If there’s anyone who can spot a talented dancer, it’s World Ballroom Showdance champion Joanne Clifton, and the former Strictly Come Dancing dancer thinks that Maisie Smith should win this weekend’s final.

Joanne, who won the show in 2016 with TV and radio presenter Ore Oduba, looks ahead to this weekend’s final and provides all the details into what the contestants will be going through in the build-up to the live show.

She said: “The final week is tough. It’s the last hurdle and everyone is tired, both physically and mentally. The couples will be going through so many feelings and emotions right now. They will be literally on the edge of tears in the lead-up if they’re anything like I was! Body’s aching, nerves shaking, glitterball in sight…

“Having three dances seems a lot, but in my opinion it’s easier than the semi-finals, where you have to learn two completely new dances. In the final there’s only one new dance, which is the showdance, and the other two are just a case of going over and correcting anything the judges may have said to improve on.

“The best way I think is to get the routine down for the show dance as soon as possible and then every couple of hours, run through the other two.”

Joanne has enjoyed the performances of multiple contestants on this year’s series, but it’s EastEnders actress Maisie Smith who she highlights as her standout of the series, and who she thinks will go on and collect the Glitterball this weekend.

“It’s so difficult this year because everyone is so good! I think Maisie is my winner though. People are judging her just because she’s confident, it’s ridiculous! She’s been in a few dance-offs when she shouldn’t have been but, in spite of this, has come back and smashed it week after week with a smile on her face.

“Aside from all of this, she’s just an incredible dancer. That tango she did in the first few weeks was incredible. I think she should win but have a feeling the public will choose Bill.”

Joanne is looking forward to seeing Maisie and fellow finalist HRVY in action, and reckons they will score highest from the judges.

She said: “I think Maisie and HRVY will definitely get 10s across the board, and they will be well-deserved too. Jamie (Laing) and Bill (Bailey) are the weaker dancers but when they get it right, they don’t half get it right. I just want the two of them to come out and smash it out of the park. If they just absolutely go for it then we’ll see the 10 paddles out for them too.”

While Smith and HRVY were singled out for special praise in this series of Strictly, Joanne has also enjoyed watching Made in Chelsea star Laing make the biggest improvements throughout the show and believes he deserves his place in the final.

“If we look at the series as a whole, Jamie is the most improved celebrity by a country mile,” she said. “He has had such a variety of dance styles. He also seems to be the one who completely embraced Strictly for what it is, and immersed himself in it, like with his Hercules week. You can tell he loves it so much and works hard, even after four dance-offs.

“Ranvir Singh is a stunning ballroom dancer. One of the best ballroom frames I’ve seen. Most of her dances were ballroom throughout the series and because of that, as we saw in her semi-final Jive, her Latin suffered. So, she wasn’t the better overall dancer out of the two, (including Jamie).

“Now, despite all of that, the dance-off should be danced on how you dance that single dance. Ranvir danced beautifully, elegantly, softly… another ballroom dance. Jamie went for it and he wanted that place in the final so badly. You could see the determination and enjoyment radiating from him. He even shouted, ‘come on baby!’ at one point!

“Ranvir, although probably unknown to non-dancers, also made some footwork mistakes. So, if I were a judge, which I’d love to be one day, I would have saved Jamie both for the dance on the night and based on the rest of the series.”

Joanne looks back fondly on her experience of the finals and lays out special praise for everyone on Strictly Come Dancing from the stylists through to the production crew and judges.

She said: “Final night is hectic because it’s live with four couples doing dress changes and hair changes. The hair, makeup and costume teams are fantastic. You don’t have time to worry or think about the dance you’ve just done. It’s a case of ‘okay, onto the next…’

“It all goes by in a flash and one thing that is so apparent is the love and support from everyone there. The other pros and celebs, the whole production team, the cameramen, even the judges just all want the contestants to have the best night of their lives. Even the competing couples have built up such a strong bond, we all want each other to do well. It is really something quite special.”

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