Vanessa Feltz on Strictly: Nigel Harman’s tension-killing exit has sent show into tailspin

Alas, poor Nigel Harman! What rotten luck! The fellow was only rehearsing his most graceful Peter Pan-esque flying leap from a table when instead of the magical soft alighting envisaged, he crashed chronically, smashing his rib to smithereens.

With erstwhile contestant Amanda Abbington lost to natural wastage along the way, Strictly needs all its celebrities match-fit. An hors de combat Nigel threw the whole series into a tailspin.

A no-elimination quarter-final?! Such an unthinkable phenomenon has never occurred in Strictly history.

Imagine the bosses’ panic behind the scenes. “Nigel can’t dance? Can’t he be strapped up? Dosed up? Given a steroid injection? You’ve already asked and the doctor says ‘No!’. For **** sake find another doctor.”

How do you keep the anticipation roaring and the tension knife-edge when everyone’s just sliding smoothly back to the dance floor next week? How do you present it as a dazzling stellar achievement to make it to the semis when in fact Nigel’s shattered rib was the golden ticket?

Frankly, the production team didn’t even try to pretend we were on the edge of our seats. In lieu of suspense, they rolled in Nigel himself, obviously in pain and claiming he was “high” on analgesia and Katya Jones, so shocked to be robbed of the glitterball by a rogue rib she was a mass of sobbing incoherence.

They were in a right old state. Happily married dad Nigel solemnly told the nation Katya had “become a part of me”. Katya sought to mask her face with her own hair and had to be patted soothingly by Claudia Winkleman.

Their disappointment was palpable and utterly understandable. They truly were within sniffing distance of, at the very least, a jolly convincing foray in the final. To be robbed of the chance so late in the game must have been beyond heartbreaking.

Meanwhile, the survivors were dancing as if their lives depended on it. Musicals week is always pure pleasure and Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola’s sprightly homage to Beauty and the Beast could have been transported directly to the West End stage.

To our disappointment, the couple don’t seem to have fallen in love off camera but you wouldn’t know it from their beautifully synchronised performance.

I wonder if Annabel Crof would have been a goner if Nigel hadn’t succumbed? Last week I told you hair, makeup and costume play a major part in every celebrity’s chance of success or failure and – call me old fashioned – but I don’t think it helps anyone to be painted green!

As soon as ravishing Annabel appeared in full witchy Wicked garb, the writing would have been on the wall. Let’s hope they give her a fighting chance and let her bloom as her gorgeous self next week.

Bobby and Dianne showed guts and a touch of recklessness when they attempted the iconic Dirty Dancing lift. Was it the arrogance of youth or had Bobby simply never seen the movie?

They managed a creditable albeit slightly wobbly version which marginally underwhelmed the judges. Bobby is an exuberant fluid and charismatic dancer but are his fans beginning to wonder if he has acquired the polish and technique to scoop the ultimate prize?

This brings me to Layton and Nikita who inhabit an entirely different dance universe. Theirs are not mere routines but immersive out-of-body experiences. No matter if professional dancer Layton should be on the programme or not, here he is and watching him is unquestionably mind-blowing.

He is an artist. His pairing with Nikita was positively visionary. They scored quadruple tens. We feel fortunate to witness their synergy and artistry.

I don’t know about you but I am cancelling next Saturday’s festive frolics and settling on the sofa for the semifinal.

Strictly Come Dancing continues next Saturday at 7.35pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.


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