Beyond the incredible dance routines and fabulous sparkly costumes, there is a certain facet of this year's Strictly Come Dancing that fans just can't get enough of – Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola's adorable relationship.
The pair can always be relied upon to turn out a show-stopping routine on a Saturday night and have been consistent leaderboard-toppers throughout the competition but fans just can't help but wonder if their incredible chemistry on the dancefloor could suggest there's something more between them.
Body language expert Darren Stanton certainly thinks so. "If you saw Ellie and Vito in a social situation, you didn’t know who they were, they weren’t on TV, the behaviour they display around each other would make it seem plausible to assume that they were a couple," Darren exclusively tells us, speaking on behalf of Slingo.
Darren says it's all in the eyes with Coronation Street actress Ellie, 22. "A classic female flirtatious signal is maintaining eye contact, it’s something I speak about a lot and Ellie’s eye contact is electric," the expert explains. "They both reciprocate as well, but Ellie’s eye contact is definitely prolonged - beyond that of what I’d call a normal relationship."
Darren points out the signs that fans continue to spot when Ellie and Vito, 31, are being interviewed either on a Saturday at Elstree after performing or when sitting down with Fleur East or Janette Manrara on It Takes Two. "When they’re being interviewed, she will lean in towards him and he will do the same, this is another indication that their relationship has gone potentially borderline romantic," Darren says.
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"When people get on really well, I would speak about Nigel Harman having a great rapport with [his pro partner] Katya Jones, but there was still this barrier that it reached because it was platonic. Whereas with Ellie and Vito a lot of the signals are consistent with a potential romantic relationship or if not a really extreme type of connection."
Many believe an indicator of Ellie and Vito's compatibility is their level of comfort with expressing themselves around each other and feeling confident in each other's company. Darren explains: "Ellie will also often put her hands on her hips. With men, this is a more defiant gesture, whereas with women it’s a power gesture, but it’s more flirtatious - it’s saying I’ll give as good as I get."
There are a few more signals that eagle-eyed fans have spotted, as well as expert Darren. "Ellie doesn’t miss an opportunity to be very tactile with Vito, you’ll often see the pair brushing arms or legs," he says. "Another thing Ellie does is play with her hair, this is another flirtatious signal and when she’s being interviewed, you’ll notice she does this a lot. One or two things in isolation would be dismissed, but there’s multiple gestures here that build up a cluster of behaviour suggesting a romantic connection."
Fans of the hit BBC show will remember that many relationships have formed on the show that have gone the distance. Just think of Kevin Clifton and Stacey Dooley from season 16 who now share baby Minnie or how parents-of-two Gorka Marquez and Gemma Atkinson met one year prior. Though the term 'Strictly curse' is liberally bandied around, the show has also been a meeting place for stars and their life partners. Darren says Ellie and Vito's partnership can be likened to those that have gone on to form romantic relationships after the show's end.
"The ones that end up in relationships, like with Dianne Buswell and Joe Sugg, they too had the same sort of gestures we’re seeing between Ellie and Vito," Darren points out. "The prolonged eye contact, the tactileness, the flirtatious gestures. When there is any decrease in close proximity, it means that each person is very comfortable with having the other in their own proximal zone and suggests they have formed a very deep level of trust and connection."
It is no wonder that fans have become so obsessed with their adorable partnership. "The reason that they’ve potentially gone a long way in the competition as well, despite their high level of dance competency and the fact that they’re working really hard, is that the public has seen what is developing between Ellie and Vito and they like it, they want to see more," Darren tells us. "They’re rooting for the pair both in and out of the competition."
Whether Ellie and Vito go on to build a romantic connection or they stay just friends it is clear the pair have an undeniable connection on the dance floor and fans will wait with bated breath to see what incredible number they pull off next.