Strictly Come Dancing stars Nikita Kuzman, Pasha Kovalev, Graziano Di Prima, Nadiya Bychkova and Karim Zeroual come to Portsmouth Guildhall in Here Come The Boys

If Graziano Di Prima had any doubts as to the regard in which he’s held as a dancer, the schedule for the upcoming nationwide tour of Here Come The Boys should have given his confidence a further boost.

Thursday, 9th June 2022, 4:11 pm

On July 9, Graziano, aka the Italian Stallion, will marry his long-time girlfriend and fellow dancer, Giada Lini, 31, in his native Sicily.

The couple got engaged in 2019 when he proposed to her on May 7, his 26th birthday, on stage in Watford – much to the delight of the cheering audience – during the tour of dance show, Burn the Floor.

They twice had to postpone the wedding but now they will wed plum in the middle of the Here Come The Boys tour.

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Here Come The Boys is at Portsmouth Guildhall on June 15, 2022. Picture by The TCB Group

So how many performances will he be missing?

‘None,’ he says, ‘they arranged the tour around the wedding.’

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What’s more, Giada will also be dancing on the 30-date tour.

Here Come The Boys is at Portsmouth Guildhall on June 15, 2022. Picture by Colin Thomas

It begins here at the Portsmouth Guildhall on June 15 and finally comes to rest at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal on July 24.

Graziano, 28, made his name as a dancer when he became an Italian Latin Champion and represented Belgium at the World Championships.

He first joined Strictly in 2018 when he partnered TV and radio presenter Vick Hope.

‘It completely changed my life. I come from a small town in Sicily where my parents work in the vineyards.

Here Come The Boys is at Portsmouth Guildhall on June 15, 2022. Picture by Colin Thomas

‘When I first started dancing, my dad said he thought there was something wrong with me.

‘Then, when the invitation came to join Strictly, I practically fell off my chair.

‘My parents flew to the UK to watch me dance.

‘The camera found my dad in the audience and tears were streaming down his face. Now he understood what dancing meant to me.’

Here Come The Boys, in exactly the same way as it was at the Palladium last year, will be presented by Karim Zeroual, 28, who was a runner-up on Strictly with pro dancer Amy Dowden in 2019 – achieving the first perfect score of the series along the way with their incredible jive.

Best known as a CBBC presenter, he appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium where he made his West End debut aged six.

‘So I can’t describe,’ he says, ‘how happy I was to be back in that beautiful theatre.

‘I never dreamt that I’d get the chance to perform there again. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life.’

Now he’ll get to tour with the show, something last time round denied by the pandemic.

‘What I love about Here Come The Boys is that it encompasses every form of dancing: ballroom, jive, street dance, contemporary, Latin, you name it. There’s something for everyone.

‘It’s such a high-energy show, one big party featuring so much talent and a brilliant choreographer in Gareth Walker.

‘And I have the honour of hosting the show which means I get to speak to the audience and get them involved.’

It’s second time round, too, for Strictly veteran, Pasha Kovalev.

As a Strictly professional dancer, Pasha’s record of 13 perfect scores remains a Strictly record. He was also the second dancer to reach the finals three times with partners Chelsee Healey, Kimberley Walsh and Caroline Flack.

‘What I particularly like about this show is that every performance is slightly different.

‘It feels like you’re creating something new each time. We take our lead from the audience and that makes it a lot of fun.

‘There’s a sort of ping-pong between the stage and the auditorium. It’s one of the reasons I like touring so much.’

But it means, of course, that his two small daughters – Maven is two, Noa just eight months – will be left at home with his Countdown maths whizz wife, Rachel Riley.

‘That’s right – the downside is that they can’t come on tour with me.

‘I absolutely love dancing but it’s tough leaving the family at home especially after all those months of the pandemic when I was with them all the time.

‘But they’ll be in the best hands and my mum, Galina, is staying so she helps out.’

In the Covid-hit months, he got together with Anya Garnis, his long-time Latvian professional dance partner since they both moved to America in 2001 and then on to the UK.

‘We raised money for fellow artists hit hard by the effects of the pandemic by performing an online charity event on World Theatre Day back in March.’

He’s 42 now. What about keeping fit?

‘I’m not a great one for the gym; I prefer to work out at home and do a bit of yoga.

‘But, because I danced in Here Come the Boys before, I can rely to some extent on muscle memory. My body knows what to do.’

And when the tour is over?

‘Plenty of sunshine, please, and warm sea somewhere.

‘Not sure which country yet but a holiday with the family is my goal.’

Before finding fame in the UK with Strictly, Ukrainian-born Nikita Kuzman and his family moved to Italy when he was nine years-old, where he eventually became a six-time Italian Champion in Latin and Ballroom before joining the German version of Strictly as a professional dancer.

The 24-year-old makes no bones about what joining the hit TV show means to him.

‘Joining Strictly last year,’ he says, ‘changed everything. I was born in Ukraine and lived and danced in three other countries – Italy, Denmark and Germany – before coming to the UK.

‘But it was Strictly that made me feel 100 per cent me.

‘I’ve never been as creatively challenged as I was on that first series – and I couldn’t have been luckier in having Tilly Ramsay as my first partner.

‘It felt like a match made in heaven.

‘We then were part of the live tour which was a huge thrill.’

Now, he’s the newbie in the line-up for Here Come The Boys and he couldn’t be happier.

Because they went to the same dancing school in Italy, he already knew Graziano and Nadiya before he joined Strictly.

Now, he’s getting to know Pasha and Karim.

‘What is so impressive about the line-up is the diversity everyone brings to the show.’

And, finally, here comes the girl…

This is Nadiya Bychkova’s second shot at Here Come The Boys and she’s delighted.

The Ukrainian-Slovenian dance star is a two-time World Champion and European Champion in Ballroom and Latin ‘10’ Dance.

Having made her Strictly Come Dancing debut in 2017, Nadiya’s Strictly partners have included David James, Lee Ryan, Davood Ghadami and Dan Walker.

‘It was an amazing experience,’ she says, ‘and it was lovely to be part of the first show opening up The Palladium again following the pandemic.

‘The first night was very emotional. Now, I can’t wait to repeat the experience plus, this time, we get to go on tour.’

Will her boyfriend and fellow Strictly professional, Kai Widdrington, come to some of the shows?

‘Oh, I’m sure he will,’ she says.

‘We support each other.’

As to whether she and Kai will put together a show of their own and take it on the road, Nadiya remains tight-lipped.

In the meantime, she’s been very busy on the Strictly Live tour and the recently completed the Pro tour. ‘All of that requires a lot of careful planning so I can get to see my daughter, Mila, who’s six in June, as much as I can.

‘But much nicer to be too busy than not busy enough.

‘And I’ll be back on Strictly this autumn so I’ve barely got a day off for the rest of this year.’

She’s not complaining.

‘I love to work hard and I love to dance. So I consider myself very lucky.’

And no, she’s not remotely fazed, she says, about being the only leading female in the line-up for Here Come The Boys.

‘The trick is to make it look as though the men are in charge. But then,’ she adds, eyes sparkling ‘isn’t that what women have been doing for men since the beginning of time?’

Here Come The Boys is at Portsmouth Guildhall on Wednesday, June 15, 7pm. Tickets £29.75 - £49.53. A ‘meet and greet’ package with the stars is also available.