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Ellie Leach performs the samba with Vito Coppola
Strictly Come Dancing pro Vito Coppola was blasted by former show finalist James Jordan this week for “overpowering” Ellie Leach.
Ellie has stated that, although she dabbled in tap, ballet and modern street dance when she was much younger, she has zero ballroom experience – and James suggested that the 22-year-old had ended up getting “dragged around” by her partner as a result.
“Samba is technically the most difficult dance anyone has to ever do on Strictly – whatever anyone else says, you’re hearing it here from the horse’s mouth,” he began.
“It’s technically the most difficult dance [and] I felt like he was overpowering her.”
James, 45, who reached the Strictly final with Denise Van Outen back in 2012, suggested Vito should have stepped back a little to let Ellie shine in the spotlight.
“If he had been dancing with one of the professional girls, she would have been able to cope with his power,” he mused.
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“However, Ellie wasn’t – and he was just dragging her around the floor a little bit.”
Talking on the latest edition of his Strictly: The Truth video round-up for Hello! magazine, he added that Vito’s partnership techniques might improve over time.
“With time comes experience. He’s one of the newer pros on the show,” James reasoned.
He argued that while professionals were expected to be “much better” than their celebrity partners, he felt that some were reacting to the fact that there were celebs who came into the competition with previous dance training and stepping up their game.
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“Now… pros feel they have to show they’re better than their celebrity,” he frowned, adding: “For me, on a few occasions, that really stood out.
“You [should] back it off a little at times to make it more about your celebrity, and not trying to overpower them, and I felt this week, [Vito] outdanced [Ellie] a little bit,” he concluded.
In spite of that criticism, James felt the performance ranked well overall, and made the unprecedented and “unusual” move of saying he’d have scored them higher than the judges did.
While Craig Revel-Horwood, Shirley Ballas, Anton du Beke and Motsi Mabuse all awarded Ellie and Vito seven points each, James insisted he’d have given them an eight.
Some viewers took to Twitter (X) after the performance to reveal that they also felt the judges had been “harsh” after witnessing the pair dance the samba to Barry Manilow’s classic ‘Copacabana’.
Ellie admitted to struggling with her nerves on the night, explaining: “I was actually really nervous to open the show.
“I’m actually getting a little bit emotional, sorry – I just feel like I let you down.”
Vito assured the Corrie legend that wasn’t the case, while Claudia Winkleman urged her to focus on how proud her mother looked in the audience.
Ellie and Vito will dance again, alongside the other celebrities and their pro partners, tonight at 6:35pm on BBC One.
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