Rose Ayling-Ellis is a winner in so many ways. It remains to be seen whether the deaf “EastEnders” actress will walk off with Giovanni Pernice as the outright winner of this year’s “Strictly Come Dancing,” but according to viewers, she has an excellent chance.
The series “Strictly Come Dancing,” known to its legion of fans as “Strictly,” has been broadcast on BBC1 in the UK since May 15, 2004. The show’s format is a simple one. It partners celebrities with professional dancers who train them and choreograph their routines before taking to the ballroom floor to compete. The U.S. version is “Dancing With the Stars.”
The show’s history has always been about two things: dance and music. You could say it’s a sight and sound extravaganza. That is, until Rose Ayling-Ellis took to the floor. Ayling-Ellis, 31 and known for her high-profile role in BBC1 soap “EastEnders,” in which she plays deaf character Frankie Lewis. The soap role was aimed at raising the profile of deafness in society and in the media. Ayling-Ellis wears hearing aids. She is also a British Sign Language (BSL) user, as is her character in the show.
To many people, the announcement of Ayling-Ellis joining the celebrities of “Strictly” seemed doomed to failure. Until the viewers and judges saw the magic unleashed. Over the past eight weeks, we have not only seen the couple go from strength to strength, but also watched a genuine transformation live on the screen.
Each routine the couple has danced has been not only creative but also expertly executed. Take the week they performed the classical standard, the Viennese Waltz, to Fallin’ by Alicia Keys. Viewers expected a smooth glide as the two gracefully moved around the floor. What they got was a routine that began with an argument expressed in BSL. This was truly a thing of beauty for the deaf and community. It also proved Pernice’s willingness to go the extra mile for his partner.
This argument was seamlessly integrated into the waltz that followed. The classical beauty was there and the expected glides and turns. But a seething undercurrent played out in what appeared to be a homage to that most unique style of dance, the Apache dance of Paris. The moves that completed the routine had it ending the way it had begun, with Pernice left standing as his angry partner stormed off.
Week Eight saw Ayling-Ellis bring not only her dance partner, but also everyone watching, into her world of deafness. This routine brought tears to the eyes of all those watching as the pair embarked on the “Couple’s Choice” dance routine. Taking to the floor barefoot to the sounds of Symphony by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson, they danced in contemporary stylized self-expression.
Everything was normal until about halfway through the routine,. The music stopped and Ayling-Ellis covered her partner’s ears for a second with her hands. For the first time, Ayling-Ellis took the lead. What followed was simply breathtaking as they danced in silence and in perfect time. Suddenly the music returned. They carried the dance to its glorious conclusion, when at the end Pernice looked at his partner and spontaneously exclaimed, “I love you.”
The judges gave the couple a well-deserved standing ovation. They also bestowed a score of 39 out of a possible 40. This was their score in Week Six after the Tango. Judge Motsi Mabuse decided to ignore the notes she’d previously written while watching. She said, “In this case, I honestly feel like saying thank you, because this was such a beautiful moment to include us in your world, and for us to actually understand how important and how aware we all could be of each other. Sometimes it’s more than scores, sometimes it’s just the moment.”
Anton Du Beke, a new judge who used to be a professional dancer on the show, quite simply stated, “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on the show.”
It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on the show.
The chemistry between Ayling-Ellis and Pernice is off the charts. The fans have already picked their winning couple to claim the famed glitterball trophy. The duo’s scores have been very impressive. It only dipped in the weeks covering Latin, as these dances require so much attention to rhythm. This is very difficult for Ayling-Ellis because of her hearing loss.
For the deaf community, Rose Ayling-Ellis has won a hearts and minds victory, whatever the series’ end result. Mainstream hearing society has been given the gift of insight into what it means to be deaf and a high achiever.
Week 1: Jive, 22
Week 2: Salsa, 26
Week 3: Foxtrot, 36
Week 4: Cha Cha, 27
Week 5: Viennese Waltz, 37
Week 6: Tango, 40
Week 7: Samba, 32
Week 8: Couple’s Choice, 39
The next episode will air on November 20. Here’s hoping Ayling-Ellis will be in the finale , which is December 18.