Last week the BBC announced that three new professional dancers are joining Strictly Come Dancing this year. Strictly fans, myself included, scrambled to see the news as when new dancers join, it means others have left (or been dropped) to make room for them. Three questions are in the minds of strictly fans when these announcements are made: Who are the new pros? Who is returning? Who is leaving?
The new pros were announced as Giovanni Pernice, Gleb Savchenko and Otlile Mabuse. Special mentions in the announcement were given to Iveta and Trent who are not returning and Robin Windsor is also not returning (though the executive producer neglects to comment about Windsor at all!) bringing the total number of pros to 16 for this year’s series in the Autumn.
Personally, the announcement saddened me (leaving pros), shocked me (returning pros) and interested me (new pros).
Two of my favourite pros Iveta and Trent are not returning. Iveta is leaving to spend more time at her dance school in New York which she seems to have neglected during her time as a pro on the show. Iveta was drafted in as a replacement for Aliona Vilani who injured her leg partnering Johnny Ball in Series 10 and also stepped in to cover Ola when she was ill one week. Due to her popularity and funny quirks, Iveta was invited back as a professional for series 11 and 12. Her partnership and choreography in Series 11 with Mark Benton was simply amazing and Iveta took her place as one of my favourite pro dancers.
I am really sad to see Trent leave. Trent, I believe, was brought in as a last-minute replacement for Robin last series due to Robin’s back injury. In a world of enthusiastic and slightly hyperactive dancers, Trent was a breath of fresh air for the show with his laid back, relaxed manner. His partnership with Pixie was fantastic and he really introduced some brilliant choreography to the programme that suited the dances and highlighted his celebrity partner’s already impressive dancing. I guess Trent’s exit should have been expected given that he was a replacement but then again, the dancer he was replacing isn’t even returning to take his space back from Trent. There are also rumours that Trent wouldn’t return without his wife Gordana on the show (she was one of the backing dancers used throughout last series and the live tour).
It is really strange that Robin was not mentioned by the executive producer in the announcement. Literally no mention is made in the article at all to state that Robin Windsor is not returning. This has caused an uproar amongst fans all over the internet! I am not particularly a fan of Robin or his dancing – I found him just a bit average in comparison to the others to be honest – but I find it really strange that they would not acknowledge his contribution of four series to the show. Perhaps, the omission from the announcement indicates he may still be involved in the franchise somehow such as on It Takes Two (like Ian Waite), Christmas specials or any future People’s Strictlys.
I was very surprised to see that Anton and Brendan are still professionals. I respect that they have been professionals since the very first series over a decade ago but I feel that they have also hit a wall. Brendan’s partners alternate between being average or really good. Although he had a fairly good partner in Sunetra in Series 12, Brendan appeared really grumpy and uninterested in the series last year, leading many people to believe that it was his last. Anton has now become a parody of himself. He is consistently partnered with the average dancers who either get voted through week by week on Anton being a personality or through becoming the ‘joke act’. I thought, especially after his stint on the People’s Strictly, that they were preparing him to become a judge and to replace Len Goodman who has also become a caricature of himself.
The pro I was MOST shocked about returning was Ola Jordan. Last series was not made easy for her following her husband James’ departure from the show and his consistent moaning at the show, dancers and production team on Twitter. Her time on last series was caught in a scandal or non-scandal that alleged that Steve Backshall was frightened of being bullied by Ola. Following Steve’s exit from the show, Ola promptly dyed her hair dark brown apparently in protest against the BBC’s strict rules and began training for a reality show ‘The Jump’ on the BBC’s competitor Channel 4. Ola was training at an indoor ski centre for The Jump at the same time as Strictly’s series when she injured herself, breaking her leg and fearing that she may not dance again. I really don’t understand how she is returning when she began training for a dangerous sport for a rival programme at a time when she was still under contract for Strictly. A big shock.
I don’t know much about the new pros and I shall reserve judgement until the new series begins but I have heard good things about them all. Giovanni is an Italian dance champion who seems to know Joanne Clifton through competitions. Gleb is already a favourite among fans as he has appeared on both the Russian version of Strictly and Dancing With The Stars in the USA. Otlile also has experience of the Strictly format as she is currently dancing on the German version of Strictly. Otlile’s appointment is also good in terms of representation as she will be the first African professional on the UK’s Strictly Come Dancing. In addition to Karen Hauer (Venezuelan) and Janette Manrara (whose parents are of Latin descent I believe), Otlile’s appointment is a great step in terms of representation and nationality in a primetime British television programme in which many of the professionals are caucasian Europeans or from other Westernised countries like Australia.