nton Du Beke has said he loves how Strictly Come Dancing has the power to “lift everybody up” during difficult times, ahead of the new series launch this week.
The 20th series of the BBC show will see 15 celebrity contestants – including TV presenter Helen Skelton, EastEnders actor James Bye, singer Fleur East and former England footballer Tony Adams – taking to the dance floor.
Du Beke will once again join Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse on the judging panel when the hit dance competition returns to screens on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on September 23.
Speaking ahead of the new series launch, he said: “My absolute favourite thing about working on the show is the joy. The joy of the show, the joy it brings everybody, the joy it brings my family and the joy it brings me.
“I can’t believe, well I can really, that it has been going for so long and still we have a new audience coming to it every year, a new generation that are growing up with the show.
“There’s a wonderful feeling around the show. I love that feeling of lifting everybody up, which I think was highlighted through lockdown. The sun shines when Strictly is on.”
Du Beke is one of the few individuals who have been with the show since its first series in 2004, joining initially as a professional dancer and later taking over the role of judge from Bruno Tonioli who had to quit due to travel commitments for his role as a judge on Dancing With The Stars in the US.
He said that he felt “honoured” to be on the show since the beginning and that he was “delighted” to be returning for the 20th series.
However, the dancer-turned-judge admitted: “I do watch some of the pros do the numbers and get a bit of dance envy, thinking I wish I could have been a part of that. But judging is so much easier on the knees.”
Strictly Come Dancing was due to return to screens on September 17 but the launch show was delayed to September 23 followed by the first live show on September 24 after schedule shifts made due to the death of the Queen.
The celebrity line-up this year also includes Ted Lasso actress Ellie Taylor, Paralympic swimming gold medallist Ellie Simmonds, Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps actor Will Mellor, Loose Women star Kaye Adams and Coronation Street actress Kym Marsh.
They are joined by Bros singer Matt Goss, Kiss radio host Tyler West, Britain’s Got Talent finalist Molly Rainford, comedian and actress Jayde Adams, Wildlife cameraman and presenter Hamza Yassin and BBC Radio 2’s Richie Anderson.
Strictly Come Dancing launches on September 23 at 7pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.