The first names have been announced for Strictly Come Dancing 2021.
McFly pop star Tom Fletcher, Peep Show actor Robert Webb and presenter AJ Odudu have been unveiled ahead of the new series, which is set to kick off in the autumn on BBC One.
The stars were revealed on Wednesday’s edition of The One Show, with the rest of the names set to be drip-fed to fans over the next couple of weeks.
Tom, 36, has big shoes to fill on Strictly. His McFly bandmate Harry Judd won the show in 2011. And Tom’s wife Giovanna Fletcher is the reigning champion of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Robert, 48, is sure to feel the pressure too, after he squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance, beating the likes of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness to the title.
2021 has been a busy year for AJ, 33, who has featured on 14 TV shows, including Cooking With The Stars and Celebrity Karaoke Club. She has appeared as a panelist on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two in the past, too.
The veteran dance show was famously disrupted in 2020 thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Big shoes to fill! Tom’s McFly bandmate Harry Judd won Strictly n 2011 [L] while Robert is sure to feel the pressure too, after he squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance [R]
Music and dancing: Tom is on quarter of boy band McFly [pictured last week with Dougie Poynter and Danny Jones]
‘The full fix!’ Strictly will bring back ALL themed weeks, a live audience and the usual 15 celeb contestants [pictured Oti Mabuse and Kelvin Fletcher during Halloween Week 2019]
But it seems things are back to normal in 2021 – apart from one or two factors still deemed too tricky to navigate amid the global health crisis.
Show boss Sarah James told The Mirror: ‘We’re so thrilled that Strictly will be returning for a full-length series this year, and know how much viewers are looking forward to getting their full Strictly fix and seeing the return of much-loved specials.
‘We are all so sad that we won’t be able to get to Blackpool this year but can’t wait to be back dancing at the one and only Blackpool Tower Ballroom in the future.’
The Blackpool episode ordinarily takes place near the end of the series, but was axed last year with restrictions throwing up logistical difficulties on the production.
But 2021 will include the show’s themed weeks – such as movie week, musicals week and Halloween week.
Last year, these were scrapped, proving too complicated to manage amid the pandemic.
Still a no-go: Blackpool has been axed AGAIN due to the ongoing pandemic
The show’s Christmas special will also be back, with the show set to start in its usual early-autumn time slot, rather than in October, like last year.
It’s said rather than a fewer number of celebs, the full 15 will be taking part again, having cut this to 12 last series.
There are also plans to reinstate the live audience too – another aspect disallowed last season.
Isolation will remain in place for the professional dancers. This will see them sent to a hotel near the Strictly studios in Hertfordshire several weeks ahead of the show’s return.
Show boss Sarah James said: ‘We are all so sad that we won’t be able to get to Blackpool this year but can’t wait to be back dancing at the one and only Blackpool Tower Ballroom in the future’
The celebs will also not have the usual three-week gap between being paired up with their pros and dancing for the first time on live TV. This has been reduced to one week thanks to logistical factors.
Of course one thing bound not to change is the annual speculation around the so-called Strictly Curse.
And the curse has already hit, as new professional Kai Widdrington has split from his long-term girlfriend.
The former Britain’s Got Talent star, 25, is one of four new dancers that will dazzle in the ballroom this autumn and had been in a relationship with fellow dancer Giulia Dotta, 29, for five years.
Sad: Strictly Come Dancing has been hit by the infamous ‘curse’ already as new professional Kai Widdrington has split from his long-term girlfriend (pictured in 2019)
A spokesperson for Giulia – who is Italian – confirmed to The Mirror that they were no longer together. They went their separate ways nine months ago.
The pair worked on Ireland’s Dancing With The Stars together which has run for four series.
A source told the publication: ‘Signing up to Strictly is like a death sentence for almost any relationship.’
Friends added that they thought Kai and Giulia would eventually get married and have children.
The alleged Strictly curse sees couples break up and fall for their professional dance partners.
It’s over: The former BGT star, 25, is one of four new dancers that will dazzle in the ballroom this autumn and had been in a relationship with fellow dancer Giulia Dotta, 29, for five years
Last year Kai joked about proposing on live TV, saying: ‘If I proposed in this setting she would absolutely kill me.’
Kai is now living with fellow Strictly dancing hunk Giovanni Pernice, 30, who recently started dating Love Island ‘s Maura Higgins.
Kai appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 aged 16 and made it to the final.
He has previously worked as a professional dancer on Dancing With The Stars Ireland, since its first series in 2017. He finished twice as Runner-up on the show in 2018 and 2020.
Upset: A spokesperson for Giulia – who is Italian – confirmed to The Mirror that they were no longer together
Kai was all set to follow in his dads footsteps by becoming a professional footballer, but aged 9 decided to take up dancing instead and by the time he was 14, he became the 2010 World Junior Latin-American champion.
Speaking about being cast in the upcoming series, Kai said: ‘This is my childhood dream come true.
‘Watching Strictly from the very first series as a young boy from Southampton and now 18 years later, to be a professional dancer on the show is the most amazing feeling and the biggest accomplishment of my career.
‘I can’t wait to step onto the Strictly floor and experience the exciting times that lie ahead.’
Long-term: Last year Kai (pictured) joked about proposing on live TV, saying: ‘If I proposed in this setting she would absolutely kill me’
Just last week Strictly Come Dancing unveiled their four new professional dancers.
Jowita Przystal, 26, Nikita Kuzmin, 23, Kai, and Cameron Lombard, 20, have been confirmed as the new additions ahead of the 2021 series of the popular BBC competition.
The line-up of Strictly professional was left thinner for this year after Anton Du Beke, 54, stepped into a judging role and Janette Manrara, 37, decided to leave in order to host the spin-off show.
BBC bosses have confirmed the identities of the four new sizzling hot dancers stepping up to fill in their dancing shoes.
Work: The pair worked on Ireland’s Dancing With The Stars together which has run for four series (Giulia is pictured on the show with partner Father Ray Kelly)
Polish Open Latin Champion 2014 and winner of BBC One’s The Greatest Dancer 2020, Jowita Przystal started ballroom dancing at the age of 12 and is a Polish Open Latin Champion.
In 2015 she ended her competitive Ballroom and Latin career to join the cast of touring dance company, Burn The Floor where she stayed for four years before moving to the UK in 2019.
Under the mentorship of Strictly Champion, Oti Mabuse, Jowita won the BBC’s The Greatest Dancer in 2020, and the prize of performing on Strictly Come Dancing.
Newcomer Jowita was left lost for words when asked how she felt about being cast in the latest series of the dance competition.
Entertainment: Kai appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 aged 16 and made it to the final (pictured with Natalia Jeved)
She said: ‘This is my biggest dream come true. No words can describe how I feel right now.
‘I’m still pinching myself to check if this is real but I am beyond excited to be joining the Strictly Come Dancing family and I can’t wait to give all of my heart and soul on that dance floor!’
Six-time Latin and Ballroom National Champion in Italy professional Nikita Kuzmin, 23, has also signed up for the latest series of the hit dance show.
Nikita was born in Ukraine and lived there until he was 9 years old when his family moved to Italy, where he then lived for 9 years, to support his sister’s dancing career.
Fabulous Four: Last week Strictly announced that four new professional dancers have joined the show. Pictured: Jowita Przystal, 26, one of the new professionals
In 2020 Nikita was a professional dancer on Let’s Dance, Germany’s version of Strictly Come Dancing.
Nikita, who started dancing aged 4, said of joining Strictly in the UK: ‘I’ve always been amazed by the magic Strictly Come Dancing brings. No matter what country I have found myself living in, I’ve never missed a chance to watch it.
‘And joining it as a professional dancer is my big chance to make some magic on the most famous dance floor. I can’t wait to give it my all!’
Looking to earn another dancing crown, reigning South African Latin Champion Cameron Lombard has been named by the BBC as one of the new Strictly professionals.
New dancer: Six-time Latin and Ballroom National Champion in Italy Nikita Kuzmin, 23, (pictured) has also signed up for the latest series of the hit dance show
Cameron has won eighteen national titles across Ballroom and Latin during his decorated dance career.
He started competing aged 6, and within a year he was already winning local and regional competitions.
In 2012 he was a finalist on South Africa’s Got Talent and in 2019 he represented South Africa at the World Championships.
Of joining Strictly, Cameron said: ‘Thank you Strictly Come Dancing for this life changing opportunity. Not only is this a dream come true but a challenge I am accepting with both hands.
‘I am excited beyond imagination and looking forward to leaving my mark on the dance floor!’
The four new dancers join the existing line-up of professionals which includes: Aljaž Škorjanec, Amy Dowden, Dianne Buswell, Giovanni Pernice, Gorka Marquez, Graziano Di Prima, Johannes Radebe, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Luba Mushtuk, Nadiya Bychkova, Nancy Xu, Neil Jones, and Oti Mabuse.
Taking to a new stage: Reigning South African Latin Champion Cameron Lombard, 20, (pictured) has also been named as a new professional dancer on the show