The People’s Strictly for Comic Relief really seemed to capture people’s hearts earlier in March. These wonderfully “normal” people we’re inspiring for their incredible personal achievements alone but to top it all off, they were genuine Strictly fans. There was Trishna Bharadia who appreciated that the only suitable reaction to be being partnered with Aljaz was a rugby tackle and Heather Parsons who knew that Ian would be a great height match for her, “I’m so glad it’s you.” She gushed. These were our kind of people.
I was lucky enough to get tickets for the recording of the programme; it’s a long day of queuing in the cold, waiting in a holding area for several hours after your phone has been taken from you so it doesn’t interfere with any technical equipment, and the only entertainment is the bar. It goes without saying the 700 strong audience are suitable merry by the time they are released into the tiny shoebox studio, so small it doesn’t feel real, just very sparkly, like stumbling into a fairy’s cave.
Tess Daly glides onto the set, all glossy hair and smiles, while Claudia Winkleman shuffles along rather hysterically in heels so high she may as well be en pointe.
Despite it being a recording, all the contestants’ individual dances are recorded in just one take so the pressure is still on. MS fundraiser Trishna and Aljaz open the evening with an energetic and uplifting Jive. All the couples receive positive judge’s comments, the scoring feels kind of irrelevant but it’s all part of the real Strictly experience.
The performance of the night was undoubtedly, eventual winner, Cassidy Little and Natalie’s monumental Pasodoble. The pair brought an intensity such that I’ve never seen in any other Strictly performance, the former marine’s power and conviction was remarkable and the standing ovation he received went on for several minutes (the transmitted version was edited down).
It seems unlikely, but the four hour recording flies by, the finale dance is filmed two or three times to allow the cameras to get every angle and Tess and Claudia keep the audience entertained by fluffing links and fooling around. We’re eventually released back into the real world, and I couldn’t help but feel the walk down Borehamwood High Street back to the train station was severely lacking in sequins.
First published in Dance Today – May 2015