Kerre Woodham's dancing on air

The broadcaster is glammed up and ready to strut her stuff on NZ’s favourite dance show

By Wendyl Nissen
There's a big chance that if Covid hadn't come along, we would not be fortunate enough to see popular broadcaster Kerre Woodham on this year's season of Dancing with the Stars.
Kerre loves a challenge, having run marathons and climbed mountains, but she's always said a polite no to the DWTS producers when they've come calling in the past.
"Just the thought of it terrified me," says Kerre, who has watched every season of DWTS from the beginning. "I couldn't help but think how brave the dancers were to go out there and expose themselves like that."
But then Covid came along and in Kerre's words, it "sucked all the joy and life out of everything around me". So, when she was asked if she would consider it this time, she said yes.
"I thought, 'Do it!' It's a catalyst for change for me because I've put on weight during lockdown, and I've lost all my motivation. And it's also a bit of fun with the sequins and fake tans and gorgeous flowy dresses – all of those things that have been missing from my life for the last few years."
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Another change she is making is returning to her maiden name Woodham following the break-up of her marriage to Tom McIvor.
"I wanted to show Tom and I were a team when we were together – and now we're not, it's time to go back to my own name," she explains.
When Kerre turns up for her first performance on DWTS, it won't be her first step out of her comfort zone. She does love to put herself in situations where the going is tough, such as training for, then running the New York marathon and writing about it in her best-selling book Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner, and then following that up with a five-day climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.
"But with those two, if you didn't quite make it you didn't look like a fool, which is what I feared with dancing," admits Kerre. "I thought I might look a bit sad, like one of those old ladies who wears their skirt too short and has a bash at the weird lipstick and misses completely. Then I realised that I've looked ridiculous plenty of times and made a complete fool of myself a thousand times."
Kerre also agrees that there is a pressure on women not to be trotting around a dance floor, showing a bit of leg at age 57, and she's keen to shove that belief out the window. But there is one thing that she believes will need to be overcome and that's the fact she doesn't think she's a great dancer.
"As a child, I was too chunky to dance. I didn't even do a five-year-old ballet class."
Kerre feels safe in Jared's arms. "He's just lovely, and so supportive and kind."
And while she can boogie with the best on a night out, she says she thinks there's a little bit more involved than "dancing around my handbag at the Chartwell Tavern!"
"It's only been a couple of days of training and I can tell you, there's a bit more to it than that."
Kerre is delighted to be teamed with dancer Jared Neame, who will be taking her through her paces on the show. "I had met Jared before at a party and talked his ear off about the show when I heard he was a dancer. So, when I saw that I was paired with him, I could not have been happier."
When they met up for their first training session, Kerre was hopeful he could turn her dancing skills around.
"I was doing a charity gig a million years ago and they had the DWTS dancers there. One of them came over and asked me to dance, and I explained that I just don't dance. He said, 'Just hang on to me.' So I did and it was like riding a really good dressage horse – you've just got to try not to let your legs get in the way and interrupt them.
"It felt amazing, so I told Jared this would be a good option. But he told me he was going to need a little more than that from me. He said, 'I want you to dance and you're going to be dancing by the end of this.'"
Kerre says the best thing about Jared is he can talk her through the steps.
"He can speak like a human, not a dancer, and he can translate his knowledge to my lack of it and cross that divide. He's also just lovely, and so supportive and kind."
Handsome DWTS partner Jared puts the fox into foxtrot!
Kerre has worked in television a lot with shows like Fair Go, Heartland and Ready, Steady, Cook, so the cameras and crew won't be too daunting for her, as long as her costumes are okay, she says. "The full horror of that came when we were shooting the titles for Dancing with the Stars," she reveals.
"I was standing there as the second-to-last one to be filmed and I'm in a swimming pool up to my shins. The poor crew had been listening to the theme music since seven in the morning, it's now half past four in the afternoon and I was thinking, 'For the sake of the crew, please, please let me get through this.'"
Kerre says all she had to do was a simple dance routine. "I just had to scoop up my umbrella, step to the left, step to the right, then put the umbrella down and come in on the count of one. I had five dancers behind me, and we'd be counted in 'seven, eight and one.'
"I tried but couldn't quite do it, so they told me to come in on the count of eight. I knew that if we're also supposed to be doing a synchronised dance, and somebody needs a different number to come in on, it's not good. It doesn't bode well."
Kerre says she was starting to panic, then she saw a number of the crew clustered around the monitor looking concerned, and she knew from her time in TV that this was not a good sign.
"Then they called wardrobe and this poor woman had to pull my long dress over my head while she pinned my bra to my suck 'em in pants because they had slipped down and there was a roll of flesh showing up on camera.
'So what if I look ridiculous and people laugh at me. I've made a career out of it!'
"As I stood there with my dress over my head, thinking of all the things I've done, I thought, 'You know what, Kerre? This was one step too far.' It was horrific. I was in a cold sweat."
But it wasn't enough to put Kerre off pushing through the many delays with the production of DWTS, which have happened because of Covid. While she is on the Three show, she will continue to be on air with her top-rating Newstalk ZB weekday radio show and still be a doting grandmother.
Kerre lives with her daughter Kate, son-in-law Ranko and delightful grandchildren Bart, five, and Dora, three. The children fill her life with joy, and she is a hands-on gran, doing daily childcare, and essential drop-offs and pick-ups.
"I've got training this weekend but I'm going to take Dora and Bart to swimming lessons on my way, and Kate will pick them up and I'll go on to dancing. I get so much enjoyment out of them. I just feel so lucky to have them in my life.
"We discussed me doing the show as a family, and they were adamant that they could cope for two months, and hopefully I will last as long as that," says Kerre.
"Dora, in particular, will love it, so I'll make sure she can come to the show and see all the glitz and glamour."
'It's also a bit of fun with the sequins and fake tans and gorgeous flowy dresses'
One member of the family who wasn't too sure about Kerre's star turn on the show was her mother Colleen.
"She wondered if it was such a good idea, so I told her that Rachel Hunter, who did a similar show overseas, and Lorraine Downes told me that they absolutely loved it. She said, 'Mmm, but they've been dancers, haven't they?' So then I told her that Beatrice Faumuina also loved it. And she said, 'Mmm, but she's very athletic,'" laughs Kerre.
"I knew what she was saying, which is why she never sent me to ballet classes. But bigger people can dance too. People without length of bone. Let's make dumpy sexy again."
When Kerre emerges from the show, no doubt fitter and leaner, she is looking forward to being able to keep up with her grandchildren without having a "cardiac infarction" and to be able to get into a pair of jeans again.
Her charity for Dancing with the Stars is the Starship Foundation, which helps many children the same age as her grandchildren.
"There is so much time, effort and money being put towards old people at the moment, and I want us to remember that the young kids of this country are important too," she says. "Every second day a child is collected from somewhere around the country and transferred to Starship, and most of them make a full recovery and have a full life."
Kerre says raising money for Starship is also a way of honouring all the doctors and nurses who have been doing the hard yards, working extra shifts during Covid.
"That's why I can't go off in the first round," she says hopefully. "I've got to raise as much money as I can."
As a popular MC for events, Kerre is known for her great sense of humour and being able to charm an audience, but sadly she's not confident there will be much of that on show this season.
"After each dance, I'll either be sobbing on Jared's chest apologising or completely unable to speak," she muses. "Thank God our first dance isn't the jive – can you imagine me bouncing around trying to kick my little cankles up in a dainty fashion?
"But so what if I look ridiculous and people laugh at me. I've made a career out of it!"

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