AAt the start of the 2021 Strictly Come Dancing grand finale, it was all about strict performance. From the first film to the final lift, serious points about the evolution of modern Britain – about inclusion, diversity, and legitimacy – arose amid the drama and glitter.
In the show’s very first two-way (and therefore shorter) finale, there was a young, deaf woman – EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, 27 – dancing with her professional partner, Giovanni Pernice, 31 year. Ayling-Ellis, the favorite of the bookmakers, was in competition. John Whaite, 32 – chef and winner of the Great British Bake Off 2012 – in a same-sex LGBTQ couple with Johannes Radebe, 34. They should have been joined in the final by a woman of color – presenter, AJ Odudu, 33 – who was sadly unable to play with her partner, Kai Widdrington, 26, due to a ligament injury.
Strictly being one of Britain’s ‘on paper’ TV shows – an unofficial barometer of public tastes and opinion – it was an interesting moment for British culture: the finale of the country’s largest entirely dominated entertainment program by minorities. For all the “awakened” loads of some neighborhoods, in real terms, there wasn’t much technically new here. Strictly featured lots of people of color, some of whom won. There were also disabled competitors, including Paralympians. Last year, the show featured a same-sex female couple, teaming up with Olympic boxer Nicola Adams and professional Katya Jones.
However, this year things have been pushed even further. Over the weeks, Whaite and Radebe blew up the idea that same-sex couples seemed “unnatural” to dance together. While resistance remained (and not a small amount of trolling), on the whole Britain seemed more than ready for two talented gentlemen to hit the dancefloor Strictly, and Whaite – who had initially been nervous – said the reception was more positive than he’d expected. For her part, Ayling-Ellis danced so well (following the rhythms and vibrations, signing her way through the dances) that she not only represented and inspired deaf people, she also educated the hearing world. , at one point increasing online searches for British Sign Language by 488%.
And of course, it was about talent. As the finale began, with Ayling-Ellis and Whaite jumping on star-shaped mini-stages, it was all boogie. Alongside presenters Tess Daly (Empress of the Snowballs) and Claudia Winkleman (Silver Glitter Bomb), this season’s contestants (Odudu, Rhys Stephenson, et al), littered a studio which, despite the late arrival of Omicron, didn’t seem quite as cavernous and odd as it did last year at the height of the pandemic. Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke – overdressed to the point of choking, reminding you that Strictly is, in the finest way, a cutting edge TV panto – ready to hand out perfect scores , compliments and tears – wow, so many tears! – although their votes do not count in the final.
The opening dances of the final were the judges’ choices, and Ayling-Ellis and Pernice delivered their Musical Week quickstep. It’s still questionable if Love is an Open Door from Frozen is a quick step, but they managed to slip in smoothly, even gracefully, given that the Pernice costume was the end of Disney-prince’s budget. . Whaite and Radebe performed their rumba on Shape of My Heart by Sting. It was intimate, sultry, daring and, given that the rumbas were the loss of many competitors, Strictly, Almost Impeccable.
Then, it is the choices of the couples. For Whaite and Radebe, it was their wonderful paso doble to I’m a Pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean; my favorite of the series, an offensive, joyful and mischievous dance that drove a true cutlass through the Strictly dancefloor. Next, Ayling-Ellis and Pernice performed their now-legendary couple dance on Clean Bandit’s Symphony, starring Zara Larsson, where once again a section was performed in complete silence, immersing you in the depths of reality. silent Ayling-Ellis. An ethereal, barefoot tour de force, it’s not for nothing that it’s being hailed by many as one of the greatest Strictly moments of all time.
When entering the dance performances, there was no glitter between the couples. Ayling-Ellis and Pernice performed Bette Midler’s The Rose, dancing dreamily around an almost Shakespearean balcony dotted with flowers in a whirlwind of lifts, tendrils and waltzes, amid dry ice and falling snow. . Whaite and Radebe danced to Florence + the Machine’s You’ve Got The Love, a slow and romantic moment, following it in a high-energy disco frenzy, ending with a tape explosion with a rainbow heart. shining in the distance.
While viewers voted there was a special guest performance by a certain Ed Sheeran, a promising street musician from the Suffolk area. Dressed in black, he performed Bad Habits, as the dancers jerk off in a sexy way in front of him.
Then the winner was announced: Rose Ayling-Ellis! Kudos to the formidable Ayling-Ellis and Whaite, and kudos to everyone involved including professional finalists, Pernice and Radebe, who took on major choreographic challenges throughout the series and led them with panache. It was a groundbreaking final in 2021 in which two men danced together, sounding not only glorious but utterly natural, and a deaf woman didn’t need to hear the music in order to triumph. Far from being just another round of culture wars, it was Strictly, and the BBC, at its best: everyone is welcome, and so much the better for her. In keeping with the event, it could be seen more as a cultural “dance-off”, where one party definitely won. Where does Strictly go from here?