Strictly Come Dancing stars Bill Bailey and Jacqui Smith get their exercise in ahead of launch

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The sparkly costumes and high-octane dance numbers have proved a winning formula for nearly two decades. But Strictly Come Dancing now faces the biggest cha-cha-change in its history.

Thanks to the pandemic, the show’s bosses have brought in a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’ – as well as a rule that anyone who contracts Covid will be disqualified. 

But it seems this year’s contestants have not let this put them off, with comedian Bill Bailey and former home secretary Jacqui Smith trying their best to get in shape ahead of the launch show – due to air on October 17.

Ballroom ready: Comedian Bill Bailey and former home secretary Jacqui Smith were seen trying their best to get in shape ahead of the Strictly launch show – due to air on October 17

Run: Miss Smith, 57, went for a run with her two lurchers Ronan and Lori near her home in Worcestershire

Ballroom ready: Comedian Bill Bailey and former home secretary Jacqui Smith were seen trying their best to get in shape ahead of the Strictly launch show – due to air on October 17

Bailey, 55, has been photographed leaving a gym in west London, while Miss Smith, 57, went for a run with her two lurchers Ronan and Lori near her home in Worcestershire.

Bookmakers have named Bailey and Miss Smith among the celebrities most likely to leave the competition first – with each of them at 50/1 to take the Glitterball Trophy.

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. 

Executive producer Sarah James 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.’ 

Workout: Bailey, 55, has been photographed leaving a gym in west London

Workout: Bailey, 55, has been photographed leaving a gym in west London

Off we go: The star cut  a casual figure in a black tee and navy shorts as he strolled

Off we go: The star cut  a casual figure in a black tee and navy shorts as he strolled

Refreshed:He enjoyed a sip of water as he left following his workout

Refreshed:He enjoyed a sip of water as he left following his workout 

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. 

Only three judges will be in the studio – with separate rostrums – and the dancers will sit in the audience rather than go upstairs to get their scores. 

Cool: The star slipped on stylish shades as he left the gym after his workout

Cool: The star slipped on stylish shades as he left the gym after his workout

Nearly showtime : Jacqui enjoyed a walk with the dogs as she prepared for the live shows

Nearly showtime : Jacqui enjoyed a walk with the dogs as she prepared for the live shows

Nearly showtime : Jacqui enjoyed a walk with the dogs as she prepared for the live shows

Stroll: The politician added a splash of colour to her ensemble with a pink top and leggings

Stroll: The politician added a splash of colour to her ensemble with a pink top and leggings

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.

To ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will ‘bubble up’ and be regularly tested. The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group numbers.

Weeks to go: Jacqui joins a star-studded line-up for the popular show

Weeks to go: Jacqui joins a star-studded line-up for the popular show

Fan favourite: Thanks to the pandemic, the show’s bosses have brought in a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’ – as well as a rule that anyone who contracts Covid will be disqualified

Fan favourite: Thanks to the pandemic, the show’s bosses have brought in a socially distanced judging panel and contestant ‘bubbles’ – as well as a rule that anyone who contracts Covid will be disqualified

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