Strictly Come Dancing video special: 10 of the most memorable couples from past series

(Image credit: EMPICS Sports Photo Agency)

When Strictly Come Dancin (opens in new tab)g returns (opens in new tab) to our screens tonight, the newest set of celebrities will be paired with their professional partners.

So we thought the time was right to take a look at some of the standout couples from previous series…

Natasha Kaplinsky (opens in new tab) and Brendan Cole (opens in new tab)

The former BBC presenter was the first ever winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2004. Talent-wise, Natasha was so far ahead of her fellow competitors, she collected the highest marks for eight of the 10 dances featured in the first series.

In the final, Natasha finished a phenomenal 39 points ahead of the runner-up, EastEnders (opens in new tab) star Christopher Parker (opens in new tab).

New Zealand-born Brendan’s relationship with fellow professional dancer Camilla Dallerup (opens in new tab) ended soon after series one. She called off their engagement, kicking off the so-called “Strictly curse”, which has seen a host of celebrity contestants and dancers spilt from partners either while competing on, or following, the show.

Julian Clary (opens in new tab) and Erin Boag (opens in new tab)

The acid-tongued comedian signed up for series two. When asked why, he said: “It was the prospect of dancing with a woman for a change!”

Julian couldn’t move his feet to save his life, but he could move his mouth and he gave as good as he got whenever caustic judge Craig Revel Horwood (opens in new tab) slated his routines.

He waspishly referred to the Australian-born panellist as “the particularly ugly one on the end” and, in the semi-final, after Craig sniped: “The jacket and shoes did all the work for Julian,” the comedian shot back: “You’ve got too much foundation on.”

The public loved their spats and the witty star made it all the way into the final, coming third.

Jill Halfpenny (opens in new tab) and Darren Bennett (opens in new tab)

Actress Jill Halfpenny (opens in new tab) took to the floor for series two where she performed a brilliant Jive to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing in the final.

It was a fitting performance to seal her glitterball win and became the first dance in Strictly history to score four 10s from the judges. To this day, Jill’s routine remains the benchmark for the Jive.

Darren Gough (opens in new tab) and Lilia Kopylova (opens in new tab)

The no-nonsense Yorkshire cricketer bowled everyone over when he appeared on the show back in 2005. Incredibly, he won series three despite never finishing top of the judges’ leaderboard.

But it was Darren’s transformation that captivated the voting public; from a blokey sports figure noticeably embarrassed to be seen in sequins, Darren embraced his inner-Fred Astaire with a vengeance.

The sportsman’s terrific Paso Doble to Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by The Animals earned 36 points, a perfect way to cap his win.

Kate Garraway (opens in new tab) and Anton Du Beke (opens in new tab)

ITV’s breakfast stars have a terrible record on Strictly Come Dancing; maybe their early morning starts are to blame. Kate featured in the fifth series in 2007 and, for six of her seven weeks, Kate received the lowest score from the judges. But the  voting public saved her week after week. The Brits love an underdog.

Kate finished eighth; one better than former colleague Fiona Phillips (opens in new tab), who ended up in ninth place back in 2005.

Alesha Dixon (opens in new tab) and Matthew Cutler (opens in new tab)

It’s no exaggeration to say Strictly changed the former Mis-Teeq singer’s life. Up to her series five win, she was best known as a has-been pop star.

Tentative at first, Alesha grew in confidence; her bubbly personality made her just as much a favourite with the public as her fantastic Latin routines.

In 2009, the BBC sparked an outcry after Alesha replaced Arlene Phillips (opens in new tab) on the judging panel.


Far from convincing when it came to technical assessments of the dancing celebs, Alesha quit Strictly for Simon Cowell (opens in new tab)’s Britain’s Got Talent (opens in new tab) in 2012.

Tom Chambers (opens in new tab) and Camilla Dallerup (opens in new tab)

The former Holby City (opens in new tab) star scraped into the series six final in 2008.

Up against TV personality Lisa Snowdon (opens in new tab) and pop star Rachel Stevens (opens in new tab), Tom was the least-fancied to win, but his showdance to Sweet Charity’s If They Could See Me Now was an absolute show-stopper.

Since his win, Tom has continued to dance in musical theatre roles.

John Sergeant (opens in new tab) and Kristina Rihanoff (opens in new tab)

The man who’d made a career out of reporting the news became the biggest story in Strictly Come Dancing’s history. The irony.

The former political correspondent may have had the rhythm of a giraffe with two left feet, but the public loved his performances.

Who can forget the paso doble, where John practically dragged his professional dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff across the dance floor?

Judge Arlene Phillips said he was “outstanding at dancing really badly”. And that was one of the kinder assessments.

John shocked the nation by quitting the contest. Winning, he said, would have been “a joke too far”.

Kara Tointon (opens in new tab) and Artem Chigvintsev (opens in new tab)

There was magic in the air whenever ex-EastEnders star Kara danced with Strictly professional Artem during series eight in 2010.

Irrespective of the routine, whether it was ballroom or Latin, this couple were a perfect match on the dance floor.

Kara’s poise and Artem’s athleticism drew gushing praise from the judges and loads of votes from the viewers week after week.

Deserved winners, some feel they are the best ever pairing in Strictly history.

Ann Widdecombe (opens in new tab) and Anton Du Beke (opens in new tab)

Credit where it’s due, the former member of Parliament fully embraced her role as Strictly’s comedy relief. “I am a pantomime act,” she acknowledged in 2010.

Alongside partner Anton Du Beke, she entertained millions of viewers with ridiculous routines; for the tango, Ann made a dramatic entrance hoisted into the Strictly studio from the ceiling on a flying trapeze.

Head judge Len Goodman (opens in new tab) said: “I thought seeing Ann Widdecombe in a truss coming down from the sky was worth 50% of the TV licence.”

For any celebs considering signing up for the show, just remember: you don’t have to win to be memorable.

Series 13 of Strictly Come Dancing (opens in new tab) begins tonight on BBC1, 7.15pm.

Click here (opens in new tab) to find out what's in store in the first show.



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