STRICTLY head judge Shirley Ballas has warned EastEnders actress Maisie Smith not to take victory for granted.
Bookies’ favourite Maisie, 19, won the Children in Need special last year and looked assured in Saturday night’s launch episode.
But Shirley, 60, says Maisie has a long way to go to get her hands on the trophy, while an outsider like Bill Bailey, 55, should not be underestimated.
She said: “I know she won the special but if I was Maisie I wouldn’t take anything for granted because doing one dance is not like doing ten weeks.
You’ve got to be there and you’ve got to be full on and you’ve got to go the whole nine yards.
“You could see the competitive spirit, you could feel it. These people all look like they were at the starting block, ready to move forward.”
Maisie has been given odds as short as 2/1 to win with partner Gorka Marquez.
But Shirley says comedian Bill, who is dancing with reigning champion Oti Mabuse, may not be the expected novelty act like ex- politician Ed Balls two years ago.
She added: “I turned to Craig and said, ‘He’s going to be our Ed Balls and the series is going to be a lot of fun’ and then he danced.
“He was rotating his hips, he was giving it some stick. And I thought, ‘Oh my Lord he is not only funny, he’s going to really give this a go. I wasn’t expecting that.
“I was like, ‘That is actually amazing’. I assumed Bill would be quite stiff and uncomfortable.
“Some people look like they’re stuck in concrete. He looked like he could go. I’m interested to see him.”
Max and Dianne
Shirley said: I’m sure when you’re in a boy band and you listen to your music they have natural rhythm. I wouldn’t think musicality would be a problem for him. So I’d say he’s another one in the running.
Nicole and Katya
Shirley said: Nicola didn’t look like she had a nervous bone in her body, and Katya is a seasoned pro. She obviously said I’d like to dance with a woman, the BBC have done it. I hope people will get behind them.
Clara and Aljaž
Shirley said: Clara is an absolutely beautiful lady. She has such lovely posture, looks incredible and has lots and lots of potential. In the brilliant hands of Aljaz, she could be a contender.
Bill and Oti
Shirley said: I told Craig: “He’ll be our Ed Balls and the series is going to be fun” and then he danced. He was giving it some stick. And I thought, he’s not only funny. He’ll give this a go.
Caroline and Johannes
Shirley said: She danced when she was younger. She’s understated how she dresses. So you think I’m not sure, and she walks and you see this little turnout. She’s got beautiful leg, gorgeous body, great posture.
HRVY and Janette
Shirley said: He has the neck of a ballroom dancer. His long arms mean when he goes into ballroom frame it will be exquisite, and as Janette’s so little he’ll be able to fling her everywhere. Watch him.
Jacqui and Anton
Shirley said: That looks like it’s going to be a fun partnership but she did look a little bit nervous. Anton can bring fun and serious numbers, he can do ballroom, latin, and can tailor that to any individual.
Jamie and Karen
Shirley said: He looks like a man on a mission. I think he’s got a point to prove to himself, and Karen will bring the best out of him. There’s pressure on everybody because they want their student to be the best.
Jason and Luba
Shirley said: This was cute. Their choreography was a bit more complicated as he picked her up and whizzed around. Luba has lots of creative ideas so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes.
JJ and Amy
Shirley said: He looks incredibly regal, very straight, and seems to be very on top of it. JJ spoke really nicely and eloquently, and he’s going to give it a really good go.
Ranvir and Giovanni
Shirley said: She was able to keep up with him and she didn’t look nervous. She looked quite relaxed and is used to being on TV, as well. You could see some of them were nervous but she looked quite comfortable.
GOT a story? RING HOAR on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]