Strictly Come Dancing faces the biggest cha-cha-change in its 16-year history as all contestants and professional dancers face being disqualified from the show if they test positive for coronavirus in a strict one-strike rule.
In a recent industry Q&A, executive producer Sarah James detailed the new Covid-friendly format, which also includes a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’, with one party being required to live alone.
even if the current coronavirus restrictions change from October 17.
One strike and you’re out! Strictly contestants and professional dancers (pictured) face being disqualified from the show if they test positive for coronavirus
As the nation waits to see how the pair will fare with their dance partners, Strictly bosses have drawn up tough plans to deal with anyone – celebrity or professional – who falls ill.
Sarah said: ‘Obviously according to government guidelines if you receive a positive test you have to isolate for two weeks and that would unfortunately rule them out of the show.’
This year’s series will be a pared down nine-week run with a very different look. The 12 partnerships – three less than usual – will be unveiled via video link rather than in the studio and the annual trip to the Blackpool Tower ballroom is also off the cards.
Shake-up: In a recent Q&A, executive producer Sarah James detailed the new Covid-friendly format, which also includes a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’
Changes: Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio, while Bruno Tonioli has said he will be ‘involved remotely’
Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, and the dancers will sit in the audience rather than go upstairs to get their scores.
Veteran judge Bruno Tonioli has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles.
With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements.
Keeping a distance: The panel will be giving the stars feedback from separate rostrums (pictured)
Back to business! The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group number
To ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will get tested regularly and ‘bubble up’.
‘Close contact cohorts (CCC) apply to people who need to work closely and break social distancing rules to do their jobs. It has to only be with one person and you are regularly tested’, the BBC executive said.
‘We are asking the celebrity contestants to be part of an exclusive support bubble with their dancers, which means that one half of the party has to live alone.’
The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group numbers.
Covid-friendly: The dancers will sit in the audience rather than go upstairs to get their scores
Sarah also discussed how hairdressers and make-up artist have had to adjust to the new guidelines as she added: ‘Hair and make-up and costume are all allowed in accordance with government guidelines.
‘We were able to have our hair and make-up team working with full PPE and sanitising once hairdressers and other facilities reopened.
‘Hair and make-up were able to work with as many of the different cast as they wanted or needed to, but this year we’ll have specific makeup teams assigned to specific couples to ensure people don’t mix as much.’
Earlier this month, a former crew member was reported to have Covid-19, but the producer revealed there was ‘minimal impact’ on the series as the worker in question was removed from set and had two more tests which came back as negative.
Switch-up: With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements
‘They’ll be working with full PPE’: Sarah also discussed how hairdressers and make-up artist have had to adjust to the new guidelines as she added (Giovanni Pernice pictured in 2018)
Comeback: ‘We have contingency plan for every eventuality. We have changed things regularly, but we are confident we’ll still be able to put the show on’, the executive said
She shared: ‘He had a test when working on another show and it came back positive, which meant all of our contingencies kicked in. I was really impressed with how brilliantly the team responded.
‘Everyone who was contact with him or had visited any areas he did were immediately sent home for a test and weren’t allowed back on site until they received their negative test results.’
‘The person in question had two more tests which both came back as negative. Although it was a false alarm, it was a great dry run for us.
‘We have contingency plan for every eventuality. We have changed things regularly, but we are confident we’ll still be able to put the show on.’
Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones and Graziano Di Prima have been axed from the main line-up and won’t be coupled up with celebrity contestants for this year’s edition.
The Ukrainian-Slovenian beauty, 31, choreographer Neil, 38, and Italian dance expert Graziano, 26, will form CCCs with fellow pro Nancy Xu.
The BBC employee explained: ‘Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones, Graziano Di Prima and Nancy Xu. So we have two males and two females, and they will appear in a CCC so that are able to dance.
Latin and ballroom star Nadiya, who previously insisted ‘chemistry is important’ on the dancefloor, is believed to be ‘gutted’ about not having a partner, after competing on the show with former goalkeeper David James last year.
A TV source told The Sun: ‘She’s wondering if it was a mistake to adopt such a flirtatious approach to her partners.
‘Bosses really want this year’s show to be scandal-free. There is a huge emphasis on everyone being professional.’
Neil, who is also said to be ‘devastated’ by the bosses’ decision, appeared on the 2019 edition with ex-footballer Alex Scott, while Graziano’s last celebrity partner was TV and radio host Vick Hope during the 2018 series.
Latin specialist Nancy, 29, joined the professional line-up last year and previously appeared on China’s version of So You Think You Can Dance?.
MailOnline has contacted representatives for Nadiya, Neil and Graziano for further comment.