The blisters, the fake tan, the having your groins really close together: as a former contestant on Dancing with the Stars (Aussie Strictly to you and me), comedian Cal Wilson has seen it all. Here’s what she learned.
Once upon a time, I put myself well out of my comfort zone and took part in Australia’s version of Strictly Come Dancing, which is called, less confusingly, Dancing with the Stars. Its full title is, of course, Dancing with the Stars, Some Annoying Politicians and People You Vaguely Recognise From a Reality Series.
I was working as a drivetime show radio host at the time, which is how I ended up trotting round the parquet in a blind panic. I did it mostly for the frocks (and they were totally worth it), and because I’d always secretly wanted to be on it.
I got knocked out of the competition fairly early on, but during my time on the show, I learned a number of things:
• Dancing extravagantly and hilariously on a night out at a club (which I am very good at) does not in any way set you up for ballroom dancing.
• If you’re a woman, you’re not supposed to lead. Not that that stopped me trying.
• Of all of the things you will do in your career, this will be what your parents are the most proud of.
• Wearing tiny shiny frocks is brilliant fun, but initially quite confronting. The wardrobe mistress assured me that once I had my fishnets on, I would feel fully dressed. I couldn’t imagine how that would ever work, given they’re basically cobwebs you put your legs into. By day three I was swanning happily about in my beige fishnets, feeling as covered as if I was wearing chest-high waders and an anorak.
• Having regular spray tans is compulsory, like ‘in the contract’ compulsory, and the best way to remove the remains of last week’s spray tan is to scrub it off with sugar. Do this in the shower, obviously, rather than the pantry. And make sure you rinse all the sugar down the drain, or prepare yourself for an ant pool party.
“Of course, it can get sexy. I mean, you’re essentially polishing another person with your own body.”
• Dancers are very body confident. They wander unselfconsciously around in their pants like sexy giraffes. Beside them I felt like a Shetland pony that was still carrying its winter weight and had thrown a shoe.
• There are so many blisters. Your blisters blister. From the ankle down, your feet just become giant meta-blisters. Buy shares in Elastoplast.
• You get reeeeally fit. I thought I was just exhausted from practising five hours a day, then doing the radio show, but it turns out I was pregnant (not by my dancer, thank you for asking). I found out the day before I got knocked out of the competition, which made leaving a relief, rather than a disappointment. Of course, by the time we all had to come back for the finale, I was 14 weeks pregnant and shaped like a barrel. I think I’m the only person in the history of the show to put weight on.
And, of course, it can get sexy. I mean, you’re essentially polishing another person with your own body. When you spend a lot of time with someone, doing a lot of sweating and laughing, and being held in ways generally reserved for an intimate partner, it’s unsurprising that a frisson/liaison/home-wrecking might develop.
Fortunately, there was none of that nonsense with my lovely dancer, Craig. His proper dance partner (and girlfriend) would help us rehearse, demonstrating what the dance was supposed to look like, then I would have a red-hot go at ruining it. My husband was really supportive and the four of us ended up as a great team.
There was only one moment when things got, shall we say, tense. Craig and I were rehearsing the tango, my favourite dance, which we did to ABBA’s Mama Mia – I know, but it totally worked.
We’d been laughing away as usual, when he pulled me in close to start the tango again, and horror of horrors, I could feel something. Something pressing, at groin level, if you see what I mean. So much for ‘none of that nonsense’. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just kept dancing. He seemed quite unconcerned with the firmness that was occurring, but I was mortified; I felt like a flustered teenager in my first clinch with a boy.
When we broke apart at the end of the dance, I quickly glanced down to make sure I hadn’t imagined it and laid eyes on the bulging… knot of his jumper. It was the knot of his bloody jumper. I felt simultaneous waves of relief, and embarrassment that I thought I’d aroused a professional dancer with the sheer hotness of my tango.
I have never told Craig this story. I’m going to send him the link.
Our writers talk about their favourite Strictly dances here: http://standardissuemagazine.com/arts/my-favourite-dance-on-strictly
Jenny Eclair shares her experiences of reality TV here: http://standardissuemagazine.com/voices/reality-tv-shows-reality
Cal Wilson is a Kiwi who calls Australia home. Comedian, Writer, amateur Cat Lady.