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Strictly stars revealed!

Posted on September 11, 2012

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web_square_tess_and_bruceThe celebrity line-up for this year’s “Strictly Come Dancing” has been announced, a cast that runs from Olympic gold medallists to actors and singers. Audiences will get their first glimpse of the stars in action in the launch show this weekend, which will also reveal which professional dancer will partner which celebrity.

Cyclist Victoria Pendleton is a multiple champion, having won nine world titles before taking silver and gold in the London 2012 Olympics. She says: “Retiring after the Olympics was always going to be a bit hard to follow, and knowing what it’s like post-competition, when you feel a bit lost and a bit ‘What do I do now?’, having something to focus on was a great thing.” She laughs that she has no dancing skills, but adds, “I’m not frightened to have a laugh at myself, so I’ll give it a go!”

Dani Harmer is best known as the heroine of the award-winning CBBC series “The Story of Tracey Beaker”. She played the character for more than ten years, and appeared on “Let’s Dance for Sport Relief” earlier this year. “The thing I’m most looking forward to is learning all the different styles of dance. I’ve always wanted to learn how to tango, and now I might get the chance!”

Denise Van Outen made her name presenting “The Big Breakfast” and has since gone on to play leading roles in the West End and on Broadway. She’s looking forward to the glamorous costumes, “but mainly the dancing, because when I was a kid I just loved to dance, and I can’t wait to just get into it…. I’m really looking forward to the group numbers the most, all dancing together and having a laugh.”

TV presenter Fern Britton has already appeared on the “Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special”. She’s ready for more sequins: “I am absolutely ready to get on the production line of ‘Strictly’. Rather like a car factory – I shall arrive as an unformed blob shoved onto the conveyor belt. I shall be sprayed, spangled, totally upholstered and polished ready for the showroom! I cannot wait.”

Model Jerry Hall has gone from magazine covers to film and stage roles before trying the “Strictly” dance floor. She’s looking forward to “learning all those wonderful dances – the waltz, the American smooth, and especially the tango – it’s such a sexy dance, so passionate.” She’ll need a tall partner: “As the youngest and tallest of five girls, back in Texas, I always had to take the lead and be the guy, so being led around the ballroom will be a nice experience for me.”

As a member of the band Girls Aloud, Kimberly Walsh has had 20 top ten singles and sold more than four million albums. She has recently played Princess Fiona in the West End production of Shrek the Musical. In the past, she’d been “a little bit scared” of doing “Strictly”, but “doing Shrek and being terrified to do that but then loving it made me think I’d probably really love the experience if I can be brave enough to go for it, so I am!”

Lisa Riley is best known for playing barmaid Mandy Dingle in the ITV soap “Emmerdale”. She’s “VERY nervous heading into it, especially the first show”, and is curious to see how the costumes and makeup will work out: “I’ve never had a spray tan in my life! I’m frightened of looking like an Oompa Loompa! I don’t want to look shiny – I am incredibly pale so I think I might look a bit ridiculous, but I’m going to throw myself into the Strictly experience 100 per cent.”

Olympic gymnast Louis Smith won a silver medal on the pommel horse at the London 2012 Olympics. He signed up for “Strictly” because “It’s a very prestigious show, it’s definitely one of the best shows on TV at the moment. Coming off the back of the Olympics and having been on such a high, I think this is one of the only shows that can match that in terms of the adrenalin buzz and being something special.” He hopes for a dancing partner who will be “very strict and keep me on the straight and narrow!”

Actor Colin Salmon has appeared in Bond films, on “Doctor Who”, “Spooks” and “Merlin”. He says: “I absolutely love dancing and I know three ex-champions – Darren Gough, Mark Ramprakash and Tom Chambers – and they all had a ball, but the only advice they have given me is to look after my feet! My wife has been on at me for ages to do [the show] and I wasn’t sure, but I hit a certain age and I decided it was time to have some fun!”

Television presenter Johnny Ball has been popularising science and maths for more than 40 years, through programmes such as “Think Of A Number”. His daughter, former contestant Zoë Ball, presents the “Strictly” sister programme, “It Takes Two”. He’s looking forward to “meeting the other contestants and especially the dancers, who are all so fit and healthy. The way the group becomes one big self-supportive happy family is perhaps the greatest attraction in doing the show.” Asked about his dancing skills right now, he says, “It’s not how I rate them, it’s how Craig will rate them – I’d hate to be the first contestant to get a minus score from him.”

Cricketer Michael Vaughan captained the England team when they regained the Ashes in 2005. Though “Strictly” has had two cricketing champions in Mark Ramprakash and Darren Gough, Vaughan is nervous: “I’m here to prove that most cricketers are more like Phil Tufnell and can’t dance! Gough and Ramprakash were amazing, Ramprakash in particular was a natural, he should be on stage – maybe he could be my coach!”

As a singer/songwriter with the band Westlife, Nicky Byrne has sold over 45 million records worldwide. “As a band, we performed on ‘Strictly’ a couple of times and I remember always looking at the contestants and seeing the fear in their eyes and thinking this has a real buzz and excitement about it. So when Westlife ended and I was thinking about what I was going to do next, I jumped at the chance to do ‘Strictly’.”

Presenter Richard Arnold became known as a cheeky showbiz reporter on GMTV. Up until his costume fitting, he was looking forward to the sequins and lycra, “But then I discovered that the Latin pants cut you higher than is faintly decent, and saw a muffin top in the mirror Delia would be proud of. It dawned on me that it’s not everyone who can carry off marabou under a mirror ball on a Saturday night!”

Actor Sid Owen is best known for playing “EastEnders” character Ricky Butcher. “I’ve enjoyed watching the show over the years and I have had lots of friends that have taken part in it. They have all really enjoyed it, so I thought it was my time to give it a go! I am really looking forward to the whole experience, but mainly learning to dance and getting dressed up in all the outfits every weekend.”

The new series kicks off on BBC1 on Saturday, September 15 at 6.30pm. After facing the paparazzi on the red carpet, the celebrities will head to the dance floor to learn which of the “Strictly” professional dancers will be partnering them, giving the audience the chance to see everybody’s first reactions.

The programme’s live shows will start in October, and will feature the return of the dance-off, where the two lowest-scored couples dance again to decide who stays on the show. The series will also include a one-off spectacular from Wembley Arena in aid of Children In Need.

This year, Darcey Bussell joins the judging panel, alongside Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and head judge Len Goodman. The programme will be presented by Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly (pictured), with Claudia Winkleman joining Tess on Sunday evenings to present the results show. Zoë Ball will bring “Strictly” fans the latest news and gossip in the weekday sister show “It Takes Two” on BBC2.

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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