Why did you decide to sign up for Strictly, this year?
That’s a very good question considering I have steadfastly decided not to do it other years. Something has happened to me this year. My third son has just left university and therefore I feel a great release of mothering duties. It’s made me feel a bit reckless this year. I’ve decided to be an opsimath, someone who in later life takes up new challenges. Though as colleagues point out, I’ve made a career out of this.
So earlier this year I did stand up comedy for the first time and I painted a portrait for the Sky Arts Portrait of the Year Competition, having never painted a head before. So when the call came for Strictly, instead of going absolutely no and not even discussing it with anyone, I thought I’d at least go and have a discussions about it. Somehow I have just been swept into the whole thing and I appear to be doing Strictly, which is a massive thing for me to do as I have never danced.
I have a real blockage about it. My son thinks I have a complete psychological barrier to dancing. It started when I was very young. When I was about seven, I was sent home from my ballet lesson because I didn’t fit in with the sugar plum fairy line up which everybody else was doing very beautifully. It made me feel humiliated and I sort of never moved on from that. I’m a natural tom boy. I always played with the kids in the street and was in the football and cricket teams at school. I knew more about the offside rule than any ballet position. And my life just continued in that vein. Climbing trees, playing with toy trucks, the rest is history!
How are you feeling?
I’m enjoying the build-up now it’s out in the open. I kept it a secret all this time and I hadn’t even told my family. When the news was broken before my official announcement, it was quite horrifying because I didn’t have time to brief everyone and prepare them. For years even my sister has said “Don’t do Strictly, you really can’t move”. My family has never seen me dance, not at a wedding, not at a party, nothing. I just don’t do dancing. While all my friends were clubbing at university I was in a news room working shifts. I never had those teenage reckless years of expression and freedom.
So when my sons contacted me having seen a press announcement, they presumed it was just a rumour and were ready to laugh it off. I told them that somehow I was actually going to learn to dance. I said I was happy to pay for them to go to Australia if they wanted to leave the country until I was knocked out. I have therefore been blown over by their enthusiasm because they have been so positive, they seem thrilled, as are my sister and her family. This is extraordinary. I never expected this. So once I had my family on board I starting looking forward to it a bit more.
What are you looking for in a dancer partner?
I need someone who is very patient and understanding. I don’t have an arsenal of dance moves, I don’t have any dance vocabulary. So I think patience and someone who can help me translate dance moves onto a map! I can’t pick things up just by osmosis or a quick demonstration, as has been proved by the group dance rehearsals! I think I will learn better if I can be analytical about it. It’s going to be awkward and challenging for whoever it is. Most importantly I need someone with a stonking sense of humour because they are going to need it. Preferably I’d have two partners, one on each side.
Are you competitive?
I don’t think I’m competitive. I used to play tennis quite seriously as a child and my coach used to get annoyed with me because I just wanted everyone to have a nice game and for it to be evenly balanced. Certainly for this I won’t be competitive because I am not a dancer, in any shape or form. Obviously I want to do my best but my expectations are not as other people. There will be so much frustration there because it will be difficult for me to pick anything up. Since I was signed up, I’ve asked any friend who’s popped round to teach me one move so at least I have some shapes to throw because I am starting from zero. But I seem to have no movement at all in my upper body so this is proving difficult.
Do you know anyone who has been on it before or have you been given any advice?
I don’t, no. I haven’t had any advice from anybody except you never hear of anybody not enjoying it which has given me some hope. There are obviously some people who are stiffer than others. I had an accident and hurt my shoulder badly just after I was signed up so the time when I could have been training I’ve literally been trying to glue myself together again instead. My life is now a round of massage and physio and shoulder experts.
How do you feel about being Strictlyfied?
That bit slightly horrifies me, I not interested in frilly or flouncy clothes at all. In fact, when the whispers started even my producer at Radio 2 presumed they were just rumours. All I had to say to deflect the rumours was “have you ever seen me wear a dress?” No-one at work has ever seen me in anything but jeans. So the dressing up bit is alarming. I never enjoyed dressing up as a child unless it was to put on an army uniform or a boiler suit. I can’t imagine myself in a long dress at all. I only wore pink for the first time last Christmas. I was buying my sister a pink dressing gown and I went to the changing room to check the size and I practically cried. I had never seen myself looking soft or feminine. I certainly had never worn pink up to that time. I almost think that that was the catalyst for saying yes to Strictly.
I just don’t know what the feminine Anneka is going to be like because every job I have done has involved me putting on a hard hat or a flying suit. In none of my productions have I had hair stylists, makeup or anything like that.
What do you think your strengths will be?
I hope I’ll be enthusiastic but I might not be. If I just can’t pick things up that enthusiasm might collapse. I think I’m quite fit because I am always running upstairs and climbing up ladders. I swim and play tennis. My life is physical, lugging canvasses around, cleaning out the gutters, and I have always remained quite fit, though my yoga teacher does call me “Stiff Annie” because that is my default setting. At the moment, because of my shoulder injury, my stiffness is even worse as I haven’t been able to be as active as I normally am. I am having to get up at 6 am just to warm my body up My main liability is that I have a head, a top half and a bottom half and none of them seem to communicate. They act as three separate entities completely. I can move the top half or the bottom half but cannot put the two together. So that’s going to be my biggest challenge.