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Now (2021) on its 19th series, Strictly Come Dancing is a Celebrity Talent Show in which 15 celebrities are paired up with professional dancers, the latter of whom have to teach the former how to dance. They dance each week and one couple is voted off each week via a combination of judges' scores and public voting until the the final, which is decided by audience vote alone. The final is intended to have 4 couples (3 in earlier series) but sometimes there are less if someone has dropped out.

In early 2000s, the BBC hit on the idea of bringing back the competitive ballroom dancing show Come Dancing, except with celebrities. The show was designed so that dancers would be judged partly by professional judges and partly by a public vote. The show debuted in 2004. Two series aired that year; since then it has always aired in the last months of the year with a final in mid-December.

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Originally hosted by Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly until the 2014 series, Brucie's role has been taken overnote  by previous Sunday show host Claudia Winkleman, the first both-female presenting duo in a British Saturday evening show.note 

Each dance is marked out of ten by the four judges, who currently consist of:

  • Craig Revel Horwood - theatre choreographer and director; the nastiest (in the pantomime theatre sense) and most brutally honest of the four judges, who offers up legitimately helpful critiques for dancers. Strict about the rules, but likes anything innovative or unusual. The only judge to have appeared in every series to date.note 
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  • Motsi Mabuse - a South African professional dancer, and big sister of current pro Oti Mabuse. The newest judge, having taken over from Darcey Bussell in 2019. Was briefly replaced by long-serving pro dancer Anton du Beke in 2020, after she had to make an emergency trip to Germany and had to self-isolate on returning due to COVID-19 regulations; she appeared via video link but wasn’t allowed to give scores.
  • Shirley Ballas - former latin ballroom dancer and currently a judge within the dancesport competition circle, considered the "Queen of Latin"; also happens to be the mother of Dancing with the Stars pro dancer Mark Ballas. Replaced Len Goodman as head judgenote  in 2017.
  • Anton du Beke - long-standing professional dancer, present from the very first series, and the last pro dancer left from the original line-up by the 2018 series. Having previously stood in for Motsi for two weeks in 2020 as noted above (as he and his celebrity had already been eliminated), he became a full-time judge in 2021, replacing Bruno Tonioli (see below).

Arlene Phillips was a judge until 2009, but was replaced with 2007 champion Alesha Dixon, much to the disgust of news hacks. Dixon jumped ship for Britain's Got Talent after three series, whereupon former Royal Ballet prima ballerina Darcey Bussell (previously a guest judge for the final stages of the 2009 series) took over. Len Goodman, one of the original four judges, departed after the 2016 series, with his role of head judge being taken over by Shirley Ballas. Bussell departed after the 2018 series, to be replaced by Motsi Mabuse.

Film and TV choreographer Bruno Tonioli (generally quite generous, flamboyant and Camp Gay) was a judge from the very first series, but was not present from the 2020 series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as he also judges on the US version, Dancing with the Stars, and travel restrictions made it impossible for him to do both. In 2020 they just made do with three judges, but when it became apparent that he would also be unable to participate in the 2021 series he was replaced with long-serving professional Anton du Beke; what happens once the pandemic is over remains to be seen.

Some recurring types of contestant appear:

  • Late-middle-aged male TV presenter who usually goes out in the first couple of rounds. Unless we're talking about John Sergeant, who survived nine rounds due to the public vote, despite low judge markings and active statements by them that he should go, before sensationally pulling out of the 2008 contest on 19 November.
  • "Lads' mag favourite" female who does quite well.
  • Medium-fame female singer.
  • Well-known, somewhat hunky, sportsman who is probably very competitive.
  • Older actress.
  • Slightly larger "novelty act".
  • Actor or actress from a soap opera (generally EastEnders or Coronation Street) who usually does very well.
  • Starting with the more modern series, there's usually at least one young musician or social media influencer that's popular with the younger viewing demographic.
May overlap with any other categories.

The show also has an attributed "curse of Strictly", with a string of widely-publicised breakups between celebrities and their established partners, sometimes in favour of the pro they were paired with for the show.

    The winners 
  • Series 1 (spring 2004): Natasha Kaplinsky, beating Christopher Parker
  • Series 2 (autumn 2004): Jill Halfpenny, beating Denise Lewis and Julian Clary
  • Series 3 (2005): Darren Gough, beating Colin Jackson and Zoe Ball
  • Series 4 (2006): Mark Ramprakash, beating Matt Dawson
  • Series 5 (2007): Alesha Dixon, beating Matt Di Angelo
  • Series 6 (2008): Tom Chambers, beating Rachel Stevens and Lisa Snowdon
  • Series 7 (2009): Chris Hollins, beating Ricky Whittle
  • Series 8 (2010): Kara Tointon, beating Matt Baker and Pamela Stephenson
  • Series 9 (2011): Harry Judd, beating Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan
  • Series 10 (2012): Louis Smith, beating Denise van Outen and Kimberley Walsh
  • Series 11 (2013): Abbey Clancy, beating Natalie Gumede and Susanna Reid
  • Series 12 (2014): Caroline Flack, beating Frankie Bridge and Simon Webbe
  • Series 13 (2015): Jay McGuiness, beating Georgia May Foote and Kellie Bright
  • Series 14 (2016): Ore Oduba, beating Danny Mac and Louise Redknapp
  • Series 15 (2017): Joe McFadden, beating Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke and Debbie McGee
  • Series 16 (2018): Stacey Dooley, beating Ashley Roberts, Faye Tozer and Joe Sugg
  • Series 17 (2019): Kelvin Fletcher, beating Emma Barton and Karim Zeroual
  • Series 18 (2020): Bill Bailey, beating HRVY, Jamie Laing and Maisie Smith
  • Series 19 (2021): Rose Ayling-Ellis, beating John Whaitenote 

Dancing with the Stars is the Transatlantic Equivalent (which is a Market-Based Title because the original long-running Come Dancing series isn't well known outside the UK) There are several other versions, which can go in their own entries.


This show contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: If a routine can include a reference to what the celebrity is known for, it will. The presenters also love making puns and jokes related to the contestants profession.
    • Matt Baker's countryside-themed cha-cha-cha.
    • Jason Donovan's Priscilla, Queen of the Desert tango.
    • Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton dancing a paso doble to Queen's "Bicycle Race".
    • Tom Fletcher of Mc Fly's routine during Movie Week in the 2021 series was based on Back to the Future; his band is named after the protagonist.
    • There are many dances that are set to songs which reference the contestants' names.
      • Mollie King dancing to "Good Golly, Miss Molly".
      • Jonnie Peacock dancing to "Johnny B. Goode". Also started with him dancing to "Footloose" - subtle given he's a paralympian blade runner!
      • Susan Calman dancing to "If You Knew Susie".
      • Joe Sugg actually had two instances of this during his year, dancing to "Cotton Eye Joe" in Week 2 and a medley of songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Musicals Week.
      • Two instances of this in the 2020 season. Jamie Laing performed to the title song of "Everybody's Talking About Jamie", whilst Bill Bailey performed to "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?"
  • Always Second Best:
    • Professional dancer Kevin Clifton has finished as runner-up four years running (the only professional to be runner-up more than once without winning, let alone four years in a row), which is almost every year he's been on the show. He was jokingly referred as "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" until he finally lifted the glitterball in 2018 with Stacey Dooley.
    • Pro dancer AJ Pritchard has had it even worse, as he has finished as a semifinalist on all three of the years he was on the show.
  • Ascended Extra: A lot of the professional dancers are now recognised as celebrities in their own right, and the show has capitalised on this by making a big deal of which celebrity gets which pro and pairing them up live in the studio.
    • Iveta Lukosiute first appeared as a reserve pro in Series 10, briefly covering for Aliona Vilani and Ola Jordan in a couple of weeks due to injury and family emergency. She then became a regular in Series 11.
    • During 'The People's Strictly', as Craig was unable to be a judge due to prior commitments, professional Anton du Beke, famous for his disagreements with the judges, took Craig's chair on the judging panel.
    • Neil Jones started out as an extra dancer and choreographer during the 2014 and 2015 series, before he and his wife Katya were officially ascended to pro status in 2016.
    • Downplayed with Luba Mushtuk, who was a recurring extra dancer since 2016 and was promoted to titular pro in 2018, but without getting a celebrity partner.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Among the pros, AJ, and to a lesser extent Chloe when she was still on. It's also common for particularly young, young-looking or youth-appealing celebrities to get this treatment as well, such as Tina O'Brien, Georgia May Foote, Claudia Fragapane, Joe Sugg, and most recently Saffron Barker, accentuated by being paired with AJ.
  • Beard of Evil: Craig has grown these in the 2014 and 2015 series for his Pantomime role as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three female professional dancers introduced in the 2017 series, respectively: Nadiya, Amy, and Dianne.
  • Brutal Honesty: Craig can and will tell the contestants just how bad their dancing was in both his comments and markings. The other three use the paddles for less than 5 once or twice a series at best.
  • But Not Too White: Most of the contestants have to go for a spray tan before filming to avoid glowing white under the studio lights.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Sir Bruce Forsyth would often tell contestants that "you're my favourite".
    • Brucie's personal catchphrases, usually "Nice to see you".
    • Len Goodman has a particular way of pronouncing "Seven" (Seehhhhvvvvveeeeen!)
    • A scoring catchphrase from Len: "It's a ten from Len", which has evolved into "From Len, the ten!"
    • Craig has "Fab-u-lous!" and sometimes "A-ma-zing!", the former of which is occasionally said by the other judges.
    • Closing the show with "Keeeeep dancing!"
  • Christmas Episode: As the BBC's only really successful light-entertainment show from the New Tens, this rapidly became a staple of the Christmas schedules. Initially this took the format of inviting back past contestants alongside the top three from the most recent series in a standalone competition; in 2010 it was changed to feature new celebrities who didn't have time to do the full series, before reverting to an 'All-Stars' format between 2014 and 2019, before switching back to the 2010-13 style in 2021 (the Covid-19 pandemic caused 2020's special to be a Greatest Hits-style show).
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • Most of the professional dancers have their own specialist field of dancing and can struggle when they have to choreograph, teach and perform in a style they're not used to. Anton Du Beke in particular is a superb ballroom dancer, but his Latin routines are notoriously poor.
    • In special cases, such as with the Salsas, Argentine Tangos, and Charlestons, the routines are choreographed by specialized choreographers. There are exceptions, though, such as Janette Manrara, who is originally a Salsa dancer, and Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, who were originally brought in as Argentine Tango specialists before being promoted to competing pros.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • The fate of some of the professional dancers who weren't asked to partner celebrities in the 2010 series; those who agreed were put into a "professional dance troupe". The following year the dance troupe was removed, although Ian Waite is apparently too popular to lose altogether as he still regularly appears on It Takes Two and occasionally partners celebrities in special charity or Christmas editions.
    • Since their debut in 2016, neither Neil Jones nor Chloe Hewitt have partnered a celebrity on the main show. This has also been true of 2018 additions Luba Mushtuk and Johannes Radebe. Neil has only eventually got a partner in the 2019 season, three years later. Luba and Johannes, though, are very downplayed, as both only sit out 2018, getting partners in 2019 (though Luba and James Cracknell were first eliminated).
    • Bruno had to miss his spot on the judging panel in 2020 due to travel restrictions as a result of the ongoing pandemic. They simply reduced the number of judges to three, although Bruno did show up via videolink on occasion, including during the final.
  • Dramatic Pause: Taken to excess at times. The Reveal of who's out in each episode takes ages.
  • Elimination Catchphrase:
    • "It's the moment of truth."
    • "Join [x] and [y] for their last dance..."
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Craig - who will be the first to point out when someone has done badly and made errors - will admit if someone is good - if they are good, they may even earn a bow, as Debbie McGee did once.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Most of the outfits will have some sparkles on them... because they're so pretty and look so good on dance floor. Tess Daly noted to it during the 2020 series which was during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that "Even the hand sanitiser has been sparkled up!" The show has even invented its own term for this "strictlify/strictlyfy". When a celebrity has been fully "strictlified", it means they've experienced the full make-up, glamour, glitz, sequins and sparkles of the show. When introducing a new show, it's now common for celebrities who don't typically have much use for glitz and sparkle in their day jobs to talk about how they feel about the impending process of "strictlification" they're about to go through.
  • Fanservice: Outfits on the professional and even amateur ballroom and Latin circuits can be surprisingly racy, so viewers can see lots of skin and tight outfits. Contestants tend to up this as they go along; mainly as they've lost a lot of weight during all the training. For example, Ola once wears a Sexy Backless Outfit black animal print number with Absolute Cleavage. It looks like it had been sprayed on.
  • Filler: Brucie could do filler like nobody's business. The VT's played before each routine can count as this. While they are introduced as being about the contestant's training, they often feature the professional dancer meeting the contestant's friends and / or family, the professional visiting the contestant's work or the two hanging out somewhere.
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: Most viewers are unaware of this, but there are actual lyrics to the Strictly theme song, as demonstrated in the pro number that opened the 2012 series.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Shirley Ballas seems to wear glasses purely for this effect. If her specs are on, her gloves are off.
  • Funny Background Event: One dance in the 2015 season saw a bucket of confetti being thrown over the judges. Shortly after this, Darcey could be seen trying to pick bits of confetti out from her cleavage. Likewise when she was giving her opinion, Craig was picking the confetti out of her hair.
  • Funny Foreigner:
    • Bruno Tonioli — he wouldn't be able to get away with half of what he says if he didn't have the 'Franc from Father of the Bride (1991)' persona, and thank god he does because he's funny.
    • The comedy training VTs sometimes play this up with the non-English professionals, as do some of Bruce's jokes.
  • Freudian Slip:
    • Arlene when scoring (not the happiest of phrases perhaps) Mark Ramprakash declared outright on live television: "I just want raw sex!"
    • In the 2018 final, following Stacey Dooley's Showdance, Bruno meant to refer to it as "Stacey's Greatest Hits", but a slip of the tongue resulted in the phrase coming out as "Stacey's Greatest Tits".
  • The Glasses Come Off: Shirley Ballas will do the inverse of this if she has a serious point to make.
  • Halloween Episode: The 2010 series onwards introduced "theme nights", starting with this on the weekend closest to Halloween.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Claudia has a tendency to do lot of puns related to the contestants profession when reading out the numbers for voting.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Discussed by Richard Arnold after a disastrous foxtrot where he forgot half the routine: "We're going to be on the Internet forever!"
  • Joke Character: There will inevitably be a few celebrities each series who actively can't dance. At least one of them will probably turn into a Lethal Joke Character if they get the public vote on side, surviving over several better dancers before going out once there's nobody left they can credibly stay in ahead of.
  • Large Ham: Bruno was very flamboyant in episodes he appeared in, and had a habit of Chewing the Scenery and climbing up on the judges table.
  • Latin Lover:
    • Played for laughs with Vincent Simone whose dark looks and thick Italian accent and positively obscenely overactive eyebrows are undercut by a lisp and rather diminutive stature- his partners tend to either be teenagers or much older women. If anything, the trope appears to be a lot more effective with Giovanni Pernice (who is also Italian, but much taller) as well as Spanish pro Gorka Marquez.
    • For the 2018 series, a 'second hunky Italian pro appears in one Graziano de Prima, who's a dead ringer for Jon Snow of Game of Thrones''.
  • Live but Delayed
    • Averted for the Saturday show, which has led to more than one embarrassing incident; Bruno used an expletive meaning "nonsense" live on air (the expression in question is usable before the watershed but strongly frowned upon in a show intended as wholesome family entertainment) and later compared a dance to dogs' testicles. The BBC even apologised in 2015 over his comparing of one of Jay McGuiness's dances to 'bull's bollocks'. In another incident, during an argument Len once called Craig a "silly sod".
    • The Sunday results show from 2007 onwards is pre-recorded on the Saturday night. This means that the elimination is leaked by members of the audience, and in the first year the non-liveness became pretty clear when one of the celebrities appeared thirty minutes after the show had gone out doing live rugby commentary. From France.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The professional lineup; by 2018, Anton was the only original pro dancer left, with the others having appeared in anything between one to eight series (out of sixteen).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Matt Baker's romantic Viennese Waltz to a Murder Ballad "Where the Wild Roses Grow" though only the first verse and chorus were used so without knowing the whole song you could be excused for not seeing it as such.
  • Modesty Shorts: Worn by Lauren Steadman for her Jive during the 2018 series.
  • Mr. Fanservice: During his one series as a pro, Gleb Savchenko was definitely this. Upon being paired with him on the launch show, Anita Rani joked that he was so handsome she couldn't look directly at his face, and throughout the series there was at least one instance of him taking his top off.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The opening of the voting lines are celebrated with everyone waving props around and wearing accessories (or even full costumes in a few cases), often following the theme of whichever song has been chosen to play for the announcement.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: Several contestants have had to pull out after suffering injury or bereavement. John Sergeant is the only competitor to leave of his own volition (as he feared he might end up winning the series).
    • The 2020 series' rules stipulated that either half of a couple testing positive for COVID-19 would automatically result in this trope; Nicola Adams ended up leaving the show after her professional partner Katya tested positive.
  • Not a Mask: Craig once referred to Anton wearing fake teeth for a dance where he was dressed as Austin Powers, only to discover he wasn't, sending the studio into hysterics for a good minute.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Pro AJ Pritchard was 21 when he first joined the show in 2016 but looks much younger.
    • Pro Chloe Hewitt was 21 when she started in the show in 2016 and passes as someone younger.
  • Only Known by Initials: Pro dancer AJ Pritchard (full name Alex Joseph Pritchard) but he goes by AJ, at least within the show.
  • Rule of Cool: The 2010 series changed the rules to allow props, leading to a few cases of this:
    • Matt Baker started his Charleston on a unicycle
    • Magician Paul Daniels began a routine by making his partner "appear" from inside a box
    • The opening to Russell Grant's Jive in Wembley Arena: he was "fired" out of a cannon.
  • The Runner-Up Takes It All: Kara Tointon's acting career since winning series 8 has been far from poor, but runner-up Matt Baker received a bigger boost in his presenting career (his performance on the show resulted in him getting the job as host of The One Show, a role he had been passed over for before because of doubts as to how popular he was). It's a common occurrence for the more technically-impressive runner-ups to score musical theatre roles, as was the case with Danny Mac, Alexandra Burke, and most recently Faye Tozer. Since being on Strictly, Joe Sugg hosted the show's official podcast, was one of the titular presenters for the 2019 Comic Relief telethon, had a role of Ogie in the West End musical Waitress, recently guest edited The Beano and got a TV acting role in The Syndicate.
  • Running Gag:
    • Craig's pronunciation of certain words (like "disaaaaastaaaaar", "Ah! May! Zing!" and "Chaaa chaaaa chaaaa")
    • Anton Du Beke being Bruce's "love child".
    • Bruno and chairs
    • In season 8, Bruno's "Sccccccccott!"
    • Darcey Bussell ending sentences with "Yah".
    • "Seerrrvvvvveeeeen!"
    • Bruce's introduction of the judges, which would always end with him insulting Craig.
    • Season 10 started a joke about Len and pickled walnuts.
    • "Kevin from Grimsby"
    • Anton getting stuck with older female contestants that can't dance and the subsequent mockery of this; this said, he has got to the final twice, with Katie Derham (2015) and Emma Barton (2019).
  • Sensual Slavs: A lot of the female dancers hail from former Soviet bloc countries; notably Kristina Rihanoff (Russian), Ola Jordan (Polish), Lilia Kopylova (Russian), Aliona Vilani (Russian-Kazakh), Nadiya Bychkova (Ukrainian) and Luba Mushtuk (Russian).
  • Series Mascot: Anton du Beke, the only professional dancer to take part in the first eighteen series (then transferring to the judging panel), who is the most recognizable of all pro dancers.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • The Halloween pro dance which featured no less than five of the professional male dancers dancing topless.
    • Artem's "costume" for his paso doble with Fern Britton involved him wearing nothing from the waist up. The comments that this was an attempt to get votes may not have been entirely in jest. During the 2012 season, Artem made several requests to wear even less.
  • Show Stopper: A really entertaining performance will warrant a standing ovation from the audience.
  • The Smurfette Principle: For years, there was only one female judge on the panel, versus three males. It was at first Arlene Philips, then Alesha Dixon and then Darcey Bussell. Although both presenters have been female since 2014note , the judging panel didn't gain a second woman until 2017 when Shirley Ballas joined Darcey Bussell as Len's replacement for head judge. When Darcey left after the 2018 series, she was replaced by Motsi Mabuse, retaining the 2-2 male-female judging panel.
  • Team Dad: Len Goodman, head judge and on the whole one of the most generous judges. He's warm towards contestants, adding the human touch to technical criticisms.
  • Technician Versus Performer:
    • Quite a lot of dancers fit the trope, and the younger performers often provide a serious challenge for the technicians, as their skill increases over the course of the series, but the technicians never learn to really sell a dance. The case in point in 2009 is Chris Hollins, who started off poorly skilled but a good performer, and by the end was both skilled AND a good performer.
    • Among how the judges make their decisions, Craig tends to make more technical comments, while Bruno tends to focus on the 'feel'. The other judges tended to fall somewhere in between.
  • Too Qualified to Apply: The show is nominally about celebrities learning to dance, and viewers tend to not take to celebrities they perceive as having had prior experience. This perhaps reached its apex with the 2018 series, which featured at least two celebrities predominantly already known for dancing (Ashley Roberts and Danny John-Jules). The stipulation in such cases is that they may have dance backgrounds, but not in Latin or Ballroom, which they have to learn from scratch. It has also been noted that celebrities with ballet training in their background often struggle, especially with the Latin dances, as the training required for good ballet can make Latin dances far too "clean", "prim" or "stiff". One of the few ballet dancers who was able to make the transition to Latin was former ballet dancer and teacher, Debbie McGee, who became a good all-rounder and 2017 finalist once she learned to "undo" her ballet training for the Ballroom and Latin techniques.
  • Vapor Wear: The support cups are attached to the dresses.

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