Daniel O'Donnell

September 16th 2015, Daniel’s Strictly Diary Week 2 Rehearsals

LET ME tell you, Kristina Rihanoff is a lady with an endless amount of patience. And just as well because I’ve certainly been testing her good nature in the last week. I thought I could dance until I joined Strictly, but, boy, have I a lot to learn.

I am so consumed by the whole experience that I’m not sleeping properly at the moment. I wake up at three or four in the morning, get out of bed and start practising my steps.

Some days as I walk down the street near my London apartment, I’ll suddenly break into a dance move, with my hand in the air. I don’t care who sees me.

Before going back into the dance studio after last weekend’s TV launch, I took the opportunity to wind down and enjoy a couple of shows in London’s West End with Majella.

We went to see the Carol King musical, Beautiful, which tells the story of the hit songwriter’s remarkable rise to stardom, with songs like You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, You’ve Got A Friend, Up On The Roof and Locomotion.

The following night we enjoyed an evening at the musical Kinky Boots, which features music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper.


I begin work on my dance with Kristina. I can’t reveal the dance until it’s on the telly, but it’s different to anything I’ve ever done before. I watch a recording of it to see the geography of the moves. Then the thought goes through my head, ‘what on earth have I let myself in for?’


I glance across the dance studio at Kristina and wonder where she gets her patience as I struggle to master the steps and moves she’s teaching me. Kristina looks so graceful when she dances, whereas I am just plain awkward when I try it.


I’m like the character Virgil out of the TV series, Thunderbirds. I’m desperately trying to get my figure and arms in the right position for the dance. Then when I get those things in to some kind of organisation I have my head to think about. My head is supposed to be steady, but like Virgil it’s tilted and wobbling as if it’s on a string.


Kristina is really encouraging. “That was good, that was good,” she says with delight. Maybe she’s just making me feel good, but I’ll take all the compliments I can get. Another Strictly choreographer comes in and shows me some moves. My heart sinks. I realise I know nothing.


After a night’s sleep my confidence is back up. I’m not dragging myself down, I’m just raging with myself that I can’t master it quicker. I want to be able to do it now. Kristina puts me through my routine for five-and-a-half hours and I see some progress. It’s a great challenge at my time of life. It demands so much of your time and your body. But now the road behind me is further than the one ahead, so I’ll keep going.