Strictly Come Dancing, launch show, review: early signs suggest the trophy could be going East

Among the bookies’ early favourites are former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, Coronation Street’s Kym Marsh and rapping radio DJ Fleur East. All three have prior dance experience on their CVs, so expect “ringer” rumblings. Actor Will Mellor, who formed a promising couple with Nancy Xu, admitted an unusual link to judge Anton Du Beke: “He lives near the same village as me and I’ve seen him at the tip.” Mellor must hope it wasn’t a sign that his dancing will be rubbish.

Proceedings began with a spine-tingling group dance from the pro troupe, partly set in Blackpool – signalling that this run includes a return to the prestigious Tower Ballroom after a two-year absence. The return to post-pandemic normality also meant a full studio audience for the first time since 2019, which only enhanced the infectious celebratory atmosphere. Fan favourite Du Beke, now a permanent replacement for Bruno Tonioli on the panel, beamed with pleasure throughout.

Four new pros were introduced via a cinematic Latin-spiced number. Soul star John Legend crooned his apposite new single, All She Wanna Do (Is Dance). Reigning champion Rose Ayling-Ellis was reunited with Pernice to reprise their magical Viennese Waltz, which included a sign language interlude – all the more potent during International Week of the Deaf.

For the traditional crescendo, everyone made their dancefloor debut in a chaotic group number. From this sneak peek at their skills, Anderson, comedian Jayde Adams and former footballer Tony Adams might surprise a few people. East, Marsh and CBBC star Molly Rainford could be in the frame for the glitterball. By contrast, comedian Ellie Taylor and Loose Women’s Kaye Adams could well be home in time for Hallowe’en.

This opening show was a tad overlong – nearly two hours for a glorified trailer – but after a tumultuous two weeks, it was a televisual tonic. It shimmied. It shone. It provided a welcome dose of giddy, glitzy escapism. An irresistible curtain-raiser to a series which looks set to warm our cockles right through to Christmas. Neither is there long to wait until the contest starts in earnest, with the first live show airing tomorrow night. We might as well surrender to the sequins now.

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