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Ola & James Jordan's Strictly verdict: Will's jive, Ellie's emotional performance and winner predictions

The Strictly Come Dancing couple weigh in with their thoughts for Week One

james and ola jordan
Georgia Brown
Senior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
25 September 2022
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The twentieth series of Strictly Come Dancing made its glittering debut last night, as 15 celebrities took to the ballroom with their professional dance partners for the first time.

MORE: Viewers think they’ve found their Strictly Come Dancing winner following first dance

In an impressive opening show, Hollyoaks star Will Mellor shared the top spot on the leader board with CBeebies Hamza Yassin, while Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds made history as the first person with dwarfism to compete on the BBC show. Helen Skelton dazzled with an elegant American Smooth and footballer Tony Adams disappointed judges with his Arsenal-themed Tango.

WATCH: Will Mellor astounds with incredible Jive on Week One

Weighing in on all the action are former Strictly professionals and Dance Champions Ola and James Jordan, who return with their weekly column Strictly Speaking. Scroll on to hear the couple's predictions for the competition…

MORE: Strictly's Anton du Beke divides opinion with 'uncomfortable' comment on dance

MORE: Strictly Come Dancing star Kaye Adams apologises as she 'mucks up' first dance

James and Ola pick their favourite to win

James: What an opener! There were lots of really good performances. To be honest, even some of the 'bad' ones were still entertaining.

Ola: Oh my god, how good was Will Mellor? I LOVE him. I think most people that watched last night would have felt the same.

will mellor nanxy xiu

Will Mellor and Nancy Xiu dazzled with an impressive Jive

James: He was brilliant. So cool, so masculine. Everything I love about dancing he came out and gave it.

Ola: When I first saw his name on the list of celebrities, I had a feeling he would be a good one and last night just confirmed it for me.

James: You have high hopes for certain people before you see them dance for the first time and he definitely lived up to our expectations.

Ola: I couldn't keep my eyes off Will, which I think says a lot about his performance and Nancy's professionalism.

James: I didn't watch Nancy either… and I think that's actually a good thing. It means she's done her job as a professional exceptionally well. The whole part of being a professional on Strictly is enhancing your partner's ability, not out-dancing them.

Ola: If I was going to choose anyone to partner with on Strictly, I would choose Will. He just looked so cool on that dancefloor.

James: Yeah, me too. I would've picked Will as well [laughs]. Would I have had him at the top of the leaderboard though? Probably not. I would have picked up the phone and voted for him though because he was so entertaining. Personally, I think Helen Skelton deserved to be top of the leaderboard last night.

helen skelton

Helen Skelton delighted viewers with an elegant American Smooth

Ola: Helen actually did the Strictly Christmas Special years ago back when I was on the show, and I remember her standing out then.

James: I really like her partnership with Gorka too, you can tell from the get-go that it really works. James: I really felt for Tony Adams last night. You could see how much it upset him to be at the bottom of that leaderboard.

Ola: He tried so hard! It's not his fault he's not a naturally gifted mover. It must have been difficult going out there after putting in all the rehearsal hours and feeling like you let yourself down.

James: Let's not forget a lot of the people on the show this year have had previous dance training - so it makes it that much harder for those who have never danced before to keep up.

Ola: Tony's performance wasn't great, but it still made us smile. He tried his best.

VIDEO: Strictly's Katya Jones begs to go again after routine goes wrong

SEE: Strictly Come Dancing star Ellie Simmonds wow fans with 'fabulous' performance

James: That's what Strictly is all about really. There's something so charming about watching celebrities who have never danced before improve week on week.

[Ola and James' two-year-old Ella interrupts]

Ella: Stop talking! I can't hear my iPad!

Ola: Did you hear that? She's only two and a half!


Hamza Yassin topped the leaderboard on Week One

James: I felt like Matt Goss came across as a little too serious last night. It's a shame because I think if he let go a little bit, lost his inhibitions and relaxed then it could have been a much better performance. It felt a little awkward.

Ola: We expected a lot more from him I think. We love watching the celebrities who haven't had dance training because it's so special when they do well.

James: Molly Rainford gave a great performance, though I do think she could have benefited from her partner Carlos reigning it in a little bit. She has the potential to be really brilliant, but last night we couldn't stop watching the professional because he was giving so much energy.

Ola: He is a new professional, and you do learn this technique the longer you stay on Strictly.

James: Carlos is a wonderful dancer. He seems like a lovely person and a really attentive teacher, but you do have to realise on Strictly that it's not about you, it's about getting the best out of your celebrity. Nancy, however, definitely got the best out of Will Mellors. She made the performance about him, which is what I loved.

Ola: I had such high hopes for Fleur East, but her performance disappointed me slightly. I felt the choreography was too difficult for week one, and her energy was too much.

fleur east

Fleur East brought the energy with a stylised Cha Cha

James: Before the show started, we predicted that Fleur would be a front-runner in the competition. She's so likeable, I loved her when she was on X Factor, she has a wonderful personality and looks stunning - but something lacked last night.

Ola: Maybe she let the pressure get to her and she overcompensated. Subtleties are sometimes more important than giving too much in performance.

James: Saying that, I still think she'll be a finalist.

James and Ola discuss the 'missing' professional

James: We were sad to see Neil Jones miss out on a celebrity partnership this year.

Ola: Absoltluey. What a disappointment to not see Neil paired with anyone, it was a total surprise. James: There is a range of exceptionally talented professionals on the show this year, but let's not forget about our home-grown talent. Neil is probably one of the best choreographers on the show, he's a World Champion.

Ola: He also has the best dance credentials than any other professional dancer on the show.

James: Yet he's not on it. Why? I just don't get it.

Ola: Neil definitely deserves his place on the show.

neil jones

Neil Jones remains a Strictly professional but doesn't have a celebrity partner

Revealing their favourite performance

James: For me, Elle Simmonds' performance was inspirational. I was thinking how are they going to make this work? I have to say, I was thinking to myself that if I had a child who had dwarfism who was sitting at home watching Strictly and saw Ellie going out there doing what everyone else does - to be honest I found it quite emotional thinking about it.

Ola: I thought it was brilliant. She did a fantastic job with a difficult dance.

James: Nikita nailed it with the choreography, the content, he made the dance about her - I was so impressed.

ellie simmonds

Paralympian Ellie Simmonds dominated the dancefloor

Do you think there's a dark horse in the competition?

James: I didn't know Hamza was going to be as good as he was last night, I have to say. Though I did really like Tyler.

Ola: I liked James Bye, I think he has something about him. He wasn't great last night… though I do think he could surprise us later on in the competition.

James: I agree, people won't be talking about his performance today. It didn't stick with us as Fleur's did, or Helen's, Will's, Molly's, Ellie's for example… but give it a few weeks and I think he's going to prove himself as a definite dark horse.

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