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I TALK TO Strictly Come Dancing Finalists 2019

I caught up with this year's Strictly Come Dancing finalists at a press conference in London ahead of tonight's live grand final.


After 13 sensational weeks of sparkle the wait is finally over as tonight, either Emma Barton, Karim Zeroual or Kelvin Fletcher will be lifting that glitterball trophy along with their professional partner.


But it's not going to be easy as each couple will be performing three routines each; their favourite from across the series, the Judges' Pick of their previous routines and a brand new Showdance.


For their judges' picks, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas and Bruno Tonioli have Kelvin and Oti's Rumba from show 4, Karim and Amy's Quickstep from show 7 as well as Emma and Anton's Charleston from Musicals Week.


Emma and Anton's showdance will be to Let Yourself Go by Irving Berlin. Karim and Amy’s showdance will be to Pink’s A Million Dreams and Emma and Anton's showdance will be to Shout by The Isley Brothers.


As for their favourite dance of the series, Kelvin and Oti have chosen their Samba from the first show, Karim and Amy have chosen their Jive from Musicals Week and Emma and Anton have chosen their Viennese Waltz from show 4.


Here's what each of the finalists had to say about making it all the way, what they'll miss the most and more, plus Anton reflects on being on the show since the very beginning back in 2004.



Karim on friendly rivalry with the other finalists...


Karim: Honestly, no. We genuinely do all support each other and the best thing about us is that we all want each other to do well. That's the greatest thing really. The week I really wanted to get through was the semi-final - which I didn't realise - but it was only because we'd all worked so hard and we could almost taste it (the final), it was one week away - so I thought get me to that final and then I can breathe.


Now I'm here, I just want to go and enjoy those three dances. Of course I'd love to lift that (the glitterball trophy), it would be amazing - but I'm not competitive with these guys, I'm competitive with myself really.


On their biggest challenges...


Amy: Karim has an abundance of natural talent. I truly believe that he was born to be on the stage. For me, the challenge was to be as creative as I possibly could and I felt that I had no boundaries with my choreography. There's a lot of pressure with that because I really need to show off Karim's talent. For me the pressure was delivering the best choreography I possibly could.


Karim: The nerves can be quite hard to deal with. It doesn't really get any easier. It's the best feeling when you're out there and it's done, but when we walk up the stairs I'm shaking like a leaf. That doesn't get easier, if anything it gets harder. That's something that I've really struggled with. I'm probably one of the most nervous before I dance. I just try and hide it.


On what they'll miss the most...


Karim: I'm going to miss the laughs we have in the training room. We work really hard so I'm going to miss the banter we have, the lunchtimes, the friendship. Of course I'm going to miss the dancing but I've made a friend for life. It will hit me, it hasn't hit me quite yet because I'm building up to that final - it is going to be surreal not seeing this little face every day shouting at me! (Laughs) Telling me I'm late and stuff... that I won't miss.


Amy: For me, I can't think about Sunday morning or I'll get too emotional.


Karim on being in two dance offs...


I was never naive enough to think that I couldn't be in a dance off. I just said to Emma, in a weird way, I've got to experience everything on Strictly, which is a nice way to look at it. It's never knocked me because I take each week as it comes. Why not experience that? You have to experience the highs and the lows.


For me, I come back each week and I'm just happy to dance. I'm really proud of myself of how deep I can dig to breathe and go back out there and put on an amazing performance that I hope people enjoy.


I was surprised the first time it happened. I thought "How am I going to react?" and then as soon as it happened I was quite calm and collected and thought - OK, let's just go and perform because I love each dance so much.


The best thing about it is, you know how the audience are going to react. It's kind of like a dress run, the show, you hope the audience are going to clap again at that part - if they enjoy it the first time and I'm in the dance off, I know they're going to enjoy it again.


I just take every week as it comes and keep pushing.



Kelvin on reaching the Strictly final...


Like all of us, I'm a huge Strictly fan, I have been for many years. It's been one of those show that I've watched at home for year and thought "I would love to do that". Just for what it represents. You can see people throwing themselves at what is always a huge challenge and doing something that's out of their comfort zone.


I'm a big believer in challenging yourself and what better way to do it than in front of 11 million people dancing - learning these new steps, having a spray tan and all these amazing costumes. I love the spray tans. Strictly is one of the best things I've ever done and it has changed my life. It's been absolutely incredible.


Oti on changing partners...


The whole experience feels like an adventure. I don't think ever in the history of dance there's been anybody who's had a partner for like 15 seconds. Literally they were like "Your partner's Jamie (Laing)... no it's not!" I was devastated, thinking for the first time, I won't be able to do the one thing that I love in the whole world. I could do anything else in the world but the fact that I couldn't dance, that really broke my heart.


Then Kelvin came and I was so so lucky. I remember the first day we met and he was really quiet and shy and I was like "Oh my goodness, what is going to happen?" but we've had such an adventure. What has been so special and so different was that every single day we were still trying to get to know each other. I think because of that he leaned on me and I had to be there as a protector and a mentor and a teacher and it was such an honour to take that on. Every single week has just been us two trying to do the best that we can.

On what they'll miss the most...


Kelvin: For me it'll be the public. On the rare chance that Oti allows me to leave the rehearsal room and go out and about, I know the show's popular, but it literally changes people's lives. The impact this show has, they look forward to Saturday and Sunday so much and I've never witnessed being in a show that's had such an impact on people's lives. Being a part of that you feel so privileged.


When this ends at the weekend, a part of me will always be with Strictly but I'll be sad to see that go. And obviously working with Oti has been unbelievable. She's the most incredible person. I've got complete admiration for her as a creative. Talent wise she just blows my mind every single week.


All the dancers choreograph these routines every single week and they're not just there as dancers, they're there as mentors, as friends, somebody to lean on and then they create these amazing visuals as well. I'm in complete awe of Oti, Amy, Anton and all the rest of the dancers. It's just been an amazing thing to be a part of.


Oti: I've been on the show for five years and it's amazing, you work so hard and you dedicate your life to the show, the celeb and the dancing because it's your passion. Then when someone comes along and says "Saturday is the last time you get to do this. What are you going to do on Sunday?" - I don't know! It's so heartbreaking.


You almost wish it was week one again. But week one of season one so you get to experience every little thing, every moment, the feeling, the excitement, the fear of that red light that scares you - you really want to feel it all over again because you never know.



On reaching the Strictly final...


Emma: After our Rumba week when we were bottom of the leaderboard, I thought we were going home. I couldn't believe getting to the semi-finals. Words can't describe how I feel. I'm the biggest Strictly fan. I've loved every second. I've loved being with Anton, I really have. It's just been brilliant and I just want to go out and enjoy it on Saturday night.


We're lucky enough to have three amazing dances. Our showdance is going to be fantastic... if I get it right and don't drop a cane.


Anton: This is beyond exciting. I can't even tell you what it feels like. I wish I could remember what it felt like the last - and only other - time. Like Emma, I'm a huge Strictly Come dancing fan. That's why I do it, because I love it. The thing that I love more than anything else is to be dancing with a fan of the show and Emma is a super fan.


So for Emma to experience the whole journey and take me along with her has been just wonderful. To see her develop and grow as a dancer and as a performer. The best thing for me has been watching Emma's love for the show.


Emma on her biggest challenge...


For me it's been the stamina. You think you're fit enough and strong - when I knew I was doing Strictly I started going to the gym, I had a personal trainer but really you can't quite compare it to doing a session in the gym. You're just constantly on your feet all day, it's mental, it's physical and you just have to be at the top of your game constantly.


Your lifestyle changes. You're constantly looking after yourself - making sure you sleep well and eat well so you're ready for the next day of rehearsals. But it's great, I just want to keep that going when Strictly's over.


Emma on balancing EastEnders with Strictly...


At the start of the series I was still filming on EastEnders, so it was just balancing that. I'm a good organiser so that was easy but it was going from lines to feet and things like that, the change (that was a struggle).


I love working. I've worked on two biggest shows on the telly! Of course it was tiring but it's doable. I'm not saving lives, I'm just in an entertainment show and learning how to dance with a great partner.


Emma on her unusual injury...


We did Charleston week 11 and it's fast high intensity and then on the Friday morning, when we got to the studio we had to do a bit of social media and I pulled a muscle in my bottom. Just standing. How do you do that?! It was the right cheek. I did panic.


Anton on being part of Strictly for 17 series...


I've had the great pleasure and honour of doing the show every year for the last 17 series and the show has evolved over the years. We started off with 8 couples in Studio 4, that was in the Spring, then at the end of that year we were in Studio 1, we had It Take Two with Claudia and suddenly we had 10 couples and the whole thing took off and it's never slowed down.


The actual show itself and the integrity of the show remains constant and that's the most important thing about the show I think. It's looked after by some incredible people. The great thing about Strictly Come Dancing is that it's got the best people in the world working on it. We've got the best professionals, remarkable people - and it's their determination, vision and desire that pushes the celebrities.


We've got the best cameramen and women, the best make-up and hair, the prop guys - I can't even tell you what that's like - it's hilarious and incredible the way that they change sets in the blink of an eye through a VT.


We're just the luckiest people in the world who get to work on this incredible show and long long may it continue.


And finally, Anton on this year's Strictly finalists...


I would love to see all three of them (Kelvin, Karim and Emma) do something that had dance involved in it, whether it's something in the West End, like a musical, but I think these three have been incredible.


For me, Emma has come on wonderfully. I know dancing was never her thing and she felt very uncomfortable with it and didn't have any confidence with it and she's turned into a remarkable dancer and wonderful performer.


Karim is just a gorgeous natural talent, I'd love that not to go to waste. And Kelvin, shut your face with those hips! He's incredible. I'd hate to see this talent go to waste in the future.


Strictly Come Dancing: The Final airs tonight at 7.05pm on BBC One

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