We have 3 new male pros: Latin champion and US So You Think You Can Dance graduate Artem Chigvintsev, 21-year-old High School Musical dancer and Swing Youth winner Jared Murillo, and Burn The Floor star Robin Windsor
There are 14 competing this year (down from 6 last year) of the existing pros who will return to the floor: Anton Du Beke, Brendan Cole, James Jordan Vincent Simone, Ola Jordan, Flavia Cacace, Erin Boag, Kristina Rihanoff, Natalie Lowe, Aliona Vilani and Katya Virshilas.
Most controversially, Brian Fortuna, Darren Bennett, Lilia Kopylova, Ian Waite and Matthew Cutler will not be competing in the main competition, rather they'll be forming part of a new professional dance group who will be joined by other professionals each week, depending on the type of dance they're doing. The wording on the Beeb website is crucial on this part, it says they have been OFFERED roles in the dance group, not that they've accepted. (Though that is the implication).
My first reaction, quite honestly, was Praise the Lord, the Derek Hough rumour was just a rumour. And then I realised that most of my favourite dancers aren't actually going to be competing this season. Which sucks, obviously.
I was worried about Darren & Lilia, who have been increasingly sidelined in recent years. And honestly, I did not expect Anton & Erin to return. I'm absolutely in favour of reducing the number of couples (16 last year was ridiculous) but I think they've cut the wrong ones - if they wanted to bring in a dance group of professionals, could they not have formed that out of the newbies (and I'm including last years lot in that) and left the fan favourites alone? I don't think it's a coincidence that they've chosen these celebs - they're very popular and the ones who have had the most success over the past few years.
Frankly, this smacks of the Beeb wanting to have their cake and eat it too - they get to bring in the younger, "hotter" dancers that they wanted, allowing them to chase the X Factor demographic, yet still be able to say that they haven't axed fan favourites such as Darren, Lilia, Matthew et al. But it's stupid - they need to stop tinkering with the show trying to make it more like the X Factor and go back to basics and what made Strictly so damn good in the first place!
Somehow, I don't think this is going to be my last rant on this subject....