All the snap, crack and pop of the foxtrot and samba returns to our screens next Friday (September 18) as Strictly Come Dancing steps the boards for another series. But the 16 celebrities would be nothing without their able-bodied professional partners. Here’s a quick guide to the runners and riders, in their own words…

THE BOYS

Darren Bennett (partnering Lynda Bellingham)


“This year I hope to go as far as I possibly can, so that I can choreograph and be part of the show and explore all the opportunities with my new dance partner.”

Brendan Cole (partnering Jo Wood)


“Now, as an old timer on the show, all I really want is someone who is lovely to be around… Actually, no, I do want someone who can dance, too. In my single days, I would have said I wanted someone stunning. I can’t say that anymore… but it wouldn’t hurt!”

Matthew Cutler (partnering Martina Hingis)


“My hopes are to win series seven. As a competitor, I enjoy the hard work, the stress and the pressure of competition. I perform better under stress!”

Anton Du Beke (partnering Laila Rouass)


“Since being involved in Strictly Come Dancing, my life has changed completely. I can’t walk down the street without women throwing themselves at me!”

Brian Fortuna (partnering Ali Bastian)


“I want to dance with someone who is fun to work with, has a positive attitude, and is excited to learn the new dances.”

James Jordan (partnering Zoe Lucker)


“Last year, I got past my four-week curse… this year, I want to be picking up the trophy.”

Vincent Simone (partnering Natalie Cassidy)


“I think people realise straightaway that I am easy to get along with, and I’m great fun. I like to joke with people.”

Ian Waite (partnering Jade Johnson)


“In the past, I’ve been second so many times [in both the main series and the Christmas specials]. To win this series would be the icing on the cake!”

THE GIRLS

Erin Boag (partnering Ricky Groves)


“I can work with most people – if they are willing to learn and have good concentration then I am happy.”

Flavia Cacace (partnering Craig Kelly)


“I am so happy to be a part of such an amazing show. The audience is the most important thing for me – it’s thanks to all of them that we do what we do.”

Ola Jordan (partnering Chris Hollins)


“There is a bit of competition between us [Ola is married to Strictly dancer James Jordan], of course, but we both want each other to do the best we can. But I do want to win!”

Lilia Kopylova (partnering Richard Dunwoody)


“Don Warrington [her partner last year] was a wonderful and very hard-working man; unfortunately it all got too nerve-wracking for him on show days, which made him forget his steps. He was physically shaking – what a shame. This year, I’m ready to go!”

Natalie Lowe (partnering Ricky Whittle)


“I love nothing more than to teach someone to dance from scratch. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the progress in the celebrity from one week to the next.”

Kristina Rihanoff (partnering Joe Calzaghe)


“I didn’t know what to expect for my first year on the series. It was the biggest surprise of my professional career to be partnered by John Sergeant. When I saw him I thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ I want to take my partner all the way to the final this time. I am a skilful teacher and, if I have someone good next to me, I know we can make it.”

Aliona Vilani (partnering Rav Wilding)


“I love to meet new people, to teach new students and just dance my little butt off! That’s what I’m most looking forward to!”

Katya Virshilas (partnering Phil Tufnell)


“Of course I’m looking forward to dancing the most, with the other pros as well as my celebrity. I’m also excited to show people how original and inspiring ballroom can be.”