The switching and swapping of Strictly Come Dancing professionals is usually a low key affair with only the diehard Strictly faithful really noticing the subtle changes that take place before the sequins ensue each autumn. However, this year the BBC have announced an early and radical reshuffle of the professional pack.
This year’s changes are all the more surprising as the departing household names have announced that its their choice to leave. Strictly old guards Erin Boag, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace seem confident that their careers will continue to flourish without the flagship BBC show and able to resist the lure of the guaranteed four month fee, paid whether they are voted out in week one or make it to the final.
All three dancers have had successful tours of their own, with Anton [Du Beke] and Erin consistently filling venues since 2008 and continuous involvement in the Strictly – The Live Tour and their own West End hit, Midnight Tangohave secured a loyal fan base for Vincent and Flavia and clearly revealed far more appealing options than cajoling a B-list celebrity around a dance floor for 2 – 12 weeks every winter. “We feel it’s the right time to invest in our dancing knowledge and become better at what we do and keep providing our audiences and supporters with continued excitement through our dancing“, they said.“Aside from hopefully performing on Strictly we have lots of new projects ahead which we are very much looking forward to working on.”
The departure of Erin Boag, Strictly’s only remaining female professional since the first series raises other questions. For years the show has been hurtling down the “entertainment” route, (as oppose to the “dance” one) and of course by default we have acquired many more themed weeks, cheesy jokes and horror of horrors … scripted segments. When Erin signed up to Strictly ten years ago she offered the kind of class and elegance that was exactly what the BBC wanted to showcase. Their objectives for the show now are very different and I for one am glad she has been true to what she loves most – dance. Although she says she’s declined the offer of another series with a heavy heart she may be back: “It’s been a very hard decision to make, but it’s time for a change and to focus my attention on new challenges. That said, it’s not necessarily farewell to Strictly, as I do hope to continue being a part of the show.”
What then, do you think if you are in Aliona Vilani’s shoes? With four series under her belt including a victory with Harry Judd, Vilani was almost part of the furniture. Most likely she had already mentally spent her Series 11 pay check and was eagerly fake tanning in preparation only to hear “No, thanks” for this year – especially galling when you are the only one to involuntarily hear those words. No one ever said showbiz had a heart.
What then of the new blood we can look forward to getting to know this autumn? With current successful professionals Robin Windsor, Artem Chigvintsevand Karen Hauer all earning their stripes in West End dance hit Burn the Floor, the BBC has once again returned to this handy dancer-selection box and pulled out Janette Manrara and Alijaz Skorjanec (And boy, am I looking forward to Forsyth’s pronunciation). Add into the mix Iveta Lukosuite, who ably stood in for an injured Aliona last year, now getting her first run in a full series. She holds numerous Ten-Dance titles and has appeared on the US version of So You Think You Can Dance US. Lastly, there’s Emma Slater, the first UK born female professional for a number of years who carries a healthy back catalogue of appearances in West End dance shows as well as featuring on Dancing with the Stars.
Only time will tell as to what kind of dynamic these changes will create and whether Strictly as a whole will benefit from such a dramatic shake-up. The view from the fans is one of mourning, as the end of a golden era of much loved professionals who have been there since the start (or very close to it) draws to a close. As the four new cast members join the surviving ten, I cannot help but think there are some sizeable Cuban heels and Latin sandals to fill as they take to the dance floor this autumn.
First published on www.londondance.com