Strictly Come Dancing’s professionals and their best bits from over the years

From AJ to Oti: your ultimate guide

Strictly Come Dancing glitterball

We all need a few more sequins in our lives at the moment, and Strictly Come Dancing 2020 is on its way to dazzle us. There’ll be no Kevin Clifton this year, as the Grimbsy legend has announced he’s leaving to focus on other projects. But don’t worry, there’s still a marvellous pro-line up keeping us entertained until Christmas.

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Here’s your ultimate guide to this year’s professionals and their best moments on the BBC show…

AJ Pritchard – left line-up

AJ Pritchard Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Before Strictly, AJ’s first brush with telly fame was on Britain’s Got Talent. He reached the semi-finals in 2013 with dance partner Chloe Hewitt, who also went on to become a Strictly professional. He has also appeared on Celebrity MasterChef, won Celebrity Hunted and is a guest choreographer on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK with his brother Curtis. His best result came in 2016 when he finished 4th place with Olympic gymnast, Claudia Fragapane, and has also been partnered with the likes of Mollie King and Saffron Barker.

Best Strictly moment? It’s all about the ‘journey’ on Strictly, and AJ really helped Lauren Steadman find her confidence and start to blossom as the series went on. Their American Smooth was a dance to be truly proud of.

Aljaž Škorjanec

Aljaz Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Aljaž has been married to fellow pro Janette Manrara since July 2017 and bagged a win on Strictly in 2013 with model Abbey Clancy. He was also partnered with presenter Alison Hammond, actress Helen George, model Daisy Lowe, actress Gemma Atkinson, newsreader Kate Silverton, model Emma Thynn.

Best Strictly moment? Aljaž has given us so many great routines over the years, including a stunning waltz with Abbey Clancy. Fans loved the friendship he had with 2017 partner Gemma Atkinson though, which got them all the way to the final. Their Paso Doble was a real highlight of that year.

Amy Dowden

Amy Dowden Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Amy is Strictly’s first ever Welsh professional and reached the final with CBBC star Karim Zeroual in 2019. Her other celebrity partners include presenter Brian Conley, Red Dwarf actor Danny John Jules.

Best Strictly moment? Sometimes everything just comes together – Amy and Karim’s Musicals Week jive to You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray earned them a perfect 40 and was one of the most effortlessly brilliant performances we’ve seen on the show.

Anton Du Beke

Anton Du Beke Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Anton is the only Strictly pro who has performed on every single series and he’s certainly a fan favourite. Rumours often swirl of him moving to the judges’ desk, but for now he’ll keep dancing. He’s been partnered with countless celebs, such as opera star Lesley Garrett, presenter Esther Rantzen, actress Patsy Palmer, impressionist Jan Ravens, presenter Kate Garraway, actress Gillian Taylforth, actress Laila Rouass, politician Ann Widdecombe, personality Nancy Dell’Olio, model Jerry Hall, actress Fiona Fullerton, tennis coach Judy Murray, presenter Katie Derham, actress Lesley Joseph, presenter Ruth Langsford, stylist Susannah Constantine. He reached the final in 2019 with Emma Barton.

Best Strictly moment? There’s a long list of iconic Strictly moments in Anton’s file, but putting Ann Widdecombe in a harness and flying her across the dance floor before starting a tango has to be one of the best!

Dianne Buswell

Dianne Buswell Strictly (BBC)
BBC Pictures

Dianne found love with influencer Joe Sugg when they performed on the show together and they still dance together, touring The Joe and Dianne Show around the country. They reached the final of Strictly in 2018. She has also paired up with Reverend Richard Coles and DJ Dev Griffin.

Best Strictly moment? While Dianne choreographed some amazing routines for Joe, we have a soft spot for the ‘Revo and Reddo’ partnership with Richard Coles. The best bit was when Richard sat on a cloud above the dance floor, dressed in white, playing a harp to ‘There Must Be An Angel’ – an inspired start to a Cha Cha!

Giovanni Pernice

Giovanni Pernice Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Giovanni has dated two former Strictly contestants: Georgia May Foote and Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts, who danced with Pasha Kovalev in 2018. Before Strictly, he lived in his native Italy where he danced alongside former Strictly professional Joanne Clifton. He has reached an amazing three finals with Georgia May Foote in 2015, Debbie McGee in 2017 and Steps star Faye Tozer in 2018. His other celebrity partners include presenter Laura Whitmore and Drag Race judge Michelle Visage.

Best Strictly moment? Giovanni really has produced some fabulous dances for his celebrity partners, but perhaps his greatest achievement was making the whole nation do a double take when it came to Debbie McGee. Her Paso Doble in week one suddenly made her a surprise contender, and the pair had a great friendship throughout the series.

Gorka Marquez

Strictly Gorka Marquez

Spanish Gorka fell in love with Gemma Atkinson, who danced with Aljaz Skorjanec on the 2017 series. The couple now have a baby together. His best result came from Alexandra Burke in 2017 and was also partnered with EastEnders star Tameka Empson and presenter Katie Piper.

Best Strictly moment? Gorka and Alexandra were a revelation, wowing the judges week in, week out. Their best dance was probably their jive, which is well worth losing a few minutes to on YouTube – if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be able to tell which of them is the professional dancer.

Graziano Di Prima

Strictly Graziano

Graziano is an Italian Latin Champion and has only had one partner so far, in the form of former Capital FM DJ Vick Hope.

Best Strictly moment? The show has long been under pressure to introduce same-sex partnerships into the main line-up. It’s still dragging its cuban heels, but last year Graziano performed a contemporary routine with fellow pro Johannes Radebe on a Sunday results show, accompanied by Emeli Sande. The dance was hugely celebrated by fans of the show.

Janette Manrara

Janette Manrara Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Janette has been married to fellow professional Aljaž Škorjanec since July 2017 and says one of their favourite date nights is an evening on the sofa watching Gogglebox. She had her best performance in 2014 with EastEnders’ Jake Wood. Her other celebrity partners include fashion designer Julien Macdonald, singer Peter Andre, DJ Melvin Odoom, JLS star Aston Merrygold, TV doctor Dr Ranj Singh and Paralympian Will Bayley.

Best Strictly moment? Janette is a big fan of the salsa, and the one she choreographed for Jake Wood was incredible. Mambo No 5 started playing and grumpy Max Branning became Mr Snake Hips, instantly making him a Glitterball favourite. Janette has previously said it’s one of her favourite dances she’s ever put together for Strictly.

Johannes Radebe

Johannes Radele Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Before arriving at Elstree, Johannes previously starred as a pro on Strictly Come Dancing South Africa, reaching the final twice. He’s had one partner in the form of  Catherine Tyldesley in 2019.

Best Strictly moment? So many to choose from, but in 2019 the professionals livened up a Sunday night results show by dancing along a red carpet to David Bowie’s Fame. High-kicking in heels, Johannes stole the show and a star was born.

Karen Hauer

Karen Hauer Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Karen was previously married to former Strictly pro Kevin Clifton and reached the final with TOWIE star Mark Wright in 2014. Other celebrity partners include Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, Hairy Biker Dave Myers, presenter Jeremy Vine, singer Will Young, chef Simon Rimmer, actor Charles Venn and comedian Chris Ramsey.

Best Strictly moment? Anybody who puts Jeremy Vine in a cowboy outfit, sits him on a large prop horse and then teaches him to perform a tango to Go West is deserving of our eternal respect. Karen, you are the Queen.

Katya Jones

Katya Jones Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Katya split up with fellow Strictly professional Neil Jones after the tabloids claimed she was hit by the Strictly curse. She has good form with her celebs and took Joe McFadden all the way to the Glitterball in 2017. Her other celebrity partners include politician Ed Balls, comedian Seann Walsh and sports presenter Mike Bushell.

Best Strictly moment? Katya is well known for her creative choreography and she knows how to get the best out of her partners. Who else would have dared to dance to Gangnam Style with Ed Balls, an unforgettable slice of Strictly history!

Luba Mushtuk

Luba Mushtuk Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Luba worked as an assistant choreographer on Strictly before being signed up as a pro. She became a Strictly pro in 2016. She got her first partner in 2019, rower James Cracknell, but the pair were first to be eliminated.

Nadiya Bychkova

Nadiya Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Nadiya is a two-time Ballroom World Champion. Her best result came when she finished sixth in 2017 with EastEnders star Davood Ghadami and was also partnered with Blue singer Lee Ryan and former England goalie David James.

Best Strictly moment? Nadiya worked wonders with Davood, who showed huge progress throughout the competition. Their highest scoring dance was their Charleston to Lambeth Walk, perfect for an EastEnder!

Nancy Xu

Nancy Xu Strictly

Nancy joined Strictly in 2019 but is yet to have a celebrity partner on the series. Could 2020 be her year? She is a Latin specialist who has previously appeared on So You Think You Can Dance in China, and performed in hit stage show Burn the Floor.

Neil Jones

Neil Jones Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Neil recently split up with former dance partner and Strictly pro Katya Jones. His best celeb result came in 2019 when he came fifth with Alex Scott.

Best Strictly moment? Despite having Strictly pro status, it took a few years for Neil to be given a celebrity partner. In his first year of competition, Neil struck up a great bond with Alex and they lit up Blackpool with a deliciously dramatic Paso Doble to Beyonce’s Run the World.

Oti Mabuse

Oti Mabuse Strictly 2019 (BBC)

Oti’s career has hit the stratosphere in recent years – she is one of the BBC’s most in-demand stars and currently appears as a judge on The Greatest Dancer. She won in 2019 with Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher and was also partnered with boxer Anthony Ogogo, actor Danny Mac, Paralympian Jonnie Peacock and cricketer Graeme Swann.

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Best Strictly moment? Oti may have lifted the glitterball with Kelvin, but she also sizzled with Danny Mac in 2016. Danny was one of the most talented celebrity dancers the show has ever seen, and was hotly tipped to win for most of the series. Among many stunning routines, Oti created a knockout samba that completely redefined the style and received a perfect 40.