We hope newcomer Amy Dowden likes danger. Brian Conley often referred to himself as Dangerous Brian on TV, but we’re hoping that won’t apply to treading the boards in the Strictly ballroom. Brian has said that the last time he danced properly was when he was playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. Is that good prep for Strictly or not? We’ll have to wait and see. As this is Amy’s first year on the show, we don’t know what to expect from this pair apart from, presumably, a lot of laughs.
The Strictly gods have smiled on poor Katya Jones this year. Fans of the show won’t fail to remember that 2016 was a load of old Balls for the then-new pro, as Katya was partnered with former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed in her first ever Strictly series. We get the feeling that she’ll have a better chance of Glitterball victory with Joe McFadden, although the Holby City star has said he’s taking inspiration from Ed going into the show. “He threw himself into it and that’s the way you have to approach it,” said Joe. That’s one way to describe this, anyway.
Alexandra Burke has already won a huge TV talent show, but can she make it two? The former X Factor winner revealed the sum total of her dance training was at school when she did street dance and contemporary, but that was 14 years ago. “I’m not even going to give [my dancing] a rating because I don’t know what I’m doing!” she said. “The rating is ‘wait and see.'” Gorka Marquez, meanwhile, hasn’t yet had the chance to shine on the show; he joined Strictly in 2016 but was voted out in week two along with celebrity partner Tameka Empson. This time though, we’d be surprised if he didn’t at least make the semi-finals with Alexandra.
Kevin Clifton has been a professional dancer on Strictly for four years. And for four years, he’s made it to the final. But he’s never, ever won. Will he make it fifth time a charm and work his magic with comedian Susan Calman? He’s certainly got a willing student in Susan, who said that she “really wants to learn how to dance” but that it is “probably the greatest challenge I’ll ever have in my life.” No matter what their Strictly scores look like every week, we predict these two will pick up a huge following from Strictly fans and will be the people’s champions of the series.
Talk about a dynamite pairing! Despite these two not yet taking to the dance floor, The Saturdays singer Mollie King is already the bookies’ favourite to win the show – and that was before we found out she was partnered with AJ Pritchard. The pro from Stoke-on-Trent made his debut last year and was coupled with gymnast Claudia Fragapane, and the pair managed to finish in a not-to-shabby fourth place. Surely these two are destined for the final?
The Strictly fates were always going to put these two together. They even look the same – so much so we reckon they could be mistaken for siblings. Anyway, Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins says that she wants to “work really hard and get as far as I can”, and we think the pro to get her there is Brendan Cole. Known for being firm but fair, the veteran dancer won the first ever series of Strictly in 2004 with Natasha Kaplinsky. Could he roll back the years with Charlotte?
This is Karen Clifton’s sixth year on Strictly Come Dancing, and she’s rarely come close to lifting that Glitterball trophy. Sunday Brunch host Simon Rimmer will be the second chef to be moulded by Karen after she was partnered with Hairy Biker Dave Myers in 2013. Simon’s said that at 54, he has “no dance experience whatsoever and genuinely, my learning curve is going to be steep.” Crikey, we hope you’re ready for this Karen.
Kush has something of a habit of walking around Walford with his top off, so we already know that newbie Nadiya is going to have her hands full with EastEnders actor Davood Ghadami! Although we don’t yet know what to expect from Nadiya, we certainly get the feeling that Davood might turn out to be a bit of a mover. He’s already said that he’s looking forward to Halloween Week and hopes he can get that far. And from first impressions, we’re quietly confident he’ll make it.
Also new to the Strictly family, professional dancer Dianne Buswell might wonder what sort of programme she’s signed herself up to when she hits the dance floor with Rev. Richard Coles. The broadcaster has revealed that a “hideously ambitious diva” could emerge once he gets dancing, but we think Richard might well be on something of a wing and a prayer if he is to make the final.
Now here’s a pair who’re going to have fun. This Morning and Loose Women presenter Ruth Langsford has said that she would rate her dancing “quite highly” after a couple of drinks, but fingers crossed Strictly veteran Anton Du Beke won’t have to resort to gin to whip her into shape. As Ruth has never had a dance lesson in her life, we think veteran pro Anton is the perfect partner for her. Even if the 10 paddles don’t come their way, viewers’ votes will. We’d be surprised if they didn’t make it to Blackpool.
Despite Holby City star Chizzy Akudolu saying that she doesn’t have any dance experience, we reckon this pairing will be a couple to watch. Why? Because Chizzy also revealed that she won a disco dancing competition when she was 13 years old and she used to do karate. “I was mega fit but I just got lazy,” she said. “Once I get my fitness back, I’m not going to lose it.” That sounds like fighting talk to us. Plus she’s paired with Pasha Kovalev – a Strictly pro fave who’s previously won with Caroline Flack. Just what the doctor ordered.
At 58 years old, Debbie McGee is the oldest contestant in the competition this year (although she’s positively spritely compared to last year’s oldest celebrity, 71-year-old Lesley Joseph). Debbie’s already said that she doesn’t want to be “the first or second to go,” but we wouldn’t want to bet against that happening (sorry Debbie!). Giovanni Pernice’s two previous Strictly partners were Georgia May Foote and Laura Whitmore, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares being partnered with a more mature celeb.
Former Emmerdale actress Gemma Atkinson clearly isn’t afraid of a challenge. She’s said she’s “way out” of her comfort zone signing up to Strictly, but she wants to “make the most of the opportunity” by taking part in the show. She’s certainly in safe hands with seasoned pro Aljaž. This will be his fifth year on Strictly, and he’s had memorable partners in Helen George, Daisy Lowe, Alison Hammond and 2013 winner Abbey Clancy. He’s a viewer favourite, and we’re predicting these two will make some magic on the dance floor this series.
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC1 on Saturday September 23.