It’s official: The Strictly Come Dancing professionals for 2021 have been revealed – and there are lots of familiar faces returning.
The BBC announced the news about this year’s Strictly professionals on 24th March, revealing that Oti Mabuse, Giovanni Pernice and Katya Jones would be returning.
Some fans might be surprised to hear, however, that Anton Du Beke will be back to dance, following his brief stint as a judge last year, which saw many voting him to become a permanent judge on the show.
As we wait for Strictly to grace our screens once again, here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Strictly Come Dancing professionals.
We wonder who they’ll be partnered with once the Strictly Come Dancing 2021 line-up is announced later this year…
Won: Series 17 (Kelvin Fletcher) and Series 18 (Bill Bailey)
South African Latin American Champion Oti Mabuse has been a Strictly professional since 2015.
She’s also a captain on The Greatest Dancer, mentoring ballroom and Latin dancers Michael and Jowita to victory in 2020.
Strictly is slowly becoming a family affair for the reigning champion – her sister Motsi Mabuse is on the judging panel, and her husband Marius Lepure was reported to be joining the show as a troupe dancer, although this yet to be confirmed.
Oti won the the 2019 series after several memorable hip-shaking performances with Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher, and last year she danced her way to victory with Bill Bailey. So will it be a hat-trick this year for Oti?
Won: Series 11 (Abbey Clancy)
Ballroom and Latin star Aljaž Škorjanec has won over 19 championships in his native Slovenia, and has been part of the Strictly family since 2013 when he won with model Abbey Clancy. He has also been partnered with Alison Hammond, Helen George, Gemma Atkinson, Viscountess Emma Weymouth, and most recently Radio DJ Clara Amfo. He’ll return to the show in with his wife Janette Manrara.
British national champion Amy Dowden grew up watching Strictly from her native Wales, finally achieving her dream of joining the show in 2017. Dowden was paired with Danny John-Jules in 2018, when the Red Dwarf actor was accused by the tabloids of “bullying” her – allegations he strenuously denied. Dowden encountered less controversy in 2019 when she reached the final with CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual. She was partnered with JJ Chalmers in 2020, but unfortunately they only made it to Week Seven.
Anton Du Beke
Veteran Strictly pro has appeared in every single series since the show started in 2004, and has no plans to leave just yet as he returns for the nineteenth(!) time. This year’s return may come as a surprise to many though, after he filled in for Motsi Mabuse on the panel last year, leading many fans to demand that he become a permanent judge on the show.
Despite many attempts Anton only reached the final for the first time in 2019 with Emma Barton , and last year he was the first to be voted out with his contestant Jacqui Smith.
Could 2021 be the year Anton gets the crown? Or will he hang up his dancing shoes once and for all and take a seat on the panel after this year? Only time will tell!
Australian Open Champion Dianne Buswell honed her skills on Strictly Come Dancing down under before joining the British edition in 2017. She was eliminated third with radio DJ Dev Griffin in 2019, but had better luck the year before when she reached the final with vlogger Joe Sugg.
Dianne and Joe been dating ever since and even launched their joint YouTube channel, In The Pan.
Last year, she was partnered with Max George, but they only made it to Week Four. Here’s hoping Dianne has better luck this year!
Italian stallion Giovanni Pernice won the Italian Championships in 2012, before joining the Strictly professional line-up in 2015. He’s reached the final an impressive three times – with Georgia May Foote, Debbie McGee and Faye Tozer. Last year, he made it to Week Eight with Good Morning Britain star Ranvir Singh.
Oh, and he’s also the Guinness World Record holder for Jive kicks and flicks, as well as Charleston swivels – the more you know.
After sitting out last year, Spanish dancing sensation Gorka Marquez is back this year for another shot at the Glitterball trophy after coming runner up with Alexandra Burke in 2017. While he didn’t win the competition he did win the heart of contestant Gemma Atkinson – the two welcomed baby Mia in July 2019 and danced together in the 2019 Christmas Special.
Last year, Gorka made it all the way to the finals with EastEnders actress Maisie Smith – however, they just missed out on the glitterball as Bill was crowned the 2020 winner.
Graziano Di Prima
Sicilian-born Graziano Di Prima is also returning for 2021. He took a year off in 2019, after partnering with radio presenter Vick Hope in 2018. He didn’t actually have a celebrity partner in 2019 or 2020, but did perform as part of the professional dance routines which take place every Saturday and Sunday.
It’s not known yet whether he’ll have a celebrity partner for 2021.
Asides from Strictly, Di Prima made the top 24 at the Under 21 Latin World Championships, and also toured the world with his dance company Burn The Floor.
Miami-born Janette Manrara is no stranger to celebrities – she performed with Jennifer Lopez at the 82nd Academy Awards, and was also a principal dancer on popular TV series Glee. Manrara’s partners have included Jake Wood, Peter Andre, Dr Ranj, and most recently YouTube star HRVY, who she made it to the finals with.
But it’s the Christmas specials where she has had the most success, winning twice with Aston Merrygold and Melvin Odoom.
Two-time Professional South African Latin Champion Johannes Radebe reached the final of Strictly South Africa twice, and joined the British edition in 2018. He was given his first celebrity partner Catherine Tyldesley in 2019, but was eliminated in week six. Last year, he was partnered with actress Caroline Quentin, but unfortunately they only made it to Week Five in the competition.
The longest-serving female professional on Strictly, Professional World Mambo Champion Karen Hauer has had memorable partnerships with celebrities such as Jeremy Vine, Mark Wright and Charles Venn. She came tantalisingly close to the Glitterball Trophy when she reached the final with Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing last year – will she go all the way this year?
Won: Series 15 (Joe McFadden)
World Professional Latin Showdance Champion Katya Jones has had many a memorable moment on Strictly, from dancing to Gangnam Style with Ed Balls to winning with Joe McFadden in 2017. The then-married Katya caused controversy when she was photographed kissing partner Sean Walsh in 2018, though had a quieter 2019 with BBC Breakfast’s Mike Bushell.
Katya was part of the show’s first ever same-sex pairing last year, when she danced with boxer Nicola Adams.
Four-time winner of the Italian Dance Championship, Luba Mushtuk was an assistant choreographer on the show for several years before finally given celebrity partner James Cracknell in 2019. Unfortunately, they were voted first. She managed to get a little further in 2020 when she was partnered with Jason Bell, however, only made it to Week Three.
A two-time World Champion and European Champion in Ballroom and Latin ‘10’ Dance, Ukrainian-born Nadiya Bychkova is back for her fifth year on the show. She has partnered Davood Ghadami, Lee Ryan and David James, with whom she was eliminated fifth.
Last year, she didn’t have a professional partner.
A new addition in 2019, Nancy Xu performed in the group numbers and was partnered with Eastenders actor Rudolph Walker in the Children in Need Special. Xu was a finalist in So You Think You Can Dance in her home country of China, and was a finalist in the U21 World Championships in 2010. The pro dancer will make her return to the show in 2021.
World Professional Latin Showdance Champion Neil Jones has won 45 titles around the world during his competitive career, though is yet to claim that of Strictly Come Dancing champion. After acting as a stand-in for several years, Neil got a celebrity partner in 2019 and reached fifth place with professional footballer Alex Scott. He wasn’t given a celeb partner in 2020, but things could be different this year!