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


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.


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.


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