20-year-old South African Latin dance champion and choreographer Cameron Lombard has been dancing competitively since he was 6 years old. This year, he takes his first steps onto the Strictly stage as one of their new professional dancers.
As a newbie, he won’t be paired with a celebrity just yet this season, but we’ll be watching out for him as a support dancer in the big production numbers. And fellow South Africans Oti Mabuse and Johannes Radebe were quick to take him under their wings.
Cameron took us inside his Strictly experience so far…
Were you a Strictly fan before coming on the show?
Cameron: Yes! Once Johannes joined Strictly, all of South Africa was focused on supporting him. I've been watching since I was around 12 years old, and the first hour I watched it was out of this world. Everything that they brought to the stage, it wasn't just about dancing. It's about more of a narrative. As a little boy, I was surprised by how all these dancers could bring the story across.
How did the Strictly team reach out to you?
A guy called David John within the dance federation that I was competing in has believed in me since a very young age. He has always tried to get me into corporate gigs and corporate events. He was speaking to one of the producers on Strictly Come Dancing, and he put my name forward. And then the producers gave me a call. My parents were at work, but I needed to spill the beans to them and my mom was crying in the office at work!
What did you do the moment you put down that phone?
I was speechless. I blinked a few times because I thought I was dreaming a bit. But then I was quiet for a while before calling my mom, because things like this don’t happen for boys in South Africa, even in the dance scene. Dance, for us in South Africa, is very cultural, and we do it so and on a smaller scale than the rest of the world. But we love dancing so, so much. It was more being grateful for the opportunity than being shocked.
What are the most challenging things that you’ve had to do since landing in London?
Cameron: Most definitely staying on my own. I needed to move away from my family, and sacrifice the time spent with them. I'm learning to cook. I'm learning to do my own laundry. It's all part of growth, but at first I was like, “OMG, how am I gonna do this?”
Did it help having Oti and Johannes there to welcome you?
Cameron:It made me feel calm, to have that comfort coming into Strictly and into England made me feel rather welcome. Oti took me out for some dinner and some practice at a studio after I landed. She picked me up and she just wanted me to take all of those things off my shoulders. And Johannes came to my apartment as soon as I landed, just giving me advice on how to move forward and knowing that I’m not just representing myself but a whole continent.
Did you get to bring your own dance shoes?
Cameron: Yes, I did. But I have been given new shoes by the Strictly team. They've sorted me out in so many ways, costumes, clothing, you name it, everything. As a dancer, you need to import shoes from England to South Africa all the time, so I’m grateful to just have shoes when I need them!
What were your Strictly fittings like compared to your normal competition fittings?
Cameron: Very different. Strictly is a versatile show in the sense of the costume. So from suits, to normal jeans, to secret outfits to classic ballroom outfits, it’s amazing. The costumes are completely different. It's what you expect, and everything you think, and more.
What do you know about Strictly now that you didn’t know from seeing it on TV?
Cameron: They have the biggest cameras! It has the best of everything in every field: The best dancers, the best cameramen, the best runners so everything runs so smoothly. And they are precise in exactly what they want, when they want it. It has shocked me because everything is happening so fast. And everything is the way it needs to be. The floor is clean when it needs to be clean. The dressing room is amazing because people are always sorting it out. If you break a sweat, there are people who wipe the sweat off your face!
How did your first rehearsal go?
Cameron: My body is able to do all these all the different types of dancing, but my mind needed to absorb all the knowledge and the choreography and the timing. It's been an amazing lesson to work on an intense level and provide the results they would want on the day.
Finally, which episode are you particularly looking forward to this season?
Cameron: The launch episode and the introduction of the new pros, and for the world to see what we have been cooking up. I'm sitting on the edge of my chair, and I can't wait for the world to experience what we've been up to.
Watch Strictly Come Dancing S19 Sundays on BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) at 19:00
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