John Whaite said he felt as though he has been “reborn” after performing a dazzling Argentine tango on Strictly Come Dancing that put him at the top of the leaderboard.
The TV baker and partner Johannes Radebe took to the floor in matching black fedoras, which they flung off halfway through the routine.
The couple were roundly praised by the judging panel, who gave them a total score of 39 out of 40.
Craig Revel Horwood, who returned to the ballroom after being absent last week due to a positive Covid test, said: “It was fantastic seeing the tango done in its original form, it was first danced by two men, I absolutely loved it.”
Cynthia Erivo, who was filling in for Motsi Mabuse, told them: “I was crazy for it, this was gorgeous,” while head judge Shirley Ballas trumpeted: “They’re back.
“Fabulous, it was great, such wonderful skills in leading and how you handled Jojo was perfection.”
Speaking after the performance, Whaite said: “I know I had a bit of lull last week, I was struggling to find myself.
“I thought I have to perform up and we just found me again, we found us again this week. I feel like I’ve been reborn, darling.”
Erivo, who filled in for Revel Horwood last week, returned to take the seat of Mabuse after she was contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Mabuse has previously said she had been informed she had been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and would normally be exempt from isolation because she is double vaccinated and has had a booster, but her German vaccines are not recognised in the UK.
As Motsi will not be taking part in #Strictly this weekend, we are delighted that Cynthia Erivo will be joining us as a guest Judge again! We look forward to having Motsi back in the Ballroom next week. #Strictly pic.twitter.com/XVD15y5TO2— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) November 26, 2021
Opening the show on Saturday, host Claudia Winkleman said: “Welcome back Craig, we missed you.
“And on the subject of missing judges, sadly Motsi can’t be with us this weekend because she has been notified by NHS Track and Trace.
“Government guidelines mean she cannot travel back to the UK until next week.”
TV presenter AJ Odudu was second on the leaderboard after her couple’s choice routine with partner Kai Widdrington.
Revel Horwood said: “I think you did brilliantly, that routine is so very, very difficult, it’s about 10 completely different styles of dance.”
Erivo told her: “I was extremely proud of you, that must have been completely difficult. I love you so much and I think that was completely wonderful.”
Ballas also praised her, saying: “For me it was an ultimate performance.”
They were given a total score of 36.
Social media star Tilly Ramsay languished at the bottom of the rankings after her samba to Levitating by Dua Lipa with partner Nikita Kuzmin, watched by her parents Gordon and Tana.
Ballas told her: “I think it needed tidying up where the arms are concerned, you executed some really good figures in here, the timings were a little bit off, but a really good go at a difficult dance.”
Revel Horwood said: “I thought it was a little bit awkward on your body and disconnected, unsteady footing, I know you can do better.”
However, Erivo told her: “I think you are a better dancer than you realise, you have it in you, just bring it out even more.”
They received a total score of 30.
BBC Breakfast star Dan Walker could also be in jeopardy after he performed a rumba with partner Nadiya Bychkova to Desperado by Eagles, putting him second from the bottom.
Anton Du Beke and Erivo both described it as “gorgeous”, but Revel Horwood said: “It was jolty, the hip action was non-existent.
“You wiggled your hips, anyone can do that. You were marching it and stomping.
“However, I thought it was a lot better than I had expected, I can see you have been working extremely hard and I will give you an extra point for that.”
Ballas disagreed with Revel Horwood, saying: “You were classic and cool as a very tall cucumber.”
They were given a total score of 31.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One on Sunday at 7.20pm.