Advertisement

Strictly Come Dancing 2023 Semi-Final: Layton Williams scores another 40 for his Charleston

Perfect partners: Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin scored 40 again
Perfect partners: Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin scored 40 again - Guy Levy/BBC

Who will make it to the 2023 Strictly grand final? That’s the business on hand this weekend, as the celebrities performed two dances to prove their worth – or, at the very least, who has the stamina to handle it. Don’t forget: we’re also carrying over the marks from last week’s show, since there was no elimination, so the leaderboard has the total scores of three dances.

Topping the standings is Layton Williams, who notched up another perfect 40 with a truly jaw-dropping Charleston, set to Fit as a Fiddle from Singin’ in the Rain. His rumba got more of a mixed response, but he still looks in a good position. Second is the ever-consistent Ellie Leach, who put in two strong performances: a cheeky cha cha cha and a powerful Couple’s Choice.

Bobby Brazier upped his game for this semi-final, producing his most polish ballroom routine to date, a confident quickstep, and committing to his paso doble. Annabel Croft is bottom of the leaderboard after her game but messy salsa, and a strangely undermarked Viennese waltz.

However, I rather think that spot of injustice may spur viewers to vote for Croft – as well as her remarkable improvement, as the only non-performer left in the competition, and her lovely relationship with partner Johannes Radebe. If the audience does save her, Brazier could be the one who just misses out.

Who got your vote? Let us know in the comments below. And join us again for what promises to be a thrilling results show on Sunday night at 7:20pm on BBC.

The final four: Strictly's 2023 semi-finalists
The final four: Strictly's 2023 semi-finalists - Guy Levy/BBC

Bobby dazzles in ballroom

Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell began this marathon show with an old-school quickstep to Mack the Knife – Brazier looking very suave in tails. This was by far his most mature performance of the season (he took up Nigel Harman’s leading man mantle), combining a smooth topline with fleet footwork, great floor coverage, and fab jazzy style in the breakout sections. There was some gapping, likely because of their ridiculous height difference, but a great routine. 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38. My score: 9

Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell danced the quickstep
Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell danced the quickstep - Guy Levy/BBC

Cue the apocalypse for their second dance, a dystopian paso doble to Run Boy Run by Woodkid complete with skintight leather outfits and alarming CGI wasteland. This was a fast-and-furious, jam-packed routine, with Brazier giving great attitude and doing committed capework, knee walks, and even ending with a tribute to the John Sergeant drag. I would have liked more light and shade, more resistance, and more exaggerated shaping – he looked like a boy rather than a fully-fledged matador in parts. But another commendable effort. 8, 9, 9, 9 – 35. My score: 8

Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell danced the paso doble
Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell danced the paso doble - Guy Levy/BBC

Layton bends over backward

Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin began their bid for the final by donning silk pyjamas for a rumba to Rihanna’s Lift Me Up (which, fun fact, featured in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever). Lots of spins, sharp arm placement and angsty faces, plus great tricks like a gorgeous back bend from Williams. But it felt more like a showdance than partner dancing, and it lacked fluidity and hip action in the basic steps. I wanted a clearer definition of this specific style. 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36. My score: 8

Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin danced the rumba
Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin danced the rumba - Guy Levy/BBC

Well, I have no idea what these two will do in their showdance if they get through – what could possibly top this Charleston? Danced to Fit as a Fiddle (immortalised by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain – hence the matching checked suits), this was just extraordinary. The sheer level of difficulty (that double cartwheel series!) while staying perfectly synchronised, fully earned that standing ovation from Craig Revel Horwood. A-maze-ing. 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40 My score: 10

Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin danced the Charleston
Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin danced the Charleston - Guy Levy/BBC

Annabel brings the party

Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe lifted the mood with a salsa to Gloria Estefan’s You’ll Be Mine. We got feathers, we got ruffles, we got streamers, we got Radebe in shiny yellow trousers, we got big lifts, and we got a dodgy floor spin that momentarily left Croft stranded like a beached turtle (apparently the streamers were to blame). So, more of a drunken party really – and technical faults like a lack of body rhythm. But it was total joy, and showed how far Croft has come as a performer. 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32. My score: 8

Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe danced the salsa
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe danced the salsa - Guy Levy/BBC

More feathers for Croft in her Viennese waltz to Slow Moving Millie’s cover of Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, but a very different atmosphere: the kind of gently elegant, deeply emotional number that this pair has excelled at delivering. Add a beautiful fall of snow, and it felt like an early Christmas present. She really fought back after that slip in the first dance, but in such a calm, controlled way: lovely topline, well-controlled fleckerl, and great drive around the floor. Bizarrely undermarked. 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33. My score: 9

Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe danced the Viennese waltz
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe danced the Viennese waltz - Guy Levy/BBC

Ellie is living la dolce vita

Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola treated us to a cha cha cha to Bette Midler’s version of Mambo Italiano (a fun tribute to Coppola, this year’s breakout star). Celebrities fear the exacting cha cha, but Leach has come so far as a dancer – in her precise foot placement, which leads to great leg and hip action, in her expressiveness, and in her fearless attack of crazily ambitious routines like this one, which was really pro level. WOW. I also love that Coppola choreographed to both ‘tarantella’ and ‘mozzarella’. 9, 10, 9, 9 – 37. My score: 10

Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola danced the cha cha cha
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola danced the cha cha cha - Guy Levy/BBC

Leach closed the night with her commercial dance-styled Couple’s Choice, set to a Dua Lipa medley – a celebration of her newfound confidence and her next chapter post-Coronation Street. It was a fabulously stylised number with canes, floorwork, chair-ography and big, risky lifts. I’d rather have seen her doing more of her sensational ballroom partner dancing (especially at this crucial stage) than pop video moves, but a great celebration of her sheer versatility and total self-assurance. 9, 9, 10, 10 – 38. My score: 9

Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola danced their Couple's Choice
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola danced their Couple's Choice - Guy Levy/BBC

Leaderboard

Layton and Nikita – 40 + 36 + 40 = 116
Ellie and Vito – 36 + 37 + 38 = 111
Bobby and Dianne – 34 + 38 + 35 = 107
Annabel and Johannes – 33 + 32 + 33 = 98


Who do you think deserves to be in the final? Let us know in the comments below!