Halloween is here once again, meaning Strictly Come Dancing is bringing its yearly spook-fest back to the dance floor.
Due to the pandemic, 2020 was the first year Strictly has gone without a Halloween special since 2007. As a result, this year’s show promises to be better than ever.
Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of dancers take part in the themed competition week, hoping to impress the judges with routines that are less trick, more treat.
For fans, Halloween is one of the biggest nights in the Strictly calendar. Design-wise, it doesn’t get more extra than this, with the perfect performance featuring a spooky costume and song choice that are well linked together. However, it’s not always easy and we often see a slightly spooky song title pushed together with a random costume that doesn’t exactly make sense or scream Halloween. After all, there are only so many times the show can do the “Monster Mash”.
The best Halloween dances bring all these elements together, from design, to music, to (naturally) the actual dancing. Among this top 10 we have a lot of tangos, if only because their whole intense-and-moody thing lends itself well to the Halloween spirit. Spooky sambas, salsas and cha cha chas are comparatively much harder to come by.
Here are 10 of the greatest Strictly Halloween week dances, ranked…
10. Scott Maslen and Natalie Lowe – Viennese Waltz
If you can rely on anything during Strictly’s Halloween week, it’s an episode that’s even more gimmick-galore than usual. But there was a time when the show was less reliant on fancy dress and overly obvious themes. This waltz by 2010 semi-finalists Maslen and Lowe manages to steer clear of the clichés (if you can look past the giant cauldron on stage), with a gorgeous, simple and clean ballroom dance to “I Put a Spell on You” that’s just the right level of spooky, while still being utterly charming.
9. Alexandra Burke and Gorka Márquez – Tango
Burke remains one of the most naturally gifted dancers to ever appear on Strictly, so her Halloween week dance was always going to be good. Her and Marquez’s zombie-themed tango to “Maneater” is one of many incredible performances she did on the show, the pair covering huge amounts of the floor and doing some totally different tricks and lifts in this fiery dance. Is it as good as her Argentine tango, no (but then again, what is?), but it perfectly captures the spooky spirit.
8. Louise Redknapp and Kevin Clifton – Charleston
The year is 2016, Suicide Squad has just been released and Harley Quinn is the cool kids’ Halloween costume du jour. Joining the craze with her blue and pink pigtails was Redknapp for her Charleston to Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” (Great Gatsby soundtrack version), with partner Clifton her mischievous Joker. The music choice is a little odd, but it’s a clever theme and great dance, with Clifton particularly recreating Jared Leto’s manic gleam in his eye.
7. Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse – Tango
Recently released songs go one of two ways when they’re used on Strictly – they either fit the dance style well or just don’t (here’s looking at you, last week’s double-speed “Watermelon Sugar” salsa). But “Bad Guy” is a song that was made to be tangoed to, Billie Eilish’s whisper tones the perfect tension builder while the electronic breakdown in the bridge perfectly compliments a sharp stride across the floor. Fletcher brought that drama to his 2019 vampiric performance with Mabuse, beginning the dance by levitating above the dance floor in a mesh shirt and waistcoat combo (something for the mums at home, as Bruce Forsyth would say), before giving a staccato and electric performance.
6. Alex Scott and Kevin Clifton – Couple’s Choice
The Ghostbusters theme is a repeat offender at Strictly’s Halloween week, featuring on the show in 2012, 2015 and 2019. The best routine was the most recent, in which Scott and Clifton (the latter stepping for Neil Jones at the last minute) performed a couple’s choice street/commercial routine to the song. It may not be a moody tango or paso, but this fun dance still felt decisively Halloween-y, with some great tricks and even a bit of moonwalking. It’s also memorable as one of those rare occasions where the pro, not the celebrity, forgets the routine , but the pair manage to cover it well and it just makes Scott look better. Dancers, they’re just like us!
5. Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev – Charleston
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first: yes, the costumes in this dance are terrible. It’s not really clear what Roberts and Kovalev are actually dressed as (my guess would be some kind of troll-imp-ogre hybrid?), but the addition of Kovalev’s fake belly is unforgivable and distracts from his performance. Fortunately Roberts is such a natural born dancer she makes up for it. The pair are always synchronised, the lifts are great and the flicks and kicks are razor sharp. Is it scary? No. Is the Alvin and the Chipmunks voice effect necessary? Not in the slightest. It’s Strictly Halloween week – nothing makes sense.
4. Frankie Bridge and Kevin Clifton – Tango
Among the sea of Halloween tangos, Bridge and Clifton’s Wicked-themed dance to “Defying Gravity” comes out on top. The Saturdays star looks incredible in her green Elphaba get up, with the dance remaining passionate and insanely fast-paced throughout. The track may not automatically seem like the best fit for the dance type, but it somehow works and still stands up as one of Clifton’s best pieces of choreography.
3. Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice – Couple’s Choice
The “couple’s choice” routine on Strictly may now be a genre free-for-all, but when it was first introduced contestants could choose between street/commercial, contemporary or theatre/jazz. The former turned out to be the most popular, but arguably the strongest of all time has to be Tozer and Pernice’s electric theatre and jazz routine to Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. Somehow making tuxedos and skeleton make-up sexy, it’s a performance that epitomes cool (or as cool as Strictly gets, anyway). From Tozer swinging around her lengthy ponytail like Indiana Jones to the incredible donning of the sunglasses mid-routine, it’s got everything.
2. Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev – Paso Doble
Phantom of the Opera is the perfect fit for Strictly Halloween week – it’s spooky, but also, crucially, incredibly camp. As a result, the titular song has been used a couple of times, but eventual winners Tointon and Chigvintsev set the gold standard for Halloween performances in general back in 2010 with this enthralling paso. Resisting the full ringletted Christine Daae costume, Tointon’s performance is sexy and powerful rather than simpering, with all the skirt whooshing and ridiculously high lifts you could want.
1. Michelle Visage and Giovanni Pernice – Foxtrot
When you’ve got a Strictly contestant who looks as much like Morticia Addams as Visage does out of costume, doing anything other than an Addams Family-themed routine for Halloween would be a crime. Scott Mills first danced to the theme song as a hunched-over Uncle Fester in 2014, but Visage and Pernice (the pro with the best Halloween track record) did something totally different with their foxtrot. Seeing him play the simpering Gomez and pecking on Visage’s arm gives just the right amount of comedy, but the dance is also light, airy and gor-juss (to use a Craig Revel Horwood-ism). And, crucially, it’s not a tango! A true Halloween miracle.
Strictly Come Dancing returns Saturday 30 October at 7.10pm on BBC One.