Joanne Clifton is no stranger to success on Strictly Come Dancing having won the 14th series of the show in 2016. We spoke to her about her time on the show as well as getting a few insights of what goes on behind the scenes.

1.What was it like being part of one of the biggest shows on TV? 

One of the best experiences of my life. I’m so grateful to have been a part of it and I’m still very much a part of it, going on It Takes Two and still being friends with everyone. It’s long hours and not much sleep, which kind of makes you forget that 12 million people are watching you! How rewarding it is though when you see how the long hours have paid off. Winning in 2016…well I can’t even describe it!

2. Are you nervous when you find out the cast line up and when you are awaiting your partner confirmation? 

I definitely got nervous, but I think it’s more exciting than anything else. We always meet the celebs a week before and we’re with them for two days putting together the first group dance, swapping around partners as the producers watch. We always try and work out who we’ll get, going on things like height, who’s more ballroom, who’s more Latin, who needs more encouragement, who needs a strict teacher etc., but on the launch show night, it never turns out as we think!

3. What is it like backstage before a show? 

Backstage before a show is bonkers! On a show day we get called in at like eight in the morning and the first thing we do is hair and makeup, and the show is about 7.30 at night! So, we’re in hair and makeup all day long, in and out, in and out for touch ups. We have band calls and camera blocking and costume fittings. There’s not a minute to spare. If our celeb is nervous, we have to be there for them. Then there’s a dress run and pro group dances going on. Absolutely bonkers! But the most amazing thing is that it’s a happy environment everyone supports everyone and is there to make the experience as fun as possible. I think that’s what makes Strictly special and that comes across through the telly.

4. Tell us about the make-up and costumes and the preparation that goes into everything 

The hair, makeup and costume teams are incredible. They have designs of how we are going to look. Costume have the job of making each couples’ costumes, the group dance costumes and music act costumes all in five days each week. Of course, we have a say if we don’t like them but, to be honest, I’ve never ever once not liked my outfit, they’ve always been beautiful.

We get an hour’s hair and an hour’s make-up and then touch-ups through the day. We may have extensions in, wigs on, all kinds of weird and wonderful things sewn on sometimes, because it’s a live show and it cannot come off! Usually, we’ll have the group dances and have about five-seven people around us having to change our hair and makeup into the look for the dance and then out again!

Oh, and we’re sewn into our costumes too! So, we have to make sure we go to the loo before that!

But seriously, those teams need medals!

5. Who choreographs the weekly dances and chooses the songs? 

The pros choreograph all routines and can have outside choreographers if we wish for Argentine Tango, Charleston, Salsa and Couples’ Choice. This is because the pros are mainly trained in the five ballroom dances and the five Latin dances, so if we’re not trained in say Argentine Tango, it’s best to get some outside help. In terms of music choice and concepts, it’s very much a two-way decision between the pros and production. And together we decide what’s best!

6. Who choreographs the weekly dances and chooses the songs? 

The length of rehearsals everyday depends on the celebrity you’re dancing with. They may be working alongside Strictly, so we have to work around their hours and locations. It’s also up to the celeb how many hours they want to do. Ore Oduba, for example, wouldn’t stop! I had to force him to take breaks! But we won so it was a big plus that he wanted to rehearse at least 10 hours a day! We basically have four days to get the routine down, then work on technique, and add on performance factors like storytelling. It’s incredible what non-dancers can achieve in four days.

7. Who has been your favourite partner on the show? 

I literally couldn’t say! I’ve been so lucky in terms of dance partners and have remained friends with all of them! Obviously, I won with Ore so we went on such a journey together and became best friends. With Scott Mills we would have such a laugh! Russell Grant is my showbiz godmother who I can’t live without! Harry Judd was just so amazing, and we won the Christmas special together, while Stephen McGann used to sing whilst training and I adored him!

8. Who is your favourite professional dancer on the show now, male and female, and why? 

Right now, I’ve got to say Anton. He’s a ballroom specialist like me. We’ve done a couple of shows together and he’s so funny and amazing to dance with. Katya is one of my best friends and just so creative and bonkers I just love her! I’ve also done shows with and known Giovanni for years and years, and I must mention Janette who I think is dancing incredibly this year!

9. Have you had any dancing disasters? 

In the Charleston with Scott Mills. The whole week, one of the lifts had been going wrong, then in the live show it went amazingly! Well, he was so pleased with himself and happy it had gone well that he forgot to pick me up – he just looked down at me and smiled!

10. What’s your favourite dance and why? 

Quickstep and American Smooth are my favourites. I’m a specialist in the Ballroom dances and actually won the World Championship Ballroom Showdance which is basically American Smooth. When quickstep is done well you feel such a rush of energy, the wind going passed your face. It’s so much fun.

11. If you could choose another professional from the show to dance with who would you choose? 

Probably Anton. He’s the king of Ballroom. What can I say?

12. Any gossip from backstage?

Not so much gossip, more putting the record straight. A lot of people on Twitter write things like “oh look at so and so always trying to get in the camera shot in Claudia’s area”. The truth is we are told where to stand each time! The reason being that we have to cover all the gaps behind us because if there were gaps, you’d see all the prop guys bringing on things and taking things off the dance floor between each dance! Sometimes, like when the judges are being filmed saying their comments, you literally have the prop guys crawling on their bellies as to not be seen on camera, getting rid of stuff from that dance!

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