Former Strictly Come Dancing professional AJ Pritchard has revealed his favourite contestant in this year's competition is EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis.


The actor made history as the first deaf person to take part in the popular series and has continually wowed audiences with a number of stunning routines – including one that bagged her a perfect 40 score.

Speaking exclusively to, Pritchard said that this year's edition has been "fantastic" and blessed with particularly high standards, but Ayling-Ellis has inched just ahead of the competition.

"I think right now it still has to be where my heart is with Rose," he said. "I feel like she's got such a connection and when you see her on TV you kind of feel like 'Oh, I know Rose like a family would know Rose'.

Pritchard continued: "She's just so open and shows her emotions and that's really nice to see and I think some of the others are finding it hard to kind of relax and just show was who they actually are."

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Pritchard is currently starring opposite brother Curtis in a pantomime production of Cinderella, which will run performances at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this month and in early January 2022.

Curtis, who is also a professional dancer, has appeared on two seasons of Ireland's Dancing with the Stars.

AJ Pritchard and Saffron Barker (BBC)

Another couple from Strictly Come Dancing's 2021 line-up that has caught Pritchard's eye for all of the right reasons is AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington.

"I've loved them from day one to be fair," he explained. "And Kai is a friend of mine, I've danced with him all my life, so I am supporting him as well. But Giovanni and Rose, they are a warming warming watch, which is nice."

Additional reporting by Lauren Morris.

Tickets for Cinderella at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, starring AJ and Curtis Pritchard, are available now from the venue's website.


Strictly Come Dancing 2021 semi-finals kick-off on BBC One at 7:05pm on Saturday 11th December. Check out more of our Entertainment coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.