The Eurovision Dance Contest 2008
It's the 6th of September 2008. It is 21h00 European time, or 8.00pm British time.
From Glasgow in Scotland (not "Scotland, England"!) comes the Eurovision Dance Contest 2008.
Looking like a cross between The Syndey Opera House and the spaceship on "Flight Of The Navigator", the venue is the SECC, the Scottish Exhibition Centre - and here the BBC has upped the ante to give the whole venue a sort of arena feel.
If you are wondering why we aren't back in Helsingfors (that's Helsinki to the rest of us), it is apparently because the BBC participated on the understanding that it would host the first two events? Bad luck on Finland.
Played in by bagpipes are the hosts...
As last year, our hosts are Graham Norton and Claudia Winkleman.
All of the dancing pairs are now introduced, also to the bagpipes. The countries taking part in this year's contest are Sweden, Austria, Denamrk, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Russia, Greece, Portugal, Poland, and the Ukraine.
The pair consists of a professional dancer and somebody who is some sort of 'celebrity' in their home country. For the UK is Louisa Lytton. If you watch British TV, you might know her from "The Bill", but wasn't she also in "EastEnders"?
There are also four judges whose markings provide a portion of the overall vote. It is ironic to see that after all the democracy of televoting, problems with neighbourly voting has resulted in judges making a comeback. There was already a part jury vote in the ESC 2008 semi-final, and the unconfirmed rumour I've heard is the ESC2009 will be 50% televote and 50% jury vote... but I stress this is just the rumour mill at work, no official announcement has been made as yet.
The four judges are from countries not taking part: France, Germany, Slovenia, and with a guarantee of impartiality, the girl on the left is from Singapore!
Together, these judges - voting in the traditional Eurovision sense (...8,10,12) will award marks which count for a quarter of the result of the performance; with the remaining 75% of their score arriving from the televoting.
In a change to the previous time, the contestants will apparently dance for longer, but the first part of their dance should be a traditional style (you know, some flirty ballroom nonsense) and the second part should be something related to their country of origin. I think some overlap is permitted. Unfortunately even before we get started we have one of the commentators (Len Goodman) being shushed mid-whinge. I do always hold out hope for an interactive version where the commentary is simply omitted.
The commentators are the ever-grumpy Len Goodman (again) and Craig Revel Horwood.
A "cha-cha-cha" to that song where Madonna gyrates in a pink leotard. I think they are trying to be steamy but it comes across as a bit cluttered, you know, it didn't flow evenly; but the woman put in lots of steps, she must be aiming for the technical vote. Given this, and given it's the opening vote, I think they called it about right.
During the intro the commentators said "he's 6 foot 7, he's gonna be gawky and awkward" - he's a gameshow host, by the way. Actually it was quite a nice looking performance to a big-band rendition of the Pink Panther theme. It was a bit odd with little her and big him, but I think it worked, especially when they dissolved into a song and picked up the pace.
Sadly only 7s across the judge's board, maybe three dances in one and the abrupt pace change counted negatively?
A barefoot routine that begins to "Falling" (the "Twin Peaks" theme) and picks up in the second minute. Her elfin dress flows well through the movements of this artistic piece. Beautiful lifts, a great performance.
They get well-deserved 12s across the board. Lovely...
Following on from the screechfest that was Azerbaijan's entry into the song contest, this shows that the people of Azerbaijan are perhaps able to list everybody who has ever played Dracula on film, except perhaps "The Vampire Chronicles" as that was kinda boring and "Interview With A Vampire" as that was camply hammy above and beyond the call of duty. Anyway, there must be something odd in the water in Azerbaijan...
To the "Phantom Of The Opera" (the song, that is) comes a bizarre ballroom dance by a vampire (of course the camp overdressed type) and... what's she? A vampirette? We rather forget their performance as he proposes to her on live television. A sweet (but mildly vomit-inducing) moment!
The scores were quite good because the dancing was quite good, once you block out those outfits.
An mix of Latin styles and Irish 'riverdance'. It was a brave attempt, but I'm not sure it quite worked - for a start, while traditional Irish dancing lends more to tap than the flowing body movements of the samba (if you recall riverdance, you will remember there is a lot of leg action and not so much going on above the waist, other than the necessary jigglings). To this end, her shoes would look more at home on a sixty-year-old battleaxe ward matron than in any sort of latin dance. For this alone, I say it was a brave attempt...
There were some booings from the audience when the mid-range votes were shown.
First up, she's a singer. I say this because there is quite some similarity to last year's (winning) performer.
It's a Finnish tango. The tango is important in Finland, apparently. I can't quite see the goth community doing this, but then again there is a sort of tristesse to the music, so maybe?
That's a lovely dress; subtle yet delicately effective.
Nice movements, nice lines, I hope this scores well. And that Len commentator can go <....> himself. Has he said anything positive yet?
The scores could have been a bit better, but nevermind.
Singing, yes, signing, a power-ballad version of "Angels" (re. Robbie Williams) this bloke has a reasonable voice but is rather clumsy on the lifts, and didn't dance much. The score is level-bottom, which is perhaps about what I would have expected. More dance, less song, or else you'd be better trying to be in ESC!
It's the half-way point.
Apparently the sexiest woman in Lithuania (she doesn't float my boat, for me so far it's a toss up between the Austrian and the Fin). Coming out dressed like a medieval nurse, you just know that outfit is coming off. Yup, there it goes.
God, I preferred the frumpy dress and the almost-Eastern routine. Well, finally Len liked something. I think it was okay but there has been better. The first half was good, the second half too noisy. A good mark, but not a max-points.
We pause for a brief spell in the green room, you know, that room that is rarely green... Love the expressions on these two!
9 The United Kingdom
Harsh, spikey, so in-yer-face it is almost shocking, set to a Rolling Stones track. There's no passion whatsoever in this, but it's like watching Druscilla and Angel setting the world on fire. Performance-wise, this should score well...
...and it doesn't! B*ll*cks to that! This routine went where nobody has dared go yet, and then pushed it to 11.
Following in the trend of their winning ESC entry, Tatiana is an Olympic ice-dancer. I know of her as artistic skating is about the only sport I have any sort of interest in. Not a bad performance in non-gliding fashion, but what was she wearing!? It was all a bit dramatic with that posing and affected posturing.
It scores highly, oh my god!
The picture above is not terribly good. So I will remind you again that not only is this review written live as the contest progresses (well, in a rough form, and fleshed out immediately afterwards), but the pictures are captured live as well, there is no Sky+ or Tivo style backing up and getting a better shot. That, above, is the one I got for the Russian performance. Of course, if you have a better picture of any of tonight's performers (no smaller than 609×342 JPEG) then send them to me and I may include some of them!
They're both Aussies, and an odd pair at that. Go figure! A nice sexy start, ruined by a complete hash of a pointless costume 'change', and then a change to an annoying loud piece of music. Pro and ex-pro, they can put in an accomplished performance, but the music sucked beyond the telling of it.
Some impressive moves, dramatic, flinging her around the place. This is the doll in a spin cycle. She even has a hurt rib. Owww! I know how that feels.
Oooh, a depressingly low judge's score. Portugal, for some reason, never seems to do terribly well in the Eurovision competitions.
Cute-looking couple, and a lovely set of performances to two Michael Jackson tracks. I'm looking for this being a good-scorer. Basically tens. Could have been better. The Jackson tracks are upbeat, the costume change is good. An all-round performer. I'm a believer in 13 being a lucky number. Question is, are the Polish?
She's a gymnast, the sort of hurling around that could hospitalise you forever if you don't have years and years of practice. Happy and bouncy with lots of booty shaking, but the fake airline-hostess smiling detracted from it. A real smile would have been lots better. And wasn't he just a bit posey?
The results of the judge's scores are:
No ties are allowed, so the Singapore judge has the deciding vote. She brings it to:
And, well, placing the host country last of the available options, not a popular move.
My picks (top 5):
- UK - yes, UK, it top slot, bet you didn't expect that!
And who I didn't like?
Sadly: Ireland (clumsy melange of incompatible styles), Netherlands (he didn't do a lot of dancing), Ukraine (annoying fake smiling).
This was followed by a short "behind-the-scenes".
The group dance
Time for a sort of group photo... no, sorry, a group dance! 28 people on one dance floor. It was a sort of a cross between an interval act and a little bit of showing off for each pair.
As the voting closes, Graham announces this in franglais, with the words "Les lignes sont maintenant closed" - well, he got most of it. It'd be funny if France hosted the contest and announced mostly in French except for little things like "zee voting be now terminé"!
Claudia has a brief chat with somebody in the audience.
Now it is on to the interval act while the votes are collated and verified. It is Lesley Garrett with a performance from "Carousel". Something of a step down from Enrique Iglesias if you ask me!
While this is going on, I will take a moment to say that it was a bold move of the BBC to take this to Glasgow's SECC which isn't a television broadcasting venue; however there were numerous little quirks like the sound being on when it shouldn't and vice versa, and some occasionally dramatic camera wobble - especially the dolly in front of the stage.
Back once more to the green room, a freudian slip - the Finnish couple are really enjoying each other!
Okay, serious hats on now, it is time for the votes to come in.
We don't have Svante for this contest. Given that he participates in the JESC, it is odd that he does not take part in the EDC - maybe it is organised by a completely different group of people? Anyway, we have this guy, who looks more like a junior investment banker. Perhaps an estate agent.
Karin in Sweden gives the points first. Only one for the UK. Their 12 goes to Finland. Len What'sHisFace was whining neighbour voting, but it was a good performance from them.
Marvin in Austria and four points to the UK, their 12 to Poland.
Yens (Jens?) in Denmark gave 5 to the UK and 12 to Poland, again.
Kushnia? Bushnia? in Azerbaijan. Only a 3 to the UK, and their 12 goes to the Ukraine.
Brian in Ireland, 8 points to the UK (look, neighbours). A high score for Lithuania from Ireland, surprised? 12 to Poland, the ones tipped to win.
Yanoo (Jaanu?) in Finland. She says Graham is "looking so cute tonight", I wonder if she knows...? The commentators think they're in with a good chance as the UK receives no points early on, but as Finland's 12 doesn't go to the UK, like typical sore losers they say they'll never set foot in Finland again, I can hear Fins everywhere breathing a big sigh of relief. Finland's 12 goes to Russia.
Julie (I like that name) in the Netherlands gives the UK their 10, with 12 to Poland. Things are certainly looking good for Poland tonight.
Audreysh? He's called that? It's Lithuania. And the commentators think Lithuania will give 12 to the UK, given that it hasn't been a high-scoring song.
Carol Smilie in Glasgow cannot give votes to itself, so their 8 goes to Ireland. Len says "See how nice we are? Why didn't they reciprocate?" They did dumbass, even to giving us the exact same EIGHT. The UK's 12, almost predictably now, goes to Poland.
Larissa in Russia graces the UK with one point. Groans from the commentators, but at least it is something. Russia's top goes to the Ukraine.
Rita (Rika?) in Greece, with 3 points for the UK, and a 12 to Cyprus? Oh, wait, they're not in it, so the 12 instead goes to Russia. The connection? Another country that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Come on, we must milk this conspiracy for all it is worth. ☺
Helena in Lisbon presents the Portuguese vote, with no points for the UK but a 12 to the Ukraine.
Not a Julie but a Julia (maybe Yulia?) presenting the Ukrainian vote by candlelight it seems. A 3 for the UK, with their 12 to Russia.
Finally it is Anna in Poland, with a single point to the UK. The commentators give a lot of whinge about "all those Polish builders". They would only be happy with a string of 12s. We could hope, but that's not how it is going to happen, instead Poland's 12 goes to Azerbaijan.
We can call it for Poland. Actually, we could have quite a while ago.
The final scoreboard
The winners - Poland
Who will walk away with this trophy (well, you can sort-of see it):
She can't quite believe it:
Polish fans in the audience:
And the final goodbyes before the winning dance is performed again:
Now it's time for the Jackson medley and Poland's winning dance (that looks painful).
Sadly not everybody in the UK was in a position to watch the dance contest. Heavy rain brought scenes like those following to parts of the country:
The final analysis
So it turns out that thirteen was indeed a lucky number for Poland, not only that, but it was the penultimate performance, which always seems to be strong in terms of voting. As for the entry itself, I preferred Finland (again), and I was hoping for a slightly stronger showing for the UK's ballsy entry, oh well.
Poland did well last year, coming in fourth.
I rather think that the Dutch entry was given a strong message by the voters of Europe. They begun with one point, from the judges, and they finished with that same one point. Indeed, they were the only ones to receive nothing whatsoever from the televote.
I don't care who that Len bloke is, or how many accolates or how much experience he has. Can we please find an announcer who is upbeat, positive, happy, and actually has some enthusiasm for what is going on?
Now Glasgow isn't the highest class place in the world. We know that because it has been a "European City Of Culture" which seems to be a title reserved for crappy towns in desperate need of a makeover. Witness a recent recipient Bilbao (that's in northern Spain) and the current holders Liverpool. I guess we could take the 'culture' scheme seriously if it included places such as Venice or... I'm sure you can think of plenty of places in Europe which are culturally significant - whether for art (Prague?) or religion (Santiago de Compostella?) or traces of ancient societies (Rome? Athens?) or important historical events (Pompeii? Dieppe?) or just places that have a nice look and feel to them (Stockholm, I believe, would be the winner here).
After all of this discussion, we have said very little about the city of Glasgow. Indeed it is too easy to pick holes in the city and point out the problems that it has - an obvious one being Rangers vs Celtic. But to do that is to miss the point of what it can offer a visitor. Naples is a nice place but how often is the rubbish collected? I would have expected the contest, held in Glasgow, to have included a little bit of Glasgow other than the opening sequence showing some random buildings. It isn't exactly going to sell the city as a destination to foreigners. And if the BBC figured it couldn't pull this off, shame on them.
I'm saving my comments on this until last, for I think the contest this year was truly awful. Trying to get dancers to do two different things at once is not going to decently show their capabilities. Take last year's winners (Finland). The girl wore a sort of light coloured outfit that was almost frumpy and sort-of 1940s for her first dance. For her second dance, flat shoes and a long flowing dark outfit that suited the mood of the performance. She could have done her second dance in the light outfit and heels or she could have done her first dance in the dark outfit and flats, but I don't think that would have worked as well - and I reckon the evidence of this is shown in the Irish entry.
My hopes for ESC2009
- A commentary-free interactive version, perhaps with a very subtle on-screen pop-up to say who the performers are and what sort of dance (rumba, tango, hustle... ☺) they will be doing, for those of us who aren't clued up enough to give a better description than "it's like something Shakira would do...".
- Bring back the two dances. I think this showed the performers in a much better light than trying to fit it into the one longer performance. And what was the nonsense with that group dance? A gimmick, perhaps, or had somebody been inspired by the UNESCO group song in last year's JESC?
Same time next year? From Warsaw?
Copyright © 2008 Rick Murray
Images copyright © 2008 EBU-UER
Broadcast in widescreen by BBC One.