Lifestyle

Genevieve Vieira
2 minute read
24 Sep 2013
6:00 am

One step at a time

Genevieve Vieira

If you have two left feet and think that you're forever destined to the sidelines, don't throw in the towel just yet, because according to Strictly Come Dancing's 2013 winner Zakeeya Patel, anybody can learn how to dance.

“I remember being a kid and my family laughing at me because I had absolutely no rhythm whatsoever,” says Patel. “I loved to dance but was never very good at it.”

When she got the call to be on the show, Patel blurted out an eager “Yes”, long before the caller could finish speaking. “I knew they wanted me to mix up the demographic a bit, I’m always the token Indian girl,” she laughs.

“I knew nothing about ballroom and Latin. In actual fact I was never a fan of it,” she confesses. “I loved to watch things like So You Think You Can Dance, but I would just fast-forward through the ballroom stuff. That stuff was boring for days, well, until I tried it myself.”

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With her newfound appreciation, she says, “It’s so much better doing it than watching it, plus Ryan [Hammond, her dance partner] was a great leader.

“Not that I could feel him leading me in the early days. I was so oblivious,” she smiles.

“It’s confusing when you have to know your steps, but at the same time allow the man to lead. I had 40 different things going on in my head – leg straight, heel up, weight forward, open hip…”

It’s difficult keeping up just hearing Patel talk about it.

“Right foot back, step together, cha-cha-cha; move those hips,” she says, while giving me a basic crash course. It doesn’t feel natural, but recalling the awkwardness of Baby’s first steps in Dirty Dancing gives me a sense of optimism.

“Oh yeah, our training sessions were exactly like Dirty Dancing,” says Patel. “This is my dance space, that’s your dance space. You don’t come into mine, I don’t come into yours. Gosh, I have to watch that movie again.”

The 25-year-old actress has come a long way in her still blossoming career, having starred in numerous local television series and films. With her cheerful, flamboyant character, it’s not difficult to see why Patel became an instant audience favourite. That didn’t stop haters from making themselves known, though.

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“I am shocked at how people use Twitter as a tool for their hatred,” she says. Having received a number of nasty messages, including someone who suggested that the Guptas were the only ones who voted for her, Patel says she learnt to laugh it off and take the positive from it.

“Yes, all Indians are related,” she sneers, her sarcasm clearly evident. Practicing for eight hours a day, seven days a week, Patel was in it for the long haul.

“I loved it, because Ryan made the tango sexy again, and he made the cha-cha cheeky,” she explains.

“We’re not doctors, saving lives: we were out to entertain. At one point we lost sight of why we were doing it and that turned out to be the worst episode. We just returned to having fun and enjoying ourselves and that’s what got us to the top.”