Strictly Come Dancing professional Johannes Radebe may have enjoyed a beautiful friendship with his dance partner Annabel Croft last year, but he has confessed he almost asked not to be partnered with anyone after realising he would be paired with the former tennis star.
In the latest series, a grieving Croft was assigned the South African favourite as her pro dancer, but Radebe wasn’t too pleased initially.
The 36-year-old explained how he had just lost a close relative before the series started and was very concerned about being partnered with the 57-year-old, who was in the midst of her own heartbreaking grief.
Croft’s husband Mel Coleman had died just months before she joined the popular series, and she spoke candidly about her bereavement during the her time on the show.
“When they said I’m dancing with her, I was like, ‘What are they trying to achieve?’ And I say that because two weeks before I started, I buried my cousin who committed suicide,” choreographer Radebe explained.
Speaking on the Table Manners podcast, he continued: “I didn’t feel anything, I wasn’t as excited as I normally would be, because I was like, ‘This is supposed to be the most exciting period, I’ve just come back off a very successful tour.’
BBC Strictly: Johannes has admitted he was grieving ahead of last year’s Strictly
“But I had to then go home [South Africa]. I could have stayed out there for longer but after we buried him, I had to fly back to the UK and do my audiobook.
“That was hard, and when Strictly started, I was just like, ‘Okay,’ just felt like I was going through the motions.
“So you can imagine when they said the partners I was just like, ‘Okay great.’ I just really wanted to deal with it but you never allow yourself the time to deal with whatever you are going through in your life.
“And yeah, they said we think that you’re the person to partner with this woman.
“I just said to myself, they’re reaching. I remember calling my agent, I was like,’ I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe we should say that I shouldn’t get a partner this year because I just really need some time out.’”
However, the pair went on to become extremely close, and Croft was able to share her grief with her dance partner.
“I mean, a lot of people say, ‘Oh Johannes, you helped Annabel,’ but no, Annabel helped me,” he admitted.
The pair even ended up coming in fourth place and were highly praised for their Couple’s Choice dance, which they dedicated to Croft’s late husband.
BBC Strictly’s Johannes and Annabel became fan-favourites during the 2023 series
The tribute left several of the couple’s judges, co-stars and viewers in tears after the sportswoman ended the routine by blowing a kiss up towards the sky.
Following the moving dance, head judge Shirley Ballas was visibly tearful as she clutched onto tissues and explained: “I don’t tend to get very emotional.
“But I’m sure [Annabel’s children] Amber, Lily, and Charlie are sat at home, or here, watching that.
“The stars were in the sky and you were sitting on your favourite bench and dancing with the most beautiful human.”