October 16, 2020

Strictly’s secret behind-the-scenes slip-ups as show prepares for return


Strictly fans tuning in for this year’s launch show tomorrow are guaranteed a slick performance full of glitz, excitement and fun.

And that’s because anything and everything that can go wrong for the 12 celebrities and their professional dance partners already has, either backstage or in rehearsals.

Here, four of the BBC hit’s favourite female pros share their memories of working on the show.

So from superstitions and wardrobe disasters to pranks on fellow dancers, here is what really goes on away from the cameras…

It might appear slick and smooth on a Saturday night, but Australian Natalie admits the dress rehearsals can look very different.



Natalie Lowe arrives for the launch of ‘Strictly Come Dancing

Natalie, 40, says: “I’ve had my stockings get caught in Scott Maslen’s flies during an Argentine tango lift, a sleeve wrap around a partner’s head and choke them, shoes slip on the stairs.

“But that is why dress rehearsals are in full outfits, as nine times out of 10 you end up rushing to the sewing room attached to your partner to get fixed.

“Live shows aren’t always perfect – my hair has fallen out and Erin Boag lost her weaves. In the Australian version my partner’s mic caught in my dress in a salsa and tangled us up.

“The mics are in our bra cups, and the dress ladies have to get very creative to make sure we don’t have strange lumps, and look well-balanced!”



Scott Maslen and Natalie Lowe

For the men the biggest challenge is often the Cuban heels for the Latin dances, which proved to be a step too far for Audley Harrison.

“He has something insane like a size 16 foot, and would have done himself an ankle injury with his boxer’s physique. He was like, ‘I’ll just have to stand here and move my bum instead!’”

She is adamant no dirty tricks come into play – that is saved for the tour, with James Jordan the worst culprit.

In one paso doble, the group started in the dark with Natalie and Kristina facing each other wearing capes, and James sat just underneath them.

She explains: “Unknown to us James had tied our capes together. We were strangling each other and couldn’t move.”

Natalie is overjoyed the show is going ahead, adding: “The world needs to have sparkle in it.”

The atmosphere backstage is reminiscent of the set of Fame, with people battling for mirrors and rehearsal space.



Jimi Mistry and Flavia Cacace

Camilla, 46, reveals: “People are stretching and practising right up until the last minute. You can hear celebrities counting ‘5, 6 ,7..’ out loud, and going over their toughest bits.

“People react differently to stress, but I’ll never forget Colin Jackson. The athlete in him was completely focused.”

Camilla, whose book Dream, Believe, Succeed is out in November, says: “I would give my partners positive affirmations just before going on. I learnt not to give any last minute pointers after doing that to David Dickinson, who then got that one point right, but forgot everything else.”

The female outfits are all based on a leotard that is layered up, but keeping track to make sure colours and styles aren’t repeated, is a mammoth task.

“The wardrobe people plot everything out, while keeping each look unique. It makes it easier for audiences to remember iconic looks, such as Jill Halfpenny in her black and red dress.”

She adds: “Every detail is worked on. Looking back, my heart fills and I smile. It is magical, it is like going to Disneyland.”



Camilla Dallerup and Tom Chambers

All the dancers have had years of training and performing – and it gets them out of some scrapes.

Recalling a group number where half the dancers were due on part-way through, Flavia says: “We were keeping an eye on what was happening on stage via a monitor, but got so caught up admiring the dancing we forgot we were meant to be going on.

“We all realised at the exact moment we were needed and bolted towards the floor. There were these huge velvet curtains, we were desperately pulling them to find the openings.”

Flavia, 40, began dating Jimi Mistry after they were paired up in series eight and they later wed.

She says: “We were a shock exit and felt we should have got further, so we still have a bit of a huff about that! But we share a smile when one of the songs from our dances come on. We don’t break into dance though – Jimi would kill me if I tried to do that.”

But Flavia admits her favourite partner on the show was Russell Grant. She says: “We had so much fun. The pressure was off, and people enjoyed watching him no matter what he did. We had nicknames – I was Gypsy and he was Mama Rose, from the musical and he called me his stage daughter.



Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

“I’d arrive at rehearsal at 9am and he’d be there already, full of enthusiasm, and a feather boa draped around his neck, ready and happy for the day.”

Her last pairing was with gymnast Louis Smith in 2012. She says: “It was the Olympics year, and there was a buzz to the country. To have that as my last year and to win, was a wonderful high point.”

Before going on stage Flavia had a ritual. “We have suede on the bottom of our dance shoes for grip and buff them with little metal brushes. I’d hide mine in a secret place in a backstage corridor and it had to be the last thing I did before I went on stage.”

If you wanted to find Kristina just before a live show, your best bet was the toilet.

“I would have a bit of a zen moment on my own before a show, for some mindfulness, to just be,” she explains. “It wasn’t easy to find a quiet space as backstage was hectic, so I’d often just end up in the toilet!”

Kristina would use yoga and meditation, as a way to deal with the pressures of the show, she says: “I’d get frustrated with myself, like how can I make this better for the celeb. It’s a physical and mental rollercoaster.”



Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff

Saturdays can be particularly strenuous with 6am starts.

Kristina, 43, laughs: “I have great memories of making the finals with Jason Donovan and Simon Webbe, but I could never forget my first Strictly season with John Sergeant…

“I was showing him the steps to a paso doble, assuming he was following but minutes later I turned and he was just staring like ‘I’ll never be able to do that!’ I made him stand on the spot and clap to the beat so I could dance around him.” But no matter how many hours she put in with John, Kristina recalls Craig decimating their performance.

“I’d work so hard with John – getting him to do anything that would work for the show really was a miracle – and then Craig would describe it as ‘a disaster’.”

Kristina, began dating her dance partner from series 11, Ben Cohen, and they went on to have a daughter together. “I have happy memories from the show. It gave me everything I have in life now,” she says.

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