6 things we learned behind the scenes at Strictly Come Dancing 2017

RadioTimes.com caught up with (almost) all of the celebrities and their professional dancers during rehearsals – and here's what we discovered

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž Skorjanec on Strictly Come Dancing 2017

Rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing are busy. Seriously busy.

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There are costume fittings to be done, physio sessions to attend and seemingly endless dress runs to go through. But amongst the organised chaos and tight schedules, RadioTimes.com managed to track down the remaining celebrities and their professional partners ahead of Saturday night’s live show.

Backstage passes in hand, we spoke to Davood about Waltzing in Albert Square, Mollie about Quickstepping down the road to lunch and what made Joe think he wasn’t cut out for Strictly.

1. What is a ‘Paso Doble-thon’?

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž Skorjanec on Strictly Come Dancing 2017
Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž Skorjanec on Strictly Come Dancing 2017 (BBC Pictures)

Yep, that’s a word…sort of. Like the Cha-Cha-Challenge or the Swing-a-thon of Strictly yore, this year the seven remaining couples are going to have to do a Paso Doble-thon.

This means that all of the couples have had to learn two routines this week: their usual performance plus a Paso Doble.

This challenge will see everyone take to the floor at the same time and move anti-clockwise around the ballroom, being careful not to knock into each other, with the aim of winning the most points from the judges. It could mean that the leaderboard gets turned on its head after the scores are added together.

“Our Paso was a strong dance for us,” Gemma Atkinson tells RadioTimes.com at rehearsals. “However, we didn’t have six other couples whizzing past us. But I’m in safe hands. Aljaz is going to guide me around. If anyone bumps into us, I’ve been told to stop, compose myself, and then take his lead.”

Joe McFadden sums it up by saying that “the whole thing is about going out there and not being distracted – and not whacking people, which can naturally happen because we’re all throwing ourselves into it. But the rehearsals seemed to go well!”

Well that’s good to know…

2. Joe McFadden thought he’d made a mistake doing Strictly

Although Joe McFadden and Katya Jones are now storming up the leaderboard and performing some amazing routines, that wasn’t always the case.

In week two of Strictly, the actor got a score of 22 for his Tango – their worst throughout the whole series.

“I lost my steps and it really frightened me,” he explains. “I knew it was a possibility, but to have it actually happen really dropped me. After having had a great week the first week for the Jive that was a shocking week and it made me think, ‘Oh no, I’m not sure I can do this – there’s been a big mistake. I shouldn’t really be here’.

“But then week three, we sort of got back on it and I thought ‘OK, we just need to concentrate and work hard and it can go well.'”

Conversely, Joe now loves dancing so much that he would love to follow in former Holby City actor and Strictly winner Tom Chambers’ shoes and go into the West End.

“That would be amazing,” he says. “I love to sing, I love musicals. It would be great to do stuff like that – and maybe do some other nice telly. I’m not going to stay in Holby forever and this has certainly given me a bug to go out and do some live entertainment.”

3. Susan and Kevin will almost certainly be working together again post-Strictly

Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton
Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton (BBC Pictures)

Their amazing partnership has been one of the highlights of Strictly 2017. But no matter when Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton end up bowing out of the show, one thing’s for certain: this won’t be the last we’ve seen of their on-screen partnership.

I’d love to work with Kevin again in the future,” Susan tells us. “We’ve been cooking up plans and I think we’ll be working together on something very interesting. I mean, I am a professional dancer now – obviously – but I think I should maybe go back to the stuff that I’m good at…”

4. Alexandra Burke is praying she won’t cry during her Rumba

Alexandra Burke tears

This week is set to be a rather emotional one for Alexandra. She’s going to be dancing the rather sensual Rumba with Gorka Marquez to Halo by Beyonce.

“It means so much and I think so many people won’t realise how emotional it will make me,” she explained. “I said to Gorka yesterday that I’m hoping to God that I do not cry during the routine, because the lyrics, the song, people don’t understand how emotional this journey’s been.

“I’m very in touch with my emotions, and any emotion that I feel it comes out. And I can’t help but think of my mum in this journey.”

5. Mollie King’s nerves are getting worse – but she’s still pulling 12-hour rehearsal days

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Mollie King and AJ Pritchard
Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Mollie King and AJ Pritchard (BBC Pictures)

After Mollie and AJ Pritchard found themselves in the dance off two weeks running, she told us that she was putting in 12-hour rehearsal days. So after avoiding the dreaded bottom two for a few weeks now, has she cut back a little on the unbelievably hectic training schedule? Erm, not as such.

“We’ve always trained a lot,” says Mollie, confirming that yes – they are still rehearsing for 12 hours a day. “We’re kind of known for it. Even just now, I had a laugh with Joe [McFadden] because we’ve both got the Quickstep this week, and I said to him, ‘It’s so exhausting that we had to finish slightly earlier yesterday’. He went, ‘What time was that then? Midnight?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, pretty much!’

“We just train all the time. We’re lucky, because we love it, so it doesn’t feel like a chore or a job. We get to hang out, and we can dance. What’s not to love?”

But despite getting more into the swing of the Strictly routine, AJ actually says that Mollie’s nerves have “definitely” got worse as the weeks have gone by.

“The nerves are just uncontrollable,” she says. “It’s so nerve-wracking. I don’t want to let AJ down and I don’t want to let myself down.”

She does say that the Quickstep this week is her favourite dance to date, but that she’s also worried because the last time she did ballroom she tripped up!

Regardless, Strictly has taken over her life. “We were just laughing actually in there, because AJ and I were Quickstepping down the street the other day. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happened to us? We’re literally quickstepping to lunch. This is not normal.'”

6. Davood Ghadami turned down a Waltz around the Vic with Kellie Bright

Davood Ghadami on Strictly Come Dancing 2017
Davood Ghadami on Strictly Come Dancing 2017 (BBC Pictures)

There can’t be many people who would turn down the chance to dance with Strictly 2015 contestant and EastEnders star Kellie Bright. But it turns out Davood Ghadami is one of them!

“There have been a couple of occasions where Kellie has said, ‘Let’s do a little waltz now’,” laughs Davood. “And I’m like, ‘It’s too precious, I can’t dance unless it’s with Nadiya’. And I’ve got to be careful – I don’t know if there’s loose wires or spillages anywhere. I don’t want to do any damage!’”

That said, we have seen the odd picture of the Kush Kazemi actor lifting up fellow EastEnders star Bonnie Langford, who plays Davood’s on-screen mum Carmel. Perhaps Bonnie would be a possible contender for Strictly 2018?

“She’d be brilliant,” says Davood. “I don’t think she’s got experience of ballroom, but she loves dance and she’s so capable. I think the public would love her…she knows how to perform. She’s a great entertainer!”

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Strictly Come Dancing airs Saturday 24th November on BBC1