Fleur East said she is “excited to head to the Mecca of dance” with her dance partner Vito Coppola for Saturday’s Strictly Come Dancing show.
The 35-year-old radio presenter and singer topped the leaderboard during last week’s competition round, scoring 39 with an energetic samba to Hot Hot Hot by Arrow.
She will compete with Coppola at Blackpool’s prestigious Tower Ballroom which the BBC show is returning to after a two-year absence because of the pandemic.
Speaking to the PA news agency, East said: “This will be I think incredible for both of us because neither of us have experienced Strictly before.
“Each week you get through, you want to experience the next phase because you work so hard and like Vito keeps saying to me, ‘I’ve had my initiation into becoming a dancer’, I’ve had my bruises, aches and pains, my big toenails gone, it’s officially finished.
“So it’s like to be able to dance in Blackpool Tower. It’s like the Mecca of dance. I mean, it’s like the next stage in my dancer initiation, isn’t it?”
Coppola, 30, said it “means really a lot” and is a “huge week” in the Strictly calendar.
Memorable Strictly moments from Blackpool over the years include 2016’s entrance by former shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who was lowered from the ceiling playing a piano before taking to the dancefloor to jive with Katya Jones.
Another moment saw Ann Widdecombe do the samba alongside professional partner Anton Du Beke in 2010, both dressed in bright yellow, with the former Tory MP earning the night’s lowest score of 13 out of 40.
Coppola and East also said that Strictly fans can hear them shouting each week for their competitors from backstage as they cheer them on during their dances.
East said: “You’re watching everybody else and you’re seeing all their scores, and you’re hearing all their feedback, and you see how well everybody does and then you kind of think, oh my gosh, what does this mean?
“We’re going…’oh, we need to step it up because these people have smashed it’.
“Also you forget it’s a competition because you cheer everybody on at the side.
“So me and Vito are like the loud (ones), (we’re saying) ‘come on’ and then when we’re on we need to (try and) compose (as) we have to perform.”
Coppola, an 11-time Italian Latin American champion, added: “I must say that…we scream really loud.
“Even though (we are not wearing a) microphone, you can hear us (backstage).”
East also said they have a ritual of looking at her family and then each other before they can go on stage so they can get into the right headspace.
The former I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and X Factor contestant said she now feels she can take more “risks” when she sings on stage.
She added: “I’ve realised that I’ve stayed quite in my comfort zone a bit.
“Especially as a singer, like I just kind of do what I know and what’s comfortable for me and if I ever work with anybody, they’ll put dancers behind me and then if I can’t do a step, I just won’t do it.
“I just sing or they’ll change the whole routine, if I can’t get it. So it’s like everything’s always been molded to what I can do and this is the first time I’ve had to do something that is completely different.
“I didn’t even know what a line was before I came here. Now I understand that you can make a line with your arm.
“Just all these fascinating skills that that I’ve picked up, it’s just it’s been so incredible.”
Sunday night’s results show saw former England footballer Tony Adams, 56, become the seventh celebrity to leave after he was forced to withdraw due to injury.
The remaining eight couples will take to the dancefloor at Blackpool Tower on Saturday November 19 at 7.45pm, with the results show on Sunday November 20 at 7.20pm on BBC One.