By Alex Green, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter
Strictly Come Dancing’s celebrity contestants will dance live for the first time on Saturday, as the BBC show returns to screens amid reports three of the professional dancers are unvaccinated.
On Thursday the BBC denied in a statement that dancers or celebrity contestants have threatened to quit the show over the row, or raised concerns with the BBC or the production team.
Judges Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Anton Du Beke will assess their skills but no celebrities will be leaving the show this week.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) September 23, 2021
Instead, the judges’ scores will be carried over to next week when viewers will have the chance to vote for their favourite of the 15 couples.
The first live show will see Great British Bake Off star John Whaite and professional Johannes Radebe, the first male pairing in the show’s history, perform a tango to Blue Monday by New Order.
Actor Greg Wise and partner Karen Hauer will dance an American Smooth to That’s Life by Frank Sinatra, while McFly’s Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden will tackle a cha-cha to September by Earth, Wind and Fire.
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) September 23, 2021
The professional dancers will also open the show with a group number.
Du Beke, who was a professional dancer from the first series of the show but joins the judging panel full-time this year to fill in for Bruno Tonioli, recently said he does not know about the vaccination situation but is confident the programme follows strict safety protocols.
A statement from the BBC on Thursday said: “A lot has been written about vaccinations and Strictly in recent days.
“The BBC has never commented nor confirmed the vaccination status of anyone on the show. It’s not our place to.
“It is not the case that concerns have been raised with the BBC or the Strictly production team from dancers or celebrities about vaccination, or that they have threatened to quit.
“We have in place strict procedures to protect those on the show and the wider production. Among the many measures in place on Strictly, the dancers are tested regularly to be in close contact with their partners.
“The cast, crew and everyone working on Strictly are focused on this weekend’s first live show and delivering another brilliant series.”
The first live show will air on BBC One at 7pm tonight