ENTERTAINMENT
28/07/2021 16:30 BST

Strictly Come Dancing 2021: From Start Date To New Dancers And Judges, Here's What You Need To Know

After a number of changes were introduced due to Covid last year, the new series should feel more of a return to normal.

It might seem hard to believe, but we’re almost in Strictly season once again, with a new series of the BBC ballroom show just around the corner. 

As such, various details about it have already started trickling in, which is doing nothing to slow down our excitement for its return. 

Here’s what we know so far about Strictly Come Dancing 2021...

How long will this year’s Strictly last?

After the 2020 series of Strictly was trimmed down to nine weeks of competitive dance from the usual 13 due to the pandemic, fans will be pleased to hear that execs have confirmed there will be a regular run this year. 

BBC/Guy Levy
The 2020 series did not last as long due to the pandemic

One change, though, is that there will no longer be a break in between the pre-recorded launch show – where the celebrities find out their dance partners – and the first live show of the series. 

Due to the series’ regular length, we should also expect to see 15 celebrity contestants taking part, as opposed to the 12 we had in 2020.

So when is Strictly likely to start then?

As yet, the BBC have not confirmed an official start date for the new series.

However, given that we know that the series is going to last the usual length and that the launch show will take place the week before the live shows begin, we reckon the most likely launch date will be Saturday 18 September, with the first live show on Saturday 25 September. There would then be 13 weeks of competition before a likely final on Saturday 18 December.

Who is on the judging panel?

By now, you’ll likely know that once again Bruno Tonioli is unable to take part in the series due to Covid restrictions preventing him from travelling back and forth from the US to judge both Strictly and its American counterpart Dancing With The Stars. 

But rather than going for three judges again like they did last year, Strictly bosses are bolstering the panel back up to four with the addition of Anton Du Beke

BBC
Anton Du Beke is replacing Bruno Tonioli on the panel 

The professional dancer will sit alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and head judge Shirley Ballas

Anton’s promotion came after he impressed fans when she stood in for Motsi for two weeks last year, when she was forced into self-isolation. 

Who is presenting?

Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will be back at the helm of this year’s Strictly – although it was touch and go for a moment if Claudia would be part of the show. 

Ian West - PA Images via Getty Images
Claudia Winklemann and Tess Daly

Earlier this year, she revealed she tearfully quit the series when she mistakenly thought the series was going to start on the same weekend she needed to take her eldest child, Jake, to university for the first time. 

Claudia told Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: “I phoned the boss of Strictly quite dramatically and said, through tears, ’Sarah I love you. I don’t want to leave Strictly and Tess and I have agreed we will leave together when they’re done with us, but if the first show is September 13, I’m out and you’ll have to go with somebody else.

“And there was a beat. And she said, ‘Quite dramatic. We don’t start that week.’

“I was like, ‘alright’. I have to go and put up his posters. It’s not that I love him more than others love their kids, but this is something parents have to go through.”

What about the professional dancers?

Anton is not the only one who has vacated the pro line-up this year – Janette Manrara has also hung up her dancing shoes to replace Zoe Ball as a co-host of spin-off It Takes Two

After they left last year, Kevin Clifton and AJ Pritchard were not replaced due to the reduced number of contestants in 2020, meaning there were four spots up for grabs this year,.

They have now been filled by a new crop of dancers including Jowita Przystal, the winner of Simon Cowell’s short-lived BBC dance competition The Greatest Dancer, and Kai Widdrington, who previously competed on Britain’s Got Talent and Strictly’s Irish equivalent, Dancing With The Stars.

BBC
Four new dancers are joining the Strictly family – Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, Cameron Lombard and Jowita Przystal

Also joining the Strictly family will be South African Latin champion Cameron Lombard and Nikita Kuzmin, who previously danced on Germany’s Let’s Dance, where Motsi Mabuse is also a judge.

Oti Mabuse, Karen Hauer, Nancy Xu, Dianne Buswell, Katya Jones, Amy Dowden, Nadiya Bychkova, Luba Mushtuk, Johannes Radebe, Gorka Marquez, Aljaz Skorjanec, Giovanni Pernice, Graziano Di Prima and Neil Jones are all confirmed to return. 

What Covid restrictions are set to stay in place?

While the studio audience is expected to return this year, The Mirror has reported that some of the other elements introduced to help make the show Covid-safe will remain. 

The show’s annual trip to Blackpool has been cancelled again, with Strictly’s executive producer Sarah James admitting she was “so sad” not to be able to make the special work. 

BBC
Strictly Come Dancing usually heads to Blackpool for a special evening of dance

However, you can expect to see the return of the Halloween special this year, which was axed in 2020 due to it falling too early into the shorter series. 

Meanwhile, it’s also been reported that the professional dancers will also isolate together in a hotel near the show’s studios in Elstree, Hertfordshire, to pre-record all the group dances before the series begins, as they did last year. 

Who is taking part?

Rumours about who will be taking to the floor have been coming in thick and fast in recent weeks, with many famous faces linked to a spot on the show. 

These include former rugby player and commentator Ugo Monye, presenters Maya Jama and Emma Willis, BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin and ex-footballer Peter Crouch

David M Bennett/NurPhoto/Jeff Spicer/Massimiliano Donati/Awakening/Getty
Peter Crouch, Maya Jama, Ugo Monye and Louise Minchin

Take a look at a full round up of the rumoured stars here

However, the BBC is yet to officially unveil any contestants – with announcements likely to start in early-to-mid August. 

And what is happening with It Takes Two?

As mentioned, Zoe Ball has left the popular BBC Two spin-off after a decade at the helm, and has been replaced by former pro dancer Janette Manrara. 

SOPA Images via Getty Images
Janette Manrara is taking over from Zoe Ball on It Takes Two

She will split presenting duties with Rylan Clark-Neal, who is expected to return to the series after his current break from the limelight

Ian Waite, who has been a regular contributor since stepping down as a professional dancer on the main series, also announced his departure shortly after Zoe revealed she would be leaving. 

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