There are many judges on Strictly Come Dancing – and not all of them are sitting behind the glittering desk in the studio. It is a nerve-racking experience learning a new dance in five days and then performing it live in front of experts. Our pro partners are used to this, as they have all taken part in competitions and have great experience in dealing with nerves – and accepting criticism. I too have a thick skin – 20 years in journalism, most of them on television, have toughened me up. So I see it as an extraordinary opportunity to have those four experts suggest tips for improvement on my Latin and ballroom performances.
As soon as a dance ends, I take a breath and steel myself. Craig – of course – has the reputation for being the harshest judge. He is a regular in panto and his comments wouldn’t be out of place were he delivering them dressed as an ugly sister. He likes to play the bad guy, and sometimes admits he doesn’t realise he has been so harsh.
So far, I feel lucky to have escaped total humiliation. But I’ve heard him deliver the “cold hard truth” when he slammed my raised shoulders, gripping hands and heavy steps. He also told me off for attempting a sofa cartwheel at the end of my jive. But hearing from his lips that my presence and energy were “sublime” and that Kevin’s brilliantly choreographed tango was “very, very good” – I thought I’d gone to heaven.
Darcey told me to give up the day job, but there’s no doing that while my frame is still loose and my lines aren’t sufficiently elegant. I look forward to Len’s food metaphors – so far we’ve delivered him chicken soup for the eyes (tasty and satisfying, apparently). And you always hope you’ll make Bruno leap up out of his seat. I fear the dance I perform that leaves him glued to the chair.
The response of the judge must influence how viewers react. You get a sense of it online, through social media and in online forums. It’s fantastic to get instant feedback from the audience on Twitter after the show.
But Strictly fans cannot be underestimated – and they won’t be told. They vote in their thousands for dancers the judges have said have no chance. They vote for those who entertain them – and that’s what we all hope to do. None of us wants to leave this fairytale behind as the elimination lighting chases us across the balcony on the results show and Tess announces who is staying and who faces the dreaded dance-off.
I’m hoping that blow doesn’t come my way yet. I’m enjoying every minute out there on the Strictly dancefloor. I enjoy hearing the judges’ comments– and I’m over the moon when we’re voted through by the audience. I won’t be giving up the day job – I’m a journalist through and through and I couldn’t leave Bill Turnbull on that sofa on his own. As long as the viewers give us the chance to enjoy another week back in the training room and another chance to spin on that sparkling dancefloor, I’m happy to accept whatever the judges behind the desk – and on their sofas at home – throw r us.
My week on Strictly
Monday: Kevin takes me through the new dance – I fear my muscle memory will never kick in.
Tuesday: We go over and over the moves and take out what we really don’t think will work.
Wednesday: Today’s all about nailing the technical details.
Thursday: Two days to go and we’re rehearsing the dance as often as possible with the music.
Friday: In the Strictly studio for a camera rehearsal – the first time we dance on the show floor.
Saturday: The most nerve-jangling day of the week…
Strictly Come Dancing continues this Saturday 6:30pm and Sunday 7:15pm on BBC1
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