A huge welcome to all the HELLO! readers. I’m so excited to be doing this column. Over the next four months I’m going to be bringing you everything - the ups and downs, the real emotions. I want my readers to really get to feel what the dancers feel. And what an opening show it was last night!
The energy in Elstree Studios has already been unbelievable. You’ve got these great big long corridors and everywhere you turn there are energy bubbles popping out. Racks of clothing, the tan machine, sewing ladies running from room to room, the enthusiasm and the anticipation of everybody is incredible – and it’s not even the live shows yet.
Shirley with her new judges lineup
Our new fabulous judge Motsi said she was going to need a week off to recover from it all! It’s just an incredible feeling to be back. Of course us judges had a chance to perform for the opening show. Motsi was incredible (we’ve already hit it off, I just love her – I used to judge her when she was a young girl and we have the same sense of humour).
The dance was such a great showcase for her talent. When you get to my age, 59, the thought of getting the Latin dress and the Latin shoes on is a bit worrying. Your heart and your mind is always willing, but sometimes your body just says ‘What are you doing?!’.
But it was hilariously funny. I’m such a perfectionist that I see every mistake that I make. Generally in my life I'm a perfectionist - when I dance my eyes scan and are so critical. I see everything I do, whether my weight's back, whether it's forward, and I’m not very complimentary to myself. I need to learn. But I really hope you enjoyed it, because we loved performing.
The judges looked amazing in their group dance
Of course the biggest excitement of the night was finding out the pairings. As judges we find out at the same time as everyone else and this year I thought they were such unpredictable pairings – I was not expecting some of those. But I think it will make for an amazing show. I’m thrilled for Anton, and for Neil. And I think there are a couple of dark horses in there too.
Catherine and Johannes
She’s from Corrie, and she’s extremely entertaining and fun. Johannes is new to Strictly competition, it’s his first pairing, but I’ve never seen a boy so gentlemanly - I think it’s a really good match. I’m so excited to see their journey.
Saffron and AJ
She’s going to love the spray tan, she’s a glamorous girl, it’s all new skills for her and there’s something unique and adorable about those two, they look quite cute. I think they’ll bring an amazing energy to the show.
Michelle and Giovanni
This lady has got the biggest personality of everybody. I would be surprised if anyone has a bigger personality than her, but what I did take away is that she wants to be fun but she’s also a grafter. And Giovanni is quite a hard task master. I think she’s going to give Craig some real home truths should he start his funny ways with her. She’s larger than life when you meet her.
Alex and Neil
I’ve known Neil since he was 10 years old and this is one of the most creative professionals I ever came across in my industry – so I am so excited to see what he can bring that's different to the show this year. As well as being a great dancer, he loves to choreograph. Alex is athletic, she’ll work her inner Beyonce, I think this is a great pairing. Neil is an ever-perfect gentleman.
Kelvin (formerly Jamie) and Oti
Jamie was actually a great mover and Oti being the ever-encouraging young lady that she is, that would have been an electrifying duo. But he had to pull out which was such a shame! Wishing you a speedy recovery Jamie! Now he has been replaced by Kelvin so now Oti – she’s a professional – will have to adapt. She’s got a taller partner now – it’s going to be interesting. We will have to wait and see how he does. I just know that Oti is a great teacher, if she has to do extra she will. He’s been in Emmerdale, he’s used to learning lines the night before, so I’m not too worried about him.
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James and Luba
He looked terrified so it’ll be interesting seeing him in lycra! He looks like a very shy gentleman and he mentioned something about lack of coordination – but I’m not worried. You have to have coordination for rowing. Luba is also a first time professional, she’s a dynamic young lady, very feisty and fiery. She won’t be taking any prisoners.
Karim and Amy
He’s like a bottle of champagne – bubbles galore. He’s got an adorable personality; he was centre when he did the dance with the group. He’s definitely one to watch. He’s got coordination, personality – dynamite comes in small packages and I think we’ll see this as a dynamite team.
Chris and Karen
He thinks he’s a bad dancer but I have a feeling he’ll be alright. He says he doesn’t like to be watched but he’s a comedian, he’s been on stage, so I think he’s hiding something under his hat. He should have great timing as a comedian so I’m expecting great timing as a dancer too.
David and Nadiya
I’ve got high expectations – he’s tall, very coordinated, he has to be coordinated to save those goals. He’s used to that athletic approach, he’s used to the mental side of it. So he’s a gorgeously tall goalkeeper, coordinated, with a great sports’ mind, paired with a beautiful girl. This could be good.
Emma and Aljaz
A viscountess with our Aljaz. Emma is very soft natured, loves animals, loves fashion, she’s a mum. How’s she going to do? Is she going to come in and fight? What will she do with a Tango or a Flamenco or a passionate Paso Doble? Does she have that ability to get out there and put her foot down in an Argentine Tango to give Aljaz a run for his money?
Anneka and Kevin
Beautiful, beautiful Anneka representing the ladies in my age bracket - she’s a stunner. Kevin has got magical hands – he is like a magician he’s so well experienced – such a creative young man. He will take the bull by the horns, take a wonderful lady and show her dancing skills off.
Mike and Katya
Mike is the one that Craig was saying jumps up and down too much but I love it. He’s full of life. He wants to be the one that takes the lead. He was jumping up and down when I met him, on the launch show, in the corridors. He’s a cheeky chap. Katya is strict! So she will take this man and she will curve anything she feels is over the top. I think she’ll enjoy having that electric wire on the end of her arm.
Will and Janette
I think he could be a dark horse. He will show the country what you can do when other people tell you you can’t. He’s going to represent a lot of people out there who feel it’s too late to do something. He’s going to show us you can set your mind to do anything you want to. Janette is strict but she’s also sweet and kind and will pay attention to any discomfort he could feel and work her magical choreography around that.
Dev and Dianne
Tall, handsome - I’d like to see that in a Waltz! But he has got moves and coordination! High expectations with Diane.
Emma and Anton
Anton has won the lottery. I’m hoping he will bring his most creative choreography to date. She can definitely move. She’s coordinated, you can see that straight away and I have to say I’m delighted for Anton. That’s the dream team right there, you can tell by his reaction.
One thing’s for sure it’s going to be a fascinating series and I can’t wait to see the dancers really get started. For me, it’s going to be a bit different too. I’m so used to sitting next to the the beautiful Darcey Bussell but now I’ve got a different energy right beside me with Motsi.
Bruno to my left – he’s mad as a hatter, and now I’ve got Motsi, who is also a huge ball of incredible energy – wonderful energy. So it’s going to be a very interesting and different dynamic. I can’t wait! Motsi and I already talk constantly on messenger, she loves to dance like I do, she likes to entertain. And I think the public love to see us do it too. So maybe there will be more of that up the BBC’s sleeve too. You’ll have to wait and see!