3 big talking points from the first episode of The Greatest Dancer

Weird audience voting decisions, marvellous Oti Mabuse, and an emotional finale – here's how viewers responded to the new BBC1 entertainment show

The Greatest Dancer judges (BBC)

New entertainment shows are tricky – why do you think Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor are both over 15 years old? – but the BBC is hoping its new show The Greatest Dancer can buck the trend and bring in the viewers this January.

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The show launched on Saturday 5th January, and featured dancers of all styles and characters auditioning in front of giant mirror doors.

If the studio audience liked what they saw, they voted to open the doors and get the performer up on stage. If they didn’t, the doors stayed close and the dancer walked away with nothing.

Judges (sorry, ‘Dance Captains’) Cheryl, Oti Mabuse and Matthew Morrison watched on with the audience, and gave their feedback to successful dancers.

But what was the feedback like from viewers watching at home? Check out some of the biggest talking points and reactions from the first episode below.

Weird audience decisions

(BBC)
(BBC)

Even though there are judges in The Greatest Dancer, in the opening round the power lies with the audience. An act needs to get over 75 per cent of the audience vote to make it through, so even if the judges like someone they can’t do anything about it.

That was made painfully obvious with one dancer in the first episode, when classical ballet dancer Yassaui Mergaliyev failed to make it through.

“People in the audience who maybe aren’t technically minded don’t see the quality we just had on stage, which is then frustrating for us,” Cheryl said afterwards.

Viewers felt the frustration too.

Minutes later, the audience quickly voted through Cheryl superfan James. This was… controversial.

Watch his audition and decide for yourself.

Oti Mabusi steals the show

Cheryl’s an X Factor veteran, while Glee star and performer Matthew Morrison is in comfortable territory here. Strictly pro Oti Mabuse however was arguably the unknown quantity on the judging panel. Sure, she’s a stunning dancer, but could she step up from being a performer to leading the show?

She nailed it. Viewers loved her enthusiasm, and when the mirrors opened she was even able to show off her pro moves with some of the acts.

“That felt amazing,” Oti posted on Instagram afterwards. “I loved every bit of tonight… I loved the exciting feeling of watching amazing and talented people dance, audiences voting and just being humbled by the whole show.”

Andrew’s emotional finale

Dancer Andrew had viewers in tears at the end of the first episode of The Greatest Dancer (BBC)
Dancer Andrew had viewers in tears at the end of the first episode of The Greatest Dancer (BBC)

The Greatest Dancer is produced by Simon Cowell’s production company Syco, and it’s the first time he’s worked with the BBC for a series.

And, just like Britain’s Got Talent, The Greatest Dancer knows how to tug on viewers’ heartstrings.

Andrew was the final act of the night, and an emotional scene stealer. The 21-year-old has Down’s Syndrome, but discovered dancing after watching Strictly Come Dancing. “It just made him feel joyful,” his Mum Donna said.

His audition brought joy and tears to everyone.

Yes, everyone.

A beautiful story – and enough to convince viewers to tune in next week?

We’ll have to wait until next Saturday to find out.

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The Greatest Dancer continues on BBC1 next Saturday 12th January at 8pm