The former Great British Bake Off winner made history on the BBC ballroom series as he took to the dancefloor for the first time with male partner Johannes Radebe, dancing the Tango to Blue Monday by New Order.
Judges Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas gave the couple a standing ovation and the pair shot straight to the top of the leader board with a score of 30 and the first 8s of the night.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) September 25, 2021
After they finished dancing the pair were shaking and embraced on the dancefloor in a bid to comfort one another.
Mabuse said: "I don't think you need to be nervous after a dance like that. Such a superb start to this show -you guys keep going like that."
Ballas told them: "I feel this a testimony to the same sex couple. Absolutely brilliant. To go from leader to being led is so hard. Beautiful choreography."
Anton Du Beke said: "Last week you said you wanted to make it about dancing and you absolutely made it about the dancing. Stylish, clean, powerful, strong. Just carry on like that and I'll be delighted."
Craig Revel Horwood began by frowning: "John, your thumb was sticking up." But then he added, "I loved it. I thought it was absolutely incredible."
Whaite, 32, said afterwards: "It was amazing, it was the most wonderful experience of my life."
Radebe admitted choreographing a dance in which they both took it in turns to lead had been very difficult, saying: "We were the twin towers dancing around one another. We nailed it."
He revealed had assumed the character of Dante for the dance, joking, "John's at home having a kebab in Wigan."
The chef and cookbook writer - who won the third series of Bake Off in 2012 - also thanked his partner Paul Atkins who was watching from the side of the dancefloor.
Whaite said: "He's been drying my sweat, feeding me, putting me to bed. Thank you Paul for being here."
They were later knocked into second place by TV presenter AJ Odudu who scored an incredible 34 for her Jive. Judge Shirley Ballas gave her a score of 9 for the first time ever for a dance in week one.
The first live show of the series saw the contestants making their debut on the dancefloor. The judges scores for this week's dances will roll over to next week when viewers will have their first chance to vote and the first couple will be eliminated from the competition.
Whaite and Radebe's all-male pairing comes after boxing champion Nicola Adams and Katya Jones competed in the first all-female partnership last year.
This year's contestants include BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker, Gordon Ramsay's daughter Tilly Ramsay, Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty and EastEnders stars Nina Wadia and Rose Ayling-Ellis.
This year's launch saw pro dancer Du Beke make his debut as a full-time member of the judging panel.
Du Beke is filling in for Bruno Tonioli, who is unable to take part because of the complications of travelling between the UK and the US, where he judges Dancing With The Stars, amid the COVID pandemic.
Watch: Who is Strictly's John Whaite?