'Strictly' viewers in tears as Rose Ayling-Ellis returns to dance on launch show
Watch: Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice return to Strictly Come Dancing
Rose Ayling-Ellis stepped out once again into the sparkling ballroom of Strictly Come Dancing on Friday night — and the defending champion's return to the floor was emotional for viewers.
The former EastEnders star won the competition show last year alongside professional partner Giovanni Pernice, having become the first deaf person to take part.
Read more: Biggest stories from Strictly as the new series launches
On Friday's launch show for the new series, the 27-year-old actor joined Pernice on the floor to reprise their Viennese Waltz to the Alicia Keys track Fallin', which won plaudits last year for including sign language.
The duo received a standing ovation from the judges and the cast of the new series, who will be competing to win Ayling-Ellis's glitterball trophy.
Pernice will take part in the show once again this year and has been partnered with BBC Radio 2 presenter Richie Anderson in the second ever all-male pairing on Strictly.
Their partnership is one of two same-sex pairings this year, alongside comedian Jayde Adams and long-term pro Karen Hauer.
Read more: The history of the infamous "Strictly curse"
Ayling-Ellis told host Claudia Winkleman it was "lovely" to be back on Strictly and offered some of her expert advice to this year's contestants.
She said: "Don't expect what you're thinking of expecting. It's so much more than you think.
"Listen to your partner. They know what they're talking about. They are the dancers, they are the experts - not the celebrities.
"Just embrace learning so much of a new skill and just enjoy it because, once you finish it and once you stop it, you will never be able to do it again. So just appreciate it."
Read more: New Strictly stars reveal family as the reason they said yes to the show
Ayling-Ellis's return got tongues wagging on social media, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house among the Strictly viewership.
TV reporter Stephen Patterson was among those to praise the performance, writing that it was "lovely to see them again one last time".
Rose and Giovanni’s partnership was one of the best #Strictly had ever seen by a mile, and last years series was the best EVER. Lovely to see them again one last time 💕
— Stephen Patterson (@mr_sjpatterson) September 23, 2022
Good that in an ever changing world, I still cry when I see Rose and Giovanni on #Strictly
— Jac 🌱💙 (@bean04) September 23, 2022
Ah Rose and Gio making me cry once again 😭🥰#Strictly
— Dee (@msnoodleforever) September 23, 2022
Rose really is one of the most precious souls out there!! Getting to watch her dance again on strictly one last time is so emosh. A true inspiration to many people. 🤍 #Strictly
— KIRA🖤 (@kira_26x) September 23, 2022
This year's Strictly Come Dancing celebrities will take to the dance floor for the first time on Saturday night, giving viewers their first taste of the new contestants.
The current bookies' favourite to win the show is Countryfile presenter Helen Skelton, who has been paired with two-time finalist Gorka Márquez.
Read more: Helen Skelton reveals why she chose to take on Strictly
Closely behind Skelton in the odds is X Factor contestant Fleur East, who will dance alongside professional newcomer Vito Coppola — winner of the 2021 series of Italy's Strictly equivalent.
The judging panel will comprise Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Anton Du Beke — with the latter now a permanent replacement for Bruno Tonioli.
Watch: JJ Chalmers reveals the Queen loved Strictly Come Dancing