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Angela Rippon set to wow Strictly with likely return of high-kick dance

Angela Rippon on Strictly Come Dancing for Children in Need in 2011
Angela Rippon promotes dance to the elderly as a way to stay fit and healthy in her role as the Royal Academy of Dance’s Silver Swans ambassador - Guy Levy/BBC

Angela Rippon is set to roll back the years with the likely return of her high-kicking dance routine on Strictly, five decades after wowing audiences when she appeared on Morecambe & Wise.

The BBC announced on Friday evening that the 78-year-old will be one of the celebrities to star in the forthcoming series of Strictly Come Dancing.

It has raised the prospect of Rippon repeating moves she performed with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976, when audiences were stunned by the newsreader high-kicking across a TV studio dance floor.

Also unveiled as celebrity contestants were actress Amanda Abbington and West End performer Layton Williams.

Rippon, who currently presents the BBC’s Rip Off Britain and is a regular on Morning Live and The One Show, presented the original Come Dancing between 1988 and 1991.

Audiences were stunned by Rippon's high-kicking with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976
Audiences were stunned by Rippon's high-kicking with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976

She said on Friday: “Having been a fan of Strictly since day one, and as a former presenter of Come Dancing, this will be quite an adventure for me. A scary one, considering I’m about to be 79.

“But I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and perhaps being able to learn to dance the Argentine tango!!”

Rippon, who is a Silver Swans ambassador for the Royal Academy of Dance - promoting dance to the elderly as a way of staying fit and healthy - revealed recently that she can still do the splits and high kicks and starts each day with a version of her Morecambe & Wise Christmas Special routine.

She said: “I can still do the splits and high-kick because I do it every day as part of my Pilates stretching wake-up routine.

“When I’m able to, I still go to ­ballet classes. Dance is very good for ­getting the right kind of exercise for your mind and body as you get older.

“It keeps you fit, it’s aerobic and keeps you supple. It does wonders for your posture – and it’s very sociable.”

Angela Rippon on Strictly Come Dancing for Children in Need in 2011
Rippon says she can still do the splits and high-kick, as was shown on Strictly Come Dancing for Children in Need in 2011 - Guy Levy/Handout

Gerard Charles, the artistic director of Royal Academy of Dance, welcomed Rippon’s selection for the show, saying: “We’re delighted that Angela Rippon is taking part in Strictly this year as an ambassador for Royal Academy of Dance’s Silver Swans programme for older dancers.

“We can’t wait to see her take to the dance floor to inspire more swans.”

Rippon is not the only contestant with a dance background. Williams got his big break aged 12, playing Billy Elliot in the West End production – the first black actor to do so on the London stage.

The now 28-year-old was picked for the story of a miner’s son who becomes a member of the Royal Ballet after winning a nationwide talent hunt, dancing a series of intricate ballet routines for the role including one in which he performed 16 pirouettes.

His inclusion threatens to revive the row over celebrities with dance experience being selected to take part in the competition, including the former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts, who reached the final in 2018.

She had extensive previous experience of dancing and performing onstage as a member of the hit girl band.

Another was Fleur East, the Radio 1 DJ and singer who reached the final last year and finished as runner-up.

Williams, from Bury, Greater Manchester, was also notable as the first black actor to play the part of Billy Elliot on the West End stage.

He said on Friday: “Absolutely buzzing to confirm that I will be taking part in the most iconic dance competition in the UK! It’s time to bring it to the Ballroom. So excited to learn new skills from the best. Bring on the sequins… all the sequins!”

Williams has previously admitted that casting directors have been drawn to him because he had no classical training in dance, saying: “Because I was so raw – I didn’t do ballet, I didn’t do tap, I had no vocal training – I was basically the Billy Elliot story.”