My first job at Strictly HQ is to make a confession. My feet are size 12, so the shiny shoes were made for me — and I’ve wrecked them. Arriving on Friday afternoon, I try on my “Splish Splash” shirt (the Bobby Darin song is our dance tune this week) and decide I need to confess to the costume department that my shoe has a hole in it. But the hole is in a most peculiar place. Look at the picture. It is worn in the right side of the right shoe. I bet you’re wondering why. The wardrobe department had never seen a hole in this position on a shoe before. So this is what I told them…
This is a scene from Grease. Karen told me during the week, “I had an idea for a jive, and I knew it was Travolta, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it.” It was a hard moment to find, but with her amazing choreographer’s memory she eventually discovered a moment — less than 3 seconds long — where Travolta slumps to the floor and moves himself round in a circle as the music plays. Karen and I called it “the Travolta Clock.” She said she wanted me to do it. The only downside? You propel yourself with the outside of your right shoe and the inside of your left. Try it!
Luckily Megs, in the costume department, enjoys the story. The Travolta Clock has put a hole in the right edge of my shoe. I must have done it seventy times. I am a little nervous now about trying to do it in front of 8 million viewers with different shoes, but then Strictly is all about new experiences, isn’t it?
Couldn’t resist this on my way out of wardrobe. The boys in the contest don’t have dummies. The girls do. Each dummy has a name. As a gentleman I covered the contestant’s name on this one, by the collarbone, as the details are a little mathematical and unsparing; but the costume dept is full of tape measures so they might as well use them! I think the person this dummy is modelled on should keep this when she leaves the contest — although I wonder if she ever will. The person concerned is a dance natural. I shall say no more.
Before I leave costume, I tell Francis — who dresses me more than anyone — that he has the BEST shoes. Maybe this is the solution to my Travolta Clock problem? Borrow the strappy shoes. They would grip the ballroom floor no problem. Might gouge it a little, though.
I am wondering if Giovanni is happy with his “I’m an angel” costume. I suspect he might not wear this on a night out in Milan.
But a night out in Elstree comes first! We are in the Village Hotel, where the restaurant staff take very good care of us (at the Strictly table, as we like to think of it). You know everyone here: from the left, me, Katie, Ola, Georgia, Gleb, Giovanni-without-his-angel-wings, and Anita (who is doing the Samba tomorrow, a hard dance). In a few minutes we will be joined by the DB Karen, her hubby Kevin, Ainsley, Kellie and Clara (who does the spray tans). It’s absolutely fantastic company and I know, if my Strictly ends this week — or next, or the one after — that one thing I will really miss is our Friday get-togethers. We talk a lot about dancing but I think each of us feel reluctant to overload the dance-chat because we have fleeting seconds where we think there could just be more to life. Katie and I chatted about our work on ITN and BBC News, where there is much fun to be had comparing.
Two great dancers in this photo — BOOM.
My dressing room reminds me of the opening scene in the novel All Quiet on The Western Front. The book describes a regiment returning from action and their joy at discovering there is twice as much food in the soldier’s mess as they normally get. As they eat, it dawns on the reader that the soldiers are only eating huge meals because half the regiment did not return from the frontline. So I see this spacious room — so much nicer than my dressing room in previous weeks — and I feel delighted. And then I realise: I have a nicer dressing room because some of my comrades fell in action.
Back in costume HQ. That must be Katie’s dress by the window (the dummy almost toppled just then). Esra is in the beret. The staff here never stop. Francis (with the strappy shoes) told me he was up working till 3am last night.
I am not totally sure who took this picture, but I love it. I have found a tiny bit of free dancefloor before everything gets underway. On go my bluetooth headphones and I hit “Splish Splash” and start my routine. I am totally in my own world and totally happy. Crazy as this will sound, because the judges have scored me pretty low so far, I really want to learn to dance and I know Karen feels this hunger. It is just a case of telling my feet to embed some technique, and my brain to be a little less joyous when I hear the opening bars! Don’t get carried away, Jeremy!
It doesn’t last long. A rumour has spread that the dancefloor is available and suddenly everyone is on it in their costumes — Georgia and Kirsty on the left; Natalie in pink; and behind her, Greg the floor manager (with the beard) who is gently suggesting we need to clear the floor to start rehearsals. Space is precious though.
Dress rehearsal. Kim, on the left, is Claudia’s writer and researcher. Pasha is showing Claudia something. The rehearsal is a way of us all seeing how we look on the same stage. In the bottom left of the picture, Karen has her eyes on a monitor because Kevin is dancing. Excitement building now.
The audience is in. We are about to go on air, but Bruno and Darcey divert for a moment to make sure one of our front-row spectators, Sean, has a night to remember. To me, this image is what Strictly is all about: every single person involved with the show and loving it. The lights are coming on…
At the end of the day, with the dancing done, Karen introduces me to her old friend and former dance buddy, the hairy biker Dave Myers. Dave had a brilliant time with Karen (and loves her to bits) because she ensured he danced to the best of his ability but also entertained. And entertain he did! Huge respect to him. We know that we will form a distinguished line of ex-dance-partners of the DB, and there will be a little bit of jealousy and pain when this contest ends, and another starts, and we see her paired with someone else. At some point I hope I get a chance to pay a proper tribute to Karen for what she has taught me, and what she has meant to me. But at this precise moment I am just thinking of the dance we did and the votes that are coming in. Fingers crossed and once again, thank-you for your support.
P.S. I can’t resist one more image. The idea that I should learn the jive in a swimming pool is the maddest yet. And that was before they decided we should wear Edwardian costumes…