They may have had their ballroom debut delayed for several weeks thanks to COVID-19.
But the class of Strictly Come Dancing 2020 are ready to rhumba as they show off their sparkling makeovers in the first official portraits ahead of the start of the new series on October 17.
Radio 1 star Clara Amfo and EastEnders actress Maisie Smith both look incredible in their tasselled mini dresses and Olympian Nicola Adams suits up in a sequin blazer, but there’s no sign of YouTube star HRVY in the newly-released images, following his positive test for COVID-19 last week.
Completing this year’s lineup are actress Caroline Quentin, comedian Bill Bailey, singer Max George, reality star Jamie Laing, former home secretary Jacqui Smith, BBC pundit and former NFL star Jason Bell, former Royal Marine and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers and Good Morning Britain’s Ranvir Singh.
The launch show will see each celebrity paired with their professional partner by hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman before the cast take part in a group performance. The live shows kick off one week later on October 24.
11 out of the 12 celebrities appear in the first official photos, but there’s no snap of YouTube star HRVY (real name Harvey Leigh Cantwell).
Last week the 21-year-old revealed he was isolating for 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus. HRVY tested positive just days after mixing with his co-stars on the BBC show and must remain in isolation until next Thursday.
Hitting the floor: Comedian Bill Bailey is already showing off his moves in his official portrait, while looking dapper in a blue satin waistcoat and matching trousers
From the headlines to the ballroom: Former home secretary Jacqui Smith is unrecognisable in her figure hugging dress and full hair and makeup, while Good Morning Britain presenter Ranvir Singh has swapped her suits for sequins
It is understood he will still take part in the launch show depending on him getting a negative test result.
But if HRVY is not well when he finishes his isolation period next week, he will be axed from the competition.
A spokesman for the show insisted all celebrities on the show are ‘tested regularly’ and claimed that the positive test has had ‘minimal impact on production’.
Meanwhile it will be Made In Chelsea star Jamie’s second launch show as he was originally part of the 2019 cast before being forced to pull out before the first live show after injuring his leg.
Jamie has admitted that if he gets injured again this year then the infamous Strictly curse is about his foot.
Back on screens: Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek star Caroline Quentin looks incredible in her sparkly blue number
‘If I get injured again it would look like I bottled it!’ he pointed out. ‘So I really have to be careful. I’m not worried, I feel like I’m pretty fit and healthy. If something happens then the Strictly curse isn’t about me sleeping with someone else, it’s definitely about my foot!’
Another major change in the 2020 series is the first same-sex partnership, with boxer Nicole Adams set to be paired with a female professional.
Nicola, 37, has said that being paired with another woman, rumoured to be Katya Jones, is a ‘brilliant step in the right direction, especially on the diversity side of things’.
‘And women actually dance with women all the time in the professional circuit so I guess it’s just showing people that it can be done’.
Revealing she approached Strictly with the idea for a same-sex pairing, Nicola explained: ‘I asked the show about it. ‘They wanted to know if I wanted to be on the show and I said “yeah I’ll do it but I want to dance with another female dance partner.'”
Action man: Former Royal Marine and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers scrubs up in a purple suit for his dancefloor debut
On Tuesday Nicola and professional Katya were pictured leaving filming together, all but confirming they have been paired together.
It was revealed in August that producers decide the celebrity and professional pairings based on height. Katya measures at 5ft 5ins while former professional boxer Nicola stands at 5ft 4ins.
Earlier this year, Katya told the Sunday Mirror: ‘I would love to dance with a woman on the show. I think creatively it would be really interesting and I love coming up with new ideas for stuff.’
Following the news about Nicola appearing on the show in a female partnership, the BBC defended having a same-sex pairing after more than 100 people complained.
In a statement the corporation said the competition is an ‘inclusive show’ and they are ‘proud’ to have had same-sex numbers in previous series.
Radio star: Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo is the belle of the ballroom in her stunning gold tassel dress
Making history: A major change in the 2020 series is the first same-sex partnership, with boxer Nicole Adams set to be paired with a female professional while Jacqui Smith follows in the footsteps of politicians turned Strictly stars Anne Widdecombe and Ed Balls
Soap star: Maisie Smith is the youngest of this year’s celeb competitors at just 19-years-old
Ready to rhumba: Bill and JJ are both stepping out of their comfort zones with a Strictly stint
Other stars have been busy getting tips from previous competitors on the series, with ex home secretary Jacqui Smith revealing she’s been chatting to Strictly legend Ed Balls.
‘I’ve been lucky that Ed Balls has talked to me and give me some advice. I’m not sure that I would ever be able to match his Gangnam Style,’ the politician quipped.
Meanwhile NFL star Jason Bell has enlisted the skills of his ex Nadine Coyle, who is the mother of his young daughter. Admitting the Girls Aloud star was the first person he told about Strictly, the athlete explained of her reaction: ‘She just kind of looked at me for a minute. She’s not very quick to tell you her opinion, she listens to all the facts.’
‘So when I told her, she just was like, are you sure your back can do it? I talk to her all the time about preparing for dance routines and stuff like that, and how long does it take and what do you need to do. She’s an expert, so I’m lucky because of that.’
Hunks of the ballroom: Max George will be hoping to emulate bandmate Jay McGuinness’ success on the show while NFL star Jason Bell will be swapping the football field for the Strictly ballroom
Back for more! it will be Made In Chelsea star Jamie’s second launch show as he was originally part of the 2019 cast before being forced to pull out before the first live show after injuring his leg
And actress Caroline Quentin has revealed an unlikely Stictly superfan in the form of her friend Elizabeth Hurley. Explaining the best reactions she’s had to her new venture, Caroline revealed: ‘Until you’re in the eye of the storm you don’t really know how much people love something.’
‘I’ve been working with Elizabeth Hurley and she’s more excited about it than anyone I’ve ever met. She has told me so much information about the programme that I didn’t know, past years and winners, what’s happened and how to go about it.’
‘She and her son Damien have been extraordinarily supportive. In my local grocer, I got a round of applause when I went to buy some fruit!’
Learning their moves: The launch show on October 17 will see Ranvir, Caroline and co paired up with their professional partners ahead of the first live show a week later
In a recent industry Q&A, executive producer Sarah James detailed the new Covid-friendly format, which also includes a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’, with one party being required to live alone.
Sarah also shed light on the show’s contingency plans in light of the pandemic and insisted she’s ‘confident’ the competition series will go ahead even if the current coronavirus restrictions change from October 17.
This year’s series will be a pared down nine-week run with a very different look. The 12 partnerships – three less than usual – will be unveiled via video link rather than in the studio and the annual trip to the Blackpool Tower ballroom is also off the cards.
With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements.
And to ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will get tested regularly and ‘bubble up’.
In isolation: 11 out of the 12 celebrities appear in the first official photos, but there’s no snap of YouTube star HRVY (real name Harvey Leigh Cantwell) (pictured in 2019)
Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, and the dancers will sit in the audience rather than go upstairs to get their scores.
Veteran judge Bruno Tonioli has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles.
As well as the absence of Bruno, it was confirmed last week that professionals Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones, Graziano Di Prima and Nancy Xu are without celebrity partners for this year’s series.
The BBC show’s executive producer confirmed the quartet have not been assigned a celeb contestant for the main show this year, as there are only 12 pairings rather than 15 and nine live shows instead of the usual 12.
Dancing queen: Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly will be back on hosting duties alongside judges Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas and Craig Revel-Horwood
This year’s series will also have a much-reduced live audience, with people applying for tickets also being instructed that they will have to wear face coverings, preferably black ones, throughout the recording and while on site at the studios in Elstree.
According to guidance on the BBC’s Shows and Tours website, tickets this year are limited and they will also seat family groups of ‘four people from the same household/social bubble at cabaret tables and in balcony seating’.
The website says the corporation will also be supporting the NHS Test and Trace Scheme, and urges people to not attend recordings if they ‘begin to develop any of the symptoms of coronavirus or if you have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus’.
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One for the launch show on October 17.
Strictly Come Dancing Contestants 2020
Profession: Actress, known for roles in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek
Caroline says: ‘I hope my knees don’t let me down and I hope the foundation garments live up to expectations when I start leaping about!’
Fun fact: She met her now-husband, Sam Farmer in 1998 on the set of Men Behaving Badly when he was one of the studio runners.
Profession: Singer – from former boy band The Wanted
Max says: ‘Nan – I’m doing Strictly this year!’ as he vowed to make his superfan grandmother proud
Fun Fact: Max’s fellow The Wanted bandmate Jay McGuiness was on Strictlby Come Dancing in 2015 – and won it!
Profession: Radio 1 presenter
Clara says: ‘As we know this year has been a real challenge and escapism through dancing is something I know we all enjoy’
Fun fact: Clara has some experience of celeb gameshows, having taken part on Celebrity Masterchef in 2018
Profession: Comedian and TV personality
Clara says: ‘I’m not Lord of the Dance, more a sort of caretaker of the dance’
Fun fact: Bill is a classically trained musician and multi-instrumentalist
Profession: EastEnders actress
Maisie says: ‘Get me in those sequins, I can’t wait to dive into the Strictly fancy dress box this winter!’
Fun fact: Maisie won the 2019 Children In Need special of Strictly with Kevin Clifton
Profession: YouTube star
HRVY says: ‘Being on Strictly is going to be such an amazing experience and I’m so thankful to be taking part this year.’
Fun fact: HRVY follows in the footsteps of former internet star contestants Joe Sugg and Saffron Barker – the latter of whom is close friends with him
Profession: Retired American Football player – now a pundit
Jason says: ‘I am thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show, I’ve been watching it since I came to this country, so it’s time for me to do something cool to impress my daughter, now that she can watch me perform!’
Fun Fact: Jason is the father of Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle’s daughter. The couple were together for 11 years, only splitting recently in 2019
Profession: ITV broadcaster, Political Editor for GMB
Ranvir says: ‘It feels like I’m on a rollercoaster… Hopefully after the first dance I will feel exhilarated rather than sick!’
Fun fact: Ranvir is the fourth GMB star to star following Susanna Reid, Richard Arnold and Charlotte Hawkins.
Profession: Double Olympic gold medallist boxer
Nicola says: ‘I’m a huge fan of the show and am thrilled to be part of something that holds such a special place in so many people’s hearts’
Fun fact: Nicola will form the show’s first ever same-sex pairing as she is parterned with a female professional.
Profession: Ex Royal Marine and Invictus Games medallist
JJ says: ‘Strictly is a whole different ball game in respect to the challenges I will face but I’m up for an adventure’
Fun fact: JJ is close friends with Prince Harry after they worked together on the Invictus Games
Profession: Made In Chelsea star
Jamie says: ‘I’m over the moon I actually get to come back and dance again. It’s going to be unbelievably amazing!’
Fun fact: Jamie was forced to pull out of the 2019 series of Strictly after a foot injury
RT HON JACQUI SMITH
Jacqui says: ‘I was speechless with excitement at being asked to join Strictly – and that’s very rare for me…!’
Fun fact: Fifty years ago, she received a bronze medal for Scottish Highland Dancing
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