This year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing has been the best series yet, and ahead of tonight’s big final I attended a press conference at the BBC with this year’s finalists.
This year has seen Strictly Come Dancing destroy The X Factor in the ratings and become THE biggest show on Saturday night television. I was even lucky enough to be invited into the audience of the Week 4 live shows and it was very clear to see why it’s one of the biggest shows on telly.
For the first time ever, Anton du Beke has made it to the final, with his partner Katie Derham, in his debut year, Giovanni has secured a place in the final with his partner Georgia May Foote, Kevin Clifton clean sweep of being in the final, this year hoping to lift the glitter ball trophy with Kellie Bright, and after being the first to leave last year, Aliona Vilani is hoping Jay McGuiness is the one to take her to glitter ball glory!
Here’s what each of the four couples had to say at that press conference, just days before the final...
First of all, when you first started Strictly, did you think you’d be here talking to the press about being in the final?
Georgia: Not at all! It seemed so far away anyway that it would have been impossible to get there. I still can’t believe I’m in the show full stop, let alone in the final. I’m really excited for the weekend.
Katie: What I’ve loved about Strictly is that you work with the best in the business, whether it’s wardrobe, make-up, props, musicians and the singers in particular... I’ve just been in awe of everything they’ve done every week. We’re just little cogs in the machine, but they make it all work.
What's been your favourite dance?
Georgia: My favourite dance, was by far the Charleston. Either that or the Samba, I loved them both! But the Samba especially, because I did it to Chicago, which is my favourite musical ever!
Jay: Mine was probably Georgia and Giovanni’s Samba and Charleston as well... Someone needs to give her a job in the West End, because that looked like the actual musical, and I can’t pick between our kids because I love them all!
Aliona: Same here, absolutely, every single one. From the first one through to now, they’re all our favourites.
Jay: Even the ones that are a bit special have charm.
Katie: The Tango, where he chucked me off the sofa? That was quite a laugh.
Anton: I’ve got to be honest with you, the Tango was amazing. I thought the slow Foxtrot was amazing. I thought the Viennese Waltz was amazing. The English Waltz, that was amazing. And the Quickstep? Now that was amazing! I think my favourite out of all of them was the American Smooth, up in Blackpool.
That was quite a show. There’s something about the Blackpool shows, with all those extra people in the room, that’s a perfect moment really.
Kellie: Oh it is really difficult to pick, because I honestly have loved every single one that Kevin Clifton has come up with. But... I would probably say the very best one was our American Smooth from last week. The Fred and Ginger moment was magical. But equally I love Boom Shake the Room, so if I had to pick my top two it would be those.
Kevin: For me it’s Star Wars. We did a Charleston to Star Wars with Lightsabers as canes. It just doesn’t get much better than that for me! That’s the weird thing about Kellie, we come up with these crazy ideas and Kellie just goes “Yeah, awesome. Let’s do it” and doesn’t fight me on it.
What about the dance that was the most difficult? The one you didn’t enjoy quite so much?
Kellie: The Rumba. I think technically that is probably the hardest dance that I have ever had to do. I loved it, I loved the challenge of it, but my goodness! And that’s the thing about all of this actually. It’s been much harder than I expected it to be. I still find it hard.
Katie: We’ve had such a laugh in the training room, that each week I get to Thursday and think “Great! It’s going really well!" (Laughs) Full of false confidence and enthusiasm, and then I get out there and get a four! Anyway... it’s not stopped me enjoying it.
What has surprised you most about being part Strictly?
Katie: I don’t think anything prepares you for hoe it will completely take over not only your time, but how much it’s in your mind the entire time. I wasn’t surprised by how lovely everybody was, and how much I enjoyed the dancing and all that, that’s just been a great joy. But, the fact that I can’t really lie in bed without the music going round and round and doing the choreography in my head, it’s like being possessed!
Jay: Everyone loves Strictly, either they’re a fan, or it’s on in the background and they know it’s a part of them. But I never realised that I’d become such a Strictly fan. I’m in love with the show. I think it’s awesome. You watch 15 people actually go through something quite interesting, and I didn’t realise that I’m going to watch it every year, and watch it with a completely different mentality.
What are you most looking forward to once the Strictly experience is over?
Kellie: I’m quite looking forward to not having any make-up on, or brushing my hair, or even getting out of my pyjamas maybe for a few days!
Now answer honestly... at this stage, there must be some rivalry?
Kellie: I honestly don't think there is. I really truly do not feel that at all, I’ve never felt it during the whole time we’ve been on the show. I’ve said it before, but I feel like we are a team, and to do something like Strictly, which is terrifying, the best thing about it has been to be able to pull together and draw strength from each other.
I feel going into this weekend, that I still want everyone here to do their best, feel happy with what they’ve done and to be honest, we’ve made it this far so we’ve all done it. We’ve done it! We’re winners, we’re all winners!
But there does have to be one winner. Have any of you thought about what it would be like to win this?
Kellie: No. I really haven’t. Honestly! Because we’ve been in a couple of dance-offs, I have taken each week as it has come. I have loved being part of Strictly, I’ve loved the experience of it, I’ve loved dancing with Kevin. So I’ve just tried to cherish each week because I thought “Well, this could be my last one”.
The thing for me, is that this week I feel slightly more emotional because I know that this is going to be the last one. So more than anything I’m not thinking about winning, I’m thinking that this is our last chance to do this and dance together. Our whole thing has always been to entertain everybody, so that’s what we want to do on Saturday.
Aliona: I think in general, you put so much of your time, effort and soul into each dance, that you really don’t have time to think of anything else apart from doing absolutely your best, coming out and be sure that you just smash and that your partner does his/her’s best.
The amazing thing about winning, is that because in the final only the public vote, it’s actually the biggest compliment the viewers can give you. It means that they chose you as their favourites, they loved you guys as a couple, they loved the celebrity and you’ve done something amazing where people are really rooting for you.
Will you all miss each other once the show is over?
Jay: Yeah, as the weeks have gone on you realise that winning the glitter ball does become redundant, and what you’re winning, what you’re getting from the show isn’t the chance that you can win or not, it’s the experience of the show.
Kellie: Well said!
Jay: So really what you want to do is get everything you can from Strictly! It is a wonderful glitter ball, but it’s just a symbol, we’ve already got what we want from the show I think.
Georgia, has being in the bottom two affected your confidence in any way?
Georgia: It wasn’t nice, I’m not going to lie. I was really terrified and upset, but Giovanni always said to me from the beginning that he wanted me to be in a dance-off. He wanted me to experience the good and the bad off the show, and to be in a dance-off you realise how much you want to be in this competition.
Giovanni: I think that all the celebrities in the show need to understand the feelings. The good feeling and the bad feeling as well. I always say if you want to win something, you need to work hard, so how you say? No pain no gain? So yeah, to go into the dance-off was absolutely fine for us.
Jay, what does it feel like being the last man standing?
Jay: I don’t really feel like the last man standing, because look, there are 8 people here and you end up being a couple, rather than a person. And there are four guys here that could potentially win or not, so I don’t feel like the last guy.
Why aren’t you doing your Jive in the final?
Jay: I think the Jive was so fun, and everyone loved it, and that was the absolute best I could do it, and I;m happy with that being the time that I did the Jive. I’d rather do something that I think will surprise people.
I think a few people will think “Yeah, do the Jive and that’s you sorted”, but no, that’s not the case at all and I want to surprise people with something different.
Anton: It’s funny, people have been coming up to me in the street and going “You should do the Jive!” - I said which one? Mine or Jay’s?! (Laughs)
Aliona: I think probably everyone expected us to do the Jive, and we understand it.
Anton: I don’t want you to do the Jive. Don’t do the Jive. Do the one you messed right up! I want you to do that one.
Aliona: (Laughs) We both decided that that was an amazon moment and there are other dances that we absolutely loved but could be improved a bit. We don’t want to take the easy road and show how much Jay has improved.
Jay: I think if we weren’t going to do the tour, maybe I’d want to do it, but we’re hopefully going to do that for four weeks so that’s going to be a lot of fun.
Anton this is your first ever final... Could it be 13th time lucky? And how desperate are you to win?
Anton: I’m not desperate. I really wanted to know what it felt like to be in the final, because I’ve been doing it a long time and Kevin has been here for 5 minutes and he’s never not been in the final! It don’t half make you angry, I’ve got to be honest with you.
I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to be Kevin Clifton, and now I know what’s it like... it’s like wearing velvet inside out. It’s sort of wrong, but it’s quite nice.
So if we win, it’s like an extra cherry on an already magnificent cake. To make it to the final is the most wonderful thing. Katie has been a joy and wonderful to be with, and a quite brilliant dancer... when she’s had breakfast. When she’s not had breakfast, and is a bit tired, but grumpy. But still magnificent somehow!
The thing about Strictly Come Dancing is that you don’t want to get voted off, because it ends. The moment you get voted off, it ends. It’s not like Football where you lose a much and come back next week and play another game.
So the winning is not really the thing, it’s just to keep going. You get in a dance-off and it makes you really sad because you’re really close to finishing. You get through the dance-off and you’re elated because you get to do it again. So making the final is a joy!
It's really getting to the end that's the key. There's nothing quite like it, because I've had to do that group dance where you watch everybody else make the final... you get a little bit spiteful. All the finalists do the parade and you have to push them in on a chariot, or something like that! Oh my god, twelve years of that.
And finally, ahead of the final there has been some negativity about you Anton in the press. Stories about fixes and today one about you being a diva backstage...
Anton: Oh I’m like a nightmare! Let me tell you. I never walk, that’s the thing you see. I go to the edge of the floor, and I get placed. (Laughs)
But no, to be honest with you, I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve heard some of this stuff floating about, but the thing about Strictly Come Dancing is that it’s such a wonderful show, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. It’s huge. It’s massive.
Any mention of fixing sort of makes me laugh really, because that would suggest that there’s quite a lot of organisation going on to sort of fix something that nobody knows what is going to happen. It’s too complex a thing to even get involved in all that. It’s complete nonsense. It’s ludicrous in its concept really.
The public really have their say in Strictly Come Dancing, the public have their say but the public have their own part in it where they have an equal share of the vote. The public love the show, invest in the show and make the show what it is. That’s why we get so many million viewers for each show, and they don’t want it to be spoilt so nobody is going spoil it.
It’s like giving someone a Christmas present and telling them what it is before they’ve opened it. Strictly Come Dancing is sort of the purest form of television there is. It’s an amazing show, and it’s all done to an incredible standard. Everything is the best that there is in this world of television that we live in. Because of that, we have the best show on television, with the best audience, the biggest audience and an audience who love the show.
If it wasn’t like that, it wouldn’t have lasted you see, because stuff never does. It’s got to be real because it’s the audience really who own the show.