The adorable Giovanni Pernice of Strictly Come Dancing fame (yes, he is every bit as handsome and charming in real life as he appears in photos and on screen) gave a Master Class in Latin dancing last Friday night, very well attended, and so much fun, in the beautiful setting of Karen Hardy Studios... and I was there! Not to excel in dancing so much as for the experience. Afterwards, every person present got a personal meet and greet, a photo and a hug from the talented Italian Champion (2012). I'm keeping and savouring my photo in my private collection because, basically, it's hard to look good posing with picture-perfect genes.
Photo: Alex Ratcliffe
For my part, I was hoping it would be the Cha-Cha or "Char -less-ton" (his famous pronunciation), dances I love and can manage, but instead it was the Samba, which was not beyond all the experts in the room but quite beyond me (Giovanni and Georgia May Foote performed this to 'Volare'in Strictly's previous season). The Samba, from Brazil, is a dance that seems to require the top of your body entirely disconnecting, or "isolating" as he said, from what the lower half is doing.
Giovanni is a master at this we saw close up: hips, pelvis, thighs, ankles and chest; everything moves with precision. Can you project, forward, the left side of your chest without moving the right side? I couldn't, but Giovanni and the experts did all this with ease. He seems to have all his joints and muscles connected by string, enabling them to move in opposite and multiple directions all at once, and so fast, that you can't even register how he did that, and with such fluidity and ease.
My peak dancing days are passed, but not my love of watching the gorgeousness of it, the "conversation between body and soul", the beauty and skill, all of which Giovanni so excels in whilst adding his brand of Latin passion and flavour. So authentic, grounded, calm, he just exudes warmth and kindness. He said he loves English people and England so much that he has upped and moved here. A person who genuinely really seems to like people, he just exudes this warmth even in his dancing.
These lithe and feather-like dancer physiques are iron-clad underneath (test: hug one.) Hence their ability to project such passion and power with such control, all the while evoking the precise amount of emotion required so you too go on that journey and experience that story.
I wanted to tell him of my Italian ancestry, why I so connect with his dancing. He asked if I'd like to see his famous tattoo, Nato Per Vincere, meaning "Born to Win". I said," Please no! (faint), I already know every single one of your tattoos". Well, you do if you are a real fan. But I like that he once explained it as meaning, in fact, that every day when you wake up positive, that is winning. Winning smile, winning dancer. This man is nothing if not positive. We could use more of this.
Such a warm and welcome addition to the already stellar cast of Strictly Come Dancing, I hope we see his star on the rise and rise here in the UK. As I wrote in a tweet once: Favourite dancers before now: Nureyev, Flatley, Keegan.
Now ( and I'm not alone)- Pernice, Pernice, Pernice.