Shall we dance?

There are moments when I wish that this column weren’t called Guilty Pleasures. It means that I have to have no embarrassment and stand up and admit to my most shameful obsessions (do I have any non-shameful ones?).

I’m sure that there are worse ones to have than Strictly Come Dancing, but becoming hooked on Dancing With the Stars (DWTS), the American version, may be a quickstep too far (it was the mix of contestants that did it, including Jane Seymour, Mel B, Marie Osmond and Wayne Newton). And I don’t really recommend watching them in tandem as the standard is so much higher in the US.

Every year, I end up shouting at the performances and at the TV audience for voting for the lame duck yet again (yes, that would be Kate Garroway this year – I’m sorry about her injury but she’s just not making an effort beside that). It’s funny how you suddenly pick someone to like – someone who works very hard or who discovers they love to dance like Darren Gough – and someone to hiss at – the one who tries that bit too hard or thinks they’re way better than they are. And we all have our favourites among the professionals, too. Personally, I’d love an hour with Anton – he wouldn’t have to teach me to dance, just talk to me…

My poor partner has to endure me yelling thing like ‘Put your shoulders back’, ‘That would be nice if it was on the beat’, ‘Ooh, lovely feet’ or ‘Hands, hands!’ (I’m afraid, like the judges, I have a horror of the spade hands that some of the dancers seem afflicted with). But often that’s a welcome distraction from the frankly bizarre music the poor couples are forced to try and dance to (last week on DWTS, one couple had to do the paso doble to the theme from Superman – and did it really well). I know they want to emphasize that dance isn’t just for old people but sometimes it really detracts from the performance through no fault of the dancers.

But our biggest hisses are usually reserved for the judges (they sound like panto villains so why not?), who always seem to forget that the competitors aren’t professionals (although some of them do dance like pros) and have only been dancing a few weeks. At least this year, they’re being a bit more constructive – perhaps Clive has learned what it’s like to be on the receiving end when he was on Masterchef (he was terrified), although Arlene still has the tartest tongue around (Simon Cowell, eat your heart out). Len and Bruno race back and forth across the Atlantic to do both versions, Len bringing his wonderful calm, helpful and knowledgeable presence and Bruno his enthusiasm. I don’t know how they do it.

So who are our favourites this year? Judging from the forums and office gossip, Gethin seems to be the one everyone fancies (me too…), we like Dominic’s cheeky enthusiasm and Leticia’s giggles, and we think Kelly and Brendan are over-rated. My tip for a winner? Alesha—she works hard, has natural talent and clearly loves it.

And please, this week, unless she’s improved, please stop feeling sorry for Kate…