At eight.13pm final Saturday night time, Darcey Bussell sprang up on her stilettoes, whipped out a paddle from beneath her desk and roared “TENNNNNN!”. It was the primary full mark of Strictly Come Dancing 2018 – awarded to Danny John-Jules for his fabulously fleet-of-foot jive – and, like most issues on the present, it was greeted with delirious whoops and cheers within the studio. I whooped too as a result of I was there.
Final week I went to see Strictly Come Dancing being filmed and I noticed all of it – the foot faults, the forbidden frissons, Paloma Religion’s pretend fingernail flying off. It took seven hours! Seven hours. Be a part of me as I take you on an hour-by-hour samba roll by means of my journey into the sparkly coronary heart of Saturday night time tv’s largest beast.
BA! Oh! Dah Dahhhh. Ba ba da da ba ba baaa, ba ba da da DA and so on. Clap alongside now!
Hour 1: Arrival!
Watching Strictly Come Dancing reside is a bit like going to a marriage. It takes place someplace you’ve by no means been and is annoying to get to on public transport. It includes marquees and Portaloos. There’s a no-jeans rule. It takes ceaselessly. And by the top of it you’re actually, actually into the dancing in an undignified approach.
Viewers members – 750 for every present – should get to Elstree Studios in north London by four o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Everybody could be very dressed up – fringes, sequins, stilettoes – which might really feel fairly glamorous have been it not for the truth that the BBC’s crown jewel is filmed in what looks like and appears like and I’m virtually sure is a carpark.
The glamorous entrance to the Strictly Come Dancing studios in Elstree, north London
Dotted round this paved paradise are numerous marquees – an enormous, draughty one with a merchandise stall and a posher one for manufacturing friends with a bar. We’re advised to go to the bathroom as a result of that is our final probability for 4 hours. I eat a bag of Kettle Chips in nervous anticipation and put together to say goodbye to my telephone.
Hour 2: The studio!
The Strictly studio and its dancefloor – which is “one inch bigger” than final yr’s
At 5.15pm, we’re stripped of their telephones and shepherded into the studio, which is sensible. Huge expanses of glitter, these huge curving staircases, Blackpool illumination-style lighting, an enormous glitterball and, already in place, the ever-reliable Dave Arch and his band. I love Dave Arch.
The dancefloor is sort of huge – “one inch bigger than last year”, I am informed – however the bit on the prime of the steps the place the dancers stand whereas they wait for his or her scores with Claudia Winkleman – “The Clauditorium”, I am informed – is tiny. No marvel all of them hug one another a lot.
The person in entrance of me is so tall he turns spherical to apologise prematurely for ruining my night time. That’s okay! I have an incredible view of Dave Arch!
The viewers sits on the sort of silver plastic chairs you get at weddings. They’re unfeasibly shut collectively, which signifies that everybody is actually sharing with a stranger’s thigh. The person in entrance of me is so tall he turns spherical to apologise prematurely for ruining my night time. That’s okay! I have an incredible view of Dave Arch!
On comes the warm-up man. That is Stuart Holdham and he’s the toughest working man on Strictly. He’s sporting a silver sequinned jacket, matching bow-tie and gown footwear. He calls the individuals on the balcony “premium economy”, tells a whole lot of horrible jokes (“Good news for insomniacs: only four sleeps til Christmas!” or “I went to a Korean restaurant and had the meatballs. They were the dog’s bollocks” and so on) and dances a quickstep to “I’m too Sexy” with a mortified lady from the entrance row. He has been warming up for Strictly for 11 years.
Giovanni, Pasha and Kevin carry out a baseball-themed group dance in entrance of some glittery lockers. Photograph: BBC/ Man Levy
The skilled dancers wander onto the stage, waving, blowing kisses and shaking arms, like superstars, which on this Technicolor nook of north London, they’re. Extra so, probably, than the celebrities they associate. “Anyone want to be kissed by Aljaz?” bellows Stuart. “He always randomly kisses someone in the audience.” There are screams.
The tiny execs are filming a gaggle dance for Sunday night time’s outcomes present, a baseball-themed tackle “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, carried out swing-jazz fashion. Because the dancers sass and spin their means by way of the primary half, all I can see is six, paunchy middle-aged males in black crouching behind a set of cardboard lockers, able to whip them away as soon as Katya has skipped previous them. As an alternative I watch backing dancer Neil Jones (Katya’s husband) beadily and eat the primary of 100 Haribos. Mustn’t flag.
Hour three: Construct up!
These heels: Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly
It isn’t lengthy now – within the nice, sweeping, Strictly scheme of issues – till we go stay and it’s time for us to rehearse. We’re advised to whoop, boo, cheer or clap each time anybody says something which may include an emotion. Standing ovations are actively inspired so we practise them a couple of occasions, too.
Jess Glynne – “the best female singer on the planet!” says Stuart – is available in to report a track for subsequent week’s outcomes present. She is wearing a tinfoil go well with and does her track in a single take. A small military of crew instantly seem to vacuum up the confetti that fell from the ceiling on the finish of it. I am discovering that these are the issues that hold Strictly shifting like a well-oiled tango dancer – Black and Decker leaf-blower vacuums, lengths of MDF wrapped in midnight satin, middle-aged males in black wearily holding prop roses and bunches of neon pink feathers.
We practise clapping alongside – however, crucially, not singing alongside – to the well-known ba ba da da ba ba daaaa of the opening credit. I nail it first time, like a professional
Presenters Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman come on and rehearse a few hyperlinks. Claudia could be very humorous and tells us she is sporting “eight pairs of Spanx” and a “very itchy” gown from Zara. Tess asks us concerning the temperature. Each of them are sporting heels so excessive they need to be walked between their cues by the closest man.
Lastly, we practise clapping alongside – however, crucially, not singing alongside – to the well-known ba ba da da ba ba daaaa of the opening credit. I nail it first time, like a professional. Ought to I have sneaked in some wine? It’s too late now.
Hours four & 5: The reside present!
Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowd with their near-perfect jive and glittery aeroplane. Photograph: BBC/ Man Levy
“Live from the BBC, this is Strictly Come Dancing,” booms Alan Dedicoat and we’re off. The entire thing runs like a feverish, spangled dream: Stacey Dooley’s samba, Danny John-Jules’s jive and Charles Venn’s road dance increase the roof; seashore homes, feathered arches and glittery aeroplanes are wheeled on and off; make-up artists scuttle on to cope with an earring caught in Shirley Ballas’ hair; Craig Revel Horwood says “a-may-zing” and “dis-ars-ter”; the gang goes apoplectic when Darcey whips out her first 10 and she or he does slightly jig.
Everyone is thrilled to be there and it’s infectious. By the top I am leaping out of my seat greater than Bruno Tonioli. In between dances I watch The Clauditorium always for indicators of unchoreographed, off-camera affection between dancers and celebrities as a result of, as everyone knows, that’s the actual story of the present. Seann Walsh and Katya are positively Victorian all through. Did Joe Sugg give Diane a peck on the nostril? They’re each so small it’s arduous to inform.
Shirley Ballas sits on a teeteringly excessive cushion to maintain her head in keeping with the opposite judges’ heads. It’s monumental – virtually a pouffe
I watch the judges too, who appear to be they’re having a good time. Additionally they watch the dances like hawks. Shirley, particularly, has an alarming behavior of standing up and peering over her glasses on the dancers. That is no imply feat as a result of – and that is the most effective discovery of the whole seven hours – she sits on a teeteringly excessive cushion to maintain her head according to the opposite judges’ heads. It’s monumental – virtually a pouffe.
I imply to look to see how she clambers down from it when the present is over however I am distracted by Darcey wafting previous in emerald silk. It has all flown by surprisingly shortly, however then I have eaten a number of sweets.
Hour 6: A break!
The present is over and the viewers depart as one to face outdoors considered one of 4 Portaloos for the whole thing of the break. Some visitors beg to be allowed into the bar, however the bouncers, with a 1000-yard stare, stand agency. Once we get again, there’s a juice field and a chocolate Freddo frog on every chair. We’ll want them, the night time shouldn’t be over but. Now we should watch Paloma Religion.
Hour 7: The outcomes!
Katya Jones and Seann Walsh have been saved to bop one other week, whereas Vick Hope and Graziano Di Prima have been despatched residence. Photograph: Man Levy/BBC/PA
Spoiler alert: the Sunday night time outcomes present is recorded on the identical night time because the reside broadcast. The judges and presenters change their outfits and hairstyles and some viewers members are shuffled round to make it appear to be we haven’t all been in right here for the time it takes to slow-roast a pig.
Stuart is again, haring across the dancefloor, throwing out small luggage of sweets; Craig picks at one delicately. “Me and Craig go way back,” says Stuart. “I knew him three faces ago.” Craig makes an attempt a frown.
If I needed to describe the temper now, it will be like the sensation you’ve once you’ve simply acquired off one long-haul flight and need to get straight on one other. You understand it’s all for an excellent trigger, and actually don’t need to complain, however you can also’t fairly convey your self to get again on a aircraft.
First, Paloma Religion – “the best female singer on the planet!” says Stuart. She wants two takes on her track as a result of her pretend nail flies off the primary time. The second time, as she throws her mic stand to the ground in a dramatic climax (once more) it pops again up prefer it’s haunted. Properly, it’s almost Halloween week.
If I needed to describe the temper now, it will be like the sensation you will have if you’ve simply acquired off one long-haul flight and should get straight on one other
The recording of the outcomes is way extra relaxed than the stay present, however additionally it is a minefield. No-one is allowed to say “tonight” as that ruins the phantasm for the Sunday night time viewers, however as a result of it’s the BBC, additionally they can’t say “last night” as that’s mendacity. In order that they should say “Saturday night”. Each Graeme and Darcey (hysterical at this level) screw up. There are a number of retakes. Claudia begins to look just a little determined. By no means thoughts the underside two, I marvel if I will survive the night time.
Relating to saying the dance-off, it’s clear that no one has been advised prematurely as the unfortunate couples don’t have a clue the place to face. As for whether or not producers conferred with the judges, they did that each one night time, as on all tv exhibits. There are extra retakes. When Vick Hope is shipped residence, a wierd hush descends. Seann and Katya look surprised and weary. I really feel surprised and weary. It’s a downbeat finish to probably the most upbeat of nights. We emerge from our glitzy cocoon into the automotive park. It’s 5 to eleven and it’s over. I liked it.