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Strictly Come Dancing stars John and Johannes on why the show has been 'overwhelming'

Strictly Come Dancing - John Whaite and Johannes Radebe
John and Johannes have been breaking boundaries on Strictly. (Image credit: BBC)

John Whaite and Johannes Radebe are proud to be making Strictly Come Dancing history as the first all-male competitive pairing on the BBC1 spectacular. 

Since the beginning, John - who won The Great British Bake Off in 2012 - and Johannes have wanted their dancing to do the talking. And, they have not disappointed, wowing viewers with, among other routines, a quivering quickstep for Halloween, a cheeky Charleston, a romantic rumba, and, of course, who could forget their powerful Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired paso doble for Movie Week?

Here, in an exclusive interview, John, 33, and Johannes, 34, chat about breaking new ground with their choreography, sharing sweet treats and the fate of John’s Bake Off trophy… 

John, what’s your 'Strictly' journey been like so far?

John: "I think it’s pretty much what I anticipated really. I didn’t think I’d be so tired and emotional but I am an emotional person anyway and there’s no shame in that. I was really optimistic about it but it’s been everything I’ve wished for… and a thousand times better."

John Johannes Paso Doble

Shiver me timbers! John and Johannes' pirate-themed paso. (Image credit: BBC)

How would you rate each other as a teacher and a student? We’ve been impressed by how you switch who leads during each dance…

Johannes: "John’s a brilliant student. To be able to change roles in ballroom from one hold to the other is something we should all applaud because it’s not very easy. But it’s been interesting creatively and I think John’s done a super-duper job in getting it and mastering it."

John: "That’s because Johannes is such a good teacher. He teaches me the correct form for that particular part of the dance and trusts me to get it right. So it’s all down to this guy. He puts me in a position and I hold that position!"

Your partnership has garnered a really positive response from viewers. You must be pleased?

Johannes: "It’s been absolutely amazing. Overwhelming, actually, because we didn’t expect that. We were aware we might ruffle some feathers with our decision to be a same-sex pairing but I think we’re more surprised than anyone because everybody’s been like: 'You guys just go ahead and do you.'"

John: "Although we’re proud to be representing same-sex couples, we’ve said from day one that, when we’re on the dance floor, it’s about the dance. It’s about our choreography, it’s about the way we dance with each other, not as two men, but as human beings. And I think people see that. People see the respect we give dance itself and the artistry that’s required. And then we can be flamboyant behind the scenes if we want to and live our best lives!"

John Johannes Charlston

Tasty: Week five's high-scoring Charleston. (Image credit: BBC)

What’s been your favourite dance of the competition so far?

Johannes: "Every single one of them."

John: "I’d say the rumba. It’s one of the dances I really wanted to learn and I was worried we maybe would’t be allowed to do it in an intimate way because it might put people off. But the BBC haven’t held back and Johannes hasn’t held back, so we were able to create a really beautiful rumba that’s based on the mutuality and respect that a rumba commands."

Strictly John Johannes Rumba

John's pleased he and Johannes could dance the rumba how they wanted. (Image credit: BBC)

How are you finding training after all these weeks? Where do you still find the energy?

John: "I’m eating a lot of jelly sweets and I’ve introduced Johannes to Tony’s Chocolonely. We’re eating dangerous amounts of that because I’ve got a sweet tooth. I’ve also baked us some brownies and some pumpkin-spiced scones. I’ve put on half a stone and I’m not even bothered because I’m having the best time. This process has taught me your body can do beautiful things if you treat it with respect and nourish it. So we’ve been nourishing ourselves, haven’t we?"

Johannes: "Yep! I’m eating a lot more than I would have before, that’s true."

John: "You should see the size of a ciabatta he puts away every day. You could feed a small town!"

Have you sustained any injuries in training?

John: "Touch wood, I’ve been absolutely fine. A lot of the other Strictly couples are saying how they’ve got terrible bunions and corns, their ankles are killing them, their calves have swollen up and their legs are hanging on by a thread, whereas I feel fine. But then, as a chef, I’m on my feet all day anyway. That said, in the dress rehearsal for our Charleston, Johannes kicked me in the head! Kinda sent me a bit dizzy for about 10 minutes."

What would it mean to you both to make the 'Strictly' final?

John: "That’s a difficult question because, obviously, I’d love for us to get there but I find that, if you think too far ahead in life, you trip up. So you’ve just got to think about the next step. Getting to the final would be a huge accolade for us because it would mean that we, as two men, had danced beautifully together. I’d love to perform our pirate paso doble in the final. But I couldn’t bear to have a thousand pins in my hair again to hold that wig in place. I’d have to have a CGI wig next time!"

Strictly John Johannes Paso Doble

John would love to get to the 'Strictly' final - minus that wig! (Image credit: BBC)

John, have you got a space for the 'Strictly' glitter ball next to your 'Bake Off' trophy?

John: "My mum broke my Bake Off trophy! She’s got a little shrine of me comprising my Bake Off trophy, my graduation picture, and my Pointless Celebrities trophy. But before we started Strictly, I asked her: ‘Can I take my Bake Off trophy home? I’ve got a lovely bookshelf just built and I want to showcase it.’ And she was like: ‘Oh yeah, I’ll find it for you.’ I pushed her on it again a week later and she said: ‘Oh John, I smashed it’. So now there’s a gaping hole on my bookshelf. I was going to put a skull there that my aunty gave me - but the glitter ball would look much prettier!"

The 'Strictly' final is at Christmas - what Christmas gifts would you buy for each other?

John: "I’ve got a gift in mind for Johannes and when he sees it, he’ll know exactly why I’ve got it for him."

Johannes: "Oh, Christmas is such fun!!"

John: "It’s not really a Christmas gift, it’s more a gift I want to get for Johannes as a thank you. So I’ll palm him off with that and a Christmas present in one. Me? I’d like a car and diamonds."

Strictly Come Dancing continues this Saturday on BBC1.