There was an emotional moment after Ore Oduba and Joanne Clifton had performed their Singin’ In The Rain American Smooth when Claudia Winkleman revealed that Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, was actually in the audience for the Strictly Final.
“It is an absolute honour for us, thank you so much for joining us,” Claudia said as the audience cheered, while Ore added: “To have Patricia here, and to do this number, I can’t describe it.”
And now Patricia herself has explained exactly why Ore and Jo’s re-imagining of Singin’ In The Rain was the perfect tribute to her late husband, telling RadioTimes.com that it captured Gene’s “feeling of joy”.
Patricia’s journey to the Final of Strictly Come Dancing actually began in week three, and brought her from Los Angeles to London. After Ore’s breakout Singin’ In The Rain performance back in October, we got in touch with her to find out what she thought – and she was a fan. In fact, she called it a “beautiful tribute” and praised the couple’s “grace and style”.
After reading her comments, Ore was delighted. Jo was over the moon. They made contact with Patricia, and the wheels were set in motion.
Speaking on Sunday morning, Patricia told us that Gene would have loved the performance. “What he always said, and this is really critical and kind of relates to what happened last night, is that he never wanted people to imitate what he did,” she said.
“He just felt: don’t imitate it, take what I did and do something more. Take it and go beyond.
“So I think what was so lovely about what Jo choreographed – and I even talked to Bruno [Tonioli] about it after, and he said essentially what I felt about it – which was that it honoured the original, but in a very imaginative way took the essence of the piece and made it something else that was really beautiful. So that, Gene would have really celebrated.”
She added: “I really felt that they captured something. They got it. They got the feeling of joy and they translated it, but with a beautiful nod.”
Ore and Jo had a chance to sit down to dinner with Patricia before the Final, which also included another Gene Kelly inspired number: a Showdance to I Got Rhythm.
“They were adorable,” Patricia told us. “They were so funny. They were so petrified about meeting me. I wasn’t quite what they expected.
“They said they were sitting there, they had glasses of champagne – they said they were so stressed out they said ‘let’s just get a drink,’ and so they had champagne.
“I walked in and I just felt like I’d known them all my life.”
Patricia also found a parallel between Gene and Ore which might explain why the BBC sports presenter was able to channel the movie star so well.
“Gene was a hockey player, and Ore was a hockey player,” she revealed. “And we talked about: he had really good footwork, he was kind of a chubby kid, he said, but he moved well.
“And I said, well, that was what Gene wanted to be – and if you look at Gene’s choreography, it’s very low to the ground, broad open strokes. He grounded his own American style of dance in American sports.”
There was also a special moment as Ore and Jo were about to take to the dance floor, when Patricia took her chance to give her encouragement.
“They both looked up as they were about to go on,” she recalled. “It’s just kind of nice to be able to give a little nod.”
Patricia was certainly rooting for the pair to beat Danny Mac and Louise Redknapp in the final – and not just because of the Gene Kelly connection.
“I think the spirit of the show was that it was to be a non-dancer,” she explained. “That’s the whole magic of it, it’s somebody who’s never done it before, who is transformed. And Ore is really the epitome of that.”
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news