Joanne Clifton picks her Strictly ones to watch – and they are not who you would expect

Last year's champion pro dancer will be sharing her opinion on the 2017 series in a new blog for

Joanne Clifton Blog

Getting back together with Ore to perform our jive for the Strictly launch show was wonderful, but the first time I walked in to the training room he already had a few tears in his eyes. I just told him: “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare!”


But actually, he was coming up with his own ideas for the choreography: “Can I put an extra turn in there now?” Obviously he’s carried on dancing ever since Strictly, and he felt like he wanted to put an extra spin in and stuff like that. And I was saying, ”Yep go for it! Go for it!” He’s better now, he’s a better dancer, so I thought – do you know what? Put another spin in!

Getting out there and dancing on that floor was emotional. It had been a long day anyway, practicing with the band and then practicing for the camera angles, and then getting all the celebs ready and doing hair and make-up. But then we got on to that floor and we felt the same kind of buzz with the audience cheering us. We really went for it.

Jo Clifton and Ore Oduba jive to Runaway Baby
Jo Clifton and Ore Oduba jive to Runaway Baby (BBC)

I think that my heel got caught in my dress but apparently no one saw. Still, I’m very happy with how Ore danced it. He just went out and smashed it. And we had people coming up saying, “It’s really nice to see a champion come back and to be still at that same level as when he left,” because normally they stop dancing and then they come back and it won’t be quite the same.

Looking at the contestants this year, I think they’ve got a lot of potential. But in the nicest way possible – and a lot of people would disagree with me on this – as a group on the whole compared to last year, I think last year’s started out stronger.

Even so, there’s a lot of potential in this year’s line-up and it’s going to be wonderful and exciting to see them go on proper big journeys.

Strictly Come Dancing Cast 2017

The coupling up this year is pretty much spot on. Of course people want the Alexandra Burkes and the Mollie Kings, but actually I’m looking at Giovanni Pernice and Debbie McGee and thinking, “That is perfect.”

I do have my eye on a few potential winners. Obviously Aston Merrygold, he’s already got the hip hop style moves, and with Janette that’s going to be brilliant because she’s from that kind of background. I’m really looking forward to that, I think they’ll bring new stuff to the table and they’ll make it Ballroom and Latin but with a little bit of an edge to it. That’s exactly what head judge Shirley Ballas actually wants, she says that she’s seen it all – and so she wants something different.

And I actually thought Debbie McGee was amazing. I did watch her dance and she’s brilliant!  Even before she got paired with Giovanni Pernice she told me in the dressing room: “Do you know what? I have the same personality and the same sense of humour as Giovanni. It would be great to get him.”

Strictly Come Dancing Debbie Giovanni

Ruth Langsford is another one to watch. I said it from the beginning, she’s obviously got something. She’s one who I think obviously will go on a journey. I think she’s got potential and I’m going to back her all the way. And she’s going to have so much fun with Anton du Beke, they’re so well suited.

Kevin Clifton and Susan Calman was a surprise! But do you know what, this is going to be fun. She’s absolutely hilarious. She told me in the make-up chair that she wanted Kevin, she said: “I’ve got a picture of him on my fridge, and I’ve always wanted to do Strictly and it’s always him that I wanted to dance with.”

We were laughing about that and then she got him, and she just broke down in tears. And I think that’s lovely. They already get on like a house on fire.

When it came to the Bruce Forsyth tribute, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was very emotional.


It was a beautiful ballroom number, which is what he liked – and then they all went into the pose at the end and then came back out of it, and it was just the most beautiful thing. It was like he was there in the room. I think the choreographer Jason Gilkison couldn’t have done a better job and a better tribute. People will be crying at home, because Bruce is such a legend that they’re all going to feel close to him.

It was a little bit weird being at the Strictly launch show and knowing that everyone else was just about to start their journey – and I wasn’t. When I saw the group dance being practised with the celebs and everything, that was when I felt it the most – it’s such an exciting day when they do the pairings! I was sat at the side watching that and thinking: “I really want to get involved”.

But after dancing on Strictly, I came straight back and did Flashdance and loads of Strictly people came to watch: Louise Redknapp, Kevin, Neil and Katya, Janette, Chloe and loads of the guys. And I realised that I am very, very happy doing what I’m doing.

The only downside is that I had to dance in my knickers on stage in front of Kevin. I’m always nervous in front of my brother, doing stuff like this – and every time I got undressed down to my knickers I was thinking: “Oh no, Kevin’s probably hating this!”


Strictly Come Dancing will return on Saturday 23rd September on BBC1. Joanne Clifton currently stars in Flashdance – The Musical in theatres across the UK. Visit the website for full details of tour venues and dates.