Strictly Come Dancing 2018 winner Kevin Clifton on bringing ‘Burn the Floor’ to Reading

PUBLISHED: 10:48 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 05 March 2019

Kevin Clifton (Photo by Chris Mann)

Kevin Clifton (Photo by Chris Mann)

copyright chris mann

Strictly Come Dancing winner Kevin Clifton is coming to Reading as he headlines the world’s leading ballroom dance show, Burn the Floor. We caught up with him to hear all about it

Fresh off the back of his Strictly Come Dancing win with partner Stacey Dooley, professional dancer Kevin Clifton is going on tour with Burn the Floor, a “show that ignited a spark” in him and, he says, “changed me forever as a performer”. Kevin will be joined by Strictly’s newest pro, Italian heart-throb, Graziano Di Prima, and you can see them at the Hexagon in Reading in 2019.

Congratulations to you and Stacey for becoming the Strictly Come Dancing champs!

Thank you! It was an unbelievable night; it still sounds so strange being called a Strictly winner when I am so used to being called runner-up! We really didn’t think we were going to win, so we just set out to enjoy ourselves. I’m so proud of Stacey, she is a superstar!

After six years on the show, with you reaching the final four times, you must have hoped it’d be fifth time lucky?

With Stacey having never danced before, I thought we would be in the dance-off very early on, but we were never in the dance-off at all, which is incredible, and it’s all down to Stacey. She just wanted to get as much out of the Strictly experience as possible and she was 100 per cent committed to it.

We are looking forward to your Burn the Floor tour. How has the show changed you?

After dancing since the age of four as a result of having dancing parents, all I knew my whole life was ballroom competitions. I’d never really experienced working on character and storytelling. As soon as I joined Burn The Floor I was working not just with my dance partner but with an entire cast of big characters. We worked on the emotional dynamics of the group on stage, how we move in relation to each other in accordance with each little storyline. We were also given a tremendous amount of rope to explore our own style of movement. We were allowed to really express ourselves in ways I never felt I could within the confines and restrictions of the competition world. Working with Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby inspired me in a big way and I feel my dancing quickly got a lot more interesting. I don’t think I’d be dancing today if I hadn’t found Burn The Floor when I did.

What are the physical challenges of going on tour?

I don’t find the touring itself too difficult; I’ve spent a lot of time doing it so I’m used to the lifestyle. The show is extremely physically demanding. It’s relentless in its energy and now that I’m 36 not 25 it’s more important than ever to look after my body.

Tell us more about Graziano, the Strictly newbie who is joining you on tour…

Graziano has been a fantastic addition to Strictly this year. I think he’s a great dancer but also he’s a great guy to be around. He’s a real team player and loved by everyone he works with. This is so important when working within a cast. It’s challenging for me to be working with dancers like him as he will keep pushing me to want to improve and give my best at all times.

How do you think Strictly has impacted the public’s perception of dancing?

Ballroom dancing is cooler now than it’s ever been. I think the resurgence of the style started with Burn the Floor and that has paved the way for shows like Strictly. Guys who I went to school with used to think what I did was strange but they are now interested in learning how to do it.

Did you ever think you’d be on people’s TV screens with a heart-throb status?

I always thought my career would be in competitions and then teaching. After I found Burn The Floor I thought it would only be in theatre. It’s been crazy since joining Strictly that now lots of people seem to be interested in what I’m doing. I sometimes get embarrassed when I get lots of attention. I also feel fortunate as it has opened up a lot of doors for me to explore other projects I’m interested in. I wouldn’t describe myself as a heart-throb, especially dancing next to Graziano!

You’ve been doing Strictly for years now − how do you keep so enthusiastic about it?

I just love it. It’s a really fun show with a great atmosphere. I love the challenge every year of a new celeb to teach. Also, to be honest, I love how relentless it is. There’s something addictive to me about a big job that’s really hard work where I’m required to put a lot of hours, energy and effort in. It makes me tick.

Who is your favourite judge?

I love all the judges in their own way, even Craig, who is often very harsh on me, but I think he really gets the show and is passionate about what he likes and doesn’t like. Shirley is great for giving constructive criticism as she is so knowledgeable and experienced in our style.

What are Tess and Claudia like?

So lovely. After every dance you are judged in public by the panel so Tess and Claudia feel like the people who are on your team. They are great with everyone and so supportive and encouraging.

What’s been your best dance?

I have different favourites from the various series. The Paso with Susanna Reid was a massive turning point for me. The Tango to Defying Gravity with Frankie Bridge will always be one of my favourites. The Star Wars Charleston and Samba to Boom Shake the Room with Kellie Bright. The Argentine tango with Louise Redknapp is one of the highest quality dances I’ve done on the show. The Quickstep with Susan Calman; she was just wonderful. This series with Stacey, my favourite was the commercial street routine we did to Empire State of Mind, where we combined the vibe, style and storytelling of Fred and Ginger with a new commercial style of dance. I was so proud of the way Stacey performed it.

Describe your ideal day off…

I find it a little difficult to switch off. I’m a bit of a workaholic. But if I do manage to relax all I want to do is watch football.

Do you go out dancing for fun?

I hate dancing outside of performing. I never dance on a night out!

Any goals for the future?

I have many different projects for the future. I don’t like pigeonholing myself into one thing. Susan Calman and I are writing a TV drama. My sister and I are forming a production company to produce theatre projects of our own. We are also branching out our parents’ dance school to produce online dance lessons at Clifton Dance Academy Online. This year I’m also performing the role of Stacee Jaxx in the musical Rock of Ages.

Tell us a secret…

I can’t ride a bike.

What motto do you live by?

It’s not about doing nothing wrong, it’s about doing something magical.

Who inspires you?

My biggest performance inspiration is Robbie Williams.

See Burn the Floor on 20 May 2019 at Reading Hexagon;

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