Former Strictly Come Dancing star Karen Hardy tells whatsontv.co.uk exactly what she thought of Jade and Jo’s dance-off and why she thought Craig was ‘awful’ in her weekly round-up…

Do you think Jade and Jo deserved to be in the bottom two?
“Jo yes, but definitely not Jade! I just think Jade is absolutely fantastic with Ian and I have been supporting them a lot – very, very sad to see them down there in the bottom two. It’s early days, I guess people are just voting for maybe the characters at the moment and not looking at how good the dancing was. She did dance very, very well.

“It was clearly time for Jo to go – she almost gave in herself, going over to Bruce and Tess before she went to the eliminating spot! I think she was almost saying, ‘I know it’s time for me to go’. She was the right one to go out of the final two, it would have been wrong if the judges had even given one mark her way. There is such a big difference between her and Jade.”

There was high praise for Ricky Whittle, Zoe Lucker and Ali Bastian this weekend – who’s your favourite celeb to win the competition?
“My favourite is clearly Ricky Whittle. I know what the nation is like and we all love an underdog, but he’s just so far out there! From a quality and technical point of view he’s just blowing everyone out of the competition. The connections between him and his dance partner Natalie are brilliant. He’s so far ahead from a quality of dance point of view, then absolutely – he’s my favourite by far.

“But there’s still a long way to go – we’re in week six, we’ve got another 10 weeks to go so all things could change. It’s tough both physically and mentally so we’ll have to see who can hold their game.”

Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna got 37 out of 40 for their American Smoove which is the best score of the series so far – what did you think of their performance?

“She was fantastic – that was the performance that I’ve been waiting to see from her for so long! I thought it would come in a ballroom dance, but it was a dance that was great for her because it was kind of a mixture between the two. It was half ballroom, half Latin – so she had that security of knowing Brian wasn’t far away but then when they broke apart she was able to really excel and she looked confident, relaxed and she put on a really good performance.”

Alesha said that something had ‘clicked into place’ with Natalie Cassidy – do you agree?
“I thought she looked like she had matured. She keeps on coming out with this ‘Oh I love the show’ and I’ve said for weeks there’s no good saying how much you love the show, you’ve got to show what you can do. Where she looked so much more mature – she danced a lot better. This was her best performance, definitely.”

Len described Laila and Anton’s dance as ‘beige’ and Craig said that it ‘lacked the wow factor’. What was missing there?
“She looked stunning again, but I think it was missing a bit of chemistry. When you dance in this competition, you go out there fighting for each other – I think that maybe that part of it is missing with Laila and Anton. It looks like they’re still quite individual and separated rather than going out there together as a force to be reckoned with. Individually, they’re both great, it’s when it comes together. I think that again her strength lies in ballroom not Latin. There’s still something about her that I really love – I just can’t put my finger on it.”

How do you think Zoe did after the surprise of her being in the bottom two last week?
“I would have been shocked if she hadn’t come back and put on a performance like she did. It wasn’t a massive improvement – she’s just always been good – so I hope everyone could see how good she was. I think, with all that tremendous amount of pressure she took on the dance floor she did so well. That’ll be Jade next week, she’ll be coming out carrying all that pressure.

“It’s strange when you’re right at the top and for weeks you’ve been told how good you are and then ‘Bang!’ all of a sudden you’re there in the dance-off! It must knock you, it’s like being in a big fish, small pond situation and then all of a sudden you’re in an ocean.”

Alesha said that Craig Kelly’s body seemed to have a ‘mind of it’s own’ – what did you think of his performance?
“Awful! It was awful! And it gets to a situation when the more you say that, the more the public seem to want to vote those people back in. But it lacked any rhythm, he didn’t interact with Flavia and she was doing all the work.

“This is nothing to do with him not working hard enough because he was clearly working hard – but when you’ve got that much time to sing, then all that amount of effort needs to be put in his movement rather than in his singing. Sadly, it was just not my style and not my cup of tea at all. I even think Flavia looks shocked every week when they’re getting through.”

Ricky Groves got his best ballroom score so far. How is he doing in the competition?
“He’s going to be the dark horse, the public will warm to him really quickly. He’s proven himself – he did go out in the beginning, over-enthusiastic, almost like a clown. He’s turned the whole thing around and basically said, ‘I’m not a clown, I’m here to show you that I can do it’.

“He is behind on quality but that sort of person is someone who can come back fighting, he could be here to stay. And I just love the relationship between him and Erin – I think it’s something that the audience can appreciate and warm to. They’ll probably understand Ricky Groves more than they can understand Ricky Whittle – they will love his personality more.”

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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