The new series of the multi-award-winning Strictly Come Dancing, recent National Television Awards winner of Best Talent Show launched on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, once again bringing glitter, glamour and glorious dancing to homes across the nation.
We welcomed back our hosts, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, along with Judges, Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, and Anton Du Beke.
As well as revealing who our Strictly celebrities are paired with, the show opened with a dramatic performance from our fabulous professional dancers, who also performed alongside the Judges in an eye-catching routine, like never before seen on the show.
The launch show included a beautiful tribute to the late Len Goodman, in which Tess, Claudia, the Judges and professional dancers remembered the ballroom icon.
Jessie Ware also performed a rendition of ‘Free Yourself’ with a spectacular dance routine from Nadiya Bychkova, Johannes Radebe, Michelle Tsiakkas and Neil Jones, and for the last time, the 2022 Strictly winners Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystał danced their week 4 Salsa from last years’ series reminding the audience exactly why they won the competition.
Hamza said: “Strictly was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, it’s changed my life, and taught me so much about myself, and I thought already knew myself pretty well”.
Firstly, we saw Amanda Abbington paired with her partner Giovanni Pernice. After being paired, and asked by Claudia how happy she was, Amanda said “I’m ecstatic, we get on really well, same sense of humour, and dedicated to working hard”. When asked about Amanda’s reaction to the reveal, her partner Giovanni replied: “That was a reaction, I have to be honest… and also there was screaming that I enjoyed very much… very very happy days.”
Next up was Zara McDermott, and when asked about how she was feeling Zara said “I think I’m probably the most nervous I’ve been in my life. I’m not a natural born performer or extrovert, so this is the biggest challenge of my life!” After being paired with Graziano Di Prima, he said to Zara: ‘The sky is the limit! Be positive all the way” Graziano then revealed to Zara the their first Strictly dance will the Cha Cha Cha!’
Then we saw Jody Cundy CBE paired with reigning Strictly champion Jowita Przystał. When asked by Tess: “You are an eight time gold medal winning Paralympian. You started off swimming, then you made the switch to cycling so I’m thinking Strictly easy peasy for you?! Jody replied: ‘I’d like to think so, but I don’t think it’s going to be. I’m a complete newbie at this, I had years and years of practice at the other ones so we’ll see what happens…let’s shoot for the stars!’. After the pairing Jowita admitted she was nervous: “I need to admit I’m actually a bit nervous because I don’t want to let him down, but I have a lot of ideas”.
Being paired next was Krishnan Guru-Murthy who was paired with professional dancer Lauren Oakley. He was extremely pleased and said “oh it’s brilliant and she gets me immediately”. This will be Lauren’s first time having a celebrity partner and she followed up with “It might be the first time that I’m partnered with somebody, but I know it’s a big ask for the celebrities to go out there and dance. So I think I need to be kind and give you confidence to have fun, but when it’s time to be strict I know how to be strict, don’t worry about that!”.
Next it was Angela Rippon CBE’s turn to be paired. Tess said “Angela, ripping up the dancefloor – we can’t wait for that can we?! 32 years after presenting Come Dancing, how does it feel to be on the other side?”. Angela responded: “It’s weird not being in your place and being in this place, but I’m going to enjoy it I think, yes!”. Angela was paired with Kai Widdrington and said of the pairing “when I saw it was Kai I couldn’t have been happier I promise you”. Kai said “I am absolutely delighted to have Angela, I think we are going to be fabulous.”
Then it was over to Layton Williams, who was paired with Nikita Kuzmin and together they form this series’ all-male pairing. When talking about the partnership Layton said “He is going to whip me into shape, and keep me on the straight and narrow because I do like to think I know what I am doing and do the most, but I really don’t have a clue!”
Claudia said to Nikita that Layton has previous dance experience, “do you unpick that or do you build on it?”. Nikita responded “Ballroom and Latin are completely different to anything Layton has done so far, the technique, posture and especially the co-ordination is completely different, he has a lot to learn and I can’t wait to teach him”.
After that, it was Nigel Harman’s moment, and he was paired with Katya Jones. Claudia told Nigel that Katya could be quite strict and asked if he was ready. Nigel replied “everyone keeps telling me this and every time they tell me this I get more and more terrified, but I am pretending I’m really calm about it.” When asked about what Katya has in store for Nigel, she said “ideas will come as we get to know each other”.
Now, it was Bobby Brazier’s turn to meet his professional partner for the series, and Dianne Buswell revealed herself on the set of EastEnders. Bobby said “I am so pleased!” Dianne explained: “I am so happy I have already adopted Bobby as my little brother, and I already care so much about him, I just want him to have the best time ever.”
The pairings continued and we then saw comedian Eddie Kadi paired with longest serving Professional Karen Hauer. Eddie said “she’s a little bit like kryptonite… she’s got a sound ‘ta ta’, when you get something a little bit wrong ‘ta ta’. I’m like oh my God, I’ve got to get used to ‘ta ta’”. Karen said “He will be cracking the jokes, but I’m going to be cracking the whip”.
Annabel Croft was then paired on Wimbledon’s centre court with Johannes Radebe. On the pairing she said “I’ve got the best partner I could possibly have wished for, honestly he’s so special, you really are so special, it’s such an honour and a privilege to be dancing with you, thank you.” When Claudia asked about Johannes’ plans for the first week, he told Annabel “I am going to take you through your paces my darling but the most important thing is that we are going to have fun”.
Actor Ellie Leach was then paired with Vito Coppola. When asked by Claudia about her pairing she said “I’m over the moon that Vito is my partner, honestly I’m so excited I think we are going to have so much fun”. Vito said “I am just going to have the best time with Ellie, I want to have the best journey and have fun”. Vito revealed that they will be performing a sparkling Jive to which Ellie replied “Oh no, that’s really a hard, a Jive!”.
Actor Adam Thomas had been patiently waiting to find out who his partner was, and it was revealed to be Luba Mushtuk. Discussing the pairing he said “I’m loving life… what is not to love? I’m on Strictly Come Dancing and I’ve got this Russian princess, I’m buzzing, absolutely over the moon” Luba continued “I’ve never been this happy… so I am extremely excited and cannot wait to dance with you” When asked by Claudia how much he is looking forward to learning how to dance, Adam replied “I can’t wait… this is why we do this show, it’s to learn how to dance.”
Next up, TV Presenter Angela Scanlon, was paired with Carlos Gu, and said “Thank you universe… I think Carlos will be able to teach me, he is direct… I feel like there is a directness that I might respond to, like brutal honesty that Carlos has.” Claudia asked Carlos if this is going to be the year he wins and he replied “Oh yes I have made a better plan and we are going for the Glitterball… we’ll do it one step at a time, no rush”.
Our penultimate pairing was Nikita Kanda and Gorka Marquez. She revealed her family’s reaction to her taking part in the show: “My mum cried… she was so happy, it’s made everyone feel good and have a bit of a smile on their face”. When asked about her dancing skills by Claudia, Nikita said “I am a party animal but when it comes to choreography that’s what I’m here to learn… I need to learn some new skills, I’m just like one arm up in the air”. Gorka said that “even if it doesn’t go right, don’t lose the confidence, always believe in yourself, I believe in you already and it’s going to be great!”. He went on to reveal their first dance will be the Waltz and their team name is Gorkita.
The final pairing of the launch show was for Les Dennis, who said “I love a challenge… this is the biggest challenge ever, I am so excited about it, I can’t wait”. It was then revealed that he was partnered up with Nancy Xu. When commenting on the pairing he said “I am so happy… as soon as I met Nancy I knew I could learn from her, she is a great teacher and she is so enthusiastic”. Nancy said “I am so excited and actually we have already started”. Les revealed that Nancy is teaching him to dance and he is teaching her to speak ‘Scouse’.
At the end of the show, we saw our celebrities and professional dancers perform their first group number to finish the launch show in style, giving us our first sneak peek at the celebrities’ dancing skills.
Strictly goes live on Saturday 23rd September from 6.15pm, when we will see each of our couples take to the dance floor for their first performances.
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