Strictly Come Dancing: 25 Things We Learned When We Met The Six Remaining Couples

"I’ve never experienced anything this tough in my life..."
The original cast of Strictly Come Dancing celebrities for 2022
The original cast of Strictly Come Dancing celebrities for 2022
Ray Burmiston via PA Media

As ever, Strictly Come Dancing is the the show that has got everyone talking – and that includes the celebrities still competing on the show.

Earlier this week, the six remaining couples took time out of their hectic training schedules to give HuffPost UK the inside story about their time in the ballroom ahead of their quarter-final performances.

From shock exits to social media complaints about the judges’ scores, here’s what they all had to say about the biggest talking points from this year’s series so far – plus, why the forthcoming final could be the closest run in Strictly history...

1. First of all, Kym Marsh is apparently doing “much better, thankfully” after having to take a week off due to Covid

Kym Marsh
Kym Marsh
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“Watching at home was really weird, and I had serious FOMO – I’d swapped the sequins for tissues,” Kym explained.

“I’d had a bit of a week of it, with Covid, and then my dad being taken to hospital. It just felt like a domino effect. You couldn’t have made it up last week, everything went so wrong.”

“Every time I’d see your name I’d think, ‘OK, more shit is going on’,” Kym’s professional partner Graziano Di Prima said.

He continued: “She recovered so quick! She is a warrior, there is no other word I can find to describe her, in everything she does.”

2. Graziano was also full of praise for Kym’s work ethic, revealing she sometimes only manages to get in 14 hours of training for the entire week due to her schedule

Guy Levy via PA Media

“She’s been doing three jobs while rehearsing, dealing with her family, sorting her life out, and being able to bring me all the way to this point here,” Graziano said.

“No matter how many obstacles she has in her life, she has been finding time to come to me – even for two or three hours – and giving 150%. I don’t even know sometimes how we end up dancing on Saturday.”

Kym agreed: “Time has been the hardest thing. Trying to juggle my life – my drama life! – is tough. I think if I’d been able to clear my schedule, and not had two or three other jobs, and all of that, [it would have been easier].”

3. Other celebs revealed it has been more intense than they anticipated – with Helen Skelton admitting that Strictly is even tougher than her past accomplishments

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Helen revealed: “I thought, ‘I’ll be fine, I’ve jumped out of a plane and walked on high wires, all that’, but this is challenging and scary in a different way.

“In the past I’ve done things where you just have to be brave… and there’s a fine line between brave and stupid. Whereas with this you have to be good at something. This has definitely been a harder challenge.”

4. Fleur East agreed that she’s found Strictly harder than both X Factor and I’m A Celebrity

Guy Levy via PA Media

“I didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it has been, if I’m honest,” Fleur admitted.

“On X Factor, I was in my comfort zone, because singing is what I do, it was natural for me to sing.

“And In the jungle, I was just having a laugh. I wasn’t really being judged on a skill, it was just about having fun round the campfire and doing a few trials.

“This show, I feel like I’ve been pushed so far out of my comfort zone compared to anything else I’ve ever done.”

The Sax singer added: “I’ve never had to learn a discipline in this way, and then stand in front of judges who are experts in this field and be so vulnerable and so exposed, and learn to a professional standard – in a matter of days. I’ve never experienced anything this tough in my life.

“But it’s taught me about my own strength, actually.”

5. The physical toll of Strictly was also a surprise to Fleur

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“Oh my goodness, I’m a level three PT. I was like, ‘this is going to be good, stamina, easy’,” she recalled.

“Then I got the Jive, and I was falling on the floor after one run-through. I was like, ‘this is more intense than any spin class or any workout I’ve ever done’. My muscles, my feet, everything.”

6. But Hamza Yassin says the celebs’ numerous aches and pains have actually bonded them together

Guy Levy via PA Media

“I’ll say to Jowita [Pryztal, his professional partner], ‘are your feet beginning to hurt?’ and she’s like, ‘yeah, but I’m used to it’,” Hamza explained. “I’m not getting any sympathy from her! To the professionals it’s normal pain, whereas for me it’s like, ‘I’ve felt a new pain on my toes that I’ve not felt before’.

“Speaking to the other celebs, they’ll be like, ‘oh yeah, that happened to me in week five, and now you’re going through it’, so it’s lovely. I absolutely love the camaraderie we have.”

7. As the longest-serving professional left in the competition, Gorka Marquez had some thoughts about what has set this year apart

Ray Burmiston/BBC via PA Media

“Even from the start, with the new additions to the pros, I think they have made the show even bigger and more talented and special,” Gorka said. “Every one of the pros gets along, everyone is a proper team.

“And also with the celebs, I remember saying to the other professionals, it’s a very happy, positive bunch of people, who are willing to learn and dance. And I think it shows. This year has been the most competitive – in a good way! – and the couples are so equal. There’s so much talent within all of them.

“From week four, it was like, ‘who is going to leave now?’. Sometimes it takes up to Blackpool to think, ‘ooh now it’s going to get difficult’, but this year it’s been so good from day one. All of them are so talented, and they’re all bringing different aspects to the show.”

8. Molly Rainford has revealed that coming back from her first time in the dance-off was her biggest struggle

Kieron McCarron/BBC via PA Media

“The first dance-off was the worst one. It’s not even the dance-off itself, it’s the coming back from that,” Molly explained.

“Before you start training on Monday, you’re trying to shake [the feeling], especially when you’ve never been there before. I feel like the more dance-offs we’ve been in, the more I’ve been able to deal with it quicker and park it quicker.”

9. She and Fleur also shared their respective feelings on being in the bottom two – having both survived three dance-offs

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Molly said: “When we were first in the dance-off, the next week I was extra nervous and that put a bit of extra pressure on myself to be perfect. But then as we’ve done the others, it’s given me motivation to come back stronger each time.

“Those moments make you realise that it could be your time to go at any point, so you really need to enjoy every moment, because you don’t know when it’s going to be up. It gave me a good kick to stop stressing about it and enjoy it.”

She added: “At some point pretty much everyone is going to be in the dance-off. And you learn as you go through that it might not necessarily mean that people don’t like your dance, or don’t like you. They might just think you’re safe that week and so they need to vote for someone else to keep them in. You just have to try your best not to take it personally.”

Fleur agreed: “The first day back [in training], it is a bit like, ‘ugh’. Because you just think, ‘gosh, we were so close, we nearly went home’.

“I don’t take it personally at all. And the thing is, the number is so small now, and everyone is so good, everyone is bringing their A-game every week, and you genuinely want everyone to do well.

“We all cheer each other on every single day, so you think, ‘if it’s going to be me, it’s going to be me, if it’s not me it’s someone else, and I’ll be upset that they are there’.”

10. No one was more surprised by Fleur’s perfect score than the woman herself

Guy Levy via PA Media

“It has been so up and down, so genuinely I did not expect that we would get the first – or if we would even ever get a perfect score,” Fleur claimed. “I was stunned by it, to be honest.

“We loved doing our Couple’s Choice, but the Couple’s Choice is always a bit risky because you don’t really know how the judges are going to react to it. And it hasn’t really been plain sailing, so to get that score was the most amazing feeling.

“It’s funny because the lows make the highs even better, so we’ve really got to celebrate.”

11. Meanwhile, the group had some feelings about speculation among fans that certain contestants are being marked more harshly than others by the judges

Ray Burmiston/BBC via PA Media

“I personally don’t feel that,” Molly insisted. “We get critiques when they’re warranted. The judges don’t say anything unless they want you to improve, they don’t say things just for the sake of it. If they give a critique it’s so you can improve it the following week.”

“If they didn’t criticise you, they’re being very nice to you, but if they’re saying criticism, it means they are being true to you,” her partner Carlos Gu agreed. “Which I think is fine. So we feel they are very supportive.”

Guy Levy via PA Media

Fleur also said she finds the perception the judges have been harsh on her “hilarious”.

She explained: “Before I signed up, loads of people I knew in the industry were like, ‘oh, Fleur you’re going to smash this…’ and I was like, ‘no, I’m not a trained dancer, you don’t understand, this is not what I do’. And they were like, ‘it’s fine, just first week, play it down, don’t try and be too good’... and I’m like, ‘you’re acting like I have to pretend’.”

She continued: “The first week when I got my feedback, and it was like, ‘there was no technique, it was really wild, there was no control’, it’s like, ‘yeah, because I’m rough around the edges, I’m not a professional dancer’. And then everyone was like, ‘oh, she actually wasn’t lying’.”

BBC/Ray Burmiston

Her partner Vito Coppola also said: “They’ve always been very constructive with their criticism… From our point of view, the judging has been completely fine.”

12 Despite what Strictly fans might say, Fleur thinks her own dance experience has been a hindrance to her in the competition

Fleur revealed: “I’ve never done partner dancing, I’ve never had someone lead me.”

Vito interjected: “I’m supposed to lead. [It’s supposed to be] ‘lead and follow’, at the beginning it was like, ‘lead and lead’.

“I was like, ‘Fleur, if I push you, it means you have to move there’, and she was pushing me back. It was like, ‘don’t resist me, just go’.”

Guy Levy/BBC via PA Media

The X Factor star concluded: “It definitely has been harder for me because of that.

“Like, if I do a music video, I’ve got dancers behind me, so I’m not really doing the majority of the work. It’s kind of like smoke and mirrors.

“And if there’s ever a move that I can’t do, the choreographer will go, ‘Fleur can’t spin to the right, so we’ll just take out the spin, everyone just do what Fleur’s doing’, and that’s what I’ve been used to! I’ve never had to follow rules.”

13. Meanwhile, Will Mellor is pleased to report he’s managed not to embarrass his kids so far

Ray Burmiston via PA Media

“They love it!” Will said with some relief. “They’re very proud and very supportive.

“I think they were surprised after week one, when I did the Jive, like, ‘dad I didn’t know you could do that’. I didn’t know I could do that either! You don’t know what you can do until you try, that’s the message, isn’t it? You’ve got to give things a go.

“After the Jive, my daughter was crying, my son was in the audience, and he was emotional and stood up clapping. I looked down and my kids were there, my wife was there, and it was just a moment I’ll never forget.”

14. And the Line Of Duty star is happy to have had his emotional moments

Guy Levy/BBC via PA Media

“I’m an emotional person, which is another reason my kids get embarrassed, because I cry quite a lot,” Will admitted. “My emotions are always ready to come out whether it be excitement, passion, sadness.”

Recalling a particularly tearful moment after his Waltz to Three Times A Lady, Will said: “When I did that dance, it was my dad’s favourite song and it just made me connect that with him, and realise how much I miss him.

“At the same time, it was a beautiful moment because it was my chance to say goodbye to him, because I never got that. And it was for him, and for my mum, and for the family, for all of us, and anyone who’s lost somebody.

“So all that emotion, I knew it was going to come out at some point, I just didn’t know when. On the night, it just poured out of me. But I’m not ashamed of it, and it’s OK to cry. That’s how I am.”

15. Helen has also been caught off guard with how much her Strictly journey has affected her

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“I was watching Tyler and Ellie getting interviewed on BBC Breakfast, and Charlie Stayt said [dismissively], ‘there’s the journey and all that’... and I thought ‘that’s how I felt before I came into it’,” Helen said.

“You don’t appreciate how much it affects you and how much it makes you ask questions of yourself you didn’t think you needed to ask. And it makes you explore a different side of yourself, and it makes you expose your vulnerabilities and all that.

“You don’t expect it to be such an emotional rollercoaster.”

16. Gorka was also just as full of praise for Helen as he has been on screen

Guy Levy via PA Media

“She’s a wonderful person, beyond dancing, and I love working with her,” he said. “I’m very proud that I got to share this experience with her, and also proud of seeing how she has grown and flourished.

“At the beginning, she was like one of those flowers in the forest in the middle of the winter, with no colour, and now she’s just a beautiful colour and has a beautiful smile.”

17. Hamza says he’s still adjusting to life in the spotlight

Ray Burmiston via PA Media

“I live in the West coast of Scotland, I normally work in very small groups where there’ll be four of us on location, so to come into the 150-odd family of Strictly and be embraced, and all of a sudden be on national television, it is a culture shock,” he admitted. “But in a good way.

“And we are one big family here at Strictly, I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that. It is weird, I’m not used to it. But I’m enjoying it.”

18. Although Jowita has good reason to have not been recognised in public yet

Guy Levy/BBC via PA Media

“To be honest, my life looks like: home, training, studio,” Jowita said with a laugh. “That’s it. It’s really rare to see me on the street. My social life right now is a bit, you know, [pushed to] the side.

“But I don’t mind, I literally wake up every day with that thought, ‘I’m doing what I love’. And it’s just a blessing. To be on the best show in the world, to dance, to still perform and to teach, I’m ticking all of the things that I would have ever wanted in my life.

“I don’t feel like I am in the spotlight – I just love to dance and I love to share that love of dance with people.”

19. Similarly, you might be relieved to hear that Vito is probably too busy to read your thirsty comments

Ray Burmiston/BBC via PA Media

“I’m a bit distracted,” he admitted. “So I don’t always go to check my messages. But I can see anyway that people appreciate, and I’m really thankful and grateful.”

As Fleur joked that her professional partner is “shy”, Vito insisted: “It’s not that I’m shy! But I didn’t expect all this effort.

“I was on the Italian show, but let’s say that’s a 30, and here people are at 100. Strictly is so massive in the UK, when I spoke to the other guys, they said, ‘Vito, here, you’re going to have so much fun, it’s the most popular programme’, but you don’t realise until you get there.”

20. And Will says life for the past few months has been a total blur because of Strictly

Guy Levy via PA Media

“I got told it was hard, but I didn’t realise how hard it would be,” Will said. “It literally takes over your life, six days a week, you get one day off – and it’s still on your mind because you think, ‘it starts again tomorrow’. I have one day off, Nancy doesn’t even get that because she’s choreographing on a Sunday. She reminds me of that all the time – ‘one day off, lucky you’.”

He added: “I saw a Christmas tree for the first time about a month ago, and it was like, ‘f… it’s nearly Christmas’. You don’t know what day it is.”

21. Hamza said at the beginning of his Strictly journey that he thought his fitness could be an obstacle for him on the show – only to wind up a frontrunner in the contest

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“The thing that I love about dancing is it’s inclusive, it’s for everybody,” he enthused. “No matter what size you are, no matter what age you are, no matter what your abilities or disabilities are, it’s for everybody.

“Obviously if you’re conscious about yourself and you think, ‘I’m too big to do this’, you might come into it like that. But as we can see, you can dance, and enjoy it. I’m loving it and I’m genuinely feeling the fittest I’ve felt in the last 15 years.”

22. Professional dancer Nancy Xu opened up about what it meant to have come so far in Strictly

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“I never thought about this moment. I never even planned to be a professional dancer,” Nancy explained. “I was really told that I’m not good on stage, I’m not good on TV, ‘you’re not suited for this job’.

“But I had a dream in my heart, and I tried so hard – my personality is like, ‘if I want to go for it, I will’. It doesn’t matter if people tell me I’m not suited for it, I’m going to still try. And I’m going to make it happen. It doesn’t matter how long the journey takes, I will grab any tiny little chance that will bring me to my dream. And I will do it…”

Will added: “[Nancy has] earned everything she’s got. This lady next to me here, I’m telling you now, she’s had to fight for everything she’s got. And a lot of people don’t know her story yet, but they will. And look at her, she’s on the biggest stage, on the biggest show.”

23. Carlos also said that Strictly has allowed him to live his ‘best life’

Ray Burmiston/BBC via PA Media

“I’ve never done any telly before, so everything here for me is new,” Carlos shared. “But everything here for me is so positive and so supportive and so warm. I’m all the way from China, I’m like an outsider in this country, but the Strictly team is looking after me so well, and making me feel like I’m part of it.

“I’m really lucky and really grateful, I’m living my best life right now.”

24. Although Gorka’s first ever Strictly win is potentially within reach – he’s trying not to dwell on it too much

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Gorka has previously made it to the final twice before, but lost out at the last hurdle.

With just two weeks to go until this year’s finale, he said: “I’m planning things and dances and ideas and everything, and obviously it would mean the world to win, but I don’t really like to think too much about it.

“I always say, you cannot be obsessed with the end, because you’ll miss the process. I want to enjoy the journey, and not just get obsessed with the destination, if that makes sense.

“But I think Helen truly deserves it. It would be an amazing end, for all her hard work and the end of the journey from how she started to the point she is now, as a dancer and as a person. But whatever happens happens.”

25. And despite being eliminated weeks ago, Tyler West’s absence is very much still felt

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Will admitted: “I thought Tyler would still be here, I must admit. I thought he would go all the way, especially when Shirley said, ‘you’ve got finalist written all over you’. When he went that was a shock.”

Helen agreed: “I was surprised Tyler went. And I was sad Tyler went because he had such good energy and was so positive. He never whinged once.”

“I’m shocked that Tyler isn’t still here,” Molly added. “And I’m shocked that Ellie Simmonds isn’t still here – she did so well and amazingly, and it was really inspiring for us because she showed that anyone can dance and put on an amazing performance.”

She added: “Anyone at this point could be finalists, it’s quite tough to call – even among the crew talking behind the scenes, no one can call what’s going to happen next.”

Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday night at 5.40pm on BBC One.


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