Revealed: the best place to be in the Strictly Come Dancing running order

Save the last dance for me. No, really - it's the safest one of the night

Len Goodman and the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel

If you’re a Strictly Come Dancing contestant, how do you know whether you’re set to go through to the next week? Well, one way that might shed some light is to check the running order…

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A casual glance through the sequence in which celebrity contestants have hit the dance floor during previous years reveals a curious phenomenon (and for “casual glance”, read “creation of a comprehensive colour-coded spreadsheet cataloguing the entire history of Strictly”).

When it comes to a celebrity’s chances of being in the dreaded dance-off, it doesn’t really matter where they are in the running order – UNLESS they are performing the last dance of the night. If they have that coveted final spot, it makes them practically immune to elimination. 

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In fact, in the entire 12-year history of Strictly Come Dancing – excluding semi-finals and finals – there have been only seven occasions where the couple who came last in the running order had to face the dance-off.

To put that in context, there have been over 200 couples who have had to fight for their place in the competition during the results show. 

Before Helen George and Aljaz Skorjanec finished in week 11’s bottom two last year, despite having performed the last dance of the evening, this had not happened since 2009.

The phenomenon continues this year, with last-dance-of-the-evening celebrities Ore Oduba, Danny Mac, Claudia Fragapane and Louise Redknapp all still in the competition.

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So why is this? It could have something to do with voters’ memories: with the final dance fresh in their minds, audience members may be inspired to pick up the phone as soon as the vote opens.

More likely, showrunners decide to highlight a celebrity they think will close the show in spectacular fashion and see it out on a high. This is backed up by how frequently the final dance tops the leaderboard: for instance, the couples who closed the show for the first seven weeks last year came either first or second.

But occasionally the Strictly team throw a curveball, and that’s where things get even more interesting. “Stork struck by lightening” Jeremy Vine got to close the show once last year, while the hilarious Ann Widdecombe had a go in 2010.

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A bit of humour can go a long way at the end of the night, and – having bagged that magic final spot – neither had to face the dance-off. Ed Balls, take note.