STRICTLY COME DANCING ensures there’s dance fever on BBC One every weekend.
Aliona Vilani is its most successful pro dancer, winning twice during her seven-year stay. Reigning champ Aliona triumphed last year with The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness – and immediately announced she was leaving. The pair will be in Scotland from November 15 to 19 for Keep Dancing at the Edinburgh Playhouse.
Everything about Strictly makes news, be it a bust-up between dancers Ola Jordan and Karen Clifton or Aliona’s former partner Gregg Wallace’s claims he’d have done better “if I was paired with someone who liked me”.
With their unrivalled backstage knowledge, Aliona and Jay give us the inside scoop – all Strictly confidential, of course.
Aliona – The Strictly Pressure Cooker
For every dancer and celebrity the pressure is different. There is so much pressure on the pros to come up with a concept, choreograph it, teach the celebrity and make sure everything goes to plan. It’s amazing when it all works out and it feels like every dance is your little baby because you’ve put so much into it.
It’s really sad when it goes wrong – but the biggest reward when it goes well. You want the judges to love what you do, but you also want the 13 million watching to love it. I never knew until I watched it back later whether or not I agreed with what the judges said.
Jay – The Star Selection Process
I’d performed on the show with The Wanted. They’d asked me to do the show a couple of times but I’d never really felt like I’d wanted to do it.
When I got the call again, I’d exhausted how much fun I could have just doing nothing after we finished with the band.
It was probably only a few months before we started rehearsals. I was a very late addition. But I know some of the people had known they were going to be doing it while the last series was still on.
I think the woman who looks at who would be a good match gets Christmas off and then gets right back to finding people of interest.
Aliona – Those Sexy Outfits
The costume department don’t want you to feel uncomfortable in any way on the dance floor. So if you have any concerns you can definitely voice it and if they can help they will.
You absolutely get a say.
It always depends on the dance.
I never thought, “I want a sexier costume”. I wanted it to fit with the mood of the dance and the movement.
Jay – That Strictly Career Boost
No one is thinking: “Wow, I’m going to be world famous after this one.” Maybe it’s in the back of people’s minds, but once you’re there you’re bombarded by this really hard-working team who know exactly what they’re doing and you don’t know at all. You’re just trying to keep up.
For the first four or five weeks your feet don’t touch the ground. You’re not told to portray yourself in a certain way, just to keep it family-friendly.
You know to always speak as though your grandparents and little sister are watching. A lot of fans say that being able to watch with anyone is what makes it.
Aliona – Backstage Bust-Ups
If there is anything that goes on, good or bad, on Strictly people always talk about it. We’ve never been told you can’t say this or that.
I wasn’t on rehearsal that day with Ola and Karen (who reportedly had a big row during practice for a group dance) so I genuinely don’t know what happened between them. I just heard about it later. I wish I had been there to make up my mind myself as to how serious it was. But everyone was absolutely fine after a week.
Jay – Burning The Midnight Oil
The lowest amount of rehearsal time I had for any dance was 12 hours in the week and the most was six hours a day. I wish I could have rehearsed through the night.
Everyone’s so scared. You’re not just learning a two-minute routine, you’re learning all the techniques and that takes ages. That’s what makes people make mistakes, become stressed and fight a lot harder.
Aliona – The Perfect Partner
It’s great when you get on with a partner. You hope for it – but you don’t always get it and that’s fine.
It’s a healthy, professional working environment and you don’t have to be best friends to do the job. The fact that Jay and I became such good friends and I loved every single dance was just a bonus.
Jay – Celebrity Bonding
It’s like any traumatic experience. If you go through it with other people it makes you all closer. When you see someone get harsh criticism from the judges for a mistake you understand how that feels.
We were so lovey-dovey with each other, it was like a hippy commune backstage. I’ve heard this year’s contestants are all really good dancers and all competitive. We were all holding on to each other for dear life!
Aliona – The Show Must Go On
One of the biggest backstage panics actually happened during our jive in week three which everyone went mad for.
When we were going over the routine beforehand, we realised Jay’s trousers had come undone at the bottom. They were covering his feet and he wouldn’t have been able to dance in them at all as he was stepping on them and slipping.
So, last second, everyone was panicking and I had to grab pins and pin them up. If you watch it back you can see them shining on the bottom of his trousers. Seriously, we got to where we started to dance seconds before and the panic was ridiculous. Everyone was hyperventilating.
Aliona – Baby Love Brought Strictly To An End
My husband Vincent and I got married about three years ago. We spoke about starting a family about two years ago. I thought 2014 would be the last one. Then I decided to do one more. So I knew last year would be it, regardless of what happened. If I’d went out in week one but I’d enjoyed it and got on with my partner, that would have been fine.
Winning was unbelievable and I couldn’t believe how perfect the ending to my seven years was.
But it was sad because I wasn’t just going to stop with Strictly, I was putting my dancing on hold.
My husband and I are moving to Florida. We’re buying a home now and we’re going to start a family.