It’s been a landmark year for Strictly Come Dancing. Hold on to your glitter balls, as there isn’t long to wait to find out who is this year’s champion!
Watch the Strictly Come Dancing final, Saturday 16 December, 6.30pm, BBC One/HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Series 15 has been a whirlwind. It's the first since the death of former host Sir Bruce Forsyth, at the age of 89. We had the debut of new head judge Shirley Ballas, who replaced Len Goodman following his retirement. Shirley has delighted and irked viewers in equal measure, with some fans blaming her for the shock early exit of favourite Aston Merrygold in week 7. GASP!
Debbie McGee has captured the heart of the nation, thanks to her amazing chemistry with dance partner Giovanni Pernice. Speaking of chemistry – who can forget Ruth Langsford rolling around on the floor with her dance partner, Anton Du Beke? OK fine, it was an unfortunate stumble, we don’t want to be responsible for fuelling Strictly curse rumours here!
It’s nearly time to find out who this year’s champions are. But in the meantime, to tide us over, check out six of our favourite Strictly partnerships of all time. And remember: “Keeeep dancing!”
Our favourite BFFs
Who? Zoe Ball and Ian Waite
When? Series 3, 2005
Why? This tall blonde twosome clicked instantly and went on that all-important “journey”. Zoe increased in confidence while falling in love with ballroom, transforming from tomboy to elegant dancer along the way. Arlene Philipps memorably told Zoe: “You have what every dancer dreams of – an expressive spine.” This partnership and friendship has lasted the distance. Zoe Ball is now the host of Strictly discussion show It Takes Two, where Ian is a resident expert. Zoe was also a guest at Ian’s wedding this summer to his partner Drew Merriman. Aww.
Best score: Zoe and Ian achieved a score of 38 for three of their dances and ranked a respectable third in that year’s final. We loved their feathery samba to “Aquarius” from the musical Hair in week 5.
Our favourite love story
Who? Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev
When? Series 8, 2010
Why? She was the former EastEnders actress. He was the new Russian professional dancer. Together they had us gripped as they fell in love – and won the show. Bruno Tonioli quipped: “The chemistry between you two, as you say in Russia, could power a nuclear station.” Kara and Artem went on to have a three-year relationship following their win.
Best score: Oddly for a winning couple, they never scored a perfect 40. But they received a number of 39s – including for their beautiful Viennese waltz in the semi-final. It was packed with drama – just check out those flailing arms.
Our favourite underdogs
Who? Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor
When? Series 10, 2012
Why? The former Emmerdale actress and her professional dance partner formed a brilliant double act. That infectious sense of fun, combined with a talent for camp, created a pairing who always brought the fun factor. If you look up pizzazz in the dictionary, you’ll see their American Smooth to “All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago listed.
Best score: They may never have scored higher than a 32, but Lisa and Robin still made it to the semi final.
Our favourite improvers
Who? Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace
When? Series 10, 2012
Why? He may have just won a silver and a bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, but Louis got off to an awkward start. It seemed like the Michael Jackson fan would be lucky to make it to Halloween week. Being paired with Flavia Cacace was his saving grace, as her nurturing approach gave her celeb partner the confidence to shine.
Best score: Their epic show dance earned them a 40 in the final, but it was their cheeky Charleston that truly won us over.
Our favourite fairy-tale pairing
Who? Abbey Clancy and Aljaz Skorjanec
When? Series 11, 2013
Why? Slovenian-born professional dancer Aljaz made his Strictly debut in 2013 – and went on to win that series. His dream pairing with Abbey Clancy was the perfect launch pad. Both genetically blessed, they were well matched in height and just oozed positivity. Britain’s Next Top Model host Abbey won over the Strictly faithful with her talent for dance and down-to-earth warmth and talent. The couple earned high praise from then-Head Judge Len Goodman, who said: “No one has ever achieved lines like yours [on the show] in America or in the UK.”
Best score: Their waltz to Des’ree’s “Kissing You” in the final was a spine-tingling moment, which earned them one of their two 40s of the series. But it was the week 10 salsa to “You Should Be Dancing” that truly gave us some Saturday night fever. Wowzers!
Our favourite daredevils
Who? Danny Mac and Oti Mabuse
When? Series 14, 2016
Why? Having spent four years as the main heartthrob on Hollyoaks, actor Danny Mac used his Strictly experience to really cut loose. A natural-born dancer with matinee idol good looks, he found his ideal match with South African professional Oti. “It is actually difficult to distinguish who is not the professional dancer now”, said Darcey Bussell after the sensational Charleston in Blackpool. But they didn’t rest on their laurels. From the time Oti flew five miles across the dancefloor (spoiler alert: he catches her), to that risqué, bare-chested Samba, they pushed it real good.
Best score: They achieved a perfect score of 40 for four of their dances, and were runners-up in the final. The American Smooth in Week 12 was the stuff dance dreams are made of.
Not ready for Strictly to end? Tune in for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas 2017 Christmas Special, Christmas Day, Xpm, BBC One/HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
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Image credits: Strickly Come Dancing © BBC – Photographer: Ray Burmiston