Strictly’s Giovanni Pernice hails ‘big brother’ Anton Du Beke

Strictly Come Dancing star Giovanni Pernice has said Anton Du Beke is like a “big brother”, as he told how the dancer-turned-judge supported him when he joined the show and could not speak English.

Italian dancer Pernice, 31, joined Strictly in 2015 and reached the final alongside soap star Georgia May Foote the same year.

Last year he enjoyed a historic Strictly win, lifting the Glitterball trophy alongside Rose Ayling-Ellis, who became the first deaf contestant to participate in and win the BBC One series.

Virgin BAFTA TV Awards 2022 – London
Giovanni Pernice won Strictly last year with Rose Ayling-Ellis (Ian West/PA)

Du Beke, 55, is the programme’s longest-serving professional dancer, having been on the show since it began in 2004, and this year he has become a regular fixture on the judging panel after Bruno Tonioli announced he is leaving the programme after 14 years.

Speaking to TV and radio presenter Nick Grimshaw and chef Angela Hartnett on their podcast Dish, Pernice said he and Du Beke are “very, very, very good friends”, adding: “He’s the only one that when I joined Strictly, he helped me with everything.

“I couldn’t speak any English and he has always been there for me since the beginning, and we end up to be like, you know, we don’t like to say father and son, but… like brother, big brother.”

The pair have been touring together with their show Him & Me.

Explaining how he spoke “zero” English on joining Strictly, Pernice said: “I did have a translator for my first season all the way through because I didn’t know what… the interview was like and what they wanted me to say or things like this.

“I thought I’m never gonna be able to do a job like this, especially the biggest show on television, you know, you have to teach a celebrity. And then it was like, you know what? We trust you that you can learn, so I had to learn English in one week.”

In May, Ayling-Ellis and Pernice won the must-see moment gong at the Bafta TV awards for their Couple’s Choice routine in Strictly, during which they paused the music and danced in silence as a tribute to the deaf community.

Pernice told the Dish podcast: “When I did the choreography, I knew that it was going to be a big moment, you know, it was going to give an impact to the deaf community especially and for everybody.

“But this went bigger than what we thought, this went everywhere, you know, worldwide.

“We were interviewed in America, we did a lot of interviews because people want to understand where this came from.

“I think it was magical because for the first time everybody realised what Rose was going through every single week.

“We stopped the music for 20 seconds, 10 seconds, and for the first time people said, ‘Oh, that’s what she’s feeling every week.’.”

The trio also talked about the possibility of former BBC Radio One DJ Grimshaw and Best Home Cook judge Hartnett doing Strictly.

Grimshaw said: “I would like to do it, but we were talking about it this morning and I was like, you can’t do it half-arsed. You’ve gotta go and be like, right, this is my focus now for months, every single day, I’m gonna be committed, I’m ready to be taught… and I’m not ready.”

Dish, the new podcast from Waitrose & Partners and hosted by Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett, is available on all podcast providers now.