Why Lauren & AJ Are The Real Winners Of Strictly Come Dancing 2018
Updated: May 28, 2019
Lauren and AJ may not have won the Strictly Glitterball trophy, but they won something far more important - our hearts.
The conclusion of this year's series of Strictly Come Dancing is almost upon us, as the show will come to an end when the four remaining celebrities compete in the upcoming grand Final. However, there is one couple that unfortunately won't be taking part - and that is Lauren and AJ.
Paralympian Lauren Steadman and her professional partner, AJ Pritchard, became the latest couple to leave the competition, after making it all the way to the Semi-Final. They were eliminated after finding themselves in their very first Dance-Off, losing out to former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts.
With their departure from the show, the Final has undoubtedly became less appealing, but it won't matter to them as they ultimately proved to be the people's true champions. Over the course of the competition, the pair put on some memorable routines, entertaining fans who watched them every Saturday night. But they did so much more than that - they captured the hearts of the nation and, through Lauren's inspirational story, they highlighted that there truly are no limits.
Inspiring People Through Dance
Born missing her lower right arm, Lauren has always strived to prove that she was just as capable as everyone else. Just as she had done in her career as a paralympian, she sought to change opinions in regards to disabilities by competing on Strictly, showing the countless people who tuned in just what she was capable of.
When she signed up for the show, she was well-aware of some of the challenges that awaited her, especially as the right arm played a major role in Ballroom dancing. But these were challeneges that she quickly overcame.
Over the weeks, Lauren fearlessly threw herself into every routine, learning the intricacies of each one. While there were times that alterations undertstandably had to be made, she never once allowed it to get on top of her and, instead, she simply adapted and ultimately produced some of the best routines of the series.
Much like AJ's previous partner, Claudia Fragapane, Lauren's athletic background also posed its own set of unique challenges. Being a sportsperson, she initially struggled to be emotive in the dances (a common issue for determined athletes) and, at times, was upright or what the judges liked to refer to as "stiff" in her movements. But in time, that all changed.
She worked incredibly hard, training intensely with AJ while listening to the judges' feedback. As the weeks passed by, she grew in confidence and began telling a story through her dances, as well as mastering the technique - and it all finally came together when the pair unveiled their stunning Viennese Waltz.
Lauren's success on Strictly was nothing short of inspirational. As AJ so eloquently put it, she has always been about "ability, not disability", and this was something that she never failed to showcase, inspiring people in the process. She highlighted that, with the right mindset, anything is possible - and, in doing so, she grew into a beautiful dancer and is, without a doubt, a role model to countless people. And that is far more important than any trophy.
AJ Outdid Himself With The Choreography
Well-aware of the fact that the pair would face challenges that the other couples would not, AJ adapted the dance choreography to play to Lauren's strengths. As he repeated on occasion, he always chose to see these challenges as something that made his partnership with Lauren unique and thus, he applied this positive attitude when crafting the choreography.
In Ballroom hold, he curved his left arm a lot further than he usually would - this allowed Lauren to maintain that elegant hold necessary for the Ballroom routines. Furthermore, as some of the faster Latin dances relied heavily on armography to generate flow and movement, AJ instead used Lauren's waist to lead her around the floor - another innovative change that also proved to be effective.
He may be Strictly's youngest pro dancer, but that hasn't stopped AJ from showcasing maturity far beyond his years. Though he has always been a great teacher, getting both of his previous partners to the Semi-Final, he outdid himself this year with Lauren.
As a choreographer, a teacher and a dancer, he embraced everything that his partnership with Lauren brought to the table, and this willingness to adapt allowed them both to excel. In doing so, he proved that he is undoubtedly one of, if not the, most skilled choreographers on the show - and, as Lauren would affirm, he deserves a lot more credit for what he accomplished this year.
The People's Champions
To say that Lauren and AJ were one of this year's most popular partnerships would be a major understatement. Whether it was down to Lauren's inspirational journey, admiration for AJ's innovative choreography or just love of the pair's great partnership, it's clear that the viewers of Strictly were enamoured with Lauren and AJ.
All you have to do is look back at the few occasions when the pair found themselves in jeopardy - the public always came through for them, allowing them to continue entertaining us week after week.
In fact, the pair made it all the way to the Strictly Semi-Final without ever appearing in a single Dance-Off, and while they did eventually end up there, their previous history certainly indicates that they weren't anywhere near bottom of the public vote (their placement at the bottom of the Leaderboard made it virtually impossible for them to escape the Dance-Off). Make no mistake about it - people loved them.
They may not have won the coveted Glitterball trophy, but they did win the hearts of the viewing audience, who continually voted to keep them in, despite quite a few precarious Leaderboard positions - which ultimately proved to be just another obstacle for them to overcome. Simply put: It was the public that allowed them to continue to inspire generations of viewers - something they did remarkably well, starting important conversations and changing opinions.
So Thank You Lauren and AJ. Thank you for inspiring all of us throughout your journey together. Thank you for showing us that nothing is impossible. Thank you for your continued innovation, passion and determination. Thank you for all of the wonderful dances, and thank you for the "POSITIVE ENERGY". Without a doubt, you are the real winners of Strictly.
Keep dancing, Lauren.
Did you enjoy Lauren and AJ's run on Strictly Come Dancing? Let us know in the comments section below.