Strictly Come Dancing, week 4: the body language – will Dev Griffin's shock departure give the other contestants Imposter Syndrome?

Judi James
Dev Griffin was tipped to be a finalist but was voted out at the weekend - BBC

We've reached the fourth week of the competition and no one could have predicted yesterday's jaw-dropping departure. The exit dance was cancelled and in its place was the mortifying sight of potential series-winner Dev Griffin standing, mouth clamped in a sign of stoic distress and disbelief, while his partner Dianne Buswell clung to his torso, weeping helplessly into his scarlet shirt. Only two words sum up the mood of the country after this bizarre result: Second referendum. The nation should be given another chance to decide.

The night of the nan tears

It was a Strictly/X Factor fusion show on Saturday night, with dimpled social media "influencer" Saffron Barker sharing the kind of sobbing "nan back-story" that viewers of Simon Cowell’s shows know and love.

Saffron’s training footage is now performed as a solo, AJ-less blog and after watching Saffron weeping about her lovely grandmother during the film we also had to watch her run off at the end of her Contemporary routine to sob over her in the audience.

Saffron’s nan-sobs sobs set off Claudia Winkleman who must have already been calling for a mop for the balcony floor due to a blend of tears of joy from Emma Barton, who finally cracked some top scores for her stately Viennese Waltz with Anton, and the brewing tears of utter misery from Will Bayley after his disappointing Foxtrot.

Overall it was a busy night for that mop. The drool from the judges after the "John Travolta of the Dales" Kelvin Fletcher’s "very masculine" (he was wearing a see-through shirt) Rhumba must have filled a bucket alone, but that was before pro dancer Katya Jones’s screeching meltdown after dragging wide-eyed Mike Bushell through his Quick Step like a ferocious lioness with its cub.

Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse Credit: BBC

Katya’s dystopian-sized distress

Saffron’s nan-tears were no competition for Katya’s dystopian-sized distress but Katya had good reason for the theatrical display as her under-dog Mike had just done the equivalent to winning Crufts. Katya had literally got the strap out during training in a bid to transform Mike from dad-dancer to twinkle-toes and, as Mike threw his fear-filled eyes to the ceiling during their Quickstep, it was hard to see if he was singing, counting or praying or all three.  They got a truly unbelievable nine from judge Motsi though, even when they might have been prepping to be the latest couple to leave the show.

The David James ‘miracle’

It was previously a foregone conclusion that David James would go this week. The guy might be likeable and truly fond of his patient and supportive-looking partner Nadiya, even pulling her into the group hug he instigated with his other "favourite girls" (his daughters), but his hands still stick out as though they should be collecting footballs and he is still the only celebrity unable to bop his way through the opening entrances. But that was before the "miracle" happened and he managed to launch into a Quickstep. It was a wobbly start, resembling Dumbo’s first flight, but for some deeply mystifying reason it still gained him a place above Dev Griffin on the leader board.

According to the judge’s points, Mike Bushell is also currently a better dancer than the sublime Michelle Visage, who has spent the previous weeks sailing like an ocean-going liner through the bobbing sea of tugs and dinghies that were her female competitors.

David James and Nadiya Bychkova Credit: BBC

Encouragement for the underdogs is a great thing but I’m guessing pro dancers like Janette Manrara and Neil Jones are going to need to get to work with spatulas if they’re going to scrape the egos and the confidence of their celebrities off the floor in time for next week’s show. Will Bayley was visibly crushed, standing with his head and eyes down and mouth clamped in sadness while Janette’s sympathy rubs and shakes of encouragement seemed to make him feel worse. Alex Scott’s Tango was supposed to be all aggressive sexuality but she clung to Neil like a nervous kitten on a week that she needed her breakthrough dance. 

The threat of the Imposter Syndrome

This is now the stage in the competition when celebrities who peaked early can become intimidated by their own success. The Imposter Syndrome can easily set in, prompting them to worry that they didn’t deserve their success and that it was some kind of a "fluke". Instead of floating on a tide of confidence after getting nines or 10s the week before, they can begin to suffer the first pangs of fear and worry at the thought of living up to the high bar they set themselves, which can lead them to self-destruct. For celebrities like David James and Mike Bushell, that bar was so low that improvement was a given. But some of the early high achievers, such as Karim Zeroual, Kelvin Fletcher and Michelle Visage might find themselves haunted by the spectre of Dev Griffin’s early departure – because if he can go then they must also be vulnerable.

The body language clues that explain the secret of Kelvin and Karim’s success

You can often spot when a sporting star is "in the zone" by studying their eye expression and their direction of eye movement – and you can see the same effect happening when Kelvin Fletcher is in training. Too much distraction causes problems. Glancing back to the left suggests they’re focusing on past mistakes and too much to the right hints that they’re worrying about the new challenge. 

While other celebrities are busy playing to the cameras, studying their own reflection or watching their partners like hawks, Kelvin’s slightly downward angled gaze suggests quiet, internalised focus as he sends commands and orders down to every part of his body. It’s a trait that looks calm but forensic and it must help him become resilient to nerves or self-doubts.

Karim Zeroual uses a much more counter-intuitive technique to get him to the top of the leader board. His constant showboating and energy are as strong off the floor as on and with his shaking hands and nervous chatter he is as tightly strung as Kelvin is chilled. Karim is the classic "Masker", telling everyone including himself that he can’t do something to trigger his own sturdy internal success mechanisms. If these two men end up competing in the final it should be a fascinating psychological battle.