The Strictly Come Dancing quarter and semi-finals 2021

The Strictly 2021 quarter-final was one of the most exciting and enjoyable episodes of the programme I have ever seen. And in the semi-final the contestants delivered next-level amazingness.

We saw no Paso Dobles, so instead I’m writing about the delight, fun, high stakes and risks we saw. I’m sharing what I learnt from each of the quarter-finalists. And I’m trying to foretell who may win this year’s competition.

What I learnt from AJ and Kai’s journey on Strictly Come Dancing 2021

“Applying yourself to life’s challenges with exuberant joy and passion makes life better.”

I loved AJ from week one. Her energy resonates with me. But it’s her risk-taking that really made me stop and think. Throughout the competition her and Kai took risks, artistically and physically, and it always paid off. I loved it. Then the quarter-final happened.

As a professional dancer I have strong emotions about mistakes happening in performance. And I mean mistakes the audience can see. Here’s a list: worry for safety, should I find this hilarious?, feeling cringe, hyper criticism and even the strongest disapproval. All my life I learnt that such mistakes just don’t happen. End of. No discussion. And I have never seen them happen in my career. So the quarter-final really left me in an emotional pickle.

If I loved the risks they’d taken before, (when they paid off), shouldn’t I also support the risks that didn’t work out (at first)? If I don’t, wouldn’t I limit future risk-taking? And isn’t risk important for growth? I haven’t concluded this line of enquiry yet. I feel I may have something exciting to learn.

For now, I take my hat off to AJ for pushing herself so much. And I thank her for inspiring me.

What I learnt from Dan and Nadiya’s journey on Strictly Come Dancing 2021

“Talent is nice. Dedication and care are great.”

Dan is proof that talent, whatever it may be, is only one part of a big equation. That equation also includes the factors dedication, care, passion, will, practise and time. And how well you’re supported and nourished. I think as a society we overemphasise talent and undervalue the other elements. What’s wrong with having a little less of the former, if you have plenty of the latter?

Persistence, resilience, enjoying hard work, energy, making a positive contribution and how you make people feel are super important in many aspects of life. Let’s acknowledge, teach and celebrate them.

What I learnt from John and Johannes’ journey on Strictly Come Dancing 2021

“Letting go of limiting fear opens up beautiful experiences.”

John seems to me such a beautiful, kind and warm person. And like so many of us, I feel he was scared about embarassment, what might happen, the unknown. It’s so relatable. Faith and self-belief aren’t constantly high. Sometimes they dip.

Being allowed to witness such an intimate emotional challenge and following John’s development on Strictly has been extremely touching and an honour. It may have made him feel vulnerable, I don’t know. But it was like a present to all of us who can relate to these feelings. Firstly, because we saw other wonderful people have them, too. And secondly, because we saw him overcoming the challenge. I’m nearly crying writing this. Thank you, John.

What I learnt from Rhys’ and Nancy’s journey on Strictly Come Dancing 2021

“Resilience is a necessary life skill. Practise it.”

I assume it must feel disheartening to be in the dance off repeatedly. Thing is, sometimes life isn’t kind to you despite your best efforts. That’s a fact. What are you going to do about it? The more we acknowledge it’s true, the less surprised and disappointed we’ll be when such a moment arises in our lives. And the more we practise resilience, the better equipped we’ll be to handle the inevitable sad moments of life. There’s no need to try to dissect the goings on. All we can do is make ourselves aware of what’s in our control and do our best to deliver on those aspects, for ourselves and the people around us.

What I learnt from Rose and Giovanni’s journey on Strictly Come Dancing 2021

“Activating and listening to our physical knowledge beyond rational reason and words is valuable for all of us.”

Rose and Giovanni’s partnership is proof that dance is much more than steps to counts. Dance is a feeling encoded physically that can be shared without words. It’s primarily an expression of feelings that we should all tap into now and then, and only later a skill that could be practised or even trained and professionalised if you so wished.

We can all shine in different ways

I love Strictly Come Dancing, even though I dislike dance competitions. But I understand that the format needs to have competition character. That said, Strictly is much more than a competition. It’s fun, entertaining, delightful and heartwarming.

It also allows us to reflect on our obsession with quick results. It shows how different we all are, that we learn and develop at different speeds, that we have different challenges to grapple with and that we all deserve opportunities to learn. I think each of the finalists deserves to win. Let’s celebrate their individual achievements and acknowledge that we can all shine in different ways.

My biggest lesson watching Strictly Come Dancing

Let’s look out for others’ strengths and weaknesses. Not only does that open opportunities for kindness, encouragement and offering support. We can also learn a lot from them for ourselves.

Watch the final on BBC One on Saturday 18th December 2021 at 7pm 🙌

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