When does Strictly Come Dancing 2021 start - and who are the contestants and dancers?

Tom Fletcher (picture: BBC)

The new series of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing starts tonight (18 September) with a pre-recorded show, before the live show returns from 25 September.

So, when is Strictly back on TV and who are the dancers and celebrity contestants whisking us off our feet in 2021?

This is what you need to know.

When does Strictly 2021 start?

Strictly Come Dancing will return to BBC One for its 19th series on Saturday 18 September at 7.45pm.

In the first show, dancers and celebrity contestants will be coupled up.

The premiere is pre-recorded, with the first live show to follow on 25 September. Episodes will air each Saturday evening.

What changes have been made to the show this year?

Due to Covid restrictions, fan-favourite judge Bruno Tolioni will not be making an appearance on the show.

He is also appearing as a judge on US show Dancing with the Stars and cannot travel between locations while filming for Strictly takes place.

Former Strictly professional Anton Du Beke will replace Bruno in 2021 as a judge.

Du Beke will join returning judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas.

Meanwhile, Janette Manrara has stepped down as a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, to replace Zoe Ball as host of its spin-off Strictly: It Takes Two.

She made the announcement in May, telling viewers that after a decade on the show: "It was a hard decision to make but I think it was the right decision.

"Dance lovers, after 10 joyous years I am waltzing away from It Takes Two.”

Four new professional dancers will join the 15 contestants this year. Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, Cameron Lombard, Jowita Przystal will be sweeping this year’s celebrity line up off their feet.

Who are this year’s professionals?

As well as Strictly regulars Oti Mabuse, Aljaž Škorjanec, Giovanni Pernice, and Katya Jones, returning dancers also include Amy Dowden, Dianne Buswell, Gorka Marquez, Graziano Di Prima, Johannes Radebe, Luba Mushtuk, Nadiya Bychkova, Nancy Xu and Neil Jones.

Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, Cameron Lombard and Jowita Przystal will join the professional dancers as newcomers to the show.

Who are this year’s contestants?

This year is set to be the hottest yet, with soap stars, singers and TV personalities all lined up to swing their hips on stage.

Mcfly’s Tom Fletcher will be looking to be crowned king of the ballroom following his wife Giovanna’s success on I’m a Celebrity in 2020.

Joining Fletcher is Peep Show’s Robert Webb and TV presenter AJ Odudu and former GBBO winner John Whaite.

Whaite’s culinary talents won’t be all that impressive to one new contestant, as Gordon Ramsay’s daughter Matilda ‘Tilly’ has also been announced as a celebrity for this year.

Also trying their hand at dancing is actor Greg Wise, best known for his role in Sense and Sensibility.

BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker will be given a break from entertainment viewers on weekday mornings, after being announced as a contestant for the Saturday evening dance show. He has sustained a training injury, but has confirmed he will be back.

Corrie’s Katie McGlynn is another confirmed contestant as well as Nina Wadia, best known for playing Zainab Masood in BBC soap, EastEnders. Another soap star to join the show is Rose Ayling-Ellis, who plays Frankie Lewis and is the first death star to appear on Strictly.

Dragon’s Den star Sarah Davies will also be joining the line up, and CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson will be hitting the dance floor.

The final contestant revealed was pundit and sports reporter, Ugo Monye.