First that screen kiss, now Debbie, 58, cuddles up to Italian hunk, 27
SHE rounded off their passionate first Strictly Come Dancing routine by planting an impromptu kiss on his lips.
And Debbie McGee seems just as smitten with her 27-year-old dance partner Giovanni Pernice off-screen, as pictures of them meeting for rehearsals show.
Despite a 31-year age gap, the widow of magician Paul Daniels and the young Italian appear to have cast a spell on one another and cannot hide their close bond.
The pair have enjoyed cosy greetings near their training base on two occasions in the past fortnight.
At one moment Pernice, who is understood to be single, carried 58-year-old McGee’s bags for her as they walked to a taxi, while at another point they smiled and hugged for a picture.
Their chemistry has certainly impressed the judges, who awarded them a score of 30 for their paso doble on last Saturday’s show, leaving them second on the leaderboard.
However, producers and viewers were taken aback by McGee’s unexpected decision to kiss Pernice in the closing seconds of their routine.
Some fans questioned the bold move, but McGee said her late husband, who died in March last year, would have been happy.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning on Thursday, she said: ‘He would love it. He loved showbusiness. That was real showbusiness [the kiss]. He would be looking down on me… he’ll be happy.’
McGee, who has a background in ballet, amazed Strictly viewers with her flexibility and tricky moves, with the judges commenting that she ‘danced like a 20-year-old’.
She wowed with daringly high kicks and even dropped down into the splits, before going in for the surprise kiss. Speaking to presenter Claudia Winkleman after their performance, she admitted: ‘In rehearsals I didn’t kiss him at the end, so he wasn’t expecting it.’
During her appearance on This Morning she also spoke about how she has maintained her slim figure, which was shown off in a red sequined dress with a thighhigh split last week.
She said: ‘I’ve never been obsessed with exercise but I’ve always done something… pilates and yoga.
‘Lots of my friends who have done a lot of power running have had hip and knee replacements but, luckily, I seem to be OK.’
Tonight she and Pernice will perform the Viennese waltz to Billy Joel’s hit She’s Always A Woman, as they bid to avoid the first elimination of the series.
Fellow contestant Jonnie Peacock, a Paralympian athlete, is expected to dance with his prosthetic leg on show for the first time, as he and his partner Oti Mabuse take on the jive.
‘That was real showbusiness’
Left: The impromptu kiss last week. Right: The pair smile for a photo during a break in training Embrace: Giovanni Pernice and Debbie McGee