The Strictly Come Dancing professional dancers have begun their tour of the UK in Oxford's New Theatre.

Reigning champion Vito Coppola, who lifted the glitterball trophy in December with actress Ellie Leach, was among the 12 dancers who kicked off the first night of the 37-date tour on Wednesday evening.

Jowita Przystal, who won Strictly in 2022 with wildlife cameraman Hamza Yassin, also performed alongside longest-serving Strictly professional Karen Hauer and three-time Strictly finalist Gorka Marquez.

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Other performers from the BBC’s flagship show for the Strictly The Professionals tour included Dianne Buswell, Nikita Kuzmin, Neil Jones, Luba Mushtuk, Graziano Di Prima, Carlos Gu, Michelle Tsiakkas and Nancy Xu.

The 12-strong ensemble will perform their ballroom and Latin routines, bringing the glamour from the hit TV show to live stages across the UK.

In May, the dancers will perform at the London Palladium, while the show will come to a close at the Globe Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees.

Oxford Mail: Graziano di Prima, Nikita Kuzmin, Nancy Xu and Michelle Tsiakkas during dress rehearsals for TheJones said his girlfriend Chyna Mills will bring their six-month-old daughter Havana to spend time with him if he is performing one show a day instead of two.

While veteran Marquez said his girlfriend and former Strictly star Gemma Atkinson will also bring their four-year-old daughter Mia to watch him perform in London or Manchester because “she loves to see Daddy dance”.

He said their son Thiago, born last July, is too young “to understand the passage of time” while he is away from home on the Strictly tour or as a judge on the Spanish version of Strictly.

Oxford Mail: Neil Jones, Dianne Buswell, Vito Coppola, Michelle Tsiakkas, Nikita Kuzmin, Karen Hauer, Gorka

Fellow Strictly veteran Hauer, who has been with the show since 2012, said the professional tour “has a very special place in my heart”.

Hauer, 42, said her and 41-year-old Jones are “conscious of keeping up with all the younger dancers” so she trains every day to maintain her stamina.

“Time and again, though, any exhaustion you might feel simply evaporates when you’re in front of an audience. Nothing is more exciting,” she said.

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Meanwhile, it is the second professional tour for reigning champion Coppola, who said it was “special” that dancers from all around the world are united in their passion for dance as “brothers and sisters”.

Ukrainian-born Kuzmin, who recently placed second on Celebrity Big Brother, described last year as “my favourite tour ever”.

“This year is going to be even bigger and better. We’ll have lots of personal sides to the show and special reminders for the people who watched the last season of Strictly,” he teased.

Oxford Mail: Carlos Gu and Jowita Przystal during dress rehearsals for The Strictly TourBuswell said she will spend her day-off from the tour on May 6 celebrating her 35th birthday with her boyfriend Joe Sugg – whom she met on the BBC show.

Jason Gilkison, who has directed the tour, said: “The 2023 tour was spectacular, we really pushed the boundaries with the choreography and as a result the show was phenomenal.

“We want to push that even further for 2024, with more dancers than ever before.

“Audiences will be blown away by the skills of our pros, as individuals and as a breathtaking ensemble. The entertainment factor will be off the scale – I can’t wait.”

Strictly The Professionals 2024 will be touring the UK until June 1 and tickets and venues can be found at