As Strictly Come Dancing gears up for its 14th series, show bosses are putting the final touches to the “eclectic” collection of celebrity contestants and have just confirmed their professional line-up – and it’s set to look a little different to recent years.
Strictly’s pro dancer cast will feature the most home-grown talent ever, with six British professionals taking to the floor this year.
With the addition of newcomers Chloe Hewitt, AJ Pritchard and Neil Jones, the number of British professionals has doubled since last year when just Anton du Beke and Kevin Clifton partnered celebrities, while Joanne Clifton performed in the group numbers.
In fact there haven’t been this many Brits in the ballroom since 2008, when another six stars – du Beke, Karen Hardy, Darren Bennett, James Jordan, Ian Waite and Matthew Cutler – performed.
“At Strictly, we always strive to have the very best professional dancers from all over the world,” executive producer Louise Rainbow told RadioTimes.com, “and this year we’re thrilled to have so many talented British stars in the line up!”
Could this influx of British dancers be connected to the fact that this is the first Strictly series since Brexit, when the UK voted to cut ties with the EU? No. More likely it’s that, after 12 years of Saturday night sparkle, we’re finally learning how to embrace that fake tan and shimmy like our more confident overseas cousins. After all, two of the new British dancers – 20-year-old Hewitt and 21-year-old Pritchard – credit the show with inspiring them to take up dance lessons in the first place.
Hewitt, Pritchard and British National Champion Jones join fellow newcomers Spanish dancer Gorka Marquez, Russian Katya Jones and Ukraine dance champion Oksana Platero. They have been drafted in after the show said farewell to former pros Ola Jordan from Poland, Kristina Rhianoff and Gleb Savchenko from Russia, Russian-Kazakh star Aliona Vilani and Irish dancer Tristan McManus.
At this stage, it’s unclear how many of the 17 confirmed professional dancers will partner celebrities when the show returns. Last year saw 15 celebrities take to the floor. If that’s the case this autumn, it will leave two of the pros on the subs bench but should at least see them performing in the pros’ group numbers.
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC1 this autumn