Strictly Come Dancing 2023, week 1 – Nigel Harman tops the leaderboard with a powerful paso doble

Katya Jones and Nigel Harman wowed with their paso doble
Katya Jones and Nigel Harman wowed with their paso doble - Guy Levy/BBC

Let’s face the music and dance! Last week, we saw our new celebrities paired with their pro partners; now, the competition has begun in earnest. And how: this was one of the highest-standard Week 1 shows we’ve seen in years, with impressive turns from multiple celebrities, as they each tackled a Latin or ballroom number. It seems a shame to lose anyone.

Luckily, no one’s going home just yet. Everyone will perform a second dance next Saturday, and the judges’ scores from both routines, plus the audience votes, will be combined to decide who goes into the dreaded dance-off next Sunday night. Check out our runners and riders predictions to see who might be in danger.

Who impressed you? As well as sharing your views in the comments below, you can vote for your favourites (and show your displeasure for the dance duds) with our new thumbs up and thumbs down buttons. Plus I’m giving my own scores to each dance. Join us again next Saturday at 6:20pm on BBC One for more brilliant ballroom action.

Angela Rippon is the dancing queen

Kai Widdrington and a leggy Angela Rippon
Kai Widdrington and a leggy Angela Rippon - Guy Levy/BBC

“Oh, knickers,” sighed Angela Rippon in training to partner Kai Widdrington. “You’ve got a very rigid Rippon instead of a Sassy Bassey.” Well, she located her inner Bassey for this fabulously flamboyant cha cha to Get the Party Started, opening with Rippon rocking a diva-tastic fur coat. Her actual dance had great rhythm, crisp footwork, lovely arm placement – and a wow of a leg lift. Just needed more hip action and straighter legs. A standing ovation from Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse. “Pure class,” purred Ballas. “Jaw. Dropping,” grinned Craig Revel Horwood. 7, 7, 7, 7 - 28. My score: 7

Also looking a-maze-ing in a sparkly halterneck jumpsuit and glamorous make-up, Layton Williams laid down a serious marker in his samba to Little Mix’s Touch. He matched pro partner Nikita Kuzmin move for move with this big, fearless, musical performance, coolly bouncing into the splits. However, he needs more precise footwork, as the judges pointed out. Could this be the year that we see a same-sex couple win the whole thing? Or have they started too strong? 7, 8, 7, 7 - 29. My score: 7.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy moves and grooves

Lauren Oakley and Krishnan Guru-Murthy find their groove
Lauren Oakley and Krishnan Guru-Murthy find their groove - Guy Levy/BBC

By far the most joyful turn of the night came courtesy of Krishnan Guru-Murthy and new Brummie pro Lauren Oakley. Their cha cha to Boom Shack-A-Lak by reggae DJ Apache Indian was seriously groovy, baby (shoutout to the wardrobe department for that amazing 70s burnt-orange suit), with just enough competence – actually good rhythm and timing – to keep the whole mad thing afloat. It’s like the Second Coming of Ed Balls. 5, 6, 6, 5 – 22. My score: 5.

Nigel Harman steals top spot

Matador Nigel Harman
Matador Nigel Harman - Guy Levy/BBC

A paso doble to Nirvana? It must be a Katya Jones number. I rather wished Nigel Harman could have had a more traditional routine instead, but he looked right at home in the dark drama of it all, and managed to project strength without just stampeding round the floor, closing the show emphatically and topping the leaderboard right at the end. “That was the dance of the night,” declared Revel Horwood. “You are the one to beat,” added Ballas. 8, 8, 8, 8 – 23. My score: 8

In contrast, we got a lovely classic set-up for Paralympian Jody Cundy (in white tie and tails) and defending champion Jowita Przystal, dancing to Bobby Darin. Cundy has a prosthetic leg, which made all those quickstep hops a particular challenge, but Przystal put together a beautiful – and canny – routine. Cundy must keep his top half serene instead of bouncing around, however he’s got great potential in his frame. Mostly, he needs to learn to sell it. 5, 5, 6, 5 – 21. My score: 5

The kids are alright

Vito Coppola and Ellie Leach danced an energetic jive
Vito Coppola and Ellie Leach danced an energetic jive - Guy Levy/BBC

Last week, Ellie Leach was horrified when she learnt she had a Week 1 jive, but the actual performance was really fantastic, channelling the you-go-girl spirit of Zara Larsson’s Can’t Tame Her (the punk ponytail shake was a winner). Partner Vito Coppola gave her a jam-packed routine, and she looked pretty much on top of it – as Revel Horwood noted, she just lost energy at the end, and she needed to retract the kicks. Surprise of the night for me. 7, 8, 7, 7 – 29. My score: 7

Eventually Strictly will have to stop babying Bobby Brazier (see: partner Dianne Buswell cutting his sandwiches in dinosaur shapes; their foxtrot set to McFly), because he has real potential. Their routine was far too cute for my taste, with unnecessary additions like a swing set. This Bobby Dazzler doesn’t need them. He’s got a promising frame, good footwork, a natural feel for ballroom and a charming sincere performance. The height difference means he hunches slightly, otherwise an impressive start. 6, 7, 8, 8 – 29. My score: 7

The boys entertain

Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer fared best with their freestyle
Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer fared best with their freestyle - Guy Levy/BBC

Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer were a great comic double act in training, and that carried through into an upbeat though messy quickstep to Phil Collins’ Two Hearts. He was great fun in the freestyling sections, but his ballroom hold needs a lot of work (bent over, lots of gapping), and too much sofa-ography for my taste. However, Ballas thinks he has the natural performance quality – he can learn the fundamentals. Will he? We’ll find out… 4, 6, 6, 6 – 22. My score: 5

Luba Mushtuk did a nice job corralling the Tiggerish energy of Adam Thomas, who cha cha-ed to the Jonas Brothers’ Waffle House. It wasn’t the most refined performance: “Sloppy all over,” sighed Revel Horwood. Thomas needs to use foot pressure to drive his leg and hip action, instead of just stomping and wriggling. But his genial connection with Mushtuk should endear him to voters. A score of 4, 5, 5, 5 – 19. My score: 4

Nerves for the girls

A terrified tango from Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu
A terrified tango from Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu - Guy Levy/BBC

Angela Scanlon looked absolutely petrified – which both helped and hindered her tango to Miley Cyrus’s Prisoner. It was dramatic, yes, but also too stiff, upright and contained; as Anton Du Beke noted, she needs to make her backwards steps bigger so her partner Carlos Gu has room to drive, instead of knocking her over. But, as Ballas observed, if she can build on this, she could become “a force to be reckoned with.” 6, 6, 5, 6 – 23. My score: 5

A fairy princess waltz for Nikita Kanda with a rather lovely vulnerable feeling – good choice by partner Gorka Marquez, as it made an asset of her very evident nerves. A real mix here technically: the odd glimpse of impressive footwork and arm shaping, but floppy posture, strange head position and stuttering transitions. (Fun fact: this is the fifth time we’ve had Whitney’s Run to You on Strictly.) 3, 5, 5, 5 – 18. My score: 4.

Game, set and match

Mixed doubles: Johannes Radebe and Annabel Croft
Mixed doubles: Johannes Radebe and Annabel Croft - Guy Levy/BBC

Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe got the tennis whites out for their cha cha to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl – plus Rabebe added towels and racquets to the routine (a bit distracting, really). Croft had a great combination of elegance and precision, and much more performance confidence than I was expecting. Another pleasant surprise. Ballas praised her poise and shapely ankles. Craig wanted more fluid hips, but loved its “swanky” quality. 7, 7, 7, 7. My score: 7

The judges also praised the stylishly mournful Viennese waltz from Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice, danced to Lewis Capaldi’s Pointless (rather tempting fate when you’re about to be scored). This was a very expressive performance, heavy on the meaningful looks, however it went against the grain of the dance style. Yes, some strong content in there (hello fleckerl!), but it felt slightly forced. Definite potential from Abbington though, who was clearly drawing on some past training. 7, 7, 8, 7 – 29. My score: 6

Les Dennis props up the leaderboard

Les Dennis and Nancy Xu attempt a tango
Les Dennis and Nancy Xu attempt a tango - Guy Levy/BBC

Les Dennis was “working as a waiter at a cocktail bar” (bless Strictly’s commitment to absolute choreographic literalism) in his tango with Nancy Xu to the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me. It was riveting – if not always for the right reasons. Dennis committed wholeheartedly to the (distinctly panto) performance, but was so hunched over and shuffling, it looked like he was using Xu as a Zimmer frame. 2, 4, 5, 5 – 16. My score: 3

Zara McDermott might be in trouble too. There was a definite Bambi-on-ice quality to her skittering cha cha, danced to Jennifer Page’s Crush. Partner Graziano Di Prima went overboard on the “sexy” posing, rather at the expense of (excuse me while I turn into Shirley Ballas) the Latin dance fundamentals. Revel Horwood found it plodding and wooden; the other judges were more generous. 3, 6, 5, 5 – 19. My score: 4.

Week 1 leaderboard

Nigel Harman and Katya Jones – 32
Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin – 29
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola – 29
Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell – 29
Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice – 29
Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington – 28
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe – 28
Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu – 23
Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer – 22
Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Lauren Oakley – 22
Jody Cundy and Jowita Pryzstal – 21
Adam Thomas and Luba Mushtuk – 19
Zara McDermott and Graziano Di Prima – 19
Nikita Kanda and Gorka Marquez – 18
Les Dennis and Nancy Xu – 16

Doing the cha cha cha – in bed

It’s been a disturbed week of sleep for Angela Rippon, as she reveals in her first Strictly diary column for the Telegraph. Pro partner Kai Widdrington keeps invading her dreams (in a platonic way, of course) with his tips on this flirtatious Latin dance. Well, all of that training, and its nocturnal aftereffects, certainly paid off.

Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington
Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington - Ray Burniston

The 78-year-old Rippon also shares her experience of cryotherapy treatment, her aches, bruises and 4lb weight loss, plus some gossip from the Strictly celebrity WhatsApp group and her reaction to the show’s moving tribute to the late Len Goodman.

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