Former Strictly star AJ Pritchard reveals who he feels will make it to final

Professional dancer AJ Pritchard has revealed that Rose Ayling-Ellis’s emotional dance last week, which included a 10-second silence, made him tearful and he believes she will reach the final of the competition.

The actress, the first deaf contestant in the show’s history, performed a couple’s choice routine with Giovanni Pernice last Saturday where the music was paused as the couple continued to dance in silence as a tribute to the deaf community.

Pritchard, 27, spoke on BBC Breakfast about the performance and the upcoming musical week on the dance competition alongside his brother and fellow dancer Curtis Pritchard.

AJ, who was a professional on Strictly from 2016 to 2019, said: “Strictly is just really ramping up now and going from a week when we saw Rose just make an impact on the whole nation, we were all in floods of tears watching it.”

He added: “It’s really nice when you watch a performance like that, you don’t judge it as a professional dancer, you actually become a part of it.

“When you make that moment, that impact on Strictly, it will last forever – an eternity.

“I think when they come to that final – and I do believe they’ll make the final – that when they’re able to choose the dance that they redo and they do that dance, who can beat that dance?”

Curtis, 25, also revealed the performance gave him goosebumps, adding: “It was magical and it’s a moment which I will remember, not just for the perfect dancing, but just because it made you experience it and realise it in a different way.”

The younger Pritchard brother was also a professional dancer on the Irish version of Dancing with the Stars and appeared on the reality dating series Love Island in 2019.

This week’s live Saturday show will see the dancers take to the dancefloor to perform songs from musicals.

Curtis said: “I think musical week is amazing because people love musicals and I think if you get the musical that you truly love at heart, you’re going to perform 10 times better because you get really invested.”

His brother added that he thought the celebrities needed to “release the shackles” this week and that he wanted McFly star Tom Fletcher to be more emotional and not to overthink the steps as much.

Curtis agreed that Fletcher’s dancing was getting “so clean” and “very perfected”, but noted that was not always best with dancing.

He added: “Too clean can become a little bit robotic and wooden sometimes, and I feel like he needs to smile a bit more, let loose and just go for it.”

Last week Rhys Stephenson topped the leaderboard after receiving a perfect score of 40 for his Charleston with his professional partner Nancy Xu.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
Nancy Xu and Rhys Stephenson topped the leaderboard last week. (Guy Levy/BBC)

AJ reflected on Stephenson’s lively energy in the dance, adding: “It’s amazing seeing him come out and perform because his expressions are just infectious when you watch it.”

The professional dancer also expressed his appreciation for Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite and Johannes Radebe.

He said: “John just, every single week, whatever the dance is, whatever the step is, the harder the dance the more he puts into it, and it is just, as a professional dancer, it’s rewarding to watch.

“I’m like ‘wow, if you can give that much energy and that power through a step that is quite a small subtle step, I need to give more’.”