Strictly Come Dancing pairings confirmed during series launch

Great British Bake Off star John Whaite has been paired with Johannes Radebe as part of the first all-male couple on Strictly Come Dancing.

Saturday night’s series launch saw the 15 celebrity contestants discover which of the professional partners they will be training and performing with during their time on the BBC One show.

Whaite, who won Bake Off in 2012, said he was expecting “a little bit of hate, a bit of trolling” – but had received nothing since the announcement.

“It really is a privilege and an honour to be in this position because I think if I had seen two lads or lasses in this position when I was a little lad, life would have been that little bit easier,” he said.

Three-time Olympic champion Adam Peaty, who specialises in breaststroke, was paired with Katya Jones, meeting her for the first time at the London Aquatics Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Russian dancer Jones was paired last year with Olympic gold medallist boxer Nicola Adams in the show’s first female same-sex couple.

In 2018, she was pictured kissing her celebrity partner, comedian Seann Walsh, and she later announced her split from then-husband and fellow Strictly pro Neil Jones.

Rugby player Ugo Monye was confirmed as dancing with two-time Strictly champion Oti Mabuse, who is hoping to secure her third consecutive win.

EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis was partnered with Giovanni Pernice and is the first deaf contestant to appear on Strictly.

She said: “When the Strictly news came out the response from the deaf community, saying how much it means to them, that was my proudest moment.”

Mark Bolton, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s deputy director of young people, said of her pairing: “It’s so important that deaf children and young people see fantastic deaf role models like Rose on TV, because it reminds them that they’re not alone.

“It also inspires them to believe that there’s no reason why they can’t make it to the very top.”

Coronation Street star Katie McGlynn was paired with Gorka Marquez, joking she felt “no pressure” after being told Marquez had been in the final twice, but never won the Glitterball trophy.

McFly’s lead singer, Tom Fletcher, was confirmed as dancing with Welsh professional dancer Amy Dowden, telling viewers: “Please don’t compare me to Harry Judd, you will be massively disappointed.”

His McFly bandmate won Strictly in 2011.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden (BBC/PA)

Elsewhere, CBBC host Rhys Stephenson was paired with Nancy Xu, while Dragon’s Den star and entrepreneur Sara Davies was paired with Aljaz Skorjanec, meeting him for the first time in front of the Angel of the North.

Peep Show star Robert Webb was the first to be paired, with Australian dancer Dianne Buswell.

Webb said he wanted to be fired out of a “glitter cannon” during a routine, and Buswell promised to do her best to fulfil his wish.

Last year’s winners Bill Bailey and Mabuse revisited their routine to Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang and Anne-Marie performed her single Kiss My (Uh-Oh).

On Wednesday, the BBC confirmed a professional dancer had tested positive for Covid-19 but the launch would be unaffected as it was pre-recorded.

The night before the launch, the broadcaster said in a statement that it does not “comment on speculation of somebody’s COVID vaccination status” after reports two professionals had refused the vaccine.

The episode also saw Anton Du Beke make his debut as a full-time judge and receive a standing ovation from the studio audience.

The 55-year-old professional, who judged for a two-week stint during the 2020 series, joined Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas on the panel.

He is taking over from Bruno Tonioli, who remains unable to take part due to travel uncertainty caused by the pandemic, because he lives in the US and is a judge on American series Dancing With The Stars.