Angela Rippon’s Strictly mantra: “Let’s do what we can for as long as we can”

Angela Rippon is confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing – and despite a long dancing background, her hopes are not as high as you’d think.

Angela Rippon is confirmed to join this year’s Strictly Come Dancing line-up – and at 78, she’s the show’s oldest-ever contestant.

Although Rippon described the idea of competing as “scary”, the award-winning newsreader, journalist and Rip Off Britain presenter is no stranger to the world of ballroom, having hosted the BBC’s original Come Dancing from 1988 to 1991.

She’ll face TV presenter Angela Scanlon, actor Amanda Abbington, journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy, musicals star Layton Williams and DJ Eddi Kadi in this year’s show, with more big names to be announced. The show will return to BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the autumn.

Strictly Come Dancing: Angela RipponCredit: BBC

“Having been a fan of Strictly since day one, and as a former presenter of Come Dancing, this will be quite an adventure for me. A scary one, considering I’m about to be 79. But I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and perhaps being able to learn to dance the Argentinian Tango,” she said.

Rippon was six years old when she first took up ballet – and told Saga Magazine about the benefits of dancing in a 2016 interview. “Dancing is better than just going to the gym – which tends to use only one set of muscles at a time,” she said. “Dance uses every part of your body, it’s aerobic, uses spatial awareness, helps with balance, is good for flexibility and uses your brain, because you have to remember your steps. I’m so grateful my mum sent me to ballet when I was six for my knock knees.”

Angela’s high-kicking history

In 1976, Rippon surprised her fans with an appearance on The Morecambe and Wise Christmas special, showing off her dancing skills as she emerged from behind the newsreader’s desk with a high kick. Although she’s still a fan of dancing to keep fit, Rippon is modest about her skills. “That was [more than] 40 years ago and I don’t want people to have exaggerated expectations,” she said.

A familiar face on TV screens for more than 50 years, Rippon was the UK’s first regular female news anchor, taking her place on the BBC’s flagship Nine O’Clock News in 1975. In 2017, she received a CBE for services to dementia care and has also presented The Truth About Dementia and How To Stay Young.

Angela RipponCredit: Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

After it was announced that Rippon was confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing, the star, who’ll turn 79 in October, appeared on The One Show and talked about her reasons for agreeing to take part. “I’ve been advocating ever since I did a series called How To Stay Young with Chris van Tulleken where we demonstrated that dance is the complete, full mind and body exercise for everybody, regardless of your age, but particularly for people as they get older,” she said.

“I know I’m not going to lift that Glitterball, but it would be wonderful if I could last long enough, a few weeks, and demonstrate even at my age that it genuinely is possible for people that are older to be able to dance, to keep fit and strong, help with their posture and balance, and to feel like a million dollars.”

Taking a modest approach might just pay off for the much-loved star, who says that doing the splits is her “party trick”. Her mantra for the show is clear: “Let’s do what we can, as well as we can, for as long as we can – and let’s have fun.”

Rippon told Saga that she eats sensibly and exercises; and after filming The Truth About Dementia, she decided to study Chinese to keep her brain active. She also shared with Saga her pragmatic advice for staying happy and healthy. “Stop looking for the elixir of youth. Regardless of whatever may be available pharmaceutically or chemically, the best things you can do if you want to live a long and healthy life are the things you can do for yourself,” she said.

“Take charge of what you eat, drink and do. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and can be fun. Try new things, keep active, have fun with your mates, keep involved with your people. A long and healthy life? It’s in your own hands.”

Why ballet is brilliant for older exercisers

Angela Rippon is an ambassador for Silver Swans ballet classes, created specifically for the over-55s by the Royal Academy of Dance. Queen Camilla is a fan of the classes, which improve posture, mobility and flexibility, as well as muscle strength and bone health. Find out more about the benefits of ballet at any age.

Hannah Verdier

Written by Hannah Verdier

Updated:

Hannah Verdier writes about fitness, health, relationships, podcasts, TV and the joy of reinventing yourself at 50 and beyond. She’s a graduate of teenage music bible Smash Hits and has a side hustle as a fitness trainer who shows people who hated PE at school how to love exercise.

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