For me, the best indicator that Christmas is coming is the start of Strictly Come Dancing in September. From then on, each week turns into the solid countdown, with Saturday nights being reserved for getting pissed on prosecco before 9pm and sending my Mum Snapchats on how good/shit this person was and who I’m going to be voting for. This year has been no different, and as we approach the 2021 Strictly Come Dancing final, I thought now would be a good time to look back on some of my favourite performances from over the years. I’ve been wasting a good few hours trawling through the Strictly YouTube channel (let’s be honest, I loved every bloody second), narrowing down my top ten, including some of this year’s routines.
Full disclosure there are a few seasons I’ve missed out on. Mainly the earlier seasons, because I was a lot younger and didn’t really care (I just liked the sparkly outfits tbh). So, this list may miss out some of the routines that others would consider “classics.”
Kelvin & Oti’s Rumba to Ain’t No Sunshine – 2019
Kelvin Fletcher was very much favourite to win from the start of the 2019 season, and rightly so. Over the season, he and partner Oti Mabuse brought us some amazing routines, but my favourite had to be their Rumba to Ain’t No Sunshine. Notoriously a difficult dance for the male celebs, he made it look bloody faultless, and borderline inappropriate for prime-time BBC. So much so that one of the comments from judge Motsi Mabuse was “Stop! That’s my sister!”
Chris & Karen’s Couples Choice to Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble – 2019
I’ll be honest, Chris Ramsey was my winner for 2019. He certainly wasn’t the best dancer, but he made progress every week and each one of his performances was highly entertaining and made us laugh. I personally loved all of his routines with partner Karen Hauer, but my favourite was their Couples Choice which paid homage to Chris’ Geordie roots – a Street/Commercial routine to PJ & Duncan’s Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble. It was just one of those routines that had me smiling from start to finish.
Caroline & Pasha’s Charleston to Istanbul – 2014
Caroline Flack has to be one of my all-time favourite Strictly contestants, and this routine, performed during “World Week” (funnily enough, this themed week was only done once) was one of my favourites. It was quirky, perfectly choreographed and you struggled to see who was the pro and who was the celebrity.
Ore & Joanne’s Jive to Runaway Baby – 2016
2016 champion Ore Oduba and partner Joanne Clifton had some memorable routines during their season (their Singin’ in the Rain very nearly made this list), but I think the one they’ll be best known for was their jive to Bruno Mars’ Runaway Baby. How they managed to pull off such a clean, sharp and jam packed routine at the speed they did is beyond me – I’m out of breath just watching it.
AJ & Kai’s Couples Choice to Make Me Feel – 2021
One of my favourite routines from Strictly Come Dancing 2021 has to be AJ Odudu and partner Kai Widdrington’s Couples Choice. I loved the sass, the attitude and the style of the routine, and their synchronicity was incredible. I was raging that they didn’t get four 10s for it, especially with those lifts! Not only that but I feel we need to appreciate AJ’s outfit – she looked fierce AF – and let’s all just take a minute to admire Kai, whom I have now added to my list.
Danny & Oti’s Samba to Magalenha – 2016
Danny Mac and Oti Mabuse’s Samba from 2016 was another unforgettable routine, and unsurprisingly secured them a place in the final. Not only that, but the routine was the first in Strictly history to get a perfect score of 40 for a Samba – and rightly so. Just watch it and decide for yourself.
Jay & Aliona’s Jive to Misirlou – 2015
Movie Week always brought it when it came to memorable routines, and one that fans will never forget is the Pulp Fiction themed Jive from Jay McGuinness and partner Aliona Vilani. So much so that in 2020’s Christmas Special, it was named as THE most memorable dance in the show’s history. I loved how the routine started out with the iconic dance routine from the movie and then went into this fast paced, action packed jive. It was incredible.
Rose & Giovanni’s Couples Choice to Symphony – 2021
Rose Ayling-Ellis has already made Strictly history as being the show’s first ever deaf contestant, but there’s no denying that her Couples Choice with partner Giovanni Pernice is going to be one that we’ll remember for years to come. Every one of their routines has been fantastic, and to be honest, it was hard to choose just one. It was ultimately between this one and their Movie Week Foxtrot to Rose’s Theme from Titanic, which had me crying into my prosecco. However, it has to be this incredibly powerful number – a Contemporary routine to Symphony by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson in which the music cuts midway through, leaving the two performing in complete silence.
Bill & Oti’s Couples Choice to Rapper’s Delight – 2020
I cried my eyes out when Bill Bailey won last year’s Strictly. He and Oti were my favourites right from the start, and throughout the season he got better and better, putting a smile on our faces each time. I think what made his win so special was the fact that 2020 was a complete and utter crock of shit (especially towards the end), and the season as a whole allowed us all to forget what was happening in the world for a couple of hours. In particular, it was their iconic Street/Commercial routine to Rapper’s Delight which won him the Glitterball trophy. It certainly had me smiling from start to finish, and – full disclosure – I cried when they returned at the start of this year’s season and performed it again.
Caroline & Pasha’s Showdance to Angels – 2014
Finally, topping my list is Caroline Flack’s beautiful showdance to Robbie Williams’ Angels from the 2014 final. It was a gorgeous, emotional routine with some incredible lifts, and her chemistry with partner Pasha Kovalev was amazing. I remember having a lump in my throat the first time I saw it. After Caroline’s death in early 2020, the clip of the routine was shared across social media as people paid tribute to her, making it feel even more powerful than when it first aired. You can see the pain and emotion in her face as she performs it. Even now, watching the routine has me welling up.
I hope if you’re a fellow Strictly fan, you’ve enjoyed this round-up of my favourite routines. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up falling down a YouTube hole of past clips! Let me know your favourites in the comments below!
All clips taken from the BBC Strictly YouTube channel.