The time has finally come for Strictly fans to return to the ballroom once again, as the dance competition takes to the floor for its 2021 series tonight.
The full Strictly Come Dancing line-up is ready to go and the pairings are set to be revealed for what is bound to be a very exciting series.
While the 2020 season of the show – won by Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse – might have been shorter than usual in the wake of Covid, this year we’re promised the show will return with a full-length season in all its foxtrotting, tango-ing glory (even if we do have to wait a while longer for the Blackpool week to come back).
We’ll also be welcoming four new professional dancers into the fray – plus Anton du Beke will take over from Bruno Tonioli on the judging panel.
But Strictly is nothing without its celebrity line-up, and all 15 names have been confirmed ahead of the launch show this evening (September 18).
Here’s everything we know about the 2021 series, including launch time, the full celeb line-up and more…
What time is Strictly Come Dancing’s 2021 launch show?
Strictly 2021 will grace our screens tonight, Saturday, September 18, when the launch show kicks off.
The launch show will air at 7.45pm on the usual channel BBC One, and can be streamed live via BBC iPlayer.
The regular format of the series sees the celebrities paired up with their pro partners during the launch show – while the live shows begin about two or three weeks later to allow time for training.
This year, the live shows kick off from Saturday, September 25.
Who is taking part in Strictly Come Dancing 2021?
McFly star and children’s author Tom Fletcher was the first name to be announced for the 2021 series. He’s got some big dancing shoes to fill given that bandmate Harry Judd is a former Strictly champion who scooped the Glitterball trophy in 2011.
‘I think the fact that I’m actually going to be dancing on Strictly this year has only just started to sink in!’ Tom said.
‘I’m incredibly excited, of course, but also totally terrified! My kids were excited too until I started showing them my best dad-dancing in the kitchen.
‘I’m not sure how far they’ll get me in the competition but I can’t wait to add some new moves to my embarrassing dad-dancing repertoire.’
Actor Robert Webb – best known for his work with comedy partner David Mitchell – was the second name to be revealed for this year’s show.
‘I am ludicrously excited to be taking part in Strictly this year. It’s a big, generous, joyful show and I can’t wait to get packed into a spandex onesie and fired from a glitter cannon directly at Claudia Winkleman,’ he said.
‘At least I think that’s what happens. My goal is to try and survive from week to week without causing serious injury to myself or innocent bystanders. I know it’s going to be a challenge.
‘To do well in this competition is a test of character, although mainly it’s a test of dancing.’
Robert is no stranger to TV dance competitions, having won the 2009 series of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief with his memorable take on Flashdance.
TV presenter AJ Odudu was the third celebrity to be confirmed for Strictly 2021.
The Blackburn native, best known for the likes of The Voice, The Voice Kids, Big Brother’s Bit On The Side and Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, said: ‘I am beyond chuffed that I am going to be on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing and I’m so glad I can finally tell my mum. Her face will be a picture, she’s going to be over the moon!
‘I absolutely love the show and am fully committed to making the most of every second of the Strictly experience. Bring it on!’
Speaking on The One Show she said her mum would be ‘beside herself’, adding: ‘I can’t even tell you how much we love the show. This is a dream come true.
‘I’ve got seven siblings, you know how parents say they don’t have a favourite child, this is favourite child status right here.’
Former Bake Off champion John Whaite was announced as the fourth celebrity to be joining the Strictly line-up.
He has confirmed he will be joining the show as part of its first ever all-male pairing.
‘I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family. I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth,’ John said.
‘What’s more exciting for me, is that I’m going to be one half of the first all-male partnership, which is a great step forward in representation and inclusion. Whoever it is I’m paired with, I hope they are up for a challenge as I want our routines to include lots of spectacular lifts!’
John won Bake Off in 2012, and has since become a well-known TV chef on the likes of This Morning, What’s Cooking, and Sunday Brunch, as well as hosting ITV’s cooking series Chopping Block.
The face of the BBC’s children’s channel CBBC, Rhys Stephenson was announced as a contestant on August 6.
The TV star announced the news on CBBC and said he was ‘shocked, elated and already impatient to start’.
‘I am BUZZING to be a part of Strictly Come Dancing 2021′ he said in a statement.
‘I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation. I cannot wait to experience it all: the costumes, the orchestra, even Craig’s glare! I am READY!’
And don’t worry kids, Stephenson has said that the show will not interfere with his commitments to CBBC.
When it comes to the judges, Rhys added: ‘Craig’s the one you want to impress because he’s a steely face but then again, I love Motsi.
‘Motsi’s the opposite to Craig. When she jumps over the table to give you a hug, I want that too.’
Stephenson has hosted a number of shows on CBBC, from Blue Peter to Saturday Mash-Up!, and has also appeared on The Dengineers and Newsround.
Sara Davies MBE
The Dragons’ Den star was confirmed as the next Strictly hopeful on Monday, August 9.
Her addition to the show was announced on Good Morning Britain as she joined Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway on the sofa.
The businesswoman said: ‘It always felt like a pipe dream until I joined Dragon’s Den and Deb [Meaden] would talk about it, and then I hoped one day maybe.’
However, she revealed her limited dancing experience: ‘I’m really good when I’ve had a few drinks on a Saturday night, other than that I’m not so sure.’
Davies managed to hide the news from her parents, too, in case of an accidental early reveal.
She added: ‘My Mam and Dad are going to be so excited. I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance. Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little.
‘The business world has taught me that tenacity, drive and determination deliver results, I hope that I can bring that to the dancefloor. And I’m excited to see the impact of all those hours of training on my mum tum!’
Davies, who joined Dragons’ Den in 2019, was the youngest Dragon to join the show and has over 30 business awards to her name.
Soap actress Katie McGlynn was announced as the seventh celebrity contestant on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, August 10.
The former Coronation Street, Waterloo Road, and Hollyoaks actress explained that keeping the exciting news under wraps has been ‘so hard’.
She enthused: ‘It’s been so hard keeping it a secret, but I can finally say that I’m getting ready to shake my shimmy and become part of the Strictly family!
‘I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.
‘Although I do get to have so much fun as an actress, a lot of my roles have involved quite serious and challenging storylines, so I’m fully ready to let my hair down and do something different, even if it is completely outside of my comfort zone.’
She added: ‘I can’t promise that I’ll be the best, but I’m going to give it 110% on the dance floor! As long as I don’t fall over I’ll be happy.’
Just moments after Katie McGlynn was confirmed, it was announced that BBC Breakfast’s own Dan Walker will be the eighth celeb waltzing onto the show.
Dan is known for his ongoing feud with Piers Morgan.
After his announcement, Dan joked: ‘I’m not making any room on our shelf for the glitterball.’
‘I am definitely excited, a little bit worried, mostly terrified and a small part of me is considering going into hiding!’ he added.
‘My kids have only ever asked me to go on two shows – Saturday Mash-Up and Strictly. I did Saturday Mash-Up this summer so it’s time to embrace the sequins.’
BBC Breakfast stars are no stranger to the Strictly ballroom, with Naga Munchetty appearing on the show last year.
Dan was sent to the hospital after hitting his head this week, but he should be back in action after a couple of days rest.
‘I’ve got to rest for a couple of days – so I’ll be a bit behind – but ready to dig in again next week,’ he said, before giving his mystery Strictly professional partner a shout-out.
Comedian and TV personality Judi Love was announced as this year’s penultimate Strictly competitor on August 13’s installment of Loose Women.
A delighted Judi said: ‘This is so out of my comfort zone but what an opportunity… I’m so excited, this is something very new for me.’
Asked who she wanted to be paired up with, she confessed she was hoping to take to the floor with Graziano Di Prima, complimenting his ‘nice long hair’.
Gordon Ramsay’s 19-year-old daughter Matilda ‘Tilly’ Ramsay was the tenth contestant to be confirmed for the 2021 series, after weeks of speculation.
The announcement was made on August 11’s installment of This Morning, one year after Tilly was ruled out of the 2020 series because she broke her arm.
Tilly – who currently has 9.5 million followers on TikTok – told Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes ‘I’m so excited and grateful to be joining the Strictly family! I’m always up for fun new challenges and this will be my biggest adventure yet!
‘I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on and show my Dad how it’s really done! Bring on the glitz, glamour and sequins!’
The TikTok star was surprised with a video message from her parents – where scary dad Gordon warned: ‘Don’t date those dancers!’
Tilly’s mum Tana also joked about her husband’s dancing stills (or lack thereof), saying: ‘Thank goodness it’s her and not you!’
She said that her parents will want to be in the live studio audience each week, so viewers should keep an eye out for Gordon in the crowd.
Actor Greg Wise was the eleventh celeb confirmed to be in the Strictly 2021 line up.
The 55-year-old, who is married to Emma Thompson, announced the news on This Morning on August 11.
He told Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes, ‘I’m ready to go, I’m fit at least. I want to get a bit stronger as I want to do a Swayze lift.
‘I haven’t learned any dance moves and I absolutely can’t dance. So that’s a good start.’
When asked what wife Emma thought of his decision to show off his skills on the dancefloor, Greg revealed that ‘she is stupidly excited’.
Speaking of why he is taking part, he explained that his late sister, Clare, was the reason behind his decision – after she died from cancer in 2016.
‘My beautiful sister was a huge disco queen. She left our world almost exactly five years ago in a glitter ball coffin,’ he added. ‘This is for her. My gorgeous diva sis, who would have been insane with excitement that her little bro was doing this.
‘I will channel her, as her bro can’t dance – but I’m thrilled to be dipping my toes, knees, hips and arms into this wonderful world, and hope to make her proud, and obviously make her laugh.’
The twelfth contestant announced was actress Nina Wadia, who is best known for playing Zainab Masood on EastEnders.
Nina confirmed her place on August 12’s episode of Lorraine.
‘I am so scared,’ Nina confessed on the show. ‘I like dancing like no one’s dancing. So we just need to blindfold the judges and I’ll win.’
Explaining why she signed up, Nina said: ‘I just want to grab life by the balls and enjoy it.’
Strictly Come Dancing announced its first-ever deaf contestant with EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis confirmed for the 2021 line-up on August 13.
Sharing her excitement ahead of the next series, the Frankie Lewis actress said: ‘To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is sooooo exciting… and a little bit scary.
‘It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open!’
She added: ‘I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. But I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill and even better I get to learn whilst wearing beautiful dresses made especially for me!’
On August 13, Olympic gold medalist Adam Peaty was confirmed as the fourteenth celeb taking part in the show.
Fresh from winning two gold medals at Tokyo 2020, the swimmer was announced the news on August 13’s edition of BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat.
Peaty revealed he was ‘bricking it’, and said: ‘I’ve swam for seven years and I’ve gone through the constant cycle of championship, go back to training, go back to the drawing board, another championship… but I’ve never been truly uncomfortable.
‘This is going to be very interesting, I’m going to be very uncomfortable.’
He added: ‘I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, and hopefully have a lot of fun.’
Peaty then joked that he may not go back to swimming, depending on how good he is at dancing.
He added: ‘I think this will come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I’m so excited to finally share the news that I’ll be joining Strictly this year.
‘I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool.
‘I’m hoping my competitive nature is going to compensate for my dancing abilities!’
Former England Rugby player and broadcaster, Ugo Monye, 38, was the 15th and final star to be confirmed for the new series.
Ugo’s participation was announced on The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan, and he could not be more excited to be taking part.
He said in a statement: ‘What a dream come true! Strictly is the biggest entertainment show on TV and I can’t wait to show everyone I’ve got more than just dad dancing moves.
‘My two beautiful daughters never had a chance to see me on the rugby pitch, so to know they can watch me waltzing and twirling every week is really special to me.
‘I love an outfit at the best of times, so bring on the sequins!’
Who are the pro dancers on Strictly 2021?
This year’s series will see four new professional dancers joining the line-up in the ballroom.
Kai Widdrington – Former Junior Latin American champion and a former Dancing With The Stars Ireland pro
Cameron Lombard – current South African Latin Champion
Jowita Przystal – winner of BBC One’s 2020 series of The Greatest Dancer
Nikita Kuzmin – six-time Latin and Ballroom national champion in Italy and former Let’s Dance Germany pro
As well as the newcomers most of the show’s regular pro dancers will be returning to the line-up. They are:
- Dianne Buswell
- Nadia Bychkova
- Amy Dowden
- Karen Hauer
- Katya Jones
- Neil Jones
- Oti Mabuse
- Gorka Marquez
- Luba Mushtuk
- Giovanni Pernice
- Graziano di Prima
- Johannes Radebe
- Aljaz Skorjanec
- Nancy Wu
Janette Manrara is missing from the line-up this year, although remains a part of the Strictly family – as she is taking over from Zoe Ball as the new host of Strictly spin-off It Takes Two.
She told Alex Jones in June: ‘I will not be dancing. I don’t want to well up because I have been welling up a lot today, but that has been the hardest part of accepting this amazing honour to join It Takes Two.
‘I am still a part of the Strictly family, I am still going to be seeing my fellow pros all the time and I will keep dancing, as they say. I will find a way to keep dancing.’
Who are the Strictly judges this year?
Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse will all return to the judging panel this year – and they’ll be joined by Anton du Beke.
Anton – who is stepping in for Bruno Tonioli as he is unable to take part this year – previously joined the panel for a brief spell in 2020 after Motsi had to make an urgent return to Germany.
He said: ‘My loves I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be stepping into Bruno’s brogues for the next series of Strictly,’ Anton said of the news.
‘It’s a dream come true to be judging alongside the best of the best and I promise to be kinder to all the couples than any of them have ever been to me.’
The Strictly Come Dancing 2021 launch show airs on BBC One tonight, Saturday September 18, at 7.45pm
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