An acrobatic troupe won last night's live final of Britain's Got Talent. Spelbound, from Ashford, Middlesex, had been the bookies' favourites to win the fourth series of the TV talent show, doing so with a scantily-clad, high-energy routine to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, during which one of the 13-strong group was launched over the head of judge Amanda Holden.
Simon Cowell, the Svengali figure behind the show and one of its judges, said they were the "most astonishing thing" he had seen on live television. Holden tipped them as an opening act for the 2012 Olympics. Spelbound took home the £100,000 prize and a slot at the Royal Variety Performance.
The group are Alex Uttley, 24, Nicholas Illingworth, 24, Adam Buckingham, 21, Adam McAssey, 20, Douglas Fordyce, 19, Leighanne Cowler, 18, Edward Upcott, 18, Katie Axten, 17, Lauren Kemp, 17, Jonathan Stranks, 15, Abigail Ralph, 15, Hollianne Wood, 13, and Amy Mackenzie, 12. Most had trained as gymnasts since the age of four.
The runners-up were Twist and Pulse, a London dance act consisting of best friends Glen Murphy, 19, and Ashley Glazebrooke, 18, who only met two years ago. Holden described their unusual act as "a glimpse of the future".
Britain's Got Talent has been fertile ground for dancers. The second series was won by George Sampson, a teenage breakdancer, and last year's title went to Diversity, a frenetic, inventive troupe from east London.
Third last night was Kieran Gaffney, a 13-year-old drummer from Kent. Earlier in the show, he used a tilted drum kit to display his skills, and topped that last night by performing suspended from the ceiling.
The fourth series lacked the all-pervading hype of its 2009 predecessor, when Diversity pulled off a victory against the odds by pipping the unlikely singing phenomenon Susan Boyle to the top prize. But the show continues to glory in the finest tradition of end-of-the-pier variety show.
In addition to acrobats, the finalists included Tina Humphrey, 37, a music teacher from Shrewsbury, and Chandi (below), her 12-year-old blue merle border collie she taught to dance after rescuing her from Telford dog pound as a four-month-old puppy.
Despite high scores in previous rounds, their performance failed to make the top three. "She's a special dog and in human years she is about 100. She is looking a bit tired, I think," said Cowell, prompting boos from the audience. "There's life in the old dog," replied Ms Humphrey.
Also highly tipped had been Janey Cutler, 81, of Wishaw, Lanarkshire, singing Edith Piaf's "Je ne regrette rien". Cutler began singing in the Salvation Army at the age of six, but let her talents lapse until a friend forced her back on stage aged 50. She has since appeared regularly on her local pub and club circuit.
BGT has has also become the biggest betting occasion in Britain's reality TV calendar. William Hill expected to take 150 bets a minute throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show, averaging £8 each. The odds on a Spelbound win were 10:11. The bookie's spokesman, Rupert Adams, said the biggest bet had been £2,000 on Spelbound to win, though that was dwarfed by a £70,000 punt last year on Susan Boyle.