Actress Ellie Leach storms Strictly leaderboard as show reaches halfway mark

Actress Ellie Leach impressed the Strictly Come Dancing judges with lifts, twirls and dips to top the leaderboard as the show reached its halfway mark.

Saturday’s show saw the former Coronation Street star perform the American smooth with partner Vito Coppola to claim a top score of 39 out of 40.

For her performance to Ain’t That A Kick In The Head by Robbie Williams, she donned a red sparkly dress with a feather collar.

Judge Craig Revel Horwood said: “You’ve gone from strength to strength – showbiz, glamour and style.”

Motsi Mabuse said it had “final vibes”, while Shirley Ballas described it as a “Rolls-Royce” performance and “finalist material”.

To kick off Saturday’s show, actor Layton Williams delivered quick footwork, a pirouette and an aerial cartwheel to secure a score of 36 – the highest scoring jive of the series so far.

Donning a matching glitzy costume with his partner Nikita Kuzmin, they performed to Shake Your Body by SHY FX & T Power featuring Di.

Ballas noted it was one of the most difficult dances, praising it as “absolutely outstanding”, while Anton Du Beke said he agreed to a point but felt his kicks got a “little heavy” towards the end.

Annabel Croft placed third after performing an emotional couple’s choice dance in tribute to her late husband.

The former champion tennis player’s husband of 36 years, Mel Coleman, died from cancer aged 60 in May – 16 weeks after diagnosis.

In a video shown before the performance, Croft was seen taking her dance partner Johannes Radebe to Richmond Park, where she used to walk with her late partner.

For the routine to Wings by Birdy, Croft glided across the dance floor dressed in an elegant flowing dress to secure a score of 35.

Du Beke said the judges often focus on specific movements but “sometimes it doesn’t matter about all that, sometimes it’s just about dancing and when there’s reason for it, it’s just perfect, and this was perfect”.

Revel Horwood felt it was a “beautiful story beautifully executed”, while Mabuse said it was her “best dance” so far.

Actor Nigel Harman brought the heat to the dance floor with his partner Katya Jones as they danced a passionate tango to Nothing Breaks Like A Heart by Mark Robson and Miley Cyrus, securing a score of 33.

Revel Horwood said he felt the actor picked his feet up “too much” and the routine “lacked drama”, which Mabuse disagreed with.

Elsewhere, EastEnders’ Bobby Brazier delivered a striking Argentinian tango to Sail by Awolnation with his partner Dianne Buswell to land a score of 30.

Revel Horwood felt the performance was “too aggressive” and “choreographed”, while Ballas said she did not agree with her fellow judges and it was “much better” than their routine last week.

Newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy also opted for his couple’s choice dance this week, performing a vibrant routine to You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon.

Donning a matching fuchsia pink shirt and trouser outfit with his partner Lauren Oakley, they bounced and performed lifts to secure a score of 29.

Ballas said: “I know you love your job… but I think today you remembered your love of life, and you added colour and rotation.”

Veteran broadcaster Angela Rippon also delivered an elegant waltz with partner Kai Widdrington to Fascination by Nat King Cole to pick up a score of 28.

Du Beke said she was “beautiful and elegant” but the routine was “a little abrupt” as her side steps were not wide enough.

Irish TV presenter Angela Scanlon and actor Adam Thomas placed bottom of the leaderboard as they both scored 27 points.

Wearing a red flamenco-style dress, Scanlon delivered an energetic samba to Ain’t It Funny by Jennifer Lopez with her partner Carlos Gu.

After the performance, Scanlon admitted the dance took her out of her comfort zone as being dressed sexy is “frowned upon” in her hometown of Ratoath in County Meath.

Mabuse said she loved her lines and personality but her upper body was bent too far backwards, which threw off some other movements.

Thomas delivered an elegant rumba to Dancing On My Own by Calum Scott for his routine.

Mabuse said he did “really well” as a leading man as she felt Mushtuk looked great, but noted some of his movements needed more refinement.

Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One.