For years, Strictly Come Dancing has been providing TV audiences with Saturday night entertainment and some truly unforgettable performances.
First airing in 2004 with Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly as hosts, Strictly seemed like a celebrity reality TV show like any other.
But, the show soon became a huge national and international hit, with everyone from politicians to YouTubers taking on the challenge of learning to ballroom dance.
Along the way, there have been some performances you just can’t forget, regardless of whether they’re worthy of a perfect 40 or burnt onto your brain for all the wrong reasons.
As the show prepares to return for its 21st series, we’ve compiled 12 of Strictly’s most memorable moments, from the very best to the very, very worst.
Ed Balls does “Gangnam Style”
When Ed Balls of “tweeting his own name” fame was announced as a contestant, it was assumed that he would be a joke act eliminated in one of the first weeks. But, under the masterful choreography of Katya Jones, the Labour politician actually became quite a good dancer, treating audiences to this memorable performance to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” which sees him fly through the air like a grasshopper.
Strictly judges give their first 40
Scoring a perfect 40 on Strictly is every contestant’s dream, but while 75 dances have got full marks in the show’s 18 series, they used to be pretty uncommon. The first ever 40 came in Strictly’s series 2 final, with EastEnders star Jill Halfpenny and partner Darren Bennet performing one of the slickest Jives the show has ever seen.
Danny Mac’s performs a jaw-dropping Samba
Strictly is many, many things, but it has rarely been called cool. Occasionally, though, such a dance manages to sneak through, with Danny Mac and Oti Mabuse’s Samba to “Magalenha” by Sergio Mendes somehow managing to be immaculately danced and effortlessly hip all in one. Just watch it; you’ll see what we mean.
Ann Widdecombe is dragged across the floor
At the other end of the dance talent spectrum, we have Ann Widdecombe. Politicians go into Strictly with an idea that they’ll be bad, and when you see Widdecombe and John Sergeant dance, you see why. Watching the former Conservative MP stomp – and then be dragged – across the floor is certainly memorable, with head judge Len Goodman comparing this performance to a motorway accident that “you don’t really wanna watch, but you can’t help yourself”.
Rose Ayling-Ellis dances in silence
As the first deaf contestant to ever compete on Strictly last year, EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis was a huge hit with the public and judges. Using muscle memory to learn the routines from partner Giovanni Pernice, the actor proved to be a natural dancer and eventually won the series – thanks, in no short part, to her unforgettable Couple’s Choice routine. While dancing to “Symphony” by Clean Bandit, a moment came when the music fell away and the pair danced in total silence, giving viewers an insight into Rose’s own experience on the show. If you can watch this without tearing up, you’re braver than me.
Mark Ramprakash and Karen Hardy get all caught up
Strictly has seen its fair share of wardrobe malfunctions over the years, but the worst occurred in series four when Mark Ramprakash’s microphone got caught on the fringing of his partner’s dress and brought their Salsa to a standstill. The couple fortunately were allowed another go, with Bruce Forsyth declaring: “I love it, this is live television, that’s what it’s all about”. They scored 36 and later performed it again (without a hitch) in the final where they got the show’s second ever perfect 40.
Bill Bailey’s finds surprise Quickstep success
After scoring 15 marks for his week one Cha Cha Cha, Bill Bailey seemed destined to be a short-lived contestant on 2020’s competitive series of Strictly. So it’s fair to say that his week two dance, a Doctor Doolittle-themed Quickstep, came totally out of the blue, wowing the audience, viewers at home and the judges. He went on to become the oldest winner of the BBC show alongside his professional partner Oti Mabuse. What an improvement!
Quentin Wilson is branded “Britain’s worst dancer”
The one-mark paddle has only been brought out on Strictly 11 times in the show’s 18 series, but Quentin Wilson’s Cha Cha Cha managed to earn two of them. Wearing a glittery L-plate on his back, Wilson was branded “Britain’s worst dancer” by Craig Revel Horwood for this performance, which scored just eight points and earned the title of Strictly’s worst dance of all time. Ouch.
John Sergeant drags his partner across the floor
We’ve really got to stop letting these politicians do Pasos, haven’t we? John Sergeant followed a similar Strictly path to Widdecombe’s, but this time it was him doing the dragging in the Paso Doble. He somehow managed to make his petite, dance champion of a partner, Kristina Rihanoff, look like a sack of potatoes as he lugged her across the floor.
Kelvin Fletcher shocks audiences with his week-one Samba
We can’t even begin to imagine the pressure on Kelvin Fletcher when he stepped in at the last minute to replace an injured Jamie Laing on Strictly 2019. But despite not being on the original line-up, and having half the rehearsal time of his fellow contestants, the Emmerdale actor gave a week one performance like no other with an overwhelming combination of the widest smile you’ve ever seen, a terrifyingly tight shirt and impressive dance moves. Talk about making an entrance.
The Simpsons horror show... happens
Some dances on this list are memorable because they’re excellent, some because they’re “so funny it’s bad”. In 18 series of Strictly, there is only one dance we would describe as “genuinely traumatic” and it is Max George and Dianne Buswell’s Street/Commercial routine to TheSimpsons theme tune. What makes it so confusing is that the dancing is technically very strong, but it’s obscured by a nightmarish concept that brings together creepy costumes and eerie, lyric-free music that feels like a fever dream. It’s certainly memorable for making us see Homer’s doughnuts when we shut our eyes. We’re in hell – please help.
Caroline Flack’s performs the Charleston
Caroline Flack is one of the best female celebrities to have ever competed on Strictly, and this routine to “Instanbul” perfectly sums up the joy her dancing brought. She was excellent while dancing solo and in synchronisation with partner Pasha Kovalev, and this effortlessly fun routine managed to handle the stress of both Kovalev’s hat falling off mid-routine and the always unnecessary extra dancers. It’s a joy to watch from a brilliant, truly missed dancer.
Strictly Come Dancing returns Sunday 16 September at 6.35pm on BBC One.
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