Strictlys Anton Du Beke recalls life before finding fame on dancefloor

Strictly Come Dancing judge Anton Du Beke is a bonafide show original, having starred on it as a pro dancer since its conception in 2004.

The 57 year old is the only professional dancer to appear in every Strictly series so far – before moving to the judging panel in 2021, for its 19th season.

But life for Anton wasn't always quite so glamorous, as he recalled once working at a bakers at the age of 21, whilst dancing on the evenings and doing events.

Here's what Anton had to say as Strictly struts its way back to our television screens…

Strictly is back for its 21st series! How does it feel to return to the judging panel for such a monumental series?

I tell you what, I am naturally, brilliantly excited about the whole thing, I can't wait. For me it's just a magical time of year when Strictly returns to our screens. It always starts in the summer and goes into the autumn and winter. It's just brilliant. The excitement about Strictly Come Dancing coming back with all the celebrities and just being in the building with everybody milling around, delighted and happy and joyous and all the brilliant teams back together. It's so wonderfully exciting.

We’ve asked all the pros what they were doing when they were 21 – what were you doing when you were 21?

I would have been dancing, competing, practising and flying about trying to get better, that was my life really. I have literally been dancing every day of my life and also at 21 I think I was working in a bakery. I would have started work at the bakery at 3 o'clock in the morning, and then dancing at night and competing at weekends. Baker by day, dancer by night!

There's so much excitement when Strictly comes back – what do you think keeps audiences tuning in?

It's so multi layered and, I don't want to repeat myself too much, but it is just brilliant because there's so much about it you can love. Firstly, it's the best of the best, there is so much on the show you can enjoy.

Obviously you will want to know who the celebrities are, some you'll know and some you won't know as well, and audiences will get a favourite immediately so that's always exciting in the first show. The music's amazing, the Judges are brilliant, Tess and Claudia are incredible, the frocks are fantastic, then you have all of sets and the lighting! The show is so multi-generational as well.

What is the biggest joy from your job as a Strictly judge?

The biggest joy is being part of it and turning up every week. It's a real surprise and a fortune that I've been a part of the show since the beginning, and there’s only Craig, Tess and I left from the very first series and to have been part of a show that is part of the fabric of British consciousness – and the world’s, it’s such a global show – is sort of overwhelming, if I think about it too deeply it blows my mind. To be a part of that since the beginning, I feel massive pride. I love it now as much as I did then and I'm delighted about that as well.

And the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is eliminating somebody and sometimes it’s tighter than you'd want it to be, but that's the job and that's what I’m there for, so that is the most challenging part. Trying to be encouraging, trying to help people – that's the fun part.

If you could only dance one kind of dance style for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Probably a ballroom dance of some sort I’d imagine, taking a lady into my arms and dancing together. However, if I could do one thing more now, I’d like to become a better tap dancer because I don’t tap as well as I’d like, and I’d like that skill.

Do you have one standout dance or celebrity dancer from last year’s Strictly?

Helen Skelton and Gorka’s couples choice dance to Mein Herr and Hamza did some numbers that were staggering, but for pure dancing and precision Helen’s was the standout moment from last year for me.

Strictly returned to Blackpool last year after some time away, how was it, and does it make you excited to return this year? Oh wasn't it brilliant?! It's such a massive production and we all go up to Blackpool and then rig it all up and it takes ten days, I mean it’s a huge thing, but it's so worth it! It's a wonderful moment in the series as well, but it means so much more than just going to Blackpool, we're going for the tower ballroom which is such an iconic venue.

We’ve got 19 brilliant pros this series, how would you sum up their contribution in making the show what it is?

Oh epic, the pros make it what it is, I've always felt this really. They're the ones to put the content for the show on the floor, they perform the group dances, they choreograph their celebrity routines, and they work with the celebrities to get the best out of them. The pros are extraordinary talents and remarkable performers.

Is there a song that will never fail to get you on the dance floor at weddings and parties?

Dancing Queen by ABBA.

Finally, is there anything you're particularly excited about for this series of Strictly Come Dancing?

Just all of the above, although I am really excited about the judges' number at the beginning. What I would love to do one year, is to do a dance with one of the professionals for one of the artist numbers like I used to. There’s nothing quite like performing, it’s magical, the thing about dancing with a celebrity is you get voted off, and that’s the bit I hated!

Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday 23 September at 6.15pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer

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