AJ Odudu tops Strictly leaderboard at halfway mark of Strictly semi-final

The four remaining couples will perform two routines during the dance competition’s semi-final.
AJ Odudu tops Strictly leaderboard at halfway mark of Strictly semi-final

Naomi Clarke, PA Entertainment Reporter

AJ Odudu has received her first perfect 40 placing her top of the leaderboard of Strictly Come Dancing after the four remaining couples performed their first dance in the semi-final.

The TV presenter, who landed in the dance-off last week against BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker, fought her way back on Saturday as she took on a quickstep to Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman, with her partner Kai Widdrington.

Judge Craig Revel Horwood praised Odudu, saying: “OMG darling, that was incredible. I loved it, classic old-fashioned. You ripped that floor up. Incredible.”

Anton Du Beke added: “It is a shame we can’t go to Blackpool because I tell you what, that dance is worthy of the Blackpool ballroom floor. If there was ever a dance I wish I did, it’s that one.”

Motsi Mabuse said she was “so proud” of the presenter, adding: “It was a really difficult dance, and the transitions and your positions and your posture and everything just came together and you look beautiful.”

John Whaite and Johannes Radebe, Strictly’s first all-male pairing, placed joint second with a score of 39 after performing an emotional couple’s choice routine to Adele’s Hometown Glory.

The Bake Off winner dedicated the dance to those who supported him when he came out as gay when he was younger, and to the people who “feel a bit afraid in life”, adding that he wanted to send a message that it “gets better”.

Revel Horwood said that technically the dance was “really difficult”, and added: “All the stuff you had to do… for the first time you were the star in this particular dance, I felt like you were leading it.”

Head judge Shirley Ballas said the dance was “on point” and it was a “true John performance”.

Before taking to the dancefloor, Whaite spoke about being bullied at school as a youngster and told how close he is to his family.

He said in a pre-recorded message: “I have to admit I was apprehensive about dancing with another man (on Strictly), I was expecting the world to not be ready for it.”

EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice also received 39 for their waltz to How Long Will I Love You by Ellie Goulding, the highest score of the season for that dance.

Mabuse said the dance was “really beautiful”, adding that the routine was “simple, very, very good, the connection between you two, that is what I love”.

Ballas added that Ayling-Ellis had “brought so much joy in everything you do, it’s quality personified and it’s just beautiful and it warms our heart, thank you”.

Du Beke became emotional as he gave them feedback and said: “You’re amazing,” while Revel Horwood said it was “one of the most amazing waltzes I have seen”.

CBBC host Rhys Stephenson and pro partner Nancy Xu kicked off the semi-final with their tango to Queen’s One Vision which scored them a 36, their highest mark in ballroom dance.

Ballas said: “First of all, for the semi-final, what a way to open our show, thank you so much, you came out on fire.

“What I was most impressed about is that you’re mastering your craft.”

Revel Horwood added: “It was full of drama, it was everything I’m looking for and you were definitely in charge.”

All the couples remaining in the competition have topped the leaderboard during the competition and have collectively been awarded 40 top 10 scores by the judges.

They all have one more routine to go in the semi-final.

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