A GEM OF A DANCER!
GEMMA ATKINSON FILLS US IN ON HER STRICTLY JOURNEY SO FAR… STRICTLY COME DANCING | BBC1 SATURDAY & SUNDAY
It’s Strictly’s annual trip to Blackpool this weekend, and the chance to dance with a professional in the
Tower Ballroom is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the contestants – as proud northern lass Gemma Atkinson knows very well.
This series has already served up a shock, with presumed frontrunner Aston Merrygold making a surprise exit, but Gemma was still in the competition as we went to press. Inside TV got on the phone to her after a day’s hard training, to ask about her journey so far and her pre-performance rituals
– and why dancing in Blackpool would mean everything to her…
Hi Gemma! How are you finding the Strictly experience?
It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, but it’s also mentally one of the most challenging. You go through waves of being so excited and pleased to then feeling devastated that you can’t pick up a dance, and worried that it won’t go right on the night.
Like now, when you have a break from training you go,
‘Oh my gosh, I’m really tired’, but I’m itching to get back to perfect it!
What’s an average week like in training?
I would say Tuesday and Wednesday are normally my cry days, when I tell myself I can’t do it.
I love a Monday because it’s a brand-new dance, so you’re absorbing everything, whereas Tuesday/wednesday, once the technical side comes into it, you realise how difficult it is. One minute you’re loving it, then you’re crying that you can’t do it – it’s so strange!
This year’s cast seems to be very close – does it help you to have the others’ support?
Definitely. Everyone gets on so well – we have a group Whatsapp, so if anyone’s having a hard time, we can just send a message and everyone jumps on it to support each other. We all train in different areas so none of us really know what the others are doing. So when we all group up on a Friday, it’s nice to say, “Oh my gosh, you cried on
Tuesday – so did I!”. It’s a relief to know you’re not the only one struggling.
How do you prepare before the live show?
I always have a coffee before a latin dance because it gives you that little kick, whereas with ballroom it’s more of a camomile tea because you need to be a lot more relaxed. I do get very nervous, I don’t think that will ever go away, but Aljaž [Skorjanec, Gemma’s dance partner] gives me a good pep talk before each performance. He says, “I’m here now, I’ll be with you throughout the whole dance and, regardless of the outcome, I’m gonna be with you at the end of it”.
What would it mean to you to dance at Blackpool?
We used to go there all the time for holidays when I was a kid. In fact, I was there for two nights this summer! I’ve got so many fond childhood memories, so to be in the Tower Ballroom dancing with Aljaž with my family there watching would just be amazing. And it’s also my birthday that weekend, so to say I’d spent my 33rd birthday in the ballroom, with everyone I love – it would be a birthday to remember, that’s for sure!
Stress daily: Aljaž keeps Gemma working hard Fantastic Miss Foxtrot: Gemma’s classy ballroom style
Latin sauce: The pair dance a spicy salsa
Another one bites the dust: The cast say farewell to Brian Conley