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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Michael Hogan

Strictly Come Dancing: launch show – as it happened

This year's 15 celebrities in all their finery
The fifteen contestants taking part in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. Photograph: BBC Studios/Ray Burmiston/PA

Thank you and a glittery goodnight

Huge thanks for keeping me company during this curtain-raiser (not to mention my debut dance in Queen Heidi’s sparkly Manolos).

We’ll be back for the first live show, which starts at the earlier time of 6.15pm next Saturday. I hope you’ll join us here again. I’m @michaelhogan on Twitter, so do come and say hello.

In the meantime, thanks for your wit, wisdom and for being so welcoming. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Guardian glitterati. And, it almost goes without saying, keeeeeep dancing!


Somersetlass says: “Wow, Eddie Kadi certainly has hip action. As does Layton. I think he and Nikita are going to be adorable.”

David Absalom says “Krishnan’s partner Lauren looks so much like Amanda Abingdon, I kept getting confused.”

But the final word goes to avenueman: “After nearly 2 hours, I want to know when I’m going to meet MY Strictly pro.” To which paperview replies: “We’re all getting one right? Heidi would have organised it. Gives Michael a hard stare.”

Oops. Didn’t spot that in the smallprint of my job description but will sort asap.

Len tribute strikes a chord

“Oh Len,” says stopandsmelltheroses. “You made Strictly special for us all for so many years. I hope the glitterball in heaven is sparkling and spinning for you tonight.”

“Ah, it’s ‘Len’s End’,” adds Mike Moonlight. “Rest in pickled walnuts, Len. You came out, you gave it some welly and you didn’t faff aabaht...”

Former head judge Len Goodman, who sadly died aged 78 in April.
Former head judge Len Goodman, who sadly died aged 78 in April. Photograph: Ray Burmiston/PA


“How lovely to see Hamza dance again!” says mcculloch29. “Just the most beautiful person inside and out. Jowita so kind and gracious. Listening to Shirley’s comments made me glow.”

“I am SO pleased Annabel is paired with JoJo,” says JayeKaye. “I was worried that she was embarking on this challenge so soon after the tragic death of her husband but if anyone will bring love back into her heart, it’s Johannes.” Agree, Jamiroquai. If that is you.

The glitterati have their say

A swift round-up of some sage comments from you lovely lot. Fihema says: “Clever to give Abbington Gio as a partner - might keep her in longer. Either way, woohoo, we’re off!”

Lidoswimmer says: “Really hope they go for it with Angela Rippon’s outfits and she can get those legs out in a fringed number for the Latin. She gets a free pass as a ringer, being a bit more mature and national treasure, I think.”


Early days, of course, but on this evidence, who do we think might dance all the way to glitterball glory? I like the look of Layton, Nigel, Bobby and both Angelas. Annabel and Joannes should be a joy to watch. Ditto Les and Nancy. But the field is full of potential firecracker pairings and my hopes are high for a vintage series.

Credits roll

“Staaaaaart dancing,” say Tess and Claud. As the sparkly dust settles and the newly formed couples skip hand-in-hand into the series proper, stay with us for analysis, reaction and a round-up of your comments.

Celebs hit the floor for the first time

We finish the launch show in style, as all 15 celebrities and 19 pros take to the floor for a spectacular and slightly chaotic group number. Eyes down, we’re about to get our first sneak peek at the Class of 2023’s hoofing abilities.

Set to a Bee Gees medley, Krishan Guru-Murthy and Adam Thomas are distinctly dad-dancey but Angela Scanlon is very promising indeed. Eddie Kadi looks decent, as do Amanda Abbington and Nigel Harman.

Bobby Brazier gives it some Walford welly. Zara McDermott looks great. Angela Rippon and Les Dennis are having a whale of a time. Layton Williams is FAB-EW-LOUS. Too early to crown him the winner?

The Strictly Class of 2023.
The Strictly Class of 2023. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA


So our Strictly 2023 line-up is complete. Thoughts? Feelings? Early favourites? That’s enough questions.

“I’m so happy,” says Sir Les. “She’s a great teacher and so enthusiastic”. Apparently she’s teaching him to dance and he’s teaching her to speak Scouse. I look forward to the results of both, la’. Caaalm down, chicken.


“Carlos has a directness and brutal honesty that I might respond to, like my nan,” says Angela. She means he’s a right old bossyboots, doesn’t she? Tongue firmly in cheek, Carlos adds: “We are going for the glitterball but we’ll do it one step at a time, no rush.” He made his Strictly debut last year and came runner-up with Molly Rainford, so is clearly hoping to go/Gu one better

Spanish pro Gorka the Corker tells Nikita: “I believe in you already and it’s going to be great!” He reveals that their first dance will be the waltz – pretty much the opposite of the reach-for-the-lasers raving which she says is normally her bag. Nikita looks rather distraught. But hey, their team name is “Gorkita”. He’s a three-time finalist. Could it be time to convert that into a win?

It’s Angela and Carlos!

Angela Scanlon is paired with Carlos Gu. “Thank you, universe,” she says.

Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu.
Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Nikita and Gorka!

Nikita Kanda is teamed with Gorka Márquez. Nikita confesses to being “a party animal” but needs to learn some more moves than “one arm up in the air”.

The newly minted Team Gorkita.
The newly minted Team Gorkita. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Les and Nancy!

Up in Liverpool, Les Dennis is paired with fan favourite Nancy Xu. Strictly’s first Asian pro was a semi-finalist with both Rhys Stephenson and Will Mellor. I’d love to see her reach her first final with loveable Les.

Les Dennis and Nancy Xu.
Les Dennis and Nancy Xu. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


Les Dennis reveals he’s compiled a Strictly playlist at home and accidentally put it on social media. Bless him. Fat-fingered dads, eh? (I include myself in that dempgraphic after tonight’s typos.)


Angela Scanlon is rather adorable and gets presented a piece of fabric from her launch show frock to give her two daughters. Never have offcuts been cuter.


Last but by no means least, it’s Les Dennis - the all-round entertainer best known for impersonating Mavis Riley, talking to the chickens on Celebrity Big Brother and hosting Family Fortunes. If his partner’s up there, I’ll give you the money myself.

Our last female celeb is Birmingham-born radio and TV presenter Nikita Kanda, who hosts the breakfast show on BBC Asian Network. Sadly, Ukrainian pro Nikita Kuzmin has already been snapped up, so they can’t make it Nikita squared. Shame. They could’ve danced to Nikita by Elton John. Twice.

Home stretch now as our last three couples are unveiled. Flatley, my dear, I don’t Riverdance. TV presenter Angela Scanlon has some Irish dancing experience but insists she’s a ballroom and Latin novice. She hosts our Home Made Perfect on BBC Two and is the only woman in the UK and Ireland to have their own Saturday night chat show, Ask Me Anything on RTÉ One. She’s also Strictly 2023’s second Angela, which could get confusing.

Musical interlude from Jessie Ware

La Ware belts out a rendition of her Italo disco-house banger Free Yourself, accompanied by a spectacular dance routine from Johannes Radebe and our three ensemble dancers this series: Michelle Tsiakkas, Neil Jones and Nadiya Bychkova - who has been controversially benched.

Maybe none of the male celebrities were tall enough. The Ukrainian has been partnered with beanpoles like David James and Dan Walker in the past.

Jessie Ware and Johannes share a moment.
Jessie Ware and Johannes share a moment. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA


Len Goodman R.I.P.

Spank me gently with a wet chamois. As is only fitting, a beautiful tribute now to the late Leonard Gordon Goodman - a beloved part of Strictly from its inception in 2004 through to stepping down as head judge in 2016.

Tess, Claudia, the judges and professionals all share their memories of a “true gentleman” and “father figure”. Craig is affectingly emotional about missing his friend, as is Anton.

One-man catchphrase factory Len once described himself as “a cup of tea in a world of skinny lattés” and, like his mate Brucey, he was indeed a connection back to another showbiz era. Yum yum, pig’s bum. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Keep dancing, Len.

Miss you, Len. Forever in our hearts
Miss you, Len. Forever in our hearts Photograph: Fred Prouser/Reuters


”What’s not to love?” says Adam. “I’ve got this Russian princess, I’m buzzing.” Luba, who’s sporting great new hair, says she’s “extremely excited and cannot wait to dance with you”.

Hotlips Hauer says of Eddie: “He’ll be cracking the jokes but I’m going to be cracking the whip.” Those two are going to have a ball(room).

Ellie says she’s “over the moon”, while 11-time Italian champion Vito reveals that their fast dance will be a jive. “A jive? Oh no, that’s really hard,” screams Ellie in an hilariously unguarded reaction. Better get practising those flicks and kicks.

Annabel sweetly says “I’ve got the best partner I could’ve wished for. He’s so special. It’s such an honour and a privilege to be dancing with you, thank you.” Aww. Johannes promises to “take you through your paces, my darling” and tenderly dabs away her tears. I think I’m in love.


It’s Adam and Luba!

Adam Thomas is coupled up with St Petersburg-born pro Luba Mushtuk. I hope he’s decent. Luba deserves a break after being lumbered with two-left-footed sportsmen James Cracknell and Jason Bell, then being benched last year.

Adam Thomas and his pro partner Luba Mushtuk.
Adam Thomas and his pro partner Luba Mushtuk. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Annabel and Johannes!

New glitterballs please! On Wimbledon’s centre court, Annabel Croft is paired with Johannes Radebe. They’re instantly dubbed “Johannabel” by Pagey in the comments. A great pair but both prone to tears, so stock up that training room with extra-absorbent Kleenex.

Annabel Croft and her pro partner Johannes Radebe.
Annabel Croft and her pro partner Johannes Radebe. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Eddie and Karen!

Meet the Special K-team as Eddie Kadi is paired with longest-serving pro Karen Hauer. A chilli-hot pairing.

Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer.
Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Ellie and Vito!

Ellie Leach becomes the envy of many viewers as she’s paired with Vito Coppola. In his debut series with a celeb partner, Vito guided Fleur East to last year’s final. Can he go one better? Prepare for novelty VTs involving hotpots and pints of Newton & Ridley.

Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola.
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


Eddie’s got a Groupon and is meeting his partner on top of the O2 Arena. Also seen as an Apprentice task-winning “prize”. Thanks you for the opportunity, Lord Sugar.


Adam Thomas busts out some body-popping and robotics in the Clauditorium. Expect to see that again in a few weeks’ time.


Eddie Kadi is excellent. He calls the judges “maintenance engineers” and insists they offer “feedback”, not criticism. Claudia squawks in appreciation.

Now it’s actor Adam Thomas, best known for playing Adam Barton in Emmerdale and Donte Charles in Waterloo Road. His wife Caroline is a dance teacher but no ringer rumours here. He insists that she’s never taught him a step. Adam also suffers rheumatoid arthritis and could struggle with pain in training.


What the deuce. It’s former British tennis number one Annabel Croft. Her journey (yes, the dreaded j-word) could be an emotional one. Croft will be dancing through her grief after losing her husband Mel Coleman, a huge Strictly fan, in May - just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, leaving her and their three children bereft. She might need a male pro who’ll look after her.

Ready, Eddie? It’s stand-up comic and Radio 1Xtra DJ Eddie Kadi. He’s promised us loosey-goosey pelvic action, explaining that snaky hips are in his British-Congolese blood. Let’s hope he saves them for the Latin dances or the judges won’t like it.

We meet the next batch of celebs. This year’s youngest female is Mancunian actress Ellie Leach, who played Faye Windass on the Corrie cobbles for 12 years. The soap put her through t’mill with plotlines including pregnancy age 13, prison, premature menopause. Frankly, chuck, a bit of hoofing should be a holiday.

Hamza is understandably, slightly sweaty and out of breath. Jowita is emotional. Aww, now he’s crying too. Shirley hopes this year’s cast were paying attention. No pressure, newbies.


Hamza and Jowita’s victory dance

Reigning glitterball champions Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystał are back in the ballroom for one last dance. They’re reprising their week 4 salsa to Ecuador by Sash! feat Rodriguez and reminding us exactly why they won.

It’s spicy, speedy and packed with the dizzying lifts that became Hamza’s trademark. It scored 39 points first time around, becoming the highest-scoring male celebrity salsa for 10 years, and got the same score when they danced it again in the final. No prizes for guessing which judge gave it a near-perfect nine both times.

“Strictly was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Hamza. “It’s changed my life and taught me so much about myself - and I thought already knew myself pretty well.”

Jowita Przystal is lifted like a sparkly barbell by Hamza Yassin.
Jowita Przystal is lifted like a sparkly barbell by Hamza Yassin. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA

There have been ringer rumblings about Layton’s previous dance experience, which Claudia tackles straight away and Nikita tells her: “Ballroom and Latin are completely different to anything Layton has done so far: the technique, posture and especially co-ordination. He has a lot to learn and I can’t wait to teach him.” Their first dance will be “a Layton-ized samba”. Expect fireworks and flouncy sleeves.

It’s Nigel and Katya!

Nigel Harman is paired with Katya Jones. If she can break Ed Balls, mate, she should work wonders with you. Oppa Harman style!

Nigel Harman and his new pro partner Katya Jones.
Nigel Harman and his new pro partner Katya Jones. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Layton and Nikita!

Layton Williams forms this year’s all-male pairing with Nikita Kuzmin. Potential finalists? If so, they’d become the second all-male pairing to reach the final after John Whaite and Johannes.

Nikita Kuzmin and Layton Williams.
Nikita Kuzmin and Layton Williams. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Angela and Kai!

Outside the fabled Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Angela Rippon is paired with homegrown pro Kai Widdrington. He’s a ballroom boy, which should suit her, but Latin might be more of a challenge. Cue Morecambe and Wise high kicks…

Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington.
Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Bobby and Dianne!

Get out of my pub! In a VT filmed on the set of EastEnders, Bobby Brazier meets his professional partner Dianne Buswell. Can “Reddo” take him to the final like she did with Joe Sugg?

Dianne Buswell and Bobby Brazier. But who will be carrying who?
Dianne Buswell and Bobby Brazier. But who will be carrying who? Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


As well as being a newsreader and hosting everything from Top Gear to Rip-Off Britain, Angela Rippon presented mothership show Come Dancing between 1998 and 1991. She tells Tess: ‘It’s weird not being in your place and being in this place, but I’m going to enjoy it, I think,”


Time for one of this year’s headline signings: the mighty Angela Rippon CBE, Strictly’s oldest ever contestant at a sprightly 78.


Next up it’s Nigel Harman, the actor best as Dennis “Mini-Den” Rickman in EastEnders and Dr Max Cristie in Casualty. He could be a contender. In between TV gigs, Nifty Nige is a total West End Wendy, starring in musicals and winning Olivier Awards.

Now it’s the turn of actor Layton Williams , best known for school sitcom Bad Education and his musical theatre title roles in Billy Elliot and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. He’s set to be the first male celeb on Strictly to wear a dress, saying of the outfits: “I want to represent me, represent my community and go out there, feel cute and slay.” Yas, kween (my children to check that’s the correct usage).

Play the doof-doofs! It’s this year’s youngest contestant, Bobby Brazier. He plays EastEnders’ Freddie Slater and is the son of presenter Jeff Brazier and the late Jade Goody. All boyish curls and cheeky charm, Bobby recently won the Rising Star award at the National Television Awards. With a fervent young fanbase, he could go a long way here.


The celebrities get some sage advice from Big Bird off Sesame Street. Sorry, Shirley Ballas.

Graziano informs Zara that their first dance will be the cha cha cha. Get ready for a short fringed skirt to show off that tricky leg action. Claudia thinks it’s a fun one but admits she has no idea. Textbook Winkle.


Krishnan looks thrilled, saying: “It’s brilliant. She gets me immediately.” Birmingham-born Lauren promises to “be kind, give you confidence to have fun but when it’s time, I know how to be strict.” Prepare to perspire, Krish. Maybe use one of Jon Snow’s novelty ties to mop your brow.


Polish pro Jowita tells Jody: “I have a lot of ideas”. Sounds slightly ominous but hey, it worked for Hamza last year.

It’s Krishnan and Lauren!

Krishnan Guru-Murthy is coupled up with newish pro Lauren Oakley in her debut year with a celebrity partner.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy and his pro partner Lauren Oakley.
Krishnan Guru-Murthy and his pro partner Lauren Oakley. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Jody and Jowita!

The J-force are formed as Jody Cundy is paired with reigning Strictly champion Jowita Przystał.

Jowita Przystal and Jody Cundy.
Jowita Przystal and Jody Cundy. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


It’s Zara and Graziano!

It’s an Italian takeaway for Zara McDermott too as she’s paired with Graziano Di Prima. After a shaky start to his Strictly career, “Graz” has come into his own in the past two years and was a semi-finalist with Kym Marsh last time.


It’s Amanda and Giovanni!

Amanda Abbington gets paired with Italian stallion Giovanni Pernice. Safe to say she’s fairly excited by this, saying: “I’m ecstatic. We get on really well, have the same sense of humour and are both dedicated to working hard.”

Giovanni says: “I enjoyed the screaming. Very happy days.” Gio’s a former champion and three-time runner-up, so Amanda couldn’t be in better hands. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Giovanni Pernice and Amanda Abbington.
Giovanni Pernice and Amanda Abbington. Photograph: Ray Burniston/BBC/PA


Judges take to the floor

Our awesome foursome panellists have dusted off their dancing shoes for a razzle-dazzle group number alongside the pros.

The concept is a sort of Bob Fosse-esque Broadway dance-off. Anton’s on a podium, sharp-dressed all in black with nifty trilby. Motsi’s also in black, busting out Latin moves. Twirly Shirley looks fabulous and impressively flexible in a flouncy flamenco dress with pink corsage. Craig is dressed as Marcel Marceau, dancing to Kylie’s Padam Padam and does an “assisted backward walk-over”, darling.

Well, this is brilliant. Strictly’s back, baby. Have you got a great big grin on your face too?

Shirley Ballas & the Strictly pros
Shirley Ballas & the Strictly pros Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC


Shout out to Amy Dowden

Well wishes for Welsh pro Amy, who’s currently undergoing chemo for cancer but has vowed to appear later in the series. Get well, Amy, we’re all thinking of you.

Krishnan calls himself “physically catastrophic and pretty decrepit”. Aren’t we all, hun?

He might be a versatile sportsman but Jody Cundy admits it might be tricky learning a whole new discipline: “I’m a complete newbie at this. I had years and years of practice at the other ones, so we’ll see what happens. Let’s shoot for the stars!” Nice gilded epaulettes too.


Zara looks endearingly terrified, telling Tess: “I think I’m probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. I’m not a natural-born performer or extrovert, so this is the biggest challenge of my life.”


Amanda tells Tess that wearing ballroom shoes is “like wearing knives”. She needs to go to Clark’s. They do width fittings and everything.

We interrupt this programme to bring you breaking news. Yep, it’s Channel 4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy. He’s been on Strictly’s wishlist for years but says it’s time to show his non-serious side. He has a genetic heart condition and other health issues, saying: “We only have one life and you’ve got to grasp everything when it’s there. I think if I don’t do Strictly now, I might not be able to in three or four years’ time.” Well said. Good luck to him.


Next off the blocks is Jody Cundy CBE, the eight-time gold medal-winning Paralympian. He started off swimming, then made the switch to cycling and is the first man in Paralympics GB history to win medals at seven different games. But who’s going to be his new training partner?

Next up, it’s Zara McDermott, the former government policy advisor who appeared on Love Island five years ago and has since become a maker of hard-hitting documentaries. Let’s hope her partner is her type on paper and doesn’t give her the ick, babes.

Let’s meet some celebs!

First into the glitterball breach is award-winning stage and screen actor Amanda Abbington. The 51-year-old has starred in Mr Selfridge, Wolfe and Desperate Measures, plus the recent West End transfer of Steven Moffat’s play The Unfriend, but she’s best known as Dr Watson’s kickass wife Mary Morstan in Sherlock. Elementary, my dear Winkleman.


Time to meet the stars of our show

Here come our 15 rabbits in the headlights, never knowingly underdressed. How many do you recognise? I reckon seven to 10 makes it a decent year. Look, it’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy off the news! And Angela Rippon off the other news! Mini-Den off EastEnders! Les actual Dennis! BBC casting department, you are spoiling us.


Here comes the judges

We welcome the paddle-raising quartet of Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Anton Du Beke and head judge Shirley Ballas. The ladies are in pink and yellow, like a ballroom Battenberg cake. Both boys are in black tie. The co-ordinated sitting-down is present and correct. They’ll even be hitting the floor themselves later. Let’s score them, just for karma.



Here come our hostesses with the moistest, so time for our first fashion face-off of the series. Tess Daly is in a halterneck beaded jumpsuit. Claudia Winkleman is also in a jumpsuit, in black with sequins. Claudia wins. But hey, it’s a delight to see them both, jumpsuits or nay.


Staircases. Sequins. And as if by magic, we’re in the Elstree Studios ballroom.

And we’re off!

No new-look title sequence yet. That has to wait until after the couples are revealed. Instead we get a dramatic performance from the professional troupe , set outside BBC TV Centre at night. Music and moonlight and love and romance…

Take your sofa seats and charge your glasses, glitterati. We’re about to go over to the Elstree Studios ballroom.

Now long now. How are we feeling about this year’s line-up? The usual blend of “ooh!”s and “who?”s. Here’s my initial insta-reaction when the cast was unveiled.

Meep! It’s a mere two minutes until showtime…

Can you hear the rustle of satin and spot the glint of sequins yet? With a running time of 105 minutes, tonight’s launch show is the shortest we’ll get for a while, until the 15-strong field is whittled down. Next weekend’s first live show is a whopping 140 minutes. A real test of sparkly stamina. A mere 10 minutes now until choreographic kick-off…


News on Strictly: It Takes Two. Former pro Janette Manrara will continue to host the BBC2 weekday spin-off show, alongside new co-host Fleur East, who was a finalist last year and replaces the departing Rylan. It starts at 6.30pm on Monday 25th September. Back to tonight, it’s just 15 minutes until glittery curtain-up…


R.I.P Len

Hearing we’ll get a tribute tonight to the late Len Goodman, who sadly died in April, aged 78. The former head judge hung up his Strictly scoring paddle in 2016 but continued to work on US edition Dancing With The Stars. Hope he’s pickling walnuts up in heaveennnn.

Let’s play launch show bingo

I’ll be continuing the noble tradition of a spotter’s guide to things we’re likely to see on-screen each week. Tick them off! Take a drink! I’m not judging. So for tonight’s launch show, here are your 10 predictions:

  • Craig cracks a rare smile before getting his game-face on for the judging next week

  • There are two pros you don’t recognise because they’re always on the subs’ bench/have had a haircut

  • Johannes wears a scene-stealing garment in a group number or training VT

  • Reigning champion Hamza Yassin advises this year’s cast to “enjoy every minute, guys”

  • Shirley and Anton are described as “the Queen of Latin” and “the King of Ballroom” respectively. Or, more fun, vice versa

  • A male celebrity insists he’s looking forward to being spray-tanned and “Strictlyfied”

  • An “Our survey said…” gag about Les Dennis, even though he presented Family Fortunes fully 21 years ago

  • Ginger Neil elbows his way to the front of a pros’ group shot, bless him

  • A celebrity demonstrates their dance ability by doing the robot or running man, complete with white man’s overbite

  • Claudia Winkleman mentions crisps, cheese or naps

Are you enjoying Alan Carr’s Picture Slam while you wait? Oddly addictive. Although I might have slight sunstroke, so my testimony is unreliable.

The queen’s speech
I also come bearing glittery gifts. Consider me a royal herald from the court of Queen Heidi, who asked me to deliver this farewell message:

Hey glitterati, just wanted to say a huge thank you for 13 incredible years as your Strictly liveblogger. It was a really hard decision to activate my glitter cannon and shimmy off the dancefloor, but it felt like the right time for me to hang up my sequinned heels.

We’ve built an incredibly special community here and I’m delighted that Michael is taking over - genuinely can’t think of a better person to hand the sparkly baton to.

Thank you for all the joy and laughter and support over the years, and keeeep dancing!

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

It’s the Strictly 2023 launch show!

And almost as importantly, it’s our first sequin-spangled liveblog of the year. Good evening all and welcome to the 21st series of Strictly Come Dancing. I’m Michael, your virtual dance partner this year, picking up the glittery baton from Heidi Stephens. More on Queen Heidi in a moment. I’m thrilled to be inheriting her sparkly sofa cushion and hope you’ll join me for an autumn of choreographed communal viewing.

Tonight’s pre-recorded launch show sees our 15 brand new celebrities paired up with their professional partners - followed by our first chance to glimpse their twinkle toes in action, as everyone hits the Elstree Studios floor for ye olde traditional curtain-raising group routine.

It’s showtime at 6.35pm on BBC One. I’ll be liveblogging from 6pm, providing build-up, rolling coverage, analysis, reaction and mildly sarcastic asides. So gather snacks, drinks, friends, family members and a hired skip full of fake tan (shade: terracotta tango) and see you on the sofa. Yes, Strictly season is upon us, which I think means you’re legally allowed to pop the central heating on.

I’d love to hear from you too. You can tweet me @michaelhogan, email me and the comments section below is back open for ballroom business. I’ll nip down every now and again to say hi, give a Len Goodman-style salute and gauge your reaction to the show, so please share your pearls of wisdom. I’m new around here too, so don’t be shy if you’re a first timer. If you’re a stalwart of Team Sparkle, a warm welcome back. It simply wouldn’t be the same liveblog without you.

Are we all limbered up, carb-loaded and wearing our Saturday night disco pants? Nearly time to staaaaaart pro-celeb pairing!

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