It’s one of the biggest and most exciting annual dance competitions in the world and it nearly didn’t manage a 2020 edition. But for dance fans in Zimbabwe and elsewhere the good news is: Strictly’s back!
Liz Dziva, publicity and public relations manager of MultiChoice Zimbabwe, said series 18 of the popular BBC 1 show launched on DStv on Sunday (October 25) and would run until the weekend after Christmas, giving viewers a range of dance treats as, once again, a pool of professional dancing choreographers try to make dancers out of a selection of British public personalities.
“We are excited that, despite the many challenges created by the international reaction to Covid-19 , this amazing show is back for its 18th annual run, although a number of changes have had to be made to the format of the show to accommodate the realities of the current fight against the coronavirus,” she said.
During the past eight months thought was given by the BBC to cancelling the series this year, but in the end it was decided to go ahead in ‘safe mode’ so that the dance treats so well known and so cherished by fans of Strictly could be channelled worldwide in 2020, after all.
The show run started later than usual and has been shortened to 12 weeks, the number of celebrities dropped to 12 and big public sections like the Blackpool Tower and Halloween week specials have been dropped. It runs in the UK from October 17 to December 19, and on DStv’s channel 120 it runs from October 24 to December 26, only one week behind the UK lead performance.
Perhaps the biggest change has come through making the professional dancers and their celebrity dance partners go into isolation before the run and having them stay isolated from families for the entire run, living as group in a ‘bubble’ to protect them from exposure to Covid-19. Crews are also in the bubble after isolation. All the group dances have been pre-recorded and will be ‘dropped’ into the live show each week.
There is either no studio audience or a small group spread out across the set, and the judges no longer sit alongside each other but have individual judging seats. Only three judges – Craig Revel-Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – are in the dance hall. The fourth judge, Bruno Tonioli, is in the USA for Dancing With The Stars and because of travel restrictions cannot, as in past years, fly back and forth to London to do both shows live; he will either not take part or will do a virtual judging and appearance via satellite. Among the professional dancers, Kevin Clifton and AJ Pritchard are not taking part in 2020.
This year’s celebrities are Bill Bailey (comedian), Caroline Quentin (TV presenter), Clara Amfo (BBC Radio 1 DJ), HRVY (singer), Jacqui Smith (former UK Home Secretary), Jason Bell (former USA NFL footballer), JJ Chalmers (a disabled former soldier who won medals in the last Invictus Games), Maisie Smith (Eastenders star), Max George (former singer in The Wanted), Nicola Adams (Olympic boxer) and Ramvir Singh (Good Morning Britain presenter). Ms Adams is the first celebrity to be given a same-sex pairing, with professional dancer Katya Jones.
“It’s a very popular show in Zimbabwe and we are pleased to have it back on BBC Brit each Sunday at 7pm, with further screenings later in the week,” said Ms Dziva.
“It’s a show that inspires and we know that over the years many youngsters have taken up dancing simply because they have picked up an interest through this show.”