Former Strictly Come Dancing winner Karen Hardy talks to us about all of the weekend’s Strictly Come Dancing action in her weekly round up of the competition.

You choreographed the Friday night group dance that saw the celebrities perform to Michael Jackson hits – what was it like working on that?
“It was brilliant! What a brilliant opportunity to push my skills and see what I can do. Training one celebrity is one thing, I had seven couples there. There were seven celebrities, seven professionals and making that work was a really big challenge. Also, it was still only week two – if I had to do one in six weeks’ time it would be different again because you could show off their greater dance skills. It was very stressful but I love that work. I’ll work really hard beforehand to create a piece that I think will appeal to the audience.”

What were the celebrities like during rehearsals?
“I had some wonderful opportunities working with them all individually because you can’t just show them the steps – you’ve got to quickly get to know them. Ricky Groves, what a man! If ever there was a man who wears his heart on his sleeve it’s Ricky, I’ve never met such a lovely man. So passionate, he’s totally got the idea that he’s not one of the greatest but my god he is giving everything. Even when people went on coffee breaks he was still downstairs rehearsing his steps because he knew he had ‘X’ amount to catch up on. Great character!”

Now sixteen couples have danced in the ballroom and Latin rounds, which pairs stand out for you?
“Ricky Whittle is out there in leagues, he’s leagues ahead. The problem with that is he’s got to hold that position now. Every performance he comes out with, we’re going to have an expectation that he’s got to live up to. I think he’s quite strong mentally so he should be able to hold onto it, but there is a possibility – how long can he hold that for? He’s really got to be able to deliver a great number and that will mean working closely with Natalie and really listening to what she’s asking for.

“Laila really does need some fantastic choreography – that girl is fantastic. But as the judges said, that choreography should have been double, her ability is far far superior. Now that might have been Anton’s tactics, he might be trying to be a slow starter so that he can come up front.”

Did Craig Kelly and Richard Dunwoody deserve to be in the bottom two on Saturday?
“Yes, they were the two that I felt were missing one of the strengths or the other. You’ve either got to have performance skills and appeal to the audience or you’ve got to have some sort of technical strength. Generally those who went through have an average of both. If you are lacking heavily in one or the other you will end up in that bottom two. Dunwoody came out and delivered a number that we all said ‘Yeah this is brilliant, this is so much fun!’ But then in the dance off, he made a lot of mistakes – he forgot a lot of his steps. Then in the dance off Craig Kelly had a lot of technical problems, his arms kept dropping down and he looked quite nervous whereas Richard went out and said ‘I’m gonna give this everything’. So both had a quite apparent weakness.”

Do you think that the judges were right to save Craig over Richard?
“They both had so many errors – it was probably about a 0.5 per cent difference weighing things up. I think I would of slipped the other way to Richard because I felt he went out there and he nailed it. He got timings right and got into the shapes that Lilia wanted from him, but sadly there wasn’t hip action. So I would of fallen slightly his way – I just thought the technical issues that Craig had were far greater. However, in the long run I’m sure that Craig would go much further than Richard would. Their own journey of ability will probably be far greater for Craig than for Richard.”

Jo Wood was bottom in terms of the judges scores – do you think it’s right that she wasn’t in the dance off?
“This was the public saying: ‘Craig Revel Horwood don’t be so vicious!’ The first time a lady of her ability has gone onto the dance floor to really have a go and he crucified her. The public are gonna go: ‘You know what? That’s not the English spirit, we’re going to vote for her.’ The three of them could have been down there together, but for what she did I praised her because I think she did really well.”

Were there any surprises for you this week?
“It has to be Tuffers. Mark Ramprakash gave me a heads up and said ‘Watch out for Tuffers’. What I’ve learnt very quickly – he’s comedy, he’s not a fool. It’s very important that people understand the difference in that. He didn’t want to come and be a John Sergeant. He wants to come out and be funny but not be made a fool of.”

What are you looking forward to in the next few weeks of Strictly?
“It’s still early days, you don’t want everyone to peak too early, we’ve got fourteen more weeks to go yet. I’m just looking forward to a gradual increase – you want the fight in the last six weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing more of a understanding of how to dance from the celebrities, of how to get from foot to foot rather than plodding, a lot of them were still plodding around the dance floor. As soon as they learn to move better we’ll get some even more exciting performances.”

Finally, who’s your favourite couple to win at this stage?
“At this stage I’d say Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe, they delivered two beautiful dances and the one thing that was missed by everybody is that this guy actually feels what he’s doing. He’s very emotional on the dance floor – you can almost see the music running around in his body. But as I’m a typical English girl, I always like to know who the underdog is so I’m looking closely at the moment to see who might suddenly blossom and then have a really good run to the finish line.”

*Make sure you check out what Karen has to say about all the Strictly action, every Monday on*

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

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