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Maisie Smith's rocky Strictly journey isn't unprecedented – why contestants with previous dance experience make the show

Contestants with previous dancing experience, like Maisie, might not get as much love from viewers as recent weeks have shown, but we do need them for Strictly to work, says Grace Henry.

Maisie Smith
Published: Saturday, 28th November 2020 at 8:00 am

This weekend on Strictly Come Dancing saw EastEnders actress Maisie Smith in the dance off for the second time in a row.


The 19-year-old and her professional dance partner Gorka Marquez went head-to-head with actress Caroline Quentin and Johannes Radebe, after securing the least votes from the public.

Maisie was once again saved by the Strictly Come Dancing judges. However, it got a lot of fans on social asking how the soap actress could be doing so well in the judges' eyes, but still ending up in the bottom two.

Maisie Smith
Maisie Smith was in the bottom two for the second week running.

Despite coming second on the Strictly Come Dancing leaderboard, after earning an impressive 27 points from the judges, Maisie clearly didn't receive the same acknowledgment from those at home.

It prompted some Strictly fans to try and make sense of the Maisie mystery, with one writing on Twitter: "I think with Maisie…the public assume because she's soo good she'll get all the votes where she's not!!"

Considering her higher scores, you'd probably expect the dancer to breeze through to the finals, however, her rocky Strictly journey isn't unprecedented.

Based on previous years, it's not unusual for dancers of a high ability to miss out on attention and even affection from the viewers, landing themselves in the dance off week after week.

While the judges are able to identify their finesse and great skill when it comes to pulling off the perfect Paso Doble or Viennese Waltz, the viewers tend to struggle to warm to contestants like Maisie, many of whom have some previous dancing experience (although not at a professional level).

AShley Roberts in Strictly Come Dancing
Ashley Roberts BBC

Take 2018 contestant Ashley Roberts for instance. A former Pussycat Doll, who had performed globally prior to her Strictly stint, yet found herself in the dance off three times before reaching the final.

She eventually finished as runner-up, missing out on the Glitterball to documentary maker Stacey Dooley, who had little-to-no dancing experience before the series.

Similarly, singer Alexandra Burke shocked viewers when she ended up in the dance off back in 2017, despite being one of the most technically capable dancers.

Alexandra Burke Strictly Come Dancing final
Alexandra Burke also found herself in the dance off despite receiving high scores from the judges.

The same can be said for JLS star Aston Merrygold, actor Karim Zeroual, and radio performer Debbie McGee. All had danced prior to the series, and received great scores from the judges, however, didn't necessarily receive the same recognition from viewers and even found themselves in the dance off once or twice.

This might be because a lot of viewers like to invest in the journey of the contestants in the Strictly Come Dancing line-up, hence why underdogs like this year's contestant Bill Bailey and previous stars like Ed Balls receive lots of attention and social media praise.

Viewers like to see a transformation (a Strictly glow up if you may), and contestants like Maisie just don't do that for them. The audience tend to be put off by those contestants who almost shine from the start, and don't necessarily buy into their story.

That's not to say we don't need these types of contestants. In fact, the complete opposite - Strictly wouldn't be what it is without stars like Maisie Smith!

Yes, we love a Strictly success story - contestant comes in with two left feet and leaves as a dancing champ and possibly the Glitterball... But without contestants like Maisie, with bags of confidence and skill, the show would simply fall flat.

They don't call Strictly one of the best shows on TV just because of the sequin dresses and frilly shirts. It's what it is because of the fantastic performances, which contestants like Maisie bring. We come back week after week, because while we enjoy watching contestants improving, we also want to be wowed, and quite frankly, the EastEnders star knows how to wow.

This weekend, she and Gorka performed a sizzling Salsa to Better When I’m Dancing by Meghan Trainor. Landing three nines from the judges, she proved she definitely has what it takes when it comes to Strictly.

Maisie Smith – Strictly Come Dancing live show (Week five)
Maisie Smith and Gorka Marquez BBC / Guy Levy

Of course, some viewers may feel more captivated by those contestants who have a bigger transformation - like Jamie Laing who has now climbed to the top of the leaderboard despite previously being at the lower end - but this only makes up half of the show.

For Strictly to be what it's known and loved for, we need both - the success stories and contestants like Maisie, who bring their A game weekly.

They may not have the biggest development story, due to their previous dancing experience, but their story tells a different tale - one of true skill, determination, and entertainment - which is what Strictly is all about, after all!


Strictly Come Dancing is on Saturday and Sunday evenings on BBC One. If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide.


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