Strictly Come Dancing will be giving six heroic members of the public the cha-cha-chance to dance as The People’s Strictly for Comic Relief begins on BBC1 (Wednesday, February 25).
We chat to four of the shows professional dancers – Natalie Lowe, Aliona Vilani, Robin Windsor and Janette Manrara – about putting real-life heroes through their paces…
How does dancing with members of the public compare to dancing with the celebrities who normally appear on Strictly?
Natalie: “The celebrities are used to the limelight, but this is just such a daunting process for people like my partner, Cassidy Little. So it’s important that we have a good relationship with our partner and make them feel like they’re in good hands.”
How’s training been going?
Aliona: “The first day I met my partner, Michael Pattie, he told me: ‘I danced with my wife in one of our [Strictly for charity] shows, I dropped her twice and she bounced right back up. So I thought, note to self: ‘No lifts!'”
Robin: “My partner, Anna Kennedy, is sometimes too hard on herself. If it’s not perfect first time, she gets very stressed. But that’s a great thing to have because you know she wants to do her best and it’s all for such a good reason.”
Janette: “Well, my partner Phil Barnett, immediately injured his knee, so we haven’t done ANY dancing. I said to him: ‘Calm down, it’s only been five minutes, you’re gonna hurt yourself’. That’s when it happened…”
Oh no, what are you going to do?
Janette: “I filmed all of his steps on video, so he’s been able to at least watch it and kind of get into his head what comes after what. But we might have to change it… it just depends on what he can and can’t do once we’re finally able to train. I’m sure he’ll be fine – the kids at his theatre group are going to love him!”
Can you tell us what dances you’ll be doing?
Aliona: “Michael and I are performing a Tango to ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps’, which is quite a sassy song. Michael’s a very gentle man, so our take on it looks a bit like a waltz sometimes; it’s a bit ‘glidey’. So I have to be extra tough with Michael to make sure it looks like a Tango – but I feel horrible being so pushy.”
Robin: “Anna and I are dancing a Charleston, which I can guarantee is the fastest Charleston we’ve ever had on Strictly! So I’m putting Anna through her paces – although I’d say it’s often the other way around!”
Natalie: “Cassidy and I are doing a Paso Doble and we went to the Madrid national ballet and watched up to 50 dancers perform – it was epic. To see it performed in a traditional manner really allowed us to get into the authenticity of the dance.”
Janette: “We’re doing an American Smooth Foxtrot and while others have been to Madrid and Venice we went to… Blackpool! We went to the Winter Gardens, the home of ballroom dancing, so Phil could see what a foxtrot needed to look like. So, it wasn’t the USA but it was a good day.”
After some intense training, you all get to perform your routines and viewers at home can vote for their favourite…
Aliona: “Being involved in this series has been so moving and touching. I think so many people, by watching this, will be able to relate more to Strictly, which is amazing.”
Robin: “These people’s stories are seriously incredible – there’s been laughter, tears and every emotion in between. I’m very proud to have Anna as my partner and I’d love her to lift the glitterball trophy. But, to get to this point, they’re all winners.”
The People’s Strictly for Comic Relief starts on Wednesday February 25 at 9pm on BBC1. Watch a teaser here: