Strictly Come Dancing’s Natalie Lowe says this year’s competition will be tighter than ever with new covid rules

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Strictly Come Dancing is back and, for me, it didn’t disappoint.

I was really intrigued to see how they were going to manage the whole social distancing thing but with all the measures they put in place, it just has been amazing and I really think it’s made them re-think how they can make the show bigger and better.

Every year they think about how to make the show bigger and better but I think they’ve had to really concentrate on creating even more of an awesome show.

They’ve just taken it up a whole new level than what I think they would have had Covid not been around.

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I really love the new format where the celebrities met their partners in different locations so it’s not that lineup in the studio that you see. When I first started in 2009 I remember meeting my celebrity in their place of work and it creates a nice energy.

I just think it’s a really positive change because of the things they’ve had to do.

The pro numbers were electric, classy, cool. I think it’s because they’ve been together their minds are in it. Two weeks, intense rehearsals – I really think that creates an amazing buzz and brings out the best choreography and routines. I can’t wait to see all the professional numbers this year!

There were 8.6million viewers on Saturday night's show, which is the most-watched show since 2017. And I just think that’s amazing for a launch show to have that many people watching.

My wow couples, which really impressed me, for the first show were Gorka Maquez and Maisie Smith, they were the biggest standout for me. She’s got it, she was winking at the camera, doing spot-turns on her own, effortlessly, she just held her own. She’s confident, sassy. And, Maisie is in very good hands with Gorka, he’s an amazing partner and I think they have incredible chemistry. They are ones to watch for me.

Aljaz Skorjanec and Clara Amfo – she is very wow for me. Those two just look really fun together, very happy, smiley and I saw her do a little bit of salsa in her VT and I was very impressed.

Katya Jones and Nicola Adams – what a winning smile Nicola’s got, she just takes up the whole screen as she’s beaming with energy and life. But, for me, these two are gonna be a dynamic duo. They both have an incredible work ethic and I’m not sure who will wear who out first. Katy is the hardest taskmaster I’ve ever met. I just think watch this space, because if there was 28 hours in a day they would work 28 hours in a day!

And I think, with my past experience, Strictly is like survival of the fittest so it’s going to be a huge advantage for Nicola. I’m excited to see their creativity, artistry and their dynamic relationship unfold.

Janette Manrara and HRVY, they’re a very cute couple but when I say cute I mean pocket rockets in their own right! I really liked seeing him dance with Janette. I can really feel a nice energy between them. She’s gonna take him under her wing and I think he’s gonna put his absolute all into this partnership.

And Johannes Radebe and Caroline Quentin, I am in love with these two. I think they just ooze class and I’m really excited about the pairing. Johannes is gonna sweep Caroline off her feet, he’s the most amazing person to dance with and she is going to be bringing some old school glamour.

Oti Mabuse and Billy Bailey are fun, fun fun. I think they’re gonna laugh more than they dance but she is gonna make him work!

And I really like, who I think he may be a bit of an underdog at the minute, is Jason Bell and Luba Mushtuk. I think he’s got some serious moves up his sleeve.

We’ve got some very strong personalities with the professionals. I think they’re all gonna be cracking the whip. But I think Luba will definitely crack Jason into shape and get him moving and grooving.

It’s really interesting to see some of them really taking to the ballroom and some really take to the Latin and you’ve gotta find someone who is good at both. It’s going to be a very interesting year.

I really do think this year is going to be very competitive. They’re in their own bubbles, they’re gonna live, breathe, sleep, dance. They just can’t escape from it and I think that’s why this year is gonna be a force to be reckoned with.

The positive for the professionals is that normally 80% of them are working and doing their own thing whereas now you always had that 20% who didn’t work and they had an advantage to everyone else because they can do the hours and really sink their teeth into the whole experience and not dip in and dip out.

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Whereas now, it’s an even keel. I’ve got goosebumps just talking about that.

I think that’s great because it’s gonna be fairer. And I think may the best man or woman win because there’s no disadvantage there, everyone is there doing as much as they can. But, it could also go the other way, I think they need to be able to switch off and have the space they need because you don’t wanna burn out too early – people may go into it too hard and get injuries and stuff like that.

It’s gonna be interesting, the pros have never had to do this but they’re gonna have to find a balance between how much work they do. Lots of things can help the celebrities this year because they’re gonna be in that zone which is exciting.

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