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I was lucky enough to have communicated with Sandra via email for a while over a decade ago. She was a lovely lady and helped with an interview I did with Diane Towler-Green, four times World Ice Dance Champion with Bernard Ford, and who won the Gold Medal at 1968 Grenoble Olympics when it was a demonstration event, the first Winter Olympics Sandra reported. She kindly sent me a signed copy of her wonderful BBC Book of Skating, which I had first borrowed from the Library in my early years of Torvill & Dean fandom. I also enjoyed reading Sandra's reports of the major championships, and special article updates on what Torvill & Dean were doing after turning professional, in Ice and Roller Skate Magazine, where she wrote under the name Sonja Springs, which, as the Editor explained, was because she was also Skating Correspondent of a National Newspaper at the time (the Guardian) so needed a pseudonym! I vividly remember Sandra's withering review of Bestemianova & Bukin's Carmen Free Dance, which won the 1985 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, on the strange rink which had visible blue tracks from the freezing process. Sandra was not impressed with the narrative of B&B's Carmen, or their portrayal.
It was with great sadness, but fond memories, that I learnt of Sandra Stevenson's passing recently.

As this is a Premium article which you need to register to read, I have taken the liberty of copying it here to share more widely as I am already registered, and I know Skating fans of a certain vintage around the world would like to read it.

Sandra Stevenson, ice skating writer – obituary

Sandra Stevenson covered every major international ice skating event from 1968 until 2014

Telegraph Obituaries
22 JULY 2018 •

Sandra Stevenson, who has died aged 76, was the doyenne of ice skating writers, covering every major event from 1968 until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. She chronicled Britain’s glory years, when John Curry, Robin Cousins, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were in their pomp, and spent many years as the Daily Telegraph’s ice skating correspondent.

In Innsbruck in 1976 she saw John Curry become Britain’s first men’s Olympic figure skating champion. “He gave a superb showing, possibly the most graceful any male skater has ever given in a skating event,” she wrote. “Each finger tip was in the correct position to match each note of the Don Quixote ballet music. Even the final move in which he progressed from a double axel jump to a kneeling position was accomplished without the slightest tremor or gasp for breath.”

Sandra Ann Catherine Stevenson was born on July 27 1941 at Greenock in Scotland. Her father, a naval officer, was stationed there, and after the war the family settled in Coventry, though her mother died when Sandra was young.

When she was 14 she took a Saturday job which gave her the funds to pursue her hobby of ice skating at Solihull Ice Rink. She attended St Andrew’s University, and while there she began writing for the DC Thomson titles, particularly the new magazine for girls, Bunty.

Her full-time writing career did not get underway immediately, however, and after graduating, she secured jobs in the chorus lines of ice shows, culminating in a spell with the corps de ballet in the 1962 season of Gerald Palmer’s Carnival on Ice.

Realising that she was a better writer than skater, however, she decided to forge a career reporting on the sport she loved. First, she needed to make some money and she worked as a secretary in London until a visitor to her office offered her a job as an air stewardess, which gave her an opportunity to indulge her love of travel.

She moved with the job to Los Angeles, which she hated, but when she was required to move again, to New York, she fell in love with the city and stayed there for the rest of her life.

She combined life in the air with reporting on skating, and in 1968 she covered her first World Championships, in Geneva, and the Olympic Games in Grenoble. Three years later she was taken on as the Guardian’s ice skating correspondent, and she later joined The Daily Telegraph. She also wrote skating obituaries for The Independent.

She wrote for skating magazines, often as Alexandra Stevenson or Sonja Springs, and in 1984 she wrote The BBC Book of Skating. The following year she ghostwrote Spice on Ice, the joint autobiography of the former British ice dance champions, Karen Barber and Nicky Slater.

With her effervescent personality, and her habit of asking quirky questions at press conferences, Stevenson was a popular figure on the skating circuit – “people liked to be around her,” said one former colleague.

Given the subjective nature of judging ice skating, there has always been opposition in certain quarters to its inclusion in the Olympics, but Sandra Stevenson fought its corner eloquently. It hogged the TV ratings, she pointed out, while “such sports as biathlon and luge simply benefit as tag-along events.” And in any case, she pointed out, “Why would you deny such harmless, pleasant entertainment to a world in need of beauty?”

She suffered from arthritis in later years, but carried on working until 2014. Sandra Stevenson was unmarried and had no children.

Sandra Stevenson, born July 27 1941, died July 7 2018

Originally published here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2018/07/22/sandra-stevenson-ice-skating-writer-obituary/

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Firstly, from the evening appearance, a video.

“For many it's the greatest performance on ice of all time, but @torvillanddean's Bolero wouldn't quite cut the mustard at the #WinterOlympics2018... https://twitter.com/BBCSport/status/963132717322784769?s=09

Earlier in the Afternoon he said he enjoyed the creative process of working with the competitors at Olympics, but he likes to choreograph and then send them on their way rather than be at the side all the time.

They showed the 84 Paso OSP, which was 34 years ago, on Feb 12th, and asked for viewer questions, then only answered 3! (Not mine).

#AskChris When you began to choreograph the Blues OSP and Mack & Mabel FD, both of which were a big step up artistically, where did your inspiration come from, and did you feel on the verge of creating all time great routines?

It's ironic as the Olympic performance they showed of Torvill & Dean's Paso Doble OSP was probably the worst of the season - Worlds was so much better - as Jayne had problems with the flip over on the 2nd+3rd Sequences, putting her hand down on the ice on the 3rd, which lead to complaints from the US Team when they were placed 1st. In truth I had never seen them so nervous.

Chris talked about researching the Paso to create the shapes on the ice and Jayne being the cape and said fans have always told them they love that routine. The interviewer kept going on about Strictly Come Dancing (DWTS) and said people may not have appreciated T&D's dancing then as they would now because of that show. Later she read a comment from a fan who said au contraire, it was T&D's Paso which educated her to what the Ballroom Paso was! I totally agree! I remember swishing about my bedroom to Paso shapes in 84!

Interviewer said he and Jayne were "the ultimate power couple of the 80s" !! (BBC Presenters are really getting on my nerves this Olympics). And "did he miss the frenzy of those times?"
Chris replied that it was nothing like now with social media. Then, there were 3 TV stations and 4 newspapers. They trained in a bubble, and in Sarajevo they were in their own bubble, cut off from the outside world. It was only when they returned to Nottingham for a civic parade and people greeted them in the streets that they realised how big their victory was.

The inevitable Bolero question: How many times has he heard the music?
Chris replied that when they turned professional they were ready to move onto the next thing, as they always had done every season. But when they began to set up their first World Tour they realised that people still wanted to see Bolero live and so they continued to perform it. "It's become our signature tune".

Then they showed the Team Skating main performances in full. Robin Cousins commentating in PyeongChang is a big Virtue/Moir fan and wants them to win. (I prefer the French, Papadakis/Cizeron).
Interview with Scott & Tessa.
Chris: "They were amazing. There's not a hair out of place. Their movements are so synchronized, but at the same time passionate. Every time I watch them perform, it seems very fresh, and that's what they're able to bring, they're so well trained".

Incidentally Chris thinks the Team Event should be at the end as a celebration not the beginning, as we should see the head to heads first. I totally agree. He was asked about Patrick Chan and praised his carriage and effortless movement across the ice but said he doesn't have the quads for the Individual event. I don't think the BBC realise this, they were making such a big thing of Chan winning a gold medal at last. Then Zagitova, BBC raving about her as they've never seen her before. That's how badly informed their coverage is, so thank God for Chris appearing in the studio to put them right.

Viewer Q Do you feel robbed at Lillehammar?
Chris: No, we have no regrets about Lillehammar, we came back after 10 years to that competition environment and tried to win, but it didn't happen. We went into it with our eyes open though. I think the British public feel we were robbed, but we have no regrets about coming back.

Then a stupid viewer Q Have you ever landed a quad?
Chris: Quads are not my thing!
He talked about rink he works at and seeing the athletes train there every day practising quads.
Asked if he thought there would ever be a quint? He replied, "why not? Sport moves forward, maybe not now, but in 10 years time there probably would be."

Viewer Q Just want to say Thank you!
He thanked everyone "for their support over all the years of our career".

Back Wednesday for Pairs.

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As the Final approaches tomorrow evening, I have voted series 8 of Dancing on Ice as the weakest series yet.

The only highlight for me this series has been Torvill and Dean's performances, especially the storybook, animation routine, which was innovative and lovely.

The overall music for this series has been awful. Too many modern dance tracks, and not enough variety or jazz/classical styles of music. ITV seems to want to attract a younger audience. The one time T&D choreographed a Classical piece - which I really enjoyed - Matt was in the Skate Off, so I guess that proves ITV right and me wrong.

My fave series still remains series 1. Fresh, exciting, camp, funny, innocent, great personalities and pro skaters all round, and best of all, T&D back skating on our screens after 8 years being away.
My fave episode is STILL the Las Vegas Special in series 1, where the whole thing was LIVE! The hilarious group routine with celebs and pros, and Gail's hubby from Corrie going out of control at the end of a synchro wheel! I think alot of the spontaneity has gone out of it because alot of the segments are pre-recorded. Fine when it's something special like the T&D animation routine, but not everything but the actual contestant's performances, as it has become now.

Also, I hate this Panel of Judges the most. Ashley just talks utter gibberish! Ice Skating has nothing to do with "hot salsa verde mama" and all her other tripe.
They should bring the show back to core ICE Skating - bring back the required elements each week, and have proper themes, like Swing, or Las Vegas, or Hollywood, where we'd get a wider variety of interesting music suitable to all styles of skating.

And most of all, I never want to see a roll up crucifix lift EVER again! Why not have compulsory hydroblade moves, dance/pair spins, and other far more interesting highlights in each routine rather than 2 forward crossovers holding the pros hand, and straight into a lift, repeat, another lift. Real ice dancing is about Footwork and steps, but ofcourse this show incorporates Pairs moves more than icedance.

The main problem is the contestants are never gonna do T&D's choreography aswell as T&D, so alot of it looks poor and uninteresting. I haven't been really excited by one routine this series so far.

One positive point: I have enjoyed watching 2 of the new Pros - Robin and Jenna - both lovely skaters, Jenna has a beautiful extended spiral position, and hope they are both invited back next year, as I'm sure ITV WILL bring it back.

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1. The Opening Ensemble routine was great, and that was the end of the excitement. The highlight already over.
2. There was far too much talking and precious little actual performance, which is the only reason I watch.
3. The Judges were dreadful (No way should Keith have been scored bottom). The way ITV is promoting Jason v Karen is disgraceful. If they seriously think people will tune in for that on a long term basis - think again. Ashley said nothing of any relevance, except being American she speaks fluently and uses lots of words to do it. The Judge vastly missed was the best Judge from last year - Katarina Witt. As I've said before, the notion that Olympic, World and European Champion skaters can't comment on dance style and presentation aswell as skating technique is beyond absurd
4. I grant you - Bleakley seemed more relaxed this year, but the so called jokes between her and Pip were pathetic, and just take up more time in between the endless bloody adverts! I was shocked to discover Ivor Baddiel is the scriptwriter!
5. Can someone tell Schofield and Jeff Brazier on This Morning that Beth did not "invent" that move! What Dan said was "that's never been seen on DOI before". The notion that if something is new on DOI it's therefore new in the world of Skating is typical of the ignorance about Skating surrounding this show in recent years. That move HAS been seen by various Pairs skaters and Ice Dance couples over many years, both in competitive routines and gala performances. Can't This Morning get someone who knows what they're talking about so we don't have to put up with Kerry Katona and Jeff Brazier? When Brazier said on DOI when he was a contestant, many weeks in, "I watched Bolero on Youtube last night, I'd never seen it before. T&D were pretty good weren't they?" it summed up how much about Skating some of the contestants know - and even when they get invited on DOI they don't bother spending half an hour finding out about T&D.
6. I liked the new Skate Off idea. Keith was scored far too low on first performance anyway, and should never have been last, but FINALLY we got 2 things the rest of the show was missing. We got a decent music track in a classical piece - why don't they use classical more often? As John Curry said, ice skating can express the sweep of classical music better than Ballet. And Olga choreographed a refreshing routine consisting of SKATING across the ice! It was very enjoyable, and when Pam & Matt's routine was the usual mix of Lift, Lift and little skating - she wobbled long before the dress malfunction - I was waiting to see if the Judges would do the right thing, as it was obviously set up for Keith to go out first, which would've been totally unfair, if the Judges had bottled it. Thank Gawd for Keith in this year's line-up, he looks like he's having tons of fun and that's what this show used to be about in series 1.
7. The Results Show went on for 30 mins, and do you mean to tell me that ITV could not fit in a pro routine in that time? Why couldn't the other 6 pros competing next week have rehearsed a routine to skate? Or choose a couple to skate a duet? As it seems T&D have been marginalised/stepped down from performing as many routines as in the past - really the other pros should step in. That's why most people watch. For the Skating, not endless hyping of the bloody judges!


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This is my reply to an article in the Guardian, dated 18/12/12 by Maggie Brown titled: 
"Strictly Come Dancing's simple pleasures trump The X Factor every day"

The audience for Strictly has always included a hardcore of dedicated and educated Dance Fans, who watch the show primarily for the Dancing and roster of Professional dancers - who are the real talent. The accompanying daily show 'It Takes Two' is a must, to go in depth into all aspects of the Saturday live show, and that, over the years, has been a big bonus in creating the loyalty to Strictly that many fans feel.
In my opinion, Craig Revel-Horwood has felt intimidated by Darcey on the Judging Panel. She has usurped his Ballet technical French terminology, of which he was known before she came on the scene. Len has remained the only true Ballroom expert, and is rightly Head Judge.
The article is right to highlight the Pro routine in last week's Result's Show. It was pure romanticism to a beautiful song, with the men in black tuxedos and the ladies in floaty gowns. Who wouldn't swoon? Don't underestimate how much the Pro routines are looked forward to every week. I just wish Tess or Claudia would mention the choreographer's name?
The VTs have improved considerably since earlier series, and are now thankfully lighthearted rather than trying to create false tension between Pro and Celeb by crafty editing.
The problem of Bruce remains, and will have to be tackled by the producers in the very near future, however harsh it may appear to some.
ITV, meanwhile, never learn. The news that they are bringing back the awful Jason Gardner as a Judge on Dancing on Ice next month will bring the nastiness back to the show. They should invite Nicky Slater back, or one of the Kerrs instead. In other words, DOI is a show that needs technical knowledge of Skating, and Gardner has none and is just plain mean
Torvill & Dean have become marginalised on their own show, and apart from the 2 Olympians in Beth Tweddle and the Boxer, the rest of the recruits for the next series will be the usual ITV soap 'stars' and reality contestants from TOWIE etc. Downmarket in comparison with Strictly's classy. Sorry DOI, I used to love that show, as a Torvill & Dean Fan for over 30 years, but no longer. ITV have ruined it, and they took away the sister show (that was never as good as 'It Takes Two') to help maintain interest and give off ice insights behind the scenes. Gardner may create headlines in the Sun, but that doesn't equal success or happy viewers ITV, remember that.

Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC


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I didn't see this BBC programme originally, but have watched the 2 revised repeats. It's a subject close to my heart having spent time in hospitals - the last stay for 6 weeks in 2009 - and at times was so starving, I felt sick and dizzy. Thankfully a couple of times sandwiches were brought in by kind people to save me. One time I'd ordered a quiche and salad for Lunch and it arrived still frozen. On complaining, the Nurse said she could do nothing about it, so I went hungry! Unbelievable. 

Well done James Martin for being caring and generous, taking it personally, and persevering with all the difficulties - especially that nauseating woman Pat the Manager, who burst into tears at the drop of a hat - not for the Patients, but for herself, she was so self-centrered, and under the impression the Patient's loved her rotten food of frozen veg, lumpy custard full of additives, and powdered soup. She put up obstacles in James's way at every turn - because she couldn't bear to appear wrong. I was so disappointed he named the staff cafe Pats Place (without the apostrophe) after her (cue more tears) instead of his late Grandmother who inspired his love of food and opened his eyes to the poor quality of hospital fayre.

In the past Lloyd Grossman has struggled to improve NHS food, working for years to no avail, so I'm really thrilled another Chef has finally achieved some success.
Their visit to the Royal Brompton's cafe to taste the food, and evil Pat's realisation that their high quality, fresh, locally produced food had the same budget per patient as she did was a shock to her system, as previously she'd told the cameras how James's restaurant budgets and expensive ingredients could not be replicated in a hospital.

What shocks you whilst in hospital is just how much food is thrown away - mainly cos it's so inedible!  The colossal waste of money is unbelievable, and to think that local suppliers, farmers, dairy producers could be given an economic boost with massive NHS orders, instead of importing lower quality food and foisting frozen cabbage onto poorly patients instead of chopping up fresh ones - it's a no brainer!! Why do they make things so complicated? 
The massive irony of James's new Menu having to be run past the Hospital Dietician for "nutritional approval". How many vitamins and minerals are in a frozen quiche you can't eat, so stay hungry? What's the nutritional value in powdered soup compared to fresh?

The issues in this programme reminded me of The Hairy Bikers' series about Meals on Wheels for the elderly. There's always a kitchen full of overweight, excuse ridden staff who are so used to opening packets and preparing slop everyday of their working lives, and are resistant to change when a campaigner comes along. On the Meals on Wheels series, the head woman pretended to "be ill" and unable to roll in the changes in the final episode. In the NHS hospital in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, black toothed Pat brazened it out, and almost took all the glory - undeservedly so - she had no shame. And to think this godawful woman has been in charge of a half million pound budget every year for decades! Of public money to boot.

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The colour curse very nearly worked! Dancing on Ice and This Morning presenters Holly & Phillip pointed out last week on their magazine show after Sinitta's exit that every year since DOI began in 2006 the female contestant wearing pink has been voted off first, and for the men it's green. Thus, second placed on the Judge's Leader board, Gary Lucy wearing hideous lime green found himself in the Skate Off. Unsurprising really, as he'd expressed a desire in his training footage not to "look like a wally". Why take part in the show then? What had he achieved after his first performance? He could skate very well and extremely fast upon arrival for his first training session, as a former roller skater. However it's not speed skating, it's Dancing on ice, and his routine was dull. He had no personality or expression and was laboured in his arm movements. I'm becoming bored with his pro partner Maria Filippov, who won last year with Ray Quinn. Why has she been given a good skater again? If this were Strictly Come Dance Dancing the forums would be abuzz with cries of foul. Usually a pro winner on SCD can expect a Pensioner or non-dancer the following year. It's considered par for the course and only fair. Ms Filippov has lead a charmed life with her celeb partners. So far she has either won (twice - once downunder, once in the UK) been a Finalist or a semi-finalist. Why such favouritism from T&D? Her matchups have certainly not all been due to height considerations. The fact that Maria is not the most vivacious of professional skaters, or the quickest, didn't help Gary, as his lack of sparkle was more noticeable. Maria was Bulgaria's icedance champion before Albena Denkova. I think Hristo Nicolov teamed up with Albena immediately after he stopped partnering Maria, before himself being usurped by Maxim Staviiski, and the rest is Bulgarian icedance history.
Maria went on to settle in Australia, along with another former Eastern European professional skater, Pavel Aubrecht, a Czech who met and married Linda whilst in Holiday on Ice, and along with his wife took part in the one off Australian DOI series in 2006. He also celebreated his birthday last week with dinner and drinks accompanied by his fellow pros.

This week's show started off with a bang with a superb "Stars on Ice" type Ensemble routine with Jayne & Chris and the male pros. Very entertaining and beautifully dressed in coloured satin jackets and ties, with T&D in silver grey. In my opinion this was a much more enjoyable opening. Last week's routine was too busy to be captured successfully on TV. Invariably the camera would arrive just as a spectacular move had just ended. It was more a routine to watch live at the rink.
It was so obviously pre-recorded, as a few minutes later the couples were all introduced onto the ice in different costumes. Why ITV decided to introduce ALL of them again, when only the boys were competing, I know not. It only added to the show being much longer than it needed to be. There was a brief VT of their training footage for their second routines and a one sentence chat with each lady. Also in the Results Show a girl group called the Saturdays mimed and 2 pro couples performed - one a Pair, Bostonians Fred & Mel, one Dance, Alexandra, from Finland, and her pro partner, but not on this year's show partnering a celeb, but on last year's DOI Tour, Lukash. Maybe he's on standby incase of injuries. It was nice to see them performing, but once again, not enough camera work on the skaters, and far too much on miming, preening girlies. But ofcourse this show is all music tracks, as opposed to the live band on Strictly.

As disappointing as Gary was, unexpectedly good was Danny with pro partner Frankie. Her off ice life has become tabloid fodder with her splitting from Canadian husband and moving in with fellow Sheffield, Yorkshireman and former DOI contestant, ex-England goalie David Seaman, who was sitting in the audience for the second week in a row. As he is around 6ft 4 and she 5ft, it must make for an interesting relationship! Danny, a young actor from Essex, and skating newcomer, had alot of energy, verve and attack....along with the same wooden arms as Jan Hoffman circa 1979. But it was quite right he took the lead. Another pleasant surprise was real life GP, and TV doctor Hilary, called at all times and on the Leader Board, Dr Hilary & partner Alexandra Schaumann. Commentator Tony Gubba described her as "a deadringer for Suzanne Shaw", and she certainly does resemble the 2008 DOI Winner. She was delightful and together they had a nice relationship on the ice, though as a middleaged man his skating skills were basic but secure.
The other new female pros were also a breath of fresh air. Mollie Moenkhoff, from America, partnered Comedian Bobby Davro, and it was a dead heat who would have the widest grin and biggest wink to camera! I thought he did quite well, but clearly didn't have a big fanbase who voted for him. He didn't skate as well in Skate Off, and it was understandably a unanimous 5 - 0 decision, which he and Mollie took in good heart and graciously, as they skated round with bouquets for their lap of honour. He wore blue by the way, so that's broken the colour curse for now.

Another Hollyoaks actor, Kieron, gave a very good performance with alluring new French Canadian Pro Brianne Delcourt. I enjoyed their routine, and thought he was overly criticised by the non-Skating Judge Jason. I agreed with Nicky Slater's 4.5. Once again Jason was called upon for comments more than any other Judge. Why? This show is NOT all about him. This Morning has taken to only inviting him with the ousted contestant on Monday's show to have a chat for their regular DOI feature. As if we haven't already heard enough from him! It's not ALL showbiz - some of us are interested in the technicalities of Skating - and his comments to Kieron and Brianne showed he knows nothing of those.

I was very much looking forward to hunky actor Jeremy Sheffield, with his Royal Ballet background. Thankfully he survived a very slow and hesitant, but elegant and measured perfromance to the Blues classic "It's a Man's World". Having missed weeks of training with an injury he was not at all confident on skates and got by on his dance ability of natural lines and clean positions. I, for one, am pleased to see him progress and have a chance to improve technically. Reading some of the "phwoar" comments by readers in the Daily Mail, it seems his athletic body made a big impression with the ladies!! Though I fear they're barking up the wrong tree there, as was Emma Bunton with her drooling. I'm pretty sure he bats for the other side if you get my drift. His partner Susie Lipanova, though tall to match him physically, is another pro with little personality, so any presentation skills and vivacity from this couple will have to come from Jeremy.

So after two shows we've still got another 12 couples left!! They'll all be together next week, so let's hope there's less waffle and the performances come swiftly, as it's going to be a long show, and makes the voting more of a lottery. I do wonder why there are 5 Judges on the Panel when the first contestant received only 2 Judge's comments? Robin Cousins is looking decidedly miffed, and even made the barbed remark, "I'm glad to get the opportunity to make these comments to you"  to one contestant! Frankly why have Karen Barber on there when she trains the celebs every week? Isn't it a conflict of interest? I'd quite like to hear Nicky & Robin's comments after every couple skates. After all, it's a skating contest!

The curse of the green!

 Gary Lucy & Maria Filippv in the Bottom 2, with Torvill & Dean and host Philip Scofield

He missed 3 weeks of training due to a hamstring injury, but Jeremy Sheffield got through

The show got 8.4 million viewers, slightly less than last week. (Source: Guardian Media) 

Farewell lovely Molly (and partner Bobby!)

Bobby Davro's comments on This Morning were:
"I was never going to win it on skating and dancing talents, that's not what I have got, but I have got a certain amount of comedy talents and entertainment talents and that's what I wanted to bring to the show. That's why I think they booked me to start with and it's a shame that I'm not going to bring that in the next few weeks. I'm not a great skater and I'm certainly not a trained dancer and the show is about dancing on ice as they said, it's not about comedy on ice... if it was comedy on ice, I could've won it!"

Molly Moenkhoff and Bobby Davro were voted off. Photograph: Ken McKay/Rex Features

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This was an exclusive Ladies Night, now there are 14 couples in all, the 2 groups have been split into 2 with the Men going next week. I'm not particularly following any celebrity, or Professional, but am intrigued how former Royal Ballet dancer, and former Holby City doctor, Jeremy Sheffield would find the transference to ice - hugely difficult by the sounds of his pre-show publicity interviews. We'll be able to judge next week when he takes to the ice for his first live performance. Being very tall, well over 6ft plus, will also be a hurdle he has to overcome, as whilst competitive skaters who are tall can stand out and make an impression if they are elegant, with beautiful lines and smooth flowing edges, most competitve and show skaters tend to be much shorter. 5ft 6 is considered tall for a female icedancer. Consider then Sharron Davies' task this evening, at 5ft 11, and with the broad muscley shoulders carved from years of swimming training, the former Olympic silver medalist cut a colossal figure, with a huge wingspan on the ice. With partner Pavel Aubrecht, back from downunder for another series, they are the tallest couple by far ever to participate in DOI. However unlike the TALL couples on Strictly - Ian Waite and whoever he's partnered with - smooth elegance was never in evidence sadly. Though ofcourse learning to skate from scratch is about a gazillion times harder than learning steps on dry land. So Sharron found herself in the Dance Off along with a very disappointed Sinitta and regular Ukranian Pro Andrei Lipanov. The latter couple starting off as favourites, and very much the better performers in the main show first time round. What both couples had in common was a dud routine and dreary music that neither couple interpreted well or brought to life. Not T&D's finest hour of choreography, but then I imagine they would say that they can only work with the capabilities of the celebs. It didn't help that boths Pros aren't particularly expressive skaters either. Infact each year I find myself more and more disappointed with the announcement of the Pros compared to the uber excitement off the scale of that first show back in January 2006 for the first series of Dancing on Ice, and Torvill & Dean's comeback from performing retirement. I, and other Skating Fans, and T&D Fans, had known about the show about 18 months in advance and were excitedly looking forward to it, and it did not disappoint. We were very impressed with the standard of skating of the celebs and ofcourse thrilled to see on primetime live TV our favourites again, Chris & Jayne, along with quality performers like Marika Humphreys, who is now a Coach and Official, and will be on the Judging Panel at the Vancouver Olympics in February. The vivacious Canadian Kristina Lenko was not in the Pro line-up this year, and overall the opening show of series 5 lacked sparkle.

So we come to the Dance Off. Unfortunately Sinitta slipped up on her 'highlight' - a not very difficult balance Lift - cutting Andrei's trousers with her blade. Even without that mistake there was less technical content in her routine in my opinion. The highlight of Sharron & Pavel's routine was his trademark curve Lift in spreadeagle position, with her draped over his knee in full layback position. Her strong abdominal muscles used to good effect to hold the position well and get down and up smoothly. This is a Lift you will see in competition, and is a required element, so good on them for that! They thoroughly deserved to get the decision by 4 Judges to 1. Ofcourse it was laboured and stiff in other parts of the routine, but Sinitta was not considerably better in standard really. Most of the celebs were painfully slow across the ice, and I don't agree with the hyperbole that 'this year the standard is even higher' - no, it's not.

The dissenting Judge was newcomer Emma Bunton. Both she and Jason repeated verbatim lines heard on 'So You Think You Can Dance?' on BBC1 last night uttered by Arlene Phillips - "it's all a bit stage school smiley" and "it's a bit fake, find the truth of the performance" - to Hayley Tammedon from Emmerdale. Yes! The inevitable partnership of Northern Soap Actress and Daniel Whiston rides again! Lucky for them they had an upbeat tune in "Shake Your Tail Feather", with cute steppy choreography, so why shouldn't the presentation have been excitable? Dan has finally met his match for a cheesy grin! Never thought it possible.

I agreed with Jason, the highlight was Daniella Westbrook's performance with her new American Pro Matthew. Very nice feeling for the music, a quiet serenity in her thoughtful performance, and good connection between the two. Liked it. Great opening, nothing quite matched it that followed.
Once again, poor Nicky Slater is the forgotten Judge. It took an age, and the second performance, before Holly bothered to ask him what he thought? Why? When he's the most technically astute Judge in the critique he gives. He spent a lifetime partnering in icedance. Robin has not. But immediately Holly favoured Emma and Jason for comments first above the actual iceskaters on the Panel. Under instructions, I'm sure, from the Producers. Let's hope that Emma doesn't come up with gaffs as big as Louise Redknapp's last night on 'So You Think You Can Dance?' The embarrassing comment of "The Jive takes us back to the 1930s".

The show began with a spectacular Opening Number with T&D, all the Pros and acrobats in a vaudeville/circus themed big production routine where Chris Dean could put his talents to good use. If the celeb skating is going to continue to be a bit weak, I hope ITV will fill with pro numbers, and more of them, as Strictly did last year to great effect.

The final contestants were my fave male Pro Matt Evers and partner Heather Mills. Having seen her on 'Dancing With The Stars' a couple of years ago, I knew she had tremendous guts and ability, not to mention rhythm and a sense of fun. The fact that she was amongst the smoothest skaters out there tonight, the most sure footed, with an artificial leg, was admirable. She looked overjoyed when Scofe called her name to go through in the vote, relieved that the Great British Public had finally taken to her after her demonstration of skill and heart on live TV. Good for them..... For once.

Now that we longer have Defrosted on ITV2 or a daily ITV1 show as in past years, I sincerely hope that Coleen Nolan and the annoying Ben Shepherd don't spend the entire new Friday night preview show gossiping and making silly jokes, but we actually have some interesting reports about the Pros, the choreography, the technique of Skating, in the way that Claudia does on It Takes Two. I live in hope. 

Pics courtesy of the Daily Mail and Guardian

Nerves got the better of her - Emily Atack and skating partner Fred Palascak scored low marks

Heather Mills impressed the judges with her performance with partner Matt Evers

Getting into the groove: Heather's determination to perform won her praise from judges and Torvill and Dean

Artistic but out: Sinitta was the first person voted off the show last night

Farewell Sinitta and Andrei

Jayne Torvill went for a Grecian look, while Christopher Dean looked smart in all black with a splash of gold

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1242159/Dancing-On-Ice-Gordon-Ramsay-looks-aghast-wife-Tana-performs-Sinitta-crashes-out.html#ixzz0cG0LWIsw

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Direct from the BBC Official website - their Strictly widget with the latest videos to view - both TV clips from the show, and special made for the website videos by the Pros & Celebs. Click here anytime, and they will be automatically updated each week. :-)

In Praise of Ryan Francois

So enjoyed the fabulous Pro Ensemble Dance last weekend, choreographed by former famous Lindy Hop Champion dancer Ryan Francois, who worked with the Strictly Professionals and created a glorious celebration of Busby Berkley's Hollywood Musical kaleidoscopic extravaganzas. The Ladies were wearing fluffy pink, and we were transported back in time to the heyday of Glamour in the 30s and 40s. It followed on from a super Tap routine from a couple of guest guys that was such alot of fun! I LOVE Tap!

Here's the Rehearsal video, early last Monday morning, introduced by Matthew Cutler, who's been making himself busy doing video clips for the website since being knocked out in the first round this year with Martina Hingis. 

Sadly, I haven't been able to find a video online of the Hollywood Dance, but this channel has some of the Pro Dances from this season of Strictly on Youtube. Watch & Enjoy! :-)


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How about this for a Look-a-like 'doo-doo-doo-doo' moment I had recently?!

Former LBC Radio Presenter, and Sony Award Winner, Gill Pyrah, circa 1982.


& Former Strictly Dancer, and reigning 2008 Champion with Tom Chambers, Camilla Dallerup


27 years apart, but still...LOL!

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