After the exhilaration of the Red Carpet Event and the series Launch Show, it must come as quite a shock to the celebrities each year as we go straight into long arduous days of intensive training to make our partners performance-ready. This year even more so, with just two weeks for them to find their feet, grasp the basics, learn the first dance… and steel their nerves!
Ruth, I have to say, has been a model student, everything I could have wished for: tireless enthusiasm, the drive of a perfectionist, and crucially a very good sense of humour! That’s not so say the Waltz hasn’t presented hurdles for Ruth to overcome – you’ll have seen from the VT that she had ‘looking issues’ – either at her feet, or me! I had to insist that she didn’t gaze into my eyes, but looked away instead – I can’t blame her though, magnetism is a hard force to fight!
I’m sure that, for the celebrities, nothing feels quite ‘real’ until the first weekend of the competition. And with the dress rehearsals done and the clock ticking down to showtime, I could tell the nerves were starting to build. On a first night, they’re quicker to catch than a cold! That said, Ruth and I had a very relaxed and jolly interview with the Radio Times beforehand…
This show was perhaps one of the longest in Strictly history with 15 couples dancing all on one night, rather than splitting the initial group across Saturday and Sunday evenings. Being twelfth in the running order meant that we had an agonisingly long wait… and that’s when nerves often start to kick in. Ruth insisted she’d forgotten all her steps; all I could do was insist otherwise!
At last, our names were called, the lights dimmed, and flutes and strings from Dave Arch’s wonderful band sang sweetly over the applause: it was now or never. Thus began a beautiful moment in dance: I (dressed in my best suit and tie, and all fresh from the barbers) presented myself to Ruth, and she, seated coquettishly there on the posh settee, took my hands and rose to her feet; we embraced… and were off! Our first steps on a magical journey together.
— BBC Strictly✨ (@bbcstrictly) September 23, 2017
Graceful, elegant, Ruth was simply resplendent in her beautiful dress rippling and shimmering as we traversed the dance floor in a lilting three-four time. I thought she performed marvellously – I couldn’t be more proud of her for dancing so well. Granted, there were a few uncharted improvised moments, only to be expected with the first week’s dance – but like I said afterwards: ‘She didn’t go wrong, she just went different!’ Ruth in fact admitted it was the most nervous she’d been in 30 years of live television, but each week I’m sure it will get easier and her confidence will soar in accord. Truth be told, I think we’re a particularly well-suited couple with great potential in the competition!
Round and round we spun to reach a grand finale with fireworks – no expense spared for what, to my mind, was a simply gorgeous performance for our dancefloor debut!
The applause was loud and wonderful to hear, especially for Ruth. Then hearing Eamonn say how proud he was of her was timely reassurance to her as we took our places next to Tess, bracing ourselves for the verdict from the Judges.
Darcey began by noting the romance in the performance, Ruth’s quality and grace, and that she had a wonderful aura about her. Quite so. She said there was work to do on posture, but what sold it was her smile. Marvellous!
Next up was our new Head Judge, Shirley: “What struck me the most was how you made me feel, you’re definitely a lady, very elegant.” Another first rate appraisal. She said she spotted a few off-time moments, but that Ruth was very graceful nonetheless. Something I shan’t forget in a hurry was the curious analogy of her hand placement being like a butterfly – though not one with ‘concrete boots’ – how fabulous! With constructive critique like that, Shirley gets my vote!
Some things, however, never change… Bruno: “A picture of loveliness and wholesome goodness… it’s just that the feet have a mind of their own!” He too picked up on Ruth’s posture, insisting that she should maintain her frame and not hang on to me. For a first dance I have no problem with that – after all, I can’t blame her for hanging on to me, being all suited and booted and smart!
The rise… and fall of the dance was in sync with the critiques by the time we reached Craig: “It really was the stumble and grab dance, hope you can do better next week, darling.” Ah, enough said!
The scores, I feel, could have been a tad better: a mere 3 from Craig, 4s from both Darcey and Shirley, and a welcome 5 from Bruno for a total 16. Sadly, by the end of the show, this placed us joint bottom of the leaderboard along with Brian Conley and his partner Amy. A very good place to start week 2 though – after all, the only way is up!
— BBC Strictly✨ (@bbcstrictly) September 23, 2017
Very much undaunted, and in fact rising to the challenge, our next dance is the Charleston. Ruth has a very good face for the Charleston, and the acrobatics… oh just you wait! I think you’ll be able to see how excited we are from our lovely chat today on ‘Loose Women’:
— Anton Du Beke (@TheAntonDuBeke) September 26, 2017
As for our Charleston… It’s so fast I’ve had to undo my top button in rehearsals. That’s all I’m saying… so make sure you tune in on Saturday night! Remember, one couple will leave the competition this weekend – hopefully an improved score will lift us out of the danger zone and keep us from the dreaded dance-off, but your votes, as always, will truly count!
Until then my loves,