ANTON DU BEKE won many national and international dance titles with his partner Erin Boag but these days he’s all about enjoyment rather than competition.
That’s probably just as well for someone who’s had the misfortune of having to try and teach the likes of Ann Widdecombe and Esther Rantzen to be graceful on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing dancefloor.
“That’s my goal when I partner someone on Strictly, that they’ll have a nice time and enjoy it,” says Anton. “If they do, of course, it helps them give a good performance, but for me, whatever their result, I want them to look back and say, ‘I had a great time.’”
The Kent-born star of ballroom has also danced with Lesley Garrett, Patsy Palmer, Jan Ravens, Kate Garraway, Gillian Taylforth, Laila Rouass, Nancy Dell ‘Olio, Jerry Hall and Fiona Fullerton on the hit TV series.
Whoever he is partnered with he attempts to put them at their ease from the start.
“When I’m dancing with any woman, I immediately get rid of intimacy barriers,” says Anton. “I just give her a big hug and crack on.
“It helps that I ‘get’ how difficult it is for non-professionals, dancing so close to someone. I just want my partner to feel comfortable.”
Anton, who brings his own Ballroom To Broadway show to Guildford next week, has never won Strictly, despite taking part in every show since it started in 2004. The closest he has come is third with Lesley Garrett, but he says it doesn’t matter.
“It may sound clichéd, but Strictly is a real journey,” he explains. “I try to encourage my partner to stay in as long as they can, but above all to enjoy it.
“I don’t mind that none of them have been tipped as favourites – the sporty ones and professional performers will always have the edge. My theory is that journalists like Esther [Rantzen] and Kate [Garraway] are ‘neck-up’ people – they’re terrible when it comes to using their bodies, but what goes on in their heads is genius.”
Anton became a professional dancer, with partner Erin Boag, 11 years ago, and they enjoyed success competing round the world, but he says appearing on Strictly has changed his life.
“I’m busier than ever and it’s led to new opportunities. But I’ve never worried about being rich or famous – for me, it’s all about the dancing.”
And could he take over as Strictly host from Bruce Forsyth?
“I’d be happy to take centre stage and replace Bruce as host of Strictly, but how would I fill his shoes?” he exclaims. “It would be a massive challenge – he’s the greatest man on TV.”
In the meantime, Anton will trip the light fantastic in Ballroom To Broadway at G Live in Guildford on Saturday, January 18.
He will be joined by special guest Summer Strallen and the show will feature classic dances and conjure up the elegance of ballroom at its best and the razzle dazzle of Broadway.
This duo will perform to toe-tapping tunes such as You’re the Top, Anything Goes, Opus One, Rhythm of Life, Hushabye Mountain and Begin the Beguine.
Joining Anton will be ensemble dancers, featuring Faye Huddleston, and the Raymond Gubbay Big Band Orchestra.