South African dancer Johannes Radebe on 'Strictly Come Dancing': 'I get to do what I love on the biggest show on television'
Cape Town – South African dancer Johannes Radebe has recently been eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing UK.
The 32-year-old joined the BBC dancing competition show in 2018 where he was part of the chorus.
In this year's edition, he was partnered with soapie actress Catherine Tyldesley.
For the Halloween special the pair performed a cha-cha which garnered them a score of 24, putting them at the bottom of the leader board.
There wasn't a dry eye in the audience when Johannes gave an emotional speech thanking the show and Catherine.
"The beautiful thing is that I need to thank Strictly Come Dancing for the opportunity. Most of all, I want to say thank you to this woman. She has been a light for me. Thank you for accepting me for who I am and for showing me joy every day," said Johannes.
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The Latin champion went on to make history on the show as he and fellow dancer Graziano Di Prima performed the first same-sex duet.
We caught up with Johannes in London and found out about his journey on the show, his ground-breaking duet, life in the UK, and when he plans on visiting home.
Last year you were part of the chorus, and this year you were paired with a celebrity. What was your first season on the show like?
It has been an incredible journey. I have loved this show and wanted to be a part of it for a very long time, and now it has become my reality – it's incredible. I was partnered with soapie actress Catherine Tyldesley who is phenomenal at what she does and is genuinely a beautiful woman inside and out. She made the journey easy and enjoyable, and she made me look forward to travelling the three hours to Manchester every Sunday. She made it fun, being in her space and workshopping our weekly dance routines together, and I think we did an amazing job. My first season of Strictly Come Dancing has been incredible. As cliché as it sounds, it was a dream come true.
There wasn't a dry eye when you gave your emotional exit speech in the episode. Can you tell me more about the friendship you built with Catherine Tyldesley?
I didn't know it at the time, but since watching the show I realise that there wasn't a dry eye in the room when we left the competition, and it was because of Catherine. When Tess asked Catherine what the highlight of her strictly journey was, and she said it was me, I became very emotional. We went on this journey with our hearts on our sleeves, and we really wanted to make that final. For us, it wasn't about winning the glitterball, but we wanted to have the opportunity to do all the dances until the finale because it would have allowed us to show off Catherine's full potential. She is very talented, and because she put in so much time and effort into the competition, she turned into a phenomenal dancer. It was a very special moment for the both of us, and I think we were gutted - as the British would say - but we understand that it's a competition and the best couple that night was Mike Bushell and Katya Jones.
You made history performing the first same-sex duet on the show. Why do you think now is the right time for it?
The day of the same-sex dance, I woke up and went to work. For me, there was nothing new or different about the day. Graziano and I often have a little cha-cha together when we are trying to workshop routines. When we were given the concept from the BBC to do the dance during the show, I was very excited. I have a very special friendship with Graziano, and it was beautiful to share our bromance in front of the world. I think it's great that the BBC are making steps towards being more inclusive. I think we are living in more accepting times.
What has the response to the same-sex dance?
The response has been phenomenal. I knew what it would mean to people like me, and I'm so glad that we did it and that it was wonderfully received. In the end, it was just the same-sex dancing - two people who are moving together to music. It was beautiful. Irrespective of gender, it was the movement to a beautiful piece of music by the incredible Emeli Sande's new single, Shine. If you listen to the lyrics of the song, it talks about being authentically you and shining, and I think that is what we were doing. The public has loved it, and the experience has been incredible.
In an interview with The Sun, you said that the experience has liberated you. What is it about being in Britain and on Strictly that has given you this freedom?
My move to the UK has liberated me because I get to do what I love on the biggest show on television and I get paid for it. Because of that, my family back home can benefit. My gift has been able to help me provide for my family, which is beautiful. So yes, it's nice to know that I have a job to go to, do what I love and honestly be able to take care of my family while doing it. It has liberated me. This country has embraced me, and the journey so far has also allowed me just to be me and live. I am surrounded by people that I have always admired that I have always wanted to work with, and it's nice to be in that space surrounded by professionals.
Do you plan on visiting home soon, and what's next for you?
As soon as I get a chance, I'm going home to my Mama! Every chance I get, I go back to South Africa. Firstly, the sun is up at 05:30 in the morning, and it's summer over there, so there is no way I'm going to miss out on that. I also miss my Mama's cooking, Mama's loving and my family and friends, and the vibe of my people. I come home every chance I get because I need to rejuvenate, I need to consult, and I need to see my people.
I have been around the world, and there is no place like Africa. I don't say that because I come from there, but that's just how it is. I have a lot of students that I need to go and see and to pass on what I have learnt. Students who are pushing, who are trying to make dancing a career.
Back home, it's really tough. The platform for dancers is just not big enough. We have made progress, and there are people bringing change. I believe the easiest way to make a change is to make sure that if you know something, you pass it onto the next person because there are people who are seeking that information.
Going forward, I will continue to teach dance to the rest of the world. If I could continue teaching on an international stage and have my people learn my craft, it would be my greatest honour. Of course, being in the UK has also led to other opportunities, and I'm excited about what's on the horizon. I do believe that greater things are about to happen. 2020 is already looking incredible.
Tune in to Strictly Come Dancing UK Sundays at 19:00 on BBC Brit (DStv 120)
Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht.