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'Strictly is always a show that people look forward to, but this year they feel even more positive'

Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One for an 18th series. Danielle de Wolfe takes a look at this year's celebrity line-up and asks how social distancing will affect them

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Bruno Tonioli, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood

Bruno Tonioli, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood

BBC

Bruno Tonioli, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood

Defying the logistical difficulties imposed by Covid-19, the nation's favourite ballroom dancers are finally set to return to the Strictly Come Dancing studio, alongside Tess Daly, Claudia Winkleman and the judging panel - ahead of the show's 18th series.

With group routines pre-recorded after a period of self-isolation and a range of new measures being put in place to adhere to social distancing guidelines, as the saying goes, the show really must go on.

Taking place over nine weeks, as opposed to the usual 13 and with 12 contestants instead of 15, the 2020 series will feature two themed shows (with the Halloween show being axed in place of a group dance) alongside a remote appearance from Bruno Tonioli direct from Los Angeles.

Ahead of this year's sequin-adorned instalment, we take a look at the 12 celebrities taking part in this year's competition.

Bill Bailey

Comedian and actor Bill Bailey (55) is best known for his role as team captain in entertainment game show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, alongside BBC comedy Black Books and his music-orientated stand-up comedy tours.

"They have got a tough job in turning around someone clumsy like me into something that can look like a dancer."

Max George

Best known for fronting British boyband The Wanted, musician-turned-actor Max George (32) is set to follow in the footsteps of bandmate Jay McGuiness, who went on to win the show in 2015.

"Fans of The Wanted are all buzzing, because it brings that nice little connection back with Jay."

Jacqui Smith

British Labour politician Jacqui Smith (57) is best known for becoming the first female Home Secretary and, despite "not really knowing how to dance", the MP is no doubt used to handling high-pressure situations.

"Strictly is always something that people look forward to, but this year, somehow they feel even more positive about it."

Clara Amfo

BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo (36) will swap the mic for the dancefloor ahead of this year's live shows, as she confesses she accidentally told fellow Radio 1 presenter Nick Grimshaw she was taking part in this year's series.

"Ballroom scares the hell out of me, because I only accepted about a year or two ago that I'm quite a clumsy person."

Jamie Laing

After pulling out of Strictly last year due to a leg injury, Made In Chelsea star and Candy Kittens founder Jamie Laing (31) is set to return to the dancefloor, albeit with added pressure, after his replacement, Kelvin Fletcher, went on to win the show in 2019.

"I hate failing at stuff and it definitely felt like I failed last year."

Caroline Quentin

Best known for her roles as Dorothy in Men Behaving Badly and Maddie Magellan in Jonathan Creek, actress Caroline Quentin (60) has become something of a national treasure. With celebrity names including Elizabeth Hurley, Amanda Holden and Martin Clunes already pledging their support, Quentin is ready to put her best foot forward.

"I just want to win. And when they get sick of me, they'll throw me away and that's fine, too."

Nicola Adams

Double Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams (37) is set to break new records as she forms part of the show's first-ever same-sex couple.

"Women actually dance with women all the time on the professional circuit, so I guess it's just showing people that it can be done."

HRVY

Backed by 4.5 million Instagram followers, 21-year-old British singer Harvey Leigh Cantwell (better known as HRVY) says he is ready to lift Strictly's Glitterball trophy.

"The reaction has been pretty mad, actually. My nan is buzzing. She left me countless voicemails just saying how excited she is."

JJ Chalmers

Former Royal Marines Commando and television presenter JJ Chalmers (33) is best known as an Invictus Games medalist after being seriously injured by a bomb blast in Afghanistan.

"I live to put myself outside my comfort zone and to make sure that I'm always trying to become the best version of myself that I possibly can."

Jason Bell

Jason Bell (42) is best known as an American football star and NFL cornerback. Channelling his sporting discipline, the star has been taking notes from former partner and Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle ahead of the live shows.

"At some point, I've always challenged myself - sports has forced that - but, when I retired and went off and did other ventures, everything I was scared of, I took that challenge on and I've learned something from it."

Maisie Smith

Actress Maisie Smith (19) is best known for her role as Tiffany Butcher in long-running BBC soap EastEnders, alongside her roles in films including The Other Boleyn Girl.

"It's a family favourite and I don't think there's anyone who hasn't seen the show. There's usually someone from EastEnders on the show, so there's always someone I can support. And now that I'm that person, it's just surreal."

Ranvir Singh

Good Morning Britain presenter and journalist Ranvir Singh (43) is very much used to being in front of the camera. A regular on Loose Women, Singh says she will put her "grade one" ballet to good use.

"I am the least sporty person. So, it just makes me cry with laughter that I am now competing against an Olympic gold medal-winning boxer."

Strictly Come Dancing, Saturday, BBC One, 7.50pm

Belfast Telegraph