Bruce gets new girl to twirl

Last updated at 13:30 22 April 2004

Antiques expert David Dickinson and actress Claire Sweeney are among the celebrities doing the cha cha cha in BBC1's new Saturday night show Strictly Come Dancing.

The revamp of Come Dancing, which ended in in 1996 following a ratings slump after almost 50 years on air, is being hosted by comeback king Bruce Forsyth.

A surge in popularity in ballroom dancing has inspired the BBC to revive the show, retitled Strictly Come Dancing.

Today Forsyth, who has been making a comeback since guest presenting Have I Got News For You?, unveiled the eight celebrities who are learning how to foxtrot and tango with professional dance partners.

They are Christopher Parker, who plays Spencer Moon in EastEnders, opera singer Lesley Garrett and the face of BBC Breakfast News Natasha Kaplinsky.

Former Rugby league player Martin Offiah, actress Verona Joseph who plays Holby City's nurse Jess Griffin, and comedian Jason Wood - who teams up with a dancer called Kylie, are also taking part.

The dancers will face a public and studio vote each week when the least popular couple will be knocked out.

Two teams will compete on the final week for the Strictly Come Dancing crown.

Today Forsyth, 76, whose Generation Game once drew 21 million Saturday-night viewers to BBC1, said he might do a little dancing himself.

He joked: "After eight weeks we will crown the Strictly Come Dancing champions or I'll be trying to make another comeback. It gets harder every time."

Of his famous catchphrases, the nice to see you, to see you... star said: "I may slip one in if it fits the situation.

"There's always room for another catchphrase. I've got about nine but could make 10."

Forsyth said it would "be lovely" to be back on TV on Saturday night, making an "all round entertainment programme".

He joked: "I've always felt that on Saturday nights there is a kinder audience. That's probably because they're drunk."

Co-host Tess Daly will be backstage with the dancers before they go on stage.

Launching the show today, head of BBC Entertainment Group Wayne Garvy said Strictly Come Dancing was for viewers of all ages.

He said: "This is a really important show for the BBC and BBC1 in particular.

"For a long time people have been asking 'what are we going to do a Saturday night?'.

"This is as different as it gets. It's about

bringing fun and excitement on to the schedule.

"We're inviting the nation to come together and enjoy the thrills and spills of Strictly Come Dancing."

Perma-tanned contestant David Dickinson said the dancing was "very tough".

"I smoke and I drink whisky," he said. "Will I get through this? I'm going to try."

Strictly Come Dancing begins on May 15 on BBC1 and BBC3.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now