Anton Du Beke is one of the most instantly recognisable figures in the world of Ballroom dance today. Through his involvement in ‘Strictly’, he is proud to have played a part in a phenomenon that has brought dancing not only back into favour, but also on to primetime television – and into the hearts of the nation too.
Anton’s interest in dance started at the age of fourteen when he was sent to a local dance class in Sevenoaks, Kent, to meet his sister one evening. Classes soon began and he was hooked, realising that this was the direction he wanted to take. He studied Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz and Modern theatre dance. Quite the sportsman and highly competitive, Anton was also a junior boxer, played county football and enjoyed golf. Nevertheless, he gave all that up – bar the golf, of course – preferring to be in a dance class full of girls!
After leaving school at sixteen he worked a number of day-jobs to fund his dance training – stepping out onto the dancefloor in the evenings to develop his talent. At seventeen he was specialising in Ballroom and already competing as an amateur, naturally favouring the Foxtrot: classy, ultimately stylish and romantic — traits of his Hollywood idol, Fred Astaire, that rang true with Anton from an early age.
Fate was to play a guiding hand in 1997 when Anton & Erin met. The pair soon began competing professionally, winning many national and international awards. Little did they know they were destined for far greater starlight and exposure than they could ever have imagined.
With the advent of Strictly Come Dancing, Anton’s life completely changed: he was transported from the competition circuit directly into the living rooms of the nation. Anton loves being involved with the show, acknowledging it to have been the most wonderful experience. Firmly believing you get out of it what you put in, he certainly puts all his energy, passion and dancing skill into it — and his female celebrity dance partners would certainly agree.
Though still competitive, he admits that winning isn’t everything:
That’s my goal when I partner someone on Strictly, that they’ll have a nice time and enjoy it. 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.’
Having competed in all fourteen series aired to date, Anton has made ballroom queens of celebrities Lesley Garrett CBE, Esther Rantzen OBE, Patsy Palmer, Jan Ravens, Kate Garraway, Gillian Taylforth, Laila Rouass, Ann Widdecombe, Nancy Dell’Olio, Jerry Hall, Bond Girl Fiona Fullerton, ace tennis coach Judy Murray, BBC Prom Queen Katie Derham and currently in series 14, Birds Of A Feather actress Lesley Joseph.
It’s certainly his Series 8 pairing with former MP – and arguably one of Britain’s most famous women – Ann Widdecombe, that put Anton’s name on everyone’s lips and helped the show to achieve record viewing figures of 11.9 million in its weekly primetime slot. It’s even reputed that the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles as well as David Cameron tuned in to see Anton and Ann’s show-stopping performances – their flamboyant routines causing nothing short of a nationwide sensation!
Believing the world would be a better place if everyone learned to dance, Anton delights in sharing his passion and enthusiasm for dance with others, not just through his appearances and tuition, but also through his books ‘Anton’s Dance Class’ – a step-by-step guide to Ballroom and Latin dances, and ‘B is for Ballroom’ which will make an armchair expert of even the most novice dance fan.
Anton takes to the road each year to thrill sell out audiences across the country with a live tour. And next year is no exception: ‘Anton & Erin: Swing Time’ kicks off in January, and runs right through to April with almost forty shows. Tickets are available now from Raymond Gubbay.
For me, my biggest thrill is
having the opportunity to share my knowledge, experience and love of Ballroom dancing.