It’s back. The BBC’s flagship dance competition series, Strictly Come Dancing, has returned to screens for its 21st series.
The programme has lined up an enviable roster of celebrity guests for the new series, which premiered on BBC One at 6.35pm on Saturday (23 September).
Episodes will continue to air every Saturday, with the acompannying results show airing the following evening.
Among the contestants this year are reality star Zara McDermott and veteran Channel 4 broadcaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy, as well as TV presenter Les Dennis.
You can find the full line-up for this year’s Strictly Come Dancing here.
Here are the biggest talking points from the first competitive episode of Strictly 2023.
Angela Rippon makes history
The 78-year-old presenter became the oldest contestant to feature on Strictly in this week’s episode... and she certainly didn’t disappoint. Dancing the Cha Cha Cha to “Get the Party Started” by Shirley Bassey with partner Kai Widdrington, Rippon stunned the judges with her flair, defying the years with a fleet-footed performance that Revel Horwood aptly termed “jaw-dropping”.
Bobby Brazier draws tears from his father
Soap actor Brazier was another of the night’s clear highlights, performing an absolutely magnetic foxtrot to McFly with partner Dianne Buswell. The son of the late reality star Jade Goody and TV presenter Jeff Brazier drew high praise from the judging panel, and was seen moving his father to tears, in an affecting emotional moment.
Les Dennis brings the levity
Family Fortunes star Dennis may have finished the night at the bottom of the leaderboard, but it was a performance that stood out for its initmitable sense of fun. Dennis mugged his way through “Don’t You Want Me” by the Human League, with a tango that managed to transcend any technical stiffness on show. Some might see him as the novelty act of the 2023 series, but it’s clear Dennis is trying his best – and the warm comments from the judging panel show that his efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
You can follow along with the first live episode of Strictly Come Dancing 2023 with The Independent’s liveblog below...
Adam Thomas kicks off episode with dance to Jonas Brothers’ ‘Waffle House'
‘Jaw-dropping’ Angela Rippon wows Strictly audience with incredible high kick
Les Dennis sets amusing tango to The Human League
The leaderboard at the end of week one
12:54 , Louis Chilton
Good afternoon, and welcome to The Independent’s Strictly Come Dancing 2023 liveblog.
Still a good few hours to go until launch, so I’m going to take this opportunity to share some of the Strictly-related pieces we’ve run recently.
13:16 , Louis Chilton
First up, here’s a great piece about the over-50 stars leading the line on this year’s series
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A refresher before the series starts! Here’s a breakdown of all the contestants on Strictly this year
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And here’s who they’re paired with...
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Ellie Harrison spoke personally to Bobby Brazier, the actor and son of Jade Goody who is one of this year’s competitors.
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Ellie also went long for this feature on Amanda Abbington, the Strictly contestant whose involvement has prompted calls for a boycott.
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A bit more left-field, but here are eight facts you might not have known about Strictly...
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Another list, this time rounding up the 12 greatest moments of the entire series.
Will this new season give us anything on this level? We can hope...
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One of the most frequently Googled queries about Strictly, I’m told: do the contestants get paid?
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Another bit of Google catnip - the dreaded Strictly curse.
Is it a real thing? It’s complicated...
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Not long now! Who are you most excited to see perform?
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And it’s live!
18:28 , Louis Chilton
First couple are up: Adam Thomas and Luba Mushtuk, doing the “Cha Cha Cha” to “Waffle House” by the Jonas Brothers.
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Some nice moves here, Thomas interpolating the “robot” into his pastel-coloured routine.
Praise for his chemistry and personality from the judges.
18:31 , Louis Chilton
“A little bit sloppy all over,” says Craig.
Cue booing from the crowd.
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Four from Craig.
Five from Motsi.
Five from Shirley.
Five from Anton.
Could be worse...
18:37 , Louis Chilton
Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu next, dancing the Tango to “Prisoner” by Miley Cyrus feat Dua Lipa.
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More savagery from Craig Revel Horwood here.
More booing from the crowd.
The dance goes on...
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Scanlon’s sisters in the crowd... charming stuff.
Three sixes and a five from Ballas for her efforts.
18:46 , Louis Chilton
Next up, it’s Comedian Eddie Kadi, dancing the quickstep to “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins.
His partner will be Karen Hauer.
You can find out more about him here.
Hauer, 41, is Strictly’s longest serving pro dancer, with her tenure on the series dating back to 2012.
She reached the final with Jamie Laing in 2020, but has never won the series. Could Eddie finally be her ticket to glory?
18:49 , Louis Chilton
Craig: “It was a little bit hunched of shoulder for my liking... but your personality saved the day. That was amazing.”
Motsi: “I have to say, music lives in your body. I love the joy you bring to the dance. You need to work on your posture, everything in your spine, but I was honestly entertained from the first step to the last.”
Shirley: “You would light up any room with your personality. What you’ve got is something extra, something special, you came out here and gave it 150 per cent. It was fantastic.”
Anton: “Your performance is great, and I’m looking forward to that carrying you through the competition. If you could pick your elbows up, it would look magnificent. Congratulations.”
18:54 , Louis Chilton
It’s a four from Craig and three sixes for Eddie and Karen.
Now, we have Angela Rippon making history here as the oldest contestant to have competed on Strictly.
But first, here’s something people picked up on - Amy Dowden spotted in the opening credits for the episode.
18:59 , Louis Chilton
Legendary newsreader Rippon, 78, is dancing the Cha Cha Cha to “Get the Party Started” by Shirley Bassey with partner Kai Widdrington.
This is exactly what Strictly’s all about, isn’t it?
She has history with the series, of course, having previously presented the BBC’s long-running ballroom series Come Dancing that gave Strictly its name.
Motsi: “That is how you start a Saturday night. My goodness. Well done.”
Shirley: “I have to say, I’m getting rather emotional... This was executed with 150 per cent of Angela Rippon. Everything about you is absolutely pure class.”
Anton: “Go on you beauty!”
Craig: “Jaw. Dropping.”
19:01 , Louis Chilton
The strongest scores of the night for Angela: a seven from each judge.
“You’re top of the leaderboard.”
“But there’s 11 more to come,” Angela replies. Still a long way to go!
19:12 , Louis Chilton
Now it’s radio presenter Nikita Kanda and partner Gorka Márquez.
You can find out more about her here.
They’re dancing a waltz to “Run To You” by Whitney Houston. Film fans will recognise this track from the soundtrack to The Bodyguard.
The song has been a popular choice among Strictly contestants in the past, and it’s easy to see why - their dance is swoon-making stuff.
Shirley: “You looked beautiful. I love the soft and lyrical approach, the snuggle-bunny stuff going on. Just get that centre toned a bit more, a bit more still in the top.”
Anton: “It was so lovely and intimate... just believe in that.”
Craig: “Your posture and your frame need a lot more work. It looked like Gorka was dragging you around a little bit.”
Motsi: “From now on I would really love it for you to practice on your own, so you build that confidence within you.”
A three from Craig and the rest give fives.
19:16 , Louis Chilton
Musical theatre star Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin are up next, in the only same-sex partnership of the series. You can find out more about Williams here.
They’re dancing the samba - the first of the night - to the sounds of “Touch” by Little Mix.
A dynamic, limber dance, and the crowd are up on their feet.
“What a samba.”
Anton: “It’s magnificent, really. Enormously difficult technique... what you need to work on is your feet. They’re a bit turned in. From the waist up, it’s extraordinary.”
Motsi: “What I really loved is your musicality. That takes talent. Don’t you feel like it’s gonna be a good year guys?”
Shirley: “Your flexibility, fluidity and salesmanship are second to none.”
19:18 , Louis Chilton
Judges all in agreement there - phenomenal from the waist up, some improvement needed maybe on the footwork.
Williams is dancing here for his mum, as was discussed in that moving opening segment.
The scores are in: Seven from Craig, eight from Motsi, seven from Shirley and seven from Anton.
He’s in the lead!
19:19 , Louis Chilton
Here’s a look at Angela Rippon’s dance, maybe the biggest talking point of the night so far...
19:25 , Louis Chilton
Love Island star Zara McDermott now, dancing with Graziano Di Prima, doing the third cha cha cha of the night, to “Crush” by Jennifer Paige.
“I cannot believe I just did that.”
Pretty eye-catching stuff! And the judges agree, more or less.
Craig: “At times it became a little bit awkward, but I could see the intention was there.”
Motsi: “I saw a little bit more than intention. You owned your performance.”
Shirley: “Don’t listen to Craig, I don’t think he’s had his dinner.”
Anton: “It’s a great base to grow from. I think you’ll be one to watch.”
19:26 , Louis Chilton
Three from Craig.
Six from Motsi.
Five from Shirley.
Five from Anton.
Not too shabby!
19:33 , Louis Chilton
Now it’s Les Dennis, the wildcard of the 2023 series, dancing with partner Nancy Xu.
They’re doing a tango to “Dont’ You Want Me” by The Human League.
Some theatrical shrugging from Dennis drawing whoops from the audience.
He’s stiff, sure, but again, this is exactly the kind of stuff that Strictly audiences lap up.
Dennis is known to many as the host of Family Fortunes, and for his wonderfully self-deprecating stint on Ricky Gervais’s Extras, but he’s got considerable musical pedigree, having graced the West End several times down the years.
Mosti: “A lot of energy going in the right direction.”
Shirley: “The music has to hit your ear and come out your body, and you did that spectacularly. Your storytelling - I believe it.”
Craig: “It felt like your feet were stuck to the floor with velcro... but you gave it a go.”
Anton: “I enjoyed it. I saw the character. I love the dance. But you seem like you were slightly hard of hearing.”
19:34 , Louis Chilton
“I was terrified before but I really did enjoy it,” Dennis says.
“Was it imposter syndrome?”
“I’m so lucky to have you as my student, as my dance partner,” says Nancy.
The scores? Two from Craig, four from Motsi, five from Shirley and Anton.
19:39 , Louis Chilton
Coronation Street star Ellie Leach is dancing next with pro partner Vito Coppola.
You can find out more about her here.
“I think Vito is the perfect match for me,” she says.
They’re tackling a jive, to “Can’t Tame Her” by Zara Larsson.
“The routine is very fast,” says Leach, a little nervously.
19:43 , Louis Chilton
Shirley: “I don’t know what’s in the Strictly water... I can’t believe we’re only on week one.”
Anton: “What a performance! Well done you.”
Craig: “It was sharp, it was precise, but it felt like you were flagging just ever so slightly at the end. You are an incredible dancer.”
Motsi: “This is what I love, when dancing is so easy to judge. Every single footstep was on time. We’re on week one and you’re dancing like this?”
“You might not like the jive, but it definitely likes you,” says Claudia.
The scores are in: eight from Motsi, sevens from all the rest. Joint top of the leaderboard!
19:47 , Louis Chilton
Paralympian Jody Cundy dancing now with partner Jowita PrzystaÅ.
You can find out more about him here.
They’re doing a quickstep to “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” by Bobby Darin.
19:51 , Louis Chilton
Anton: “The only thing I want you to work on is your posture. There’s a lot of good stuff going on down below. Generally speaking, a very nice performance.”
Craig: “Clumsy getting in and out of holds. Presentation needs work. But you know what? That was pretty amazing, what you did there.”
Motsi: “When two people come together and they just click... go out there and just enjoy it every single time. Just enjoy it, we’re here to support.”
Shirley: “I’m a sucker for a man in a tailsuit, I tell you. You are just amazing I think. So far, for me, your frame is the best frame. You have a lovely length of neck, and lovely length of arm. Work on your confidence a bit.”
Score time: 5 from Craig. 5 from Motsi. 6 from Shirley. 5 from Anton. Respectable!
19:54 , Louis Chilton
EastEnders star Bobby Brazier is dancing now with Dianne Buswell. You can find out more about him here.
Brazier, the son of the late reality star Jade Goody, said before the show began he was “so pleased” with his partner. Buswell added: “I am so happy I have already adopted Bobby as my little brother, and I already care so much about him. I just want him to have the best time ever.”
The duo are doing a foxtrot to “All About You” by McFly.
Ellie Harrison spoke with Brazier earlier this month, I highly recommend this interview:
20:00 , Louis Chilton
Truly infectious smile Mr Brazier has there. And not bad moves on the dancefloor either.
Craig: “I really liked your frame. I really loved the storytelling. Absolutely fantastic, well done.”
Motsi: “It would help a bit to up the level of your eyes. But I feel like your dancing says so much more because of the energy you give it.”
Shirley: “Your energy for me is absolutely endearing. Anton and I looked at each other at the beginning and we were both in shock at your footwork. You’re showing potential. Your whole frame and everything about you just says ‘dancer’.”
Anton: “I think this is my favourite dance of the night. It flowed beautifully. Do you know, I don’t want to be so stunned, but I’m stunned. It was really good.”
His father is in tears. Heart-wrenching in the nicest way.
Six from Craig, seven from Motsi, eight from Anton. Joint leader, if my maths is correct.
20:08 , Louis Chilton
Now it’s former tennis pro Annabel Croft and dancer Johannes Radebe, doing the cha cha cha to the tones of “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel.
It’s a tennis themed dance all round, with rackets and a fake Wimbledon trophy coming into play as props. Fun!
Motsi: “Those legs! The way you were using them.
Shirley: “You have the most beautifully shaped ankles and legs. Poised, elegant... Annabel is in the room. Congratulations.”
Anton: “I’m a bit overwhelmed... this is week one. It was magnificent, well done.
Craig: “Could have done with a little more fluidity in the hip. But fantastic straight legs. Probably one of the most elegant, swanky cha cha chas I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Sevens across the board.
20:10 , Louis Chilton
Here’s a clip of Les Dennis’s amusingly theatrical dance.
20:17 , Louis Chilton
Big cheers for Amanda Abbington’s Viennese Waltz, performed to “Pointless” by Lewis Capaldi.
The actor is certainly graceful... a very charged dance here with partner Giovanni Pernice.
Shirley: “You have a magic between you. That was fantastic.” Eight.
Anton: “I agree with Shirley. It was all great. Emotionally exquisite. It got a bit hard. I want you to breathe. If you had another 30 seconds to go, I think you’d have passed out.” Seven.
Craig: “I felt it was overpowered. There was too much energy in it.” Lots of booing from the crowd. “You danced it brilliantly.” Seven.
Motsi: “I think there’s something so so special about you. I loved the way you did the extension.” Seven.
20:18 , Louis Chilton
This heart-wrenching moment in which Brazier’s dad is spotted in the crowd.
20:25 , Louis Chilton
Krishnan Guru-Murthy next: the formidable Channel 4 News journalist is dancing with Lauren Oakley.
Yet another cha cha cha, this time to “Boom Shack-A-Lak” by Apache Indian. And it’s a fun, silly dance, involving a fedora and an elaborate set.
Anton: “From the waist up, I was having a lovely time. Great stuff.”
Craig: “I’m not going to be able to watch you on the news ever again. I felt like I was at a rave.”
Motsi: “We love it.”
Shirley: “You have something, you have a gift. Natural co-ordination.”
The scores - two fives and two sixes.
20:32 , Louis Chilton
Nigel Harman and Katya Jones with the paso doble to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
You can find out more about him here.
It goes down a treat in the room, but do the judges agree?
Craig: “It was the dance of the night.”
Motsi: “I’m thinking ‘what a night’, and this at the end was absolutely spectacular.”
Shirley: “You are the one to beat. Well done.”
Anton: “To come out and do that with that power, that intensity... you stole the night.”
Eights across the board for Nigel, meaning he ends week one topping the leaderboard.
20:38 , Louis Chilton
Right! That’s week one over with. Here’s how it stands:
Nigel and Katya: 32
Layton and Nikita: 29
Ellie and Vito: 29
Bobby and Dianne: 29
Amanda and Giovanni: 29
Angela and Kai: 29
Annabel and Johannes: 28
Angela and Carlos: 23
Eddie and Karen: 22
Krishnan and Lauren: 22
Jody and Jowita: 21
Adam and Luba: 19
Zara and Graziano: 19
Nikita and Gorka: 18
Les and Nancy: 16