Ed Balls on the nerve-wracking Strictly learning curve

Our columnist describes what it feels like to have Craig Revel Horwood’s eyes boring into the back of your head as you dance

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Some of my old Westminster colleagues have asked me if coming bottom every week is hurting my confidence. But if being the best dancer on the show constituted success, I wouldn’t have entered in the first place. In World Cup football terms, I know I’m less Brazil and more San Marino.

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While dancing live on TV is a totally new experience for me, I have already experienced what it’s like to perform as a novice under pressure. Five years ago I decided to learn the piano from scratch – and to spur myself on to practise, I decided to do the grade exams.

When my piano teacher asked me whether I was happy to attend my grade one exam with all her other pupils, I said of course, I looked forward to meeting them. She gently explained that all the others were aged under eight!

My nerves sitting in front of the examiner were like nothing I’ve experienced since I was at school – a feeling that came flooding back on Strictly’s opening weekend.


I can still remember the examiner’s eyes boring into the back of my head – a bit like Craig every Saturday night! – and his criti
cal but constructive comments. But he awarded me a pass – and I later got through grades two, three and four, though never without difficulty. In my 
grade three exam, I had to begin one
 piece four times after messing up the opening – not a luxury Katya and I get on Strictly. And while I’m never going to be the best, I can now say that I play the piano. It’s a fabulous feeling. So that’s the experience I’m channeling in Strictly. I’m listening to the judges and trying to get a little better every week.

I came into this wanting to learn to dance and to enjoy myself in the process. I’m slowly getting there on the dancing front, and I’m still loving every minute – so even if it all ends before you read this, it will have been a success for me.

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Strictly Come Dancing continues tonight at 6:45pm on BBC1