Strictly Come Dancing might be over for another year but there's more dancing to come on Christmas Day as six former favourites return for its festive special. Here, they reveal what's in store...
Six favourites return to rock around the Strictly Christmas tree…
If there’s one thing guaranteed to add some glitter and sparkle to any Christmas celebration it’s Strictly Come Dancing. And six of Strictly’s best-loved stars will be returning to the dancefloor for the show’s festive extravaganza on Christmas Day.
EastEnders actor Jake Wood, politician Ann Widdecombe, former JLS star Aston Merrygold, presenter Anita Rani, ex-England cricketer Michael Vaughan and 2014 champ Caroline Flack will all be putting on their dancing shoes once more to perform routines with a ‘fairy tales and dreams’ theme to win the title of Strictly Christmas Champions 2018.
“On Christmas Day, people want to be entertained, which I’m sure they will be when Ann waltzes her merry way onto the dancefloor,” teases judge Craig Revel Horwood. “One can only hope she spends less time on the ground and a lot more time in the air, dah-ling!”
It’s safe to say Craig loves filming the Strictly Christmas Special. “It’s very jolly and fun, which is why we do it,’ he says. “It always gets you in the spirit and mood of Christmas.”
So, without further ado, let’s meet our Strictly Christmas stars…
Partner: Gorka Marquez
Love Island presenter Caroline and partner Pasha Kovalev waltzed off with the series 12 trophy after achieving perfect scores from the judges on every performance in the final, but she’s not worry about the leaderboard this time… “It’s Christmas, so it’s not competitive and very much about having fun,’ says Caroline, 39. “Pasha was my partner for a whole series, so I felt like I was cheating on my first day with Gorka!’
Caroline loves Christmas and has already thought about which past Strictly celebs she’d invite round for Christmas dinner. “Ashley Roberts, Pixie Lott and Judy Murray, who makes the most delicious shortbread! We could all sing Spice Girls karaoke around the Christmas tree!”
Partner: Luba Mushtuk
EastEnders star Jake, who plays Max Branning in the BBC1 soap, surprised the nation with his snake hips when he took to the floor with ‘pocket rocket’ Janette Manrara in series 12. Jake’s thrilled to have been given the chance to get back out onto the Strictly dancefloor.
“It’s an honour to be asked back and it’s an offer you can’t turn down,’ says Jake, 46, who’s paired with Luba this time. “In the last three years, I haven’t done any dancing at all. But the muscle memory soon kicks back in, so it’s not been too bad to pick it up again.”
Jake knows exactly what he’ll be doing on Christmas Day. “We have two kids and the joy of Christmas is about them. So I’ll be enjoying a family Christmas and watching the show!”
Partner: Anton Du Beke
Comic relief was provided by former Tory MP Ann’s ambitious performances in series eight, her most notable being a tango that saw her fly through the air!
“I never was dancing! Anton called it many things but he never called it dancing,” jokes Ann, 71, who is delighted to be taking to the floor with him again. “It’s great fun being back with Anton. It’s the pairing the public remember and it’s the pairing they want to see.”
And we can count on Ann and Anton bringing the fun factor once more. “I don’t think I’m regarding this as a competition. For me, it’s Christmas light-heartedness and entertainment!”
Partner: Janette Manrara
Fans were stunned last year when show favourite Aston was eliminated halfway through series 15. But now he’s getting another chance to shine. “I feel like I have unfinished business with Strictly. I wanted to get through as many weeks as possible and do all the dance styles and routines,” says Aston, 30, who’s very pleased to be partnered with Janette again.
“Janette’s great and I’m very lucky to be able to continue our partnership and see if the jive works!”
And it seems Aston’s already eyeing up the Christmas competition. “Caroline is everyone’s competition! She’s the champion. To be the best, you have to beat the best!”
Partner: Neil Jones
Countryfile favourite Anita wowed with her footwork when she took to the floor with Gleb Savchenko in series 13, and she can’t wait to swap her wellies for her dancing shoes once more! “I loved learning to dance the first time round and couldn’t give up the opportunity to have another go,” says Anita, 41, who is now partnered with Neil Jones. “Life has been non-stop since Strictly, so I’ve not had a chance to keep dancing. I just want to do myself, Neil and the dance justice and enjoy every second of it.”
With a jam-packed filming schedule, Anita’s looking forward to a well-earned rest this Christmas. “I’ll be at my brother’s house, cuddling my new baby niece… and watching Strictly!”
Partner: Nadiya Bychkova
Ex-cricketer Michael, who was partnered with Natalie Lowe in series 10, is returning to the dancefloor to perform his Strictly swansong. “This is officially my last ever dance,” says Michael, who’s now paired with Nadiya Bychkova. “I think I know my routine now but it’s just whether I can do it on the night! I’ve got three lifts, so that’s always intriguing!”
Being a sportsman, Michael’s naturally competitive – but how does he fancy his chances of lifting Strictly’s Christmas trophy? “I’m not giving myself much hope of winning. But, you never know, Leicester won the Premier League a few years ago!”
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special can be seen on Christmas Day at 5.30pm on BBC1.