Feature: All change at Strictly

Wednesday 18 June 2014 by Vikki Jane Vile

Tess Daley & Claudia Winkleman -the new presenting team for BBC1's 'Strictly Come Dancing'. Photo: BBC

The twelfth series of Strictly Come Dancing this autumn has a new presenting team and of course it wouldn’t be Strictly without the annual obligatory professional dancer shake-up writes Vikki Jane Vile…

Last month saw the announcement that Claudia Winkleman will be joining forces with Tess Daly to create a formidable all women team when the BBC’s flagship entertainment programme returns this Autumn. “About time too” came the response of fans who’ve enjoyed Winkleman’s witty commentary on the show since its second series in 2004. She first appeared as the anchor of sister show It Takes Two and since 2010 she ably stood in for Forsyth on the Sunday night results show as he began to take a step back from some of his presenting duties.

Winkleman said of her promotion: “I have loved Strictly since the second it appeared on our screens and I am honoured and thrilled to now be part of the Saturday night team”. In recent weeks even Forsyth himself has admitted he was struggling, explaining “there are times when you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say: ‘should you be doing this any longer?’ It’s a big decision. I don’t think many leave a show when it’s so popular. I will miss it.”

For most, this is a welcome development and signals a new chapter for the show that celebrated its tenth birthday just last month. How can it be anything but step forward to have to two successful, funny, intelligent women in their 40s presenting the BBCs top rated show? There is even talk of the appointment marking a “new era” for Strictly. Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC1 said: ‘‘Tess and Claudia are a fantastic duo and natural successors to Strictly’s presenting line up now that Sir Bruce has decided to step down. Their commitment and passion for the show make them the perfect pairing.”

Shiny new presenting team in place, what of the professional dancers, then? Before I go any further, kudos must go to Strictly stalwarts Brendan Cole and Anton Du Beke for being the only two dancers to successfully weather the storm and foxtrot into their twelfth series. When we first met Cole in 2004 he was a creatively frustrated Ballroom bad boy who was partial to door slamming and illegal lifts. These days he’s significantly mellowed, married a supermodel and looks to be part of Strictly furniture for many years to come. Du Beke hasn’t really changed other than for a suspicious looking comb over that appeared two series ago.

Departures: Inevitably, one man time bomb James Jordan has been given the chop. Jordan has been a regular since 2006, seen out seven series and made the final twice with Pamela Stephenson and Denise Van Outen. Over the years Jordan has never resisted any controversy with his mouth normally more active than his dancing feet – judging from his Twitter page he’s far from happy about the BBC’s decision. Perhaps fuelling the fire is that popular wife Ola will remain a part of the programme.

It is with great sadness that the announcement of Artem Chigvintsev’s departure is met, for this bare-chested Russian Adonis melted many a heart when he won his very first series with Kara Tointon in 2010. There was something about his deadpan charm and the way he delivered awkwardly scripted lines that will be missed. His choreography has been some of the most original seen on the show too. Visa issues have plagued Chigvintsev since he came to the UK resulting in his premature departure from Strictly and his immediate plans appear to be to return to the US to “sort out his citizenship”.

Arrivals: Fresh off the Strictly luggage conveyor belt is Grimsby born Joanne Clifton. Addition of brother Kevin last year proved hugely successful so the BBC have been quick to book as much of this talented family as possible. Clifton boasts titles including World Ballroom Showdance Champion, British Champion and European Professional Champion and will no doubt be a strong addition to the show with a likeable personality to match.

The second new arrival is Tristan MacManus, an Irish born Latin dancer who earned his stripes on Ballroom stage show Burn the Floor and has also successfully competed in three series of Dancing with the Stars where his partners included Pamela Anderson. His experiences there will stand him in good stead for anything the UK version can throw at him.

As the cast of 2014 takes shape it remains to be seen whether the departure of Forsyth, or indeed two popular professionals will have any impact on ratings when Strictly returns in September.

Vikki Jane will be back in the autumn to keep us Strictly up to date with Saturday night events on the BBC’s dance floor.

Vikki Jane Vile is a freelance dance writer, contributing regularly to Dance Today and Dancing Times magazines – and a Strictly aficionado.

Photo: courtesy BBC

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