Entertainment

Fleur East tops the leaderboard in opening Strictly final dance

The singer received 40 points with Vito Coppola as they became the second couple to top the leader board with a samba in the history of Strictly.
The singer received 40 points with Vito Coppola as they became the second couple to top the leader board with a samba in the history of Strictly. The singer received 40 points with Vito Coppola as they became the second couple to top the leader board with a samba in the history of Strictly.

Strictly Come Dancing star Fleur East and her professional partner Vito Coppola have been awarded the top first score in the 2022 final.

Four couples – East and Coppola, Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystal, Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu, and Helen Skelton and Gorka Marquez – are hoping to lift the glitterball trophy on Saturday.

They are all performing a routine chosen by the judges, their own favourite dance and finally a show dance.

Singer East, 35, received widespread praise from the judges for her colourful and lively performance after she fought in the dance-off last week.

Craig Revel Horwood, who usually has some criticism, said: “I’m furious actually because I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.”

Motsi Mabuse: “Here is your queen, come and fetch her.”

East received 40 points – meaning she scored the maximum 10 points from each of the judges, also including Anton Du Beke and Shirley Ballas.

She and Coppola are the second to do so for a samba in the history of Strictly as they danced to Hot Hot Hot by Arrow as her judges’ pick.

Yassin, Rainford and Skelton all received scores of 39 points for their first performances.

Yassin scored 39 points for a lively and energetic performance of the judges’ pick routine of the salsa to Ecuador by Sash! featuring Rodriguez.

The 32-year-old, who topped the leaderboard in the live semi-final, received standing ovations from judges Ballas and Mabuse after he performed the dance once again with stunning lifts.

Head judge Ballas said: “Your lifts went higher, your turns were spot on…I thought you were fantastic.”

While Rainford delivered a fun and whimsical quickstep to Love On Top by Beyonce, and was told by the judges she was much improved compared to her previous dance in the competition.

Du Beke said: “I’m delighted, I’m so delighted because it’s so improved… It was as smooth as a Werther’s Original.”

TV presenter Skelton and Marquez performed the jive to Tightrope by Janelle Monae at the request of the judges – which earned them standing ovations from Mabuse and Ballas for the lively and fast dance.

Ballas said: “I can tell you are so comfortable in your own skin, what a huge improvement.”

Each of the finalists have topped the Strictly leaderboard at some point – Yassin five times, East and Skelton twice and Rainford once – during their time on the show and will be fighting to win the most public votes on Saturday evening.

Singer and radio DJ East and TV presenter and singer Rainford have found themselves having to fight for their place to stay in the dreaded dance-off a total of four times each, while TV presenter Skelton and wildlife cameraman and presenter Yassin have avoided that fate during the whole series.

This time the judging panel is offering their feedback and scores as guidance on each of the performances.

The public then ultimately decide who will receive the coveted glitterball trophy for 2022.

The final also sees performance from Florence And The Machine and the Strictly 2022 competitors who lost out on a place in the final.

Last year’s competition saw Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice crowned the winners of the competition.

Strictly Come Dancing: The Final is airing live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.