‘I think Strictly is going too West End’ - Dancers James and Ola Jordan on the changes they would make to the show
PUBLISHED: 16:56 04 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:56 04 November 2017
James and Ola Jordan have nothing but respect for Strictly Come Dancing’s pro dancers, but the show needs to get back to basics says the plain-speaking couple. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage asks them what changes they would make.
Strictly is very, very tough for the dancers stresses James, who admires ever single one of the professionals for the hard work they put in. The bad boy of ballroom does feel the BBC One show has lost its authenticity.
“It’s supposed to be about ballroom and Latin, I think it’s going too West End,” says the dancer, who joined the Saturday night juggernaut, currently smashing its ITV rival The X Factor in the ratings, with wife Ola in 2006.
There’s a number of things both would change about the series, which they left in 2013 and 2015 respectively; going on to appear in programmes including Celebrity Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!
“The first thing I would change is the VTs; they’re awful. I think it should be about the training room footage. I want to see how they’re getting on in training. Why do I want to watch them going to a circus and doing some acrobatics to try to get them over their fear of the waltz - it’s pathetic. I’d make it more authentic again,” says James, who wants to see less props used during routines.
“A bit more strict with the rules too,” adds Ola, who won the 2009 series with Chris Hollins.
“I want to see proper ballroom and Latin dancing, proper tempo music, more traditional music. I’d promote Anton (du Beke) and possibly Brendan (Cole) to the judging panel... there’d be lots of things I’d change,” says plain-speaking James.
The current series lacks somebody with his spirit, even if you may not always agree with his views; it’s gotten too, well, polite.
“Exactly, you don’t want nicely, nicely all the time do you,” he suggests.
Despite being known for his rebellious streak, his and Ola’s regular column in a national tabloid means some topics - such as what they make off the current crop of celebs and their much-publicised views on Strictly introducing same-sex dancers - are sadly off limits. Instead, I turn my attention to Uncensored - their first ever UK tour together.
“And it’s all about us, can you believe it? How exciting,” states James, sparking laughter from his other half.
They’ve had meetings about possible tours for years, but always said no because the ideas didn’t really float their boat.
“We’ve got the freedom to do whatever we want artistic wise. We can choose the music, there’s a big storyline running through it which is about our love story... the fact we haven’t been on Strictly for a few years... we were getting itchy feet and it’s a great time in our lives to be doing this.”
The story is a personal one, detailing how they became a couple on and then off the dance floor.
“I had a girlfriend at the time. I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, I was looking for a dance partner,” recalls James, who’d flown to Poland to trial scores of different girls before meeting Ola, who was just 17.
Deciding she was the one after just three tests, Ola left her family to move here despite not speaking a word of English.
“One says that’s brave, but when I was 17 I didn’t even think about it, all I wanted to do was dance with a great partner and go to competitions,” she recalls.
James doesn’t think Ola gives herself enough credit.
“I don’t think Ola really appreciated what big a thing that was... leaving your whole family, renting a s****y room in someone’s house, struggling to afford dance lessons... it was a really brave.”
Those pre-Strictly days were a struggle. Both juggled full-time jobs with competing on the amateur circuit.
James was a handyman at the Medway, Kingsnorth and Aida Grave power stations where his dad was the site manager, joking he was basically “everyone’s b***h”, doing whatever they asked. Ola woke at the crack of dawn to clean a dance studio and make breakfast at a hotel before going to training.
Things got so tough they ended up moving to Hong Kong where they taught dancing for five or six years.
“We couldn’t afford to dance any more... ballroom dancing’s very expensive so all our money was going towards that. It got to the point we couldn’t earn quick enough with the normal jobs we had. Both our parents helped as much as they could but...,” recalls Ola.
Reaching the top 12 in the world amateur rankings, they needed money they just didn’t have to break into the top six.
“It got to the stage where we needed to play the “political game” but didn’t have the money... we got caught in a situation where it was continue as we were or move to Hong Kong,” says James.
“Then we came back, had a really good, but short, professional career because we got touted to go on Strictly. Obviously things happened during Strictly and after Strictly... the way I am, I’m quite outspoken and got in trouble for things.”
Touted as a “sexy, edgy interpretation” of their life story, Ola says they’ll be humour too.
“James is very funny as well, which maybe not everyone sees. We’re quite funny together. You tell a story through dance and people go ‘oh my God, you’ve got such a nice story’ which is a really nice thing to hear. We’re very nervous but looking forward to putting that all together.”
They feel the tour’s strength lies in every routine meaning something to them, whereas on Strictly it was just another dance.
“We’re going to hit every emotion. When people leave, they’ll feel they know a lot more about myself and Ola,” says James.
• See Uncensored at the Ipswich Regent, March 19.