Dancing With The Stars Recap: Look Who Earned The First 9s Of The Season

Rose Ayling-Ellis was the hot favourite going into the final – and even more so when competitor AJ Odudu was forced to pull out with an injury, though John Whaite fought her all the way. But the EastEnders actress is the rightful and thoroughly deserving winner of a fantastic season. She blazed a trail as the first ever deaf contestant but impressed just as much with her expressive musicality, exceptional acting skills, humorous interviews, and remarkable connection with partner Giovanni Pernice.

Rose and Giovanni © Provided by The Telegraph Rose and Giovanni

It’s Pernice’s fourth final and his first, belated, time lifting the glitterball. He deserves this triumph too: he adapted his teaching creatively for Ayling-Ellis, choreographed wonderful routines that brought the best out of her, and seemed to become a kinder, more sensitive person through the experience of partnering her. 

This is a hugely satisfying result following a turbulent season full of medical drama – but also high-standard, exciting dancing that gave the nation a lift when we needed it most. As Pernice would say: thank you, thank you, thank you.

It’s a dream come true for the winning pair

Ayling-Ellis and Pernice seemed stunned by their win, with the former uncharacteristically lost for words after the result was announced, so her partner jumped in. “Incredible! Thank you to this beautiful young lady who made all my dreams come true,” gasped Pernice. Gazing at the fabled glitterball trophy, he added: “It took me seven years to get this thing.”

Ayling-Ellis returned his compliments. “You are so amazing. You pushed me to believe in myself. You’re an incredible teacher and a wonderful friend. We got through a lot. I want you to know that no matter what happens, you’ve always got a piece of my heart.” A emotional end to an emotional night.

Ed Sheeran performs Bad Habits

The singer treated us to the lead single off his fifth studio album =, while real-life couple Aljaž Skorjanec and Janette Manrara provided some (energetic but, typical of this season, non-ballroom) dancing. Manrara actually left the pro troupe this season to become a co-presenter on Strictly’s sister show It Takes Two, and it was a pleasure to have her back for this guest appeareance – something of a family reunion.

Sheeran is on a good run after tying with Adele, Little Simz and Dave for the most nominations in the 2022 Brit Awards. He’s up for gongs in the Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Pop and R&B Artist categories. Sheeran is also a Christmas No 1 contender with his Elton John collaboration Merry Christmas

Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara Ed Sheeran's © Provided by The Telegraph Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara Ed Sheeran's

AJ Odudu gets a final farewell

Odudu deserved a showcase on the final, too, and the video recap of her Strictly story just about did the job. However, the pre-recorded comments from Odudu, partner Widdrington and the judges – all taped after her injury – felt jarring given that they were present in the ballroom and could have spoken live instead.

Much better was the interview with the couple that followed, sensitively conducted by Winkleman. Odudu (accompanied by sequin-covered crutches) said she had a broken heart: she’d loved watching Ayling-Ellis and Whaite perform, but wanted to be there with them. She had been “swallowing tears” throughout the night. It was a cathartic moment for Odudu and for all of her disappointed fans.

Two very different showdances

A distinctly odd choice for Ayling-Ellis and Pernice’s showdance: the theme bestowed on this firmly platonic pair by Strictly’s creative director Jason Gilkison was Romeo and Juliet. Cue the rose-covered balcony and Bette Midler’s The Rose, because Strictly loves to underline a point. The balcony romance made it rather similar to their quickstep, and the lyrical style too similar to their Couple’s Choice. But it was a heartfelt expression of a lovely partnership, and the big lifts demonstrated their impeccable timing and connection. Another perfect 40.

Rose Giovanni showdance © Provided by The Telegraph Rose Giovanni showdance

Ballas called Ayling-Ellis a flying angel. Du Beke, in tears again, said we were blessed to watch them. Revel Horwood quipped that he was glad not to be making the decision on the final. Mabuse felt Ayling-Ellis had demonstrated we are capable of doing anything we put our minds to, and signed “I love you.” An emotional Ayling-Ellis then said she’d become more herself because of Strictly, which left her partner fighting back tears. Help, who’s got the tissues??

In contrast, Whaite and Radebe’s showdance to Florence and the Machine’s You Got the Love brought the party. The white-clad pair began slow and gentle, then – backed by a fantastic gospel choir and more pyrotechnics than Fireworks Night – exploded into a greatest hits medley of their past dances, including Charleston, salsa and Argentine tango. What a celebration! This definitely had the edge for me.

John Johannes showdance © Provided by The Telegraph John Johannes showdance

Du Beke thought it symbolised their whole “journey”. Revel Horwood said it was the first time Whaite came out and went “Bam!”. A sobbing Mabuse proclaimed she was grateful to be part of this season of Strictly, which was “changing lives”. Ballas praised the groundbreaking pair, as well as the whole Strictly cast and team. Phew! More tears and more tens from everyone. Meaning that after three dances each, our two finalists were still inseparable as far as the judges were concerned - both on 119 points, just one off total perfection. But their scores were only guidance on the final (and not hugely helpful guidance at that): viewer votes alone decide the winner.

In all seriousness:

At such a strange time, going into Christmas with so much hope and fear about, I feel like all four of these dancers and all six of these dances have conveyed the power and triumph of the human spirit. Well done all of them, and thank God.

👏

❤️#Strictly

— Victoria Coren Mitchell (@VictoriaCoren) December 18, 2021

Video: Moment Rose and Giovanni revealed as Strictly Come Dancing 2021 winners (Birmingham Mail)

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Ayling-Ellis gets a perfect score – but so does Whaite

Could the couple’s favourites dances separate these two brilliant pairs? Ayling-Ellis and Pernice of course chose to do their phenomenal Couple’s Choice routine from Week 8 – easily my telly moment of the year. It encapsulates her deaf experience and lets us all into her world through a moment where she dances on without the music, just as she has this entire season. It’s changed a whole nation’s understanding of the deaf community: what an achievement for an entertainment show. This dance was also pure joy once again as well as intensely moving.

Giovanni Pernice, Rose Ayling-Ellis © Provided by The Telegraph Giovanni Pernice, Rose Ayling-Ellis

Revel Horwood noted some technical improvements (he was the only one to withhold a 10 originally). Mabuse praised Ayling-Ellis’s ability to connect with her partner and with all of us. Ballas said she’d shared her heart with everyone watching. An emotional Du Beke: “Just perfect.” Finally, Revel Horwood located his 10 paddle: a well-deserved perfect score for Ayling-Ellis.

It was a hard act to follow, but Whaite’s Pirates of the Caribbean paso doble from Week 3 was also a season highlight – and likewise just needed Revel Horwood to crack after scoring 39 first time round. It also gave us another chance to savour Whaite’s wonderful/terrible Johnny Depp wig, as well as this dramatic, athletic and thrillingly risk-taking routine, which felt even stronger and more powerful.

Johannes Radebe and John Whaite © Provided by The Telegraph Johannes Radebe and John Whaite

Mabuse said everything about their paso had improved (sadly, she didn’t have an 11 to bestow). Ballas said everything came together: like a true competitor, Whaite was fighting for it. Du Beke got rather lost in a tortured metaphor. Perhaps he’d been at the pirates’ rum. Revel Horwood said that Whaite’s little finger bothered him – but was only joking. Phew. Another 40, and we still can’t separate these two mighty finalists.

It’s a tie in Round 1

Up first in this truncated final: two routines chosen by the judges that were strong, but that the couples could marginally improve upon. Ayling-Ellis’s buoyant, thoroughly charming Frozen-themed quickstep from Week 9 had just one small error in its original outing, which meant she scored three 9s and a 10. Could this encore notch up a perfect score?

Strictly © Provided by The Telegraph Strictly

Almost. Shirley Ballas called it “Strictly magic”. Anton Du Beke said it was just beautiful, and that Ayling-Ellis had set the future benchmark for ballroom. Craig Revel Horwood, who was at home with Covid when Ayling-Ellis first danced this quickstep, said it was completely different experience watching it live – the storytelling was superb. Motsi Mabuse particularly loved the characterisation. A miserly 9 from Revel Horwood, 10s from everyone else.

AH CRAIG!!!!!!

— MarianKeyes has written a sequel to RachelsHoliday (@MarianKeyes) December 18, 2021

For Whaite, the judges chose his rumba to Sting’s Shape of My Heart from Week 7, which scored a decent two 8s, 9 and 10 first time round. There were a few technical issues, like requiring straighter legs and more resistance, and it also needed more expression – the latter something that Whaite has really improved upon over the season.

Strictly © Provided by The Telegraph Strictly

Du Beke called it the best rumba he’d ever seen on Strictly. Revel Horwood said it was understated but brilliant. Mabuse said they moved her. Ballas, waxing poetic, loved the breath between two bodies, two hearts beating as one, and the story of hope. The Queen of Latin then bestowed the ultimate compliment on Whaite: “I hope I get to dance a rumba with you one day.” Yet again, Revel Horwood couldn’t find his 10 paddle, but everyone else did - meaning our finalists were tied on 39. It couldn’t be closer!

Please welcome the stars of our show

The Strictly pros joined forces to give our finalists a grand entrance – think giant star platforms, fire, glitter, confetti, all joyfully camp as can be. Despite the injuries, the Covid absences, the last-minute disappointment of us losing a finalist couple, this was the epitome of “The show must go on”. We also got a lovely shoutout to AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington from Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman: the pair were sat in the audience to cheer everyone else on. A very classy gesture from them both.

Strictly © Provided by The Telegraph Strictly

It’s a class reunion

Welcome back to the Strictly 2021 cast - or at least most of them. Tilly Ramsay shared on her Instagram: “So sad to be missing the Strictly final - but sadly have tested positive for Covid so will be watching from my sofa and cheering on the amazing finalists from home on Saturday night.” And she’s not the only no-show. Webb is also skipping the reunion due to continuing health concerns, while injured pro Karen Hauer will be making an appearance but not dancing, so we may see someone else partnering Greg Wise.

But everyone else will be back, sharing snippets from their memorable routines - including Rhys Stephenson, Dan Walker, Sara Davies, Tom Fletcher and Adam Peaty. It creates a fun game for us at home, too: which contestants have you clean forgotten were on this wild roller coaster of a season? Can you remember as far back as the first eliminated celeb, Nina Wadia? How about our lovely columnist Greg Wise (samba sleeves!) or Katie McGlynn (partner dressed as a Dalmatian!)?

All in all it’s been a cracker, and it’ll be a pleasure to celebrate the brilliant cast once again before we all toddle off to our families and our mince pies.

The class of 2021 - Ray Burmiston © Provided by The Telegraph The class of 2021 - Ray Burmiston

Medical issues continue to plague Strictly

It’s felt at times as though our ballroom programme has been doing a stealth crossover with Holby City. We’ve seen numerous contestants and judges missing shows due to positive Covid tests, plus Ugo Monye sat out a week after an old back injury flared up and Robert Webb dropped out altogether because training was too strenuous following his heart operation.

Webb’s withdrawal is the reason why we were going to have a three-person final this year, instead of four – and now it’s just two. It’s like being in an Agatha Christie thriller. Let’s just hope we don’t get right down to And Then There Were None.

AJ Odudu and partner Kai Widdrington - Guy Levy © Provided by The Telegraph AJ Odudu and partner Kai Widdrington - Guy Levy

It’s devastating for Odudu, who has been a spectacular contestant this year and more than earned her place in the final, and for professional partner Kai Widdrington, who deservedly went all the way in his first ever Strictly season. Odudu tore a ligament in her right ankle and has been hoping all week that she might recover in time to dance again, but it wasn’t to be. Neither would want their journey to end this way, and fans will be gutted too. Rhys Stephenson, who narrowly finished in fourth place, might also wonder if he could have had a shot in the final if the decision had been made earlier.

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Strictly Come Dancing 2021 Final, live: Rose and Giovanni lift the Glitterball in emotional finale

Source:MSN

Strictly Come Dancing 2021 Final, live: Rose and Giovanni lift the Glitterball in emotional finale