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Former pro Ian Waite reviews the Strictly Come Dancing judges' scores and decisions for the 2020 series

The former Strictly Come Dancing professional tells exclusively he was "surprised" by some of the judges' choices.

ian waite strictly
Published: Saturday, 19th December 2020 at 8:00 am

Over the past eight weeks we've watched the Strictly Come Dancing judges Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood, and on occasions Anton Du Beke, give their verdict on the contestants in this year's Strictly Come Dancing line-up.


There's been some high scores - HRVY made Strictly Come Dancing history with a perfect score in Week Six.

And there's been some much lower scores, with Jacqui Smith exiting in Week Two after scoring just 13 and 12 points in Week One and Two.

But were all of these scores and comments warranted? Or should some of those contestants who were sent packing still be in the competition? spoke to former Strictly Come Dancing professional Ian Waite - who competed on the show back in 2007 and made it to the final with Zoe Ball - and he gave his view on how well he thinks the judges scored this year.

So, as we approach the Strictly Come Dancing final, here's what he thought of all those perfect 10s and dance offs from the humble beginnings of Week One, right up to the semi-final.

Week One

Strictly kicked off with a bang this year, with HRVY shooting right to the top of the Strictly Come Dancing leaderboard with a seriously impressive 25 points.

Motsi Mabuse gave him a near perfect score of nine for his energetic Jive, and commented that this was the“best first dance” she’d ever seen.

Although Waite admits he was "relieved" the YouTube star didn't achieve the same top score he received with Zoe in Week One, he thought it was an "amazing opening dance".

He said: "Jive is not an easy dance because you've got to keep the energy up and you've got to keep your weight forward and your knees up. And that's not an easy job. To do that in the first week, he made a hard dance look really easy!"

Strictly star HRVY
Strictly star HRVY and his professional dance partner Janette Manrara in Week One BBC

While HRVY topped the leaderboard, Made in Chelsea's Jamie Laing and Labour MP Jacqui Smith were at the bottom with 14 and 13 points respectively.

Waite continued: "I probably do think it's fair because Jamie started off with not very much coordination. He wasn't a natural dancer, but what he did have was lots of enthusiasm. I think his enthusiasm and his will to improve and to get better every week has meant that he's just gone through and through and through.

"I think the thing is, it's all about preconceptions as well. I don't think anybody expected Jacqui to be good but they expected Jamie to be quite good, so when he's not as good as they expect, the marks get lower."

Week Two 

Jacqui Smith
Jacqui Smith was the first contestant to leave Strictly Come Dancing BBC

Week Two saw the contestants back on the dance floor as they prepared for the very first elimination of the series.

HRVY and Maisie Smith finished in joint first place on the leaderboard, while Jacqui was sent packing after finding herself in the dance-off with Jamie Laing.

So was she the right person to leave?

"Well, I think it was right that Jacqui went because she was probably the worst dancer," Waite admitted.

"When I saw Maisie’s Tango, I couldn't believe how how good her ballroom was. I know she keeps saying that she’s a Latin girl but for me, her ballroom stood out as being so much better than everybody else's even Ranvir [Singh] and I thought Ranvir’s ballroom was wonderful. This is the week where I realised Maisie was going to make the final."

Week Three

The third week saw the celebs putting on some of their best blockbuster performances as they brought Movie Week to the ballroom.

Good Morning Britain's Ranvir Singh climbed to the top of the leaderboard with 27 points for her Foxtrot to Love You I Do by Jennifer Hudson from the movie Dreamgirls, while HRVY slipped much far down to eighth place with just 21 points for his Cha Cha.

Strictly Come Dancing's Ranvir Singh
Ranvir Singh BBC

"This was Movie Week and she [Ranvir] looked like one of the Dream Girls. The theme was set and I think the the dance matched the theme of the movie. I thought it was brilliant and then she really showed her quality of movement and her quality of frame. I would say that was probably her best week," Waite praised.

Speaking of HRVY's performance, he added: "I think the Cha Cha is a really hard dance because you've got to be sharp with the legs but still fluid with the hips and the body and the arms. That's a really difficult combination to get especially when it’s fast. I also think that there was a lot of choreography in what they did. And the problem is when you give a lot of choreography, which is fantastic, then sometimes the quality goes."

As for Bill Bailey, who finished in second place with 26 points for his Paso Doble to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Waite says this was the moment he realised "that Bill was not the joker that we all expected him to be".

Week Four

Strictly Come Dancing Clara Amfo
Strictly Come Dancing Clara Amfo topped the leaderboard in Week Four

Week Four saw Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo rise to the top of the Strictly leaderboard with 29 points for her Charleston.

It came after weeks of slightly lower scores, with some fans accusing the judges of "robbing" her of higher marks.

Does Waite agree with some fans? "I don't actually think so no," he says. "I think this dance just suited her. It really suits her personality and it was fun and cheeky. A little bit of comedy!"

Max George ended up going home this week after finding himself in the bottom with Maisie, despite JJ Chalmers receiving the lowest score this week.

And Waite was very surprised, saying: "To me, Max was a potential finalist!"

He continued: "I know that he wasn't improving as quickly as some of the others, but I think he could have been in the final. I wasn't surprised that Maisie beat him in the dance off, though. His dance just wasn't as powerful."

Week Five

This week came with many surprises as Jamie received 29 points for his Couples Choice and finished at the top of the leaderboard.

Was this well deserved for the reality TV star?

"Absolutely! I thought that this was outstanding and this dance really suited him. He did all the right moves in the right places. He had the energy. He had the swag. You know those street dances, you've got to get the character, the dance and also there's a lot of side-by-side stuff, so if you don't match your professional partner, then it can be a disaster. I thought the matching was absolutely perfect!"

While it was a great week for Jamie, the same couldn't be said for Clara who received 18 points for her Samba - which according to Waite could be one of the hardest dances to pull off, alongside Rumba.

Caroline Quentin – Strictly results show 5
Caroline Quentin became the fourth contestant to leave the competition BBC/Guy Levy

He said: "There are some dances which are more difficult than others and Samba is probably the most difficult technique. A lot of the pros think that the Samba is like the kiss of death. When you get to Samba, they think, 'Do they want us to go home?' Quite often the Samba or the Rumba is one of those dances that you've tried to avoid, apart from HRVY doing it because it's such a difficult dance to do."

Caroline Quentin was sent home this week after being in the dance off with Maisie.

Although Waite admits he thought Quentin could have made it to the final, he believes the judges made the right choice with deciding to save the EastEnders actress.

"With those dances I think she [Caroline] was the right person to leave, probably," he said.

Week Six

HRVY Strictly Come Dancing
HRVY received perfect score in Week Six BBC

History was made in Week Six when HRVY received a perfect score of 30 points - the first time this had ever been achieved since the show started in 2004.

"This was awesome! I'm not really an expert in street, or contemporary or anything like this, but this was a mix of street, contemporary, hip hop. I was blown away, because he just seemed to absorb himself in the dark and forget everything and just perform!" Waite said.

On the other end of the scale, poor Clara received only 19 points for her Jive and was sent home after a dance off with Jamie.

What was so wrong with her Jive? "First off, she had plimsolls on and and normally in a Jive, we have to be on the ball of our feet. So with the plimsolls on she could look quite flat-footed. I think this didn't really help her. I thought it was a great jive. That being said, it would have looked better if she had been wearing heels."

Week Seven

Strictly Come Dancing star JJ Chalmers
Strictly Come Dancing star JJ Chalmers BBC

Maintaining his spot on the leaderboard, HRVY finished with 29 points this week as the contestants brought musicals to Elstree.

Towards the lower end of the board, however, was Jamie and JJ Chalmers - who both found themselves in the dance off. In the end, the judges decided to save Jamie putting an end to JJ's Strictly journey.

"I think it was JJ’s time to go," Waite explained. "I thought he'd done so well, up until that point. And to be honest, he was an inspiration all the way through the competition. He had limited flexibility and limited moves, and he was still able to get to the quarter finals, which was absolutely outstanding."

Week Eight

The pressure was on as the semi-finals kicked off, and Maisie definitely brought her A-game, finishing at the top of the leaderboard with a near perfect score of 59 for her Viennese Waltz and Couples' Choice.

So, what did Waite think of this super high score just one week before the final?

"There were a few footfalls in the week that I saw in the training and I just mentioned them and then when I watched it back, she did them absolutely perfectly so she'd obviously worked on that. And then her Couples' Choice - joy! Very hip hop. She seemed to revel in that sort of style. I'm not surprised they ended up at the top of the leaderboard," Waite said.

Strictly Come Dancing star Maisie Smith
Strictly Come Dancing star Maisie Smith BBC

HRVY finished in second place with 53 points after scoring just 23 points for his Rumba - something that caught Waite by surprise.

"I was quite surprised because I thought it was a really, really good Rumba. Considering nobody else tried it, I thought it was really good on him. He could have settled into his hips a little bit more to give him a more a more grounded feeling. Apart from that, I thought he did a really good job of a difficult dance!"

Week Eight saw Ranvir's Strictly journey come to an end after a dance off with Jamie.

Ranvir Singh and Giovanni Pernice on Strictly Come Dancing 2020
Ranvir Singh and Giovanni Pernice on Strictly Come Dancing 2020 BBC

Although Waite initially thought we'd be seeing the presenter in the final, he believes the judges made the right decision in saving Jamie.

He said: "In previous weeks, we all would have said Ranvir should be in the final. But I think considering the two dances, if you're going to judge it on just that, then I think Jamie was the right person to stay. The problem is when you're comparing a Waltz with a Salsa, obviously the Salsa was much more vibrant and has so much more content. The Waltz was very simplistic unfortunately and it doesn't look very competitive. Although I thought that she was outstanding with posture, style, shaping and frame, it was the right decision."


Ian Waite teaches virtual dance classes called The Gift of Dance, and he'll be heading back on the road in April 2021 for his upcoming tour The Ballroom Boys. The Strictly Come Dancing final is on BBC One on Saturday 19th December at 6pm. To find out what else is on in the meantime, check out our TV Guide.


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