THE FORMER dance teacher of Strictly Come Dancing star Natalie Gumede has leapt to her defence after accusations that she is at an unfair advantage.

The Colne actress, 29, who played abusive Kirsty Soames in Coronation Street, took to our screens on Saturday but faced criticism from people who say her previous experience gives her the edge.

Susan Chippendale, who ran Chippendale School of Dance in Colne, taught Natalie ballet, tap and modern jazz from age four to 17.

She gained her advanced level certificates at the school before she left to attend the London Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

She said: “Yes Natalie has danced but it was mainly just a hobby as she was growing up.

“Natalie suffered from a bad back injury when she was at Italia Conti which left her unable to dance for a long time. As far as I know she hasn’t danced since the accident.

“I hope that Natalie does well on Strictly Come Dancing, I’m sure she will but she needs people in East Lancashire to vote for her.

“From the age of four it was apparent that she had a natural aptitude for dancing but she also worked very hard and managed to achieve advanced level in ballet tap and modern dance. She even got one of the highest tap marks I’ve seen.

“Natalie is a very elegant and the way she dances reflects that. I am very proud that she started dancing with me and pleased to see her on TV. I am going to be glued to the show to see how she gets on.”

This isn't the first time that a Strictly contestant has been accused of having an unfair advantage. Last year, Denise Van Outen joined the show despite dancing at a professional level in musicals.

Speaking on the show Natalie said: “I always wanted to be a dancer but I got an injury at 19 which meant that was not an option anymore.

“But now I can’t wait to get Strictly-fied. Bring on the sequins, bring on the glamour, I’m ready.”

And while the show was being aired, Natalie, took to Twitter to tell fans about the nerve-wracking experience of being partnered with a professional dancer tweeting that she was watching the BBC’s flagship dance competition, from behind the sofa.

Natalie was partnered with Artem Chigvintsev who won the competition in 2010 with another soap star, Kara Tointon from Eastenders.