Friday, December 10, 2010

Semi showdown: Strictly stars limber up ahead of tonight's semi final fight by rehearsing battle steps

By Jody Thompson

On guard: Pamela Stephenson and her dance partner James Jordan parry in rehearsals ahead of their performances in the Strictly semis this weekend

Strictly star Pamela Stephenson crosses swords with her dance partner James Jordan - as they have a mock battle ahead of this weekend's semi-finals extravaganza.

The pair, fighting for a place in the final of the BBC1 dance contest, used canes which had been part of their routine as makeshift blades as they cut a rug in rehearsals.

Stephenson and Jordan are learning to tackle a trio of dances for this weekend's semi-final - beginning tonight - of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.

You slay me: The pair lark about but they will be deadly serious come this weekend's semis

Their repertoire will include swing, paso doble and quickstep. But the punishing demands of the practice sessions still left a little time for larking around - and fighting.

Stephenson, 61, said: "Learning three dances in one week is certainly a new challenge. I'm doing my best to be focused so I had to let go and indulge myself with a bit of play-fighting.

'I have a feeling James is regretting the fact that he gave me what amounts to a weapon and I do like to use it to relieve the tensions.'

Chemistry: Kara Tointon and her dance partner Artem Chigvintsev are favourites

They along with the four remaining couples will battle it out over three nights this weekend as they vie for a place in next week's final, with each couple tackling three dances.

BBC Countryfile presenter Matt Baker remains a firm favourite to win the competition but soap actress Kara Tointon and psychologist Pamela are hot on his tail in the betting.

Rugby star Gavin Henson remains the underdog and is languishing behind all the other contestants according to the bookies.

Tactics: Gavin Henson and his dance partner Katya Virshilas know that as the underdogs they must leave nothing to chance

In tonight's show, the couples will perform a dance as per normal and will be marked in the usual way by the judges.

Then, all five couples will take to the floor at the same time to perform in a group 'Swing-a-Thon'.

During the dance, the judges will confer and head judge Len Goodman will eliminate one couple at a time. When a couple is eliminated they will leave the floor but the remaining couples will keep dancing until only one couple is left - just like in a professional ballroom dance contest.

The first to be eliminated will score one point, the second couple eliminated will score two points, the third couple three, and the fourth couple eliminated score four.

The last couple still dancing will receive the maximum score of five. These scores will be added to the leader board and carried over to Saturday night.

Other highlights of this weekend's hattrick of shows will include performances by Take That on both Saturday and Sunday.

Supple: Matt Baker and his dance partner Aliona Vilani are bending over backwards to get in enough rehearsal to win this year's Strictly

Judge Bruno Tonioli reckons the final will be the most tightly contested yet as the standard was so high.

He compared the show to a Wimbledon final and said the remaining contestants will need to 'get their aces in'.

Bruno said: 'I think there are four people that could easily win.

'There is Pamela, Scott, Kara and Matt and they all have the ability so it depends what is going to happen in the next two weeks.

'They could go wrong, get the wrong choreography, it's going to be very competitive, the most competitive yet.'

He added voters were right to get rid of Ann when they did, adding: 'She has been wonderful because she had the right attitude, she was a great sport, had a great sense of humour and the British public, as always, made the right decision.

'It's been wonderful to have her but now it is time to go.'

The semis start on BBC1 tonight at 9pm, are on again at 6pm tomorrow, with the results of those making it through to the final on Sunday evening.


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