Former Strictly Come Dancing winner Karen Hardy gives her verdict on the final and reveals her hopes for the show next year…

So, BBC sports presenter Chris Hollins beat Hollyoaks’ Ricky Whittle in the Strictly Come Dancing final on Saturday night. Did the right man win?
“What you’ve got to remember is there’s actually 12 million – and five – judges and it’s always the chemistry that the voting public connects with more than the dancing. Chris and Ola [Jordan] have a magic ingredient in their dancing that you can’t quite put your finger on. The quality of dancing was obviously higher from Ricky and Natalie, but it’s not always about being the perfect dancer, it’s about how you connect with the audience at home and make them vote.”

Chris and Ola clearly impressed viewers again with their Charleston…
“When they did the Charleston the first time I was shocked that they didn’t get 10s from the judges. And this time, again, it was just the most incredible routine. But it comes down to an amalgamation of chemistry, music, choreography; it’s a whole magic potion that comes together.”

After the final, runner-up Ricky revealed that he had been suffering from a hernia, a condition he had kept hidden from show bosses and his dancer partner Natalie [Lowe]. What do you make of that?
“How Ricky managed to keep that a secret I’ll never know. A hernia would have made any of his lift work very stressful. But he didn’t show it; that showdance number at the end was fantastic. I thought the lift work was great but I do think it missed that connection with the audience. That said, Ricky IS a fantastic dancer.”

Also in the final, athlete Jade Johnson returned to dance the Tango she’d been due to perform before her injury. Were you pleased to see her back on the dancefloor?
“It was wonderful that Jade got to come back and perform her tango. I definitely had Jade in the final – especially as I know what Ian [Waite] can do with his partners.”

There’s already talk about how Strictly Come Dancing can be improved in 2010. What changes do you think should be made to the show?
“For anything to remain great you have to make changes along the way, but it is already a fantastic show. I’ve heard that they are looking to hire bigger stars next year and there’s always talk of pay cuts – but people don’t want to hear that; they want to hear that one of the biggest shows on TV is getting support. If we had millions of pounds thrown at this show like The X Factor does, just imagine what it could be like!”

Austin Healey, Gethin Jones and Rachel Stevens will be returning to battle it out with this year’s final three – Chris, Ricky and Ali – on the Christmas Special. Who do you think will be crowned Christmas 2009 champion?
“Well, Austin’s not going to go down without a fight, Gethin is the heartthrob that everybody loves and Rachel narrowly lost out to Tom Chambers last year. Wow! What a great Christmas! I have no idea who’ll win, but I’ll definitely be tuning in.”

Karen has just launched a state-of-the-art dance studio in the heart of Chelsea. To find out more about expert tuition for all levels, visit Karen’s website

karen studios

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