Strictly Come Dancing contestants Lisa Riley, Denise Van Outen and Louis Smith talks to TV Times magazine about how the competition is heating up…

Wow, what a series! Are you enjoying being part of Strictly?
“It’s absolutely phenomenal! I genuinely cannot imagine my life without Strictly – it has taken over in such a brilliant way. A day hasn’t gone by without someone telling me I’m inspiring them and that in itself is just mind-blowing.”
Denise: “I love it. I’m permanently tired, trying to be a mum to my little girl, Betsy, and finding time to rehearse, but it’s brilliant.”
Louis: “Every weekend is so much fun. Learning a new routine on Monday and Tuesday is quite difficult, but the rest of the week is great. Everyone gets on amazingly well. Denise is quite a bit older than me, but I feel like she is 22!”

Did you expect to be such good dancers?
“I thought it would be a bit of a nightmare, learning the routine and trying to get all the steps right, but I’m doing better than I expected. When it comes to co-ordination and having one chance to get it right on the night, my sporting background definitely helps.”
Denise: “It’s much more difficult than I thought, but I’m putting the hours in, so everything that comes together on a Saturday night is a result of hard work. “

Have you started to get competitive yet?
“I’d give my left arm to win, but I don’t believe I’m going to. Denise is absolutely outstanding so I think she’s got a great chance. The professionals are miles more competitive than us, they want it so badly. My partner Robin Windsor has been doing competitions since he was three years’ old. Being a champion is all he has ever known so that’s never going to leave him.”
Louis: “The only time it feels like a competition is when it’s results day and someone’s going home. Otherwise it just feels like we’re competing against the judges to get nice comments!”
Denise: “I haven’t thought about winning, I just want to stay in the competition because it’s such a special experience. Even if I went out I’d still come along to the show on Saturdays because I want to cheer on all my friends!”

Do you feel under pressure to improve every week?
“Yes! I never knew that our first dance would get the reaction that it did and of course the weeks that followed have got harder. The fact that people are still talking about it is insane.”
Denise: “If you’ve been near the top of the leaderboard it does put pressure on you, but at the same time you never lose sight of the fact that it’s a public vote. You just have to enjoy the dance and whether people like you or not is out of your hands.”

What do you still need to work on?
“My ballroom is pretty good and Flavia says I have good posture, but my Latin still needs a lot of work. I get nice comments from the judges apart from Craig – I’ve got to try to impress him!”
Denise: “There’s so much that I struggle with. My partner James Jordan is brilliant and very constructive, but we’re like an old married couple, we bicker quite a lot!”

Have your family and friends enjoyed watching you every week?
“They love it, but they get so anxious for me. My husband Lee [musical star Lee Mead] came to the studio one week and he said he was more nervous than I was! Betsy watches it, but she’s more into Peppa Pig and Angelina Ballerina.”
Lisa: “My family are so proud. Every Monday my dad goes to work and when he opens his emails he says most of them are about me!”
Louis: “My mum loves the show and she’s glued to the TV now that I’m on it, bless her.”

There is a real buzz around this year’s series – how does it feel to be part of that?
“I’ve watched Strictly for years and I’ve noticed that the public seem to genuinely care about us this time round. Also, in years gone by there has always been one person who is in a league of their own, whereas this year there’s lots of amazing dancers.”
Louis: “A lot of the professionals have said it’s the best season they’re going to have on Strictly – the line-up is fantastic and everyone is upping their game, so the level of competition is amazing.”

Will you ‘keeeeep dancing’ after the series has finished?
“Definitely, it’s really important to me because dancing makes me feel so euphoric, it’s like an inner buzz. A lot of people have said they can see me in the West End now, which would be amazing.”
Louis: “I’ll probably dance in nightclubs when I’m out with my mates, especially if the Dirty Dancing theme song comes on!”
Denise: “I’d like to, it’s such a brilliant way to keep fit. I’d like Betsy to go to some classes as well, because I think it’s such a lovely way for children to mix with the opposite sex. I’ve tried to show Lee the basics, but I think he needs a professional to teach him!”