Adding some much-needed sparkle to our Saturday nights for the last 14 weeks, “Strictly Come Dancing” series 19 has sadly come to an end and it was Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice who lifted the coveted glitterball trophy as 2021 champions. They had strong competition from their fellow finalists John Whaite and Johannes Radebe and AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington however, arguably the strongest collection of finalists there’s ever been. However, AJ sustained an injury in training during the week leading up to the final and unfortunately had to withdraw from the competition, leaving viewers devastated. It was a heartbreaking way to bow out of the show but she and Kai achieved so much and can be very proud of everything they did.
This year across the series we’ve seen a total of 119 routines from the contestants and their professional partners, but which one was best? With the final done and dusted here’s the ten most memorable dances of the series, but first some honorable mentions:
- Sara and Aljaž’s Foxtrot (34)
- Rhys and Nancy’s Charleston (40) and Argentine Tango (39)
- AJ and Kai’s American Smooth (35) and Argentine Tango (35)
- Rose and Giovanni’s Foxtrot (36), Viennese Waltz (37) and Tango (40)
- John and Johannes’ Cha-Cha-Cha (31) Samba (38) and Argentine Tango (39)
- John and Johannes’ Salsa (Score: 32)
“I love it when it goes wrong, I absolutely love it” admitted judge Craig Revel Horwood whilst offering his critiques for John and Johannes’ quarter-final performance. The pair delivered an enthusiastic disco-style salsa to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” which saw John dance free from inhibitions, embracing his more flamboyant side that he’d been challenged to bring out – c’mon knee slide! It was all going so well, too, and then with one wrong hand for the final lift it all (Johannes) literally came crashing down. Of course, the pair styled it out in particularly fabulous fashion and had a great laugh about it, adding even more vulnerability and charisma to their already wonderful partnership.
- Judi and Graziano’s Samba (Score: 25)
Judi and Graziano were one of this year’s best partnerships and their lovable personalities combined together perfectly. This was seen nowhere more so than in their week two Samba. It might not have been a particularly high-scoring dance but it absolutely blew the roof off the Strictly ballroom. Performing to Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” Judi gave us everything we needed, even bringing twerking to the dancefloor, which was met with an eruption of cheering and applause. Whilst the performance demanded all eyes on Judi, judge Motsi Mabuse could also be seen in the background absolutely living for everything she was seeing and honestly we were all Motsi in this moment.
- AJ and Kai’s Charleston (Score: 39)
The Charleston is one of the most fun dances that couples get to do on Strictly and the more whimsical and goofy style that comes with it holds such huge potential for entertainment value. AJ and Kai’s week eight Charleston embodied just that. Set in a swanky hotel room the pair danced to Dorothy Provine’s “Don’t Bring Lulu” and unleashed pure joy onto the dancefloor. Filled with tricks, lifts and so much character this was a Charleston fit for the Strictly hall of fame, one of AJ’s many highlights on the show, and the couple’s personal favorite routine that they would have performed again in the final if they had been able to compete.
- John and Johannes’ Charleston (Score: 38)
We need to talk about the baguette-ography. John and Johannes’ week five Charleston appropriately saw the boys playing bakers. Who knew that two bits of bread could be such excellent props? One of John and Johannes’ strengths throughout the series has been their superb side by side dancing, staying in sync expertly throughout and their Charleston was one of the finest examples of this. The pair captured the exuberant spirit of the dance whilst keeping things technically clean as well, something that can’t be said for poor Johannes, who took a cream pie to the face at the end of the routine.
- AJ and Kai’s Jive (Score: 34)
Talk about making an entrance; viewers’ introduction to AJ and Kai was their week one Jive and what a way to start. AJ exploded onto the dancefloor kicking and flicking her way through the routine to DJ Fresh’s “Gold Dust”. She had the outfit to match too, dripping in a shimmering gold dress and rightfully topped the very first leaderboard of the series. Whilst it wasn’t the highest-scoring Jive of this year’s show, that title went to John and Johannes for their semi-final performance that earned them 39, the infectious energy of AJ and Kai’s remained unmatched all series long.
- Rose and Giovanni’s Argentine Tango (Score: 40)
In a series full of incredible Argentine Tangos, Rose and Giovanni’s routine reigned supreme. Performed in the semi-final the couple’s dance was fuelled with such passion and intensity it was impossible to take your eyes off the pair. The control Rose demonstrated in the lifts during the routine was spectacular, and she maintained this feat throughout the performance. Combined with the more traditional music, this was an unforgettable routine and Craig said it best when he stated, “That dance belongs in the final”.
- Rose and Giovanni’s American Smooth (Score: 39)
Rose and Giovanni were no strangers to receiving the highest scores of the series for multiple dances this year, and one of those was their quarter-final American Smooth. Set to Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” the pair glided across the ballroom in truly gorgeous fashion. If this wasn’t enough they also included a daring lift that saw Rose perform a stunning leap of faith, trusting Giovanni to catch her arms and swing her round. Of course the pair executed this perfectly and in doing so created one of the most beautiful dances of the series.
- John and Johannes’ Paso Doble (Score: 39)
Movie week is always a huge spectacle on Strictly, and it was John and Johannes’s Pirates of the Caribbean Paso Doble that got the best reviews. John descended onto the dancefloor on a large mast in full pirate attire (shout-out to the amazing hair, make up and costume teams) and excelled through this captivating and powerful performance. This dance was the first time this series that judges Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke produced their coveted 10 paddles, alongside Motsi who all awarded the Paso full marks. With a 9 from Craig, too, it remains the highest-scoring Paso Double of the series and became an immediate classic of Strictly Movie Week. John and Johannes performed it again in the final and achieved their first perfect 40 of the series.
- AJ and Kai’s Quickstep (Score: 40)
If there’s any week to pull a show-stopping performance out of the bag, it’s the semi-final. And coming back from surviving the bottom two after their “dancefloor disaster” of a salsa the previous week, AJ and Kai did just that, delivering the Quickstep to end all Quicksteps. The music, the costuming and the steps were all right and the couple were just having the most fun they’d had all series long. This dance finally earned AJ her first 10 from Craig and subsequently a perfect score for without a doubt her best dance of the series.
- Rose & Giovanni’s Couple’s Choice (Score: 39)
The inclusion of the Couple’s Choice dance is a controversial one, some viewers enjoy it whilst others aren’t so fond, however Rose & Giovanni’s week eight performance proved exactly why it needs to be part of the show. Their routine set to Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson’s “Symphony” was already a beautiful example of a contemporary dance and then the music stopped. The couple performed in complete silence as a moving tribute to the positivity of the deaf community. This proved to be the most powerful performance of the series and of the entire show’s history for that matter. Anton said that “That is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on the show” and we couldn’t agree more.♦