The class of 2013 – what can I say? I think they’re brilliant. The atmosphere behind the scenes is pure fake tan and hairspray, and enormous nerves and excitement – which is exactly as it should be.
Because Strictly is a bubble. It’s like Christmas every week. It’s like you’re in a glitter snowglobe and everyone lucky enough to be inside becomes incredibly close – like a family. A family of dance. There’s a lovely camaraderie. Backstage there are celebrities eating together, having their faces done together, above all laughing together. When you walk around, all you can hear is laughter.
And I have to admit it isn’t always like that. This year we have an exceptionally lovely group of people. There have been some years when there’s been an element of, “Oh, let’s see what the competition is doing…” Sometimes people keep themselves to themselves. Maybe they go off and have a Pot Noodle, alone. There’s none of that this year. Everyone mucks in.
Performing in front of millions every Saturday night is more nerve-racking than any of us outside the bubble could ever know. And that’s a bonding thing. There are nine couples left now, and they’re the only people in the whole world who totally understand what they are going through.
Personally, I can’t think of anything less appealing – and I’m not just saying that. Sometimes I think, “Oh, I’d love to wear an emerald-green, fringed charleston dress…” I’ve spent quite a lot of time dreaming about it. But I like sitting down too much. If they let me do the whole thing in a flat shoe – or maybe in a onesie – I’d consider it.
As for my perfect contestant, well… Uri Geller – never not funny. Never. Or Paul McKenna! One of those two. Random magicians. Yes. How weird are the contents of my head? Very. But I’m not interested in uber-famous people. Between you and me, they’re a bit arrogant. The producers of Strictly always manage to get the perfect balance of personalities and characters.
And every year when someone has to leave, I get very angry. Totally miserable. You know what? I have just decided the rest are all staying. Tune in and you’ll see – I’ll go, “Tess-Tess – nobody’s leaving tonight. They’re all staying. I’m going to go and have a nap.” She’ll go, “All right. Fine.” Brilliant!
Claudia Winkleman’s Strictly verdict…
Abbey and Aljaz
I can’t physically look him in the eye. It’s a bit like not being allowed to look directly into the sun. He goes, “Hello Claudia!” — I’ll be having none of that. If I look him in the face, I fear something bad will happen. And I am a little bit in love with her. She is the cutest, most adorable… And do you know what, she gets so incredibly nervous. She is terrified; she shakes like a little leaf. They are physically breathtaking. And they get on really well. Her dancing is sublime. I hope they never leave. I’d like them to still be there next year.
Ashley and Ola
Adorable. He’s very bouncy. I keep on thinking he’s 11 and asking if he wants to do some colouring in. He looks at me as if I’m mad — he’s got two children. What I love about him is that he’s so busy — he’s got a brand-new baby, he’s filming all the time — but he totally gives it everything. And he and Ola get on brilliantly because, despite that, they have a proper laugh.
Fiona and Anton
What I like about Fiona is that she is a massive fan of Strictly. Whenever I talk to her, she’ll go, “Well, that reminds me of when Gavin did the paso.” And I’ll go, “I’m sorry?” Because I can’t even remember being there, but she’s like, “Yes, and you said this to him…” She is absolutely fantastic and Anton is in love with her — it’s a perfect combination.
Ben and Kristina
Well, he is adorable. Every time I sit next to him, I can’t stop touching his leg. It’s mortifying. And he started off, I swear to God — in the nicest way — not being able to move. He would just stand there. But Kristina is such a fantastic teacher. She dances like a cat. I could watch her dance until my ears bleed. When she takes somebody on, she wants them to do well. And he will do. Amazingly well.
Natalie and Artem
Oh. My. God. They’re just heaven. Natalie’s extraordinary! And she’s so sweet because she doesn’t know how good she is. It’s very hard to keep enormously high standards each week. I’m not sure whether the public appreciate that as much as they should. They’re brilliant. They’re going all the way.
Sophie and Brendan
They are dreamy. Number one — I don’t know whether you know this — her legs are 8ft long. She has the best legs of any human being ever. Number two — their charleston was amazing. Brendan loves having a partner who can dance — and boy, can she dance!
Susanna and Kevin
I am in love with her and I’m in love with him. When he wore glasses I almost wept with joy. She is a force of nature, and always positive. She’s smiley, she’s happy, she works incredibly hard… and never complains. And she is so supportive to everybody else. When somebody else rehearses, she goes straight up to them and says, “That was amazing.” She’s Mrs Positive. I want to take her home with me.
Mark and Iveta
Iveta is so funny — she makes fun of him all the time and he makes fun of her. They have absolutely the best time. And he can totally dance! More than anything, he’s thrown himself into Strictly — from his eyebrows down, he’s on board! That’s all the professionals ever want. When he danced to MC Hammer I thought I was going to fall over, I was so in love with his dance.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6:30pm on BBC1.