We know we are well into Spring (bar the random snow) and Strictly feels like a lifetime away... but it's never too early for an announcement, right?
Strictly Come Dancing has announced the full line up of professional dancers who will be returning for this years series. Previously it was announced that two-time glitter ball champion and fan favourite, Oti Mabuse would be retiring her dancing shoes. Earlier this week it was also announced that professional Aljaž Škorjanec would be departing from the show, too.
In an interview with You magazine, Oti explained she’d wanted to leave Strictly at 'the peak' and while she was still happy on the show. She revealed she 'cried for hours' when she told bosses last year that the 2021 series would be her last. She explained, 'When I came to Britain I said to myself, "my dream is to win Strictly," and I have, and it was such an amazing seven years, but I’ve done what I needed to do.'
'I feel so emotional. I lived my best life on that show and it gave me the career I have now, but you need to know when it’s the right time to get off that wave and try new things.'
She continued, 'I didn’t want to hold on and get to the point where I wasn’t happy any more. I left when I was at the peak, in terms of working on the show. It feels like I’m leaving family behind – even the backstage team, the people viewers don’t get to see – but when you know it’s time to go, you know.'
The show has now confirmed that most of last year’s pro dancing team will return, including finalists Giovanni Pernice and Johannes Radebe. Alongside them will be Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Amy Dowden, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Nikita Kuzmin, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Kai Widdrington and Nancy Xu.
Also returning are newbies Jowita Przystal and Cameron Lombard. The pair joined the show last year but did not receive celebrity partners during the 2021 series.
Head judge Shirley Ballas teased that there could be some new additions to the pro line up due to Oti and Aljaž's departures. She told The Mirror, 'There are a few people coming in now who are absolutely off the charts - trust me, it will be amazing. She added, 'I won’t say any names as they are all in the running. There are a few home grown talents, as they are trained and they represent this country. It would be nice to see.'
It should also be noted that Anton Du Becke is not on the list of pros this year, after taking up judging duties last season in Bruno Tonioli's absence. Bruno was also judging Dancing With The Stars in the US, and the COVID pandemic made if difficult for him to fly to and from both locations. However, there seems to be some tension bubbling on that front as Bruno wants his spot back, while Anton dosen't want to give up his new chair either.
Shirley admitted she wants Anton to stay on and make it a five-judge panel, with herself, Bruno, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse. She said, 'I hope Anton stays, but we could have five seats. There is nobody like Bruno. He is a force to be reckoned with.'
Strictly Come Dancing will return for its 20th anniversary season in Autumn 2022.