Strictly Come Dancing talking points, week 3: Perfect 10s for John Whaite sent a powerful message

Michael Hogan
Saturday 09 October 2021 22:15 BST
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Strictly's John and Johannes come close to a perfect score with their pirates performance of the paso doble

Lights, camera, choreographic action. Strictly Come Dancing 2021 hit its high-scoring stride with the annual celluloid spectacular which is Movie Week.

As Hollywood came to Borehamwood, our 14 surviving pro-celebrity pairs performed fancy-dressed filmic routines. But who was a blockbuster hit and who was a box office flop? Who’s in danger of this year’s second elimination? And is there any green make-up or blue body-paint left in Britain to panic-buy?

Here are the top 10 talking points from the third live show…

Group dance and dream team “John-hannes” sent powerful message

Amid all the razzle-dazzle and old-skool entertainment, Strictly has become quietly revolutionary. This was a doubly progressive episode in the most inclusive series yet, sending out a message of love and tolerance.

The show opened with a groundbreaking group number from the professionals, boldly choreographed by creative director Jason Gilkison. This ballroom period drama saw Johannes Radebe playing a Bridgerton-esque duke who was asked to dance at a palace ball by fellow pro Kai Widdrington.

The entire troupe then paired off into same-sex couples for a spinning, sweetly romantic Viennese waltz. Spine-tingling stuff which made a strong statement about inclusivity on mainstream TV. Reactionary trolls might splutter the usual rent-a-clichés about “typical BBC woke-ism” but they’re increasingly looking like a joyless, out-of-touch minority.

Strictly's Johannes invites everyone to a ball on the notes of Taylor Swift's Love Story

Closing the show, Strictly’s first ever male couple, buff baker John Whaite and Johannes (him again), made an even bigger splash with their swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean paso doble. It was powerful, packed with mirroring and downright magnetic as they swept around the floor, cleverly swapping the lead role.

“Team John-hannes” have wowed these past two weeks but as maritime matadors, they were truly mesmerising and stormed to the summit with a popcorn-spilling 39 points - an unprecedented near-perfect score so soon in the contest. “Amazing, my babe,” wobbly-lipped Jojo told his proud partner.

Just one problem: over-marking by the excitable judges (except for the exacting Craig Revel Horwood thankfully). With four 10s given out tonight, where is there left for the scoring to go over the next two months?

CBBC man did whatever a spider can

Children’s TV presenter Rhys Stephenson has been picked out by the judges as one to watch, without yet hitting the leaderboard heights. That all changed with his Couple’s Choice routine - a spectacular Spider-Man street dance.

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Rhys and Nancy's Spider-Man routine gets them their first 10 in Strictly 2021

Alongside Chinese pro Nancy Xu, the style harnessed his bouncy energy, allowing him to unleash his athleticism and showcase his personality. The jumps were spring-heeled, the breakdance moves in-sync and Craig Revel Horwood called it “professional standard, incredible”.

The pair duly got the first 10 of the series from judge Motsi Mabuse – although that was swiftly followed by three for John Whaite. It probably all went potty at Rhys’s local church but the video feed was far too blurry to tell. Still, my Spidey senses tell me that an arachnoid star was born.

Plain sailing for unsinkable Rose Ayling-Ellis

After a jive and a salsa these past two weeks, Strictly’s first ever deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis attempted her first slow dance. Her Titanic foxtrot duly sailed up the scoreboard without bumping into any ballroom icebergs.

Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice dance to ‘Titanic'

Playing her namesake Rose from Titanic, the EastEnders actress showed her elegant side and performance skills in a stripped-back, exquisite routine. Being in hold made lipreading tricky, so Rose couldn’t rely on partner Giovanni Pernice’s counting and instead needed to feel the music through her body.

She did a beautiful job and created a magical mood, moving Motsi Mabuse to tears. Craig Revel Horwood had even learned sign language for “a-may-zing, darling”. Third on the leaderboard but first for overcoming challenges and pulling off miracles.

The name’s Wise… Greg Wise

No Time To Dance, anyone? A quantum of sequins? With 007 back in cinemas, the night’s most zeitgeisty routine came from Greg Wise and his pro partner Karen Hauer. Donning a black poloneck and arriving on a skiddo, the silver fox actor performed a paso doble to the James Bond theme.

Greg Wise and Karen Hauer

His wife Emma Thompson turned up in the training room VT, sprinkling some A-list stardust. Sadly, that was about as good as it got. The paso itself was moodily dramatic but too placed, lacking flow, fire and Spanish line. It left the judges neither shaken nor stirred and the couple in mid-table.

This year’s oldest contestant at 55, Wise had a meeting with the Bond producers back in the mid-Nineties. It came to nothing but now he got to play Ian Fleming’s super-spy for one night only. If only the footwork had matched the performance. Will he get to dance another day?

Shirley Ballas was back-handed and unfair to Judi Love

Judi Love’s twerking, booty-shaking Jamaican samba with Italian pro Graziano DiPrima nearly raised the Elstree roof last week - and now she got a video message from rapper Sean Paul to say thank you. Well, “wind it up”, anyway.

Opening the show with a Chicago-themed Charleston, channelling Mama Morton, Love was full of kooky character, swaggering charisma and comedy facial expressions. The jazzy period number notched her another solid score in the mid-20s.

Judi Love and Graziano di Prima perform their Charleston

However, we could have done without the patronising comments from Shirley Ballas, who said Judi was “actually really quite sexy”, as if surprised that a plus-size woman could be attractive. Impolite and poor form.

Anton Du Beke also let his preconceptions slip out. He thought John Whaite would be “camp” and “expected” Rhys Stephenson “to be good at streetdance”. Stereotyping, perchance, my old sausage?

Adam Peaty and Ugo Monye got their pecs out

If you need to distract from your dodgy footwork, says ye olde Strictly proverb, take your top off. Olympic swimming star Adam Peaty was bare-chested, bare-footed and painted blue for the first rumba of the series. Equally chilly was rugby player-turned pundit Ugo Monye, who donned a wig but whipped off his shirt to portray Disney demigod Maui for his Couple’s Choice street dance.

Adam Peaty and Katya Jones’s ‘Avatar’-themed dance

The slow, sensual Latin dance of seduction is notoriously tricky and exposing for celebrity males. Peaty promptly struggled, looking awkward and lacking romantic connection. A lowly score of 20 points left him bottom of the leaderboard.

“Ugo Moana” did much better, with impressive lifts, cartwheels and flying rolls in his packed Polynesian routine. He was flat-footed in parts and needed more musicality (well, he’s just an ordinary demi-guy) but it was joyous fun for the youngsters and muscly eye candy for many grown-ups. You’re welcome indeed.

AJ Odudu’s “Lancastrian smooth” had wow factor

TV presenter AJ Odudu has been the early frontrunner, the contest’s top scorer so far and hailed by head judge Shirley Ballas as “a star in the making”. Her breathtaking Bodyguard-themed American smooth with pro partner Kai Widdrington showed she’d fully arrived as a potential glitterball winner.

AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington dance to ‘The Bodyguard'

The judges had asked AJ to add musicality and drama to her routines and she duly obliged. Paying tribute to the late, great Whitney Houston, it was spellbinding and magical. The lifts were lovely, the storytelling was beautiful. Even Craig Revel Horwood said that if AJ had started hoofing at an early age, she might’ve been a pro.

Her mother Florence, a Strictly superfan, was in the studio audience again to see her daughter notch 35 points and glide gracefully to fourth position. I have nothing, nothing, nothing… to add but bravo.

Tom Fletcher was back – as were his McFly bandmates

“Hello, McFly!” as bully Biff Tannen would put it. Tom Fletcher and Welsh pro Amy Dowden missed last week’s show after testing positive for Covid-19. After 10 days in isolation, they were back, fighting fit and playing catch-up.

Their Back To The Future jive was non-stop, high-energy and packed with content. Fletcher started rehearsing the routine remotely over Zoom last week, with Amy giving him “homework” so he could hit the dancefloor running. It clearly did the trick and the interruption to their training regime made minimal impact.

Amy Dowden and Tom Fletcher returned to the dance floor

His leaps and rock ’n’ roll pose-striking were on-point. Those crucial flicks and kicks were sharp in the side-by-side sections, although they went a bit flat in hold. It all sent judge Anton Du Beke’s flux capacitor haywire and left Fletcher in fifth spot.

Fletcher’s group is named after Michael J Fox’s character Marty McFly, so it was fitting that bandmates Dougie Poynter and Danny Jones were in the Elstree studio audience to watch his comeback. Drummer Harry Judd is a former Glitterball champion. Maybe he stayed away so he didn’t intimidate his mate.

Green faces all round for Davies and Webb

Dragon’s Den star Sara Davies was last week’s comeback queen, going from bottom of the scoreboard to joint top. After her dreamy foxtrot, Davies was deemed to be “a ballroom girl” but now it was back to Latin as she tackled the dreaded samba.

Her Shrek-themed routine with pro partner Aljaž Škorjanec was full of content and theatrical storytelling. Even the dodgy CGI toad hopping across the floor couldn’t spoil the fun. Princess Fiona was thrilled to score a clean sweep of sevens for 28 points.

Aljaz Skorjanec and Sara Davies dance to ‘Shrek'

Also reaching for the lime green face paint was comedian Robert Webb, who channelled Kermit the Frog for his Muppet Show quickstep. With Aussie pro Dianne Buswell well-hidden behind an unflattering snout as porcine diva Miss Piggy, it was energetic, entertaining and cute as a Jim Henson puppet during the jazz-handsy Charleston sections.

Webb’s comedy partner David Mitchell was in the studio audience with his wife, TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, both applauding wildly. “He’s just proud of the dignity I’m bringing to the competition,” said Webb wryly, shrugging the shoulders of his frog suit. Ribbit.

Katie, Adam and Dan in dance-off danger

Last week’s dance-off survivors, actress Katie McGlynn and Spanish pro Gorka Márquez, badly needed to raise their game but their American Smooth to “Cruella De Vil” was spottier than a pedigree Dalmatian’s coat.

McGlynn captured the villainous character but her footwork faltered and she lacked elegant sweep across the floor. Strictly producers have reportedly been annoyed by her busy schedule on yoof soap Hollyoaks leaving her little training time. There have also been tabloid rumours of tensions with Gorka The Corker, which might not do her any favours with voting viewers.

She might be joined in the bottom two by swimmer Adam Peaty or BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker, whose Sleeping Beauty foxtrot was let down by mistakes that drained him of confidence.

Will Katie McGlynn and Gorka Marquez end up in their second dance off?

The judges’ scores will now be combined with the public vote and at 7.10pm on Sunday, the bottom two face the dreaded dance-off. Whoever loses will join Nina Wadia on the sparkly scrapheap. There’ll be no Hollywood happy ending for somebody.

The lucky 13 survivors hit the floor again at 7pm next Saturday. Please join me back here afterwards for post-hoofing analysis. Until then, the usual applies: keeeeeeep dancing.

Strictly Come Dancing continues Sunday 10 October at 7.10pm on BBC One

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