By Olivia Buxton 17/10/2009
STRICTLY.. CORRIE'S CRAIG
Corrie's Craig Kelly has not waltzed away with much glory in Strictly Come Dancing. In fact, he's got the judges in a spin - for all the wrong reasons.
So far in the popular BBC1 series his clunky quickstep has seen him likened to Humpty Dumpty and he has narrowly survived two dance-offs.
But then it's little wonder he is so unsure on his feet. Lancashire-born Craig, who plays the Street's knicker factory boss Luke Strong, admits it usually takes a few drinks to get him on a dancefloor. He even ducked out of the first dance at his wedding just three months ago.
Craig admits: "My Scottish Grandma Lennox was an amateur ballroom dancer and I have a bit of rhythm, but I am a total novice on the dancefloor.
"The only dancing I have ever done is after a few beers at a disco - usually I'm at the bar having a good natter.
"We didn't even do a first dance at our wedding. We were going to do a last dance instead, but they shut the restaurant before we got around to it."
His new bride Camilla might have failed to get him up on his feet then, but Craig, 39, reckons that without her support he wouldn't have got this far in Strictly.
"I don't know where I would be without her," says Craig, who is partnered with professional dancer Flavia Cacace. "She has been my absolute rock since the beginning.
"Of course, Flavia has been amazing too, but Camilla has been going through the highs and lows with me. She knows how much it means to me and how well I want to do.
"She comes to training every week and every Saturday night she is in the audience with my dad, Paul. Often she is more nervous than both Flavia and myself put together."
Camilla has also helped Craig keep his chin up when his efforts have been panned.
He says: "When I did the quickstep, Bruno said it was a disaster and that I went round the floor like Humpty Dumpty!
"He certainly didn't mince his words. Afterwards I had to fight back the tears. It was upsetting and disappointing, but then he saved me in the first and second dance-off.
"Last week, he said my foxtrot was a good effort, as did Len. But I almost didn't care what the judges said. All I knew was that I was doing it for me, Camilla and Flavia and I was relaxed for the first time. A breakthrough!"
It has given Craig renewed confidence - and he needs it.
Tonight he and Flavia perform some pretty fancy footwork with their jive.
"Hopefully I'll come out and give them what for," he says, defiantly. "This is a chance to redeem myself.
"We've had some hard dances that have been moody and serious, where you can't express yourself too much. But in the jive there is a lot more freedom and we can show off a bit more.
"We hope the public will give us a chance... I don't want another dance-off for as long as possible."
At least he knows that Camilla will be there, as always, cheering him on. He knew the 33-year-old marketing director was "the one" for him six weeks after meeting her at the naming ceremony for a a friend's daughter in Sweden, four years ago.
Within months they had moved in together. And when Craig popped the question in July last year, he made sure the occasion was as romantic as possible.
"I had the ring made especially and I found this beautiful little restaurant bar called El Paraiso in Formentera on the Costa Brava, overlooking the beach," he explains.
"Although I was really nervous, it was a magical moment when it happened. I was made up when Camilla accepted.
"And it was such a romantic setting that we decided there and then that we would get married in a year's time and in the same spot. So in July we went back to the same place for the wedding and reception with 110 guests.
"It was incredible. The ceremony was in a lovely old Spanish church and we had the reception at the restaurant. We then spent two days on a boat, which wasn't a great idea - I had the worst hangover known to man, and the boat was lurching up and down.
"But it's a great thing to get married. To commit yourself to one person that you want to spend the rest of your life with is a big deal but something I don't regret for a minute.
"And Camilla is a great girl and she is the best wife. She is very on the ball, she encourages me, she inspires me - and she keeps me in check."
Camilla was also a driving force behind Craig's decisions to take part in Strictly and commit to his eight-month role in Corrie. "I didn't think I'd have the courage to do Strictly," he admits. "But she persuaded me that I'd be great.
"The same went for Corrie. As we live in London, I was worried about taking a job in Manchester, but Camilla could see how much it meant to me.
"I did find it tough being away and I missed her - that's one of the reasons I left. But the door has been left open for Luke." Fortunately, Camilla wasn't worried by seeing her man snogging two of his sexy soap co-stars, Helen Flanagan (Rosie) and Kym Marsh (Michelle).
He grins: "She trusts me and knows it's only a pretend snog. She laughs it off."
Next week is the last Corrie fans see of Luke. He leaves Weatherfield - taking Rosie's money with him. The conman "sells" Rosie his shares in Underworld. Problem is, Luke didn't have any to sell. Once Rosie's money is in his account, he does a runner.
"Unlike me, Luke is a rogue - he takes Rosie to the cleaners," says Craig. "He is a very naughty boy.
"But I have enjoyed playing a baddie. I always played Luke like he had an ace up his sleeve. "He is very charming, but always one step ahead.
"It was very sad to leave Corrie, but if I hadn't left I could never have done Strictly."
Now all he has to do is win over those judges - and try to smile more while he's dancing.
"Camilla said to me from day one, 'Don't take it too seriously, smile and enjoy it," he laughs. "I'm trying, but sometimes that's easier said than done."
ETA - Craig's also posted another Blog Entry at his website: