Strictly's Mr Clodhopper: As it all kicks off, we reveal the worst diva, who's blubbing already... and who's as useless as John Sergeant

For the past gruelling month, 15 celebrities have subjected themselves to bruises, bandages and frightening levels of bling, preparing for the moment tonight when the band strikes up the familiar theme tune and a new season of Strictly begins.

As far as this year’s dancing goes, the sensation from behind the scenes is just how dreadful BBC presenter Jeremy Vine is.

Not only is his footwork highly reminiscent of former contestant John Sergeant’s, but he is so embarrassed about his ‘performance’ that he is nearly as stiff as last year’s comedy entrant, Judy Murray.

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Coronation Street actress Georgia May Foote has been given odds of 7/1
Top picks: Peter Andre is the favourite at 7/2

Top picks: Peter Andre is the favourite at 7/2, followed by Coronation Street actress Georgia May Foote at 7/1

Meanwhile, there is sniping in the green room over the ‘highly strung’ singer Peter Andre, probably the starriest of the celebrity signings.

He is said to have a habit of bursting into tears when his rumba goes wrong, which means that being teamed with him is a task only for the most patient and saintly of pros. As is customary on Strictly, backstage is already a be-sequinned war zone, with feuds, fractured alliances and intrigue between regular favourites such as Kristina Rihanoff, Ola Jordan and Anton Du Beke.

Meanwhile, the dance troupe has been getting used to three newcomers — one of whom has an alarming reputation for inducing his leading ladies to fall for his charms.

So what can we expect with the season launch show tonight — and who, crucially, is paired with whom? 


Two left feet? Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine

Two left feet? Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine

The many fan boards devoted to Strictly have been buzzing with speculation about which of the celebrities will prove to have two left feet.

Genial chef Ainsley Harriott’s name is often mentioned, and there is a theory that wholesome crooner Daniel O’Donnell will also be hopeless.

But the one who looks most likely to assume the Judy Murray/Michael Vaughan/John Sergeant mantle seems to be Radio 2 presenter Vine.

‘He’s absolutely, utterly, irredeemably terrible,’ says a source close to the show. ‘He has no sense of rhythm and cringes with horror the whole way round the dance floor. No one can take their eyes off him.’

In an interview before rehearsals started, Vine admitted that dancing was not exactly his thing and that he has ‘done a lot of Eighties-style disco dancing where you move your arms as if you are trapped in a lift’.

He added: ‘I turned 50 this year, and I realised this is the time to do stuff you don’t naturally want to do.

‘One of the key moments for me as a non-dancer was at a wedding — there were about 100 couples and we were all dancing in a rubbish way. Then, suddenly this pair of thirtysomethings came on the dance floor and did an amazing rumba, and I thought: “I want to be able to do that.” ’

On current form, that looks set to remain a dream.


Last year there was quite a furore when it turned out that the series winner, The X Factor presenter Caroline Flack, had neglected to mention the fact she had years of dance training under her belt.

This year, several of the celebrities have experience of the dance floor that goes beyond a spot of childhood ballet.

EastEnders actress Kellie Bright is one. ‘I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, so I danced throughout my school life,’ she said.

‘When I was younger, dancing was my life, I loved it so much. But I started acting when I was nine, so as soon as that kicked off, the dancing took a back seat.’

Former Coronation Street star Georgia May Foote — who made her name in the BBC series Grange Hill — did a performing arts diploma at Bury College, so she has knowledge of contemporary dance.

Jay McGuiness of boy band The Wanted has also had dance training. He attended the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama before being chosen in an audition to join the band at the age of 19.

The Ringers: Jay McGuiness of boy band The Wanted
Experienced: EastEnders actress Kellie Bright

The Ringers: Jay McGuiness of boy band The Wanted and EastEnders actress Kellie Bright had dance training


Bookmaker William Hill has made singer Peter Andre the favourite at 7/2, followed by Coronation Street actress Georgia May Foote at 7/1. The two hunks — boxer Anthony Ogogo and sprinter Iwan Thomas — are also well-fancied at 12/1 and 16/1, with pop star Jamelia also strong at 8/1. BBC Breakfast weather presenter Carol Kirkwood is 40/1 while Jeremy Vine languishes at 50/1. Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell is a surprisingly strong 12/1 — presumably reflecting the size of his fan base, who have provided him with a 30-year career.  


New family-friendly image: Kristina Rihanoff

New family-friendly image: Kristina Rihanoff

Viewers may be surprised to learn that Siberian siren Kristina Rihanoff is apparently delighted to have been partnered with Irish crooner Daniel O’Donnell. ‘She actually asked if she could have Daniel — she wanted it to be someone whom no one could make accusations about,’ I’m told.

Indeed, despite pictures of Kristina staring deeply into the eyes of Peter Andre at the red-carpet Strictly launch earlier this week, the promise is that she will unveil a new, family-friendly image this series after being criticised for her flagrantly sexy choreography last year with Simon Webbe of boy band Blue — and, more importantly, the scandal surrounding her romance with previous dance partner, rugby star Ben Cohen, after he left Abbie, his wife of 12 years.

Kristina Rihanoff believes her fellow professional dancers are jealous of her public profile following her off-screen partnership with Cohen and has complained of being ‘blanked’ while in make-up.

‘She is still feeling very sensitive about the way she has been portrayed. She is fed up with being presented as the “bad girl” and taking all the flak,’ says a friend.

She and Cohen are apparently very happy together — they were photographed on holiday in Turkey this summer with Cohen’s twin daughters — and she has hopes of announcing an engagement before the series ends.

They insist their relationship began only after his marriage to childhood sweetheart Abbie was over.


If Kristina is hoping to fade into the background, step forward dancers Kevin Clifton and his new bride Karen Hauer, who want this to be the season when they make the headlines. They have had new publicity shots done and are hawking themselves as light entertainment presenters as well as dancers.

The other dancing love match is Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara, who announced their engagement this summer after four years together. Cuban hottie Janette previously dated Strictly dancer Pasha Kovalev (who is now romancing his former Strictly partner, Countdown presenter Rachel Riley), and Artem Chigvintsev (who was involved with his former dance partner, the actress Kara Tointon.)

Stars: Kevin Clifton and his new bride Karen Hauer want this to be the season when they make the headlines

Stars: Kevin Clifton and his new bride Karen Hauer want this to be the season when they make the headlines


Remember Jason Donovan? In 2011, the former Neighbours star was almost uncomfortably needy and competitive on the show, often on the verge of tears when he felt he hadn’t given his best performance. This year, his crown is set to go to reality TV show veteran Peter Andre (left).

‘He is a bit neurotic, and there have been tears already,’ says my source.

But he has his fans. Dancer Gleb Savchenko tweeted: ‘Mr Peter Andre is killing it already.’ Boxer Anthony Ogogo, another of this year’s contestants, added: ‘I’m watching Peter Andre in rehearsals. I feel like a stiff ironing board and he looks sexy, smooth and is wiggling his hips.’


Natural: Newsreader Katie Derham set to surprise

Natural: Newsreader Katie Derham set to surprise

Classical music buff and newsreader Katie Derham will surprise many people with her moves.

I’m told she has natural ability, is working her socks off and is super-determined to succeed — which might see her pulling off a Susannah Reid-style grab for the glitterball trophy (former BBC Breakfast presenter Reid, you may remember, was pipped to the post by model Abbey Clancy in 2013).

Indeed, Derham is so ambitious that she was somewhat disappointed to be teamed with a professional who is usually partnered with the comedy entrants.

‘She has real flair and thought she was going to get one of the young hunks,’ I’m told.

Derham, 45, said she took on the Strictly challenge due to the encouragement of her two daughters, but has had no formal dance training.

‘I did ballet as a child, and I love to dance, but most of my dancing is done in the privacy of my own kitchen . . . I wouldn’t say I’m going to be any threat to the female professionals.’


Australian hoofer Trent Whiddon, who partnered Pixie Lott last year, hasn’t been invited back, having apparently failed to engage the audience. Iveta Lukosiute is also not returning.

More surprisingly, though, Strictly stalwart Robin Windsor will not be on stage. Windsor, remembered for his surprisingly successful partnership with plus-size TV presenter Lisa Riley, suffered a back injury which ruled him out of last year’s series. But he had been expecting to return to the screen this year.

‘I absolutely wanted to go back. I was ready to do it, but unfortunately they’ve said they want some fresh faces on the show. Maybe my Botox has worn off,’ he joked.

He will instead appear on the Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two with Zoe Ball.


Ola Jordan — the petite dancer who struck fear into the heart of wildlife presenter Steve Backshall last year — is back.

She left the show mid-way to do ski-ing challenge The Jump on Channel 4, but broke her leg in training.

There is surprise that, having now recovered, she is returning to Strictly because she and her dancer husband James Jordan have a fractious relationship with the show.

James was booted off after a nuclear fall-out with judge Craig Revel Horwood and spent much of last season tweeting about how the series was the worst Strictly ever.

Ola’s partner this year is . . . someone sporty, again, and someone who can probably stand up to her grumpy ways in rehearsal.

From left to right, Ola Jordan, Otlile Mabuse, Joanne Clifton, Aliona Vilani, Karen Hauer and Natalie Lowe

From left to right, Ola Jordan, Otlile Mabuse, Joanne Clifton, Aliona Vilani, Karen Hauer and Natalie Lowe


Aliona Vilani, who won the 2011 series with McFly’s Harry Judd, has such a frosty relationship with Kristina Rihanoff that they barely speak to each other.

There is also conflict between Venezualan-born Karen Hauer and Ola Jordan — which has its roots in a row two years ago. Karen is said to have told Ola: ‘You’re a rubbish dancer — that’s why they always put you at the back.’ 


Sexy: Russian uber-hunk Gleb Savchenko

Sexy: Russian uber-hunk Gleb Savchenko

Sexy Aljaz Skorjanec has had his nose put out of joint with the arrival of a new, uber-hunky East European, Gleb Savchenko.

Savchenko is 6ft 1in of Russian gorgeousness, with abs you could bounce a penny off and a sideline as a male model. What else?

He has previously featured on Dancing With The Stars — the U.S. version of Strictly — where he made headlines due to the chemistry with his dance partner, reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump. (Vanderpump, who is married, remarked that he was a ‘perfect specimen’.)

Earlier this year, Savchenko took part in the Russian version of Strictly with a pretty young figure skater, Adelina Sotnikova, who gave every impression of having fallen for him like a ton of bricks.

He recently told a newspaper: ‘Dancing is sensual and intimate. I know there are a lot of people on the Russian show ****ing their celebrities.’

Asked if he would follow suit, he grinned: ‘It depends who I am partnered with and what kind of chemistry there is . . .’

Pity Elena, his wife of nine years.


While the dancers are all initially paid the same fee — £30,500 — this sum increases the longer they stay in the series.

If they are invited to join the live Strictly tour, which begins after the series has finished, they can earn a further £60,000.

The tour is seen as the goose that lays the golden eggs, so this also leads to much rivalry about which celebrity they are paired with on the show; the dancers tend to be invited on the tour only if their dance partnership was either very successful or very entertaining.

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