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The Glitterball trophy has been dusted down, the dance floor polished, the sequins stitched on and the fake tans applied as the 19th series of Strictly Come Dancing starts properly with the first dances by this year’s hopefuls.

And the class of 2021 is a pretty mixed bag, with the likes of Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty, McFly singer Tom Fletcher and Loose Women panellist Judi Love among those putting their best foot forward.

The bookies are already making their predictions and one of the hot favourites is EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis, who plays Frankie in the soap. The 26-year-old, who is making show history as Strictly’s first deaf contestant, has been partnered with Giovanni Pernice.

And the Italian dancer who is currently dating Love Island star Maura Higgins, reckons Rose is the partner who will finally help him get his hands on the legendary sparkly orb…

Giovanni joined the show back in 2015, reaching the final with partner Georgia May Foote and found himself again battling it out for the trophy with Debbie McGee in 2017 and Faye Tozer in 2018. But as the pair talked to new!, Rose said she’s ready to work her socks off so that he can finally win the show after so many near-misses.

And audience favourite Giovanni has every faith that this is going to be their year…

You are one of the bookies’ favourites to win. How does that feel?

Rose: It’s nerve-racking. To be honest, I don’t want to know that! I’m just taking it one day at a time. We’re a great team and I just want to learn and have fun.

Giovanni: They always make these predictions at the start but we don’t really want to focus on that – we’re just focusing on the dancing.

Are you in it to win it?

Rose: I want to win for Giovanni. If I work hard, maybe he will get his dream. And I will get my dream, too.

Giovanni: She’s so sweet. I dream of lifting the Glitterball trophy every single night! I think, “One day it will happen.” I’m putting it out there, we’re going to win. But I’m always so positive and then I get to the final and somebody else wins. It’s not fair, is it?

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How excited were you to be paired with each other?

Rose: I was so happy! Giovanni is a great teacher and once we were paired up, it suddenly felt real.

Giovanni: I’m very, very, very happy. She’s the one I wanted! We’ve started dancing and Rose is very good. I’ve been impressed so far.

How do you think you’ll feel as you come down the stairs on that first live show tonight?

Rose: I practised that the other day and there were only a handful of people watching me but I was so nervous. But sometimes, it’s good to have a few nerves because it makes you perform better.

Giovanni: The adrenaline will probably kick in on the night but I’m sure the more Rose practises, the more the nerves will disappear.

Your first dance will be the Jive, to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, and you had said it was the dance you were most looking forward to doing, didn’t you Rose?

Rose: Yes, because that’s Giovanni’s favourite and it looked so much fun.

Giovanni: But it’s also the most difficult dance to master.

Rose: In which case, I’m looking forward to doing something easy!

What’s the best piece of advice that Giovanni has given you, Rose?

Rose: He’s told me it’s going to be hard work but he’ll look after me. And just to relax and enjoy it. He pushes me but he does it in a nice way.

Are you training hard?

Rose: Yes. I want to do this properly and work hard, because it’s a great skill to have. I want to make the most of it, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want to just embrace it.

Have the nerves kicked in yet?

Rose: I’ll start practising something and I’ll think, “This is very fast,” and I start to get nervous because I can feel it testing my memory. But I’m not yet sure what my strengths and weaknesses will be, because we’re still in the early stages of training.

Giovanni: When I started teaching Rose the basic steps, she picked it up very quickly, so I think I’m in for a treat. She’ll be a very good student if she keeps putting the hours in.

Rose: I will, because my biggest fear is looking stupid on national television!

Are you scared of facing Strictly’s meanest judge, Craig Revel Horwood?

Rose: Everyone’s scared of Craig but I think he’s going to be OK with me.

Giovanni: You think so?

Rose: I’m sure he’s a lovely guy and I can charm him. I want to impress him the most. Or maybe Anton, because he’s the newest judge. I think Anton will be a great judge, because he knows what we’re all going through.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

Rose: The timing will be my biggest challenge but Giovanni is going to help me with that. We’ll work together to work around that.

Do you have any previous dancing experience, Rose?

Rose: I did ballet for a little bit when I was younger, so I maybe have some basic knowledge, but I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s a big jump!

The Strictly Come Dancing live shows start on Saturday 25 September at 7pm on BBC One

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