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Giovanni Pernice returning to Strictly Come Dancing to defend title

Reigning champion Giovanni Pernice will return to Strictly Come Dancing for its 20th series (Ian West/PA)
Reigning champion Giovanni Pernice will return to Strictly Come Dancing for its 20th series (Ian West/PA)

Reigning Strictly Come Dancing champion Giovanni Pernice is returning to the show for its 20th series.

The 31-year-old will be joined by fellow returning Strictly professionals Johannes Radebe, Nadiya Bychkova, Dianne Buswell and Graziano Di Prima.

Pernice, who first joined the BBC One show in 2015, picked up the Glitterball trophy with actress Rose Ayling-Ellis in 2021, marking his first Strictly win.

Ayling-Ellis, 27, was the first deaf contestant on the show and, during couple’s choice week, the pair performed a routine in which they paused the music and danced in silence as a tribute to the deaf community.

Pernice is now the longest-serving male professional in the current line-up, according to the BBC. His previous celebrity partners have included Georgia May Foote, Michelle Visage and Debbie McGee.

Anton Du Beke was previously the show’s longest-running professional, having appeared on the show since it first aired in 2004. However, last year he swapped the dancefloor for the judging panel, taking over from Bruno Tonioli.

The BBC has not yet said if Du Beke will be returning as a judge or professional dancer in the forthcoming series.

The confirmation of those who will be returning to the show follows the departures of previous winners Aljaz Skorjanec and Oti Mabuse.

Mabuse, 31, announced in February that she was leaving, while Skorjanec, 32, revealed he was quitting via Instagram on March 28.

In 2020, Mabuse lifted the Glitterball trophy with comedian Bill Bailey, and Skorjanec won with model and TV star Abbey Clancy in 2013.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling-Ellis won Strictly Come Dancing in 2021 (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

After a successful debut in 2021, Kai Widdrington, Nikita Kuzmin, Cameron Lombard and Jowita Przystal will also be returning to the show.

Further returning professionals include Amy Dowden, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk and Nancy Xu.

The show’s executive producer, Sarah James, said: “We could not be more proud of the Strictly professional dancers and we are so happy to have so many returning for 2022.

“The world-class skill and extraordinary care they bring to everything they do, from working with their celebrity partners to choreographing and performing remarkable and unforgettable routines, never ceases to amaze us.

“They really are the best in the business and we can’t wait to see what they bring to the Strictly ballroom for our 20th fabulous series.”

Further announcements about the show’s return, including any additional dancers joining the professional line-up, will be announced in due course.

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