Strictly star Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner have been praised for paying tribute to the deaf community during their performance on Saturday.

The EastEnders actress, the first deaf contestant in the show's history, danced alongside Giovanni Pernice to music by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson.

But halfway through, the music turned to muffled noise and silence, as the pair danced on.

Anton Du Beke said it was "the greatest thing I've ever seen on the show."

Former Strictly contestant JJ Chalmers said Ayling-Ellis was greatly helping "get us to where we want to be" with regards to attitudes around disability.

Du Beke and his fellow judges awarded a near-perfect 39 out of 40 combined score.

Head judge Shirley Ballas rose to her feet to salute the performance, saying: "This is a number that will be etched in my heart for a long time. It was absolutely beautiful.

"I'm sure the deaf community will be absolutely so proud of you," she said.

"In this dance we have a very special moment, and I'm doing it for the deaf community." 💖 So much power in the silence of Rose and Giovanni's routine. #Strictly @RoseAylingEllis @pernicegiovann1 pic.twitter.com/kW8OTggI5X

— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) November 13, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Motsi Mabuse thanked Ayling-Ellis for including them and the viewers "in your world". "Sometimes it's more than scores and marks and dancing, sometimes it's just a moment, and we just had that, and thank you so much."

Craig Revel Horwood described the dance as "fabulous".

'Such a joy to be deaf'

The actress, 26, paid tribute to her dance partner Pernice live on the show after the performance for having helped her to deliver her powerful personal message.

"I feel very thankful for your determination to make this dance the most positive, happy dance, it can be, because you know that being deaf, there's nothing wrong, it's such a joy to be deaf, and I think that says a lot about you as a person," she said.

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To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Watch: Actor Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice prepare for their first live performance

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The pair were also sent a video message from Hamilton Lodge School and College, a school for deaf children, whose pupils thanked them for using sign language. "You are great role models for us because you show that deaf and hearing people can work together to achieve anything," they signed.

"And like you, we want more people to learn how to sign."

Changing attitudes around deafness

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme on Monday, percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, who has been deaf since the age of 12, described Ayling-Ellis as being "a wonderful role model – in that she has so well integrated her situation with the general public and her fellow colleagues."

She added: "I think probably the biggest impact has been the surge in the awareness of sign language," she said, noting how it can also be used by non-deaf people who have trouble communicating vocally.

However, she did say she was "slightly concerned" about the silence in the performance, as many deaf people "do not live in a world of silence".

"I think it's the simplifying of things that becomes a problem and becomes quite confusing for the general public," she added.

Former Strictly contestant and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers told Today that Ayling-Ellis had been an "absolute triumph" on Strictly.

"We are making massive improvements and in-roads to where we need to be in society and where we need to be within broadcast, and that is absolutely wonderful," said Chalmers, who was injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan while serving as a Royal Marine.

"But again we're speaking [about] it as a moment, as almost a shock. Whereas actually I would hope it would be slightly further down the road at this point.

"But it's people like Rose that will get us to where we want to be."

He added that it's been "nice to see people talking about her disability, yes, but also being able to look beyond it."

Chalmers, who felt his disability was hardly mentioned when he appeared on Strictly last year, complimented the producers for having "made adaptions to her [Ayling-Rose]" rather than "her having to make adaptations to the programme".

"That's what society needs to do," he said. "Society needs to realise that actually we need to be the ones that change that way we are set up and that we function in order that everyone is included."

Members of the public also reacted positively to Ayling-Ellis's performance, with one describing it as "beyond beautiful".

Oh lord. @RoseAylingEllis. You just broke me. In bits. Beyond beautiful ❤️❤️❤️#Strictly #StrictlyComeDancing #RoseAylingEllis

— Nick Pearse 💚💙 (@NickPearseActor) November 13, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

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