firecracker of a samba. In 2019, super sub Kelvin Fletcher got viewers hot and bothered; last night, Maisie Smith proved she’s no slouch in the shimmy department.
Shaking her many tail feathers, Smith impressed with her fearless body action and flashy presentation. Now, she needs to refine: differentiate between a bent or straight leg, and where exactly she’s placing her weight. That will give her sharper articulation, and speed without the wildness.
Just topping her on the leaderboard was HRVY’s cool, confident jive, with springy action and brisk kicks. But he needs to pitch his weight forward onto the balls of his feet and shape them, so that he’s not flat-footed or sickled.
Clara Amfo and Jamie Laing both did disco-styled cha cha chas. Overexcited Laing lost timing and balance, sticking his bottom out, and, because he didn’t isolate, his whole body lurched with the step.
Rhythmic Amfo is strong on her own, as well as in hold, which gives her partner lots of choreographic options. However, she needs to keep her feet on the floor, straighten her legs and make the transitions smooth, not stompy.
Bill Bailey remains a mystery. He does have superb timing and sharp leg action, and fully committed to every point, hair flip and pout. But he led with his knees and stomach in the cha cha walks, and his figure-of-eight hip swivels looked like a belly-dancing Santa trapped in a chimney. At the very least, it was glorious entertainment.
In her paso doble, Ranvir Singh nailed the skirt-swishing and flamenco arms. However, muted body shaping meant the routine lacked variation. Strip out that Spanish line and paso quickly becomes angry walking.
Max George delivered his tango routine without errors, but also without dynamics. He led with his arms, squashing his shoulder on the turns, instead of through his centre, and he needs to ramp up the performance. You can’t be shy on the Strictly.
Read the first instalment of Bill Bailey's Strictly diary
Jason Bell doesn’t have that problem, but the Yank’s alarmingly big smile wasn’t matched by the stodgy foxtrot in his American smooth – his steps were tentative and his frame hunched. He fared better in the sizeable, if signposted, lifts.
JJ Chalmers likewise needs more power, and got tangled up on the changes of direction in his waltz. We also had emotion ladled on with the song, rather than communicated by Chalmers. Mind, it was miles better than Jacqui Smith: rigid in body, with no rise and fall in her foxtrot, and frozen in expression throughout.
Caroline Quentin certainly felt her American smooth, though her ballet background was both help and hindrance. She had a gorgeous frame and lyrical arms, right down to the fingertips, plus lovely turns and lifts. But she needs to soften her knees so she can get down and drive, otherwise she won’t travel.
Nicola Adams definitely nipped round the floor in her incredibly ambitious quickstep. There were multiple changes of lead – swapping who leads and who follows – which meant Adams had to master two different frames.
Both look promising, but she needs to keep steady and create resistance for partner Katya Jones, otherwise they lose connection and get "gapping".
But Adams is very light on her feet and has good timing. She now needs to hide the effort, and bring that boundless personality into the ballroom.