Strictly Come Dancing: 14 things we learned from this year's contestants

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

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Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly are returning to hosting duties

Tess is back. Claudia is back. Craig Revel Horwood's death stare is back.

Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday, with Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli and the newly-Damed Darcey Bussell returning to the judging panel.

We've been speaking to this year's celebrities about everything from the show casting its first YouTuber to accusations the line-up is too D-list.

Here are 14 things we learned from 14 of this year's 15 contestants (Katie Piper was absent from the press interviews).

1. Graeme Swann's wife isn't too concerned about the "Strictly curse".

In other words, about him copping off with his professional dance partner.

"No, she's not [worried], she knows I'm punching well above my weight already," the cricketer laughs.

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Vick Hope and Graeme Swann

"She's got nothing to worry about. I've got the perfect little home with three great little kids."

Graeme's children were, in fact, one of his biggest motivations for taking part.

"I want to be super-dad still, and I'm losing it as they get older - I'm losing my powers, so I'm trying to get some credence back."

2. Joe Sugg doesn't mind if you've never heard of him.

(But still, it's probably best your nan learns what a YouTuber is pretty sharpish.)

"I'd be naive to think that everyone in the UK knows me, it'd be ridiculous," the 26-year-old says.

"As the first sort of online YouTuber person to go on this, I knew there'd be a lot of talk about it, but I was so prepared, I don't take myself too seriously, it's all fun."

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Lee Ryan and Susannah Constantine

3. Susannah from What Not To Wear is excited about The Things She'll Get To Wear.

Along with co-presenter Trinny Woodall, Susannah Constantine fronted the popular TV fashion series from 2001-2005.

Asked if she's excited for the costumes she'll be wearing on Strictly, she replies: "Oh you have no idea!

"The attention to detail, the way everything is cut. I mean, they are master seamstresses those women.

"I'm following their lead, but I have a couple [of rules], which is no high necklines, and I don't want to show my arms. I'll do anything else."

4. Blue's dance routines weren't exactly difficult so Lee Ryan hasn't really got that much of an advantage when you actually think about it.

Every year, pop stars get a bit of heat for having an unfair advantage in Strictly, given their previous dance experience.

But asked whether Blue's choreography might come in handy for his dances, Lee says: "Absolutely not!

"If they go to me 'lean, wink, airgrab' I'll get 10 points!" he jokes. "I wake up going like that. It's like a brain reaction in the morning."

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Lauren Steadman, Danny John-Jules and a large piece of pink confetti

5. Danny John-Jules's gym has re-opened.

"I've never been so famous," laughs the Red Dwarf actor, days after he went viral for tweeting about a police incident at his local gym.

After turning up to find it surrounded by police cars, Danny began posting live updates on social media from the gym in north London.

"In 40 years, I've never had so much publicity", he says, but adds the gym has since re-opened and he's able to crack on with some training.

However, with Strictly's 10 million weekly viewers - he'd better get used to a higher profile.

6. Don't Cha wish your dance moves were hot like Ashley's?

It's fair to say Nicole Scherzinger hoovered up most of the vocal parts in the Pussycat Dolls, leaving the other five members to focus on the rather complex (and graphic) dance routines.

This, you could argue, means Ashley Roberts is one of the contestants with an advantage, but, she points out: "The little booty smacks and booty popping I don't think is allowed in the Latin and ballroom world.

"It's just so foreign to what my body has done. I do have rhythm so it might be a little bit easier for me to possibly pick up a step but it is still a new skill that I do not know that I am going to have to learn."

(Strictly is, however, introducing a new couples' choice category this year, which will let the pairs choose from new dance styles including contemporary, street and theatre/jazz.)

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Dr Ranj Singh and Ashley Roberts

7. Kate Silverton's dancing has previously been described as "a worm trying to shed its skin".

But, the BBC News presenter adds, it's comforting to know how many other journalists (like Natasha Kaplinsky and John Sargent) have been popular with Strictly viewers.

"Traditionally, [newsreaders] have done quite well and I'm just taking that as a good omen because I've danced in a nightclub with Chris Hollins, and so he was obviously very good, I was in the dark so it was fine."

Comedian Seann Walsh, meanwhile, says he dances "like a shed in the wind".

We are so here for these analogies.

8. Lee and Susannah have no time for criticism of the line-up.

This year's Strictly has been accused of not quite having the same star wattage as previous series.

"It's just like, for [goodness] sake. I'm sorry, but get over yourself," says Susannah when this comes up.

"Really this is a great show. We are all really privileged to do it. It's a fun show, it's entertainment and we're all here to do our best. So just get over it."

Lee reasons: "I think that you have to expect some kind of negative opposition to this whole machine, and what it is, and the show.

"It's the biggest show in the world. People are gonna go out there and say I hate it but they're still going to watch it."

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Seann Walsh and Kate Silverton

9. Vick Hope is probably going to be the most tired contestant this year.

Bearing in mind she'll be juggling Strictly training with co-hosting Capital's breakfast show.

But, she says: "It's cool, we've got this.

"I'll be getting up at 04:30, getting into the studio at 05:30, do the show from 06:00 til 10:00, Roman [Kemp, her co-host] will make fun of every time I've fallen over on TV."

She adds: "I've just got to say no to nights out, just got to say no."

Probably best to steer clear of Kate Silverton and Chris Hollins in that case.

10. Stacey Dooley is glad to be doing something a little less serious.

As a documentary maker, Stacey doesn't often venture into the world of sequins and salsa.

"Work's quite serious for me, so this is totally different tonally," she says.

"So that makes me feel nervous and apprehensive, but also that's why I took part, because I think it's good to push yourself and enjoy the frivolous and the escapism and the fun."

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Charles Venn and Faye Tozer

11. Charles Venn should probably consider buying a season ticket for the London to Cardiff train.

The Casualty star isn't planning to swap acting with Argentine tangos - instead, he's going to do both.

"Yes, afraid so. I'm juggling both jobs at the moment so I'm oscillating between here and Cardiff," he explains.

"When the opportunity presented itself I said yes and it was very much a shoot first and ask questions later... but we'll make it work."

12. Dr Ranj from This Morning is ready for the inevitable doctor routine.

References to contestants' jobs often sneak into their dances on Strictly, and Dr Ranj Singh is already thinking of how this might impact on his.

"It's obvious isn't it, there's definitely got to be a Doctor, Doctor song somewhere," he laughs.

"There's got to be an Indian dance as well, I've already said that, I'd love to do that."

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Joe Sugg and Katie Piper

13. Faye from Steps is going to miss having H from Steps by her side.

"I usually have H next to me saying 'it's okay, you've got the job, you can do this'," the singer says, adding that her bandmates have all wished her well.

"They're made up for me, they know I've been banging on about doing this show for years, and when I finally told them they were over the moon.

"So hopefully we're going to get them in the audience - all apart from Lisa, she'll be waving from over the sea because she's in Dubai."

14. Lauren Steadman is using a "completely different set of muscles" to what she's used to.

"Everybody would assume, being athletes, that we're fit or we're stronger," says the Paralympian.

"But they're asking me to bend in ways I don't normally bend in... even after one dance rehearsal two weeks ago I was like 'I can't move'."

She adds: "I'd like to inspire others with disability and women that feel it's outside of their comfort zone. And to just come away with a skill that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't been on the show, I will hopefully inspire people to go outside of their comfort zone."

Strictly Come Dancing begins on Saturday at 19:35 BST on BBC One.

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Stacey Dooley

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