Strictly Come Dancing 2021, The Launch Show: A Protestation of Heterosexuality

TessBot, available for all your babysitting needs!

Get your sparkliest frocks or your glitziest shirts because it’s back and it’s as slightly bloated as ever! It’s a beautiful thing, truly.

A little note ahead of the recap – I know last year I managed to get the Main Show recaps out on the Sunday, I really can’t guarantee that will be the case this year with the fact we’re back up to a full cast but I will do my best and they should be up by Monday afternoon at the latest!

Back With a Bang

Last year we started on a wistful, almost mournful shot, of Oti Mabuse looking out over the sea, wishing for an open world as we set forth on a rather reduced Covid Safe Strictly

This year that couldn’t be further from the truth, they’re back, it’s big, it’s bold and Nadiya is looking camp right in the eye

and it really sets the tone for the Strictly branded glitzy melange of a take on Studio 54 set to I Feel Love by Donna Summer – although we start in a universe that just radiates CATS (2019) energy at an almost uncomfortable level thanks to Amy’s Judi Dench-esque leg extension

and the fact Johannes just became possessed by the spirit of Idris Elba’s weird velveteen CATS-sona body

If they put My Boy™ in CATS (2019) cosplay for Movies Week, I will be treating it as a homophobic hate crime. You’ve been warned Vicky Gill.

Continuing the CATS energy of the whole number once we broke through the dark, probably-very-expensively-rendered digital cityscape and into the shimmering light of the Elstree Studio were Oti and Giovanni looking distinctly like we had walked in on something we were never meant to see

That’s Zoe Ball’s fanfic cover sorted at least.
By all means this was Nadiya’s Number, but truly nothing could steal focus from Luba’s fringed, spangled and glitzed jumpsuit

she deserves something nice for being firmly benched this series.

And amongst the writhing mass of disco bodies, Anton has to make his grand entrance to his new promotion of Being The Bruno, which of course is done very glamorously in front of the fire escape

Couldn’t have even hung up a curtain, huh guys?
Even Tess got to live out the dreams of every horse girl in middle America

is it too late for Luba to be paired with the giant immobile horse? She might have a better chance with it than she ever did with Jason Bell.

Further settling us in to Strictly Normality, is of course the fact Tess was back to her usual crisp white and ever-so-slightly-maybe-ill-fitting jumpsuits and Claudia looked like she might start reading your fortune at a 1930s themed murder mystery party

What is brand, may never die.
And Shirley apparently decided to come dressed as The Claudia-Tess Dyad

Motsi of course continues in her personal style of always looking like she’s about to sell you something questionable in an Instagram Reel

and looking ever so slightly like she’s been swaddled in an elephant’s ear.
And Anton and Craig look like they’re a pair of waiters at two wildly different Las Vegas Casinos

Craig’s has the better cocktail menu but you risk severe food poisoning with every appetiser while Anton’s just sucks your wallet dry after a basket of dinner rollsand some mineral water.

And with that, it’s on to the pairings!

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Robert Webb?

Well, at least we’re getting this over and done with first. My initial reaction to Robert Webb’s casting was going to be a complete expunging of him due to his embarrassingly bumbling stance against the trans community. However, I felt like that might be a little bit unfair against his dance partner and I really just wanted to acknowledge Dianne’s massive hair

what dark, archaic secrets are those extensions hiding? Is it my easily shattered integrity? It’s probably my easily shattered integrity.
It’s also not too late guys, you could replace him with either Phil Spencer or Martin Lewis: Money Man and nobody would notice.

So yes, Robert is partnered with Dianne and between her rather strong fanbase and the general public’s fondness for Robert Webb, I suspect he might be around for a number of weeks. Although that does depend on how grating everyone finds his Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker body contorting and face pulling after the first 3 weeks. That is not a challenge to dress him up as edgelord Joker for Movie Week. Nobody wants that. Nobody needs that. It’s going to happen, isn’t it?

Katie McGlynn

For reasons only really known to the Strictly producers, Katie was sent to meet her partner in a London highrise building, looking wistfully down at the former Corrie studios while lit and looking distinctly like an investment banker that was about to be murdered in a contemporary BBC crime drama

and the murderer her profession partner is…

Gorka gets a second swing at the Soap Actress Potential Finalist! And with moves like this in her arsenal she’s practically destined to be ill-advisedly branded A Strictly Party Latin Queen on It Takes Two before being scored 16 on a samba

put it in the waltz Gorka, I DARE YOU.

Rhys Stephenson

Truly nothing better ushered in the new Strictly age like TessBot asking Rhys to throw a few shapes for her and then she having to momentarily reboot as Rhys began to dance like he was your dad playing a game of Charades and trying to act out Happy Feet

and I am already mildly obsessed with Rhys and his uniquely frenetic dance moves

it’s probably for the best that he wasn’t partnered with Karen.
Instead he gets to be the debut partner of one Nancy Xu AND IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME

and it seems only fitting that she is given the ringeriest ringer that ever dared to ringer. But my favourite thing about Rhys is the fact his Wikipedia page was almost certainly written by himself – and if not, is the person who linked his birth announcement from in the references section ok? And then there’s the prospect of Janette Manrara having to interview Hacker T. Dog on It Takes Two which is destined to be the perfect chaotic storm.

Sara “No Mum, That’s Sarah Millican” Davies

Apparently Sara has been getting dancing lessons from her father in the garden so her professional partner is going to have some hardwork getting her to forget The Hot Shoe Shuffle over the next few weeks. And that professionals is of course Aljaz

so of course they’re going to be known as Sarljaz but I might insist on giving them their Game of Thrones lore name of The Dragon and The Labrador – which does have to be said in a strong northern accent every time, I insist.
I wonder if Aljaz might be able to convince Sara to invest Clara’s Café

I hear the ‘oup is really good.

A New Pro Interlude

We are of course this year joined by a quartet of new professionals who were all introduced to us through The Medium of The Glampire

It is a perennial favourite, I just hope there’s more to come.

Kai Widdrington

Well, someone’s coming for Graziano’s gig of being “the one the blondes fight over in 80% of the pro-routines.”
Kai isn’t really giving me a lot. He seems nice, like the sort of guy you’d be relieved was living in your accommodation at university: affable, considerate and will remember to take the bins out when it’s his turn.

Nikita Kuzmin

Being young, blonde and posting upwards of 15 stories a day on Instagram, Nikita was always going to be compared to AJ Pritchart which is a bit mean because when The Strictly Algorithm created Nikita specifically for the show, it did remember to give him a personality. Sorry AJ, we all saw the Hollyoaks clip.

Cameron Lombard

You know he’s the cool one because Nancy and Oti had to wear pleather bike shorts to dance with him.

Jowita Przystał

If they’re not going to give her a partner this year, at least she got to play around with a fan while looking like the Queen of the Underworld. THAT’S all women really want.

Dan Walker

And so The Annual Dan Walker Is Doing Strictly Rumour Mill must finally come to a close, it was a good 12 year run. I’m just glad that it was confirmed that Dan indeed radiates Dad Dancing Energy at such a high nuclear level that Nadiya had to be introduced to him from several hundred metres away

The BBC takes its social distancing protocols VERY seriously.
I think everyone knew these two would be paired with one another given that Dan Walker is basically the Paul Bunyan of the BBC Landscape.
I think Dan’s Strictly Journey will be the classic “I want to get to Blackpool” one and he’ll get there and then we’ll leave him there once he gets to descend from the ceiling on whatever obnoxious prop they can muster up in time. And that’s a respectable angle.

Rose Ayling-Ellis

Rose of course makes history as the first ever deaf contestant on the show, so naturally The Daily Mail has run no less than 10 incredibly insensitive articles about how she’ll hear the music. I had personally hoped that Rose might be partnered with Aljaz, I think they’d have had a really fun chemistry but Rose finds herself paired with Giovanni looking his most Giovanni

and their ice-breaker VT is to go and inflict Giovanni’s Italian palate with East End pies where he has an utterly miserable time or so I assume given the fact there isn’t a single shot of a piece of pie crossing the threshold of his mouth

The hand says one thing, the entirely pursed face tells a whole different story.
Rose does of course have her interpreter on hand at all times, constantly lurking behind Claudia and Tess looking a bit like Billie Piper

I do hope that by the live shows they’ve found a significantly more sparkly outfit. I think Luba has a jumpsuit she might like?
We do also find out that her first dance is the jive which seems particularly mean, I’m a firm believer that a jive is a Week 3 dance at the earliest. But I also advocate for the return to the old system of interchangeable Waltzes and Cha Chas in the first 2 weeks, so what do I know?

Adam Peaty

We are going to get *so much* mileage out of how often he calls himself “a breaststroker”, which even after just the launch show sounds like a protestation of heterosexuality that nobody is doubting. The show wasted absolutely no time in getting Adam into his speedo given that his Strictly Meet Cute location was The London Aquatics Centre

subtlety was not the name of the game with this VT as with but one frame of this fuck-off-amazing blue boot, it was obvious that his partner was none other than Katya who has been released from her two year sentencing to The Duffer and Homosexual Sin Bin

The Express is going to write so much clickbait.
They seem like a very good pairing, they match each other’s energy very well, by which I mean they look like the quintessential Annoying Gym Couple

No, I don’t want to join your hellishly sadistic private spin class, leave me and my 3kg dumbbells in peace.

AJ Odudu

If I have to drag her to the finale myself, good readers, I am ready to do so, as I would for anyone whose primary motive for being on the show seems to be Being The Best Dressed Contestant

I will covet everything she wears and treat every one of her appearances on It Takes Two with the same reverence that a certain ruddy faced contingent of the population treats The Queen’s Speech.
I am just a little concerned that her partner is Kai Widdrington

as I’ve said before, he seems nice but Vicky Gill has put him in a cardigan that I’m pretty sure my mother bought from Debenhams for Christmas in 2013

I’m not sure the vibe is matching, but who knows, maybe AJ will awaken something within him. Maybe take him to River Island, yeah?
Also, I insist that AJ’s family come to the show every week, and are included in all of her training VTs

it’s going to be a heated year for Family Wars.

Greg Wise

My absolute favourite part of this whole couple reveal was the fact it was all done from Karen’s perspective and it was revealed that her partner was Suspiciously Out of Focus Greg Wise on Horseback

and thus we inch ever closer to Strictly Come Dressage, a show designed to test the limits of an injury waver.
You might have thought it’d be Adam Peaty in a Speedo who got the nation’s hearts racing and yet Greg Wise serving varying flavours of period drama bad boy was what I saw most people talking about

I did love that their meeting very much looked like a romcom about an ASOS model who unexpectedly falls in love with a builder

shenanigans ensue!
As for Greg’s dance ability, well it doesn’t bode well that he chose to showcase his one dance move and that one dance move makes him look like a haunted scarecrow, and it’s quite frankly rude of him to steal Tom Fletcher’s whole bit

and Tess being unable to join in properly because lifting her hands beyond a T-rex stance is to risk flashing the nation her nips <3
And taking a leaf out of Max From The Wanted’s Book of Flattery, if you’ve forgotten Max bought all the female celebs flowers and was THOROUGHLY embarrassed that Claudia aired this to all and sundry, Greg made everyone damson jam. Which might be the most Waitrose that this show has ever been.

Judi Love

Every time I remember Judi Love is a part of this year’s cast it’s like a whole new shot of serotonin, she is an undimmable joy in the world and I just hope desperately that she isn’t the first boot, she deserves SO MUCH better than that. And for her partner, they’re allowing everyone’s favourite bedazzled pirate out of the brig

I have concerns, mostly because Graziano’s last partner was Vick Hope, a woman who by any metric should have gone significantly further than being eliminated 4th and whose best dance shouldn’t have been done in Mamma Mia cosplay – and then it didn’t help that Vick went on to slag the entire experience off in every post-show interview she possibly could, thus earning Graziano a 3 year relegation to being a celebrity guest performance wafter. But hey, maybe Judi Love is the woman to finally ingratiate him within the Strictly folds properly, granted she doesn’t keep telling jokes that only Motsi finds rip roaringly funny.

John Whaite

I’m very glad Judi Love went just before him because there were weirdly strong rumours that Graziano was the one getting partnered with John as the show’s first all male couple – mostly all down to that time Johannes and Graziano danced together for all of 15 seconds. How far the show has come in just three years when Dancing On Ice forced their hand, huh?
Of course given how much Johannes has spoken about how much it would mean to him to dancing on Strictly with a male partner, there really was no conceivable way that they couldn’t pair him and John, and so Team The Gays is born

my jealousy of Johannes’s glittery houndstooth trousers knows no bounds. Where does one buy such things? I tried Googling but the search engine actively mocked me for it.
I imagine we can look forward to many a comedic baking VT and some sort of baking themed party latin within the coming weeks because John shows no signs of letting us forget he’s a baker

That is not a saying.
Whether John is a good dancer remains to be seen next weekend, but for now, I will attac, and I will protec for him and Johannes. They are My Boys™.

Nina Wadia

It does not bode well for Nina Wadia’s Strictly journey that she described herself as being in severe pain while standing in a 1 inch heel, but best of luck to her! Maybe she can go down half an inch and become the champion of Potato Shoe Rights on Strictly. She is however pleased that Anton has joined the judging panel, apparently because he’s kind and not because it means she can’t be partnered with him – as the only woman over the age of 50, it would have been an inevitability. Although maybe we shouldn’t say she completely dodged a bullet as she’s been partnered with Neil’s Midlife Crisis

she’s seen the back tattoo, hasn’t she?
Although the further he gets from looking like his Nell de Juanse character the better as far as I’m concerned.
And almost surely sealing Nina’s fate as First Boot, she will be dancing the samba.


Tom Fletcher

Quite why Tom came dressed like the owner of a yacht club when everyone else was very much dressed for Strictly is surely one of life’s greatest mysteries

but somewhere there’s an Agatha Christie adaptation missing its red herring.

Tom does of course come with the baggage of being from McFly and therefore currently under the shadow of Harry “The Jive King” Judd but we at Ariadne Reviews Industries will not hold that against him. But I do look forward to seeing which Quentin Tarantino property they turn into a dance. That was going to be a joke about them doing a Kill Bill routine but then I remembered that that has actually happened on the show before. We live in a world where Anneka Rice and Kevin Clifton did a Kill Bill Charleston. Now we’ll never see Amy dressed like blood splattered Uma Thurman, because as is now tradition Amy continues to have Nice Men™ heaped upon her until she wins that damn glitterball trophy

and Tom Fletcher does seem like her best bet to date, although that does depend on how well he can manage his stamina considering he’s going to be touring throughout the Strictly run which could well end in a mid-series frazzled Viennese Waltz. What are his concert times though? Wednesday matinees? That entirely Saturday-less tour schedule is a choice.
Either way, all I want from this is for them to give Amy a lip ring and dye her hair 5 different colours, is that too much to ask for?

Me Defending Tilly Ramsay For An Entire Section

My new claim to fame is being referred to as “one fan, stating facts” in The Metro after I pointed out that Tilly Ramsay is a bona fide celebrity considering she has a huge social media following and hosted her own TV show for 4 years. And of course given that she’s only 18, they have of course paired her with Nikita

I will be insisting that they do a DNA test. Harold, they’re siblings.
It’s a partnership that makes sense, I might have preferred her to be partnered with Kai so that they could bond over their affinity for sensible and cute cardigans

also, I just worry about Nikita meeting Gordon Ramsay who I imagine could eat him in but a single bite. And quite honestly, I’m shocked it’s taken them this long to cast someone from The Ramsay Clan just as a ruse to get Gordon involved with the show – they will trap him in that studio and only let him leave once he’s danced an embarrassing samba with Karen Hauer. Those are the rules.

Ugo Monye

Last but not least we have rugby player, Ugo Monye who, if not the glitterball trophy, can safely take home the award for being The Hot One of the year

dance shirts and glasses, it’s a vibe. ADAM PEATY BE DAMNED.
He was of course meeting his dance partner at Twickenham Stadium and it was very obvious to us at home who it was going to be because they’re hardly going to bench the jewel in the Strictly crown that is Oti Mabuse

big fan of the pearl earrings and rugby jersey combination – it’s a strong look, like Chanel goes athleisure.
I’m glad Ugo got Oti because if there’s anyone that can drag a slightly reserved rugby player out of his shell and across the week 5 threshold, it is Oti Mabuse and they really seemed like they’ve already gelled with one another, so I have my fingers crossed for their success.

A Group Dance Melange

As we began, we shall end – with a melange of glitter as the cast take to the floor for their big group number to the only BTS song that we’ll probably be able to afford this year and kicking it off is Tom Fletcher looking like the self-portrait that Joe Sugg has hanging up in his attic

who is very promptly upstaged by AJ Odudu doing a strut that could quite frankly tear down entire civilisations which really only makes Kai’s cardigan look even more limp and mumsy

Leave some leg for the rest of us, why don’t you!
Other highlights include Greg Wise very much looking like a Jane Austen character has inadvertently found themselves lost in a discotheque

It’s impossible to tell where he’s going to land on the Truly Abysmal to Absurdly Kind of Brilliant scale but I’m so glad it’s Karen who has to find out.
A few of the celebs are very tentative, most noticeably Tilly which does make me a little concerned, and I hope she can still manage to enjoy the process, she’s young and it must be very overwhelming. And her nervousness did rather stand out because she was sandwiched between Judi Love treating the whole thing like a Lipsync For Your Life and Rhys Stephenson being The Filthy Ringer.
As far as group dance numbers go, this was very fun, maybe we just rehash the Hairspray vibe every year?

And if you’ve enjoyed this inaugural recap of the Strictly 2021 experience as much as I enjoyed writing it and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

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