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BACK OUR NATALIE: Can Natalie Gumede dance her way to Strictly glory?
EAST Lancashire’s Strictly sensation Natalie Gumede says she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from Lancashire Telegaph readers as she prepares for the grand final of the top TV show.
On Saturday, Natalie and her professional partner Artem Chig- vintsev will be one of four coup- les battling it out for the coveted Glitterball Trophy, in front of millions of BBC1 viewers.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have made it to the final,” said Natalie, taking a break from rehearsals for the live show.
“I have always been a fan of the show from day one, and to be part of it is an unbelievable exp-erience. It’s a bit like getting an invite to the most glamorous party ever.”
The former Coronation Street star, who attended Park High School, Colne, has consistently topped the judges’ leaderboard during the 13-weeks of the show.
But, after receiving four perfect 10s in last week’s show, she and Artem had to surv-ive a dreaded dance off to reach the final.
“After being in the bottom two we had time to reflect on th-ings,” said Natalie, 29. “I think it made us appreciate even more how fortunate we had been to have got thr-ough all those weeks and, having survived, we are that much more relaxed about the final.
“Obviously we would love to go out there and win it, but the genuine delight is that I get to dance again.
“It truly is such a joy to be able to express myself every Saturday night.”
Natalie, who as a young-ster was a member of the Chippendale School of Dance, in Pendle, and Pendle Hipp-odrome Youth Theatre, bef-ore going on to study at the famed Italia Conti drama school in London, has fac-ed criticism that her dance school training has given her an unfair advantage over her celebrity rivals.
“I think that I may have split people’s opinion,” she said.
“But there seems to be a misconception that I was a professional dancer of some kind.
“Before Strictly I had nev- er done any partner work and perhaps basic ballet training may have helped initially, but we have to dance so many different styles, none of which I have ever done before.
“Every dance is so diff-erent and has so many diff- erent demands on you.
“I have literally been learning every day for 13 weeks.”
As Coronation Street’s ‘bad girl’ Kirsty Soames, Natalie won three British Soap Awards. including Villain of the Year. But her convincing portrayal of the abusive WPC may have worked against her when it comes to Strictly.
“From friends and social media it’s clear that some people are struggling to diff- erentiate the two, but that’s something I can’t control,” she said.
Natalie has reassured fans that she is 100per cent fit and raring to go after an injury scare early in the competition, and then faint- ing during dress rehearsals for a show which led to her missing one live perform-ance.
“Injury is part of any production,” she said, “and normally no-one knows any- thing about it. But because the interest in Strictly is so intense, and you are in the spotlight all the time, things can get blown out of all propor-tion.
“I did suffer a back injury which required a steroid injection and an epidural and normally the best th-ing to do would be to rest.
“But the demands of Str-ictly meant that I was back in training the next day and that contributed to me fainting.
“To be seen collapsing by millions of viewers was pretty mortifying, but I am absolutely fine now and can’t wait for Saturday.”
As part of the final, the four surviving couples must perform a show dance of their choosing.
“For our show dance we will be dancing out to Stepp- ing Out With My Baby from the musical Easter Par-ade,” said Natalie.
“Viewers can exp-ect lots of old Holly-wood glamour, with diff- erent tempos and styles of dance.
“It will really put the show into show dance.”
In the final, Natalie is up against newsreader Sus- anna Reid, model Abbey Clancy, and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
“We genuinely all get on so well, I don’t really think any of us minds who wins,” said Natalie.
After Saturday, Natalie is looking forward to spend-ing Christmas in London with her mum and family.
“I think I’ll try and get away for a few days to get some sun and decompr-ess,” she said.
“It will be strange being away from Artem, but we’ll be reunited within a fort-night for the Strictly tour which will play arenas ar-ound the country.
“That will be a great experience as we will be dancing in front of thous-ands of fans every night.”
But before Natalie can even think of that, Saturd-ay’s final is her prime focus.
“I cannot thank everyone who has voted for us every week enough,” she said.
“I hope they will keep voting for me on Saturday and if I do win the trophy I’ll make sure I bring it home to East Lancashire to show everyone.”
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