Darkness has descended over the Strictly studios in Elstree and an army of nightmarish ghosts, spooks and demons are coming out to play for the hotly-anticipated Halloween special.
As the witching hour draws near, TV Times spots a spellbinding werewolf sharpening his teeth and lurking by a naive damsel. But there’s no hocus pocus going on here – on closer inspection we realise it’s only devilishly handsome Russian dancer Gleb Savchenko and his partner, bewitching Countryfile presenter, Anita Rani!
Gleb’s transformation from waltz man to werewolf took more than an hour to complete, with lashings of face paint, a generous application of hairspray, creepy contact lenses and some furry paws to finish! And he wastes no time in showing off his new look, as Anita encourages him to hide in corners, jumping out at unsuspecting crew members and dancers. We’re not sure terrified Natalie Lowe and Ainsley Harriott will ever forgive us…
With the screams still ringing in our ears, Gleb, 31, and Anita, 37, enter the misty wilderness of our Halloween set up and strike a series of spine-tingling poses. But what tricks and treats have they got in store for Saturday night?
Wow, Anita and Gleb, you both look incredible. Do you enjoy dressing up for Halloween?
Anita: “Oh yes, I feel so lucky to be doing it twice this year – once for this shoot and then a different costume for the dance! I loved trick or treating as a kid and I went to a lot of Halloween parties when I was younger. One time I dressed as a corpse bride, which was particularly good for an angsty teenager!”
Gleb: “I am a big fan of Halloween – I always carve a pumpkin and I really like to put on a costume and go partying. Last year I dressed up as Batman’s sidekick, Robin, before that I was a drowned sailor and another year me and my friends went as Greek gods.”
Anita: “Of course, he didn’t need to do very much dressing up for that!”
You must be looking forward to the now iconic Strictly Halloween special, then?
Anita: “I can’t wait! When I started Strictly everybody told me that the Halloween episode is amazing, and the make-up guys are particularly excited about it because they can really go to town. I’m a massive Tim Burton fan and I really like anything spooky, so I told them the weirder I look, the better!”
Gleb: “I’m super-excited. I can’t tell you too much about the dance, but it’s going to be scary!”
Anita: “When he says ‘scary’, he’s not talking about my dancing…”
Gleb: “But that’s the whole point of Halloween, we can cover it up!”
Anita: “Yes, we can tell them it’s meant to be weird!”
You’re producing show-stopping routines every week – how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into your dances?
Gleb: “Anita’s not a trained dancer and the routines I’m choreographing for her are super difficult, but she works so hard every week, spending hours and hours in the dance studio to nail every routine. It looks so easy, but it’s a nasty process before that. You never know if it’s going to work until the very last moment…”
Anita: “I like the fact that I’ve surprised people but I don’t feel I’m that good, I’m just working hard. Learning to dance is much tougher than I thought it would be, it’s like picking up a language from scratch, but I’m having the best time doing it.
“I’m living out my mum’s dream – she used to dance around watching the original Come Dancing when she was pregnant with me, so maybe any dance ability has come from the womb!”
Gleb, this is your first year on Strictly, but you’ve previously competed on the American, Australian and Russian versions of the show. How does our show compare?
Gleb: “It’s the same concept, but of course the UK Strictly is the best show! Everyone is so professional and I knew most of the pros already, particularly Kristina [Rihanoff] and Pasha [Kovalev], we all used to compete against each other. I knew Karen [Clifton] before she even met her husband, Kevin. This is also the first time I’ve ever lived in London and I love it. It’s a beautiful city and I’ve made some great friends. The weather isn’t very good though.”
We hear you also experienced the great British countryside on a special Countryfile ramble for Children in Need?
Gleb: [teasing] “Oh yes, I love walking, especially after nine hours of training!”
Anita: [laughing] “Gleb doesn’t walk, he only dances – he looks at a shop round the corner and tells me it’s miles away! We actually had a brilliant, joy-filled day though. A thousand people came to do the ramble and Gleb warmed them up with some dance moves. It felt very natural to take him to work!”
Gleb, your looks haven’t gone unnoticed by Tess and Claudia, and Anita famously blushed when you were paired up. Is that weird for you?
Gleb: “Listen, if people are talking about me at all then that’s a good thing. I really don’t mind, I’ll take it and then do a little bit of dancing on the side!”
Anita: “I’ve now got over looking at his face, I’ve seen a lot more of his anatomy since then! Gleb’s a sensational dancer so he’s got the whole package. But his little toe on his left foot – you don’t want to see that!” [laughs]
And finally, can we expect further ‘Gleb specials’ in the weeks ahead?
Gleb: “Yes, there are definitely more coming – I have a whole menu!”