What’s it like being back on Strictly?
JEREMY It’s truly magical. I told myself not to fall in love with it all again because it’s only one dance, but however much I tried to resist the glitter and sequins, I was sucked right back in.
JUDY I had such a good time three years ago that when they asked me if I would do the Christmas special, it was an immediate “Yes!” Although I hadn’t danced a step since…
JEREMY I don’t believe you, Judy! I’ve seen you rehearsing your charleston and you’ve definitely been practising that swivel.
JUDY When they told me I was doing the charleston, the first thing I thought was, “Great, I can wear pumps!” Because I really hate heels. Then I thought, “Oh no, it’s all about rhythm, timing and fast footwork…” As I, and the British public, found out, rhythm and timing are not concepts I’m generally familiar with. And finally I thought, “I’d better start practising that swivel!” Because last time Craig Revel Horwood said: “Not an ounce of swivel, darling.” And when it came to the scores: “Three!”
JEREMY Well, it’s paid off! My dance has been identified as a quickstep by experts, but at one point I lie on the floor and spin in a circle – Karen [Clifton] says it’s our signature move.
Are you better dancers second time round?
JUDY I feel more confident because I know what I’m letting myself in for. I always enjoyed the training: it’s just you, your partner and a CD player. But when I was on the dancefloor, with the band, the audience, the judges, the cameras, the lights, the costumes, my brain went to mush. This time I won’t let that happen.
JEREMY I’ve found that the neural pathways from my brain to my feet have been dusted off and it can tell them what to do in a much clearer way than before. I haven’t really danced since either, but I have tried to move to music in a slightly more thoughtful way.
JUDY I hope I don’t mess it up because my new partner, Neil [Jones], has been a great teacher. I’ve loved teasing Anton [Du Beke] about him. As soon as I found out, I told him, “I’ve traded you in for a younger model!” He said, “Oh, partner, how easily you forget!”
Was it hard watching Anton and Karen dancing with somebody else?
JUDY It just makes me smile when I watch him dance, because he loves what he’s doing.
JEREMY I think that’s unusual. When Karen danced with Will Young the year after me I thought, “Who is that? What are you doing?” It was hard seeing her with someone else. But I know I’m not alone – while I was dancing with Karen she got a call from a previous partner saying, “I’m not feeling good about this!”
JUDY I didn’t feel like that at all! It’s his job. And we’re still good friends – I recently visited him and his wife, Hannah, and met the twins. I even fed one of the baby Du Bekes!
Did you watch this year’s series?
JEREMY Of course – Susan Calman as Wonder Woman. Tremendous.
JUDY I loved her. The show is at its best when we see people learning to dance from scratch.
JEREMY It’s always an issue, where the people who’ve never danced a step get the shock of their lives when they realise that some of the other celebs are trained dancers. But actually, they have more of a problem with the audience.
JUDY That’s why they liked watching us – stiff and wooden though we were! Your dad dancing; my mum dancing.
JEREMY I’d like to make the expression “dad dancing” illegal. It puts men off getting on the dancefloor. They think it’s not a manly activity.
JUDY It must make you self-conscious. There is still this old-fashioned idea that men do sports, and women do dancing. That’s why I’d love to see more sports people on the show.
Who would you like to see in the next series?
JEREMY Peter Crouch would be brilliant with his height, or David Beckham – but some people are out of reach. Would your boys do it?
JUDY You’d have more chance of persuading Jamie than Andy. I’d love to see Jess Ennis-Hill do it. And maybe, from your world, John Bercow or Jeremy Paxman.
JEREMY Good luck with that! I’d like to see Huw Edwards or Emily Maitlis. But current politicians are difficult – if they’re anywhere near Westminster, it’s tricky. JUDY But Ed Balls was brilliant last year!
JEREMY He was a revelation. But it troubles me that 15 per cent of what we know about Ed is from his time in politics and the other 85 per cent is from Strictly. As a journalist I question how well we’re doing our jobs, because we’re not showing them off to their best.
Is Strictly more difficult for the male or the female celebrities?
JEREMY The one thing I’d say is, you’ve got amateur blokes lifting pro women. And the pro women know the moment their feet leave the floor, they’ve lost control. JUDY In the ballroom dancing, I do think when the male has to lead that must be difficult. JEREMY I was worried about that, but I remember on the very first day, doing the group dance, I took hold of Natalie Lowe and it was like suddenly being driven by a Mercedes. I don’t think my feet even touched the floor.
Will you watch yourselves on Christmas Day?
JUDY Definitely. We’ll have a big Christmas dinner, take the dog out for a walk, watch a movie and fall asleep in front of the fire. Then I’ll wake everyone up to watch me on Strictly.
JEREMY Do you feel embarrassed watching yourself back?
JUDY No, never. When I have visitors, I always show them the tango Anton and I did, where his adrenaline on the night meant that a move he called the “chuck and slide” nearly ended up with me in the audience! I cry every time.
JEREMY I’ve resisted watching my dances…
JUDY It makes me laugh how bad I am. I know that when we watch the Christmas special my mum will say, “Oh, you’re terrible, dear.” When I told her I was doing the show she said, “Couldn’t they find somebody better?”
JEREMY Family, eh! I remember my brother [comedian Tim Vine] came to watch me in the studio and said, “I was talking to the person next to me and we were thinking they haven’t got anyone funny this year. And then you started dancing.” All the family is coming over and I’m sure we’ll build the day around it.
JUDY I can’t wait! Although Craig had better give me more than a three or there will be consequences…
Top photograph taken by Jonathan Ford for Radio Times
Strictly Come Dancing is on Christmas Day 6.30pm BBC1