Anton du Beke: ‘I thought Ed Balls was absolutely remarkable’
13:00 02 February 2017
Anton du Beke talks to Zoe Paskett about being with Strictly Come Dancing from the start and dancing with Erin Boag
The ballroom dancing phenomenon that Strictly Come Dancing brought to the mainstream has permeated everywhere, whether it’s competing at university, taking swing dance classes or doing zumba at the gym.
While reality show audience numbers have been on a consistent decline, Strictly has steadily increased in popularity. The most recent series finale attracted 13.3 million viewers.
Apparently, the show is now so popular that workers at the National Grid tune in so they can prepare for the electricity surge that happens when everyone goes to make tea at the end.
When the show began, professional ballroom dancers weren’t widely known, but after the 14th series, they are just as famous as the celebrities they coach.
Anton du Beke has been there from the start and loves it just as much as he did in 2004.
“I’m still stunned that they don’t just do about 30 seconds and stand in the middle of the room and say ‘I honestly can’t remember what comes next’,” he says of the celebrities. “Because it’s so difficult to do what we do at any level of achievement. And I think the pros are pushing everyone more than they used to choreographically because things evolve. I just think it’s absolutely brilliant what they achieve.
“Take Ed Balls, a man who’s never been in show business. He was remarkable. I thought he was absolutely remarkable in what he achieved and in the way he did it.
“You can learn a number and you can pull it off and you can do it well but once your natural aptitude has reached that ceiling, you need technique and you really need to work on it.”
Throughout most of the show’s run, Anton has been paired with the celebrities with less of a natural aptitude for dance, making it all the more exciting for him when he reached the final in series 13 with broadcaster Katie Derham.
“Last year, when I danced with Katie, I would say from Blackpool up until the final, you could have picked any one of those people to win the show because they were all equally brilliant. So that was a remarkable year in that so many of them were so good.”
Outside of the show, Anton partners with another of the professional dancers, Erin Boag and has done since she moved from New Zealand in 1997.
“We’ve been doing it for about 20 years so there’s that familiarity, you just sort of crack on really. To be honest with you the ease isn’t so much in the studio, because things can get a bit tense; the ease comes when you’re on stage. She knows what I’m going to say or what I’m going to do and vice versa and you have that ease of partnership of having been together for so long.”
Anton and Erin have produced a number of live shows including “Anton and Erin Just Gotta Dance” and “Anton and Erin go to Hollywood”. The latest on the list is Swing Time, performed with six other dancers, the London Concert Orchestra and Strictly’s own singer, Lance Ellington. They’ll dance to songs such as Moondance, I Got Rhythm, Guys and Dolls and Strike Up The Band.
They always follow the show with a Q&A to give them a chance to speak to the audience. Anton says that he is delighted when he meets people and sees the impact that Strictly has had on the British public.
“It’s about having fun. You don’t all have to be top class competitive dancers, you can just go and enjoy yourselves and have a bit of a dance. We all love to dance the problem is we just don’t know what we’re doing. So as soon as we find a bit of form in what we try to do, we love it.
“I love it. It’s a ridiculous thing to say really: ‘I love it’. I love playing golf. Dancing is what I do.”
Despite the fact that Anton has been dancing for such a long time, he’s conscious never to let the quality slide, even if he knows he’d be able to get away with it.
“I’ve seen people over the years in all forms of show business get away with just being themselves, and that’s fine, but for me I just feel like people can see through me…they can see into my soul! Which of course they can’t. But I’m always trying my best and trying to grow.
“I still feel the same way about dancing badly as I’ve always done. I hate it when I dance badly or when I don’t look good in my eyes. I get really grumpy! So I’m still trying to do my best and pushing myself and I think that’s really important.”
Anton and Erin: Swing Time is at the Barbican on February 11 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets available from raymondgubbay.com