Amanda’s getting us back in the groove
Amanda Keller hopes the new season of Dancing With The Stars is the TV equivalent of soul food for a national reeling from the devastation of the summer bushfires.
The reality ballroom dancing competition puts celebrities through their paces with a live TV performance each week, all in the name of charity.
"I've felt that we fell in a hole over summer. It was so painful to live through. Even if you weren't directly affected, it has been a kick to the heart," she says.
"I hope we can offer a chance to laugh a little bit, to smile and to feel some awe and some emotion. Something as glittery and fun and dramatic as dance is good for the soul."
Keller and Grant Denyer return as hosts, and as former contestants they know exactly what the celebrities will go through.
"Those first few days are the most confronting for them," she says.
"Suddenly there you are, you met your partner a couple of days before, you're wearing sequins, putting on heels and being asked to dance in front of the camera.
"Grant and I talk about how hard the intimacy was. You're with this dancer and they're used to it, but as civilians we're not. To hold their hand and make eye contact, it's all embarrassing. But of course a week in they'll be throwing their legs around each other."
This year's crop of dancing newbies ranges from actors and comedians to singers, sports stars and a reality TV villain.
"Working in breakfast radio, annoyingly I was across the MAFS (Married At First Sight) situation. When I mention Dean (Wells, from the 2018 season of MAFS) people go 'that guy from the cheating scandal'. I think why he's done this is to turn the opinion of him around a bit," Keller says.
"Christian Wilkins I've met a coupe of times. I'm looking forward to getting to know him more. He seems like a very layered human. He dresses in an unusual way, but he appears to be a soulful guy.
"He's dancing with Lily (Cornish). I'm sure they'll have great chemistry but there will be no romance there like last time with Jett (Kenny) and Lily."
Keller looks forward to reuniting with her partner in crime. She says Denyer is "fighting fit" after a back injury forced him to miss several episodes last year.
"He had to take those weeks off, but the minute he was back he was fine," she says. "I just told him no heavy farm work."
The thrill of live TV, and pushing the boundaries of family-friendly comedy in a 7.30pm timeslot, keeps Keller on her toes.
"That first night back is like pulling a bandaid, but more pleasurable. You turn up and it's the adrenaline of it," she says.
"It's a bit of a tightrope. You think of something to say and then you go 'Should I? Shouldn't I?' There's a lot of adlibbing. I get micced up an hour before we go out there, so I've learned to ration my toilet breaks.
"At least we know the beast now. It can't be too loosey goosy. There's a lot of business that first night of getting them all out there."
Dancing With The Stars premieres on Sunday at 7.30pm on Ten/WIN.