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Strictly Come Dancing launch show will see this 'big' change

Strictly 2020 logo
(Image credit: BBC)

The Strictly Come Dancing launch show will see a huge change. "The big difference is that we will be pairing the celebrities up with their dancers in VTs rather than in the studio," says executive producer, Sarah James. Here are all the series changes...

With the Covid-19 pandemic having an impact on all our favourite shows, there were genuine concerns that Strictly Come Dancing 2020 (opens in new tab) would be cancelled.

But, as they say, the show must go on, and the Strictly production team have been working flat out putting lots of measures in place to ensure BBC1’s popular entertainment show can go ahead safely.

Here’s our rundown of what's new for Strictly Come Dancing

When is Strictly Come Dancing back?

Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday October 17 at 7.50pm on BBC1, once again hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman.

Strictly 2020 Tess and Claudia

Tess and Claudia are back as hosts as 12 celebrities take to the dancefloor...

Who are the celebrities taking part in Strictly Come Dancing?

This year’s series will see 12 celebrities - down from the usual 15 - putting on their dancing shoes. They are actress Caroline Quentin, Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, former Labour MP Jacqui Smith and former NFL player Jason Bell. They’ll be joined by EastEnders actress Maisie Smith, TV presenter and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers, reality TV star Jamie Laing and double Olympic boxing champion, Nicola Adams. Good Morning Britain host Ranvir Singh, singer and social media star HRVY, The Wanted star Max George and actor and comedian Bill Bailey complete the line-up.

Maisie Smith Strictly 2020

EastEnders actress Maisie Smith is one of the stars taking part in this year's Strictly...

Will this week’s launch show see the celebrities paired with their professional partners?

Yes - however the launch show will look a little different to previous years. "The big difference is that we will be pairing the celebrities up with their dancers in VTs rather than in the studio," says executive producer, Sarah James. "It’s a bit more tricky with distancing, but we’ve got some incredible locations for those. We will still have a group dance with the celebrities, but where they usually all dance together, that won’t be possible this year so they will just be dancing with their professional partners for that number."

Will all the judges be back?

Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse return as judges - each sitting behind their own desk - but Bruno Tonioli is in LA working on Dancing With The Stars and, due to travel restrictions, won’t be part of the Saturday live shows. But, rest assured, he’s not disappearing altogether… "We’re including Bruno in the results show," says Sarah. "He’ll be able to watch the live show on a live link in LA, and although he won’t be scoring, we’ll be able to get a little update from him on what he thinks of the couples - and he will also be able to call out his fellow couples in the results show if he disagrees with them!"

Strictly 2020 judges chairs

Judges Craig, Shirley and Motsi will sit in separate pods. Bruno will appear via video link on Sundays...

And what about the ‘Claud-itorium?

There will be significant changes to the area of the studio where Claudia chats to the couples, post-dance. "Claudia will only be able to speak to one couple at a time in her area upstairs, so we won’t be able to have all the cast up there like usual," says Sarah. "But Claudia is so brilliant with people, I’m sure she will be able to have lots of fun with just one couple. The other couples will be watching from the audience this year - we’ve got distanced tables for them opposite the judges - so I think you’ll still really get that sense of camaraderie and them all supporting each other."

Will there be an audience?

With such stringent social distancing measures in place, the crew have been scratching their collective heads to try and work out how Strictly can have its usual lively atmosphere. "We’ve made plans for no audience, plans for a distanced audience, plans for a full audience - whatever happens, we’ll just be following the government guidelines. If at any point things change, we can add or we can take away. We are prepped for any scenario."

Strictly 2020 Caroline Quentin

Men Behaving Badly star Caroline Quentin is also hoping she'll be hot to trot!

Will Dave Arch and his band be back?

We all know Strictly wouldn’t be Strictly without Dave Arch and his wonderful orchestra. "I can’t imagine Strictly without Dave Arch and the band and I’m very pleased to say Dave will be back," says Sarah. "There will obviously be some differences, and we can’t fit the whole of the band in the band pit, so parts of the band will be pre-recorded earlier in the week, but Dave will be there, the singers will be there, and a few other people as well."

What will Strictly be doing to keep all the cast and crew safe?

People certainly need the glitz and glamour of Strictly in their lives. But it’s the safety of the cast and crew that will always be of paramount importance. "The contestants will be tested regularly," reveals Sarah. "Unfortunately, if someone receives a positive test, that means they wouldn’t be able to continue in the competition. According to government guidelines, if you receive a positive test you have to isolate for two weeks, so that would rule them out of the show."

Words by Victoria Wilson and Steven Perkins

Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!