Things are rapidly heating up in the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom as the celebrities face their first elimination on Sunday night. The 14 professional-celebrity pairings pulled out all the stops as they brought a glittering display of emotion, challenging choreography and showstopping performances in a bid to avoid the competition's first dance-off.
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In an episode that saw Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden forced to miss the show due to COVID, a highly emotional performance from Greg Wise and surprise improvements from weaker celebrities, former Strictly professionals Ola and James Jordan join us for another week of Strictly Speaking to discuss all things ballroom from Saturday's show…
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James: What a show last night! I felt it started off a little bit weak, but the couples just got stronger and stronger and there were some truly exceptional performances on Saturday. Lots of the couples I thought weren't going to be good pulled off incredible dances.
Ola: Some of the dancers who excelled on the opening show were a bit disappointing last night. It will be interesting to see who leaves first.
James: It's the first year in Strictly history that I genuinely don't want anyone to go. I can't call it! They're all bringing something so unique to the competition and it's a shame to have to see someone leave so soon. The one that made me smile the most this week was Judi Love's performance.
Judi Love and Graziano Di Prima surprised the audience with an electrifying Samba
Ola: Me too. It brought so much joy to our screens! You said Nina and Neil's Samba blew you away last week. I wasn't so sure on their Tango…
James: I don't think their music choice did them any favours last night. If you get a good track, a good costume and good lighting then you're halfway there to blowing the judges away already. Neil's choreography for Nina was fabulous, but the dance just didn't do it for me. Music is so important. I don't think people at home realise how crucial the music is.
Ola: She also made quite a few mistakes which put her at the bottom of the leaderboard. It's a shame she didn't do the dances the other way round, as I have a feeling her Tango could put her in danger of being in the bottom two on Sunday's show.
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James: I agree. As professional dancers, it can get a bit frustrating when a celebrity isn't given a powerful piece of music – they can't always dance to their full potential.
Ola: Take Dan Walker for example – he had an incredible costume, powerful music and really impactful special effects to enhance his performance.
James: I agree, he wasn't the best dancer but the drama behind the performance was a real crowd-pleaser.
Was Nadia and Neil's tango enough to save them from the dance off?
If Nina and Neil are in the bottom two I'll really feel for them. I don't think they deserve to be there because of what she produced last week. And I know they will be capable of producing a lot more in weeks to come than other celebrities in the competition, but we'll have to see!
Ola: I wouldn't be surprised if Kate and Gorka end up in the bottom two this week.
James: It's a shame because I really love Gorka, but I don't feel that the Jive was their dance this week. I felt Kate's performance was a bit lacklustre and there were a few mistakes in there that reflected in her scoring.
Ola: A Jive needs lots of energy! It wasn't a powerful enough performance which I think the audience is craving. Given that she's a young actress and her dancing last week was so strong, I was expecting her to be great this week – but I was slightly disappointed.
Someone who really captives the audience with his charisma is Adam Peaty. He was one of my favourites last week, considering he's a swimmer he has such great confidence when he's on the dancefloor.
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James: I don't think you can teach stage presence like Adam's. You've either got it or you haven't. Obviously, it does help if you've got a body like an Adonis and you're extremely good looking - you're going to believe in yourself more than someone who doesn't!
He's confident almost to the point of arrogance - but I like it. I think it's what you need to be a great dancer.
Ola: You weren't as impressed by John and Johannes' Cha Cha this week. What didn’t you like about it?
James: The reason I loved what John and Johannes did last week, is because they moved as one. I would have loved to have seen them tackle the intricacy of the lead and follow parts. I was so impressed last week where they switched between leading and being led – it was so clever and interesting.
Top scoring John and Johannes took on the Cha Cha for week two
Ola: I think what let their dancing down was it was two solos performed side by side, bar one New York section – where the duo typically do the same thing anyway!
James: They got such high scores again this week – but I didn't think their Cha Cha was executed in quite the right way.
I'd like to see John and Johannes show that they can do the same things as the other couples. It might be difficult for them to embrace the connection and physical touch required for a Latin or Ballroom dance because they could be worried the public won't take to it very well. But I want them to understand that they can do that!
Ola: Maybe they're easing the public in slowly? They might be working on bringing in more partnership and close contact in future weeks. They need to really think about the choreographic side of the dance and be clever with it. They nailed it last week – so let's see more of it!
James: We were convinced AJ and Kai would be in the final from their first dance in week one, and I think their performance in week two confirms that even more.
Ola: Definitely. It was a totally different end of the spectrum to what she pulled off last week – and she didn't disappoint. I'm so excited to see her versatility as the competition continues. Kai is doing such a great job as a new professional too.
James: We weren't a huge fan of Robert and Dianne's dance last week, but it was nice to see them take on some more traditional choreography.
Dianne was a vision in red as she took on the Tango with partner Robert Webb
Ola: I loved their Tango this week! Robert may not be the competition's best dancer, but he's improved so much since last week's performance. I appreciated that he took the technique and choreography seriously compared to last week, where I think they were gunning for more of the comedy value. The costumes and music were exquisite too.
Sara was another celebrity that really surprised me last night. When she performed last week she was one of the celebrities that I had tipped to not last as long in the competition, but her performance last night blew me away.
James: I agree. I think she was absolutely sublime. What I worry about with that dance though, is that last night was SO good – that I worry it will be difficult for her to better it. I think Alijaz put in so much work this week to get that dance to a standard we could see in the final, and it's only the second week. I'll be interested to see if and how they can top it.
Ola: Tilly and Nikita's performance was so good. It was totally different from last week.
James: I mean Charleston isn't from Latin or Ballroom, so some would argue that it is easier to pick up. I really loved their performance, but I do think the Charlestons on Strictly have a tendency to be overmarked. They do have that 'wow' factor though.
Tilly and Nikita seriously impressed judges with their cheerful Charleston routine
Ola: Exactly, there's not as much technique required to pull off a good Charleston. But saying that, I felt like it was a huge improvement on last week's performance.
James: Wasn't it lovely seeing her dad in the audience too? It's not often you get to see Gordon Ramsay cry!
Ola: We also got to see Craig's softer side too last night, because he thought he was going to get an earful from Gordon if he said anything negative about his daughter!
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James: Reece has got some brilliant moves on him, but I do think he needs to take a breath to give us some more light and shade. He's go go go at the moment, which can be powerful – but a bit monotonous.
Ola: I think it's more commendable for a dancer to show that they've got the capacity to bring light and shade, and control to their performance. If he can reign in his energy a bit, we could see him go really far in the competition.
James: I really feel for Tom and Amy this week. I feel so sorry for them that they've caught COVID. When a celebrity misses a week due to injury or illness, I think the public might look at them as having an advantage being exempt from elimination. But this early on in the competition I see it as a huge disadvantage.
Ola: They really have to prove themselves at the next show that they deserved to stay another week. I wonder who will be the first to go this evening…
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