Strictly Come Dancing: The Best & Worst Charlestons 2018

Last Saturday we saw the return of Strictly Come Dancing and we can’t wait to see whose Charlestons will have us swivelling with joy. In the run up to the 2019 show, let’s look back at all the best and worst Charleston routines from 2018.

Joe Sugg and Dianne Busell

First up was Joe Sugg and his dance partner Dianne Busell with their slightly bizarre Charleston which included them thatching roofs whilst dancing to 'Cotton Eye Joe' by Rednex. 

The judges gave him a total of 31 but was this overmarked or rightly deserved? 

He had plenty of energy and good stage presence so he scores highly for his performance skills but in terms of content it didn’t have that many fundamental steps in it. 

If we take a closer look there was only one Charleston in hold which was disappointing for a partner dance and the rest of the Charlestons were all solo. One 30s Charleston and 2 basic 20s Charlestons just before the barrel roll. The knocky knees were weak but the lindyhop section had nice movement. 

After faffing about with some ladders, there was only another basic 20s Charleston step, some helicopters and a couple of flapper walks which stood out as classic steps. Although there should have been more swivel, the lifts were great and they had great chemistry onstage.  

We would like to see more Charleston content and swivel throughout but that’s the choreography team who determine that and if they are looking for mass appeal it seems to have worked judging by the fact it got a million views on YouTube in just 2 days.  

Our score: 6 

Lauren Steadman & AJ Pritchard  

Next to dance the Charleston was Lauren Steadman with her professional partner AJ Pritchard dancing to Postmodern Jukebox ‘New Rules’. For us this one really didn’t work us. We really didn’t understand the storyline for this one. What was the whole thing with the telephone box? It didn’t make sense nor did their acting. Again, there was only one Charleston in hold and then a succession of lifts which are impressive but didn’t showcase the style. 

Half way through the routine, Lauren goes back to the phone and does a little Charleston solo but after her insane one-handed lift she lost a bit of focus and goes wrong in the end which is a shame as the end section had the most interesting footwork. Overall, this was very much a lift routine and lacking basis content. The judges total score was 22.

Our score: 5

Graeme Swann & Oti Mabuse

Let’s start with Oti’s solo at the start whilst they detached Graeme from the wires. She starts with some perfect flapper walks into a high kick Charleston variation into some Charlie Chaplin legs followed by a sort of Shorty George step and then greets Graeme with a basic Charleston, followed by a turning trucking step -  within in first 40 seconds every move has been a classic Charleston step which is refreshing to see.

From there, Oti jumps head first at Graeme and comes straight into a partner Charleston, followed by bunny hops. It’s so nice to see them in hold as last week both couples nearly danced the whole thing as a duet rather than a partner dance.

After a bit of silly faces (which we always like to see) there are some Charleston variations with kicks followed by two huge lifts that Oti lands perfectly. Again, straight after the lifts they go into another nice section in hold and come out of it with a Sailor Step (not sure if Graeme was supposed to let go of her hand here) into Squat Charlestons, Flapper Walks and a Fall Off The Log. If we are being picky this should have more bend in the legs but overall it was packed full of great steps and ended with a another great lift which they hold right to the end. 

This routine was choreographed by the main Charleston choreographer Jenny Thomas as compared to last week and you can really tell as they content is much more rich and dynamic.

As always there could be a bit more swivel but overall Graeme and Oti did a great job especially as he a ‘non-dancer’ compared to say Ashely or Faye plus it was very entertaining.

Score: 7

Seann Walsh and Katya Jones 

For the first 20 seconds, they set the scene by faffing about with cheese until they start dancing. Once they get going, we see a basic 20s in hold, followed by some flapper walks. Katya seems to be counting out loud at this point and there is a tiny stumble at 27 seconds in. Did Seann accidentally pull her over?

They then move into a lindyhop section and break out of it with a helicopter at 42 seconds. The knees are not closed here nor is there any swivel on the supporting leg which are vital for this move.

We then see some impressive lifts from Katya and we jump straight back into another lindyhop section and then into rather weird lift where she climbs up his back. We’ve not see this in any style so we are not really sure what genre that is from. It also breaks the flow of the dance. Maybe they were just looking for unsexy moves to perform in their Where’s Wally outfits? 

 Seann does get a little Charleston solo break, which he mouths his counts and goes wrong. He looks very stiff in this section.

Once they chuck the pizza boxes in the air, it’s back to the oven for some some more faffing followed by a Charleston Around the World and 3 lifts. The final one looks a bit wobbly and the transition into their final position is not very smooth, in fact they don’t hold their end position.

Overall, this routine had some nice elements but it was very unpolished and messy. We see them falling over, mouthing counts and in terms for content compared to last weeks Charleston we barely see them in hold and only see classic 20s Charleston and a helicopter. 

Score: 6

Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev

Ashley and Pasha received a standing ovation from not only the audience but also from Bruno Tonioli and head judge Shirley Ballas after their “swivellious” Trolls-inspired routine. Bruno even exclaimed it was the highlight of the season so far. But what made it so good and stand out against the other Charleston routines we have seen so far?

First of all, the pair are great at setting the scene. Pasha, the troll, puts a spell on Ashley, a Bergen, to get her to fall in love with him. She executes the flapper walks and isolation steps of being under a spell perfectly. (If you are unclear of the reference, the characters are based on the Disney film Trolls).

Once the spell has been cast they break into Helicopters, Rock Steps and Charlestons in perfect sync. We see some other nice classic steps at 0:51 seconds where Ashley performs Camel Walks, Birdie Flaps, Lock Turns and Swivels on one leg which then goes straight into Charleston kicks across the body with two Bunny Hops. This is followed by Charleston in hold and a nice turning section. The whole section is jam packed and they keep going with great content as this is followed by Flapper Walks, a Basic Charleston with a kick and some lifts. 

As soon as they break out of the lifts, they perform two Smack the Babies and some classic Pushes and another seamless lift. Towards the end of the routine, they bring it back to the storyline where Ashley then tries to cast a spell on Pasha this time which leads to them throwing the spell book away and them being happy little trolls in love which each other.

What we love about this routine is the story and the choreography are perfectly put together. Sometimes the storylines are quite loose and don’t make sense but this one was clear and beautifully presented. It was also very fast, full of content and the pair of them were perfectly synchronised. Ashley is also the first celeb who has mastered the art of the swivel.

The only drawback to this routine is the music. The tune is so annoying that it distracts from the routine and If they had used something with a bit more swing, we could have seen some even more complicated steps with the use of cross phasing and syncopation which would have made it stand out even more. However, we are being picky and as this is a family show, I’m sure lots of kids loved the Disney reference and the music.

Our Score: 9 

Charles Venn and Karen Clifton

This routine was 'No Diggity' remixed by Minimatic. For once we did like the music, as this a great tune for an Electro Swing Charleston! The theme however was a bit weird,  two cheeky windows cleaners without much purpose. It wasn’t really clear why they picked that for their theme. 

After a bit of cleaning and getting in to character they broke into a basic Charleston at 26 seconds followed by some flapper walks and a lock turn. After throwing the hankies away we see a Tick Tock which leads to Charleston side to side in hold, a classic Lindy Hop move. This step had a nice variation with a turn which broke into a Truckin’ step at 45 seconds.

The next section wasa series of ‘wow’ moves. A one handed cartwheel and some complicated lifts which then went back into hold, followed by a Fall on the Log variation.

Charles brings a bit of a hip hop style to his Charleston and has a lot of control which worked well with the song. However, he did look quite nervous during this performance which is a shame as he is a great dancer and has been underrated in the show.

The next most dynamic part is at 1:25 mins with the scarecrow sequence, followed by Knocky Knee variations and a series of lifts to finish.

For the most part we did enjoy this routine, however we would have liked more steps in hold. It felt a bit more like a duet rather than 1920s partner dance. On the other hand, we really liked the song choice, we like the hip hop/Charleston fusion that Charles brought to the dance and as a pair we think they have great charisma on stage. If he were dance it again, we would like him to loose some of the tension in the upper body as it was quite stiff.

Our Score: 8

Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice

Faye and her partner Giovanni Pernice scored their first perfect 40 for their quirky Charleston set to ’Lonely Goatherd’ from the ‘Sound Of Music’, which saw them transformed into a pair of puppets. The judges gave them top marks and Darcey said it was ‘Stunning to perfection’.

We first see the pair after the curtains open on the puppet stage and they perform a sequence of isolated steps which included the puppets coming to life. There was a mini Tick-Tock on the spot and some flicks which were on the off-beat (which is Charleston perfection and quite rare to see on the show).

At 34 seconds, they break into basic Charleston, and flicks on both the right and left leg whist they untangle themselves from the puppet strings then flapper walks into the centre.

After covering the floor with some skipping (not sure why that move was picked, presume they felt it was in keeping of the theme) they come into a loose hold at 58 secs for a quick series of kicks, turns and lifts.

1:12 mins they come into two Scissor Kicks, a Birdy Flap (made iconic by Charleston Queen Jospehine Baker) followed by basic Charleston and Helicopter. Faye is the first celeb this series to do the helicopter correctly with her knees together. They quickly move into Charlie Chaplin legs and Trench Walks followed by another series of lifts.

At 1.30 they break into a nice turning sequence with the other extra dancers on stage followed by two high kicks from Faye and a series of Wings (which you would usually see in Tap).

The routine ends with another skipping and lift sequence which brings the pair back into the centre of the stage to finish with one more Charleston and a scarecrow pose.

The routine is very intricate and capture lots of Charleston characteristics including flexed feet and flat hands. They are also the only pair this season to clearly dance the off-beat and syncopation which is a key element of this genre. Although they were quite upright, which is a little strange for a Charleston, they were meant to be puppets and they kept in character throughout. It might have been nice to have seen some basic Charleston in hold but as a duet it was perfect.

The music worked really well too (although it was quite annoying!) Also well done to the singer who pulled that one out the bag.

The routine was choreographed by Jenny Thomas who did a fantastic job!

Score:9 1/2 (just because of the song choice).

Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton

In the Strictly Come Dancing 2018 semi-final Stacey Dooley and her professional partner Kevin Clifton performed an authentic 1920s Charleston routine. This is the stand out Charleston for the series for so many reasons.

Let’s start with the music, this is the first tune of the year which is actually a proper Charleston track. The piece of music chosen was ‘Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue’ (one of our favourite jazz standards and our current course song!) originally released in 1925 so the music really complimented the routine in capturing the Hot Jazz vibe.

Moving onto the choreography, the storyline is of an on old couple reminiscing of when they used to go out dancing back in the Roaring 20s and we see a flashback to them in their heyday.

From 21 seconds we see heaps of Charleston content: Flapper Walks, Tick Tock, Swivel Walks, Birdie Flaps, Cake Walks and Charleston Kicks all before their first lift.

After the lift, Stacey performs a series of heel flicks on the off-beat, bunny hops and and two Charlestons. Although we love the sequence, her eyes and faces does drop for just one moment and I feel you can really see her concentrating but it’s just a split second.

After their second lift, they come into hold and do a series of kicks and skips which break into Truckin’ and the Spank the Baby move followed by another set of Charlestons and Pushes.

At 1 mins 8 they break into Kick Charlestons and a series of low kicks, followed by a shimmy and a lift sequence. As soon as they come out of the lifts they perform a set of Suzy Qs and Helicopters (and they have their knees together!).

After their final lift, they run back to the armchairs and we come back to the present day. 

This routine really worked on so many levels as it really captured a 1920's flapper-style Charleston. It has also been the only routine of the whole series to use only classic 1920s steps. Although Faye and Giovanni had a great routine too, the traveling moves where not authentic whilst this routine was jam packed from start to finish.

We also love Stacey and Kevin’s partnership and that he threw so much into the routine (I believe we choreographed this one). He is a great teacher who really brings out the best in Stacey. She was a complete dance novice and her spirit really shines in this number. The pair of them together have great stage presence and bring plenty of entertainment to the show.

If they had a bit more time to work on the routine, we would only say that Stacey needs to keep her eyes up and relax her shoulders a little but natural slightly ungainly style fits this routine. However, She smashes the syncopation which is really hard for a beginners and trained dancers. She is also brilliant at doing the swivel which again is very hard to master as a novice.

Score: 10

So there we have it all of the routines from 2018. Which was your favourite and who do you think will do a great Charleston this year? Let us know in the comments below!