Kevin Clifton has been wowing the judges and the viewers on his second series of Strictly Come Dancing 2014 with his celeb partner Frankie Bridge.
Regularly topping the leaderboard and getting high scores, Kevin and Frankie have become one of the strongest partnerships in the competition. Tonight the semi-final arrives and if they make it through they’ll be dancing again in next week’s grand final.
We caught up with Kevin to talk about last week’s Salsa, Pixie Lott’s shock exit from the competition, and the possibility of making next week’s final.
You and Frankie have made it to the semi-final. How do you feel?
We’re ecstatic about making it and really relieved. The truth is we thought we were done last week and we thought we were going out. We sort of thought it for most of the week actually because Frankie just didn’t like the Salsa and couldn’t get to grips with it. We kept changing the choreography to try and get it to a place where we were happy with it. I was really ill all week and had horrible flu. We could hardly run through the dance very much. Frankie was brilliant in training because she knew I was ill she was really trying her best to keep my spirits up. She just wasn’t confident with it.
When we came to dance it – two 8s and two 9s are still a decent score – we found ourselves at the bottom of the leaderboard. In the Waltzathon we did our best and got a good second place there but it only lifted us one place. We just thought we were going to be in the dance-off and all of the other couples got a better score than us so we thought we couldn’t beat anybody. We were convinced we were done. I think when they called out our names and we were through it was just utter relief and joy. We’re just made up to still be in the competition.
That was quite a celebratory yell you had…
(laughs) Yeah! I sort of blacked out for a second because we just weren’t expecting it. We were waiting for the red light to turn on and be in the dance-off which would probably mean that we’d be gone. We’d started trying to justify it and coming to terms with it saying, ‘no it’s fine, we’ve had a really good run and we’ve enjoyed it, we’ve done some good dances and got some good scores…at least now we’ll be able to prepare for Christmas and spend some time at home…we can still be happy with what we’ve achieved and reaching the quarter-final’. We really justified it to ourselves; ‘It’s ok if we go out here, it’s not like we went out week 1 it’s the quarter-final. It’s probably the toughest year ever on Strictly. We’re happy, it’s OK to go home’. I think we realised when they called our names out that we didn’t want to go home. I just dropped to my knees and screamed. Frankie’s face was just utter shock.
Last week really brought it home that anyone could leave the competition at any stage. Pixie Lott being eliminated was a huge shock. How much pressure is there this weekend when you’ve just no idea how it’s going to go?
In a strange way it almost takes the pressure off because there’s really nothing you can guess or analyse. We all try and analyse thinking, ‘well if this happens and that happens…this couple’s been in the dance-off so they might be in again. Odds on they’ll be the ones who might go this week.’ You try and analyse everything and you’re thinking, ‘as long as we stay ahead of them on the leaderboard we should be safe’ but nobody would have guessed that Pixie was going to go home. It really did bring it home to us and like you said anything could happen. The only thing that we can do is concentrate on our dances and control the stuff that’s in our control. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. As much as we might have thought we knew what was going on, nobody knows what’s happening and who might be going next.
You mentioned before how if you’d been in the dance-off you would have gone because you didn’t score as well as some of the other couples. Pixie scored higher than Simon Webbe but she still went. It must be reassuring to see that the judges do genuinely decide based on the dance-off?
Yeah exactly. That was a shock. You would think they would have saved Pixie but it depends on how they look at it. Some of the judges might look at the body of work done over the series and who they consider to be the better dancer overall and some, like Len said, judge on the dance they see on the night and that’s how he called it judging purely on the dance-off. All you can do is go for it and do your absolute best at both times because you just don’t know how it’s going to go.
This weekend you and Frankie have the Argentine Tango and the Rumba. How are those dances going?
Really well actually. We were so shocked to make it through to the semi-final that it feels like a bonus and we’re just really happy to still be in the competition. We’ve gone into training trying not to think about the pressure or anything like that. We’ve just been getting on with our dances and Frankie’s working harder than ever. She seems to really be enjoying both of these dances. I think she’s looking forward to the Argentine Tango and that’s one of the reasons I really wanted to get to the semis. It would have been a shame if we’d gone out in the quarter-finals because the Argentine Tango is a dance she’s wanted to do.
With the Rumba, everybody says it’s ‘the dance of death’ or ‘the dance of doom’…
We’ve always heard it was ‘the dance of love’…
(laughs) It’s supposed to be but on Strictly it’s becoming the dance of death. A lot of time when you do Rumba you end up in the dance-off. It always seems to be a difficult one. I was trying to avoid it but the way the dances have fallen and because we have to do a Ballroom and a Latin this week, we had to do Rumba. Frankie was like, ‘no, no! I can’t believe we’re doing Rumba in the semi-final’ but actually she seems to be really enjoying it so fingers crossed.
You couldn’t have picked two more intense dances for the semi-final could you?
I know! The Argentine Tango is pretty intense. For the Rumba we’ve gone down the line of making it, as we call it ‘a Rumba for the kids’, rather than doing an in your face, raunchy Rumba. We’re trying to do a different twist on it. I think Frankie’s enjoying it more that way. I don’t think she was looking forward to getting up-close-and-personal with me, and grinding all over me.
Yeah, probably not with Karen stood a few feet away and Frankie’s husband Wayne sat in the audience…
Exactly yeah! That could be a bit awkward (laughs)
It’s week 12 of the competition, you’ve got two dances to do this week, and you’re a week away from the final. Frankie must be exhausted. How is she feeling at this stage in the competition?
I think we’re both pretty exhausted but to be honest I think last week was our most intense week with me being ill, Frankie couldn’t get to grips with the dance and being at the bottom of the leaderboard. That was our toughest week by far of the whole series. I think we feel like we’ve got over that hill and now it’s OK. We’re just enjoying ourselves and having a good time with it. With Pixie going last week, it could be our last week this weekend who knows? We want to finish the whole series, whether it’s this weekend or next, on a high, enjoying ourselves and just enjoying the dances rather than being stressed out about it all. I feel like last week was really stressful. We’re all exhausted but we’re just getting on with it and enjoying ourselves.
Last year you made the final with Susanna Reid. What would it mean to you to make the final again for the second year running?
Oh, I’d love to. I think I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it or I wouldn’t be bothered. I would love to be in the final again and Frankie deserves it. I would love for Frankie to have the chance to dance in the final. I was thinking about this the other day; if we do make the final avoiding the dance-off this weekend then I’ll have gone my first two series without ever being in the dance-off. I wasn’t in one last year with Susanna. That would be a real milestone I suppose (laughs).
Basically then you need people to pick up their phones, or vote online, this weekend so you never have to do the dance-off?
Yeah! That would be brilliant (laughs)
Strictly Come Dancing 2014 continues at 6.50pm tonight on BBC One. Watch Kevin and Frankie’s Salsa from the quarter-final below: