The Strictly Come Dancing professionals have become as much an integral part of the show’s success as the celebrities and the judges.
From the Cliftons and the Jordans to the originals like Anton Du Beke and Brendan Cole, the twinkle-toed pros are now more famous than some of the contestants.
Strictly Scoreboard - Week 7
Vick Hope - OUT
Susannah C - OUT
Charles Venn - 28
Ashley Roberts - 39
Danny John-Jules - 22
Faye Tozer - 38
Graeme Swann - 29
Joe Sugg - 34
Kate Silverton - 23
Lauren Steadman - 31
Lee Ryan - OUT
Dr Ranj Singh - OUT
Seann Walsh - OUT
Katie Piper - OUT
Stacey Dooley - 36
Strictly Week 8 Routines
Ashley and Pasha Couples’ Choice (Contemporary) to 'Unsteady' by Erich Lee (Gravity Remix by X Ambassadors)
Charles and Karen Charleston to 'No Diggity' by Minimatic
Danny and Amy Samba to 'Feels Like Home' by Sigala, Fuse ODG, Sean Paul, Kent Jones
Faye and Giovanni Jive to 'Reet Petite' by Jackie Wilson
Graeme and Oti Salsa to 'Follow The Leader' by Soca Boys
Joe and Dianne Samba to 'MMMBop' by Hanson
Kate and Aljaz Quickstep to 'I Want You To Want Me' by Letters To Cleo
Lauren and AJ Viennese Waltz to 'You Are The Reason' by Calum Scott and Leona Lewis
Stacey and Kevin Waltz to 'Moon River' by Audrey Hepburn
Meet the 18 confirmed pro dancers - including three new faces
New Strictly Professionals
Sicilian-born Graziano Di Prima, an Italian Latin Champion, has represented Belgium at the World Championships and made the top 24 at the Latin World Championships (under 21). For the past three years 24 year old Graziano has toured the world with the dance company Burn The Floor.
He says: “This is my dream come true! I still can’t believe I will be one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing. I can’t wait to give all of myself on the dance floor!”
Graziano was a shock early elimination in his first series, when DJ Vick Hope got the boot early doors.
Johannes Radebe, 31, from South Africa is two-time Professional South African Latin Champion and three time South African Amateur Latin Champion. He is a dancer with the Afro Arimba Dance Company and has also been a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing South Africa for two seasons, both times reaching the final.
He said: "Joining Strictly Come Dancing is one of the greatest achievements of my dancing career. It is such an honour to be chosen to be a part of an incredible cast and be part of one of the biggest shows that is celebrated worldwide. I cannot wait to get started and experience the magic with the UK!"
Johannes will not have a celebrity partner in his first series, but will appear in the weekly pro routines.
Russian-born Luba Mushtuk is four-time winner of the Italian Dance Championship and Italian Open Latin Show Dance champion. She was ranked 2nd in the European 10 Dance Championships and was a finalist in the Latin European Championship. 28 year old Luba has worked extensively with Broadway and West End show Burn The Floor, was part of the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour and has performed on both Giovanni Pernice’s and Kevin and Karen Clifton’s tours. Luba joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 as an assistant choreographer contributing to a number of group routines.
She said: "Words cannot express how thrilled I am to do what I love most on the greatest show on earth! I am super excited and so thankful for this priceless opportunity. I can’t wait to get started as a professional dancer on Strictly... bring on the sparkle!"
Luba won't have a celebrity partner this year, but will appear in the weekly group routines.
Returning Pro Dancers
AJ was born in Stoke-on-Trent, in 2015 AJ won one of the biggest championships in the world to become British Open Youth Latin Champion and European Youth Latin Champion. He was National Youth Latin Champion for three years in a row from 2012-2014. In his first year on Strictly AJ was partnered with Olympic gymnast Claudia Fragapane and in the last series he reached the semi-finals with Mollie King.
AJ is partnered with Lauren Steadman in 2018.
Born in Slovenia, Aljaž took to the dance floor at the age of five and has enjoyed success in his home country where he won 19 Slovenian championships in Ballroom and Latin. For over a decade, Aljaž represented Slovenia in the World Latin and Ballroom Championships and appeared in Slovenia’s Dancing with the Stars. Aljaž joined Strictly in 2013 and during his first year, he lifted the Glitter Ball Trophy with Abbey Clancy. Last year, he was partnered with Gemma Atkinson and made it to the Grand Final.
Aljaž and Kate Silverton have formed a formidable partnership in 2018.
Amy Dowden is from Caerphilly, South Wales and began dancing at the age of eight. She was the 2017 British National Champion and is one of the highest-ranking Ballroom and Latin American professional dancers in the UK. Amy is also a four-time British National Finalist and in 2015, she reached the semi-final of the World Championship. Amy joined Strictly last year and danced with Brian Conley.
Amy Dowden hit the headlines in 2018 after rumours of a fall-out with her celebrity partner Danny John-Jules.
British-born Anton specialises in Ballroom dancing and has been performing since the age of 14. Anton has appeared in every series of Strictly to date, but is yet to lift the Glitter Ball Trophy, although he made it all the way to the final with Katie Derham in 2015. Previous partners include Ann Widdecombe, Jerry Hall, Nancy Dell’Olio, Judy Murray, Lesley Joseph and last year, Anton danced with Ruth Langsford.
Anton made his first ever week one exit in 2018 after being dumped out with Susannah Constantine.
Dianne Buswell is an Australian Open Champion and four-time Amateur Australian Open Finalist. She has appeared on Dancing With The Stars Australia and has been part of the Burn The Floor production on Broadway. Dianne joined Strictly last year and danced with the Reverend Richard Coles.
Buswell has been romantically linked to her Strictly 2018 partner Joe Sugg.
Giovanni was born in Sicily and decided from a young age that he wanted to take up dance lessons. At 14 years old he moved to Bologna to concentrate on dance and was taught by some of the best teachers in the world. His greatest achievement is the day he won the Italian Championships in 2012. Giovanni reached the final of Strictly with Georgia May Foote and again last year with Debbie McGee.
Giovanni and Steps star Faye Tozer were one of the earlt favourites to win the 2018 series,
Spanish Gorka began dancing at the age of 12. He represented Spain in the World Latin Championships in 2010 and reached the semi-finals of the 2012 WDSF World Cup. In 2014, Gorka joined the global Ballroom and Latin dance phenomenon Burn The Floor as one of their leads and has toured with them all around the world. He joined Strictly in 2016 and danced with Tameka Empson and last year he made it to the final with Alexandra Burke.
Katie Piper teamed ip with Gorka in the 2018 series.
Janette was born in Miami, Florida and joined the Strictly family in 2013. She has performed with Jennifer Lopez at the 82nd Academy Awards and she was the principal dancer in the TV series and live tour of Glee. She was also a finalist in season five of So You Think You Can Dance in the USA. Janette’s Strictly partners have included Julien Macdonald, Jake Wood and Peter Andre. Last year, she was partnered with Aston Merrygold.
Janette formed a popular partnership with This Morning star Dr Ranj in 2018.
Originally from Venezuela, Karen moved to New York when she was eight years old. She is the United Amateur American Rhythm National Champion and Professional World Mambo Champion. In 2009, Karen appeared in the US series So You Think You Can Dance before joining the West End sensation Burn the Floor as a principal dancer. Karen reached the grand final with Mark Wright in 2014 and was most recently partnered with Simon Rimmer.
Karen is partnered with Casualty star Charles Venn in 2018.
World Latin Champion Katya was born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia and started dancing at the age of six where she trained in gymnastics as well as Ballroom and Latin American dancing. In 2008, Katya formed a partnership with Neil Jones and together they won the World Amateur Latin Championships a total of three times, before turning professional in 2013. In 2015, they became the World Professional Latin Showdance Champions and are four times undefeated British National Professional Champions. Katya joined Strictly in 2016 and was partnered with Ed Balls and last year lifted the glitterball trophy with Joe McFadden.
Katya and her celebrity partner Seann Walsh hit the headlines in 2018 when they were caught the tabloids sharing a snog after an evening in the pub,
Kevin from Grimsby is a former Youth World Number One and four-time British Latin Champion. Taught by his parents Keith and Judy Clifton from an early age - former World Champions themselves - Kevin went on to win International Open titles all over the world. He also starred in the West End in Dirty Dancing and Burn The Floor. Kevin joined Strictly in 2013 and is the only professional dancer to reach four consecutive grand finals with Susanna Reid, Frankie Bridge, Kellie Bright and Louise Redknapp. Last year he took to the floor with Susan Calman.
Kevin is tipped to reach yet another final with his partner Stacey Dooley,
Nadiya Bychkova from Ukraine is a two-time World Champion and European Champion in Ballroom and Latin ‘10’ Dance. She is a multiple-time Slovenian Ballroom and Latin Champion Nadiya joined Strictly last year and made it to the quarter finals with EastEnders star Davood Ghadami.
Neil is the undefeated four-time British National Champion and the three-time winner of the World Amateur Latin Championships with his wife Katya Jones. In 2015, Neil and Katya were crowned World Professional Latin Showdance Champions. Neil was born in a British Army Camp in Munster, Germany and started dancing at a local ballet school at the age of three. He trained in Ballroom, Latin, tap, modern and ballet. Last year Neil was partnered with Judy Murray for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special and with Blue Peter’s Konnie Huq for the Children in Need Special.
Despite not getting a partner for the last two years, he remains without a celebrity in 2018. Neil revealed the news on social media.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be paired up this series,” Neil said in a video message posted to Twitter. “But do not worry, because I’m still going to be there every single week in all the group numbers, you’re going to see me in the music acts, in It Takes Two, which I love.
“I’m really really happy to be part of such a great show and I just wanted to say to everyone, thank you so much for all of your kind words and your support,” he added. “Thank you and I can’t wait for it to start.”
Oti began dancing in South Africa as a young child along with her sister, who is a judge on the German version of Strictly. Oti moved to Germany to push herself as she was the eight-time South African Latin American Champion and wanted new challenges. She has achieved many titles in her dancing career including World European Latin semi-finalist and World Cup Championship semi-finalist. Oti joined the show in 2015, in 2016 she reached the final with Danny Mac and last year she made it to Blackpool with Paralympian Jonnie Peacock.
Siberian-born Pasha has been a professional dancer on Strictly since 2011. He has reached the grand final three times and lifted the Glitter Ball Trophy in 2014 with Caroline Flack. Pasha started dancing at eight years old and his professional achievements include performing on Broadway and reaching the finals of the US version of So You Think You Can Dance. Last year, he was partnered with Chizzy Akudolu.
New dance routines for the pros
The pro dancers will be pushed a little harder this year with a Couple's Choice dance category, which means the celebs get the chance to dance burlesque, ballet, street dancer and many other different genres. 2018 could be the year we see Anton Du Beke body-popping,
It is the first time since the Charleston was introduced back in 2009, Strictly has introduced a new dance category
The three styles they can try out are: Contemporary (taking inspiration from ballet, lyrical and modern dance), Street/Commercial (covering all styles of urban dance, plus pop/commercial) and Theatre/Jazz (very much the style of musical theatre, including elements of tap, soft shoe, burlesque and jazz).
Who has left?
Chloe Hewitt has been part of the Strictly pro lineup for two years, but has never been given a full-time partner on the show. She did appear on the 2016 Christmas special with TV presenter Gethin Jones and also took part in the 2017 Children In Need special with Blue Peter presenter Razi Chinyanganya.
She described being part of Strictly as a "childhood dream" when she signed up in 2016 alongside her dance partner AJ Pritchard.
Executive producer Louise Rainbow said: "We would like to thank Chloe and wish her well."
The New Zealander who joined the BBC1 show at its inception in 2004, has been dumped off the show by the BBC.
Cole, 41, told ITV show Lorraine: “It’s hard to talk about. The BBC haven’t renewed my contract.
“They made an editorial decision to not have me on the show. I’m quite emotional.
“I’m a little bit disappointed. It’s very hard to talk about. It’s a recent decision, I’ve always known this day will come….
“It’s an editorial decision. I’m a very strong character within the show, I had my strong views.”
But he said: “I would have preferred to have made the decision myself.”
Last year Cole, who was rumoured to have applied for the head judge role, and his partner Charlotte Hawkins were the third couple eliminated.
Louise Rainbow, Strictly Come Dancing's exec producer, said: "A huge thank you goes to Brendan from all of us for 15 amazing series of Strictly. We wish him all the very best with his future projects."
Strictly Come Dancing airs Saturdays at Sundays on BBC One. Catch up with the BBC iPlayer app on BT TV.
Photo Credit: Rex/Shutterstock/PA