Strictly Come Dancing judge Anton Du Beke has lauded reigning champion Rose Ayling Ellis’ ‘extraordinary’ Couples Choice performance, as he prepares to return for the show’s much-anticipated 20th series.
The former dance pro, who has now permenantly replaced Bruno Tonioli on the judging panel, admitted it’s ‘difficult’ to reflect on the last series without noting the routine, which won the TV BAFTA for Must-See Moment.
Anton will appear on the Strictly panel alongside head judge Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse for the Strictly launch which is due to air on Friday, after being postponed due to the Queen’s funeral.
Asked to recall his favourite moment from the previous series, Anton said: ‘It’s difficult to think about last year’s series without thinking about Rose and her incredible journey.
‘I think the dance her and Giovanni won the BAFTA for was extraordinary, and there were other extraordinary moments through her Strictly journey.’
Craig Revel Horwood agreed, saying: ‘Yes, Rose and Giovanni and the moment of silence. I thought that was just brilliant because she let everyone into her world so we could all understand it.’
Rose and her professional partner Giovanni Pernice were praised by millions for their silent Couples Choice routine, and were eventually crowned champions of the 2021 series.
Anton who has been part of Strictly since its first series in 2004, went onto say: ‘I can’t believe, well I can really, that it has been going for so long and still we have a new audience coming to it every year, a new generation that are growing up with the show.
‘There’s a wonderful feeling around the show. I love that feeling of lifting everybody up, which I think was highlighted through lockdown. The sun shines when Strictly is on.’
This year’s Strictly will see the introduction of four new professional dancers, following the departure of Oti Mabuse and Aljaž Škorjanec earlier this year.
Anton added: ‘Having 20 pros is going to be amazing, chaotic and incredible! As a choreographer it gives you such opportunity and potential to create some incredible numbers. Visually it’s going to be spectacular.
‘Those new four dancers are all brilliant and bring such enthusiasm and excitement, being on Strictly Come Dancing is a dancer’s dream.’
This year will also see Strictly return to Blackpool for the first time since 2019, after Covid restrictions forced the show to cancel its planned specials in the famous Tower Ballroom.
Head judge Shirley admitted that she still views the town as ‘home’ as its where she discovered her passion for dance.
She said: ‘It’s where my first event was when I was seven years old. The only year I’ve ever missed is when I gave birth to my son.
‘I love everything about Blackpool, including the lights and the walks along the beach, the people and the nightlife. The best dancers from all over the world come to Blackpool – It’s their ambition and their dream.’
Meanwhile Motsi revealed the dream star she’d have loved to dance with, saying: ‘I would dance with Nelson Mandela if I could and I would have so many questions for him. I think because of him, we are able to realise our dreams today.
Strictly Come Dancing will finally make its return to screens on Friday with its pre-recorded launch show, which will see this year’s celebrities discover their professional partners.
The launch was previously scheduled to air on September 17, but was postponed due to the Queen’s funeral, which was due to be broadcast just two days later.
Strictly’s first live show will be broadcast just one day later, on Saturday, and all 15 couples will take to the dancefloor for the first time.
Strictly Come Dancing returns on Friday, September 23 at 7pm. The first live show airs on Saturday, September 24 at 6:30pm on BBC One and iPlayer.