The finalists for Strictly Come Dancing 2023 have been unveiled, and Annabel Croft has barely missed out on a place in the big event.
On Saturday night, the former tennis star and her professional dance partner, Johannes Radebe, went to the dancefloor twice for the semi-final, performing a Salsa and a Viennese Waltz and making an unintentional gaffe in one of the routines.
Annabel and Johannes ended up in the dance-off versus EastEnders’ Bobby Brazier and his partner Dianne Buswell after obtaining the lowest points of the night.
Both couples were challenged with repeating their favourite routines from the night, with the former doing their Viennese Waltz and the latter performing their Quickstep.
When it came time for the judges to make their judgements, it was a split vote, with Craig Revel Horwood opting to rescue Annabel and Johannes first.
‘Well, one dance was flashy, one dance was quiet. I think both couples have equalised completely,’ he said.
‘I saw improvement in this one couple and based on this dance and nothing in the past but this dance alone, the person which I think had the most exquisite technique is Annabel and Johannes.’
However, the vote then swung the other way, as Motsi chose to save Bobby and Dianne, saying: ‘Well, first of all I have to say this was a really tough one tonight, I think both couples danced really well, and after the dance off I stood there for a few seconds making my decision, there was one dance where there was a slight hesitation at a turn, one slight hesitation was the decision, and I will be saving Bobby and Dianne.’
Anton Du Beke agreed with Motsi, telling the studio audience and viewers at home: ‘Well the semi-final, I mean it’s going to be enormously disappointing for somebody, but I also think its celebration of how well you’ve both done and how far you’ve come and how wonderfully you’ve danced through the whole series.
‘It was a very close run thing and literally because of a coming out of a pivoting section wasn’t as clean as they would have liked and I would have liked, I’m going to be saving Bobby and Dianne.’
Head judge Shirley Ballas made the ultimate decision, with two votes to rescue Bobby and Dianne and one for Annabel and Johannes.
She announced: ‘The semi-final 2023, I thought both couples were absolutely extraordinary, I felt that both couples lifted their performance, I thought there was technical qualities on both sides, improvements galore, but again one tiny mistake coming out of a pivot turn and therefore my decision would be to save Bobby and Dianne.’
After her elimination was confirmed, Annabel described her Strictly experience as ‘life-changing’ and ‘extraordinary’.
She congratulated Bobby and Dianne and all the rest of the contestants, before stating: ‘But obviously, it’s been an amazing, magical experience for me. Johannes, you have been absolutely extraordinary.
‘You have given me a reason to get out of bed and come and dance with you, distract me and to heal me. I can’t thank you enough for that. You have been so patient, so caring and so loving. You are an unbelievably special human being. I simply adore you. Thank you so much.’
Johannes also had heartfelt words to share for his partner, saying: ‘I would like to say thank you. Thank you for making the decision to come here. Thank you to Strictly Come Dancing for sending her my way. My life is richer with you in it.
‘I hope we dance long after this has ended. You know my heart and I just want to tell you thank you Annabel. Thank you Lily, thank you Amber, thank you Charlie.’
Annabel continued to express how grateful she was for the journey, describing it as ‘the most incredible rollercoaster ride’ and saying she has had ‘every single emotion you can imagine’.
‘I really want to thank Strictly for letting me take part in this competition. Thank you to the judges, for your amazing comments and guiding us all along. But I also see this as a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle and I wish that everyone in the public could see what goes on behind the scenes because it’s quite extraordinary the machinery that makes it work and makes the show what it is,’ she shared.
‘The most wholesome family entertainment magical show with so much glitz and glamour and so much enjoyment for everybody. It has been amazing and I can’t thank everyone enough. Thank you so much, Johannes, for the most special time I have had with you.’
Following the elimination of Annabel and Johannes, there are now three remaining couples who will compete in next week’s final: Bobby and Dianne, Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola, and Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin.
The Strictly Come Dancing final airs next Saturday at 7pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.