First thing I see when I swing my legs out of bed at the Elstree hotel: the pink shirt I wore yesterday. Can’t wear it today because it has been completely destroyed by the rub-off effect of the spray tan I had last night. Brown collar, brown everything. Comes out in the wash, right?
The shirt reminds me of a moment last night when I met Richard Arnold (Strictly 2012, and a great guy) and he rather gently mentioned that I looked as Venezuelan as Karen. So it’s lucky most of it came off on the shirt.
Can’t believe this! Turning on Radio 2 – yes I am a loyal listener to my own station, and I take my favourite portable radio everywhere – I hear Anneka Rice play this record. It reminds me there may be a little trouble ahead today. The shaking hand is mine.
To the studios in a car with Joanne Clifton. Joanne is the sister of Kevin who is married to Karen, my dance partner. So Kellie Bright and I joke that we are “honorary Cliftons” as she is dancing with Kevin. No turning back now.
Arriving backstage. Strictly is pure fun of course. At least it is when you watch it! But when you are in it – I mean physically in it, as I was this morning, arriving at the studio – you realise that what brings together more than 300 technicians, dancers, producers, camera-people etc is a serious endeavour. I don’t know the name of this gentleman backstage or what he is doing (didn’t want to distract him by introducing myself) but I can tell it is serious. Beneath the sequins there are a lot of lighting panels and motherboards and 13-amp fuses that mustn’t blow.
Head down this backstage corridor with me and see if you recognise the prop! Yes, it is Carol Kirkwood’s cloud from the first week. I guess it is no one’s priority to dispose of it, so it hangs there rather forlornly. Later I see Carol and we joke that the cloud could be up there for five years without anyone moving it.
One minute from rehearsal and I find my dance buddy. Karen communicates certainty but I know she feels nervous too. I often think people underestimate how tough it is for the pros. Len Goodman told me one of them had to switch the whole routine, live on air, after the celeb set off on the wrong foot. And of course the celebs are allowed to make mistakes but the pros are not. Still, if the DB is feeling pressure, she covers it brilliantly with a warm “good morning, star”. And an even warmer hug.
Rehearsal with the band. Ours is done. Next the ever-classy Georgia May Foote dances with Giovanni. Even though this is just for camera angles, and to hear the band, it still feels very slightly scary under the lights. We are allowed two run-throughs, and that’s it. The team work like clockwork: no messing. Dave Arch and his musicians are amazing for the sound they create.
In make-up. I am telling Anita Rani how her programme on India – Who Do You Think You Are? – was spectacularly moving. She found that her grandfather’s first wife probably jumped down a well to avoid being attacked after the partition of India in the forties. It’s a strange conversation to have in the Strictly make-up zone, but it’s been a huge week for Anita and I wanted her to know how powerful her story was. (On iplayer here)
Now we’re getting silly. My partner’s bessie mate is Janette who is one of the sharpest tools in the box (“What were you before you were a dancer?” “A banker.”) Check out Karen’s facial expression. It is not only her hips that move in interesting directions!
Just decided Peter Andre is the nicest guy in the universe – official! Outside my dressing room I hear his conversation with a runner (runners are the very young people, usually straight out of college, who buzz around all day getting us teas and making sure we are where we’re supposed to be).
Runner: “How are you Peter? What do you need? You tell me.”
Peter: “No, how are you? Because that’s all that matters today, that you enjoy it.”
In celebration of the niceness of Mr Andre I decide I HAVE to play his most famous song off my smartphone.
Dancers, I discover, obsess with space. We long for private places where we can sneak a 20-minute practise. So when I came out of a brief 10-minute massage (physio for a shoulder aching because of the lift I have been practising with Karen) I was excited to step onto a rather lush bit of first-floor lino. Perfect for later!
Ok… I just sent this pic to Karen’s phone. She jokes that I quote Churchill when I get worried about the eliminations.
And there is cause to worry: when I tell a runner my dressing room seems to be a long way from the studio, she says: “Yeah but it gets easier to find good rooms for the celebs when there are fewer of them.” Gulp.
Our dresser, Francis, gets a bit of close attention from boxer Anthony Ogogo and Peter. “Great pecs!” says Anthony, and Francis, who is unembarrassable, actually BLUSHES.
Windsor knot, sir? Peter in the background is probably asking very same question. We all love being in the Strictly wardrobe room.
Excited to meet Alpha, who operates one of the cameras. He says, “I have got you in the office sweepstake.” That is a very impressive fixed grin there Alpha – let’s do this!!
On the way to the dress rehearsal I clock this very 1970s sign – is it a very manly thing in Elstree, to go up a ladder?
This is the staircase of doom! The one that leads to the upper deck where all the dancers and contestants appear. When you stand on it, you can feel the buzz. I watch how close people get to their partners in this moment: Daniel with Kristina (who by the way is NOT from Siberia), Iwan and Ola. Standing next to me is Karen, as always looking stunning (even though she is dressed as a librarian for our dance). Oh, and Peter and Janette of course, who stand right behind me.
As we go through the rehearsal I find the sets built for each contestant totally stunning. Aljaz will wheel himself out from under the broken-down car in overalls to dance with Helen George. This is a moment just before the dance starts, when the introductory video is playing, so there are others on the floor.
Even the best presenters in the business need to rehearse. By the time Tess and Claudia are addressing the viewers for the sign-off, the live programme feels very close indeed. But this time I’m less scared – more excited. I just mustn’t get over-excited like I think I did on the first week!
Very near to the on-air moment now. We all get a bit hyper before we broadcast – rather exciting to get a kiss blown from the force of nature that is Natalie! She and Ainsley have one of the strongest routines, with him playing the owner of a vegetable stall. I guess we all act up a bit as the moment approaches because the key thing is to have some control when we dance. I love this show so much, and I realise, as we get ready for the show, that I really don’t want to be ejected too early.