Strictly Come Dancing's Ian Waite and Vincent Simone are The Ballroom Boys at the Kings Theatre, Southsea BIG INTERVIEW
With hindsight, it seems like a blindingly obvious idea.
But it took a suggestion from Ian Waite’s dad to nudge him towards teaming up with fellow former Strictly Come Dancing professional Vincent Simone for a tour.
Both of the dancers appeared on the BBC’s prime-time juggernaut for seven years apiece and got to know each other well.
Since leaving the main show, neither has wanted for work – Vincent toured a series of successful shows with his professional partner Flavia Cacace, while Ian also toured, set up a dancing-based fitness programme, and also became a regular on Strictly’s sister show, It Takes Two, hosted by his former celebrity partner Zoe Ball.
‘Me and Vince knew each other before Strictly from the competitive scene,’ Ian explains, ‘then he joined Strictly in series four, and I had started in series two, so we worked together a lot on Strictly.
‘I toured a lot for the last few years, I toured a couple of times with Natalie Lowe, then I toured with Oti Mabuse last year, and then I was thinking who can I tour with this year?
‘I was trying to get my thinking cap on, and maybe thinking about which girls were available to tour this year – then my dad said something to me: “Well, why don’t you get one of the old pro boys and tour together?” And that got me thinking.
‘Luckily I had heard that Flavia was taking some time off, so I knew Vincent and Flavia weren’t touring. I gave Vincent a call and he loved the idea. I already the name of Ballroom Boys and he was quite excited about being able to interact with the audience and tell funny stories about what has happened. And just to be able to create our own show I think appealed to him as well, rather than being told: “This is what you’re doing”.’
The Ballroom Boys tour’s first leg took place in spring, with a break for summer before resuming next Friday for another 19 shows, including the Kings Theatre in Southsea on October 1 – and they're already planning another tour, ‘act two’ in 2020.
‘This year it’s a very intimate show, with Vincent talking for the first time – he’s obviously renowned for dancing with Flavia in their amazing tango shows, but he’s never been able to actually connect with the audience and to talk with them and that’s one of the great things about our show – we really get the audience involved a lot and it’s quite interactive.
‘It’s one of those shows where you don’t have to be a Strictly fan or a dance fan to enjoy it, because it’s very much a variety show with a bit of everything in it.
‘We’ve got a lot of song, a lot of dance, a lot of banter between me and Vince and a lot of jokes, a lot of stories from backstage on Strictly, and all the gossip, which is fun.’
Although it’s been eight years since Ian left the main show, he has remained part of the Strictly family with his weekly slot on It Takes Two where he casts his expert eye over how the rehearsals are going.
‘They asked me to do my own bit on It Takes Two and I thought that would be nice, I wasn’t really thinking of it as a cult slot, but now it’s been going on for eight years! I’ll be doing it again with Zoe this year, and we’ve got Rylan joining us too, which is exciting.
‘But I do miss the dancing, and I do miss the performing on the main show, but other than that, I don’t miss the rehearsals.
‘Those pros work so hard, and hats off to them, they start rehearsing towards the end of July and they don’t finish until Christmas – it’s a massive commitment.’
Although Ian made the final of Strictly twice, he never quite got his hands on the glitterball trophy. Does he regret leaving without winning?
‘No, not really, if you make the final, it’s like winning anyway. A lot of people think Zoe won but she came third in the final, so it’s one of those things. Vincent never won it either, but he’s made a massive name for himself and he’s a legend of dance.
‘It’s a pleasure to work with him – we’re kind of old school Strictly, we’re the old school Strictly tour, if you like, there’s not many of us left. I think Anton (du Beke) and Erin (Boag) are the only other show that’s old-school Strictly like us.’
Away from the stage, FitSteps, the ballroom and latin dance fitness programme he set up with Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and Natalie Lowe in 2013 has gone from strength-to-strength.
‘That’s going strong. We’re starting to launch all over the world now, we’re really busy in America, launching all sorts of bits and pieces over there, and in Britain we have over 1,000 instructors. We pretty much have a class near everybody. We’re getting so many people fit across the country, so I’m very proud of it. Hopefully FitSteps will be my legacy, not so much Strictly!’
Even though he is now 48, Ian’s not thinking about retiring from dance just yet.
‘I’m still pretty fit, I know lots of people get to a certain age and their body can’t do it any more. I was speaking to Robin Windsor (fellow former Strictly pro who retired last year) the other day and he was saying that’s it, no more dancing for him. He has back problems and his body just can’t do it any more, so he’s doing other things.
‘But while my body’s still fit... and I think it’s about how you look after yourself as well. I’m lucky in that I have FitSteps, so in the interim when I’m not touring, it means that I’m still keeping fit and I still teach classes in Wokingham.
‘If you maintain that level of fitness, you’re okay, when you let yourself go for a little bit, it’s harder to get back into it.’
For the chance to win a pair of VIP tickets to The Ballroom Boys show at the Kings Theatre on Tuesday October 1, including the chance to meet its stars, just answer this question: Who was Ian Waite’s celebrity partner on Strictly who now presents It Takes Two?
Send your answer with your name and a contact number by email to [email protected] by midnight on Thursday, September 26.
For full terms and conditions go to jpimedia.co.uk/competition-prize-draw-terms-and-conditions.
Tickets for the show cost from £29. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk.