The ninth series of Strictly Come Dancing has kicked off with the first seven couples performing either a waltz or a cha cha cha.
Holly Valance kicked off the series with dance partner Artem Chigvintsev, while Dan Lobb, Lulu, Audley Harrison, Robbie Savage, Anita Dobson and Russell Grant all took to the dancefloor in a bid to impress the judges for the first time.
And as per usual their debut performances received a mixed response from the panel.
Holly and Anita led the pack, finishing in joint first place on the judges’ scoreboard with 28 points each.
The former Neighbours actress turned pop star won plaudits for her cha cha cha, with the panel praising her for her technique.
“I tell you what, it’s not the first best dance I’ve ever seen but it was close,” Len Goodman told her, while Alesha Dixon agreed. “You’re a very good dancer and you’re already of a high standard.”
Anita, meanwhile, impressed the quartet with her waltz, with dance partner Robin Windsor.
“You’re beautiful to watch as a dancer, for me that was the most sincere dance of the night,” Alesha told the former EastEnder, while even the hard-to-please Craig Revel Horwood gave her his seal of approval. “Overall I thought the routine was gorgeous,” he added.
Elsewhere the celebrities received a mixed response from the panel.
Daybreak presenter Dan Lobb fared well for his waltz with partner Katya Virshilas, with Alesha describing the dance as “elegant” and Len also offering some words of encouragement. “The footwork was good, and for a tall man you did very well,” he said.
Astrologer Russell Grant, on the other hand, almost stole the show, as he and partner Flavia Cacace performed a flamboyant cha cha cha to the Bananarama hit Venus, which began with him emerging from a giant seashell.
Although Craig failed to see the funny side, saying “Definitely the birth of something but it wasn’t Venus,” the other judges loved it, giving him a total score of 21 points to finish mid-table.
“Like watching Frankie Howerd doing Bananarama,” Bruno Tonioli told him. “It couldn’t be camper if you tried.”
Meanwhile boxer Audley Harrison divided the judges with his waltz, with dance partner Natalie Lowe. Although Craig was once again unimpressed, saying it was “not for me, I’m afraid,” Len leapt to his defence straight away.
“I thought there was a charm about it,” he said. “Do me a favour…as you walk past punch Craig.”
However it wasn’t such a promising start for Robbie Savage – who scored just 19 points for a moody cha cha cha with Ola Jordan which saw the footballer take to the floor in ripped clothing.
“It was all about the look with no dancing whatsoever,” Craig complained, but Alesha disagreed.
“I have to give you an A for effort,” she said. “I think you have room for potential and growth.”
And 60s pop legend Lulu found herself finishing bottom of the heap with only 17 points after a less than successful cha cha cha with partner Brendan Cole.
Craig bluntly told the singer that the performance was “a complete dance disaster” although Bruno was kinder. “You’re a great performer, the energy was great,” he said. “But the steps went down the toilet.”
Saturday night’s show will see the remaining seven celebrities – Alex Jones, Harry Judd, Chelsee Healey, Jason Donovan, Rory Bremner, Nancy dell’Olio and Edwina Currie – take to the floor for the first time, also performing a cha cha cha or a waltz.
Although there will be no elimination this week, the judges’ scores from this week’s shows will be carried over and will count towards the first results show next Sunday night.