Anton du Beke became a household name thanks to his dazzling dance moves and good humoured performances on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing.
And he can still remember when he was first bitten by the dancing bug.
‘I knew pretty quick that I liked dancing,’ says Anton.
‘When I was young, most boys my age wanted to win the FA Cup. I wanted to be successful as a dancer.
‘I would have loved to have been the next Fred Astaire but I wasn’t sure how to get there.
‘It wasn’t until Strictly that things changed for me.’
Anton’s childhood hero still plays a big part in his life today.
‘Fred Astaire is the guy I was most influenced by.
‘His style is really natural, it’s not affected, he makes dancing look like such a completely normal and natural thing to do.
‘His numbers are so clever and fun, I watch a lot of them when I’m preparing for my shows.’
The son of a Spanish mother and Hungarian father, it seems that Anton’s mixed cultural background had at least some influence on his passion for dance.
‘My parents don’t dance at all, but in Spain everyone dances and in Hungary – being an Eastern Bloc country – they have a strong artistic heritage and so maybe it all filtered down in a way to me,’ says Anton.
Appearing on Strictly for the first time was the real turning point in Anton’s dancing career. He appeared in the first series in 2004 dancing with Leslie Garrett and has been a regular fixture of the show ever since, partnering Ann Widdecombe, Jerry Hall, Nancy Dell’Olio and, most recently, Fiona Fullerton.
However, despite Anton’s undeniable dancing skills, the highest position he has ever achieved on the show is third, in his first series outing with Leslie Garrett.
Is victory something Anton still aspires to, or is the taking part what really counts?
‘It would be nice to win but it’s not the be all and end all.
‘It is difficult dancing with celebrities, you have to pitch it right.
‘You’ve got to be patient, it’s as much a challenge for me as it is for them!’
With all the stars he’s danced with, one in particular sticks out for Anton.
‘I had such a good time with Ann Widdecombe.
‘I wouldn’t have thought of dancing with her at first, but as long as you’ve got that nice relationship going you can dance with anyone,’ grins Anton.
Dancing on TV might seem to come naturally to Anton, but could he ever see himself on the other side of the judges’ table?
‘I think the easiest job on Strictly is being a judge,’ laughs Anton.
‘I would like to give constructive advice to people who are really trying. I would enjoy it, it would be fun.’
Anton’s dancing repertoire is wide and varied, as the star has turned his feet to everything from paso doble to tango on Strictly, but he does have a couple of personal favourites.
‘My favourite style is foxtrot, American smooth has elements of Fred and Ginger, but there’s nothing quite like a slow foxtrot,’ beams Anton.
‘I also love to tap dance.
‘I just do it for myself, you can dance on your own, it’s so much fun.
‘I started last year and it’s something I want to get back into. I love the rhythm.’
At the end of this month audiences will be able to enjoy the dapper tapper’s fleet footwork first-hand when Ballroom to Broadway comes to the Mayflower.
Anton’s all-singing and all-dancing tour is something that he has been eager to get on the road.
‘It’s got wonderful music, dancing and singing,’ he enthuses.
‘Classic tunes, great orchestra and influences from Fred Astaire.
‘There’s lots of energy, the orchestra is so big and the energy comes from that.
‘This is a real passion project. I’ve been really looking forward to doing it.’
Anton’s career now spans live performance, television and even books.
The dancing star’s appetitite for challenge keeps pushing him forward and he’s always open to new opportunities.
‘I’d like to do some film work, but I enjoy live and television work too,’ he adds,
‘I’d snap up film work if it came along though.
‘It’s something I haven’t done yet.
‘I have never been about looking back, I am always looking forward, I just want to move forward.
One move that Anton was particularly glad he made was from the captain’s chair on BBC1’s game show Hole in the Wall to being the host of the show for its second series.
The show required celebrity contestants to dress up in skin-tight Lycra suits and contort their bodies into strange positions in order to fit through holes in a polystyrene wall as it rushed towards them.
Contestants who failed to get into the right shape were unceremoniously dumped into a swimming pool by the moving wall and lost the chance to earn money for their chosen charity.
‘It was good to get out of the Lycra,’ quips Anton.
‘Trying to jump through holes in a polystyrene wall is more stressful than facing all of the judges on Strictly.
‘It’s a shame it stopped though. I would like to do more presenting.’
The figure-hugging suits from Hole in the Wall may have been at least partly to blame for one of Anton’s more dubious accolades, being voted 2011’s Rear Of The Year. But has the praise gone to his head?
‘It’s one of those things when your backside is more popular than your front,’ Anton chuckles.
‘But it’s nice to have won something.’
As the TV star prepares for his big UK tour with day after day of rehearsals, is there any advice he can offer to the budding Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers of the future?
‘Just keep practising - there is no substitute,’ says Anton
‘Have lessons from the best teacher you can find and practice like mad.You’ve got to love the practice, love the process and don’t turn it into a chore.’
WHERE AND WHEN
Anton du Beke appears in Ballroom to Broadway at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on January 26 at 3pm. Tickets: £19.50 to £41.50 Call 02380 711811 or visit mayflower.org.uk.