Anastacia is donating her Strictly appearance fee to a breast cancer charity. Anastacia is herself a breast cancer survivor, having battled the disease twice in 2003 and 2013, undergoing a double mastectomy. She told The Sun: “I’m taking part in Strictly for my own challenge as a woman recovering from so many different health issues. For me it was kind of getting in touch with my female body and relearning to use my body on stage as a singer. I felt like when I was offered the opportunity I couldn’t say no. Dancing brings you closer to your womanly side and I’m kind of getting in touch with my female parts that are new, as they’re only a couple of years old.”
She also revealed that the surgery she has endured might make Strictly a challenge: "I had radical treatment on my back where muscles were removed for the cancer surgery so my arm movement is a little bit restricted. I have these huge scars on my back and the costumes are very revealing and they are going to work with me to hide them or make them less visible.”
An average of 9.3m viewers watched the Strictly launch show on Saturday, a massive 46% share of the available audience. According to the Evening Standard, the audience peaked at over 10m, and overall was up 600,000 on last year's launch.
Sir Bruce Forsyth hopes to return for this year's Strictly Christmas and charity specials, having missed them last year due to poor health. Sir Bruce had surgery for an aortic aneurysm in November, and further surgery in February. A friend told the Daily Mirror: “Strictly is really special for him, so that’s Bruce’s target – it’ll help him push on to get back to full strength. He’s been resting, but it was major surgery and it hasn’t been as easy as people might have hoped – but he’s a very determined man.”
Saturday's launch show saw this year's Strictly celebrities get partnered with their pros. For the most part, I think the couples are well matched. I guess we'll find out for certain as the show progresses. Here are my thoughts about the couples... Louise Redknapp & Kevin Clifton: Having made the final three times in three series with Strictly, I thought it might be time for Kevin to get a duffer, but he seems to have done well again. I think Louise is a good match for Kevin, and she should have some dance ability. I think he'd do well to make another final, but they should do OK. Naga Munchetty & Pasha Kovalev: I think this will work. Naga is very composed and elegant, and Pasha is one of the less tactile pros. I think they will have a very professional and respectful partnership. Anastacia & Brendan Cole: I think this will be a great pairing, if they get along. Anastacia is just the right side of crazy. She has been through a lot, but is a survivor. Brendan 2.0 of the past few years is patient and kind. If they have fun, they should be aces on the dancefloor. This was one of a number of age-appropriate pairings this year. Laura Whitmore & Giovanni Pernice: Another good pairing. They look good together, and I think they could do well. Melvin Odoom & Janette Manrara: Based on height, there was no-one else that Melvin would be partnered with. News has come to light that Melvin used to be a dance teacher, so could this be more of a partnership than a traditional student/teacher hierarchy? Interesting... Greg Rutherford & Natalie Lowe: Again, a no-brainer based on height. I'm pleased for Natalie that she has a partner actually taller than she is. Expect the usual 'length of bone' and 'jive doesn't suit the tall' discussions. Robert Rinder & Oksana Platero: We don't know anything about Oksana's teaching style, but Robert was looking for a Russian who could keep him in line, and he's got a Ukrainian who I'm sure will work him hard. Danny Mac & Oti Mabuse: Based on her reaction, I think Oti must have seen something she liked about Danny in the group training session. She was beside herself with excitement. Anthony's injury held back Oti's choreography last year, so I can't wait to see what she can really do. Claudia Fragapane & AJ Pritchard: Another age-appropriate pairing. Claudia is so little that any pro would tower above her, so the best thing is to give her someone close in age. Claudia should be good, which will give AJ the chance to shine in his first series. Daisy Lowe & Aljaž Skorjanec: I was surprised to see that when they stood together, that they are not hip-to-hip. Daisy's legs are really long! I'm sure that won't hinder them. And of course, they look amazing together. Lesley Joseph & Anton du Beke: After finally making a final last year, it was back to normality for Anton, once again being paired with a more mature lady. But, again, this was the most age appropriate choice. Lesley doesn't appear to be a duffer like some of the dead weight he's dragged around. I hope she can hold her own. Tameka Empson & Gorka Márquez: Tameka is a big personality, and a massive fan of the show. I'm not sure how I would feel in her shoes being paired with a newbie pro. Tameka already appears to be somewhat of a fan favourite, and Gorka will have to give her the choreography and experience that a Strictly superfan deserves. Ore Oduba & Joanne Clifton: Having sat out last year's competition, and previously not having the most gifted dancer in Scott Mills, I thought Joanne might get an obvious ringer like Will. I like Ore, and I think they'll be a good match. Joanne is an excellent teacher. Ed Balls & Katya Jones: When it came down to Karen and Katya, I was convinced that Karen would be paired with Ed. I suspect that Ed will be out of the competition quite quickly, and so we won't get much chance to see what Katya can do. I am also gutted that we won't get to hear enough of Katya's fantastic mixed-up accent. A worthy replacement for Ola. Will Young & Karen Clifton: I was convinced that Karen would get Ed. This was mostly because I didn't think they'd give a brand new pro a duffer. I can't wait to see how this partnership develops. Will is obviously less tactile than Karen, so there will definitely be some exploration of physical boundaries. But he is a professional, and having seen him in the west end run of Cabaret, I know he can pull it off. On the face of it, the team seem to have done a good job partnering the couples. So, what of the group number?
It's clear to everyone that Ed was the weakest one, and made noticeable mistakes. The standout performer for me was Tameka. She was on it throughout and looked fantastic. Anatstacia and Lesley looked good, but might have to work on their arms. Robert wasn't as bad as I feared he might be. Everyone else looked reasonable in the limited amount of screen time they got. This could be a very good year...
Free from the shackles of the BBC, James and Ola Jordan have decided to turn their attention to other kinds of restraints, having been signed as brand ambassadors for retailer Ann Summers. They are the first celebrity couple to do so.
During the promotional interviews, Ola admitted to Nowmagazine that she and James once got up to naughty stuff at the BBC... Now magazine: "Where’s the naughtiest place you’ve had sex?" Ola: "Er… the Strictly dressing room! Did I just say that?"
James: "Next door to Brucie!" Ola: "Nooo! The BBC won’t be happy but there you go."
Robin Windsor is reportedly on RTE's wish-list for their version of Dancing With The Stars. Robin, who was a pro on Strictly on series 8 (2010)-11 (2013), was not invited to return after recover from an injury which kept him out of series 12, but remained connected via It Takes Two. A source told the Radio Times: "Show bosses are scouting out dancers and Robin is top of their wish list. He's a fan favourite. Everyone loves him. Who knows? He could be the Anton of Ireland." I wouldn't be surprised if we see a number of familiar faces on DWTS. There is a surplus of dancers now, and I'm sure many would be more than happy to participate.
Arlene Phillips left Strictly in 2009, after producers replaced her with former champion Alesha Dixon. The decision was very controversial, and was met with much disdain by Strictly fans who felt Dixon was not qualified. After two series she was replaced by Darcey Bussell. Now rumours are swirling that Arlene could be reinstated to replace Len Goodman next year. A source told The Sun: “Producers have a limited pool to pick from for Len’s replacement and they know that Arlene would be a shock to the audience but they would love it. This time her age actually works in her favour as part of the BBC’s new diversity and gender targets. Pro dancer Anton du Beke is still the favourite but bosses love him being a dance mentor to the older women celebs and don’t want to lose him.” I was quite upset when Arlene was dismissed, but is she right to replace Len? For me, Anton's strength is his ballroom background. He knows the technical aspects of the dances being performed and would give the panel credibility. We've all noticed that Len's interest in footwork and rules has waned as the show has become bigger and glitzier, and non 10-dance styles have been added into the competition. Is it so necessary to have a ballroom technician any more? Arlene is a very performance-orientated judge, although she's certainly no slouch when it comes to technique. You can't get to her position in life without knowing what you're doing. I guess we'll find out what the BBC thinks in about 11 months...
Final Three: Greg Rutherford, Tameka Empson & Lesley Joseph
The final three celebrities were announced on The One Show last night. Greg Rutherford is an Olympic gold winning long jumper, who has just returned from Rio where he won bronze. He said: “I love being challenged and taking to the Strictly ballroom is like nothing I have ever done before – doing this is definitely a long jump from my day job for sure!”
EastEnders star Tameka Empson has long been a Strictly fan. I'm always excited when genuine fans sign up, and I can't wait to see how she gets on. She said: “I have been waiting for years to take part in Strictly and I’m so excited that finally I get to show the nation my moves! It’s always been a dream and I can’t wait to get started!" Actress Lesley Joseph completes the line-up.
The Birds Of A Feather star said: “Strictly is an iconic show and I have always loved the glamour and the dedication and the entertainment and this year it suddenly seemed right to take part. I am scared and excited and apprehensive and thrilled to be a part of this wonderful show and I will try my best and enjoy this amazing experience!” So that's it. We have our fabulous fifteen:
Ed Balls Will Young Laura Whitmore Ore Oduba Melvin Odoom Louise Redknapp Danny Mac Daisy Lowe Naga Munchetty Anastacia Claudia Fragapane Judge Rinder Greg Rutherford Tameka Empson Lesley Joseph
I had to get the Google machine out a few times this year, but there are some good signings her. I'm excited about Will, Anastacia, Naga and Tameka, and I can't wait to see what Claudia can do.
The launch show, where we get our first look and discover the pairings will be shown on BBC1 on Saturday 3rd September, and competition will begin on Friday 23rd.
TV court judge Robert Rinder was announced yesterday as the twelfth celebrity to join Strictly.
Robert said: “The only thing I knew would make my grandmother more proud than watching my TV courtroom was to see me dressed up in white tie doing the Foxtrot. So although I suspect the latter will be far more difficult, I am doing Strictly Come Dancing for her. No doubt the judges will be as fair, kind and thoughtful as me (especially the charming Craig Revel Horwood). I shall await their verdicts” I've never watched Judge Rinder, so I have absolutely no idea about him. I hear he has a sharp tongue and may will give a bit of back-chat to CRH.
Team GB gymnast Claudia Fragapane is joining the Strictly Come Dancing lineup.
Claudia said: “I am a really big fan of Strictly Come Dancing and am so excited to be chosen to take part this year. I am used to performing in front of big crowds but this is going to be so different to my floor routines in gymnastics – but I love a challenge and performing! I also love dressing up and wearing sparkly costumes!”
Claudia should be a bit good. She won't be fearful of lifts and already understands rhythm. If I was a pro, she'd be the partner I'd be hoping for. She's only about 4'6", though, so Pasha perhaps might be in luck.
This morning it was announced that singer Anastacia will be the tenth celebrity for Strictly Come Dancing.
Anastacia explained to Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2 that the ball started rolling when she appeared on the show to sing I'm Outta Love last year. She says: “I'm a total '10' on the level of excitement and definitely a '10' scared! Seriously though, I can't wait to get started. Taking part in Strictly is a dream, it's such a new challenge for me I've never done anything like this before so I hope I pull it off!!! I've got a lot of training to do before I'm twinkle toes so I'm eager to get my partner and get going! I'm ready!"
I've been a fan of Anatascia for a long time, and I have always enjoyed listening to her being interviewed. She is so vivacious, and funny. I'd kind of forgotten until I heard her this morning. She's going to be so up for it.