Did the glitz and glamour of Strictly get you through winter? Giovanni Pernice – who made it to the semi-finals with partner Ranvir Singh in the last series – was certainly glad of the chance to hit the dance floor during these contact and arts-deprived times.
While it’s not quite the same waltzing and jiving alone in your living room, he’s found a way to keep up the moves in lockdown, delivering virtual daily online dance classes. Has that helped keep his spirits up?
“100%,” says Sicily-born Pernice, 30, who joined the Strictly pros line-up in 2015. “I do group classes every day, and then some private classes too. My main one I do at 5-6pm and at the moment, a thousand people join every day, so that’s cool.
“I have to prepare the classes so they’re ready when people turn up, prepare the routine and prepare myself. I try to make them different every day, it keeps me motivated to think about new stuff. And the classes are the only chance I can dress up a bit, so I don’t stay in pyjamas every day. Just imagine if people joined and I’m in a pyjama!” he adds with a laugh.
It’s a cold February morning when Pernice and I chat on the phone, and he’s every bit as energised and perky as he is on Strictly, full of charm and laughs. It’s easy to imagine why his classes are a hit – and while Pernice readily agrees this past year has “not been the best”, he says keeping his routine as steady as possible has really helped.
Dancing, it seems, has brought a thread of both discipline and joy that weaves through all aspects of his life, and Pernice is a big fan of structure.
This past year has been extra stressful for everyone – how have you found it all?
“Well, obviously it’s not been the best, but I’ve established myself a routine. So, when I wake up in the morning, I do a workout, and then have meetings, and then my online dance class. That’s been keeping me busy and motivated and making a routine for other people – literally this is all the motivation we have at the moment. But hopefully, soon, we can go out and celebrate all together!”
What is your morning workout?
“I’m not very a gym person. I like running – I like running a lot – so I bought myself a treadmill and do 5 or 10k a day. And then I do some abs workout, just to keep the six pack in shape!”
Obviously dancing is such a big part of your life – what else does it mean to you?
“Dancing has definitely been all my life. I started dancing when I was seven, and then I moved from home [from Sicily to Bologna, after winning a place at a prestigious dance academy there] when I was 14. From there, it was a big change for me – life changes when you live on your own when you’re 14. So, it’s definitely been all my life, dancing… Right now, I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
How else do you approach looking after your wellbeing?
“I don’t meditate – for me, I meditate watching TV, let’s say it like this. And for me, the most important thing is to disconnect from work – so there’s life, and there’s work. Work is one thing – and I work a lot and I love work, for me it’s fantastic. But at some point, eight o’clock or whatever time you finish, it’s about disconnection, so you don’t really think about anything else other than switching off. I disconnect totally from work.
“You have to balance, you know? If it was only work, work, work, you’re going to be stressed, and you’re not going to enjoy your work if you do it that way.”
When you are switching off, do you have rules in place, like putting the phone away and no social media?
“A thousand per cent. Social media is a fantastic platform, but there is a lot of pressure around it. So I always say to myself: ‘Do you know what? It’s nine o’clock, you spend all day on social media, because people might message me about a dance class or shows, but nine o’clock, put the phone away’. Put the TV on, glass of wine, nice chat if you have a friend around when you can, and it’s all good.”
Have you faced any particular health challenges that have shaped how you look after yourself?
“Not really. I love structure – in general in life, I love structure. For me, everything has to be precise – everyyyything. So, when I start to get out of my comfort zone or out of my structure, then I shut away [and] I can check myself back in position quickly, if that makes sense.”
It sounds like you know yourself very well and have a good idea of what works for you?
“I do. Because I’ve been living on my own since forever, since I was 14, I had to grow up and make things work for myself. I am a very organised person, in general – life, work, working out, anything. And now my body wakes up every morning at 8:20am, not even 8:19 or 8:21 – 8:20 every single morning. Sometimes I want to sleep a little longer, but no! Body clock says wake up Giovanni! Luckily I fall asleep quite easily, but whatever time [I go to bed], I wake up when I wake up.”
Do you have a particular approach with diet and healthy eating?
“No – it’s about a little of everything, it’s about balance. I think when you eat properly – in the week I eat very healthy and on schedule – then Saturday and Sunday you can have a pizza, a glass of wine. Realistically, I think the best you can do is try to be healthy as much as you can. Then on Saturday, when I have the pizza in front of me, with pepperoni and mayonnaise, I think then you can enjoy it more.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, that’s really stuck with you?
“Never give up, is definitely a thing my first teacher told me when I was a little kid, and definitely stuck with me through life, all my life really. There are so many times where I could have said, ‘Do you know what? I don’t want to do this any more’, but ultimately I didn’t give up, because I had a dream. And now, today, it’s paid off.
“There is a lot of competition out there, the same with so many things, and even if sometimes you fall through, keep trying. I’m very pleased that I stuck with my decision [to be a dancer] and didn’t give up.”