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Ola & James Jordan's Strictly semi-final verdict: Why Rose Ayling-Ellis is in a league of her own

The Strictly Come Dancing stars discuss everything you need to know about the semi final

strictly speaking james and ola
Georgia Brown
Senior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
12 December 2021
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It was a night of perfect scores, showstopping performances and all the sparkles in Strictly Come Dancing's semi-final on Saturday night. 

SEE: Rose Ayling-Ellis makes very cheeky comment that leaves Giovanni Pernice in fits of laughter

With just one week to go until the final of the show's 19th series, Rose Ayling-Ellis, AJ Odudu, John Whaite and Rhys Stephenson gave their all in what has been hailed by fans and professionals as one of the best semi-finals in Strictly history. Here to weigh in on the nail-biting race to the Glitterball, former Strictly pros Ola and James Jordan are back with their weekly column, Strictly Speaking

WATCH: Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice surprise fans with near kiss in rehearsals

James: I thought the semi-final was exceptional. Last night's show really was a testament to all the professional dancers on Strictly. I loved it. 

Ola: AJ and Rose have to be the stand out dancers of the night for me - and they rightly topped the leaderboard. 

READ: Dan Walker sets record straight on why he won't be joining Strictly tour

MORE: Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice confirm future after star cried over Strictly journey ending 'soon'

rose and gio waltz© Photo: BBC

Rose and Giovanni's Waltz missed out on a perfect score by 1 mark

James: Rhys and John performed some brilliant pieces, but I agree, Rose and AJ smashed it out the park. They were both truly exceptional, with Rose just tipping it for me.

In fact, I'd say both dances of the night came from Rose. Both her Waltz and her Argentine Tango were exceptional - and she's been consistently brilliant throughout the whole competition.  

Ola: At this stage, it's not just Rose who deserves the Glitterball, but Giovanni does too. He's never won before. I think he's done an absolutely brilliant job with the choreography and working to accommodate Rose's deafness. They make a great pair. 

James: The thing that's so special about Rose's journey on Strictly, is that she's shown the deaf community that they can do anything. We said weeks ago that if our daughter was deaf, we'd want her to feel like she could achieve anything she wanted to - and Rose has proven that.

MORE: Giovanni Pernice reveals the special qualities Rose Ayling-Ellis has to make them win Strictly

MORE: Rose Ayling-Ellis reveals secret behind her 'connection' with Strictly partner Giovanni Pernice

Ola: We're baffled that Craig didn't give her a ten for her Waltz. They should have easily got a perfect score for that dance. 

James: It was probably the best Waltz we have ever seen on Strictly. I do not understand where Craig was coming from with that 9. Rose may have had a tiny slip up with her footwork, but there are tiny imperfections in every routine - even ones that Craig has given tens for in the past.

Ola: It was unfair to give her a 9 when she delivered such a flawless performance. It was the dance of the night. She was totally in tune with Giovanni, it was beautiful.  There is definitely something special about their bond - it's a great partnership that works really, really well. 

rhys tango© Photo: BBC

Rhys Stephenson opened the show with his firey Tango

James: Rhys and Nancy kicked off the show with their Tango. I felt he had moments of brilliance and his frame looked really strong in hold, apart from in the pivot section where his right shoulder popped forward. 

Ola: We've said before that Rhys sometimes throws himself into things too much. It's like he gives 110% instead of 99% and in doing so, he loses the quality of movement. I loved his Tango, but his excitement led him to be out of time - it's not the first time that's happened!

James: The judges didn't pick up on his timing issues, which annoyed me. I really like Rhys, he comes across as such a nice guy - but you still have to mark what you see. Maybe at this point, the judges feel like they need to be positive because it's the semi-final? 

Ola: Well no, I'd disagree - Craig marked down Rose's footwork in her Waltz when we thought it was perfection. You could not fault that routine. It was clearly four 10s. Whether or not she missed on heel or not - it was perfect.

rhys and nancy© Photo: BBC

Will Rhys and Nancy samba their way to the final?

James: Sadly, I do think Rhys is in danger of leaving tonight. It would have been so great to see him in the final, but he has been in the bottom two several times - and his dances weren't his strongest last night. 

I mean, he got a Samba in the semi-final. How unlucky is that! I would have refused to dance the Samba in the semis if I was still a professional on the show, it really is the death dance. 

Ola: AJ and Kai's quickstep, on the other hand, got four well-deserved 10s - it was like watching two pros dancing together. I loved the choreography, the costume, the performance - it was one of the best dances of the night. It couldn't NOT get four tens - it was that good.

James: It was definitely the comeback AJ needed after being in the bottom two last week. For her to come out and her first dance be that good - it blew me away. 

aj and kai quickstep© Photo: BBC

The judges were blown away with AJ and Kai's Quickstep

Ola: She can't let it knock her confidence that she was in the bottom two last week, even if she faces the dance-off again tonight. 

Sometimes it's not because the public doesn't like you, or don't like your dancing - it could just be that they warm to another couple more. 

James: AJ and Kai's Rumba reminded me of a similar dance I did with Cherie Lunghi in series six. It was classic, very simple, very classy - I really like that kind of Rumba, especially the elegance of it. 

Having said that, I wrote on my Twitter that I would have given it a 10 but watching it again I do think the dance lacked the fluidity and rotation needed from AJ to really perfect the dance. Watching it back I felt some of her movement was stilted and she didn't finish her lines. It wasn't a 10... I think I may have got carried away with the excitement of it.

aj and kai rumba© Photo: BBC

AJ and Kai's second dance of the night was a powerful Rumba

Ola: Or you were just watching Kai!

James: Or that… I was probably watching Kai.

Ola: I've never been a fan of Couple's Choice, and sadly John and Johannes' attempt really didn't do it for me last night. 

James: It's not taking away from the fact that John is an exceptional dancer. He's got such a natural talent, he's easily the best celebrity dancer in the competition - but it didn't stand out to me either. 

READ: Exclusive: Strictly's John Whaite reveals he cries 'every day' for this touching reason

MORE: Strictly fans can't get over John Whaite and Johannes Radebe's intense 'chemistry'

Ola: With contemporary, you need the balance between light and shade, which is easier to achieve when a man and woman dance together because they move totally differently.

James: Perhaps one reason why it didn't work was that both John and Johannes are a similar frame, so it lacked a softness that contemporary needs - but it just wasn't for me. Sometimes you need both masculinity and femininity, and in their dance, I didn't see that. 

john and johannes contemporary© Photo: BBC

John and Johannes dances to 'Hometown Glory' by Adele

Ola: We've seen it in other dances they've done, like their Tango or their Pasodoble - but this dance lacked an element of 'wow' factor for me.

James: And I really didn't like the part where Johannes looked like he was walking on the moon! It just wasn't a showstopper, which is a shame.

Ola: We never did Couple's Choice when we were on Strictly did we? It came in just after we left. 

James: Thank God! I'm quite glad we didn't have to do one, imagine me doing hip hop! People would be asking for their TV license fee back. 

MORE: Strictly's Tess Daly shocks in red dress - with an added detail

Ola: If we had to do Couple's Choice I think we both would have picked contemporary. 

James: Whatever style we chose I would always prefer to keep it clean and simple - that's what I liked to choreograph on Strictly and I think it always worked.

Keeping things simple is so effortless and classic, it always looks cleaner. For example, in AJ and Kai's Rumba and the Quickstep, both were so simple and clean. Giovanni kept Rose's Waltz simple - and it was stunning. 

I understand about pushing the boundaries, and sometimes it's necessary, but I do think if it isn't broken, don't fix it - Strictly has been on telly for years for a reason. Latin and Ballroom always wins. 

rose and gio tango© Photo: BBC

Rose and Giovanni closed the semi-final with an unforgettable Argentine Tango

Ola: The semi-final finished with Rose and Giovanni's Argentine Tango - and what a way to finish the show. 

James: As a partnership, they work so well together. She waits for him to lead her, they have so much trust in each other. Rose came out and did two exquisite dances, she was in a league of her own last night. 

Ola: It really stands out how committed she is to every character she plays. They definitely don't hide it that they get on so well, they're totally in tune with each other. She never tries to go ahead of him. 

James: You can see that when they're dancing, she's waiting for him, which is the beauty of our art form - the lead and follow. They're beautiful to watch. Giovanni has outdone himself with choreography this year, but he has also been given an amazing partner. 

Ola: I think at this point in the semi-final, everyone is working the hardest they've worked in the whole series. It's always so tough to leave at this stage of the competition, but here comes the final!

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