Junior Eurovision 2017: Who had the best first rehearsal on November 21? (Reviews and Poll)

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Following last night’s glittering Opening Ceremony, it was time to get down to business for eight of the acts competing at Junior Eurovision 2017.

Today the lil’ stars from Albania, Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Cyprus, FYR Macedonia, Georgia and Ireland hit the stage, unveiling what they and their teams have been working on for the past few months.

Below is a quick — and generally encouraging — take on today’s action. You can watch all of the performances in the playlist below, and then read our comments in the post that follows. Then vote in our poll. You can vote for as many acts as you’d like, but you can only vote ONE time. So make it count.

First day of rehearsals at Junior Eurovision 2017

First rehearsal reviews

Albania – Ana Kodra with “Don’t touch my tree”

Do NOT touch my tree. It’s a simple message that’s more relevant than ever as the world battles climate change and impending nuclear conflict. Today little Ana brought her message to life with a stirring LED that depicted a world in peril — thunder and lightning, it was definitely exciting! Unlike so many other LEDs that appear flat, hers really came to life with trees in bloom and a changing colourway that was giving us life.

Vocally Ana was on-point, balancing vulnerability and power that speaks of a performer well beyond her years. We’re in love with that guttural chorus. It was a fantastic use of stage and sound, and a huge improvement over the national final.

Armenia – Misha with “Boomerang”

The night is dark and full of terrors — and Misha’s opening LED captures that darkness in a rather stirring way. But as the song progresses — led by that very effective drumming — the sky lightens and we’re reminded there is hope after it all.

Nodding to Belarus and Serbia from 2016, the Armenian star takes to a hoverboard, albeit one bedecked with a giant boomerang. At times we worried he might tip over, but he seemed totally in control as he scooted in deep waves across the stage — and spun repeatedly in place like an Olympic figure skater. It can be difficult to hold the notes when doing all of that, but Misha will no doubt nail it with a bit more practice.

Much of the magic here will come in how the camera angles are cut and cropped. But we get the sense that Misha will appear to be flying. Watch this space.

Australia – Isabella Clarke with “Speak Up!”

She entreats listeners to speak up — and Isabella Clarke certainly did that on Tuesday. Making a bold statement in a silver catsuit, she brought a sleek, well-polished performance that references her lovely music video with its choreography and feel-good spirit. Totally unfazed by the cameras or the scale of the arena, she unleashed the Broadway star inside, serving major High School Musical realness.

The LED doesn’t tell as much of a story as, say, Albania’s. But Isabella’s is bold, bright and thoroughly modern. Black and white stripes, bolts of geometric lightning, a spiralling zebra vortex — it’s memorable and helps give the somewhat adult performance a bit of juvenile edge, which is essential at a kid’s contest.

Belarus – Helena Meraai with “I Am the One”

She sings that she is the one, and Helena certainly made the case for herself with her artistic performance that left us calling her Helena, Mother of Fierceness, Slayer of Boredom, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. The Intergalactic staging is reminiscent of her national final performance, though this time she wears a pink cape, which, owing to clever LED tricks, seems to fill the entire stage as colour-matched extensions of her cape are simultaneously lit on the screen behind her.

Her starry LED is amped-up big time from her show in Minsk. Towards the end the stars seem to be flying at the screen as Helena lets it rip vocally, which will no doubt create a dramatic and stirring sense of movement on screen. It may look simple in the rehearsal video, but on screen this will prove to be clever and striking.

Cyprus – Nicole Nicolaou with “I Wanna Be a Star”

Diva-liscious and ready for her moment, Nicole spends the opening bars of the song standing still on her runway while her dancers strike poses and make shapes. The heavy drum beat announces her arrival and she marches confidently to her throne — in this case, a series of light boxes centre stage. Proving she can skip while singing, Nicole held her voice and looked at ease as she moved to and fro in her bright orange skirt with glittering top.

One highlight of the performance is when she stands on her cube and a pair of orange butterfly wings form behind her. It’s a Sergey Lazarev moment that provides an appropriate visual climax for this euro-dance number. Forget the club house. We’re headed to the club!

FYR Macedonia – Mina Blažev with “Dancing Through Life”

Last year her countrywoman Martija leaned toward the sophisticated and trendy. And Mina did it again today with her electro dance number that wouldn’t be out of place in the lounges of New York, London or Milan. The drum ‘n bass segments are accompanied with fierce graphics that turn the stage — occupied solely by Mina — into something of a discotheque — think Poli Genova with “If Love Was A Crime” or Ace Wilder with “Don’t Worry”.

Costume-wise Mina opted for a body suit with shiny high-rise boots and a translucent cape, which seemed to blend into the grey, black and white graphics, creating a lovely spectacle of shadows and shapes. Overall it’s the kind of on-trend performance that you’d see at the adult Eurovision. And we totally approve.

Georgia – Grigol Kipshidze with “Voice of the Heart”

The Georgian media like to talk about his eyes, which served him well on X Factor. And the cameramen make the most of it here, opening the performance with close-ups of Grigol’s face as he sits near the audience and croons to all his fans. A slow walk up the runway to centre stage and he’s ready to slay this vocally and visually as a moon-like figure rises in the background. Clouds and white bubbles float about the LED, reminding us of some of the nicer screensavers available with the Mac operating system.

Grigol didn’t wear his full costume today — he kept it casual and seemed totally at ease as he focused on his stage positions and vocals. His backing vocalists have really nailed their simple but effective choreography, which reminds us of the moves Jennifer Hudson struck in the hit film Dreamgirls. This strikes the Bruno Mars / Michael Jackson balance perfectly, while pulling the song firmly into today. Well done!

Ireland – Muireann McDonnell with “Súile Glasa”

Sometimes the quietest performance can resonate the loudest, and that’s certainly the case here. Muireann’s tender and endearing number falls so easily on the ears — it doesn’t need fancy tricks or over-the-top explosions to make an impact.

Instead Muireann  quietly tugs on heartstrings while strumming her black guitar centre stage. From the very beginning the focus is on her — and that memorable purple hair. She stares into the camera, stands in place and hits tender note after tender note as the LED moves between greys, blues and emerald greens. The emphasis is rightly on the music and Muireann’s sincere delivery, which stands out for its authenticity and sense of optimism. We suspect her parents will need a box of tissues after this one.

In short, it’s a real standout. We dare you not to hum ooo-oh-oh-oh after this.

Who had the best first rehearsal on Tuesday?

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Photo: Thomas Hanses (EBU)