Strictly Come Dancing faces the biggest cha-cha-change in its 16-year history as all contestants and professional dancers face being disqualified from the show if they test positive for coronavirus in a strict one-strike rule.
In a recent industry Q&A, executive producer Sarah James detailed the new Covid-friendly format, which also includes a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’, with one party being required to live alone.
Sarah also shed light on the show’s contingency plans in light of the pandemic and insisted she’s ‘confident’ the competition series will go ahead even if the current coronavirus restrictions change from October 17.
One strike and you’re out! Strictly contestants and professional dancers (pictured) face being disqualified from the show if they test positive for coronavirus
As the nation waits to see how the pair will fare with their dance partners, Strictly bosses have drawn up tough plans to deal with anyone who falls ill.
Sarah said: ‘Obviously according to government guidelines if you receive a positive test you have to isolate for two weeks and that would unfortunately rule them out of the show.’
This year’s series will be a pared down nine-week run with a very different look. The 12 partnerships – three less than usual – will be unveiled via video link rather than in the studio and the annual trip to the Blackpool Tower ballroom is also off the cards.
Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, and the dancers will sit in the audience rather than go upstairs to get their scores.
Shake-up: In a recent Q&A, executive producer Sarah James detailed the new Covid-friendly format, which also includes a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’
Changes: Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio, while Bruno Tonioli has said he will be ‘involved remotely’
Veteran judge Bruno Tonioli has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles.
With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements.
To ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will get tested regularly and ‘bubble up’.
‘Close contact cohorts (CCC) apply to people who need to work closely and break social distancing rules to do their jobs. It has to only be with one person and you are regularly tested’, the BBC executive said.
Keeping a distance: The panel will be giving the stars feedback from separate rostrums (pictured)
Back to business! The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group number
‘We are asking the celebrity contestants to be part of an exclusive support bubble with their dancers, which means that one half of the party has to live alone.’
The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group numbers.
Sarah also discussed how hairdressers and make-up artist have had to adjust to the new guidelines as she added: ‘Hair and make-up and costume are all allowed in accordance with government guidelines.
‘We were able to have our hair and make-up team working with full PPE and sanitising once hairdressers and other facilities reopened.
Covid-friendly: The dancers will sit in the audience rather than go upstairs to get their scores
‘Hair and make-up were able to work with as many of the different cast as they wanted or needed to, but this year we’ll have specific makeup teams assigned to specific couples to ensure people don’t mix as much.’
Earlier this month, a former crew member was reported to have Covid-19, but the producer revealed there was ‘minimal impact’ on the series as the worker in question was removed from set and had two more tests which came back as negative.
She shared: ‘He had a test when working on another show and it came back positive, which meant all of our contingencies kicked in. I was really impressed with how brilliantly the team responded.
‘Everyone who was contact with him or had visited any areas he did were immediately sent home for a test and weren’t allowed back on site until they received their negative test results.’
Switch-up: With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements
‘They’ll be working with full PPE’: Sarah also discussed how hairdressers and make-up artist have had to adjust to the new guidelines as she added (Giovanni Pernice pictured in 2018)
Comeback: ‘We have contingency plan for every eventuality. We have changed things regularly, but we are confident we’ll still be able to put the show on’, the executive said
‘The person in question had two more tests which both came back as negative. Although it was a false alarm, it was a great dry run for us.
‘We have contingency plan for every eventuality. We have changed things regularly, but we are confident we’ll still be able to put the show on.’
Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones and Graziano Di Prima have been axed from the main line-up and won’t be coupled up with celebrity contestants for this year’s edition.
The Ukrainian-Slovenian beauty, 31, choreographer Neil, 38, and Italian dance expert Graziano, 26, will form CCCs with fellow pro Nancy Xu.
Demoted: Nadiya Bychkova has been axed from this year’s main line-up, bosses have confirmed
Fewer responsibilities: Neil Jones (L) and Graziano Di Prima (R) will form ‘close contact cohorts’
Comeback: Fellow pro Nancy Xu, who joined the professional line-up last year, will also dance without a contestant, starring in group dances instead
The BBC employee explained: ‘Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones, Graziano Di Prima and Nancy Xu. So we have two males and two females, and they will appear in a CCC so that are able to dance.
Latin and ballroom star Nadiya, who previously insisted ‘chemistry is important’ on the dancefloor, is believed to be ‘gutted’ about not having a partner, after competing on the show with former goalkeeper David James last year.
A TV source told The Sun: ‘She’s wondering if it was a mistake to adopt such a flirtatious approach to her partners.
Past stint: Latin and ballroom star Nadiya, 31, is believed to be ‘gutted’ about not having a partner, after competing on the show with former goalkeeper David James last year (L)
Happier times: Choreographer Neil, 38, who is also said to be ‘devastated’ by the bosses’ decision, appeared on the 2019 edition with ex-footballer Alex Scott (pictured)
Throwback: Italian dance expert Graziano’s last celebrity partner was TV and radio host Vick Hope during the 2018 series (pictured)
‘Bosses really want this year’s show to be scandal-free. There is a huge emphasis on everyone being professional.’
Neil, who is also said to be ‘devastated’ by the bosses’ decision, appeared on the 2019 edition with ex-footballer Alex Scott, while Graziano’s last celebrity partner was TV and radio host Vick Hope during the 2018 series.
Latin specialist Nancy, 29, joined the professional line-up last year and previously appeared on China’s version of So You Think You Can Dance?.
MailOnline has contacted representatives for Nadiya, Neil and Graziano for further comment.
Strictly Come Dancing Contestants 2020
Profession: Actress, known for roles in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek
Caroline says: ‘I hope my knees don’t let me down and I hope the foundation garments live up to expectations when I start leaping about!’
Fun fact: She met her now-husband, Sam Farmer in 1998 on the set of Men Behaving Badly when he was one of the studio runners.
Profession: Singer – from former boy band The Wanted
Max says: ‘Nan – I’m doing Strictly this year!’ as he vowed to make his superfan grandmother proud
Fun Fact: Max’s fellow The Wanted bandmate Jay McGuiness was on Strictlby Come Dancing in 2015 – and won it!
Profession: Radio 1 presenter
Clara says: ‘As we know this year has been a real challenge and escapism through dancing is something I know we all enjoy’
Fun fact: Clara has some experience of celeb gameshows, having taken part on Celebrity Masterchef in 2018
Profession: Comedian and TV personality
Clara says: ‘I’m not Lord of the Dance, more a sort of caretaker of the dance’
Fun fact: Bill is a classically trained musician and multi-instrumentalist
Profession: EastEnders actress
Maisie says: ‘Get me in those sequins, I can’t wait to dive into the Strictly fancy dress box this winter!’
Fun fact: Maisie won the 2019 Children In Need special of Strictly with Kevin Clifton
Profession: YouTube star
HRVY says: ‘Being on Strictly is going to be such an amazing experience and I’m so thankful to be taking part this year.’
Fun fact: HRVY follows in the footsteps of former internet star contestants Joe Sugg and Saffron Barker – the latter of whom is close friends with him
Profession: Retired American Football player – now a pundit
Jason says: ‘I am thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show, I’ve been watching it since I came to this country, so it’s time for me to do something cool to impress my daughter, now that she can watch me perform!’
Fun Fact: Jason is the father of Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle’s daughter. The couple were together for 11 years, only splitting recently in 2019
Profession: ITV broadcaster, Political Editor for GMB
Ranvir says: ‘It feels like I’m on a rollercoaster… Hopefully after the first dance I will feel exhilarated rather than sick!’
Fun fact: Ranvir is the fourth GMB star to star following Susanna Reid, Richard Arnold and Charlotte Hawkins.
Profession: Double Olympic gold medallist boxer
Nicola says: ‘I’m a huge fan of the show and am thrilled to be part of something that holds such a special place in so many people’s hearts’
Fun fact: Nicola will form the show’s first ever same-sex pairing as she is parterned with a female professional.
Profession: Ex Royal Marine and Invictus Games medallist
JJ says: ‘Strictly is a whole different ball game in respect to the challenges I will face but I’m up for an adventure’
Fun fact: JJ is close friends with Prince Harry after they worked together on the Invictus Games
Profession: Made In Chelsea star
Jamie says: ‘I’m over the moon I actually get to come back and dance again. It’s going to be unbelievably amazing!’
Fun fact: Jamie was forced to pull out of the 2019 series of Strictly after a foot injury
RT HON JACQUI SMITH
Jacqui says: ‘I was speechless with excitement at being asked to join Strictly – and that’s very rare for me…!’
Fun fact: Fifty years ago, she received a bronze medal for Scottish Highland Dancing