Strictly's first live performances of 2016 got off to a flying start with the first six celebrities to take to the dance floor. Audiences were left dazzled by Judge Rinder's energetic Cha Cha and Lesley Joseph's romantic Waltz.
The first Strictly contestants took to the dance floor tonight for the first live performances of 2016.
TV presenter Laura Whitmore was first to take to the stage with partner and 2015 runner-up Giovanni Pernice. The pair performed a fast-paced Cha Cha to Bananarama’s hit song ‘Venus’.
After the performance Laura admitted it was “petrifying” to be the first dancer, but judge Len Goodman said it was a “lovely start to the show”. An excited Bruno Tonioli said: “Carry on like this and we will need a fire extinguisher!” Bruno also described Laura as a “goddess toying with the boy”.
The judges awarded Laura and Giovanni with 25 points.
Next up was BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty. Before Naga took to the stage, Tess Daly revealed that the contestant had presented BBC Breakfast 15 hours before her performance.
Naga and her partner Pasha Kovalev danced a romantic Waltz to Whitney Houston’s ‘Run to You’.
After the performance Bruno said: “You started off ethereal, lyrical, elegant. You are such a beautiful girl. Something went horribly wrong in the middle but you got it together.”
The pair scored 23 points in total.
The third contestant to take to the Strictly dance floor was Judge Rinder and his partner Oksana Platero. The routine started with the TV judge standing in a makeshift courtroom and calling: “Order!” but as Duffy’s ‘Mercy’ played out, Judge Rinder removed his black gown and the pair performed an energetic Cha Cha.
Speaking of Judge Rinder’s facial expressions throughout the performance, judge Craig Revel Horwood said: “It looked like you had excessive collagen” and compared Judge Rinder’s mouth to a “trout pout”. But the judge praised Rinder saying: “you do have rhythm”. Darcey Bussell said: “It was extraordinary – the wildest surprise I have ever had!” Len said: “You put the ‘boy’ in flamboyant!”
Judge Rinder and Oksana scored a total of 25 points.
Birds of a Feather actress Lesley Joseph was the next contestant to take to the stage. Lesley’s partner Anton du Beke had a surprise in store at their first rehearsal when he revealed the pair would be dancing to Birds of a Feather theme tune ‘What’ll I Do’. Lesley was delighted and said it was like “marrying the two programmes together”.
The pair performed a graceful Waltz, and Darcey Bussell praised the performance as “sophisticated, romantic, elegant”.
Speaking after the performance Lesley said: “I have lived with that song for 25 years. It is a part of my life.”
The judges gave the Lesley and Anton 23 points in total.
Next up was BBC Sport presenter Ore Oduba and his partner Joanne Clifton.
The pair performed the first Tango of the series and started their routine on a bench. The audience applauded, but judge Len Goodman said the routine took too long to get started. He said: “I never thought it was going to get started. The Tango is thunder and lightning not lollipops and roses, but once you got started it was terrific.” Craig Revel Horwood described the performance as “strong, dramatic and punctuated.”
The pair scored 27 points, taking them to the top of the leaderboard.
Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford was the final celebrity to perform. Behind the scenes footage revealed how long jump champion Greg had struggled to adapt to the smaller steps required for dancing, and partner Natalie Lowe had been training him to restrain his feet.
The pair performed a Jive, and Greg wowed the audience by catapulting himself off the judges’ table and leapfrogging over Natalie.
After the performance Bruno said: “Greg could go all the way. That is what I mean by giving it welly! You have talent.” Craig described Greg as “pigeon toed” but said he enjoyed the performance “enormously”.
Greg joined Ore at the top of the leaderboard after the judges awarded him 27 points. But can tomorrow’s contestants beat them?
Strictly continues at 6:30pm tomorrow on BBC1.