Whilst excitement is brewing for Strictly Come Dancing‘s upcoming series this autumn, it’ll be bittersweet for fans of professionals AJ Pritchard and Kevin Clifton, who have both confirmed they wont be returning for the show’s 18th series.
The dance competition has seen a number of professional dancers come-and-go over its 16-year duration, with the only pro still dancing on the Strictly stage from series one being Anton Du Beke.
We’re bound to see a few new arrivals and promotions within the Strictly crew, but it’s worth Foxtrotting through the show’s history to remember the professionals who made the dance competition what it is today.
New Zealand’s Brendan Cole won Strictly’s first ever series with newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky and also placed third with Lisa Snowdon during his time on the show. He only left Strictly two years ago, after placing 13th with Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins.
What is he up to now? Last year, he appeared on The X Factor: Celebrity with actor Jeremy Edwards but was eliminated at the audition stage. More recently, he competed on Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins, where he lasted until episode four.
Danish dancer Camilla appeared on Strictly seasons one to six, placing third with Gethin Jones in the fifth series and winning with Holby City actor Tom Chambers in 2008. The following year she took part in I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! but quit the show early.
What is she up to now? Camilla is now a life coach and hypnotherapist but still connected to Strictly – she’s the head judge on Dancing with the Stars New Zealand. She released a self-help book this year.
New Zealand dancer, who is the dance partner of Anton du Beke, appeared on Strictly from 2004 until 2012, narrowly missing out on winning the Glitterball with Julian Clary (series two) and Colin Jackson (series three). Her infamous Showdance with Jackson, which featured the pair of them dancing with mannequins is often cited as the reason they missed out on the title.
What is she up to now? Erin now teaches dance classes in Surbiton and is due to tour the UK with Anton Du Beke and their show Showtime in 2021.
English professional dancer Darren Bennett joined Strictly’s second series with his wife Lilia Kopylova, with both of them leaving the show after season seven.
Darren won his first series with EastEnders’ Jill Halfpenny and their iconic Jive to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing. He made it to the final once again in 2006 with Spice Girl Emma Bunton.
What is he up to now? Darren is now the creative director for Dancing with the Stars Ireland and a judge on Lebanon’s version of the show.
Russian Latin champion Lilia Kopylova, like her husband, joined Strictly in 2004 and won the competition the following year with cricketer Darren Gough. She made it to the final once again in 2006 with rugby player Matt Dawson but was beaten to the Glitterball trophy by Mark Ramprakash.
What is she up to now? After leaving Strictly in 2009, Lilia became a choreographer on Dancing with the Stars Ireland and became the head judge on the Turkish version of Strictly. In March, the couple announced that they are expecting their second child together.
Kazakh ballroom champion Aliona Vilani is one of the most successful Strictly professionals in history, having won the Glitterball trophy twice during her time on the show. She joined the series in 2009 and left in 2015, during which time she placed second with presenter Matt Baker and won with both McFly’s Harry Judd and The Wanted’s Jay McGuiness. Her season 13 jive with Jay to a Pulp Fiction medley is often considered one of the best dances in Strictly history, having been viewed over 5.2 million times on YouTube. While she never scored a 40 with Jay, she received perfect scores from the judges twice with Harry Judd, for their Argentine Tango and their Quickstep.
What is she up to now? Aliona now lives in Florida with her husband Vincent and their daughter Bella.
Reading-born dancer Ian Waite joined Strictly in 2005 and left after four years on the show. While he may have never won Strictly, he reached the final with Olympian Denise Lewis (series two) and presenter Zoë Ball (series three).
What is he up to now? Ian continues to appear on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, teaches dance classes in Wokingham and is due to go on tour with fellow Strictly pro Vincent Simone at the end of this year.
Latin American champion Karen Hardy joined Strictly in 2005, winning the competition the following year with cricketer Mark Ramprakash. The pair were at the centre of series four’s biggest controversies, when Mark’s mic became caught in Karen’s dress mid-Salsa. They were allowed to restart the routine, becoming the first couple in Strictly history to be allowed to do so, and still topped the leaderboard.
What is she up to now? Karen regularly appears on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two as a contributor and runs her own private members’ ballroom dance club in London.
Italian professional Flavia Cacace spent 10 years dancing on Strictly alongside her dance partner Vincent Simone. The Argentine Tango expert placed second with EastEnders actor Matt Di Angelo on season five, with whom she received the only perfect score of the series for their Waltz in the final. She eventually won during her last series with Olympian gymnast Louis Smith in 2012.
What is she up to now? Flavia now teaches dance classes and runs her own health and fitness brand FCMFIT. She is married to her season eight partner, actor Jimi Mistry.
Ballroom dancer James Jordan joined Strictly in 2006 with his wife Ola Jordan, leaving in 2011 after eight seasons on the show. Although he never got his hands on the Glitterball trophy, he made it to the final with comedian and psychologist Pamela Stephenson (season eight) and actress Denise van Outen (season 10).
What is he up to now? Since leaving Strictly, James has taken part in Total Wipeout, Through the Keyhole, Celebrity Big Brother 19, Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Coach Trip.
British-Polish ballroom dancer Ola Jordan was a Strictly staple from series four until series 13. She took home the champion title with presenter Chris Hollins in 2009, achieving a perfect score with their Charleston to Fat Sam’s Grandslam.
What is she up to? Ola has appeared on Bargain Hunt with Len Goodman, All Star Mr & Mrs, The Jump, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here and Celebrity Coach Trip. From 2018 onwards, she has been a judge on Poland’s Dancing with the Stars. She recently gave birth to her first child with James Jordan.
Italian dancer Vincent Simone joined Strictly in 2006, becoming best known as the show’s resident Argentine Tango expert. He left in 2012 after reaching the final with S Club 7’s Rachel Stevens and Tracy Beaker star Dani Harmer. His Foxtrot with Rachel Stevens to the Carpenters’ Close to You received top marks in week 10 of series six.
What is he up to now? Since leaving Strictly, Vincent has taken part in I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here (2013) and is set to tour his show The Ballroom Boys with former professional Ian Waite later this year.
Russian ballroom dancer Kristina Rihanoff joined Strictly in 2008, competing on the series for eight seasons. She made it to the final with both Jason Donovan (third place in 2011) and Blue’s Simon Webbe (second place in 2014) but one of her most memorable partners is journalism John Sergeant, who famously dragged her across the dance floor during a Paso Doble in series six.
What is she up to now? After leaving Strictly in 2015, Kristina became a choreographer for Burn the Floor and Dancing on Wheels, wrote a book for ballroom newcomers and appeared on Celebrity Mastermind with her specialist subject Patrick Swayze. In 2016, she joined Celebrity Big Brother but was evicted after 15 days. Earlier this year, she toured her show Dance to the Music alongside Jake Quickenden.
World Amateur Latin-American champion Matthew Cutler was a professional on Strictly from 2005 until 2009, dancing with Alesha Dixon to victory during season five. He also reached fifth place with both Carol Smilie and Christine Bleakley.
What is he up to now? He now runs his own dance studio in Croydon.
Strictly Come Dancing 2020 will air on BBC One later this year.