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Debbie McGee, 58, cuddles up to her dance partner, 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.

Embrace: Giovanni Pernice and Debbie McGee have a hug as she puts her bags into a taxi 

The pair have enjoyed cosy greetings near their training base in Reading on two occasions in the past fortnight.

At one moment Pernice, who is understood to be single, carried 58-year-old Miss 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 Miss McGee’s unexpected decision to kiss Pernice in the closing seconds of their routine.

Close bond: The pair smile for a photo during a break in training for the dance programme

Close bond: The pair smile for a photo during a break in training for the dance programme

Some fans questioned the bold move, but Miss McGee said that 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 with Pernice]. He would be looking down on me… he’ll be happy.’ Miss McGee, who has a background in ballet dancing, amazed Strictly viewers with her remarkable 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.’

THAT kiss: Some fans questioned the bold move, but Miss McGee said that her late husband, who died in March last year, would have been happy

THAT kiss: Some fans questioned the bold move, but Miss McGee said that her late husband, who died in March last year, would have been happy

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

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

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 thigh-high 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 tomorrow night.

Fellow contestant Jonnie Peacock, the Paralympian athlete, is expected to dance with his prosthetic leg on show for the first time, as he and his professional partner Oti Mabuse take on the jive.

Strictly Come Dancing airs tonight on BBC1 at 6.45pm.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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