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Wales Online
Kirstie McCrum

All Strictly couples revealed in star-studded launch show

Strictly Come Dancing hit UK screens again tonight (Friday) for the 20th series. And the BBC programme famed for its sequins, glitterballs and celebrity gossip didn't disappoint.

Tonight's show welcomed back hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, along with judges, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke. And the nation was on edge as the special programme revealed who the 15 celebrities are paired with.

After the Queen's death, the launch date was postponed a week until after the monarch’s state funeral on September 19. It hasn't been at 'full power' for two years due to the pandemic, and Tess acknowledged that in the introduction, saying: "It is so lovely to be back and for the first time in two years we have a full studio audience…"

The show opened with an eye-catching ballroom performance from the fabulous professional dancers, plus introduced four new professionals - Lauren Oakley, Vito Coppola, Michelle Tsiakkas and Carlos Gu - via a cinematic group number. Crooner John Legend also performed his new single ‘All She Wanna Do’.

Firstly, five-time Paralympic gold medalist, Ellie Simmonds told Tess about what it means to her to be representing people with dwarfism on Strictly.

“It means everything, to represent not just dwarfism but disability in general, for me to go out of my comfort zone and do something that I’ve never done before. Dancing is for all, yes, I’m going to have to adapt, I’m going to have to see what it’s like, but to be out there every Saturday night dancing… I’m so so proud.”

After being paired with her partner, Nikita Kuzmin, he shared his ambitions. He said: “For me, the goal for this season is for Ellie to have the best time of her life!”

Next up was KISS FM DJ, Tyler West. When asked about whether his Mum, a huge Strictly fan, was pleased with who he’d be partnered with, he answered, “Oh absolutely. I don’t actually think she’s come here tonight to see me; she’s come to see her.”

Fans saw him paired with Dianne Buswell, who quickly suggested the team moniker, ‘Team TyeDie’.

Ellie Simmonds and partner Nikita Kuzmin (BBC Pictures)

Actor and presenter, Kym Marsh admitted she knew all the Strictly professionals well due to them frequently appearing on Morning Live, which she presents. Kym was paired with Graziano Di Prima on the Morning Live set. Both were ecstatic with Kym admitting, “my stomach was churning, but I was delighted!”

Up next, actor Will Mellor revealed he had an unexpected connection to Anton: "I’ve seen Anton about because he lives near the same village as me, I saw him at the tip!" Anton admitted, "We love the tip! It’s so cleansing, my favourite place in the world!"

After being partnered with professional dancer, Nancy Xu, he told Claudia he thought they were perfectly paired, “We match well… I’m like an excitable puppy and so’s she!”

Matt Goss and professional dancer Nadiya Bychkova (BBC Pictures)

Presenter Helen Skelton was asked by Tess how she felt about facing Craig Revel Horwood. Helen responded, “I’ve got three little kids so I don’t think there’s any tantrum you can throw at me that I haven’t already seen.”

She was delighted to discover she was paired with professional dancer Gorka Márquez. Tess then introduced EastEnders actor James Bye, and asked about his nerves.

He said: “For me, coming into the unknown is what’s scary, I’ve got zero dance experience… and then I met my dance partner, and he/she was amazing and completely made me feel at ease.”

After being paired with professional partner Amy Dowden he added: “I’m so relieved and I couldn’t be happier, I feel like the winner already.”

Singer and presenter, Fleur East was asked how she will manage to do Strictly and her Hits Radio Breakfast Show. She responded: "I’ve got six alarms that I set, because I snooze all of them. I’ll be up at 4.30am waking everyone up and then dancing at night!”

Karen Hauer and her celebrity partner Jayde Adams (BBC Pictures)

It was revealed that Fleur had been paired with professional partner Vito Coppola. Next wildlife expert and presenter Hamza Yassin revealed that the top of his Strictly wish list is to get a 10 from Craig.

After he was paired with professional dancer partner Jowita Przystal she expressed her excitement, saying, “he is just fearless, I can see that, which is very helpful for me! He’s strong and he’s also patient, that’s really important. So, I just cannot wait to go and start rehearsals.”

Singer Matt Goss admitted he was ready to embrace being ‘strictyfied’, stating “I want to be rolled in sequins and glitter.” Matt was introduced to his professional dancer partner, Nadiya Bychkova, at the 02 Arena, who said, “I can’t wait to start teaching him and I can’t wait to start dancing with him.” Matt added, “I’m ready to put my heart and soul into this.”

Comedian and actor, Ellie Taylor admitted she is a show-off but added: “I like showing off at things I can do, this is awful.”

Asked about her wish list for a partner she said, “it was Johannes, Johannes or Johannes”. She was thrilled when her professional dance partner was revealed to be Johannes Radebe.

CBBC’s Molly Rainford met her professional dance partner Carlos Gu. A delighted Molly said: “I can’t wait to get dancing and get learning some stuff, I feel like it’s going to be electric!”

Radio 2 host Richie Anderson admitted he had specific requirements for his partner, saying: “As the great '80s philosopher Sinitta said, ‘he’s got to be big and strong and enough to… whirl me around the dance floor.” Richie was paired with his professional dance partner, Giovanni Pernice, in the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show studio, exclaiming, “Could you get anyone better than Mr Giovanni? I feel like I’m the envy of the British public right now.”

Next, comedian and actor Jayde Adams was asked if the show is living up to expectations. She said: “I feel like it’s not real, I feel like someone made a Strictly themed birthday party and I’m in the middle of it.” She was paired with professional dancer Karen Hauer. Jayde was delighted, saying, “Karen IS Strictly”, as was Karen, who said, “I’m absolutely excited, I have so many ideas, too many ideas, this is going to be a golden moment for me.”

Former England and Arsenal player, Tony Adams was asked what he was looking for in a partner he revealed, “I want someone that’s talented, that’s a winner.” His wishes came true as he went to the pitch at Highbury Stadium, where he was paired with Katya Jones. Katya told him, “We’re going to tackle some dancing, we’re a team now, we’ll work together.”

Lastly broadcaster Kaye Adams admitted she’d never done anything like this before, saying: “This is like walking to the North Pole in flip-flops for me.” She was paired with professional dancer Kai Widdrington, with a delighted Kaye later saying, “Can I just say to Mrs Widdrington, you have done an amazing job with this guy, he’s such a lovely man, he really is, I’m so happy to be with Kai.”

At the end of the show, the celebrities and professional dancers performed their first group number, offering a sneak peek at the celebrities’ dancing skills. Strictly goes live tomorrow evening for those all-important first performances.

Strictly Come Dancing continues tomorrow (September 24) at 6.45pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer

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