British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) political correspondent John Sergeant, nicknamed 'The Dancing Pig', announced last week that he was pulling out of the BBC dance competition Strictly Come Dancing because he is afraid that he might win. Sergeant has been this season's surprise (or rather, rising) star on the BBC hit show despite being harshly criticized by the judges as the worst-ever competitor on the programme. One compared him to a 'dancing pig in Cuban heels' and accused him of not taking the competition seriously. Despite consistently receiving the lowest scores from the judges, television viewers however thought otherwise and have repeatedly voted for the portly Sergeant above more accomplished dancers.
Like its American spin-off, Dancing With The Stars, the BBC show pairs celebrities with professional dancers in various ballroom and Latin American dance routines that are judged by an expert panel and by public telephone votes. Week after week, the judges have lambasted the 64-year old Sergeant for his wooden and clumsy dance moves. In one episode, while dancing the Paso Doble, he inelegantly dragged his partner Kristina Rihanoff across the dance floor thus earning him the sobriquet 'The Dancing Pig'. "It was always my intention to have fun on the show and I was hoping to stay in as long as possible. The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me that would be a joke too far" Sergeant said in a statement.
Strictly Come Dancing is now into its sixth season and is a top rated show in the UK. This season, 16 celebrities were paired off with 16 well known professional dancers. The professional dancers included Matthew Cutler, Karen Hardy, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace. Matthew Cutler, dancing with Alicia Dixon were last year's winners. Cutler was a former 4-times UK Closed Professional Latin Champion. Karen Hardy, partnering Mark Ramprakash were the winners in 2006. Before her retirement from competitive dancing in 1999, Hardy was dancing with Bryan Watson and they had won several world championships. Simone and his partner Cacace are the current UK Professional Ten Dance Champions as well as the World Argentine Tango Show Champions.
It really comes as no surprise that Sergeant has been able to come this far in the competition in spite of, or rather because of his ungainly dance style. Despite appeals by judges to the television audience to vote for the best, rather than the most popular dancer, the viewers had differing views. Many had found Sergeant to be entertaining and had wanted to keep him in the show as long as possible. His unexpected decision to quit prompted an outcry from his fans who accused the BBC of forcing him out. Rumour has it that the rules for the next season of Strictly Come Dancing may be changed to prevent another "John Sergeant" situation. Austin Healey, the former England rugby international is now the favourite to win the show.