When Samantha Hayes went along to watch the first night of this year's Dancing with the Stars NZ, she found it almost as stressful as if it were her on the floor!
"Everyone thought I'd love being in the audience, but I could feel the pain, anxiety and nerves from in my seat, and it brought it all back!" she admits. "I felt absolutely ill for them all."
Sam says she'll never forget the terror of dancing in front of a live audience for the first time. As she waited for the music to start, she went blank, despite weeks of hard work and training with dance partner Aaron Gilmore.
"I remember standing there, waiting for the music to start, and it felt like a lifetime, thinking, 'I don't think I can do this. I don't think I know any of the steps.' Then when it was over, it was like a dream. I could remember the start and the finish, but nothing in between."
Despite her nerves, Sam and Aaron – who is teamed with celebrity chef Nadia Lim this year – went on to win the competition.
"I still can't quite believe it," she tells. "He was an amazing teacher. It was all down to him that we won."
While she's confident Nadia and Aaron will do well, Sam's money is on co-host Mike McRoberts to take the victory this year. She urged him to say yes when he was approached about signing up for the hit show and she's been blown away by his first dance.
"He's got rhythm!" she enthuses.
"He looks like he's been competing for weeks and weeks. I was so proud of him and floored by how good he was."
She's happy to share her wisdom with her colleague and has suggested he use his time in the make-up chair before reading the news each night to mentally practise his steps.
"That really helped me. I'd visualise all the moves to the dances in slow motion and that was just as helpful as all the hours of practise."
She's also urged Mike to accept help – her mum Sheena often flew up from Otago to do Sam's washing and make her packed lunches during some of the more intense weeks of rehearsals.
But Sam's biggest tip for Mike has already been ignored. She advised the fitness fanatic to "keep it classy for as long as possible" by leaving his clothes on until the final weeks before revealing his impressive abs.
Sam suggested he save that until the end, when he's "really desperate for votes". Too late!
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