Love is in the air

While the tabloids are forever printing stories about the ‘curse of Strictly’ and the celebrities – and dancers – who’ve seen marriages and relationships flounder as their dancing skills soar, I’m pleased to report that, actually, the current state of Strictly romance is pretty harmonious.

Far from ‘cheating’ claims, the current batch of Strictly dancers is a romantic sort. And because their various states of romantic bliss don’t feature infidelity or scandal, I reckon you’ll be surprised to read about the backstage love developing at Elstree.

News has just landed of Natalie Lowe’s engagement to businessman James Gibbs – Natalie is currently partnered with chef Ainsley Harriott. Newly weds – and two of the show’s favourite dancers – Kevin and Karen Clifton might just be the new James and Ola Jordan. The duo married over the summer at a wedding, which boasted Strictly Come Dancing celebrity alumni Susanna Reid and Frankie Bridge on the guest list.

Mr and Mrs Clifton
Mr and Mrs Clifton

Another dance duo possibly in the market for some wedding tips are the recently-engaged Aliasz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara. Both dancers are wowing judges and viewers alike with their impressive routines with celeb partners Helen George and Peter Andre. And they both have form, too, with Janette partnering last year’s snake hipped soap star Jake Wood until the final stages while Aliasz won the 2013 show with Abby Clancy. Expect a decent first dance when these two tie the knot!

Diamonds on the dancefloor
Diamonds on the dancefloor

Eagle eyed viewers will have noted that former champ Aliona Vilani is now a Mrs, following her exotic wedding to sales director Vincent Kavanagh on the Caribbean island of St Thomas over the summer.

And even former self-confessed ‘bay boy of ballroom’ Brendan Cole is now a happily married mister. He and wife Zoe married in 2010 and celebrated the arrival of daughter Aurelia on Chrsitmas Day nearly three years ago. Awww.

Practice makes perfect

So… Strictly season has got off to a sparkly start with the first celebrity due to be voted out this coming weekend.

The bookies still can’t call it with the favourite and the celeb most likely to leave changing almost daily, meaning the audience vote will count for everything on Saturday night.

But, voting tactics aside, over the previous 12 series of Strictly, one thing has marked out success stories from stumbling celebrities. While they might want to climb inside their own glittery bubbles, to devote themselves to perfecting a pasa doble or dancing the foxtrot with finesse, for the next three months, the truth is, our celebs have got to keep doing their day jobs and fitting in training after their work is done.

While I’m sure everyone involved in the show works hard, spare a thought for those famous faces who can’t simply make a big hole in their busy schedules and practice morning, noon and night.

For example, Radio 2 presenter and political commentator Jeremy Vine has a pretty rigorous day job: when he’s not on the air waves, he’s filming BBC2’s Egg Heads and he also needs to keep his finger on the political pulse. Carol Kirkwood is up very early every day for her job as a weather presenter while Eastenders’ Kellie Bright has the demands of a soap opera filming schedule to contend with.

Doing Vine
Doing Vine

Some of the hardest working celebs have already been remarked on: Jeremy and partner Karen Clifton are squeezing in rehearsals between his various broadcasting jobs. On the other hand, Iwan Thomas explained that his work life was responsible for his low score on the leaderboard last weekend when he appeared on It Takes Two on Monday. And the show’s other sportsman, Anthony Ogogo, has been contending with an arm injury.

So, who will wow on the dance floor in two days’ time? The hard working work horses or those that throw caution to the wind and rely on spontaneity?

Keep watching!

Strictly fever begins!

In the depths of the BBC studios, glitter balls are being polished; the well-known theme tune is getting hummed all over the country and Strictly fever has begun!

You can’t have failed to miss the surprise, exciting and ‘oh-of-course’ lists of celebrity names Strictly Come Dancing producers have begun to announce.

From the surprising choice of Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine, to the inevitable soap sirens Kellie Bright and Georgia May Foote down to the bookies’ fave and perennially sunny weather presenter Carol Kirkwood with the added glamour of Katie Derham and Peter Andre thrown in, the line up already promises to get Strictly fans and viewers in a spin.

Glitterballs are on standby...
Glitterballs are on standby…

Several more names are yet to be made public knowledge but the Strictly pro dancers are also ramping up their levels of excitement: juts as keen as sofa-based fans of the show to learn who they’ll take to the floor with.

With Kevin Clifton who danced into the final three with Frankie Bridge last year tweeting, ‘A-ma-zing few days of @bbcstrictly group choreography. What a series this is going to be! Another level. Love my job’ – he made the feelings in the Strictly pro camp very clear.

Plans are afoot for the spectacular that the Strictly Come Dancing launch show always promises to be so stay tuned for more news direct from the dance floor!





Has Strictly’s romantic curse struck again?

No once can fail to miss the latest collection of Strictly headlines. This time, the love affairs on public display concern 2013 contestant Ben Cohen – now separated from his wife – and his professional dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff.

While I’m not going to speculate on Ben and Kristina themselves, fans of Strictly can’t help but recall the so-called ‘Curse of Strictly’. Since the show’s first series, countless celebrities have seen their relationships flounder and celebs and their pro dance partners have waltzed off into the sunset together more than a few times.

Back in 2004, series 1 of Strictly Come Dancing saw sizzling chemistry between Brendan Cole and Natasha Kaplinsky that marked their route to the final. But their victory came at a cost: Brendan was engaged to another pro Camilla Dallerup at the time and, sadly for her, his chemistry with Natasha wasn’t just for the cameras.

Strictly business?
Strictly business?

Matt Di Angelo and Flavia Cacace sailed into Strictly finals in 2007, buoyed up by their obvious crushes on each other – despite the fact Flavia was attached to fellow professional dancer Vincent Simone at the time. After they came second, Matt and Flavia took their relationship off screen and dated for two years. Flavia found love on the dance floor again when she was partnered with Jimi Mistry on the 2010 show and it was third time lucky: the couple married in December 2013.

No one can forget the instant attraction between Kristina Rihanoff and retired boxer Joe Calzaghe when he brought his footwork to the dance floor in 2009. While their dancing partnership only lasted until week five, Joe split from his longterm girlfriend Jo-Emma and he and Kristina stepped out together for more than three years.

Denying any connection other than dance is also a well-worn trick of celebrity contestants on Strictly. Actress Ali Bastian was adamant she and pro dancer Brian Fortuna were simply friends during 2009’s series but the duo, who finished third, went on to partner up romantically when the show ended. And anyone with half an eye couldn’t fail to miss the growing attraction between 2010 winners Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev. While audiences were blown away by their technique and chemistry and kept voting for them, they constantly praised each other, cosied up on the It Takes Two sofa and their dancing gave way to something more permanent. However, as it turns out, their trophy outlasted their romance and Kara and Artem split last year.

Some celebs, meanwhile, keep a lid on any romantic inclinations until after the glitter ball has been lifted. Rachel Riley took to the ballroom as a recently married woman in 2013. Partnered with Pasha Kovalev, Rachel and Pasha kept dancing until week six. But several months later, it turned out their friendship had blossomed into love and the pair are still partnered up now.

It might seem strange to imagine your other half in the clutches of a beautiful, toned, tanned(!) dancer but that’s the reality celebrity spouses have to face. And while each contestant may maintain that their dancing partnership is strictly business, the extended hours of one-on-one training, ever more intimate routines, coping with the pressure of a live TV show and taking the Strictly journey together forges a bond no one else can understand.

We can only wait and see which celebrities and dancers will me making their moves for the 2015 season. But, it’s fair to say, that behind every celebrity contestant there’s probably a supportive husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend crossing their fingers that any chemistry will be kept for the cameras.




Place your bets: this year’s rumours on the dancefloor

The moment I receive my first bookies’ odds email about the celebrities possibly preparing to strut their stuff on Strictly Come Dancing, I get ballroom butterflies.

It all harks back to my days on the celeb desk of a weekly mag: wondering who might take part was often discussed in late summer and the Strictly launch was always a huge event as we thrust our dictaphones at unsuspecting celebs then furiously typed up interviews ready to make the next week’s issue.

As well as a couple of sportsmen, TV beauties, the clear comic figure as well as one or two pop stars who everyone secretly knew could dance, there was always the star who won everyone over plus the celeb you knew Craig Revel Horwood would just hate, darling.

So, this year with the suggestion celebrity power couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan might be doing a Gabby and Kenny Logan (from series five) and joining the show, has got me hoping that this bookies’ prediction is odds on to come true. As well as Richard and Judy, This Morning co-hosts – and married couple – Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes have also been rumoured to take part.

Several sources have hinted that the same names might be lacing up their dancing shoes. Miranda star Tom Ellis is one star whose name keeps popping up; chatshow supremo and Alan Titchmarsh could definitely secure the menopause vote, and now his ITV contract is over, could Adrian Chiles swap football for fancy footwork?

Sequin season is almost upon us
Sequin season is almost upon us

As ever, the wannabe movers and groovers will remain under wraps for now. But this is our cue to get glitter-ball ready and start looking forward to Strictly season.