When East Meets West

Sep 21, 2022 by

When East Meets West

A change to Strictly’s established order this year with the pre-recorded launch show being broadcast on Friday night, and week 1 of the lives, when all 15 couples take to the dance-floor for the first time, happening less than 24 hours later, on Saturday evening.

The launch show is traditionally the moment serious Strictly traders scrutinise the group dance at the climax of the show, pausing BBC iPlayer to notice AJ Odudu’s impressive arm extensions and Greg Wise’s lack of hip action. All part of the fun of trying to seek early clues as to who can cut a rug and who’s likely to be making up the numbers, its impact on the market this year extremely brief, prior to the competition getting underway.

So who’s up and who’s down in terms of pro likability heading into the 2022 series? It was a good year for Nadiya after her run with Dan Walker. Graziano and Nikita’s stock also rose. Katya remains a superb teacher and choreographer but will have to hope for kinder treatment after she was thoroughly put away last year paired with Adam Peaty.

One thing you learn over the years of trading Strictly is the huge significance of the pairings. As much as the show is part personality contest, part dance competition, and the audience loves to invest in a proper ‘journey’ contestant, the magic fairy dust invariably resides in the dynamic between the couple, and the chemistry they bring not only to the dance-floor but also in interview together.

Amazingly this year, we have three Adams, two Ellies, an East and a West. Courtesy of the Strictly sleuths, the pairings are already known. Pause reading now and avoid the rest of this article if you would rather watch Friday night’s launch show in blissful ignorance.

Show 2022 pairings (spoiler)

Helen Skelton and Gorka Marquez
Kym March and Graziano Di Prima
Fleur East and Vito Coppola
Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu
Richie Anderson and Giovanni Pernice
Kaye Adams and Kai Widdrington
Jayde Adams and Karen Hauer
Ellie Simmonds and Nikita Kuzmin
Tony Adams and Katya Jones
Matt Goss and Nadiya Bychkova
Will Mellor and Nancy Xu
Tyler West and Dianne Buswell
James Bye and Amy Dowden
Ellie Taylor and Johannes Radebe
Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystał

Helen Skelton and Gorka Marquez – Helen, 39, took part in the Christmas Special in 2012, dancing with Artem. That was ten years ago now but she showed a degree of potential dancing the always difficult jive.

Born in Cumbria, she comes across as down-to-earth, naturally engaging on camera, and a firm BBC viewer fave. She recently split from her husband, rugby league player Richie Myler, after giving birth to their 3rd child, a daughter, in December last year.

… the magic fairy dust invariably resides in the dynamic between the couple, and the chemistry they bring not only to the dance-floor but also in interview together

Gorka has made the final twice with Alexandra Burke and Maisie Smith, and is firmly established on the show as one of its longest serving pros. After being eliminated second in last year’s series, paired with Katie McGlynn, he can have high hopes of a much more successful run this year. This is Helen competing in a wheelchair dancing contest, also hinting at ability.

Kym Marsh and Graziano Di Prima – Kym, 46, is an actress, singer and tv presenter. She stated she wanted to be paired with Graziano and her wish has been granted. Married three times, Kym has four children and is a grandmother. She does possess some potential ‘every woman’ appeal, and there is some dance training lurking in her background.

Graziano did himself a lot of favours last year when partnering Judi Love. There was a degree of pressure off with Judi, however, as he was able to sell the ‘fun’ component of their routines. Kym backers will be hoping Graziano doesn’t revert to his previous Vick Hope failings in confusing his student and underwhelming with the choreo.

Fleur East and Vito Coppola – Fleur, 34, is best known for her final run on X Factor 2014. She says she’s doing the show in tribute to her late father. Fleur appeared in I’m A Celeb… in 2018, finishing 4th.

She has those confident, diva, pop star qualities in being able to own the stage, and is likely to be a powerful fast Latin dancer. New Strictly heart-throb, Vito, won the Italian version of Strictly last year but remains something of an unknown.

You can see TPTB bigging this pairing up as fiery, passionate and dynamic, and they look the couple most likely to lead the scoring chart across the series, but Fleur could be hamstrung by the ‘ringer’ tag.

Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu – Molly, 21, is a singer and actress best known for starring in the CBBC show ‘Nova Jones’. She finished 6th in BGT 2012 as a child singer, and she is also an anti-bullying ambassador. She went to Sylvia Young, has youth on her side, and you can see her performing many a dance sequence in Nova Jones.

She looks like another potential ringer which is always problematic due to lack of journey. A key part of Strictly is charming the audience in interview and training VTs, and this is also where younger contestants tend to come unstuck.

Carlos, as a pro newcomer, has it all to prove. He is a former Chinese champion, and there could be a risk of him struggling to forge a connection with viewers, similar to Nancy last year.

Carlos, as a pro newcomer, has it all to prove. He is a former Chinese champion, and there could be a risk of him struggling to forge a connection with viewers, similar to Nancy last year

Richie Anderson and Giovanni Pernice – You would have to say Giovanni is a big plus for Radio 1 announcer and One Show presenter Richie (34) because he is an excellent teacher and choreographer, but Richie’s limitations are still likely to be exposed. After John Whaite’s run to the final last year with Johannes, it’s not as imperative this pairing succeeds, even less so given Giovanni won the 2021 show paired with Rose Ayling-Ellis.

Richie will be doing well to emulate John as he doesn’t seem to have as much natural charisma, his dancing ability looks much more questionable, and a same sex male couple remains a hard sell to Strictly’s core, conservative middle England audience.

Kaye Adams and Kai Widdrington – A first incorrect prediction of the series having expected Kai to be given another contender after last year’s misfortune of having to miss the final due to AJ’s injury. Loose Women presenter Kaye, 59, has the look of a no-hoper.

Shirley Ballas will be banging the older woman drum on Kaye’s behalf, but Kaye might not be the easiest to warm to. Kai seriously impressed last year, both on and off the dance-floor, so Kaye’s chance of avoiding 1st elimination has certainly improved, and she does have a degree of ‘journey’ potential.

Jayde Adams and Karen Hauer – Jayde looked the obvious candidate for an all-female pairing if TPTB decided to go down that path. She is a Bristolian actor, stand-up comic and presenter, and says she is doing the show as a tribute to her late sister. That is a story sure to appear in a VT at some point.

You can find footage of Jayde dancing as part of her stand up routine, and it is apparent she is going to be cast as the surprisingly light on her feet, graceful larger lady.

This looks the much more likely same sex pairing to earn the show’s support this year. As much as Strictly fans like pro veteran Karen, the same sex issue remains a tricky hurdle to overcome.

Ellie Simmonds and Nikita Kuzman – The diminutive Nikita is given the task of trying to create routines that don’t leave Ellie, 27, looking awkwardly small.

Gold medal-winning Paralympic swimmer Ellie has a great personality, coming across as fun, upbeat and self-deprecating in interview. There is also plenty of heart-string-tugging potential as the show can go to town highlighting how inspirational she is, breaking down barriers by shining a light on dwarfism.

The concerns with Ellie are twofold: her participation comes hot on the heels of last year’s winner Rose Ayling-Ellis, and Rose also fulfilled the brief of being an inspiration and breaking down barriers as Strictly’s first deaf contestant, a disability that lent itself much more to forging a strong emotional attachment with viewers. Secondly, the sheer optics are likely to jar due to the height differential.

Ellie is the sort of contestant who will generate a lot of social media buzz and recalling John Whaite last year, and Joe Sugg in 2018, this can partially seduce the market.

Ellie is the sort of contestant who will generate a lot of social media buzz and recalling John Whaite last year, and Joe Sugg in 2018, this can partially seduce the market

Tony Adams and Katya Jones – Ex-England and Arsenal footballer, Tony, now 55, stands 6ft 3 inches tall which could be a concern for fast Latin numbers. Dance-wise, he looks like being one of the lesser lights at series start but there’s always the chance for him to surprise, especially paired with Katya who can work wonders.

Tony is an engaging character with a bit more wisdom to impart than your average cliched football pundit. He’s already hinted that he doesn’t take himself remotely seriously and is ready to throw himself into the Strictly experience. It is not inconceivable Tony outruns his odds and embarks on a journey of sorts, Jeremy Vine-style.

Matt Goss and Nadiya Bychkova – Matt of Bros fame is 53 and has been working in Vegas as a crooner in recent years. He danced with Aliona in the 2013 Christmas Special scoring 35 for an American smooth, with Rufus Hound winning that show.

Matt looks the part in terms of potential middle England viewer appeal, but something about him feels synthetic, insincere and hard to connect with. In that respect, he has a bit of a Peter Andre/Tom Fletcher feel. On the plus side, he looks like being a competent dancer and Nadiya has proved herself as a good teacher, choreographer, and charming in front of the camera.

Will Mellor and Nancy Xu – Manchester-born Will, 46, is this year’s Corrie actor, probably best known for Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Interestingly, his wife Michelle is a dancer and they met when both starred in the musical ‘Oh, What a Night’. You can see Will dancing at various moments during that production and he looks like having plenty of moves in his locker.

Nancy made the semi-final last year paired with Rhys Stephenson but that wasn’t before three dance-off appearances, the first of which happened as early as week 5. There were notable occasions when Nancy appeared to fail Rhys both as a teacher and choreographer despite their triumphant Argentine tango in the quarter-final.

The language barrier was a clear issue, and this also creates a barrier with viewers. The Nancy factor could be offset to a degree by Will’s Manc charm. Will also has the right sort of rugged good looks to earn middle England support, but he may lack Kelvin Fletcher’s charm and humility.

Tyler West and Dianne Buswell – Tyler is 26 and as a radio DJ on Kiss he will be largely unknown among the Strictly audience at show start. He looks like potentially being a classic, male ringer-level dancer at risk of coming up short on the public vote.

Dianne is solid enough as a teacher/choreographer, made the final with Joe Sugg in 2018, and no doubt finished 2nd behind Stacey and Kevin that year. Gold chain, ear-ring, heavily tattoo-ed right arm… there are some older middle England red flags with Tyler, but presuming he is as naturally talented as hinted at by a brief reccy of his Insta account, this pairing could go far together.

James Bye and Amy Dowden – Eastenders actor James Bye, 38, claims his kids laugh at his ‘dad dancing’ but as an ex-Sylvia Young alumni he may be being modest there. There will be familiarity with James for many Strictly viewers, and the record of Eastenders actors over the years has been pretty strong.

A pairing with Amy, who made the final with Karim in 2019, doesn’t scream the most exciting among this year’s field and it could be a similar story to last year when Amy rarely set the competition on fire paired with Tom Fletcher, and they eventually exited in 7th place.

There will be familiarity with James for many Strictly viewers, and the record of Eastenders actors over the years has been pretty strong

Ellie Taylor and Johannes Radebe – Ellie, 38, is an actress and stand up comic. She says she is seeking the joy of dance, and also claims to have issues with spacial awareness, possessing the dance ability of ‘a newly born giraffe’. She comes across as genuinely witty but this doesn’t look a partnership built to go the distance.

Johannes made the final last year but that run with John looks a red herring as the show got fully behind the first same sex, male pairing and it became a series-long narrative, aided by John’s ringer dance ability.

Johannes often falls into the trap of hogging the limelight with routines, rather than trying to showcase his partner. Ellie will come across well but she does look a complete novice and there would have to be significant doubts regarding her potential progress.

Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystał – Hamza, 32, is a wildlife cameraman best known for his work on Countryfile. He has a kind face and comes across as warm, genuine and quietly spoken. Very much the joker in the pack among this year’s celebrity cast, and a contestant the show may well be keen to boost, he is paired with pro dancer ‘dark horse’ Jowita who, based admittedly on only a few tv interviews unearthed, appears to have plenty of charisma working for her too.

Hamza strikes a pose leaping in the air doing the splits on his Insta account so don’t be surprised if Strictly’s first ever Sudanese-born contestant makes unexpected progress.

It is interesting to note Gorka, Karen and Graziano, three early casualties last year, have all been given what look potentially stronger pairings this year, while last year’s finalists, or would have been finalists, Johannes, Giovanni and Kai, appear to have been shown much less favour.

As part of this year’s series we will have Movie Week (historically week 3), Halloween Week on week 6, Blackpool Week in week 9 and Musicals Week (likely week 11, aka, the quarter-final).

To help celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary and 100 years of the BBC there will also be a new ‘BBC 100’ themed week shoehorned in at some point, with couples dancing to some of the most iconic BBC theme tunes. Match Of The Day theme for Tony Adams? Blue Peter’s for Helen Skelton?

Due to a World Cup clash, this year’s semi-final looks like taking place on Sunday December 11, leading to a 4-couple final, presuming no withdrawals, on December 17.

The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2023 is expected to run from around mid-January to mid-February next year. Again, we need to keep an eye out for who is signed up. We were given big clues why Sara Davies and Tilly Ramsay enjoyed so much favour during the live shows last year when they both turned up among the 2022 Tour line-up.

We were given big clues why Sara Davies and Tilly Ramsay enjoyed so much favour during the live shows last year when they both turned up among the 2022 Tour line-up

As always, there won’t be an elimination following Saturday’s first live show but we will have a stronger idea of who’s under threat of earning the wooden spoon in week 2.

This year will see a return to a full studio audience. Aside from having to watch infuriating, undeserved standing ovations and wild applause following lacklustre routines, which sometimes doesn’t help the judges if a vote dampening deramp is in the script, a big positive studio reaction can have an impact.

Always of greater significance, keep an eye on Motsi and Shirley standing up to whoop and holler during routines as that always gives the best indication of a full-on, dark arts ramp incoming.

We will be running an exit poll again this year, starting in week 2, asking who got your vote. And look out for training room/studio rehearsal montages, with each week’s music edited over footage, helping to paint a picture of who’s set to shine on the Saturday night dance-floor.


  1. Stoney

    Hi Rob, good to be back at that time of year again. At this point I can’t see past a Will victory, will be interesting to see how the dark arts put the breaks on him if they want to get another win for the females to even up the scores a bit.

    • Rob

      Hi Stoney. You are not alone in your keenness for Will – someone on Betfair has been happy to take under the odds on him (compared to high street) for the last few weeks. I’m guessing you see him as a Kelvin Fletcher mk II? Competition on male side quite strong & I’m not sure Nancy is a plus, but can see Will being one who impresses from the get-go.

      • Stoney

        Probably me haha, although I can’t get anything more than a tenner on with high street bookies. Plus he is top prices 6/1 with most firms, as low as 9/2, I havent taken lower than those odds.
        I’m not so sure he will be a Kelvin Fletcher in terms of dancing ability, more of a steady improver like Joe Mcfadden, with a better personality. He is arguably the most popular contestant with the MEM vote going into the lives. I agree with Nancy not being overly helpful for him partner wise though.

  2. Stoney

    I see the porkies are already being unleashed by a couple of the contestants regarding their dance previous dance training. Matt and Kym will have obviously had plenty being in the music industry most of their life. Also Fleur played it down, when it was widely known that she was a better dancer than she was singer, on X Factor. The problem for Fleur is she is going to have to take it a step further and pretend to be crap for a few weeks to give herself a chance of winning. She knows how these programmes work, and she is desperate to win one of these so don’t rule it out.

  3. Stoney

    Off out the traps in lightening speed.
    Can the rest make up the gap? Hopefully not

  4. Guildo Horn Forever

    The one and major thing that steered me away from Will was his mention of his history of knee ops / knee problems related to football and that picture of him applying a bag of frozen peas to them during recent Strictly rehearsals. That he should debut with a stunning jive is quite the achievement and surprise. He’s got one of the hardest dances for his knees out of the way in the first week.

    I’ve long come to terms with my doomed early shop bet on Jayde Adams, have cashed out for a slight profit on Tyler, and have doubled down on Hamza. Far be it from me to wish for a flare up of knee trouble for Will, but other than that he’ll be difficult to overtake.

    • Stoney

      I think they have been over egging this story. He wouldn’t have been allowed to compete if it was a serious risk. To be fair if I hadn’t backed him at this point I’d be hoping for a withdrawal. It is the only way he doesn’t win now.
      Even Nancy seems a different person this year. Much more suited to Will.

  5. M8

    Hi Rob/all, that time of the year again. Hope everyone is healthy and well and here’s to a profitable season.

    My big takeaway from this season already has been that the launch show still has its place for bettors. Having watched the group on Friday, I was immediately struck by how sharp and “poppy” Hamza looked for such a big bloke, leading me to dive in with his criminally long odds. With him being a member of the “BBC family” and his diverse background, I’m hoping TPTB are happy to let him take the ball and run with it.

    Helen and Will are worthy favourites though. Helen is naturally likeable journey contestant and has the sad background story what she’s had to go through personally this year, not to mention the longtime male pro who is yet to win. Will is your classic male Strictly winner on paper, charisma, ability, middle England appeal. Fleur and Molly will get big scores (Molly especially impressive from the always difficult Samba) but votes obviously a clear issue.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I think Helen Skelton is full of it. First off, she was claiming she “couldn’t dance”, “can’t dance”, that she’d probably be “voted off in the first week”, and that the very point of Strictly was for a contestant “to learn to dance.” (Despite her scoring 37 out of 40 for a jive with Artem in a 2012 Strictly Xmas special!!)

      Next, an interview surfaced in which she’d boasted about winning a tap dancing award and being “very good” at tap dancing!

      In response to the, she dismissed that by vaguely saying that she “did” some tap dancing “as a kid” when “she was seven”.

      Truth be told, she was 17 years old when she won a prestigious tap dancing award. She was obviously a highly trained and talented tapper. You can further surmise that she’d been training and practicing for at least ten years, from age 7 to 17.

      Next, she’ll be wheeling out the disingenuous old chestnut of claiming that a dancer trained in tap and syncopation etc has no advantage on Strictly because it’s “an entirely different type of dancing.” No transferable skills whatsoever – Lol.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Fingers crossed our favourite dreadlocked teddy bear turns out to be fast-twitch.

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