Strictly Come Dancing to reveal 2023 pairings during dazzling launch show

Strictly Come Dancing is to welcome a new batch of famous faces to its dazzling dancefloor as the hit BBC show returns to screens this weekend.

The 21st series of the competition will kick off in style on Saturday with the 15 celebrities making their dancing debut and discovering which professional dancer they have been partnered with.

Once the pairings have been announced, the celebrities and professionals will perform a special group routine.

The star-studded line-up features comedian and former Family Fortunes presenter Les Dennis, veteran broadcaster Angela Rippon, former Love Island star Zara McDermott and The Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

It also contains soap stars past and present including former Coronation Street star Ellie Leach, EastEnders actor Bobby Brazier, former EastEnders star Nigel Harman and Waterloo Road star Adam Thomas.

Paralympic champion Jody Cundy, former British number one tennis player Annabel Croft, BBC Asian Network’s Breakfast Show host Nikita Kanda, Bad Education star Layton Williams, comedian Eddie Kadi, Irish TV presenter Angela Scanlon and actress Amanda Abbington complete the line-up.

Sherlock star Abbington said she has wanted to compete on the show for “years and years” and after she reached the age of 51 she felt like finally taking the plunge.

“I thought, I’m peri-menopausal and I’ve been offered it and it would seem silly not to and I just wanted to have a bit of fun as well”, she said.

“I wanted to embarrass my children, because, that’s what mums are supposed to do. You’re supposed to embarrass your kids and I haven’t yet embarrassed them so now’s the time.”

Strictly Come Dancing 2023
Strictly Come Dancing 2023 professional dancers and judges ahead of this series’ launch show on Saturday (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

English ballroom dancer Shirley Ballas, who has been dubbed the Queen of Latin, will be head judge again as Australian-born choreographer Craig Revel Horwood, South African dancer Motsi Mabuse, and ballroom and Latin dancer Anton Du Beke return to the judging panel.

Tess Daly, who has presented the BBC One show since its first series in 2004, and Claudia Winkleman, who took over from Sir Bruce Forsyth as the main co-host in 2014, will also return.

The launch show will open with a group number featuring the judges and professionals dressed in striking black and white outfits.

Ballas said the audience are “in for a real treat” with the opening number, adding: “I’ve been put through my paces, but to be dancing with my fellow judges and the professional dancers is a feeling like no other.”

Du Beke added that the performance brought him back to his days as a Strictly professional, saying: “Everyone is in great shape and everyone is dancing well and it’s just a really fantastic number, it genuinely is.”

Strictly Come Dancing 2023
The launch show will open with a group number featuring the judges and professionals dressed in striking black and white outfits (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

Revel Horwood revealed that the number will see all four judges go up against each other, and for his section he will be doing a backward walk-over assisted by two male dancers.

In April, the BBC announced that reigning champion Jowita Przystal, who last year lifted the glitterball trophy with wildlife cameraman Hamza Yassin, is returning to the show along with 2022’s runners-up Gorka Marquez, Carlos Gu and Vito Coppola.

Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones and Nikita Kuzmin are among the other professionals in the line-up.

Those taking to the dancefloor also include Luba Mushtuk, Giovanni Pernice, Johannes Radebe, Kai Widdrington, Nancy Xu, Lauren Oakley and Michelle Tsiakkas.

The last series of Strictly saw Yassin and Przystal lift beat celebrity couples Fleur East and Coppola, Molly Rainford and Gu, and Helen Skelton and Marquez, in a public vote during the live show.

The new series kicks off on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 6.35pm on Saturday.