Our celebrity contestants this year are going to have to work harder than ever to keep up with our biggest and best professional dancer line-up yet, in what promises to be another dazzling and unforgettable series.Kate Phillips, Controller, Entertainment Commissioning
Date: 30.05.2018 Last updated: 30.05.2018 at 09.30
Strictly Come Dancing will return to BBC One in Autumn 2018 for its sixteenth series and three brand new professional dancers will take to the Strictly dancefloor as they join the multi-award winning entertainment series made by BBC Studios.
The three new world-class dancers joining the show are Italian Latin Champion Graziano Di Prima, Professional South African Latin Champion Johannes Radebe and four-time winner of the Italian Dance Championship Luba Mushtuk.
All three dancers will join Strictly Come Dancing when the show returns later in the year bringing the total number of professional dancers to eighteen, promising the biggest and most hotly anticipated series to date.
Graziano Di Prima
Sicilian-born Graziano Di Prima, an Italian Latin Champion, has represented Belgium at the World Championships and made the top 24 at the Latin World Championships (under 21). For the past three years 24 year old Graziano has toured the world with the dance company Burn The Floor.
He says: “This is my dream come true! I still can’t believe I will be one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing. I can’t wait to give all of myself on the dance floor!”
Johannes Radebe, 31, from South Africa is two-time Professional South African Latin Champion and three time South African Amateur Latin Champion. He is a dancer with the Afro Arimba Dance Company and has also been a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing South Africa for two seasons, both times reaching the final.
He says: “Joining Strictly Come Dancing is one of the greatest achievements of my dancing career. It is such an honour to be chosen to be a part of an incredible cast and be part of one of the biggest shows that is celebrated worldwide. I cannot wait to get started and experience the magic with the UK!”
Russian-born Luba Mushtuk is four-time winner of the Italian Dance Championship and Italian Open Latin Show Dance champion. She was ranked 2nd in the European 10 Dance Championships and was a finalist in the Latin European Championship. 28 year old Luba has worked extensively with Broadway and West End show Burn The Floor, was part of the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour and has performed on both Giovanni Pernice’s and Kevin and Karen Clifton’s tours. Luba joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 as an assistant choreographer contributing to a number of group routines.
She says: “Words cannot express how thrilled I am to do what I love most on the greatest show on earth! I am super excited and so thankful for this priceless opportunity. I can’t wait to get started as a professional dancer on Strictly... bring on the sparkle!”
The other professional dancers who will be returning to the Strictly ballroom once again are: AJ Pritchard, Aljaž Škorjanec, Amy Dowden, Anton Du Beke, Dianne Buswell, Giovanni Pernice, Gorka Marquez, Janette Manrara, Karen Clifton, Katya Jones, Kevin Clifton, Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones, Oti Mabuse and Pasha Kovalev.
Series one winner and 2017 Christmas Champion Brendan Cole will not be returning this year. Chloe Hewitt who joined in 2016 will also be leaving this series. The Strictly team would like to thank both of them for their considerable contribution to the show and wish them all the very best for the future.
Louise Rainbow, Executive Producer, Strictly Come Dancing, says: “This is the biggest line-up of pros that we’ve ever had on Strictly. We are so lucky to have such an array of talent. A huge thank you goes to Brendan from all of us for 15 amazing series of Strictly. We wish him all the very best with his future projects. We would also like to thank Chloe and wish her well.”
Kate Phillips, Controller, Entertainment Commissioning, says: “There is no other show quite like Strictly Come Dancing, and the last series proved that becoming the most popular Strictly to date. Our celebrity contestants this year are going to have to work harder than ever to keep up with our biggest and best professional dancer line-up yet, in what promises to be another dazzling and unforgettable series.”
Since Strictly Come Dancing launched on BBC One in the UK in 2004, the Entertainment Format - known internationally as Dancing with the Stars - has become a success story all around the world, the format has been licensed to over 55 countries by BBC Studios.
AJ was born in Stoke-on-Trent, in 2015 AJ won one of the biggest championships in the world to become British Open Youth Latin Champion and European Youth Latin Champion. He was National Youth Latin Champion for three years in a row from 2012-2014. In his first year on Strictly AJ was partnered with Olympic gymnast Claudia Fragapane and in the last series he reached the semi-finals with Mollie King.
Born in Slovenia, Aljaž took to the dance floor at the age of five and has enjoyed success in his home country where he won 19 Slovenian championships in Ballroom and Latin. For over a decade, Aljaž represented Slovenia in the World Latin and Ballroom Championships and appeared in Slovenia’s Dancing with the Stars. Aljaž joined Strictly in 2013 and during his first year, he lifted the Glitter Ball Trophy with Abbey Clancy. Last year, he was partnered with Gemma Atkinson and made it to the Grand Final.
Amy Dowden is from Caerphilly, South Wales and began dancing at the age of eight. She was the 2017 British National Champion and is one of the highest-ranking Ballroom and Latin American professional dancers in the UK. Amy is also a four-time British National Finalist and in 2015, she reached the semi-final of the World Championship. Amy joined Strictly last year and danced with Brian Conley.
Anton Du Beke
British-born Anton specialises in Ballroom dancing and has been performing since the age of 14. Anton has appeared in every series of Strictly to date, but is yet to lift the Glitter Ball Trophy, although he made it all the way to the final with Katie Derham in 2015. Previous partners include Ann Widdecombe, Jerry Hall, Nancy Dell’Olio, Judy Murray, Lesley Joseph and last year, Anton danced with Ruth Langsford.
Dianne Buswell is an Australian Open Champion and four-time Amateur Australian Open Finalist. She has appeared on Dancing With The Stars Australia and has been part of the Burn The Floor production on Broadway. Dianne joined Strictly last year and danced with the Reverend Richard Coles.
Giovanni was born in Sicily and decided from a young age that he wanted to take up dance lessons. At 14 years old he moved to Bologna to concentrate on dance and was taught by some of the best teachers in the world. His greatest achievement is the day he won the Italian Championships in 2012. Giovanni reached the final of Strictly with Georgia May Foote and again last year with Debbie McGee
Spanish Gorka began dancing at the age of 12. He represented Spain in the World Latin Championships in 2010 and reached the semi-finals of the 2012 WDSF World Cup. In 2014, Gorka joined the global Ballroom and Latin dance phenomenon Burn The Floor as one of their leads and has toured with them all around the world. He joined Strictly in 2016 and danced with Tameka Empson and last year he made it to the final with Alexandra Burke.
Janette was born in Miami, Florida and joined the Strictly family in 2013. She has performed with Jennifer Lopez at the 82nd Academy Awards and she was the principal dancer in the TV series and live tour of Glee. She was also a finalist in season five of So You Think You Can Dance in the USA. Janette’s Strictly partners have included Julien Macdonald, Jake Wood and Peter Andre. Last year, she was partnered with Aston Merrygold.
Originally from Venezuela, Karen moved to New York when she was eight years old. She is the United Amateur American Rhythm National Champion and Professional World Mambo Champion. In 2009, Karen appeared in the US series So You Think You Can Dance before joining the West End sensation Burn the Floor as a principal dancer. Karen reached the grand final with Mark Wright in 2014 and was most recently partnered with Simon Rimmer.
World Latin Champion Katya was born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia and started dancing at the age of six where she trained in gymnastics as well as Ballroom and Latin American dancing. In 2008, Katya formed a partnership with Neil Jones and together they won the World Amateur Latin Championships a total of three times, before turning professional in 2013. In 2015, they became the World Professional Latin Showdance Champions and are four times undefeated British National Professional Champions. Katya joined Strictly in 2016 and was partnered with Ed Balls and last year lifted the glitterball trophy with Joe McFadden.
Kevin from Grimsby is a former Youth World Number One and four-time British Latin Champion. Taught by his parents Keith and Judy Clifton from an early age - former World Champions themselves - Kevin went on to win International Open titles all over the world. He also starred in the West End in Dirty Dancing and Burn The Floor. Kevin joined Strictly in 2013 and is the only professional dancer to reach four consecutive grand finals with Susanna Reid, Frankie Bridge, Kellie Bright and Louise Redknapp. Last year he took to the floor with Susan Calman.
Nadiya Bychkova from Ukraine is a two-time World Champion and European Champion in Ballroom and Latin ‘10’ Dance. She is a multiple-time Slovenian Ballroom and Latin Champion Nadiya joined Strictly last year and made it to the quarter finals with EastEnders star Davood Ghadami.
Neil is the undefeated four-time British National Champion and the three-time winner of the World Amateur Latin Championships with his wife Katya Jones. In 2015, Neil and Katya were crowned World Professional Latin Showdance Champions. Neil was born in a British Army Camp in Munster, Germany and started dancing at a local ballet school at the age of three. He trained in Ballroom, Latin, tap, modern and ballet. Last year Neil was partnered with Judy Murray for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special and with Blue Peter’s Konnie Huq for the Children in Need Special.
Oti began dancing in South Africa as a young child along with her sister, who is a judge on the German version of Strictly. Oti moved to Germany to push herself as she was the eight-time South African Latin American Champion and wanted new challenges. She has achieved many titles in her dancing career including World European Latin semi-finalist and World Cup Championship semi-finalist. Oti joined the show in 2015, in 2016 she reached the final with Danny Mac and last year she made it to Blackpool with Paralympian Jonnie Peacock.
Siberian-born Pasha has been a professional dancer on Strictly since 2011. He has reached the grand final three times and lifted the Glitter Ball Trophy in 2014 with Caroline Flack. Pasha started dancing at eight years old and his professional achievements include performing on Broadway and reaching the finals of the US version of So You Think You Can Dance. Last year, he was partnered with Chizzy Akudolu.