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Dancing On Ice | Interview with Ashley Banjo (Ice Panel)



How does it feel to be returning to the Ice Panel?

It really does feel great. I think that at the moment anything post lockdown, I’m just super grateful for it. I feel like at the moment, every year the world changes. I just get more and more grateful to be doing stuff.

So what can viewers expect from the new series?

I think that the lineup this year is the strongest in terms of the ability. I think they are going to be so good and obviously people can expect a slightly new panel as well. There’s going to be a lot about the show that will be slightly different, I think it’s going to be a great series. Just knowing the people taking part this year, normally you get one person with dance experience that then becomes like a front runner and I think this time around, there’s over a third of them that have actually got some sort of dance background so I think they’ll knock that on the head, it’s going to really be about the skating and the lifts.

As a judge, do you think you will be tougher on them because you expect more because they have got the ability to do it?

I think personally, I judge to the level of the competition. I think this year everyone is going to be pretty good so I think naturally I will be tougher because everyone can skate well. So I think because we have a lot of good people, we probably will be a bit tougher this year.

Is there anyone you are really excited about? Do you feel nervous to judge Kimberly?

I feel like we know each other well enough and I know the kind of person Kimberly is. She just wants excellence in everything so I think that she would want me to be a tough judge. She would prefer the truth, but I don’t think I ever need to be because I think that she’s so capable that I think she is going to be brilliant. I’m just really excited to see her and if I think there’s something she can do better, I will definitely tell her. She’d want me too. I think that if she’s brilliant, which I’m sure she will be, I will just be excited to watch her skate.

Do you think we will see a lot of moves that we haven’t seen before?

I hope so. I haven’t seen them skate yet. I’m just going by who I know has dance experience and what I’ve heard on the grapevine. But I hope so, I really do.

What are you looking for in a performance? What gives you goosebumps?

Just when I forget they are skating. When their skating gets competent enough that I’m just watching them perform and bringing a story to life.

Do you sometimes get nervous as a judge?

All the time, especially in the past couple of years when I really put time into skating myself because I could skate before but when I really started to learn edgework and how your picks work and how the ice feels, you realise how temperamental it can be especially as a beginner. Genuinely I think that’s why people love the show because it literally can go wrong at any moment.

Who are you most excited about seeing from the celebrity line up this year?

Kye. I am really excited about seeing him because I think this will be unlike anything he has ever done before. He’s going to be a fish out of water but he’s also an Olympia, so he’s going to be strong, capable and disciplined. I love seeing people be put into situations that are so out of their comfort zone. So I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s really good. I am looking forward to seeing him skate.

How do you feel about Oti joining the show?

I think that Oti’s just got so much energy and so much skill herself. I’ve been around her quite a few times and she just brings this sass wherever she goes that you just love and I’m just really happy to have her sitting next to me.

Is it important to have two dancers on the panel and two skating pros?

I do actually, I think over the years people have become accustomed to it and seeing it being approached from different points of view. I think it works. At first people would look at me and be like, ‘why are you there? But we’ve always had a couple of dancers and the legends that are Jayne (Torvill) and Chris (Dean). I think to go back to having more skaters, I feel like Jayne and Chris have got that covered. You are never going to get more expertise than Jayne and Chris. So let’s have people that look at it differently. I think it works.

Do you have any advice for Oti?

Don’t be scared to judge from your heart. Sometimes there will be performances on the ice that can have incredible technique behind them and incredible edge work but they don’t make you feel anything and sometimes there will be the opposite where a routine might be really simple, but it just makes you want to stand up. When I first started, I used to be like ‘Is that good enough as a skate?’ It didn’t matter, I’m there to look at the way the choreography works, the technicality, the performance and the skating but definitely the performance first. It’s a skating show but the performance is just as important because the people that genuinely tend to do well aren’t always the best skaters.

Joe Swash was a great skater, but Perri was probably the best skater we’ve ever had. That’s not what made Joe win. So it shows you how important performance is. The flip side of a journey is working hard, so you only have a journey if you put the work in. You know if you work hard and you’re disciplined and you perform well, that’s just as important if not more so than being the best skater.

What is a typical show day like for you guys?

Easy compared to the people in the competition. That’s why it’s so weird because I’m a performer, I’m used to turning up and if I go to a TV studio and don’t sweat it’s a weird day for me. So it’s quite nice to turn up and have a little look at some of the dress runs and we get to catch up with each other and see what to expect, sit down and watch the show. So for us it’s just great, you know do some social media, we’ll catch up and we get the best seats in the house. I just love on a Sunday turning up and getting to watch what everyone has been working on in the week.

When an audience is there, does that add to the atmosphere?

I kind of like it. I’m sort of like oh they disagree, you know! Good, oh well. I kind of like it, I think it’s all about people wanting to get involved. It’s like when you watch a film, you want to be moved, you want to be entertained. I feel like it’s nice when people don’t always agree.

Can you give us a little backstage secret from what goes on on live show day?

Jayne actually looks so glam every week but the shoes will be off by the first performance. She sets the feet free.

Do you think it’s important to show a varied age range and give people the inspiration that anyone can do it?

We always feel like we get a little cross section of people. I definitely think it’s nice to show an age range and have different types of people. Experience, no experience, older, younger, bigger, smaller. I think it’s nice because it’s difficult for everyone. You chuck ice in the mix and it’s going to make it difficult for anyone. Old or young so I think it’s nice.

What do you love best about being on the panel and is there one thing that would sum up your experience so far over the past few years, that keeps you coming back for more?

I genuinely think it’s just getting to enjoy it from the best seats in the house. We get to sit right on top of it every week. You can hear the skates, let alone see them. I just think people love the show because you are always on the edge of your seat and we are literally on the edge of our seats, watching every single skate. It never gets old, it never gets boring. So the thing I love the most is just getting to watch all the performances so close.

What’s your most standout moment? Good or bad?

I would say Perri and Vanessa’s Romeo and Juliet routine.