Great Strictly Who JAB it? BBC in bind as three pros are unvaccinated
The great Strictly Who Jab It: As tensions grow behind the scenes over unvaccinated dancers and ‘shocked’ celebs, ALISON BOSHOFF explains all you need to know
September is here, so it must be Strictly crisis season.
And, true to form, not only has the show had to try to keep the lid on news that one professional dancer tested positive for Covid two weeks ago, they have had three dancers unmasked as unvaccinated, too.
The story has snowballed over the week amid a chorus of disapproval that includes not only former professional dancers but even the Prime Minister.
For who on earth would accept a job dancing cheek to cheek with a stranger for 13 weeks and not be vaccinated?
There are reports of consternation among the celebrity contingent, who are said to be ‘shocked’ that the show isn’t taking more care of them.
Worries: The identity of the dancers was not revealed and BBC bosses were said to be fearful that there could be a larger outbreak among those participating in the show
Concerns: It came just three days after it emerged that one professional dancer has tested positive for Covid-19 (Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman are pictured)
By Thursday, the BBC was having to work hard to dampen speculation that at least one celebrity wanted to swap as a result of the hoo-ha.
It insisted that there would be no ‘re-couplings’ and that all of the celebrities were going to stick with the professionals that they were paired with during the lengthy launch show, broadcast last week.
One rather rattled Beeb source described reports that the unvaccinated pros would sooner quit than submit to a jab as ‘bull****.’
The corporation released a statement saying: ‘A lot has been written about vaccinations and Strictly in recent days. The BBC has never commented on 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.’
Contestants and viewers alike are now taking part in a Strictly guessing game. So who are the great unjabbed?
And should the Beeb be protecting them — or sidelining them in the name of safety?
WHO CAN YOU RULE OUT?
Amy Dowden, Giovanni Pernice and reigning champion Oti Mabuse have all had two Covid jabs.
Dowden, 31, who is teamed with pop star Tom Fletcher, 36, was jabbed ahead of most of her age group because she suffers from Crohn’s disease.
Amy Dowden, Giovanni Pernice and reigning champion Oti Mabuse have all had two Covid jabs
She spoke about her vaccinations earlier this year. She has danced on the BBC show since 2017.
Giovanni Pernice, 31, partnering deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, 26, told Hello! Magazine over the summer that he was double-jabbed and had been over to Italy to visit family.
He shares a flat in London with new pro Kai Widdrington, 26, who is teamed with TV presenter A.J. Odudu, 33.
Oti Mabuse, 31, teamed with rugby player Ugo Monye, 38, is also double-jabbed.
IT WASN’T ME
Dancer Luba Mushtuk, 31, is without a celebrity partner this year.
As controversy raged over the unvaccinated dancers, she wrote on Twitter: ‘No doubts here. Just saying.’
This has led some to think that she has had the jab, and is saying none too subtly that she wishes she had a celebrity to partner.
Dancer Luba Mushtuk, 31 is without a celebrity partner but wrote on Twitter: ‘No doubts here. Just saying.’
Her agent did not return requests for comment. There is a belief that Johannes Radebe, 34, paired with baker John Whaite, 32, is also vaccinated.
He took part in numerous shows over the summer, including filming Celebrity Masterchef.
On Twitter in December a fan wrote: ‘Give Johannes the first COVID-19 vaccine. WE MUST PROTECT HIM AT ALL COSTS!.’
Johannes, clearly tickled, retweeted it twice with crying laughing emojis. Neither Luba’s nor Johannes’s agents responded to requests to comment.
CAN’T (OR WON’T) SAY
Many of the professional dancers were this week citing privacy as a reason for not giving their vaccination status. Popular Aljaz Skorjanec, 31, remained silent.
His agent said: ‘An individual’s Covid vaccination status is private medical information. This is an intrusion of privacy and we aren’t willing to comment or engage further on this.’
Much the same words were used by those speaking for Karen Hauer, 39.
Others who declined to reveal their vaccination status include Graziano Di Prima, 27, Katya Jones, 32, Nadiya Bychkova, 32, Nancy Xu, 29, Neil Jones, 39, Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, 23, Jowita Przystal, 27, Cameron Lombard, 20, and Dianne Buswell, 32.
Graziano Di Prima, Neil Jones, Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, Aljaz Skorjanec, Cameron Lombard and Gorka Marquez have all refused to comment on their vaccination status
Gorka Marquez, 31, who has a three-year-old daughter with former Strictly contestant Gemma Atkinson, 36, appeared on This Morning on Thursday and repeated the party line.
He said: ‘What I know is the show is taking big responsibility to keep everyone safe, lots of testing, lots of trying to keep everyone distant and safe during the studio.’
Pressed about whether he would prefer to be in a vaccinated environment he said: ‘Do you know what, everyone is free to do whatever they want. You go on the streets right now, some people might be vaccinated, some people might not.’
COME THROUGH COVID
Nadiya Bychkova had Covid in July – testing positive soon after returning to the UK from Slovenia.
She had to quarantine for ten days, as did some Strictly staff who had come into contact with her.
Katya Jones also had Covid, testing positive last year, which caused her and partner Nicola Adams to quit the show prematurely. That, though, was before vaccines were available.
Nadiya Bychkova (right) and Katya Jones (left) both had Covid in the last 12 months and had to quarantine
The third pro who tested positive earlier this month is widely thought to be Nancy Xu (left) partnered with CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson, 27.
The third pro who tested positive earlier this month is widely thought to be Nancy Xu, partnered with CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson, 27.
Eagle-eyed fans have noted that her official portrait shows her in last year’s outfit, which may imply that she was quarantining at the time this year’s photo shoot took place.
The BBC say that the pro in question was able to take part in recording the launch show. They declined to comment on the pro’s identity.
A BBC source pointed out that those who have had Covid may also be vaccinated.
Neil Jones, partnered with actress Nina Wadia, 52, had to quarantine in June after returning from a holiday in Mexico.
He was notified that a passenger on his plane had tested positive for Covid.
Neil Jones, partnered with actress Nina Wadia, 52, had to quarantine in June after returning from a holiday in Mexico
Dianne Buswell, partnered with comedian Robert Webb, 48, quarantined in a hotel for 14 days this summer after she returned to her native Australia to visit family
Dianne Buswell, partnered with comedian Robert Webb, 48, quarantined in a hotel for 14 days this summer after she returned to her native Australia to visit family.
Hotel quarantine is mandatory in Australia regardless of vaccination status.
There are only three unassigned dancers — newcomers Cameron Lombard, Jowita Przystal and Luba Mushtuk.
PROS ALL ELIGIBLE?
Yes – those who live elsewhere, or are not British residents, are eligible to have the vaccinations in the UK. Age will also not be an issue.
The youngest dancer, Nikita Kuzmin, is 23 and would have been offered a first jab in June, and a second six weeks later.
The youngest dancer, Nikita Kuzmin, is 23 and would have been offered a first jab in June, and a second six weeks later
You don’t have to have an NHS number, GP or any official documents to ask for a vaccine.
Some of the celebrities are potentially more vulnerable to Covid owing to underlying health conditions.
Loose Women’s Judi Love, 41, calls herself a ‘big girl’ and ‘meaty’.
Actor and author Robert Webb (left) had heart surgery two years ago for a birth defect, while Loose Women’s Judi Love (right) calls herself a ‘big girl’
Adults with excess weight are at increased risk of severe illness from Covid, and being obese may as much as triple the risk of hospitalisation because of infection.
Actor and author Robert Webb had heart surgery two years ago for a birth defect in his mitral valve, which stops blood flowing the wrong way in the heart.
He was off work for almost four months.
THE BEEB IN A BIND
The BBC explain that they have felt unable to ask celebrities or dancers if they are vaccinated because this is not a legal requirement – and they would lay themselves open to legal action if they did so.
Reports suggest that two out of the three unvaccinated dancers do not have celebrity partners.
A source adds that all celebrities in the show were aware they would not know if others had been jabbed.
A BBC source adds that all celebrities in the show were aware they would not know if others had been jabbed
As to the question of whether there really are three unvaccinated dancers, I’m told: ‘We cannot confirm or deny it because that is a private medical matter.’
Officially, the Beeb say: ‘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 professional dancers stay at a hotel in Elstree, Hertfordshire, and pre-record most group numbers. The dancers and all the competitors are tested multiple times a week.
The isolation period for anyone testing positive has been shortened to ten days and contestants will be allowed to sit out one week and then return. Meanwhile, the audience is limited and there will be no trip to Blackpool.
DANCE FLOOR DIVIDED
Former contestants and professionals have commented on the show’s approach.
Dr Ranj Singh, 42, an NHS doctor who competed in Strictly three years ago, said: ‘We should all be playing our part and do whatever we can to try and keep everybody safe.’
He added: ‘There may be legitimate reasons for those people to not be able to have the jab and we have got to understand that.’
Former Strictly dancer A.J. Pritchard, 26, said: ‘We’ve gone and helped at vaccination centres, helped people get the jabs.
We’re both double-jabbed and we feel like for the entertainment industry, the theatres, the live feeling… to get that back to full capacity, the jab is helping. That says it for us and that’s where we stand.’
Former Strictly dancer James Jordan, 43, said the trio were putting lives at risk and should be thrown off the show.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘I think that’s a matter for producers but I strongly believe that people should get vaccinated.’
STRICTLY COME DANCING 2021: WHO ARE THE COUPLES?
TOM FLETCHER & AMY DOWDEN
Celebrity’s Age: 36
Profession: McFly musician
Tom says: ‘I’m so pleased the news is out it’s been so hard keeping it secret. Equal parts excited and terrified.’
Fun fact: Tom’s McFly bandmate Harry Judd won Strictly Come Dancing in 2011. Tom’s wife Giovanna Fletcher is the reigning champion of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Celebrity’s Age: 48
Profession: Actor and comedian
Robert says: ‘It’s very exciting but with a slight undertone of quivering terror.’
Fun Fact: Robert squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance, beating the likes of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness to the title.
RHYS STEPHENSON & NANCY XU
Celebrity’s Age: 27
Profession: CBBC presenter
Rhys says: ‘I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation’
Fun fact: Rhys has been an actor since the age of ten, performing alongside Matt Smith and Hugh Bonneville.
KATIE MCGLYNN & GORKA MARQUEZ
Celebrity’s Age: 28
Katie says: ‘I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.’
Fun fact: Katie, who played Sinead Tinker in Corrie, won a NTA for Best Serial Drama Performance in 2020.
TILLY RAMSAY & NIKITA KUZMIN
Celebrity’s Age: 19
Profession: CBBC presenter
Tilly says: ’I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on!’
Fun fact: Tilly’s father is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and the pair often star in dancing TikTok videos.
NINA WADIA & NEIL JONES
Celebrity’s Age: 52
Nina says: ‘I think I should do this before I’m too old and can’t walk anymore. I just want to grab life by the horns and just enjoy it.’
Fun fact: Nina is a JDRF Ambassador and was awarded an OBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List.
ADAM PEATY & KATYA JONES
Celebrity’s Age: 26
Adam says: ‘I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool.’
Fun fact: Adam becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.
UGO MONYE & OTI MABUSE
Celebrity’s Age: 38
Profession: Rugby player and sports pundit
Ugo says: ‘What a dream come true! Strictly is the biggest entertainment show on TV and I can’t wait to show everyone I’ve got more than just dad dancing moves.
Fun fact: Beginning his rugby career at Harlequins in 2002, Ugo went on to make 241 appearances for the club where he scored 89 tries, won a Premiership and made his England debut in 2008.
AJ ODUDU & KAI WIDDRINGTON
Celebrity’s Age: 33
Profession: TV presenter
AJ says: ‘I think it’s going to be really challenging. I can’t wait for the sequins, the wigs, the glitz and the glamour.’
Fun Fact: Apocalypse Wow hosts AJ has featured on a whopping 14 TV shows this year, competing in the likes oF Cooking With The Stars and Celebrity Karaoke Club. She has appeared as a panelist on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two in the past, too.
JOHN WHAITE & JOHANNES RADEBE
Celebrity’s Age: 33
Profession: Great British Bake Off Winner and TV chef
John says: ‘I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family… I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth’
Fun Fact: The duo are the first ever all-male partnering – the first in 17 years of the show.
SARA DAVIES & ALJAZ SKORJANEC
Celebrity’s Age: 37
Sara says: ‘I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance… Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little.’
Fun fact: Sara was the youngest ever dragon on BBC show Dragons’ Den.
DAN WALKER & NADIYA BYCHKOVA
Celebrity’s Age: 44
Dan says: ‘I’m enjoying the experience when it starts of learning to dance. I’ll be honest I’m not making room on any shelves in my house for the glitterball.’
Fun fact: Dan recently quit Football Focus after 12 years at the helm and has been covering Tokyo Olympics.
GREG WISE & KAREN HAUER
Celebrity’s Age: 55
Greg says: ‘It’s about being out there and exposing yourself as someone who can’t dance, and learning.’
Fun fact: Greg is married to the actress Emma Thompson who he met while filming Sense and Sensibility.
ROSE AYLING-ELLIS & GIOVANNI PERNICE
Celebrity’s Age: 30
Rose says: ‘I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill.’
Fun fact: Rose will make history as Strictly’s first deaf contestant.
JUDI LOVE & GRAZIANO DI PRIMA
Celebrity’s Age: 41
Judi says: ‘I’m truly looking forward to pushing myself in something that I could have only dreamed of doing and now it’s actually coming true!’
Fun fact: Judi began comedy when she performed a set in front of her class for a degree module.
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