Strictly Come Dancing have given fans their first glimpse at their socially-distanced launch show, as the twelve celebrities finally discover their professional partners.
The pre-recorded opener, which will air on Saturday, will see the pros dazzle with a sensational opening routine, and judges Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse and Craig Revel-Horwood seated on separate podiums to ensure the programme adheres to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
This year’s Strictly has been more anticipated than ever as the country is in the grip of the coronavirus crisis, and has seen drastic changes to ensure the series could go ahead, albeit with a shortened run.
It’s back! Strictly Come Dancing have given fans their first glimpse at their socially-distanced launch show, as the twelve celebrities finally discover their professional partners
First look snaps from the launch show hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman reuniting, with the pair ensuring they stand at least two metres apart throughout the show.
As ever Tess looks sensational in a white and black spotted midi dress, while Claudia opts for a bronze sequinned suit to present the programme.
Offering a glimpse of the strict measures introduced due to the crisis, Tess and Claudia are separated from the orchestra by a perspex screen.
Two metres away! First look snaps from the launch show hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman reuniting, albeit two metres apart in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines
Watchful eye: Judges Craig Revel-Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse will also take their place on the panel, though this year will see them sat on separate desks to maintain social distancing
Competitive: This year will see 12 celebrities compete to win the coveted Glitterball trophy
The launch will consist of the celebrities discovering their professional partners for the first time, though in a post-COVID change, they will instead by revealed via. video link.
This will allow for couples to form their own individual ‘bubbles’ for training and performances, meaning the stars will have maintain distance from each other during filming.
The professional dancers will also take to the stage to showcase their dance moves with a sensation opener, and will also accompany a stunning performance by Joel Corry and MNEK.
Judges Craig Revel-Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse will also take their place on the panel, though this year will see them sat on separate desks to maintain social distancing.
Bruno Tonioli has been unable to appear in the studio due to travel restrictions introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, but will make guest appearances from his home in Los Angeles.
This year’s Strictly will see 12 celebrities take to the floor in the hope of winning the coveted Glitterball trophy, including Good Morning Britain presenter Ranvir Singh, EastEnders’ Maisie Smith, US football star Jason Bell and The Wanted singer Max George.
Gorgeous: The launch will also see the pros take to the stage with a stellar group opener, with Nadiya Bychkova and Graziano Di Prima forming their own bubble to dance alongside singers and guest performers
Looking good: Neil Jones and Nanzy Xu – who will not receive a celebrity partner – will also take to the dancefloor together
Rules: This year’s Strictly has seen the introduction of strict new guidelines, including regular testing and restrictions on celebrities and pros mixing
How is Strictly 2020 going ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Strictly Come Dancing has introduced an array of strict measures to ensure the new series can go ahead during the COVID-19 crisis.
Celebrity contestants and their professional partners are tested regularly, with cast and crew told to isolate should they contract the virus.
Bosses have already confirmed any celebrity that tests positive once the series begins will be dropped from the show, with reports saying there are celebrities on stand-by.
The professional dancers have already pre-recorded their group performances after isolating together in a hotel.
It’s also been claimed that celebrities and pros will be axed from the show if they are caught kissing during filming.
Strictly 2020 has also seen the series run shortened to just nine weeks, with 12 celebrities taking part instead of the usual 15.
The show’s annual trip to Blackpool has been cancelled, along with this year’s Halloween and Christmas specials.
Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, after Bruno Tonioli was unable to appear due to travel concerns.
Veteran judge Bruno has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles.
With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements.
To ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will ‘bubble up’ to train, along with being tested regularly.
Strictly will still feature a live audience, however fans will sit in groups on separate tables, and will only attend if from the same household or bubble.
Rounding out the lineup are actress Caroline Quentin, former Home Secretary Jacquie Smith, Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, Made In Chelsea’s Jamie Laing, boxer Nicola Adams, YouTube star Hrvy, comedian Bill Bailey and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers.
This year’s Strictly will also see the show’s first ever same-sex pairing, with Nicola Adams set to perform with pro Katya Jones after years of campaigning by fans.
Strictly has already had its fair share of scares even before Saturday’s launch, after Hrvy tested positive for coronavirus just days before filming for the launch was scheduled to take place.
It was called into question whether he would be able to take part, but he has since been declared COVID-free and can continue with training for the show.
It had been reported that stars and their professional partners may be forced to undertake daily checks for coronavirus after a former crew member tested positive days before the new series.
The Sun has also claimed that bosses have a list of ‘stand-by’ celebrities for the show in case a star falls ill with relatives likely banned from rehearsals.
This year has already seen the pros pre-record all of their group performances while isolating together in a hotel, and the couples have formed separate bubbles to train and perform together.
The series will still feature a live audience, however fans will sit in small groups and will only be allowed to attend if from the same household or bubble.
In a recent Q and A, executive producer Sarah James shed light on the show’s contingency plans in light of the pandemic and insisted she’s ‘confident’ the competition series will go ahead even if the current coronavirus restrictions change.
As the nation waits to see how the stars will fare, Strictly bosses have drawn up tough plans to deal with anyone who falls ill.
Sarah said: ‘Obviously according to government guidelines if you receive a positive test you have to isolate for two weeks and that would unfortunately rule them out of the show.’
This year’s series will be a pared down nine-week run with a very different look. The 12 partnerships – three less than usual – will be unveiled via video link rather than in the studio and the annual trip to the Blackpool Tower ballroom is also off the cards.
Explaining their use of the bubble system to ensure couples can train and perform, she added: ‘Close contact cohorts (CCC) apply to people who need to work closely and break social distancing rules to do their jobs. It has to only be with one person and you are regularly tested.
‘We are asking the celebrity contestants to be part of an exclusive support bubble with their dancers, which means that one half of the party has to live alone.’
Amazing: The launch will also see a performance by Joel Corry and MNEK (pictured) accompanied by some of the professional dancers
Keep dancing! The Strictly class are pictured (L-R top) Max George, Nicola Adams, Caroline Quentin, Bill Bailey, Jamie Laing, JJ Chalmers, Clara Amfo, Ranvir Singh, (Bottom) Caroline Quentin, HRVY, Jason Bell, Maisie Smith
The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group numbers.
Sarah also discussed how hairdressers and make-up artist have had to adjust to the new guidelines as she added: ‘Hair and make-up and costume are all allowed in accordance with government guidelines.
‘We were able to have our hair and make-up team working with full PPE and sanitising once hairdressers and other facilities reopened.
‘Hair and make-up were able to work with as many of the different cast as they wanted or needed to, but this year we’ll have specific makeup teams assigned to specific couples to ensure people don’t mix as much.’
Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones and Graziano Di Prima have been axed from the main line-up and won’t be coupled up with celebrity contestants for this year’s edition, but will instead form their own CCCs to perform together as support to guest singers on each show.
Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday at 7:50pm on BBC One.
Back soon: Strictly Come Dancing 2020 will return on Saturday, October 17th at 7:50pm on BBC One
Strictly Come Dancing Contestants 2020
Profession: Actress, known for roles in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek
Caroline says: ‘I hope my knees don’t let me down and I hope the foundation garments live up to expectations when I start leaping about!’
Fun fact: She met her now-husband, Sam Farmer in 1998 on the set of Men Behaving Badly when he was one of the studio runners.
Profession: Singer – from former boy band The Wanted
Max says: ‘Nan – I’m doing Strictly this year!’ as he vowed to make his superfan grandmother proud
Fun Fact: Max’s fellow The Wanted bandmate Jay McGuiness was on Strictlby Come Dancing in 2015 – and won it!
Profession: Radio 1 presenter
Clara says: ‘As we know this year has been a real challenge and escapism through dancing is something I know we all enjoy’
Fun fact: Clara has some experience of celeb gameshows, having taken part on Celebrity Masterchef in 2018
Profession: Comedian and TV personality
Clara says: ‘I’m not Lord of the Dance, more a sort of caretaker of the dance’
Fun fact: Bill is a classically trained musician and multi-instrumentalist
Profession: EastEnders actress
Maisie says: ‘Get me in those sequins, I can’t wait to dive into the Strictly fancy dress box this winter!’
Fun fact: Maisie won the 2019 Children In Need special of Strictly with Kevin Clifton
Profession: YouTube star
HRVY says: ‘Being on Strictly is going to be such an amazing experience and I’m so thankful to be taking part this year.’
Fun fact: HRVY follows in the footsteps of former internet star contestants Joe Sugg and Saffron Barker – the latter of whom is close friends with him
Profession: Retired American Football player – now a pundit
Jason says: ‘I am thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show, I’ve been watching it since I came to this country, so it’s time for me to do something cool to impress my daughter, now that she can watch me perform!’
Fun Fact: Jason is the father of Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle’s daughter. The couple were together for 11 years, only splitting recently in 2019
Profession: ITV broadcaster, Political Editor for GMB
Ranvir says: ‘It feels like I’m on a rollercoaster… Hopefully after the first dance I will feel exhilarated rather than sick!’
Fun fact: Ranvir is the fourth GMB star to star following Susanna Reid, Richard Arnold and Charlotte Hawkins.
Profession: Double Olympic gold medallist boxer
Nicola says: ‘I’m a huge fan of the show and am thrilled to be part of something that holds such a special place in so many people’s hearts’
Fun fact: Nicola will form the show’s first ever same-sex pairing as she is parterned with a female professional.
Profession: Ex Royal Marine and Invictus Games medallist
JJ says: ‘Strictly is a whole different ball game in respect to the challenges I will face but I’m up for an adventure’
Fun fact: JJ is close friends with Prince Harry after they worked together on the Invictus Games
Profession: Made In Chelsea star
Jamie says: ‘I’m over the moon I actually get to come back and dance again. It’s going to be unbelievably amazing!’
Fun fact: Jamie was forced to pull out of the 2019 series of Strictly after a foot injury
RT HON JACQUI SMITH
Jacqui says: ‘I was speechless with excitement at being asked to join Strictly – and that’s very rare for me…!’
Fun fact: Fifty years ago, she received a bronze medal for Scottish Highland Dancing