Strictly Come Dancing partnerships unveiled

The line-up includes tennis coach Judy Murray. Picture: BBC

The line-up includes tennis coach Judy Murray. Picture: BBC

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STRICTLY Come Dancing contestants were last night paired up with the professionals who will guide them through the series in the launch episode of the BBC1 hit show.

The 15 celebrities, including MasterChef presenter Gregg Wallace, Bargain Hunt’s Tim Wonnacott, TV presenter Caroline Flack, Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, singer Pixie Lott, The Saturdays’ Frankie Bridge, and Judy Murray, mother of tennis stars Andy and Jamie, will compete in a series of live shows for the Glitter Ball Trophy.

Passing verdict on the dance abilities of each duo is this year’s judging panel are: ballroom dancer Len Goodman, theatre director Craig Revel Horwood, dancer and choreographer Bruno Tonioli and prima ballerina and President of the Royal Academy of Dance Darcey Bussell.

Last year’s winning pair, Aljaz Skorjanec and Abbey Clancy, reunited to perform a waltz during last night’s show. Skorjanec has this year been paired with This Morning reporter Alison Hammond.

Sir Bruce Forsyth made a guest appearance to hand over the baton for presenting duties to Claudia Winkleman and his former co-host Tess Daly, who will front this year’s series.

It is the first all-female pairing to host a primetime Saturday-night entertainment programme.

The 86-year-old entertainer, who announced his departure from the show earlier this year, led a flashmob down the red carpet and into the ballroom in the first of several scheduled guest appearances on special editions of the series, now in its twelfth run.

Forsyth said in April that it felt like “the right time to step down from the rigours of presenting the Strictly live shows”, adding “I am very proud of what the show has achieved and confident it will entertain for years to come.”

The celebrities and their professional pairings will now embark on three weeks of intensive training ahead of the first live shows on 26 and 27 September, with the couple receiving the lowest combined scores from the judges and the public vote facing the dreaded results show dance-off and the prospect of elimination.

To give each pairing a fair chance, no celebrity will leave until they have danced in at least two live shows in the series. Viewers last night saw Judy Murray coupled with Strictly regular Anton Du Beke, declaring she was “absolutely delighted” with the choice.

TV wildlife host Steve Backshall, who has been paired with Latin dance specialist Ola Jordan, said: “I have a friend who’s a dancer and she said to me, ‘You want Ola because she’s a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good’ – meaning ‘even you’.”

MasterChef presenter Gregg Wallace, who will be strutting his stuff with Aliona Vilani, declared: “I am very happy because I know what an amazing dancer she is. I am really chuffed, I’ve watched Aliona dance and she is amazing.”

The programme last night went head to head with ITV rival The X Factor in an annual TV ratings tussle which Strictly has led for the past two years.

TV REVIEW

Andrea Mullaney: C-listers, awful gags, bad dancing … and millions adore it

IN the BBC’s drive to squeeze as much out of Strictly Come Dancing as possible, it decrees that an 85-minute show is needed to announce which of its already-announced celebs will dance with which professional dancers, though we won’t actually see anything for another three weeks. Such is the hold that camp, fake tans and people with two left feet have over the British public that every year millions happily tune in for this frothy nothing.

After a terrible video sketch featuring departing host Bruce Forsyth shouting orders at the judges, the big opening number involved the professionals and Brucie doing that one step he’s been doing since at least 1952. Claudia and Tess were carried in aloft wobbly chairs, like a couple at a gay Jewish wedding.

The novelty of Britain’s first primetime entertainment female presenting duo faded in about a minute. They’ll be fine.

This year’s celebrities are, as always, not quite the A-list. We have the grocer off MasterChef (Greg Wallace), the little one from The Saturdays (Frankie Sandford), a TV naturalist (Steve Backshall), the obligatory rugby player who will “get his chest out” for Latin numbers (Thom Evans), a back-up popstress (Pixie Lott), a back-up man to get his chest out (reality show repeat offender Mark Wright), one of EastEnders’ many bald shouty men (Jake Wood), antiques man with glasses on a string (Tim Wonnacott), reality show presenter Caroline Flack, Mrs Brown’s daughter/wife (Jennifer Gibney), Radio 1’s Smashy or Nicey (Scott Mills), him from Blue (Simon Webbe), her off Casualty (Sunetra Sarker) and the shrieky one (Alison Hammond). Their partners simulated utter delirium. Judy Murray has been handed to Anton Du Beke, who specialises in trundling no-hopers around. A frenetic group number confirmed suspicions that she and Wonnacutt may have their weekends free soon.

There was a disco number showcasing new pros Trent, Joanne and Tristan and turns by Five Seconds Of Summer, Imelda May and Smokey Robinson. Why? Well, you’ve got to fill 85 minutes somehow.

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