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Dancing for joy: Fabrice Muamba gets down for the 'Strictly' Christmas special

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Strutting his stuff energetically on the dancefloor, Fabrice Muamba is literally dancing for joy. It's hard to believe this is the same man who almost died eight months ago when a cardiac arrest stopped his heart for 78 minutes.The former footballer, who retired after after his terrifying collapse during an FA Cup match for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham Hotspur, looks on top form as he struts his stuff for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special. The sportsman can be seen in the first pictures from the pre-recorded festive show showing off his snake hip moves and spinning partner Aliona Vilani around, his wide smile never leaving his face for a moment.

Taking part in the show caps an eventful year for Fabrice, whose life has completely changed since the summer. As well as his career change the 24-year-old has changed his relationship status in October, after getting married to his sweetheart, Shauna Magunda. "This year has been a difficult one but, to me, marriage is the happy ending," said Fabrice of his big day. The emotional ceremony, which was attended by footballers including Robin Van Persie, Andy Cole, Jason Roberts and his ex Bolton teammates Stuart Holden and Martin Petrov. featured exclusively in HELLO! Magazine.The couple's three-year-old son Joshua was pageboy.

Joining the miracle man in the BBC1 show – which will be broadcast on Christmas Day – are a host of other stars. Veteran actress Sheila Hancock is among them, but as enthusiastic as she was about taking part, she did have one condition – no fake tan was to touch her skin. "I’m much too old to be sprayed with fake tan. It would just go into all the wrinkles and be hideous," says the 79-year-old. "I made it absolutely clear when they asked me to do the show. I said "I’ll do anything you ask except fake tan. I wouldn't have done it without that proviso."

Shelia was joined by newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky – who took the coveted disco ball trophy during Strictly’s first series in 2004 – and retired Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson, who shows during the festive show he's still on top form by doing the splits during a mid-air leap.

JLS star JB Gill also features, as does pop star Rachel Stevens and Comedienne Katy Brand – who takes a turn with a novelty Christmas jumper-wearing Anton Du Beke. And adding an extra festive feel to the show will be Rod Stewart, who will sing a track from his new album Merry Christmas. Baby.

Strictly fans will have to wait until December 25 to find out who wins the special programme. It will be shown on BBC1 at 6.15pm.

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