10 things you didn’t know about Strictly Come Dancing

From where the show’s name comes from to the lowest scoring dance

Isobel Lewis
Friday 17 September 2021 09:41
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Claudia Winkleman makes lockdown quip on Strictly Come Dancing

In a time of unrest and uncertainty, Strictly Come Dancing returned last year determined to keep the country smiling.

It’s something the dancing competition has done since it first aired in 2004, with the late Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly at the helm, bringing glitter, rhinestones and dad dancing to Saturday night TV.

In the 18 seasons since then, Strictly has grown into one of the biggest shows on UK television, with 10 million people tuning in each week as they watch the celebrity contestants grow from stompy footed to light on their feet.

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Strictly Come Dancing...

It’s the world’s most successful reality TV format

When it began in a little studio at the BBC, Strictly seemed like a celebrity reality competition series like any other. But since then, the show has grown and grown not only in the UK, but abroad too. 

Broadcast under the name Dancing with the Stars, it is the world’s most successful reality TV format and is licensed to more than 75 countries including the US, China and India.

Getting a perfect 40 is hard, but not impossible

Scoring top marks on Strictly – the perfect 40 points – is the dream for any couple on the show. In the show’s 18 seasons, full marks have been awarded to 66 different dances, with former pro Pasha Kovelev taking home 13 of these. He scored five top scores Pussycat Dolls star Ashley Roberts, and three with the late TV host Caroline Flack.

The results show is pre-recorded

The couples face the dance-off during the (pre-recorded) results show

Sorry to shatter the illusion, but the Strictly results show is not live and hasn’t been since 2009. Yes, the judges and presenters may wear different clothes and talk about “last night’s show”, but Sunday’s episode is actually recorded after voting closes on Saturday.

The name has an interesting origin

If you’ve ever wondered where Strictly’s name comes from, this is your answer. Come Dancing was a ballroom dancing competition series which aired on the BBC from 1949 to 1998 and featured non-celebrity contestants. When they revamped the show as a reality series, they merged the name with Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 film Strictly Ballroom to add a bit of pizzazz and voila!

There’s not just one type of tango on Strictly

It wouldn’t be Strictly without fake tan, something all the contestants are forced to get before the seasons begin. In fact, the series’s fake tan team get through a whopping 57 litres of the stuff a series so when you sense an orange glow coming from your TV screens… that’d be why!

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Bruno Tonioli is a jet-setter

Tonioli calls in from the US, where he’s filming ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Appearing on Strictly since the very first series, Italian choreographer Bruno Tonioli has been sorely missed from the current season of the show. His absence comes from his second job as a judge on Dancing with the Stars in the US; during a normal season, Tonioli flies back and forth from the US every week to film Strictly on a Saturday and DWTS on a Monday. However, this hasn’t been possible this year due to travel restrictions.

The show’s highest scorers often don’t win

Individually, Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev tie with Alexandra Burke and Gorka Márquez for the most 10s scored by a couple, having racked up an impressive 32 each on their seasons. Interestingly, neither couple went on to win the years they competed.

The one mark paddle does (occasionally) make an appearance

Quentin Wilson scored two ones for his Cha Cha Cha in 2004

At the other end of the spectrum, the one point paddle has only been brought out 11 times in Strictly’s 18 seasons, with 10 of those – surprise surprise! – being given by Craig Revel Horwood. The lowest scored dance was Quentin Wilson and Hazel Newberry’s Cha Cha Cha in season 2, which scored eight points in total. Ouch.

The costume team have quite the job on their hands

Putting the costumes together for Strictly is no mean feat, with the team (led by Vicky Gill) having to make around 300 outfits throughout the season. Outfits are usually made throughout the week, with each ballroom dress taking eight to 10 metres of fabric to make and final fittings taking place on Fridays.

Only one professional dancer has won twice

Jay McGuinness and Aliona Vilani's 'Pulp Fiction' jive from Strictly

As a general rule, professional dancers who place highly one season are unlikely to be given a ringer (celebrity with high chances of winning) the next go round and vice versa. Only one pro has won the show twice, which is Aliona Vilani. 

The Russian-Kazakh dancer really lucked out on the boyband front, first winning with McFly’s Harry Judd in 2011 and then The Wanted’s Jay McGuinness in 2015. She departed the show after her second win.

Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday 18 September at 7.45pm on BBC One.

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