Adjust your TV sets for glitter – Strictly Come Dancing is back for a 19th series .
The series returned on Saturday 18 September, with each celebrity being partnered up with their professional dancer. The first live show will follow this weekend, on Saturday 25 September . From next weekend, 2 and 3 October , Saturday’s live show will be accompanied by Sunday’s results show.
Away from the dance floor, it's all change, with the biggest shake-up to the show's format for years. The judging panel will still feature Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas, but Bruno Tonioli will be replaced by Anton Du Beke. (More on this below.)
And there are four new professional dancers joining the 15 contestants. Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, Cameron Lombard, Jowita Przystal will be having their toes trod on. Meanwhile, after a decade as host, Zoe Ball is to be replaced by erstwhile professional dancer Janette Manrara on Strictly: It Takes Two.
So who is lined up to tango onto our TVs this autumn and who have they been partnered with?
Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden
Tom Fletcher was the first celebrity to be confirmed.
The man who has proved there's more than five tricks in one showbiz career, Fletcher is the lead singer and guitarist of McFly. If you grew up in the 2000s, Fletcher and his chums no doubt featured on a bedroom wall somewhere, but their low-fi perky sound has proved enduring too.
Since those glory days, Fletcher has found gainful employment penning songs for the likes of One Direction, Busted and 5 Seconds of Summer. And like every celebrity of parent-age, Fletcher has dashed off a handful of bestselling children's books including The Christmasaurus, The Creakers and There's a Monster in Your Book.
"I'm incredibly excited," he said. "But also totally terrified! My kids were excited too until I started showing them my best dad-dancing in the kitchen."
Robert Webb and Dianne Buswell
Robert Webb was the second celebrity to be confirmed.
The comedian came to fame with his Footlights partner David Mitchell. Despite a hit-and-miss sketch show, That Mitchell and Webb Look, they shot into the public consciousness with the cult, cringey sitcom, Peep Show.
But those hoping that Webb might reprise his reckless man-child character, Jez, might be disappointed. After several years in Mitchell's shadow, Webb emerged as a sensitive public intellectual with his acclaimed 2017 memoir How Not to Be a Boy.
"I can't wait to get packed into a spandex onesie and fired from a glitter cannon directly at Claudia Winkleman," he said. "At least I think that's what happens. My goal is to try and survive from week to week without causing serious injury to myself or innocent bystanders."
AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington
AJ Odudu was the third celebrity to be confirmed.
Perhaps one of the lesser-known faces on the show this year, Odudu will be familiar to some from her hosting duties on Big Brother's Bit on the Side, The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice and The Voice.
She began her presenting career as the BBC's "raving reporter" and fronted Sky Arts' coverage of the Isle of Wight festival, so she might be more used to a mucky moshpit than a stately ballroom. Still, she’s likely to bring charm and a big toothy grin to her time twirling under Strictly's bright lights.
"I am beyond chuffed that I am going to be on this year's Strictly Come Dancing," she said. "I absolutely love the show and am fully committed to making the most of every second of the Strictly experience. Bring it on!"
John Whaite and Johannes Radebe
John Whaite was the fourth celebrity to be confirmed.
He is a chef, TV presenter and cookery author who won the third series of The Great British Bake Off, in 2012, at the age of 23.
Whaite currently has a weekly cooking segment on Channel 4’s Steph's Packed Lunch. He has written for The Telegraph on the topics of food and mental health , and has published five cookery books. He also runs his own cookery school, John Whaite's Kitchen.
"I've been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can't wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth. What's more exciting for me, is that I'm going to be one half of the first all-male partnership, which is a great step forward in representation and inclusion. Whoever it is I'm paired with, I hope they are up for a challenge as I want our routines to include lots of spectacular lifts!"
Rhys Stephenson and Nancy Xu
Actor and children's TV presenter Rhys Stephenson was the fifth celebrity contestant confirmed for the show.
Stephenson is best known as the face of children's television channel CBBC and has also presented Blue Peter and Saturday Mash-Up! and appeared on The Dengineers and Newsround .
"I am buzzing to be a part of Strictly Come Dancing 2021,” he said. I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation. I cannot wait to experience it all: the costumes, the orchestra, even Craig's glare! I am ready!"
Sara Davies and Aljaž Škorjanec
Entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den judge Sara Davies was the sixth contestant to be confirmed.
When she joined Dragons’ Den in 2019, Davies was the youngest-ever judge on the show. She started her company, Crafter’s Companion, which sells products for home-crafters, when she was a student; it now employs almost 250 people worldwide. And she was made an MBE for services to the economy in 2016.
“I'm really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance,” she commented. “Truth be told – I haven't got a clue! I've not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little. And I'm excited to see the impact of all those hours of training on my mum tum!"
Katie McGlynn and Gorka Marquez
Actor Katie McGlynn was the seventh contestant to hit the dancefloor.
She might prompt a collective “huh?” from most viewers, but she will be familiar to some from her Bafta-nominated role as Sinead Tinker in Coronation Street . She is currently starring in Hollyoaks as Becky Quentin.
She said: "It's been so hard keeping it a secret, but I can finally say that I'm getting ready to shake my shimmy and become part of the Strictly family! 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. As long as I don’t fall over I’ll be happy.”
Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova
TV presenter and author Dan Walker was the eight contestant to slip into spandex.
Walker is a towering presence (he’s nearly 2m tall) on breakfast TV, fronting several of the BBC’s top sports and news programmes. Since 2016, he has presented BBC Breakfast as well as reporting for Final Score and Match of the Day. He also braved 3am alarms to host BBC Olympic Breakfast.
He 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."
Tilly Ramsay and Nikita Kuzmin
Tilly Ramsay was the ninth contestant to be announced.
Always keen to root out nepotism and promote those from underprivileged backgrounds, it’s easy to see why Tilly Ramsay’s riches-to-riches story would appeal to BBC execs. Sneering aside though, aged only 18, Ramsay has proved herself the most media-savvy of Gordon Ramsay’s telegenic brood. She’s had a programme on CBBC, published a cookbook and, somewhat inevitably, is big on TikTok, with more than 9.5 million followers. All of which she’s accomplished without reducing fellow chefs to tears with her sweary aggro. Bravo!
She said: “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!”
Greg Wise was the 10th contestant to be confirmed.
The actor and producer will be familiar from shows such as The Crown, Cranford and his breakout role as tousle-locked heartthrob John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility. He is married to Emma Thompson and they worked on the 2020 film Last Christmas together.
He is taking to the stage, though, in memory of his sister. “My beautiful sister was a huge disco queen,” he said. “She left our world almost exactly 5 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.”
Wise will be this year’s Telegraph Strictly diarist , giving readers the inside scoop on training and competing every week.
Nina Wadia and Neil Jones
Nina Wadia was the 11th contestant to be announced.
The actress is best known for playing Zainab Masood in EastEnders. She also recently appeared in the live-action film remake of Aladdin. She's also appeared on the CBBC show Danny and Mick.
She said: "I've always danced like nobody’s watching, so if we blindfold the judges I could actually win Strictly 2021."
Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice
Rose Ayling-Ellis was the 12th contestant to be unveiled.
The 26-year-old EastEnders actress will be the first ever deaf competitor . She joined the soap as Frankie Lewis in 2020, becoming the first deaf actress to play a deaf character on the soap. Her previous TV work includes BBC Two's cold war drama Summer of Rockets, alongside Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens, and Casualty.
Growing up, she says, she rarely saw deaf people on television so didn't think acting was a possible career for her. Instead, her TV career "happened by accident" when she met a deaf director who wanted to make a short film, she told the BBC earlier this year.
"To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is sooooo exciting.. and a little bit scary," she said.
"It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open! I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. But I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill and even better I get to learn whilst wearing beautiful dresses made especially for me!"
She uses British Sign Language (BSL).
Adam Peaty and Katya Jones
Adam Peaty was the 13th contestant to be announced.
The British swimming champion just got back from the Tokyo Olympics, where he won two gold medals and broke a world record. As well as his total haul of three gold and two silver Olympic medals, he is an eight-time World Champion, a sixteen-time European Champion and a three-time Commonwealth Champion. He also holds the sixteen fastest times in history for the 100m breaststroke.
"I think this will come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I'm so excited to finally share the news that I'll be joining Strictly this year," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool. I'm hoping my competitive nature is going to compensate for my dancing abilities!"
Judi Love and Graziano Di Prima
Judi Love was the 14th contestant to be revealed.
The comedian and presenter is a regular panellist on Loose Women, has appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show, The Graham Norton show, and Good Morning Britain, among many other popular entertainment shows.
"I think I am still in shock that I will be part of this amazing show. I've watched it for many years and admired the phenomenal abilities of these dancers and celebrities that have taken part and dedicated themselves to learning a new craft" she said.
"I'm truly looking forward to pushing myself in something that I could have only dreamed of doing and now it's actually coming true!! I can't lie I'm soooo nervous but excited at the same time!!"
Ugo Monye and Oti Mabuse
Ugo Monye was the 15th and final contestant.
The England and British & Irish Lions star retired from playing rugby in 2015 and has since moved into sports presenting, hosting coverage for BT Sport and ITV, alongside the BBC 5 Live Rugby Union Weekly podcast. He’s also recently taken over as one of the new team captains on A Question of Sport. As rugby fans know, Monye has a witty, sparky personality, a competitive streak and a sharp dress sense that will make him perfect for Strictly.
“What a dream come true! 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,” Monye said. “My two beautiful daughters never had a chance to see me on the rugby pitch, so to know they can watch me waltzing and twirling every week is really special to me. I love an outfit at the best of times, so bring on the sequins!”
And who are the judges?
Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas are all returning to the judges' seats. But despite his gallivanting around the UK with Craig for his road-trip series , long-standing judge Bruno Tonioli will be sitting this one out, due to uncertainty around Covid-19 travel restrictions.
His loss is Anton Du Beke's gain . Du Beke joined Strictly during its first series and is the only professional dancer to have danced in every series to date. Can he compete with Tonioli's barbed charm? Only (quick-)time will tell.
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