DEBBIE McGee doesn't walk. She glides, as she makes her way across the room to talk all things Strictly Come Dancing.

At 59, McGee is the oldest celebrity competitor in this year's crop of famous faces on the glitzy BBC One dance show, but so far she has waltzed all over the other contestants and scored the first 40 of the series for her tango with Sicilian dance partner Giovanni Pernice.

As the competition hots up – this weekend the competitors head north to the Blackpool Tower ballroom – Debbie faces a dual challenge. Not only must she strive to progress to Strictly's December 16 grand finale, but she also has to prepare for her pantomime role in York as fairy Adorabella Marigold Angelpie in Beauty And The Beast at the Grand Opera House.

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Debbie McGee as fairy Adorabella Marigold Angelpie in Beauty And The Beast, the Grand Opera House pantomime in York. Picture: David Harrison

Panto rehearsals will begin in York on December 4, and should she still be in Strictly, as she surely will, she will rehearse her dance routines with Pernice in York too. What's more, she will miss only two shows in York, the matinee and evening performance that clash with the Strictly final.

No doubt being in phenomenal shape physically will help, aided by a healthy lifestyle fuelled by yoga and pilates. "Because I've always been in showbusiness and had to be on stage in slinky dresses, I've always liked eating, and the only way I can eat everything I want, is to exercise," she says, matter-of-factly. "But I've never been a gym girl. I did go to the gym for a couple of years and it's the only time I ever got injured!"

McGee rose to fame alongside her late husband, Middlesbrough magician Paul Daniels, appearing on stage and television shows as his assistant, and making their pantomime debut together in Dick Whittington at the Grand Opera House in 1995. The pair were married for more than 25 years until his death in March last year.

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Debbie McGee and late husband Paul Daniels. Picture: Ian West/PA Photos

Debbie is now following in the dance steps of Daniels, who competed in Strictly in 2010, when he was partnered with Ola Jordan and was the second celebrity to be voted off. A burst of publicity for a Channel 5 programme, talking about her late husband, stirred up Debbie's memories. "I had a really emotional two weeks, because there was a big tribute to Paul on Channel 5 and I had to do a lot of interviews recalling Paul, and so it got to me. I know how much he would just love it," she says.

"But because he also did Strictly and lots of people on the show got to know him, his presence is kind of around and I think emotionally it's got to me more than I thought it would."

Her flexibility and dancing prowess aside, Debbie also grabbed headlines after her first dance on Strictly, which saw her locking lips with 27-year-old Pernice as their routine ended. Days after the kiss, she told ITV's This Morning that Daniels would have "loved" the kiss, before adding: "And the fact that I caused, or appeared to have caused, this furore with the kiss on Saturday night. He just loved showbusiness, and that really was showbiz."

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Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice: "It's a special friendship; it's not a love affair," says Debbie. Picture: PA Photo/ BBC/Guy Levy

She laughs when asked about the headlines suggesting the Pernice-McGee friendship could have a romantic edge. "We really have a close relationship. It's a special friendship; it's not a love affair, it's an incredible, deep friendship," she says.

Debbie also brushes off any suggestion she has become the object of affection for younger admirers. "If I have, I haven't noticed it," she says. "This programme takes over your life. I don't see anybody, I haven't been going out because it's so exhausting. Nobody knows who they are attracted to or who is going to ask you out, so I have no idea," she says.

Debbie is well versed in working in a partnership, but how does partnering Pernice and Daniels contrast? "You have to trust each other and for us as well, if you are used to performing on your own, if you go wrong it's only you," she says of her Strictly experience. "Although I worked as part of a double act for a long time, so it's a similar sort of thing.

"I always knew that whatever I did, Paul would cover up anyway and it didn't matter, so I had an awful lot of freedom. But on this I'm really aware that if I go wrong, I am letting Giovanni down. We are teams and you can't help that feeling inside. You feel guilty."

York Press:

Good and evil: Panto fairy Debbie McGee with Beauty And The Beast baddie co-star Lynne McGranger. Picture: David Harrison

After Strictly, there will be no slowing down for Debbie. First comes the aforementioned fairy dust of her pantomime performances in York and then follows the BBC Two programme The Pilgrimage, filmed earlier this year, which saw her and fellow celebrities take on the gruelling long-distance trek of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

The epic journey was good practice for Strictly, reveals Debbie. "It was amazing. It kills you, but we did it the hard way. It prepared me for Strictly because we walked a hundred miles in two weeks and we stayed at the grottiest hostels, and they made us carry our rucksacks," she says. "We couldn't send the luggage ahead. It was the most amazing experience."

Already Debbie has achieved the unimaginable on Strictly,when the normally stone-faced judge Craig Revel Horwood got down on bended knee to salute her dancing and head judge Shirley Ballas handed over her "queen of Latin crown" to her.

But will she go on to win the Glitterball trophy and crown? Now that would be magic.

Strictly Come Dancing airs on BBC One on Saturdays and Sundays. Beauty And The Beast will run at Grand Opera House, York, December 15 to January 7. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at