In an exclusive photoshoot and interview in HELLO! magazine, married Strictly Come Dancing pro dancers Neil and Katya Jones tell how a long-held dream is coming true which will see them walking down the aisle again. This time everyone is invited, as the big day is one of the scenes in their new hotly anticipated stage show that is based on their lives. "I even get to wear the same dress again, the one I wore on the evening of our wedding," Katya told HELLO! of Somnium: A Dancer’s Dream at London’s Sadler’s Wells which covers the highs and lows of their extraordinary journey to become World Latin Showdance Champions. "I had always wanted to create my own show," said Neil, 36, "Now, finally to see our dreams on stage come true is exciting."
Strictly's Katya Jones is going to be wearing her wedding dress again
As they join us for this exclusive photoshoot and interview together, the pair are buzzing – not just with the plans for their show but also the recent news that they have both been confirmed for the next series of Strictly this autumn. "I didn't think I would love being on Strictly so much. I didn’t think that world would be for me, but it is everything that I love. I love teaching,
that is my favourite part of the journey," said Katya, who won the 2017 series with ex-Holby City actor Joe McFadden. She hopes Neil will get his first celebrity partner this year: "I think he would love it. I feel Neil could partner any character, any age, any ability, he would come up with something so creative."
She is not alone in her praise for Neil, who has been teaching since he was 15 and now runs a dance school with Katya close to where they live in Hampshire with their shih tzu-chihuahua-poodle, Crumble. Neil explained: "I am happy with whatever happens but of course I would love to have a celebrity partner. It is nice as each year the support gets stronger and stronger. There is that one day when the pros go into the room and meet all the celebrities and I've felt that a bit. The celebrities have sometimes said: 'So, who do you hope to dance with?' I say: 'I don't get anyone,' and they are like: 'Oh, okay,' while I think I wish I did." So who would be his dream partner? "I would love to dance with the Queen."
Neil reveals he'd love a partner on this year's Strictly
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Katya and her most recent celebrity partner, comic Seann Walsh, ended up front page news after they were pictured kissing and embracing after a long day of rehearsals. "We knew we just had to sort it out ourselves," says Katya of how she coped
with the fallout. "It was quite shocking to be suddenly so exposed and everyone has an opinion on it but we just wanted to focus on us."
Katya was, of course, upset at the extent of the hurt to Neil and their families. "My first thought was for Neil," she said. But he told us: "I think, for me, I can accept people make mistakes. I came from a divorced family and my mum was always strong, and said: 'People make mistakes in their lives. Don’t react, try to understand.' So that is how it always is for me. When our family contacted us seeing something that has happened and that’s not nice, but they said: 'We know you and we still love you, we know you have made a mistake.'"
Katya will be a beautiful bride once again
"That is what helped us get through it," agreed Katya. "We only focused on people who know and love us." Her husband added: "All the way through people were saying: 'Neil isn’t saying anything,' but I didn’t need to. People don’t know Katya like I do." Katya says: "I look at everything as a massive learning process. We had never had to deal with paparazzi outside the house and people getting into our private world before. "I thought: 'I am strong enough, I am a strong Russian woman, nothing is going to affect me.' But actually drop by drop, people typing horrible and unkind things about you, does affect you. The hate I felt made me very sad. Neil told me: 'Stop reading, stop looking.' I knew I had to focus on what I do best, my dancing, my choreography, my job to the best of my ability." "I didn’t want any hate directed at Katya. I saw how it was eating away at her,
" said Neil.
"Being ginger I have quite a tough skin. I've grown up so used to other kids calling out Ginger and the jokes: 'The future's bright, the future's orange,' and: 'Neil Neil, orange peel.' I had everything said to me, then I was a dancer so even my teacher at school used to make fun of me. That's why I was so protective of Katya." It's been that way from the moment they met in Blackpool more than ten years ago, after Katya arrived from Russia in search of the perfect dance partner. "I didn’t understand English very well," she recalled. "Suddenly this whole world opened up to me, top coaches, top-level dancers, and I was like: 'Help me,' and Neil was there for me. He always has been."
Katya was born in St Petersburg: "But it is all so complicated. My mum is Korean and was born in Kazakhstan and only speaks Russian and she came to St Petersburg to study at university, where she met my dad." It was Katya’s passion for dance – and
playing piano – that brought her to England. "I was just a girl from Russia looking for a partner and Neil was an established dancer, everyone knew the name Neil Jones." Neil chipped in modestly: "Mainly because most dancers dyed their hair black. I was the only ginger dancer so that helped a lot." Their backgrounds could not be more different: "I was born in Germany, my dad was in the army so I was born in a military base there. I was actually born in an antenatal class. My mum said: 'I'm having a baby,' and they said to her: 'Yes we all are,' and she said: 'No I am literally having a baby now,'" he laughed. His father comes from Middlesbrough and his mother’s family were Irish travellers. "I had no idea what Irish travellers even are," smiled Katya. It didn't take long – just a couple of months – before their spark on the dancefloor turned into romance, and success for the four-time world champions.
"It's more excitement than nerves"
With the Strictly Professionals tour and rehearsals for Somnium – which started life as a one-off show at last year's Lichfield Festival – are the nerves about to kick in? "It's more excitement than nerves," said Katya. "I say it is like when you buy someone a present and you think you've smashed it. Just before they open it, you start doubting: 'Oh no they are going to hate it.' Then they open it and love it. It is like that with the show - just as the curtain goes up, you think: 'What if they don’t like it?' But then as soon as you get the reaction from the audience, well that is the best feeling ever."
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