Strictly Come Dancing 2020 star JJ Chalmers reveals he was learning to dance before IED explosion

The presenter and former Royal Marine received dance coaching for a family wedding

JJ Chalmers, Strictly Come Dancing 2020
(Image credit: BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston)

We’re no stranger to Strictly Come Dancing’s inspiring stars and this year viewers will see former Royal Marine and presenter JJ Chalmers take to the ballroom. But this is not quite his first foray into the world of dance.

The 33-year-old has recently revealed he was learning the Waltz whilst he served in Afghanistan in 2011. He had hoped to be able to master the footwork in time for his brother’s wedding, he told journalists, ahead of the show's launch.

Dance professional and Fellow marine Cassidy Little had been helping him learn the moves. Chalmers stated that he’d told him, “it would be amazing if I could come back and impress my girlfriend, my now-wife, with these out-of-nowhere dance moves.”

The pair began leaning, before a “matter of weeks” later, JJ found himself caught up in a bomb explosion. Having been searching a suspected bomb-making factory, the devastating blast left him with severe injuries.

Chalmers stated, “my arms essentially came off and they were stuck back on by incredible surgeons”, adding that “pretty much everything had some level of damage”. When describing his own injuries, he recalled that his face was crushed, neck broken, eardrums were burst, but that “except for a couple of fingers, everything was still there”.

In the same blast, Chalmers' fellow marine and dance teacher lost one of his legs. He then went on to win The People’s Strictly Come Dancing for Comic Relief.

The show featured six inspirational members of the public, alongside Strictly professional dancer Natalie Lowe. Chalmers told of Cassidy doing “the most incredible Paso Doble”, one of the most difficult “Latin American” dances.

When asked about Strictly Come Dancing, Chalmers stated that the Waltz would “absolutely” have an extra special meaning for him if he were given the opportunity to perform it on the hit BBC show.

He also described the Waltz as “unfinished business” and stated he had “a bit of posture starting and a bit of the one-two-three” for this graceful dance.

And when it comes to the challenges posed by the competition and how far he’d like to go, the Invictus Games Medallist replied, “I very much doubt that I will be like Patrick Swayze and hold someone above my head because I can barely lift my arms above my head. But at the same time I am going to try.”

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He affirmed that he was going to be sensible and listen to his body. Chalmers then added, "I am hoping I go as far as I possibly can because I want to see the benefit of this.”

His extraordinary journey looks set to reach new heights as the competition begins. We can’t help feeling he is sure to inspire the nation.

Strictly Come Dancing airs on BBC One from 17 October.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with seven years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.