Former Strictly pro defends Giovanni Pernice as ‘easy-going’


Former Strictly Come Dancing pro Kristina Rihanoff has defended Giovanni Pernice as "easy-going" after he was dropped from this year's cast.

The BBC One series revealed its pro dancer cast on Monday and following months of speculation about Pernice's fall-out with 2023 partner Amanda Abbington, it was confirmed that he would not be back this autumn.

Rihanoff shared her experiences of working with Pernice and how "saddened" she was in an interview with This Morning - but another ex Strictly star James Jordan claimed there was "no smoke without fire".

Former Strictly pro Kristina Rihanoff  defends Giovanni Pernice as ‘easy-going’
Former Strictly pro Kristina Rihanoff defends Giovanni Pernice as ‘easy-going’. (ITV screengrab) (ITV screengrab)

Kristina Rihanoff has opened up on her experiences of having worked with dropped Strictly pro dancer Giovanni Pernice, saying she always found him "easy" and was "very, very sad" that he had not been included in this year's cast.

On Monday, the BBC announced the show's pro dancer cast ahead of the new series and after months of speculation, confirmed that Pernice would not be back. His 2023 series dance partner Amanda Abbington quit the show early, later claiming that she was unhappy with how Pernice had treated her in training and some of the dancer's other former partners have also come forward to share similar complaints. Pernice has vowed to "clear his name" and he has denied "any suggestion of abusive or threatening behaviour". BBC are investigating.

Speaking to This Morning on Tuesday, Rihanoff who took part in eight seasons of Strictly said: "I'm very saddened because I think when you lose one of the best choreographers and dancers on the show, as a professional dancer I can say that it's very sad because he's produced some very memorable dances and took quite a few of his celebrity partners all the way to the final. So from the professional point of view, I think the show will lose a wonderful choreographer and dancer."

Giovanni Pernice at the BBC Children In Need telethon at BBC Studios in Salford. Picture date: Friday November 18, 2022. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Giovanni Pernice has faced claims about his training methods. (PA Images via Getty Images) (Danny Lawson - PA Images via Getty Images)

Host Cat Deeley suggested that dancers were under pressure to deliver great performances and Rihanoff agreed: "100%. I think all of us on the show are perfectionists, we come from a competitive background. We want the best not just for ourselves but for our celebrities too.

"We all can be very strict, maybe even brutal sometimes, because we want to deliver a good dance. There's absolutely no way we need to be as it was reportedly said abusive or anything of that nature."

She added: "You do have a job and it's a lot of pressure on us to deliver a great dance because if you do a bad dance we're also going to be wrong, we're also going to be dragged by the public...It's a very difficult territory and I'm not here to offend anyone, I'm just here to say my experience of Giovanni on the show."

Rihanoff said that when she had worked with Pernice on the group numbers she found him "a very nice, easy-going guy". She continued: "It can be a very difficult space when all of us professionals come together. We have a lot of strong personalities in the room. He was one who was very easy to work with. For me, for what I know of him. Obviously I was never in the room when he was teaching a celebrity."

Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff at the NTAs 2021 (Getty Images)
Kristina Rihanoff met her partner Ben Cohen on Strictly. (Getty Images) (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

She said that the show's training sessions were always fully recorded as standard and spoke about her own experiences of working with celebrities - who include her now partner Ben Cohen, and her ex Joe Calzaghe.

The dancer said she had to push John Sergeant hard in training, but said of Jason Donovan: "He was pushing me harder than I was pushing him...He was a perfectionist, he wanted more hours, he wanted more rehearsals."

"The show will always go on and do great things," she added. "I think it's sad that someone like Giovanni is not going to be there. I always looked forward to his choreography. The whole situation is very, very sad."

Ola Jordan and James Jordan attending the ITV Palooza held at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ola and James Jordan also shared their views. (PA Images via Getty Images) (Ian West - PA Images via Getty Images)

This Morning also spoke to former Strictly pros James and Ola Jordan, who had a few more questions about what could have been happening behind the scenes.

James said: "It is a shame that it's come to this. The only thing I will say is that there's no smoke without fire. I've always protected the professional dancers and we don't know the ins and outs of it."

He went on: "There's no smoke without fire. I'd be devastated if one of my previous celebrity partners came forward saying that I was abusive or not treating them nice in training. But he's had four. If it was just one you'd say ok maybe just a massive clash of characters."

But his wife Ola added: "You're not going to get on with everyone."

James said of his own time on the show: "I had partners like Gabby Logan, Pamela Stephenson that I could push really, really hard. I could be brutal, but I'd have other people that were a lot more self conscious and you'd have to adapt your teaching style otherwise you'd break them.

"I'm known to be outspoken and bullish but when it came to my teaching I wanted my partner to have the best Strictly experience ever. I honestly believe if you went to ask all of them they'd all say they had a great time. So for him to have four of them come forward, there's clearly something there.

"Isn't the proof in the pudding a little bit, he's not back on the show so clearly he has decided not to come back or BBC have not asked him to come back. There's something going on that we don't know about."

Ola said: "It's a shame because there is a big cloud over Strictly but hopefully that will blow over. It's a shame that happened after so many years of the show being on air."

But James replied: "This isn't the first time, this happens every year there'll be people that don't get on with their partners. This isn't something new."

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Giovanni Pernice attends the UK Premiere of
Giovanni Pernice says he intends to clear his name. (Getty Images) (Joe Maher via Getty Images)

Last month, Pernice shared a statement on Instagram about the claims over his training style, writing: "To my dear fans, you will be as surprised as I am that allegations have been made about my dance teaching methods in the media this week.

"Of course, I reject any suggestion of abusive or threatening behaviour, and I look forward to clearing my name."

He continued: "Those who have followed my journey on Strictly Come Dancing over the last decade will know that I am passionate and competitive.

"No one is more ambitious for my dance partners than me. I have always striven to help them be the very best dancers they can be. This has always come from a place of love and wanting to win – for me and my dance partners.

"Thank you all once again for your continued love and support! Giovanni."

Strictly Come Dancing 2023,07-10-2023,TX3 - LIVE SHOW,Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice,BBC,Guy Levy
Amanda Abbington quit Strictly 2023 amid controversy. (BBC) (BBC/Guy Levy)

Rumours of a feud have been stirring in headlines for months between Pernice and Abbington who danced together on Strictly's 2023 series. Pernice admitted he is a "perfectionist" but he thought Abbington would make the final.

In January, Abbington revealed she was sent death threats after being diagnosed with mild post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It was alleged that Abbington had demanded Strictly rehearsals footage. Plus it was claimed Abbington met with his other former partners Laura Whitmore and Ranvir Singh to discuss their Strictly experiences, and they were rumoured to be planning legal action.

Celebrities who have danced with Pernice have shared their experiences including Debbie McGee who defended him. Strictly's head judge Shirley Ballas had defended Pernice in January saying he was an "absolute gentleman".

This Morning airs on ITV1 at 10am on weekdays.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo TV UK at