Kevin Clifton and his celeb partner Frankie Bridge are emerging as one of the couples to beat in the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing.
Every week they get great comments and high scores and last week they topped the leaderboard once again with an incredible Wicked themed Tango.
It’s been a few weeks since we’ve chatted to Kevin so we gave him a call to talk about last week’s performance, find out how this week’s Samba is going and to talk about his sister Joanne’s exit from the competition.
Congratulations on topping the leaderboard with your Wicked themed Tango. Did you know it was going to go down so well?
No not at all. It was actually the hardest week we’ve had so far. Frankie was doing well with the dance technically but when it came to the performance and getting into the character of Elphaba she wasn’t feeling comfortable or confident about it. She texted her sister and said she wasn’t feeling good about it and she felt like she might be letting everyone down. She was finding it really hard. We talked about the performance of it a lot. On Saturday, whatever happened Frankie sprinkled her magic all over it. She closed her eyes at the beginning of the number and when she opened them she danced her heart out and smashed it. I couldn’t believe how well she did. I was so proud of her because it was a big wall for her to get through and she just smashed through it.
Frankie has really struggled with her nerves and confidence on the show. Surely she must be starting to feel a bit more confident after placing so well on the leaderboard week after week?
You’d hope so (laughs). She just always wants it to be better and she’s striving for that next level which is what makes her as good as she is. She watches the tapes back when we have a rehearsal filmed and she is really hard on herself. We had a good run today at our Samba. That went quite well and Frankie’s quite happy with it although she’ll still be seeing things and picking out things she wants to improve on.
The Latin dances are freer and less restricted than the Ballroom and a little closer to the kind of moves a popstar would do during a performance. Even though there’s obviously a massive difference between Latin and pop do you think Frankie feels more comfortable with the Latin dances?
No not at all. She likes the Ballroom much better. She feels much more comfortable in the Ballroom than the Latin. With the Samba being the hardest Latin dance, in my opinion, to look good we’re in for a big week. This week she was doing some performances with the Saturdays. I had to go with them to Majorca on Wednesday and Birmingham on Thursday. We had a little less training time this week but she’s done such a great job. She’s such a hard worker.
One of the things we’ve loved about watching you this series is that you take risks every single week and you raise the bar. Is it important to you to make sure Frankie keeps upping her game and that you’re doing something different than the other couples?
Yeah. I think you wouldn’t want to play it safe any week. I think because she’s doing so well and bringing out these big performances it would be wrong for us to do the next week and play safe. We want to keep raising the standard and pushing the bar as much as we can. Thankfully for me Frankie’s up for taking risks. It was a big thing to do the Elphaba character and I said to her that if she was going to do it then she needed to go all the way with the hair and the green make-up and become that witch. Frankie’s awesome and she was up for doing it all.
She pulled off a stunning performance so she must be happy when she watches that back?
It’s the first time that we’ve watched it back and Frankie’s said ‘yeah I’m quite happy with that one’.
Having set the bar so high now in terms of Frankie’s technique and your scores, does that add more pressure for the next week?
Definitely. You almost make a target for your back when you do a really good dance. You want to keep raising the bar and you want to keep pushing. You know that people will be expecting it. The Samba is a really hard dance and the temptation is always there when you choreograph the number to put in the easier moves and make it as easy on the eye without getting too technical. Unfortunately for Frankie I’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it (laughs) and put everything into it. I wouldn’t want Frankie to play safe. I want to push her and her to be the best that she can.
Karen and Mark are nipping at your heels coming in only two points behind you last week. How do you feel about their progression on the series so far?
It’s been such a massive turnaround for Mark. A couple of weeks ago he was in the dance-off. I know he sent a text message to Karen saying ‘I’m going to work hard now I don’t want to be in the dance-off again’. He’s come back swinging when he was backed into a corner. I’m really proud of the two of them. They’ve both been working relentlessly and he’s really raised his game.
You did a great impression of him on last weekend’s result show!
(laughs) Cheers! I’m always taking the mick out of him. He hates me a little bit for that (laughs)
How did you feel to have to say goodbye to your sister Joanne and her partner Scott Mills last weekend?
Yeah that was sad. I tried to make sure I was straight in there to give her a hug. I think she did a great job with Scott. Obviously from the beginning he struggled quite a bit and the judges were really harsh on him. I think last week that was definitely his best dance. It was a good week for them to go out because he went out on a high. I thought he really improved. He was working hard and Jo was working hard. I’m really proud of them.
We’re still shocked at how flexible your sister is…
Yeah I know! (laughs) When she went into the back bend and stayed there…it’s crazy! I can’t do that myself (laughs)
Strictly Come Dancing 2014 continues at 6.30pm tonight on BBC One. Watch Kevin and Frankie’s leaderboard topping Wicked themed Tango from Halloween Week: