It wouldn’t be autumn without Strictly Come Dancing on our screens every Saturday night. Whilst last year’s series was hampered by the effects of the pandemic, it still brought the nation some much needed joy – with some of the live shows providing distraction straight after government briefings. However, series 19, which begins this month, promises to be a return to some kind of normality and this year’s cast could make it one of the show’s best yet!
The 15 celebrities in this year’s line-up include McFly singer Tom Fletcher, presenter AJ Odudu, former rugby player Ugo Monye, and actress Nina Wadia. One of this year’s most impressive signings however, is swimmer Adam Peaty, who is fresh from his double gold in the Tokyo Olympic pool and looking to try something new as he takes a break from the sport. This latest bunch of stars will be hoping to win over the hearts of the nation as well as that famous glitterball trophy – but what is it that connects tens of millions to Strictly each year?
Maybe it’s the glitz and glamour of the show: hair, make up, fake tan, the flowing Ballroom gowns, the colourful Latin dresses and everything in between. Or perhaps it’s the incredibly talented professional dancers and the spectacular pro routines each week that show everyone how it’s done. Maybe it’s the showstopping routines, performed by those with a natural talent for dance or with some previous dance experience. We sometimes disparage so called ‘ringers’ but would never begrudge a truly exceptional performance. There have certainly been many of those. There was Danny Mac’s African inspired samba, Faye Tozer’s homage to Fosse in her Halloween jazz routine and the late Caroline Flack’s contemporary showdance. Plus, who could forget the infamous jives from both Jill Halfpenny and Jay McGuiness?
But maybe the magic of Strictly also lies in the surprises and the unexpected moments during a series. For example, politicians are better known for their battles in the House of Commons than their moves on the dance floor, yet Ed Balls’s Gangnam Style salsa, choreographed brilliantly by professional partner Katya Jones, got everyone talking and was even nominated for a BAFTA the following year. As recently as last year, musician and comedian Bill Bailey signed up to the show, with audiences quickly deeming him the novelty act. It was a surprise to everyone when he became a more than capable dancer. Alongside partner Oti Mabuse, Bailey eventually won the 2020 series, much to the delight of the viewing public.
More than anything, Strictly is about the universal process of learning a new skill and in recent years the show has become more inclusive in order to reflect this. The series has introduced Paralympians as contestants, such as Jonnie Peacock, Lauren Steadman and Will Bayley. Their success has broken down barriers surrounding disability and they have created magic moments on the show, such as Peacock’s jive using a blade prosthetic and Bayley’s emotional and personal contemporary routine. Last year, boxer Nicola Adams and Katya Jones made history by becoming the first ever same sex partnership on the show – although a positive COVID-19 test unfortunately cut their journey short. Strictly is continuing to take steps forward in this way; within this year’s cast, Eastenders star Rose Ayling-Elis will be the first deaf contestant on the show, whilst Bake Off winner John Whaite will form half of the first all-male partnership.
2015 finalist Katie Derham said that “learning to dance is a beautiful, wonderful, life affirming thing”, and I think this speaks to the core appeal of Strictly. We get to watch people from a range of professions fall in love with dance and this is something that will never become dated or tiresome. I cannot wait for the next series of Strictly and for more magical moments.
– Erin Zammitt
Featured Image Source: Still via BBC Strictly Come Dancing // Youtube