Strictly Come Dancing bosses have revealed that despite the easing of nationwide restrictions, the 2021 cast will still adhere to strict Covid protocols.
Speaking to MailOnline ahead of the long-awaited new series, producer Sarah James revealed that many of the changes introduced last series will continue this year, including couples’ forming bubbles to ensure they can train and perform safely.
However one major change for this series is that any celebrity who tests positive may not have to automatically withdraw from the competition, with Sarah revealing they just miss a week of the show so they can isolate for 10 days.
Precautions: Strictly Come Dancing bosses have revealed that despite the easing of nationwide restrictions, the 2021 cast will still adhere to strict Covid protocols
Coming soon: Producer Sarah James revealed that couples will once again form ‘bubbles’ so they can train and perform safely (2020 couple Maisie Smith and Gorka Marquez pictured)
Explaining the changes to this year’s Covid protocols, Sarah told MailOnline: ‘Sadly there will be some protocols in place this year with Covid still being around, some stuff is better than last year and some stuff is kind of the same.
‘The professional dancers are all in a hotel together in a household and we’re recording most of the group numbers for the series, and then when we get into the live shows they will be tested weekly and they’ll bubble up with their celebrities and we’ll keep them all distanced from each other; they’ll be sitting in the audience like last year.’
‘Keeping everybody safe is the show’s priority, we will have a limited audience like last year, and the better news is last year the isolation period if you received a positive test for 14 days, if a celebrity receives a positive test, it doesn’t necessarily means they have to leave the competition. They might miss a week.’
Sarah also confirmed that this year’s series will not feature the show’s annual trip to Blackpool, because maintainng social distancing while backstage in the historic Tower Ballroom would prove to be a huge challenge.
She added: ‘We won’t be able to go to Blackpool. To keep everybody safe, behind the scenes it’s really small so keeping everybody distanced there is impossible, that was the reason we made that decision.’
‘Movie Week, Musicals and Halloween Week will be back and we’ll be also be doing our Christmas Special this year in our studio.’
This year’s series of Strictly will also see pro Anton Du Beke join the judging panel to replace Bruno Tonioli, after he was unable to travel back to the UK from the US for filming.
Exciting: While many of last year’s social distancing rules will remain, Sarah confirmed they are hoping to have a live audience this series
Sarah revealed it was a ‘no brainer’ that Anton would fill in for Bruno given he’s the show’s longest serving pro, and said Bruno agreed he’d be the perfect choice.
She told MailOnline: ‘We’re gutted that Brunpo can’t come back this year, but it was a no brainer with Anton, he did a couple of weeks last year and he did brilliantly, he’s going to be fantastic I’m looking forward to seeing him on the panel.
‘When we spoke and he decided he couldn’t go between he said we should get Anton to fill in.’
Sarah also revealed that following the news that EastEnders Rose Ayling-Ellis would be joining the lineup as the show’s first ever deaf contestant, she and many of the show’s producers had completely deaf awareness training.
Safety first: Once again all of the Strictly pros isolated in a hotel together so they could pre-record all of the series’ group routines
She explained: ‘Already myself and the team have learned a lot from Rose, it’s been an ongoing conversation, all the team are doing deaf awareness training, we’re learning sign language.
‘Rose will need an interpreter at all times in training and on the show you may see an interpreter on camera, other than that Rose is looking forward to the show just like everybody else and I can’t wait to see how she does.’
This year’s Strictly will also see in the introduction of the show’s first ever male same-sex pairing with The Great British Bake Off star John Whaite to be paired with another male pro, whose identity will be revealed on Saturday’s launch show.
She explained: ‘It’s definitely something we’ve always wanted to do, he’s already proved he’s an amazing spokesperson for it, I’m really looking forward to seeing John.
‘Nicola [Adams] and Katya [Jones] were amazing last year, it was cut short but they’ve paved the way the research we’ve done since has proven everyone really appreciated that partnership.’
This year’s Strictly will also return to the usual 13-week format with 15 celebrities taking part, after last year’s series was reduced to just nine weeks due to the Covid pandemic.
Excited: Also among the stars taking part in this year’s Strictly is comedian Judi Love, who admitted that one of her biggest fears will be trying to dance in heels during the show
Among the stars taking part in this year’s Strictly is comedian Judi Love, who admitted that one of her biggest fears will be trying to dance in heels during the show.
She said: ‘I am very excited for the costumes, the heels I’m a little bit like ”OK, does that class as a heel?”
‘I’m one of those women I can’t walk in heels, so dancing in them I can dance in them on Friday night with my girls and a couple glasses of prosecco, and in a professional capacity we’ll have to see.’
Looking ahead: ‘I am very excited for the costumes, the heels I’m a little bit like ”OK, does that class as a heel?” she told MailOnline
Asked whether any of her Loose Women co-stars had offered any advice, she added: ‘I haven’t spoken to anybody it almost feels like I’m still in secret.
‘My Loose Women girls were like ”I thought it would be you”, they’ve been very supportive, [saying] just fully embrace it have fun, everyone I know has done it so far has said it’s hard work but you’re going to enjoy it.
‘It’s such an iconic show and what an opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to do Strictly, who wouldn’t want to do it so I think it was just one of those things where it was aushc an amazon opportunity and I was just so excited by the opportunity to learn such a skill.’
Asked about her dream partner, the comic added: ‘I’m looking for hip movements! I’m looking for someone who’s going to be patient with me because something like this is going to bring out what your fears are, you’re going to be challenged, excited, there’s different elements to your personality.
‘I’m definitely going to need someone that’s patient. They are going to be like ”listen you’ve got to do this,” they’ve got to have patience.
‘I want to dance to a little bit of reggae, a little bit of bashment, that’s what I want to dance to a bit of that.’
Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday 18th September on BBC One.