Johnny Ball swapped TV presenting for his dancing shoes to join the 2012 Strictly Come Dancing line-up. Sadly for Johnny it wasn’t meant to be and he found himself leaving the competition following Sunday night’s dance-off against Richard Arnold.
Despite showing promise and having to contend with a changing professional partners, Johnny put in a valiant effort and proved that age is nothing but a number.
We caught up with Johnny to talk about his Strictlyexperience, find out how he feels about being the first celebrity to leave the show, and to find out what he plans to do next.
How are you finding life after ‘Strictly’?
I’m going to a wedding this weekend. Next weekend I’m going to Venice for the weekend so there is life after Strictly(laughs).
Let’s talk about your time on ‘Strictly’. Why did you get involved with the show in the first place?
They asked me. We were in Portugal and I got an email asking if I’d like to do it. My wife and I went quickly to the bar for a stiff drink because I couldn’t really believe. I thought ‘you can’t turn this down really can you?’ We looked at it this way; if they waited another 10 years before they asked me then I would be too old so we took it on.
Did you get any advice from your daughter Zoe following her successful appearance on the show a few years ago?
The first thing I did was say ‘does Zoe know?’ and they said ‘no’ so I said ‘can you keep quiet’ and they asked ‘why?’. I said to them ‘I’d hate it if anyone ever thought there was a meeting at the BBC and they were scratching their heads for who to get for Strictly and my daughter said why don’t you get my dad?’ I was so worried about that so I said don’t tell her. Zoe didn’t actually know until two days before when it was leaked in the press that I was going to be one of the people.
How did she react?
‘OH MY GOD’ as young people say these days. She thought it was fabulous and she was absolutely wonderful. She was really gutted when I went out so early.
Nobody wants to be the first person to leave the show. How do you feel about that?
I have to be honest and say this isn’t a gripe it’s just the facts. All the cards seemed to fall against me from my first partner being injured to taking a while to get me a second partner. I only had two and a half days with her (Iveta) and then in the studio they asked if we could change the first part of our dance which was 25% of it. We had two 2 hour sessions to redo the first section of my routine and all the other couples had a full three weeks. It was difficult. We didn’t score well in the first one and the second one was alright but we just didn’t hit it. We were four off the bottom , including the awful scores we got in the first one, and we would have been half way up if we’d got the same score in the first week as the second week. I thought we’d be safe and it was such a shock when we found out we were in the bottom two, it really was.
Do you have any regrets now you’re out of the show? Is there anything you wish you could have done?
No. It’s the way it happens and it’s the way it fell. I remember the judges saying in the last one ‘for content alone’ and I realise now what they meant. I was speaking to a couple of the professionals afterwards and they said you’ll always find that a Latin scores better in a dance-off than a Ballroom because of the content. It really seemed that every card we turned up really wasn’t in my favour. It was such a sadness. People from all over have been coming up to me and saying ‘you were robbed’ and ‘you did ever so well’. Someone has to go though and that’s just how it goes. It’s not a competition between you and the other celebrities because we are all rooting for each other. Some people have said that they should have taken into consideration that I’m older but they can’t do that. The judges have to judge what they can see; that’s all they can judge on. They judge the dance before them at that moment and they were absolutely fair and lovely. They didn’t look happy when they voted me out (laughs).
The judges gave you quite encouraging comments on the show last weekend saying you were getting better…
That makes it more the pity that I didn’t get chance to carry on for another couple of weeks. I didn’t wear one sequin, have one spray tan or wear an open-neck shirt. If I’d survived this week I would have been coming in on a Harley Davidson in full leathers probably with a greasy wig singing Born To Be Wild. The British public have sadly deprived themselves of that by voting me out (laughs).
As you mentioned your original partner Aliona was injured during rehearsals. How difficult was it to change partners and have to relearn everything?
I even hired a little gym across the road and my wife took me through some practice in the interim because I knew I was losing time. It was alright. It didn’t worry me. I just knew that I had to make an effort to patch it up and Ian (Waite) was very good but I had to teach him to dance backwards because fellas don’t learn to dance backwards you see (laughs).
You seemed to get on really well with your replacement dance partner Iveta. What was she like to work with?
I got on well with everybody. The BBC have a wonderful programme here where everybody gets on and is supportive of each other. It’s just lovely. Iveta is gorgeous and absolutely wonderful. She’s so understanding and a great teacher, so patient, diligent and aware. She’s so good. Her pedigree is enormous – twice world champion, five times American champion, four times American classic and showdance champion…she’s just phenomenal. I think it would be silly if they didn’t offer her the series next year if there’s room because she’d be such an asset. The public would love her.
What have you got planned for the next few weeks?
Well I’m contracted to Strictly until Christmas – we all are. The BBC might want me to come back if all the other dancers get struck down with flu or something. It might happen, you never know (laughs). I’m back for the Christmas special and whatever they want me to do I will do. Last night we were out at a theatre do and Vincent was there with his wife. I took Iveta because it was a new dance show in London, which she enjoyed very much. She met some of the choreographers and producers. I’m still in touch with dance.
Do you want to continue learning to dance?
No. No I really don’t just want to do it for a hobby. If I’m ever in New York I’ll go to Iveta’s studio on 5th Avenue and I’m sure she’d give me a welcome and another few lessons. I’m sure at some time I’ll go to New York and see her.
Who are you tipping to win this year?
Well I’m hardly tipping anyone to lose really. If I’m honest I think Dani’s coming on. Of the fellas I think Louis is very strong. The lovely thing about Louis is that he’s never had a public persona and the rest of us have had because of the things we’ve done. Louis is coming out slower but he’s going to be a lovely, lovely personality on television. He’s so warming to it and he really is a talented lad. I can imagine him going a long way. Lisa Riley – if she dances like she’s danced the viewers are going to vote her so high it’ll be very difficult to knock her off that perch. Considering that she isn’t the ideal shape for a dancer but good heavens her energy, ability, timing and skill are there in abundance. She’s going to do very well.
She surprised everybody didn’t she?
Absolutely and it’s lovely. Some of the others who haven’t done too well so far will start gaining now. You’ll see they’ll get better and better. A lot of the people you’re not expecting to go a long way will come out of the woodwork and do well.
It’s going to be a good series…
‘Strictly Come Dancing’ continues on Saturday night at 6.30pm on BBC One.