Strictly’s Judge Rinder: “Ballroom dancing should be taught in schools!”

The Strictly Come Dancing star and Radio Times columnist also talks about dancing the foxtrot with his gran

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One gets the sense that people prejudged me when I started Strictly – usually a couple of acts are assumed to be there for comedy – but we are most certainly not and I feel like perhaps the judges have finally realised that.

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I’m not sure that we are contenders yet. In a year where everybody’s brilliant and a nine only gets you to the middle of the table, we have some way to go, but I just love learning to dance. As I keep saying, everybody should try it!

Going to salsa clubs may be popular, but I feel we’re really missing something as a society by overlooking ballroom dancing. If only we could persuade schools to teach it, or there was somewhere young people could go on a Saturday night to learn it.

You see, I’ve particularly loved learning the foxtrot, which I first danced with my grandma, Frances, as a child. She and my Pappa, Harry Rinder, have been married and dancing together for more than 60 years. They’re both nearly 90 now but the foxtrot is their dance.

Sadly, my grandma can’t dance any more, but to have had them in the audience while I danced it, was everything!

To have been accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s You Make Me Feel So Young was also magical. My musical taste is somewhat dated – I mean, freeze frame, go back 60 years and you’re in my comfort zone.

Charlie Puth’s Marvin Gaye certainly wasn’t! When I first heard Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, I looked out the window for the car alarm going off. But any song we dance to is cut in a certain way to make sure that it’s absolutely on the beat of the dance.

There’s an amazing guy, Matt Howes, who adapts every single one and who, it turns out, I was at university with. He read history at Manchester and is now the music producer on Strictly.

So I’ve put in a special request to only dance to tracks from the 1980s or earlier. I’m sure Charlie Puth, whoever he is, is incredibly talented but he’s no Sinatra, is he? 

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Strictly Come Dancing continues 6.55pm on Saturday, BBC1