By: Michael Hogan
On one of the hottest days of the year, just the act of thinking about fast, frenetic dance routines under studio lights is enough to bring us out in a sweat. But hey, at least this lot will be wearing barely-there dresses and slashed-to-the-navel shirts. How cooling. Craig Revel Horwood’s icy putdowns might chill them even more.
There might be little on our screens right now except for sport and Love Island, but it’s a sparkly sign that the autumn TV frenzy isn’t far away. And Strictly 2021 already looks like it could be the most exciting series for quite some time.
So who are these new arrivals stepping onto the Elstree Studios dance floor? Well, they’re all world-class hoofers, they’re all easy-on-the-eye and they’re all bright young things. Strictly needed some fresh blood after stalwarts Anton Du Beke and Janette Manrara hung up their dancing shoes. We’ve certainly got it with this spicy quartet, all aged between 20 and 26.
Two of the new faces might be familiar to fans of TV talent contests. First comes Southampton-born Kai Widdrington, as predicted by RadioTimes.com, who made his screen debut during the 2012 series of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. Aged just 16 at the time, he reached the final but was beaten by dancing dog Pudsey.
He’s a former World Junior Latin-American champion and has been a professional dancer on Dancing With The Stars in Ireland since its 2017 launch, reaching the final twice. Now 25, Widdrington calls his Strictly call-up “a childhood dream come true” and “the biggest accomplishment of my career”. He’ll fly the flag for homegrown pros, alongside Neil Jones and Amy Dowden.
The other newbie who viewers might recognise is 26-year-old Jowita Przystal, reigning champion of BBC stablemate, The Greatest Dancer. Alongside former partner Michael Danilczuk, he won the contest last spring. The pair performed a spectacular, dizzyingly spinning routine on Strictly in December as part of their prize.
They were mentored on The Greatest Dancer by a “dance captain” who just happened to be Strictly’s own double champ Oti Mabuse. Jowita might now find herself competing against Oti and being judged by her sister Motsi, which will add further intrigue. She’s a former Polish Open Latin Champion and spent four years with touring company Burn The Floor – a regular supplier of Strictly talent.
Next up is 23-year-old boyband-type Nikita Kuzmin. After his Ukrainian family moved to Italy when he was a boy, Nikita became a six-time Latin and Ballroom Italian National Champion. Last year he was a professional on Let’s Dance Germany.
With his sharp cheekbones, Jack Grealish-like blond locks and a tendency to show off his six-pack, Nikita could get millions of hearts a-flutter.
Finally comes the new baby of the ballroom, 20-year-old Cameron Lombard. He’s won 18 national titles during his dance career and is the reigning South African Latin Champion. As a schoolboy prodigy, Cameron was a finalist on South Africa’s Got Talent, and in 2019, he represented his native country at the World Championships.
Fresh-faced cutie Cam has described Strictly as “a life-changing opportunity” and his cheeky sense of humour could make him a firm fan-favourite.
This awesome foursome means the ranks of the Strictly Come Dancing professionals have now been swelled to 18. We doubt they’ll all get celebrity partners. Producers like to leave two or three on the subs’ bench, in case of injury and to concentrate on the group numbers. Either way, we can’t wait to see what the young guns can do.
Last year’s series was a lockdown joy – and was won, of course, by the tonic that was body-popping Bill Bailey. Yet it was truncated in length and trimmed back in other aspects, too. There weren’t the usual fancy-dressed themed weeks nor the annual trip up the M6 to Blackpool. Social distancing meant the studio audience was also reduced, leading to a lack of atmosphere at times.
Returning to ballroom business as usual this September will be exciting enough. Throw in four hot new pros, the prospect of Nancy Xu getting a celebrity partner for the first time, and Anton Du Beke moving full-time onto the judging panel, and it all becomes a mouthwatering prospect.
Dust off that Glitterball and pandemic be damned, Strictly 2021 could well be the best series in years.
Strictly Come Dancing will return to BBC One later this summer. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.