Strictly Come Dancing 2021: week one – as it happened

Last modified: 08: 42 PM GMT+0

From a cha cha with Robert Webb to a jive with AJ Odudu, the celebrities took to the floor and the competition kicked off in fine style

So that’s IT for Week One! We’ve officially got this Strictly party underway, and the countdown to Christmas has begun. Let me know in the comments who your favourites are, and thank you SO much for joining in and being funny and brilliant – I’m off to lie down in a dark room and read all your comments. There’s no Sunday results show tomorrow, but I’ll be back next Saturday at 6.45pm for Week 2. Have a good week, and I’ll see you then!

Goodness, WHAT a series this is going to be. Right now Sara and Ugo are at the bottom of the leaderboard, but the scores are going to be carried over so let’s not count our glitter chickens.

Current favourites amongst my support crew - John, Rose, AJ, Nina, Rhys and Adam. Almost certainly four of these six in the Grand Final in September, but it’s going to be a great competition between now and them. But if almost two decades of Strictly has taught us anything, it’s that everything can change in a Dave Arch drumbeat, and I’m not very good at predicting things.


Scores: 7,7,8,8 - a total of 30 for Adam and Katya.

Craig was GLUED to every moment of that, and Motsi loved the energy and charisma. Shirley loved how much the back part of Adam’s body was OOZING (OK sure). Anton thought it was incredible, and Adam just needs to keep that up through the series.

Crikey, it’s warm in here.


WELL. Adam isn’t just a pair of breaststroke shoulders and no shirt buttons, it turns out. He’s got some very decent hip action and even though it’s lumpy and rough around the edges in places, there’s HUGE potential here.

‘I just got pregnant watching that’, says the other adult female in the room.

Adam and Katya
Adam and Katya Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


AND FINALLY, it’s ADAM AND KATYA. Their opening dance is the Cha Cha Cha to ‘Beggin’ by Måneskin. If you’re wondering ‘who?’, then I’m afraid you’re dead to me. Måneskin are the Italian glam rockers who won Eurovision for Italy this year, and this is the Dave Arch version of their version of the Four Seasons 1960s classic. If The Dave Arch singers don’t give it a touch of gravelly mockney Italian I’m going to be very disappointed.

Everyone on my support crew is looking forward to this, for many different reasons.

Scores: 8,8,9,9 - a total of 34 for AJ and Kai. DRINK DRINK DRINK.

Anton thought that was about as good as Strictly has ever seen, it’s like we’ve dropped into Week 9. Craig says AJ needs to control her mother, she’s had Craig in a headlock, but the dancing was incredible. Motsi thought it was the best dance of the evening, and Shirley thought it was fearless - she’s never seen a Jive like that on Week One. Drink everything, big scores are incoming.

Loving AJ’s gold fringing, she has legs for DAYS. Her Jive kicks and flicks are superb, and we have ourselves a contender. It’s a complex, high energy from Kai with lots of changes in pace, but AJ is making this look easy. LOVED that.

AJ and Kai
AJ and Kai Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s AJ AND KAI! Their first dance is the Jive to ‘Gold Dust’ by DJ Fresh. I don’t think AJ was every going to give us anything other than a high energy dance for Week One, am very much hoping she’s going to give this Jive plenty of welly.

Also apparently Kai is 26. How is this possible? Is fake tan inherently ageing? Has he spent too much time in Blackpool?

Scores: 6,6,6,6 - a total of 24 for Judi and Graziano.

Only two couples left! My hands are like claws, I’ve eaten several slices of pork pie, two profiteroles and a bucket of Percy Pigs.


Judi is a born diva, says Shirley - it was simple and to the point and rhythmic. Anton loved it too, the partnership makes him happy and Judi and Graziano have great chemistry. Craig thought Judi did really well and Motsi loved the flirtation, although Judi’s technique needs more work.

I don’t think Craig meant to suggest that Judi looked like she was in drag, but it kind of sounded like he did. Awks.

Judi’s wearing the first dead swan of the season. There’s a lot of faffing about at the bar in this American Smooth, but once they get into hold Judi has some nice footwork and it all has a lovely groove to it. Would have liked to see more Foxtrot basics but a nice start from Judi and Graziano.

Judi and Graziano
Judi and Graziano Photograph: Guy Levy/PA

Next up it’s JUDI AND GRAZIANO! Their Week One dance is the American Smooth to ‘Chain of Fools’ by Aretha Franklin. I don’t this this is a work reference unless you have strong opinions about Loose Women. Love a smooth, love this song, have a bit of a girl crush on Judi based on their TikTok boogying.

Scores: 7,7,8,8 - a total of 30 and straight to the top of the leaderboard for John and Johannes.

Motsi thought it was a superb start to the series, and Shirley thought the choreo was stunning and John executed it brilliantly. Anton thought it was a great dance - it was strong, clean and stylish. Craig didn’t like John’s thumb, but otherwise he loved it.

Already loving the drama of this - some really nice attack and some great footwork from John. They’re a hugely compelling couple to watch, and it’s clear to see how hard John has worked in the details. Beautifully atmospheric and, frankly, super hot. What an amazing, life-affirming Strictly moment.

John and Johannes
John and Johannes Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s time for JOHN AND JOHANNES! Their first dance is the Tango to ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order. I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite as excited about a dance as I am about this one. It’s an incredible track and I have every expectation that John and Johannes are going to smash this out of the studio.

Scores: 5,5,7,7 - a total of 24 for Nina and Neil. How could Craig give Robert more than Nina? Outrageous.

Who knew that was in you? said Craig - her shoulders got a bit hunched, but wow. Motsi thought it was full of energy in a difficult routine - Nina had the groove. Shirley thought there were bits of that routine that belonged in Week 7, and the fundamentals were outstanding. Anton gets a sick feeling in his stomach whenever he has to do a Samba - SO DO WE ANTON.

Very much liking Nina’s frilly dress, and she’s giving this dance ALL the barrels. Nina has great footwork and is working this Samba - it’s a bit stompy in places, but the music kind of demands it. Absolutely fierce, I loved that.

Nina and Neil
Nina and Neil Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


Only five left! Next up it’s NINA AND NEIL! This week they’re dancing the Samba to ‘Mi Gente’ by J Balvin, Willy William featuring Beyoncé. This is a brilliant music choice for a Samba, albeit I’m still Samba-adverse. What next? A Week One Argentine Tango? Week One Couple’s Choice? Hmpf.

Scores: 6,6,5,7 - a total of 24 for Greg and Karen.

Anton loved it - he’d give Greg 45 points if he could. Craig thought the Viennese section left a lot to be desired, but out of hold was very engaging. Motsi loved the intensity and Greg drew her in. Shirley is a sucker for a man in a tail suit, but too many mistakes in hold and too much rise and fall. Greg has great charisma but the fundamentals need work and that’s not too much to ask. Who put 50p in Shirley?

Goodness, it’s warm in here. As you might expect, Greg has great storytelling skills, but his ballroom frame needs some work. His timing is nice, but his hands look like shovels and he’s much happier out of hold than he is in. Definite potential, but needs more fluidity.


Greg and Karen
Greg and Karen Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s time for GREG AND KAREN! They’re dancing the American Smooth to ‘That’s Life’ by Frank Sinatra, which was also a Viennese Waltz for Ore and Joanne. I feel like this sets the tone for the level of dancefloor sass we can expect from Greg – no middle-of-the-road ballads for him, he’s pulling out Frank on Week One. Actually that sounds filthy, delete delete delete.

Scores: 6,4,4,6 - a total of 20 for Robert and Dianne. What’s Craig on this evening?

Shirley thought Robert had the gift of entertaining, but his dancing needs a lot of work. Anton really enjoyed it, but there are few things under the waterline that need work. Craig thought it was crowd pleaser and no longer cares about technique. Motsi loved the energy and Robert sold it, he definitely has potential.

‘Why is Robert dressed as Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid?’ asks Burr Child #2. It’s like Scott Mills never left us.

Robert definitely has some moves, at least in the top half of his body. His bottom half appears to be set in concrete, but perhaps that will come later. He almost falls over at the end of the spin, but good fun.

Robert and Dianne
Robert and Dianne Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s time for ROBERT AND DIANNE! They’re dancing the Cha Cha Cha to ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M, which features one of my favourite three lines of lyrics ever - Ra ra Rasputin/Russia’s greatest love machine/It was a shame how he carried on. The first two lines are pure bombast, followed by some massive tutting nanna energy, I love it.

I feel like this dance is going to show us what Dianne has in store for Robert – will he be nurtured as a dancer like Bill Bailey, or played for cheeky chappy laughs like Chris Ramsay?

Scores: 6,5,5,6 - a total of 22 for Katie and Gorka.

Rhys and Nancy currently at the top of the leaderboard, but we still have SEVEN couples left to dance. Stay with me, people.

Motsi was impressed - it had power and attack, but Katie looked a bit tight in her shoulders. Shirley liked the chemistry, but Katie needs to use her core to make it look a bit lighter. Anton loved the drama and intensity, but Katie needs to flatten out her right shoulder. Craig thought Katie picked up her feet too much but he loved the passion.

This is a FIERCE Tango for Week One, with nice drama and characterisation from Katie. Her frame needs some work and she looks a bit out of balance at times, but a nice chemistry between these two. Good work.

Katie and Gorka
Katie and Gorka Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s KATIE AND GORKA! Their first dance is the Tango to ‘Black Hole’ by Griff. This is such a great song for a Tango, albeit the lyrics are BLEAK. Still, I have very high hopes for these two.

Scores: 6,6,4,6 - a total of 22 for Rose and Giovanni.

Craig thought it had great timing and great personality - Rose needs more attack but an incredible job. Motsi loved it too, and Shirley thought it checked a lot of boxes, although Rose needs to work on her feet. Anton absolutely loved it - the most he’s enjoyed watching a dance for a long time.

Rose is in fabulous unicorn fringing, and is giving this Jive both barrels. She has great musicality and a lovely fluidity to her dancing, and she also looks like she’s having the time of her life. Let’s never mention this version of Shake It Off again.

Loved that so much, dance of the night so far.

Rose and Giovanni
Rose and Giovanni Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


Next up it’s ROSE AND GIOVANNI! Their first dance is the Jive to ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift, as previously danced by Pixie and Trent. I can’t remember much about their Jive, but I do vaguely recall that Pixie wore a bum-skimming pink dress. I remember literally nothing about Trent.

I am totally in love with these two. Really looking forward to watching Rose’s Strictly journey.

Scores: 5,5,7,7 - a total of 24 for Dan and Nadiya.

Anton was a bit nervous, he thought Dan was going to be awful, but he was actually terrific. Craig wasn’t keen on Dan mouthing the counts and is arm was a disaster, nut he was pleasantly surprised. Motsi loved the risk Dan took and if he keeps that up he’ll be a shining star. Shirley has never seen a neck that long in her life, and Dan has great power. I mean, it looks like a normal neck to me?

Dan’s timing is out from the bit where they’re still sitting down, which is worrying. It definitely gets better, and actually Dan is giving this some serious welly, albeit it gets a bit shambolic out of hold at the end.

General consensus from the support crew: SO much better than expected, we thought it was going to be full Jeremy Vine. Go Dan Walker.

Dan and Nadiya
Dan and Nadiya Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s DAN AND NADIYA! Their first dance is a Quickstep to ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’ by The Blues Brothers. Dan is my prediction for Latin Avoidance this year – we’ll get a Quickstep followed by a Waltz followed by a Charleston followed by an American Smooth, while Nadiya battles in vain to apply some WD-40 to Dan’s hips. Maybe a Tango, which is the Latin-ish choice for the rhythmically challenged.

Scores: 3,5,5,4 - a total of 17 for Sara and Aljaz.

Shirley loved how Sara came out with a huge personality, which is a pass/agg way of saying ‘that wasn’t very good’. Anton rather liked it, albeit it needs more work in the leg action, but he’s looking forward to Sara’s ballroom. Craig thought Sara walked through it and it needed more energy - Sara needs to let her hair down. Motsi thought it was sophisticated and elegant, but it needed more flavour and impact.

Sara looks incredibly in electric blue, and it’s clear how hard Sara has worked on this disco Cha Cha. It’s a bit stompy in places and Sara could definitely do with a bit of cocktail-fuelled abandon, but it’s a solid Week One effort. We’ve seen a lot worse.

Someone in this room (not naming any names) has just said ‘is Aljaz the new Anton?’ OUCH.

Sara and Aljaz
Sara and Aljaz Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


Who’s next? It’s SARA AND ALJAŽ! Their first dance is the Cha Cha Cha to ‘The Boss’ by Diana Ross. I mean, that’s a double drink, right? Imagine having the entire Diana Ross back catalogue at your disposal and picking this.

Scores: 6,7,7,7, - a total of 27 for Rhys and Nancy. Nice work, well deserved.

What a talent, says Motse, and Shirley agrees - Rhys had elegance, poise and leadership, and he’s one to watch. Anton thought Rhys was really, really good, and his footwork was immaculate. Craig thought it was a bit frantic, but his frame was lovely throughout.

LOOK AT HIS LITTLE FACE. He’s a 27-year-old man, Tess.

I think we saw Rhys’s potential in the launch show last week, and he’s really delivering here. Such lovely glide and footwork, even though there are few shonky transitions and wobbly timing. Loved that, really gorgeous.

‘That was lovely’, says Burr child #1. Agreed.

Rhys and Nancy
Rhys and Nancy Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


Next up it’s RHYS AND NANCY! Their first dance is the Viennese Waltz to ‘End of The Road’ by Boyz II Men. Darren Gough danced to this way back in the third season of Strictly (what are we on now? 19?), and it’s never been used since. We’ve already seen that Rhys has some moves, but can he glide? Can he do vomit spins? And then can he do them in reverse?

Ugo’s dad’s funeral was this morning, and tonight was a way for him to honour him and celebrate his life. How amazing is that?

Scores: 3,5,5,5 - a total of 18 for Ugo and Oti.

This definitely put Craig in the carnival mood, Ugo threw absolutely everything at it. Motse loved the African Samba parts, but his feet needed turning out in the technical bits. Shirley thought Ugo had all the gear, and there was no part of his body that didn’t want to move. Can someone hose Shirley down? Anton thought it was a great effort, and Ugo really performed it.

Crikey, we’ve got burning drums! Ugo’s in hot pink and doing a very decent job of this. His bum is in a different postcode to the rest of him, but there’s definitely a smidgen of hip action and some surprisingly light footwork. The timing goes a by awry at times, but this is another coupling with lots of promise.

Ugo and Oti
Ugo and Oti Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s time for UGO AND OTI! Their first dance is the Samba to ‘Iko Iko (My Bestie)’ by Justin Wellington ft. Small Jam.

This is first of two Sambas tonight, and I’d like to lodge a complaint. Having a Samba in Week One is like putting Mr Brightside on at a wedding at 8pm. Nobody’s ready, nobody wants it. We need warming up gently, like custard. We need Cha Chas and Waltzes, maybe a cheeky Jive to get the party started. Save your Sambas until we’re six Caipirinhas deep and ready to dance on tables with wild abandon.


Scores: 5,5,6,5 - a total of 21 for Tilly and Nick Carter.


Anton thought it was romantic, sophisticated and gentle - just like Craig, but in future she should try a heel lead. Craig thought Tilly’s shoulders were a bit tight and it lacked expression in the arms, but they told a very sweet story. Motsi enjoyed the sensitivity at the beginning and Tilly is off to a super start. Shirley liked the small details, it was poised and mature and she really liked the footwork.

First YOUR LITTLE FACE of the season. It’s not in the bingo, but drink everything.

Well, this is is all rather adorable, isn’t it? The Strictly flower arbour, the swing seat, lots of ankle fog. Tilly has nice top line and some nice footwork, albeit a bit tentative at times. Some nice arms too - lots of potential there. Actually really enjoyed that.

Tilly and Nikita
Tilly and Nikita Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


It’s TILLY AND NIKITA! This week they’re dancing the Waltz to ‘Consequences’ by Camila Cabello. I’m claiming this is as a job reference (drink) because there are definitely consequences of having Gordon Ramsay as your dad. Like getting on Strictly, for instance.

Nikita. Nick Carter. Nikita. I’m just saying.

Scores: 4,7,5,5 - a total of 21 for Tom and Amy. A very decent start.

Shirley thought Tom did a great job of going first, and he’s set a very high standard. Anton thought it was a wonderful performance and Tom’s leg action was good. Craig wanted better spins and it was a bit wooden (DRINK), but Tom has amazing rhythm. Motsi wants looser hips and better leg action, but can see Tom going a long way.

This is a very solid Week One effort from Tom, albeit he needs to loosen up those Latin hips. But his timing is pretty solid and he’s got good performance skills. Nice way to start the show, no?

‘That was...nice,’ says Elizabeth. Brutal.

Tom and Amy
Tom and Amy Photograph: Guy Levy/PA


First up tonight it’s TOM AND AMY! They’re dancing the Cha Cha Cha to ‘September’ by Earth, Wind & Fire. Even though it’s not a job reference, I’m inviting you to drink for it being actual September. I looked up if anyone else has ever danced to this, and the list says ‘Diarmuid and Nicole, Series 2’, which suggests that Diarmuid Gavin once took part on Strictly, because I can’t think of another famous Diarmuid. Am filing this away as a nailed-down winner if I’m ever on a Pointless Strictly special.

TESS AND CLAUDIA DRESS WATCH: Tess in a scarlet halterneck with superfluous neck band, Claudia looking like an emo sailor.

Out come the judges! LOVING Motse in strapless Kermit.

Out come the stars! No desperately whacky outfits this week, they’re easing us in gently. Just did a tiny swoon to Greg Wise in top hat and tails.


Ooh, bonus pro dance, to a noodly John Lewis version of A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton.

Gorka is looking lovely in a cardigan ,and the Strictly wobbly lamppost has made its first appearance of the season. It’s not on the bingo, but drink anyway.

How lovely is this dance? Maybe this is the year I fall in love with barefoot contempo-waft.


And we’re off! Time for a moody slow-mo VT. There’s an incredible journey ahead, and nothing can prepare them for what’s about to happen. Other than watching the previous 18 series of Strictly, possibly.

Well, this is all quite tingle-inducing, isn’t it? AND we get to see the opening credits for the first time. Get used to these, we’ve got MONTHS of this ahead.

Tonight’s Strictly Come Bingo – take a swig from your hard-earned jerry can of Premium Unleaded if you spot any occurrence of the following:

  • Anton saying ‘marvellous’
  • Craig saying ‘wooden’
  • Song choices that make an oblique and tenuous reference to the celebrity’s profession
  • One celebrity smashing it in Week One, scoring eights, cancelling any potential journey and ensuring they don’t win despite being very obviously the best dancer
  • Gordon Ramsay


On the upside, my liveblog support team for the evening is Elizabeth (age 12), Genevieve (age 8), and Rhiannon (age 5), which I hope will add some fresh young enthusiasm to my weary middle-aged meanderings.

And as a bonus upside, the father of these fabulous girls is Richard The Builder from Bake Off 2014, so tonight’s array of snacks is outstanding. I might put some pics on Twitter later – you can find me @heidistephens.

Incidentally, tonight’s liveblog is coming to you from a friends’ house in West Sussex, so rather than my usual monastic isolation, I’m in the company of two adults, three children and a dog called Steve. If you have any suggestions for a more chaotic environment that’s less conducive to watching TV and writing at the same time, feel free to challenge me for a future week. An A&E waiting room, perhaps, or the middle lane of the M6.

Evening all, and welcome to this week’s Strictly Come Dancing! It’s officially Week One, which means we get to see our newly-formed couples properly strut their stuff on the Strictly dancefloor for the very first time. There will be scores from the judges, but nobody’s going home this weekend – all the scores will be rolled over to next week. So it’s absolutely worth our celebs putting their best foot forward, but there’s no need for them to overdo it and turn an ankle – they’re safe for at least one more week.

As usually I’ll be sprinkling glitter over proceedings up here, and I’d be delighted if you’d add a little extra wit and wisdom in the comment box below. This liveblog is very much a team effort, so please get involved. Kick off is at 7pm, and tonight’s show lasts two hours 20 minutes (eek), so stock up on a marathon amount of snacks and drinks. See you in a bit!


Heidi Stephens

The GuardianTramp

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