Strictly Come Dancing pays tribute to Len Goodman

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never needed Strictly more.

I’m desperate for respite from strikes, creaking hospitals and the feeling of impending doom.

I crave sequins, sambas, ‘it’s never too early for a 10 from Shirley’ and sparkling tulle, fake tan and folk – let’s face it, some of whom I have never heard – going on a terpsichorean journey before our very eyes.

I settled down to watch on Saturday night with my 4 year old grandson AJ, a packet of chocolate mini rolls and a mixture of anticipation and blessed relief.

Exactly ten years ago in the late Sir Brucie Forsyth’s final year as ringmaster, I was among the batch of hyperventilating newbies gripped by rabid terror lined up behind the scenes awaiting the call to descend the fabled staircase.

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I hadn’t slept for weeks. I’m not a stage school kid. I read English Literature at Cambridge.

I’d only ever shaken a woeful tail-feather at barmitzvahs.

I didn‘t have a powerful paso doble up my sleeve.

What if I slipped, plummeted and hurtled straight into Brucie knocking him flat?

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They’ve souped up the format this year. In 2013 we met our dance partners live on the first show.

Brucie announced the pairings. I was ecstatic to be whirled about in the sinuous embrace of gorgeous James Jordan.

The programme then went off air for three weeks while we rehearsed dance number one in real time.

The alumnae of 2023 were coupled-up in various scenic locations at some non-specified time which means rehearsals are already well under way and we’ll see them in action next week without a delay. Hooray!

Of course there’s the usual moment of panic when you can’t seem to recognise a single signing.

I can’t claim to be a devoted fan of Layton Williams, Nikita Kanda or Ellie Leach.

A few weeks in, it won’t matter. We’ll be beguiled by their dancing and feel as if we’ve known and cared about them all our lives.

Meanwhile let’s bask in the sheer joy of Angela Rippon, the show’s most senior contestant ever, she’ll turn 79 during the series, Les Dennis, 69, twinkling with boyish excitement, beautiful brave newly widowed former tennis champion Annabel Croft, 57, clinging to her partner Johannes Radebe’s hand as if to a life-raft and actress Amanda Abbington looking like the proverbial cat hoovering up the cream with smoothie Giovanni Pernice.

Tess and Claudia miraculously manage to defy the passage of time. We’re glad.

If they are fresh-faced and willowy could there be a grain of hope for the rest of us?

Was it altogether wise to unleash the judges in a bespoke somewhat awkward judgely dance?

Frankly we don’t care. We’re just so happy to see Shirley dressed as Big Bird in canary yellow and feathers, Motsi, shining in pink like a delicious Quality Street and Anton and Craig emoting for all they are worth.

Forensically analysing the group dance, AJ wants me to tell you his favourites are Zara McDermott, ex Love Island now documentary maker and Bobby Brazier of EastEnders.

I fear for lovely Les. We don’t want to lose him too soon.

Channel 4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy might bite the dust first.

His amorphous dad-dancing armography wasn’t doing him any favours.

The stand out star so far is gifted twirler Eddi Kadi.

The comedian and Radio 1Extra host already dances likes a dream. Annabel Croft is graceful athletic and determined. I want to see Angela let rip.

Don’t tell me you didn’t weep at the Len Goodman tribute. He was a privilege to know. I adored him and I was in floods.

Yes, there might have been a bit of canned laughter. Yes, the whole epic might have been an hour too long.

Yes, some of the candidates seemed a tad bumptious for new kids on the block.

We have 12 weeks to learn to love them and we’ll have a wonderful time watching their travails.

Will there be Strictly romances? Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev and Kristina Rihanoff and Ben Cohen all fell in my year.

More of the Strictly curse in the weeks to come. Don’t forget: keep dancing.

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