Strictly Come Dancing is starting THIS week

After an abysmal year of coronavirus, lockdowns and staying at home, Strictly Come Dancing was just what everyone needed at the end of 2020. The much-loved dancing show never fails to bring a smile to our faces, as well as its ability to make us seriously think about taking up salsa classes.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
BBC

Strictly fans will be pleased to know that despite the ongoing pandemic, the feel-good show is back this year for its 19th series. It’s time to dust off your dancing shoes and practice your best ‘SEVEN!’ score voice as we settle in for weeks of entertainment from hopeful celebrities yet again.

This year’s series of Strictly is particularly special, as it marks the very first time the show will include a dance couple made up of two men. Last year, it featured an all-female couple when professional dancer Katya Jones teamed up with Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams.

So, what else can you expect from this year’s history-making series of Strictly? Find out here…

Who are the judges for Strictly Come Dancing 2021?

Last year, extravagant judge Bruno Tonioli was unable to join fellow judges Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse due to Covid travel restrictions. Unfortunately, the same goes for this year.

It was announced that long-time Strictly pro dancer Anton du Beke will take over from Bruno on the judging panel.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Bruno said: ‘They need people available. I am in America. I used to do it because I used to spend three days here and three days in LA. It is impossible. But the show is going to be fantastic regardless.’

Anton will sit alongside Craig, Motsi and Shirley as usual.

Who are the professional dancers?

There are four new professional dancers joining the line-up for Strictly Come Dancing 2021.

Kai Widdrington is a former Junior Latin American champion and a former Dancing With The Stars Ireland pro. Cameron Lombard is the current South African Latin Champion. Jowita Przystal was the winner of BBC One’s 2020 series of The Greatest Dancer and Nikita Kuzmin is a six-time Latin and Ballroom national champion in Italy, as well as a former Let’s Dance Germany pro.

The newcomers will join Strictly’s regular professional dancers: Dianne Buswell, Nadia Bychkova, Amy Dowden, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Oti Mabuse, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Giovanni Pernice, Graziano di Prima, Johannes Radebe, Aljaz Skorjanec, and Nancy Wu.

You might notice Janette Manrara is missing from the pro line-up this year. That’s because she’s taking over from Zoe Ball as the new host of It Takes Two, the sister show to Strictly Come Dancing.

Who are the contestants?

The first three stars who were revealed to be taking part were McFly singer Tom Fletcher, TV presenter AJ Odudu and comedian Robert Webb.

When the news was announced on the One Show on 4 August, Tom Fletcher admitted he was in ‘equal parts excited and terrified.’

Peep Show star Robert Webb said: ‘I am ludicrously excited to be taking part in Strictly this year… ‘It’s a big, generous, joyful show and I can’t wait to get packed into a spandex onesie and fired from a glitter cannon directly at Claudia Winkleman.’

Following the success of comedian Bill Bailey, who won with Oti Mabuse last year, who knows how far Robert could go?

AJ Odudu couldn’t wait to impress her mum with the exciting news. ‘The secret is out at last. Surprise, mum… This is favourite child status vibes right here,’ she said.

On 5 August, it was revealed on BBC Radio 2 that Great British Bake Off 2012 winner John Whaite would be competing on the dancefloor with a same-sex partner. This marks the first time there has been a couple made up of two male dancers.

Speaking to Matt Lucas, who was standing in for Zoe Ball on the radio show, John said: ‘It’s an honour. When they asked me if I’d be interested, I just bit their hand off because I thought, you know, to do that and represent the LGBTQ+ community is one thing – but also just to see two men or two women dancing together, it’s not necessarily about sexuality, it’s just about intimacy and respect.

‘And I think that’s going to be such a great thing in our culture, where men are conditioned not to open up and not to be emotional. I think it might help to combat that. So, I’m excited on so many levels to be doing the first all-male partnership.’

CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson was the fifth celebrity to be added to the line-up. He said: ‘I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact it is going to exceed every expectation.’

The sixth celebrity contestant was revealed on Good Morning Britain as Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies. Sara said: ‘I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance. Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little.’

She added: ‘The business world has taught me that tenacity, drive and determination deliver results, I hope that I can bring that to the dance floor. And I’m excited to see the impact of all those hours of training on my mum tum!’

BBC Breakfast got the pleasure of revealing the seventh and eighth celebrities to join the line-up, and they are former Coronation Street star Katie McGlynn and BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker.

Katie said: ‘I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.

‘Although I do get to have so much fun as an actress, a lot of my roles have involved quite serious and challenging storylines, so I’m fully ready to let my hair down and do something different, even if it is completely outside of my comfort zone.’

While Dan commented: ‘I am definitely excited, a little bit worried, mostly terrified and a small part of me is considering going into hiding! My kids have only ever asked me to go on two shows… Saturday Mash Up and Strictly. I did Saturday Mash Up this summer so… it’s time to embrace the sequins.’

Dan need not be worried, so it seems, as he has the backing of former Strictly judge Len Goodman. On Good Morning Britain, Len revealed he thinks Dan has what it takes to lift the glitterball trophy.

‘I played golf the other week with Dan Walker and he’s up for it,’ he said. ‘I tell you, he’s a competitive sort of guy. Whether he’s good I don’t know, however, he won’t lose for lack of trying… He’s tall, he’s got an elegance about him, he’s good at golf which is great because you need timing, rhythm, good movement, technique, all the stuff you need for dancing.’

Joining them will be Gordon Ramsey’s daughter and TikTok star Tilly Ramsey and The Crown actor Greg Wise.

Tilly said: ‘I’m so excited and grateful to be joining the Strictly family! I’m always up for fun new challenges and this will be my biggest adventure yet! I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on and show my dad how it’s really done! Bring on the glitz, glamour and sequins!’

Greg, who is married to Emma Thompson, said: ‘My beautiful sister was a huge disco queen. She left our world almost exactly five years ago in a glitter ball coffin. This is for her. My gorgeous Diva sis, who would have been insane with excitement that her little bro was doing this. I will channel her, as her bro can’t dance – but I’m thrilled to be dipping my toes, knees, hips and arms into this wonderful world, and hope to make her proud, and obviously make her laugh.’

The next couple of celebs heading for the dance floor are two fellow Eastenders stars, Nina Wadia, who used to play Zainab Masood in the BBC soap, and Rose Ayling-Ellis, who will be Strictly‘s first deaf contestant, another history-making moment for the show.

Rose, who plays Frankie Lewis in Eastenders and is the twelfth contestant to be revealed, said: ‘To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is sooooo exciting… and a little bit scary. It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open!

The 13th and 14th celebrities were then confirmed: Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty and Loose Women‘s Judi Love will be donning their sequins along with the rest of the line-up.

The final celebrity to take part was revealed during The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan on 13 August to be rugby star Ugo Monye. ‘What a dream come true,’ he said. ‘Strictly is the biggest entertainment show on TV and I can’t wait to show everyone I’ve got more than just dad dancing moves.’

When is Strictly Come Dancing starting?

Strictly will be back on our screens on Saturday 18 September. Last year, the series was cut short because of the pandemic, so it started in mid-October.

Stay tuned for all of your Strictly Come Dancing updates…