Strictly Come Dancing: Bosses reveal the show will still adhere to strict Covid protocols

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. 



Age: 36

Profession: McFly musician

Tom says: ‘I’m so pleased the news is out it’s been so hard keeping it secret. Equal parts excited and terrified.’

Fun fact: Tom’s McFly bandmate Harry Judd won Strictly Come Dancing in 2011. Tom’s wife Giovanna Fletcher is the reigning champion of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!


 Age: 48

Profession: Actor and comedian

Robert says: ‘It’s very exciting but with a slight undertone of quivering terror.’

Fun Fact: Robert squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance, beating the likes of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness to the title. 


Age: 27

Profession: CBBC presenter  

Rhys says: ‘I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation’

Fun fact: Rhys has been an actor since the age of ten, performing alongside Matt Smith and Hugh Bonneville. 


 Age: 28

Profession: Actress

Katie says: ‘I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.’

Fun fact: Katie, who played Sinead Tinker in Corrie, won a NTA for Best Serial Drama Performance in 2020. 


Age: 19

Profession: CBBC presenter

Tilly says: ’I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on!’

Fun fact: Tilly’s father is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and the pair often star in dancing TikTok videos.


Age: 52

Profession: Actress

Nina says: ‘I think I should do this before I’m too old and can’t walk anymore. I just want to grab life by the horns and just enjoy it.’

Fun fact: Nina is a JDRF Ambassador and was awarded an OBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List. 


Age: 26

Profession: Athlete 

Adam says: ‘I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool.’

Fun fact: Adam becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.



Age: 38

Profession: Rugby player and sports pundit

Ugo says: ‘What a dream come true! Strictly is the biggest entertainment show on TV and I can’t wait to show everyone I’ve got more than just dad dancing moves.

Fun fact: Beginning his rugby career at Harlequins in 2002, Ugo went on to make 241 appearances for the club where he scored 89 tries, won a Premiership and made his England debut in 2008.



Age: 33

Profession: TV presenter

 AJ says: ‘I think it’s going to be really challenging. I can’t wait for the sequins, the wigs, the glitz and the glamour.’

Fun Fact: Apocalypse Wow hosts AJ has featured on a whopping 14 TV shows this year, competing in the likes oF Cooking With The Stars and Celebrity Karaoke Club. She has appeared as a panelist on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two in the past, too.


Age: 33

Profession: Great British Bake Off Winner and TV chef

 John says: ‘I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family… I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth’

Fun Fact: John is set tp be part of the first ever all-male partnering – the first in 17 years of the show.


Age: 37  

Profession:  Businesswoman

Sara says: ‘I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance… Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little.’

Fun fact: Sara was the youngest ever dragon on BBC show Dragons’ Den.


Age: 44 

Profession: Journalist

Dan says: ‘I’m enjoying the experience when it starts of learning to dance. I’ll be honest I’m not making room on any shelves in my house for the glitterball.’

Fun fact: Dan recently quit Football Focus after 12 years at the helm and has been covering Tokyo Olympics.


Age: 55

Profession: Actor

Greg says: ‘It’s about being out there and exposing yourself as someone who can’t dance, and learning.’

Fun fact: Greg is married to the actress Emma Thompson who he met while filming Sense and Sensibility.  


Age: 30

Profession: Actress

Rose says: ‘I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill.’

 Fun fact: Rose will make history as Strictly’s first deaf contestant. 


Age: 41

Profession: Comedienne 

Judi says: ‘I’m truly looking forward to pushing myself in something that I could have only dreamed of doing and now it’s actually coming true!’

Fun fact: Judi began comedy when she performed a set in front of her class for a degree module.