Connell Cruise and his partner Marcella Solimeo have been crowned Dancing With The Stars SA’s king and queen of the dance floor.
The show culminated in a spectacular finale, with Connell and Marcella taking on Zola Nombona and Eden Classens and their partners in a nail-biting, sequin-studded battle.
However, it was Connell who stole the show and the hearts of dance loving South Africans.
We know Connell knows his way around the stage as a singer, but from day one, he looked like a natural on the dance floor.
Connell says this came from the many hours his partner put into teaching him.
“We’ve worked really hard to make it look like that. That comes from Marcella putting so much work into it. Her parents come to watch our first rehearsal for the Samba, and they were actually canning themselves while she showed me to the basic steps,” Connell recalls with a laugh.
Right before each dance, Connell and Marcella were so incredibly focussed that nothing around them seemed to distract them. This was no accident – the pair had set rituals to follow before each performance. This helped Connell to “get out of his head”.
“Before we started, we had lunch at a Woolworths Café and discussed our different processes. I told her about some of the things I do, and Marcella told me what she does, and we sort of adapted mine for both of us,” Connell explains.
“We’d sometimes play a game where we’d count down from 3, and then say the first thing that came to mind. So, for example, I’d say lamp, and she’d say pillow. Then we would count down again and say something that connects the two, so in this case, say, bedroom. The minute we said the same thing we’d know we had connected.
“We’d also treat each other as our characters. So when we did the James Bond one, from about an hour before show we got into character and didn’t speak to each other. We just looked at each other, and submersed ourselves in the characters.”
A mere week before the finale, Connell found himself in the bottom two, and faced his first dance off of the competition. Did this affect his approach to the final?
“I’m a very practical person, hence the rituals to get out of my head so I don’t obsess. The reality hit me that Marcella and I don’t have the same social media presence as our competitors.
“It hit me at that last dance off that it might not be about dancing any more, and we had worked so hard to get the dancing to that level. We realised we were going into the final with 2 heavy hitters.”
However, this had a positive effect on how Connell and Marcella took on the final.
“We decided that the only thing we could do was just have the best time because we had nothing to lose. I had no expectations at all, and for South Africa to say ‘we loved that’ was just the most rewarding thing.”
So will Connell continue to dance after the show?
“One of the coolest parts about this was after being in studio with Marcella; I could then go home and teach my wife what I had learned while we cooked dinner. So I could show her things like different steps and dance holds. Sarah and I will definitely be dancing!”
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