Strictly Come Dancing choreographer Jason Gilkison: “The judges were a little bit soft last year”

The show's director of choreography predicts a high standard from both the judges and the celebs this year

Strictly Come Dancing is returning to our TV screens this evening and every Strictly fan is asking the same question: who can dance and who is set to be a disaaaaster (darling)? 

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Jason Gilkison, the show’s director of choreography, is one man who knows the answer, having watched all our celebs train over the last three weeks. 

“These are new partnerships,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “They are still getting to know each other. A few weeks in, they’ll start to act like old married couples but in the beginning they are still getting to know each other.”

The thing that’s worrying all the celebrities most, says Gilkison, is the incredibly high standard of this year’s competition: “No one wants to go home first. Usually there are two or three of them who are lagging behind, but, for the first time we don’t have anybody. Everybody is really good.”

“There is a bit of nervousness amongst everybody this week because we are going to lose somebody next week who actually could also be a front runner.”

The stars with dancing experience are the most nervous before taking to the floor for the very first time, explains Gilkison. 

“The ones who are either in the music industry or have done musical theatre before, they have the biggest challenge because everybody’s got an expectation. For example, Pixie Lott last year she was quite nervous because everybody was expecting her to be really good. They put a lot of pressure on themselves,” he says, adding: “the ones who have nothing to lose seem to be a lot more relaxed in the first week.”

During tonight’s and tomorrow’s live shows, the celebrities will be dancing one of four dances – Jive, Waltz, Tango and Cha Cha – and there won’t be any lifts. “Only illegal ones, which I hope no one choses to do!”  

“We pick four dances which put everybody on an even keel,” says Gilkison. “You don’t want anybody to feel like they’ve got a hindrance because they’ve got a dance that might be more difficult than the others.”

When it comes to dishing out scores, Gilkison reckons the judges might be a little tougher this year. 

“I thought the judges were a little bit soft last year. As they got on in the series they started to let a few things go through but I think always at the beginning of the series, particularly Craig I’m sure he’ll be on the red alert for anybody’s foot coming off the ground… The pros always try and push it as far as they can but rules are rules!”

As the series enters its 13th season, Gilkison credits its continued success to the professional dancers. 

“We are very lucky here at Strictly,” he says. “I’ve worked on the show in several different countries and the group that you have for Strictly Come Dancing, in the ballroom world they are the elite.”

“A lot of the pros are just the highest calibre teachers in the world. That contributes to the series here. It’s going from strength to strength particularly because of the pro dancers.”

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Strictly Come Dancing returns tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1


Strictly Come Dancing week one: song and dance list revealed

More Strictly news and interviews with all this year’s celebrity contestants… 


Robin Windsor, Alex Jones and Sir Bruce Forsyth will be at the Radio Times Festival this weekend. Tickets are available here.