Hit show Strictly Come Dancing has turned dozens of famous faces into stars of the ballroom. But with more than eight million viewers tuning in each weekend, the Saturday night extravaganza has also made celebrities of the professional dancers. hello! has reunited four former fan favourites, Ian Waite, Artem Chigvintsev, Robin Windsor and Vincent Simone, for this exclusive photoshoot as the quartet tell how the show has shaped their lives.
Popular Strictly pros have reunited to talk about their time on the show
“Strictly shook my life upside down,” says Russian-born Artem – now based in Los Angeles, where he is dating former WWE wrestler Nikki Bella after meeting on the show’s US version, Dancing with the Stars. “The show gave me so many opportunities. I’m very grateful. But if I hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have met my beautiful girlfriend.”
Artem had also found love on the British version. His dancefloor partnership with Kara Tointon turned to romance after the pair won the 2010 series. But four years later the spark had fizzled out and he headed across the Atlantic to join the US show. He says he was “shocked” to find the US series wouldn’t be asking him back this year, but the 37-year-old is now working with Nikki on reality show Total Bellas. He is also in talks to appear in other stage and TV productions.
Vincent Simone spoke to HELLO!
Robin, whose partners included DJ Sara Cox and actresses Anita Dobson and Lisa Riley during four years on the main show until 2013 – he was also in three Christmas specials – was invited to perform at this year’s Festival of Remembrance in front of the Queen. “I was more than honoured,” he says. “I don’t think I have ever been so nervous.” He is still a huge fan of Strictly and recently watched an episode together with Artem. “It was a surreal moment,” says Artem. “Who would have thought that many years later we would be watching Strictly on television. We live on opposite sides of the world but we’ve been best mates for over ten years.”
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ian Waite now appears on It Takes Two with former celebrity dance partner Zoe Ball
There’s no doubt that performing together on Strictly has given these four men a lifelong bond. Says Artem: “It’s like a big family, so when you step away from that, you miss it a lot. I also miss the Tube. And that feeling of being in a city. I also miss Television Centre, the original Strictly studio.”
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Vincent has also headed overseas. He has a home in Spain with his wife Susan and their two sons Luca and Matteo, but he often flies to the UK, where he still gets recognised. “But not as much as before, which is great – it used to get a bit much at times,” he says. “I remember going outside and being a bit concerned about who was watching me. Now I can stop and have a chat.”
Ian is still involved with the Strictly world as he appears on spin-off show It Takes Two, which is co-hosted by Zoe Ball – his celebrity dance partner in 2005, when they reached the final. Ian says all of his dance partners, who include Denise Lewis, Penny Lancaster and Jodie Kidd, have been “amazing in different ways”.
“But Zoe and I are like brother and sister,” he adds. “I love her so much. I’ve had highs and lows in my life and she’s always been there.” Ian was with Zoe when he had an unforgettable on-screen moment. “I fell over in the final when we were doing our showdance,” he says. “I was the first pro to fall over.
“But my funniest and most embarrassing moment was when I was being interviewed with Jodie Kidd on It Takes Two. Claudia [Winkleman] asked, ‘What do you hope from Jodie at the weekend?’ and I replied: ‘I just hope she produces her breast.’ Then I went: ‘Oh no, I mean “best”!’ and we were still all crying with laughter during the end credits.”
Vincent returned to the show this year as a choreographer for the Argentine tango routines, but he has no regrets at leaving the show’s dancefloor in 2013. “I always had this doubt in my mind: ‘Maybe I should have stayed longer?’ But when I went back a couple of years ago to teach the Argentine tango – that was when I realised I was happy to get in my car and not be thinking about the next day’s practice,” he tells us. “For the first five years of the show, I was fine, but for the last couple of years I was getting really nervous. I put too much pressure on myself – I don’t know why.”
Vincent and Ian will be dancing across Britain next year in a second run of their stage show The Ballroom Boys. But before that, Ian will be treading the boards in panto. He is playing Dandini in Cinderella in Worthing. And Robin is also hot-footing his way on to the stage, playing the title role in Aladdin in St Helens. “Kelvin Fletcher had to withdraw to do Strictly so I’ve stepped in,” he says.