AJ Pritchard

📷 : Geraint Lewis

Currently, AJ Pritchard is playing Prince Charming in the De Montfort Hall pantomime Cinderella, which runs in Leicester until 2nd January 2023, and he is performing alongside his brother Curtis as Dandini. AJ was a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing for four years, reaching the Semi-Finals including with Claudia Fragapane and Mollie King, and he was a guest choreographer on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. In this year’s Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, AJ was announced as one of the winners, and in 2020, he was a contestant on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!. Answering our questions, AJ talks about playing Prince Charming in Cinderella at De Montfort Hall in Leicester, winning Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins and his time as a professional dancer on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

You are set to play Prince Charming in the De Montfort Hall pantomime Cinderella, what are you most looking forward to for playing the role alongside your brother Curtis as Dandini?

I am always excited to play this role as it is with my brother and I don’t know what he’ll do when it comes down to the live shows. He always keeps me on my toes and the audience – they love it.

Having previously performed in pantomimes, how do you find the experience interacting with a pantomime audience?

The pantomime audience are a breed of their own. It is brilliant family fun from the kids, the adults, the grandparents, everybody is there to have a good time and, you know, it is Christmas. The audience are there to be entertained, every laugh, every joke, every dance move gets a great reaction. Every introduction is bigger and better than any West End or Broadway show and that’s why I love the pantomime audience so much.

📷 : Geraint Lewis

What is it like reading the script for the first time and being in a pantomime cast over the festive season?

I always love reading the script for the first time, as it’s when you can get into the bones of the play and you know where your ins and outs are. You understand where you’re going to have to do the choreography for the big dance scenes. So, yeah, it’s exciting but the best thing is getting into the studio and actually bringing the words off the paper and putting it on the floor and visualising where you will be in the theatre.

What can audiences expect from your portrayal of the Prince?

The audiences can expect Prince Charming to be exactly like he should be – quite posh and quite debonair, very clean coat, sparkly outfits head to toe, but also, he has a good time. He laughs and jokes, he plays around with Dandini, he enjoys himself.

📷 : Geraint Lewis

Why would you recommend booking tickets to see Cinderella at De Montfort Hall, which opened 10th December?

I can’t recommend booking tickets enough! It is a sight for all your senses. You feel the happiness, the sadness, the warmth, the sweat… well, the sweat from Curtis. If you’re sat in the front row, pantomime is just brilliant and you will not be disappointed. For me, this year is going be the biggest and best pantomime to date. We’ve had three years of missed Christmas time and so it feels like this Christmas season is going to be supercharged.

Can you tell us about your experience on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins?

My experience on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins was ten times harder than you can ever imagine watching it on TV. They don’t show all of it though! There were so many extra bee stings, lots of circuit training and waking up in the night when you have to put your wet clothes back on that no one really saw. It was very emotional and tiring – not sleeping for 30 hours will do things to you, trust me! It was such an honour for me to be able to do it in Jordan and to actually win was great. It was always a dream for me to do SAS and it did not disappoint.

What was it like being a contestant on Series 20 of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2020?

Being a contestant on the 20th series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! was a really interesting experience. It was the first time that we did it in the castle in Wales. I felt really lucky to be working at such a hard time because COVID was rife. It was a great family feel on the show. The production team and the other contestants, like Mo Farah, have become close friends. The people and experiences were just brilliant – Russell Watson singing me a bedtime story was iconic. I mean, where else does that happen, only on I’m a Celeb. It is an awesome show. And this year was a great series too.

📷 : Geraint Lewis

Do you have any stand-out highlights from your time as a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing?

A stand-out highlight for me on Strictly Come Dancing? It’s hard to identify an exact moment but I think it’s always the launch show – finding out who your partner is each year is obviously an exciting moment. Doing the big group number together is another highlight because there’s no pressure, it’s just fun and exciting. I do have to say, doing the Argentine Tango with Claudia Fragapane was outstanding. And how can I not mention Saffron Barker? Every day in the studio with her was eventful and hilarious. Brilliant but always kept me on my toes. Saffron, you were epic. And now I’ve got to mention Mollie 💃🏼 King because Mollie just had the most beautiful Viennese Waltz, and her ballroom field was epic, and I felt so sad that we did not make the Final.

You appeared as a guest choreographer on the BBC Three series RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, what was this like?

To be a guest on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and choreograph the first ever Final was such an honour. It was amazing, but one secret I do have to tell you is that it’s so cold in the studio so that Mama Ru doesn’t sweat and that beautiful make up runs.

📷 : Geraint Lewis

Where does your love of dance come from and is it something you always wanted to do?

I love dance because it’s endless, when I say endless, there is never perfection. You can always improve on your performance or stamina and that’s what it does for me. I’m competitive and that OCD competitive mentality just ties in perfectly. Plus, teaching people dancing and watching them learn and smile brings me a real sense of fulfilment. Even when they’ve just gone for Woodside Close in a Waltz, it’s such a rewarding feeling to see that.

Do you have any favourite TV shows and films to watch and how do you like to spend your free time?

I love to watch true crime drama and any kind of film, I love to get lost in a good film. My free time is always filled with fitness and fresh air though, mostly.

What are you hoping the upcoming year brings for you and do you have any upcoming plans that you can tell us about?

For me, I always approach every day and every year the same. It’s about positive energy and optimism. If you truly want something enough, you will make it happen.

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