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Strictly speaking… Hello Claudia! Farewell Brucie!

Posted on May 14, 2014


It was nice to see you, to see you…nice! After 11 series, Sir Bruce Forsyth has handed over the Strictly Come Dancing presenting baton (sequin-covered, naturally) to the fabulous Claudia Winkleman, she of the quick wit, monochrome wardrobe and delicately balanced fringe-to-eyeliner ratio.

Or, strictly speaking (ho ho), he’s handed it over to Tess Daly, who will assume lead presenter duties when the series returns this autumn. Good news for Tess – during her stand-ins for Brucie, she’s proven adept at keeping the show motoring along and looks far more comfortable with the autocue than improvising pesky chitchat.

The latter, of course, being Claudia’s specialty. She has a remarkable ability to make the mundane engaging, sardonically subverting talent-show tropes on both seven series of It Takes Two and four years of the Sunday results show.

The fact that she’s been promoted isn’t just a triumph for gender equality (although my inner feminist is happily cha cha-ing away at the thought of a female primetime presenting duo), but for common sense. She’s absolutely the best person for the job, and Strictly will be a stronger show for her increased involvement.

Of course, Brucie shall be missed – the respected old-school razzle-dazzle entertainer was the link between our variety show heritage and this modern revamp. He helped set the tone of a competition that celebrates the transformative power of dance, but doesn’t take itself too seriously, unlike the “Your dubstep One Direction cover COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE!” histrionics on That Other Channel.

So, without further ado, here are my top ten moments from our two presenters, as one takes charge of the balcony base (Claudia’s Kingdom? Skyliner? Claud 9? Suggestions on a postcard, please), and the other rides off into the sunset, intent on solving the greatest mystery of all: just what is a Nancy Dell’Olio?


1. Live television! 
Strictly made good on its “Anything could happen” promise when Mark Ramprakash and Karen Hardy’s salsa was unexpectedly halted by an errant mic lead. Bruce relished the challenge, keeping the audience entertained during the hasty reset and even adding a spontaneous jig.

2. Sing when you’re winning
He might not have the greatest voice, but Brucie’s crooning is undeniably charming, particularly when accompanied by an Anton and Erin foxtrot. Let’s just pretend that whole interminable skit with Anton never happened and enjoy this classic Fred ‘n’ Ginger-ing, shall we? Yes. Good.

3. McWho?
When Harry Judd’s victory was announced, his overexcited toddlers-on-a-sugar-high band mates rushed the stage. Bruce, genuinely confused, did his best Victor Meldrew impersonation with his “Get off my lawn!” yelps as he tried to wrest the show back from those pesky kids. Series 9 in a nutshell.

4. Handbags at dawn
His links became somewhat hit and miss, but there were some real gems. I’m fond of his Lady Bracknell putdown – and the fact that he spent a hazardous 30 seconds just asking for Audley Harrison to have a pop at that famous chin…

5. Another op’ning, another show
The king of the catchphrase had the perfect welcome for this family-friendly affair, getting everyone involved from the start. Will Tess and Claudia carry on the awkward intro dance and “Nice to see you…” tradition? Or do they have something else in mind? (Personally, I vote for five minutes of Claudia reprimanding Aljaz for not wearing a shirt.)


6. If all else fails… 
Is there anything funnier than Pamela Stephenson’s manic, shimmying almost-fall? Yes, yes there is – Claudia reliving it while weeping with laughter. I defy you not to do the same while watching this. Strictly is a wonderfully madcap show, and the more we embrace that, the better.

7. My chesticle is your chesticle 
Before there was Len’s Lens, there was Len’s Masterclass, in which Claudia became the shining light for anyone who has ever attempted a step in a dance class and been met with a look of pity. We can’t all be naturals, OK? Some of us take three weeks to learn how to do a spot turn! (Not me, obviously. I’m asking for a FRIEND.)

8. Come on, come on!
A shy celebrity is no impediment for the Paxman of the ballroom. “You’re hating this, which just makes me want to interview you for even longer,” she cheerfully informed a cringing Ramps, before threatening to sit on his lap. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it…

9. Terms of endearment
Necessary but utterly tedious T&Cs filler? Not with Claudia. “I fell in love with terms and conditions once. We went to Rome.” Look forward to lots more intelligent improv and kooky asides in the Great Winkleman Era.

10. What’s my line?
Far too many to count; as regular readers know, Claudia’s off-the-cuff gags are the stuff of “Strictly speaking” legend. I think my favourite may be “This isn’t real. It’s an elaborate home video.” Truly words to live by.

See you in a few months’ time, and keep an eye on Dance Today for exclusive Strictly news and interviews. In the meantime…keep dancing!

What do you think of Claudia’s appointment? Will you miss Bruce? And do you have any favourite moments to share? Contact the magazine, get in touch with me on Twitter @mkmswain, or leave your thoughts in the comments below…

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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