Strictly Come Dancing has unveiled its cast of professional dancers for the 2019 contest – and (almost) all of the fan favourites are returning.
Kevin Clifton will be back following his win with Stacey Dooley in 2018, alongside his former wife Karen, Dianne Buswell, married duo Katya and Neil Jones, and much of the class of last year. The only familiar face NOT returning to the format is Pasha Kovalev who announced in February that he is departing for pastures new.
This is the full confirmed Strictly Come Dancing professional line-up for 2019.
World class professional latin dancer Nancy Xu, 28, will make her debut in the upcoming series. She said she is “thrilled and excited” to be joining the BBC ballroom show. It is not yet known if she will be partnered with a celebrity.
The World Latin Champion is coming back to the show, probably hoping for a less eventful competition this time around. Katya hit headlines during the 2018 contest when she was photographed kissing dance partner Sean Walsh – despite being married to Strictly choreographer and dancer Neil Jones. The pair have now split.
This year will mark Katya’s third in the competition. Before being partnered with Walsh, she won the 2017 contest with Joe McFadden and gave us that fantastic Gangnam style dance with Ed Balls in 2016.
For the fourth year in a row, Neil Jones will appear – but will he finally get a celebrity dance partner after acting as a stand-in for the last three series?
Neil has now split from wife Katya after that kiss scandal with Seann Walsh. The couple had their own dance show, Somnium, which followed the “ups and downs” of their relationship.
Kevin from Grimsby will be returning for his seventh series on the show after taking the Glitterball trophy with dance partner Stacey Dooley in 2018. And he’ll be hoping to reach the final once more, a feat he’s pulled off in all but one of the contests he’s competed in.
He’ll be appearing alongside ex-wife Karen Clifton – the pair separated in 2018.
Karen Clifton will also be returning to the Strictly stage for her eighth series, making her the joint longest-serving female professional on the show. The Venezuelan has never won the competition and finished sixth with celeb partner Charles Venn in 2018.
Coming back for her third series, Dianne Buswell is eyeing up the Glitterball trophy once more. She may have been eliminated second when paired with Richard Coles in 2017, but she reached the final with YouTuber Joe Sugg the following year.
After the competition, Joe and Dianne announced they were dating. They appeared in a number of vlogs together before recently launching their join YouTube cooking channel In The Pan.
Thankfully, AJ is able to return to the show after the Strictly pro and his brother Curtis were assaulted on a night out in December 2018. Curtis, who is a professional on Ireland’s answer to Strictly (Dancing with the Stars) had to have an operation to his knee after the attack, while AJ escaped with only bruising to his body.
AJ has made the semi-final every year since he began competing in the BBC ballroom show, with celebrities Claudia Fragapane, Mollie King and most recently Paralympic athlete Lauren Steadman.
Appearing in every single series since the show began in 2004, Anton Du Beke will return once more. And the 52-year-old has vowed to carry on as long as he’s wanted, saying he’ll “never” quit Strictly.
Having been part of the Strictly line-up since series 11, Aljaž Škorjanec has become a Strictly favourite. He won the contest in his debut year (2013) with model Abbey Clancy and was also paired with 2017’s runner-up Gemma Atkinson.
In the 2018 competition, Aljaž finished 8th with Kate Silverton. He’ll be appearing alongside wife Janette Manrara in the 2019 show.
Returning for her eighth year on Strictly, Glee star Janette Manrara has previously been partnered with the likes of Jake Wood, Peter Andre and most recently This Morning’s Dr Ranj.
She has won the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special twice with partners Melvin Odoom and Aston Merrygold. Along with Karen Clifton, she is the joint longest-serving female professional dancer.
Fresh from her stint as a dance captain on BBC1’s The Greatest Dancer, Oti Mabuse is returning to Strictly for her fifth year. Although she’s never won the contest, she reached the final in 2016 with Danny Mac. In 2018 she was paired up with cricketer Graeme Swann. She will be judged by her sister Motsi Mabuse this year, after it was revealed she has taken over from Darcey Bussell.
This will mark Dowden’s third year on the show. In 2018 she was paired with Danny John-Jules. The pair were eliminated seventh with tabloid reports accusing the Red Dwarf actor of “bullying behaviour” towards Dowden – allegations he strenuously denied.
After being eliminated, John-Jules tweeted Dowden to thank her for inspiring him on the Strictly dance floor, saying he should have “expressed my gratitude more often”. Shortly after he was voted off the competition, the Red Dwarf actor missed the traditional Strictly: It Takes Two exit interview.
This year will be Giovanni Pernice’s fifth series on the show – and he’ll be hoping to finally lift the Glitterball trophy: he’s made the final on three separate occasions, with Georgia May Foote, Debbie McGee and most recently with Faye Tozer from Steps.
Making his fourth appearance on the show, Gorka hasn’t yet won the competition, but did finish as runner-up with Alexandra Burke in 2017.
While he hasn’t had much luck in the contest, he did find love on the show, and is currently in a relationship with past Strictly contestant Gemma Atkinson. The two welcomed daughter Mia in July.
But he won’t be lifting the coveted Glitterball trophy this year after informing fans he is not getting partnered with a celeb. But don’t fear, he will still be part of the ensemble.
The Italian Latin Champion will return for his second year in the contest. In his debut series, Graziano was paired up with Vick Hope. They were the fourth couple to be eliminated. But like Gorka, he will not have a celeb partner this year.
Making his first appearance on Strictly in 2018, Johannes Radebe hasn’t yet been paired with a celebrity partner. Instead, the South African was on standby as a backup dancer in his first year.
The four-time winner of the Italian Dance Championship will make her second appearance on the show after previously being an assistant choreographer. She hasn’t yet been partnered with a celebrity on the main show, but did win the 2018 Children In Need special with Shane Lynch.
Her third year on the show, Ukrainian-born Nadiya Bychkova was paired with Blue singer Lee Ryan in 2018’s contest. However, the duo were eliminated in the third week of the competition.
And which Strictly professionals will not return?
There’s only one face from the class of 2018 not returning to the show…
Featuring in every series since 2011, Pasha announced in February he would be leaving Strictly.
In a statement, the pro dancer said: “After scoring 93 perfect tens, reaching four finals and lifting one glitter ball, it’s time for me to find a new challenge and so I’ve decided to make last year my final season on Strictly.”
Shortly after announcing his departure he and partner Rachel Riley – who he met on the show in 2013 – announced they are expecting their first child together.
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One on 26th August.
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