Former Strictly Come Dancing winner Karen Hardy talks about Rav leaving the competition, Phil Tufnell’s injuries and Ricky Whittle and Ali Bastian’s moves in her weekly round up of the weekend’s dancing action.

This weekend Lynda and Rav were in the bottom two for the dance-off – do you think they deserved to be there?
“If I’m being honest there were a lot of disastrous dances – they were given a dance which is one of the hardest ballroom dances to perform. It’s usually given to them a lot later in the series and there were quite a few bad attempts at it. But looking at it all – Rav should have definitely been down there. I would have umm’d and ahh’d about Lynda. In the early weeks you’re looking to get your choreography right and get it on time with good presentation – and she did all that while some of the others made lots of mistakes in the choreography, lots of timing errors.

“So I would have definitely had Rav down there, he was definitely one of the worst on the night. He’s quite an emotional, wears his heart on his sleeve kind of guy and he looked pretty upset that he was actually out. I am really sad for Rav because what he really wanted to get out of the show – sadly he hasn’t had the chance to do. This is what I say about dancing – you can’t hide who you are, your true colours shine through when you dance.”

So overall do you think Rav should have gone in the dance-off this weekend?
“Yes, because the judges are judging on what they see on the night. You have one shot and you’ve got to do it there and then and deliver the goods.”

The judges said that Chris and Ola made some mistakes, but managed to cover them up. What do you think about them?
“After the tango that they delivered, I expected their quickstep to be better. But like I say it is the hardest ballroom dance for the men to master. Technically we have a foxtrot next week which is the hardest dance in ballroom. But to actually do a quickstep with such little training, for the men the quickstep is the hardest and it wasn’t what I expected from Chris and Ola. But I think Chris has still got a lot more in him yet.”

The judges said that Zoe used her skirt to her advantage during the dance – how much do the costumes influence the dancing?
“For the female celebrities the shoes are really hard for them to get used to – and it’s also difficult for the men believe it or not. The men have to wear Cuban heels that can be anything from an inch and a half to a two inch heel. The ladies will be dealing with blisters, with having to dance in high heels all day. They won’t have strong ankles so there will be a lot of twisting of ankles.

“Then costumes – costuming for ladies is obviously a little bit more difficult. You get the fittings in the week and you have a dress rehearsal the night before the show so if there are any major disasters they can make the adjustments there and then on the Friday. But you will often see the heels getting caught. You will remember the year I got tangled up! There’s just nothing you can do! I saw Natalie Cassidy get her heel caught when she came down. So the best thing to do is actually dance your costume, especially in the Passo Doble. If you’ve got a beautiful, big skirt and you’ve got the confidence – pick it up and dance it so you don’t have the feeling of ‘What’s this hanging down round my legs?” It takes a couple of weeks for the celebrities to get used to the costumes.”

Natalie Cassidy and Ricky Groves are both soap stars and the judges have said that they should use their acting abilities to add drama to the dances. How important do you think this is?
“We’ve seen in the past that acting won’t carry you all the way through the competition. To be honest, it doesn’t matter how many facial expressions you pull off. If you can’t do it, if you can’t deliver the steps – the public aren’t looking at the faces, they’re looking at how well you can dance. You don’t need to use your face to get into character, you need to use your acting skills to brag and show that you’re confident – that’s more what it should be used for. It takes time and you need to concentrate on how to dance first before looking at your acting skills.”

How well do you think Phil Tufnell is dealing with his injuries?
“I think he’s doing brilliant. Everyone probably thought he was going to be the fool, he loves comedy but he doesn’t want to be a fool. Every time he goes out on the floor he is delivering really great dancing. Technically from an expert dancer’s opinion – what he delivered was a very, very high standard. If you compare it to what Rav did – there’s absolutely no comparison. He’s actually delivering some really good dancing – so I hope his injuries get better because I think we’ll be surprised and he’s going to stay for a while yet.”

Len called Jo Wood ‘have-a-go Jo’ – what do you think about her dancing?
“She’s putting a lot of effort in but the flower’s just not blossoming at the moment. For someone who is such a cool rock chick, she always looks so nervous and you can’t hide who you are in dancing. Maybe on the outside she’s this rock chick who goes out and has a great time but when it comes to dancing she may well be a nervous person. She’s really trying very, very hard but it’s sadly not my cup of tea.”

Who were your favourites this weekend?
“Ali and Brian put on another great performance. Ricky and Ali – I’m guessing by the way they move that they’ve got some form of dance experience, which is definitely helping them in the early days. If Ricky hasn’t had dance experience then my God he’s absolutely brilliant – maybe there’s some pure talent there or he’s an exceptional learner. With these celebrities it’s not how good you are it’s how well you listen. The clever celebrities are the ones that are listening to their professional partners. Ali and Ricky were definitely my two favourites.”

The judges often claim that Jade’s height and athletic figure make the competition more difficult for her – do you agree?
“When I worked with her during the group dance – she’ll work, she’ll count out the steps, she wants to get it accurate, she doesn’t want to move on until it’s perfect and it comes across on the dance floor. She’s fighting – that’s what you want – when you see the difference between what she did and what Rav did.”

“In our generation of dancers the ballroom dancers are always the tall, long leggy ones and the Latin dancers are normally the shorter people. So the ballroom would definitely go to her advantage absolutely, while someone like Chris Hollins will have to do a lot of work not to get lost on the floor. The bonus that she’s got this year is she’s incredibly strong so in the Latin she could deliver some really strong moves while in the past the tall ones have been a little bit arms and legs everywhere. Whereas she’s so strong, her muscle definition is just incredible – I’ve never seen anything like it! She’s definitely one to watch out for.”

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

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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