BBC Strictly Come Dancing stars say 'we're alive' as they ditch celebrities ahead of 2024 series

Strictly Come Dancing's Carlos Gu, Graziano Di Prima, Nikita Kuzmin and Vito Coppola
Strictly Come Dancing's Carlos Gu, Graziano Di Prima, Nikita Kuzmin and Vito Coppola -Credit:Marc Brenner

A number of Strictly Come Dancing stars have addressed ditching their usual celebrity partners as they head out on the road together for another year of epic routines, emotional stories and plenty of sparkle in the 2024 official Strictly The Professionals UK Tour.

The tour kicks off on May 1 and the 36-date tour will include two nights in Greater Manchester. Alongside stops in London, Birmingham, Blackpool, Cardiff and Glasgow, the show, which marks the largest line-up to date, will arrive at the Lyric Theatre in Salford on May 14 and 15.

Amongst the professionals taking part are Karen Hauer, Dianne Buswell, Carlos Gu, Gorka Marquez, Graziano Di Prima, and Nancy Xu. Reigning champ Vito Coppola, Nikita Kuzmin, Jowita Przystal, Neil Jones, Michelle Tsiakkos and Luba Mushtuk also complete the impressive line-up.

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Audiences nationwide will enjoy the incredible talent of these multi-award-winning world-class dancers as they perform stunningly choreographed Ballroom and Latin routines in exquisite costumes, with all the glitz, glamour, sequins and sparkle of the TV show - live on stage!

The tour, directed by Strictly’s Creative Director, Jason Gilkison, will showcase the exceptional talent of TV’s hugely popular professional dancers, set within the wonderful world of the BBC show, with its stunning costumes and sparkling sets.

"It’s fantastic to unveil this stellar line-up of much-loved Strictly professional dancers for this year’s tour," Jason said. "We will be dazzling audiences across the country with the dance and choreography at the highest possible standard. To see these dancers coming together to perform on this scale is a joy for me as a director. Strictly fans are in for a real treat!"

The Strictly stars have been preparing to hit the road
The Strictly stars have been preparing to hit the road -Credit:Marc Brenner

Karen Hauer, 41, has been with Strictly for over 10 years now and has been given the role of 'Dance Captain' for the tour. "I love everything to do with Strictly, and the Pro Tour has a very special place in my heart. We’re the spine of Strictly and this is something each of us has been crafting since we were children. This is our passion so what better than to demonstrate it on stages around the country? When we’re out there, we’re alive.”

She trains every day to maintain her stamina. "Neil [Jones] and I are in our 40s now so we’re conscious of keeping up with all the younger dancers. For me, that involves walking my dogs, cycling regularly, working out every day. But there’s no better training than dancing itself. Touring makes its own demands. Time and again, though, any exhaustion you might feel simply evaporates when you’re in front of an audience. Nothing is more exciting."

Meanwhile, this will be the second Pro Tour for Vito Coppola, 31, who, along with actress Ellie Leach, carried off the prized glitterball in 2023’s TV show. "I enjoyed last year’s Pro Tour so much; it was my first time ever dancing on a stage in front of an audience," the Italian dancer said. "It took me a moment or two to get used to the space restrictions. In a TV studio, you can dance through 360 degrees. In a theatre, there’s an edge to the stage.

Karen is the 'dance captain' for this tour -Credit:Marc Brenner
Karen is the 'dance captain' for this tour -Credit:Marc Brenner

"But, if you’re surrounded by eleven other professionals, as will happen this time round, you somehow all dance as one body. These dancers are from all over the world but they’re like brothers and sisters to me – and what unites us is our passion for dance. It’s very special."

This will also be the second time Chinese dancer Nancy Xu, 32, has been a part of the Strictly Pro Tour. “I was so excited to be involved last year – and I wasn’t disappointed," she said. "It was one of my dreams come true. This time round, there will be a dozen dancers - I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it!

"You really get to know the other dancers when you’re on tour, both onstage and off. It’s hard to beat good quality time with people you respect so much. I know I’ll be slightly nervous before stepping out in front of a live audience but in a good way: it gets the adrenaline going. The more they want to give to us, the more we want to give back. I can’t wait!"

Reigning champ Vito and Jowita in rehersals -Credit:Marc Brenner
Reigning champ Vito and Jowita in rehersals -Credit:Marc Brenner

But Gorka Marquez makes no bones about it. "I’ve danced on all the Strictly Pro Tours," the 33-year-old Spaniard said, "and, for me, it’s the most fun part of being involved with Strictly. I love the Saturday night show but it’s in a studio.

"What’s special about the tour is that it’s in a theatre in front of a live audience. Nothing beats being able to look into their eyes and see their reaction. I really like bringing out the best in my celebrity partners, but the Pro tour gives us the opportunity to showcase ourselves."

Gorka and fiancée Gemma Atkinson have a four-year-old daughter, Mia, and a baby son, Thiago, born last July. "When we’re in London or Manchester on the tour, Gemma will bring Mia to see me: she loves to see Daddy dance. I try to get home on odd days the rest of the time. I’m a judge on the Spanish version of Strictly so I’m used to being away from home.

"But I miss the family, of course, and they miss me, particularly Mia who likes me to take her to her swimming lesson on a Saturday morning. Thiago’s too young at the moment to understand the passage of time. But this is all part of the job and I’m doing something I love."

Like Gorka, Neil, 42, now has an extra imperative not to be too far from home for too long. Last October, his girlfriend, Chyna Mills, gave birth to their baby daughter, Havana. "Chyna will bring the baby to see me if I’ve only got one show that day so I can spend time with her."

Gorka and Neil's children will be coming to see them -Credit:Marc Brenner
Gorka and Neil's children will be coming to see them -Credit:Marc Brenner

But he wouldn’t dream of turning down the tour. "It gives each of us our moment to shine and this time we’ve got more Pro dancers than ever to produce an incredible show. It also helps that we dance to a live band and singers onstage in front of a live audience. It gives everything an extra urgency."

Australian Dianne Buswell, 34, who finished runner-up in Strictly 2023 alongside Bobby Brazier, commented: "We spend so much time on Strictly focusing on the celebrities, and rightly so, but the Pro Tour is a chance for us to go out and show the world what we’re capable of. And I love theatres: the minute you step out on stage, you can not only hear the audience clapping and cheering but you can see how much they’re enjoying themselves.”

For all that, the performing and the travelling can be demanding. "For sure. We’re classed as athletes, so we have to look after our bodies. But we’re extremely lucky that a physio and a masseuse travel everywhere with us." As it happens, her birthday falls on May 6, a rare day off. So, will she be joined by live-in boyfriend Joe Sugg, someone she originally met on Strictly? “No question. No ifs or buts. Wherever it is, we’ll be together."

Strictly The Professionals 2024 tours the UK from May 1 to June 1. Tickets and venues can be found at