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Why this year's Strictly series is extra special for Nikita Kuzmin

The Ukrainian-Italian dancer is partnered with Layton Williams

Nikita Kuzmin on Loose Women
Nicky Morris
Nicky MorrisTV and film writer
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Strictly pro Nikita Kuzmin and his celebrity dance partner Layton Williams are taking the ballroom floor by storm, having topped the leaderboard six out of nine times this series. 

The dynamic duo wowed audiences with their showstopping Couple's Choice routine during Blackpool week, scoring an impressive 39 points from the judges.

WATCH: Johannes and Luba open Blackpool Special with a bang

While it was a special dance for Layton, whose mum was cheering him on in the studio audience, it was also a momentous week for Nikita as it marked the first time he made it to Blackpool during his time on the show. 

Nikita joined the popular dancing programme back in 2021, and was paired with TV presenter and social media influence Tilly Ramsay. The pair came in sixth place, and while they would have made it to Blackpool Week, the show decided to skip the tradition in both 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus restrictions. 

tilly and nikita
Nikita was paired with Tilly Ramsay in 2021

While Strictly returned to Blackpool last year, Nikita and his dance partner Ellie Simmonds were voted out in week seven of the competition and missed out on performing in the iconic Tower Ballroom. 

Taking to his Instagram Stories ahead of Blackpool Week last year, Nikita shared his heartbreak over being unable to perform in Blackpool with Tilly back in series 21. 

Resharing a post from a fan account reminding the dancer of his and Tilly's perfect score for their ­Matilda-themed Couple's Choice routine, he reflected on the iconic dance.

ellie and nikita© Photo: BBC
Nikita and Ellie Simmonds made it to week seven in 2022

"Could have been my first Blackpool," he wrote alongside a tear emoji. "Now being here I would have LOVED doing it." 

Thankfully, Nikita finally made it to Blackpool on Saturday night, sharing the top spot on the leaderboard with Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola.

While the pair received high praise from the judges, with Shirley Ballas hailing the performance as "creative genius", Nikita was a little put out by the comments from Craig Revel Horwood, who said the dance "wasn't entirely in-sync".

Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin on Strictly Come Dancing© Guy Levy
Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin scored 39 points for their Couple's Choice

Chatting to Claudia Winkleman in their post-dance interview, Nikita said: "I don't know what more we need to throw in. It's also a bit disappointing that Craig didn't like it but I'm so proud of you [Layton]. You work so hard. It's unbelievable."

SEE: The cutest photos of Strictly's Nikita Kuzmin and his rarely seen girlfriend

Layton took to Instagram following Sunday's results show, which saw the duo make it through to another week of the competition. Thanking viewers for their support, the Bad Education star wrote: "Ain't no other man but @nikita__kuzmin !!! You're the best! Hope you enjoyed the vibes. Got that Blackpool Buzz. Big love and thank you as ever if you voted for us."

Five other couples also made it through to week ten, while Angela Rippon and her dance partner Kai Widdrington were sent home.

Tess Daly, Angela Rippon CBE and Kai Widdrington on Strictly © BBC
Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington left the competition on Sunday

Speaking about her time on the show, the broadcaster said: "I have to tell you that the last nine weeks have probably been the most terrifying, the most fantastic, the most glorious, the most joyful that I have spent for a very long time in my profession."

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