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Strictly’s launch shows TV rivals a clean pair of heels

All cha-cha-change: Anton Du Beke told host Tess Daly he might finally have a chance with new dance partner Emma Barton PICTURES: BBC/PA

THE new series of Strictly Come Dancing waltzed to the top of the ratings leaderboard on Saturday night — despite a dip in viewers from last year.

‘Dad dancer’: James Cracknell with Luba Mushtuk and (below) judges including Motsi Mabuse (second left)

The glitzy launch show had an average audience of 7.8million and a peak of 8.3million — down on last year’s 8.1million average and 8.5million peak. However, its share of all TV watchers grew from 40.9 per cent last year to 44.7 per cent, the BBC said.

Rival ITV show Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions averaged 4.9million, peaking at 5.6million, with 30.3 per cent share.

Strictly’s line-up included new judge Motsi Mabuse and saw the celebrity contestants team up with the professionals.

Anton du Beke, 53, who has often been paired with the show’s older contestants, was thrilled to have EastEnders actress Emma Barton as partner. ‘So this is what it feels like. Book me in until Christmas,’ he told host Tess Daly.

Rower James Cracknell, a self-confessed ‘dad dancer’ was teamed with Russian pro Luba Mushtuk.