Bill Bailey's Strictly Diary: ‘I’m determined to embrace this whole experience’

In his exclusive weekly report, the comedian talks about spray tans, posture and being mistaken for a Hairy Biker

Bill and Oti performed a Doctor Dolittle-inspired Quickstep last week to Talk 
to the Animals by Bobby Darin
Bill and Oti performed a Doctor Dolittle-inspired Quickstep last week to Talk to the Animals by Bobby Darin

Dancing the Quickstep last Saturday was a rare delight. To me, it epitomises the whole nature of ballroom dancing, whirling around a dance floor in a tight hold, heads held high, feet a blur below. But it was the result of very hard work and long hours of training with my pro partner Oti Mabuse. 

One of her methods to improve my posture and frame involved strapping me into a wooden cross-type frame. I did resemble a dancing spatchcocked chicken, but I have to say it really paid off. To encourage me to keep my head up, she also fitted me into a neck brace to familiarise myself with dancing in this position – and to build up my stamina she would play the ragtime song Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please… Come Home? and make me stand still with my arms held in the frame for the song’s duration. It occurred to me, that to any casual observer, it might look like extreme jazz physiotherapy for someone with whiplash. 

I have for many years suffered from a bad posture after an old back injury resulted in me developing a bit of a slouch, so this dance training has done me the power of good, and even my local corner shop owner remarked that I looked taller – but I’m also convinced he thinks I’m one of the Hairy Bikers. 

So as we enter a lockdown there will be some changes in the live show. Sadly, no audience will be allowed in, as a result of the new restrictions. It will seem a little odd, but to be honest, we’ve only been able to admit a small socially distanced audience into the studio anyway. And as everyone is wearing face masks, their reactions are a little muted. Most of the noise and reaction is coming from us, the contestants and dancers, so actually,  as long as we whoop and cheer a little louder, it won’t be that different.

The judges praised Bill for his posture

This week is Movie Week and I will be dancing the Paso Doble  to the soundtrack of one of the classic so-called Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The music, written by Ennio Morricone, is powerful, haunting and full of drama and perfect for this dance. In fact, I love it so much, it’s almost too enjoyable to dance to. During rehearsals, I have found it  hard to resist the urge to stop dancing and shout “Hoo-ha!” At this point,  Oti points to those wooden Staves of Shame which quickly dispels any temptation to shout it again. 

When I signed up to Strictly, I was determined to embrace the whole experience. So I have even subjected myself to a spray tan. I had no idea such a thing existed, but I was willing to give it a go. For those of you who are not initiated in this procedure, you are encouraged to strip off down to your pants and stand in a plastic booth while a fine tanning mist is applied with a spray gun.

I am naturally quite pale, so I thought I’d play it safe and aim at something between a White Walker and an Oompa Loompa. I opted for a “light bronzing”, which I think has not come out too badly, and looks fairly inconspicuous. It’s a mild basting, such as you might get if you went T-shirtless on a mini-golf weekend in Ilfracombe. Which is what I call living the dream. Eyes on the prize, Bill!

Strictly is on Saturday and Sunday on BBC One at 7.25pm