Strictly's Kevin Clifton will be performing in Poole in May
PUBLISHED: 15:04 26 April 2019
Dancing is in Kevin Clifton's DNA but the Strictly star, whose show Burn the Floor comes to Poole this month, very nearly walked away from the career that made him
It's hard to believe it now but a decade ago Strictly Come Dancing champ Kevin Clifton was on the verge of hanging up his dance shoes forever.
As he prepared to head for Dorset this month with his latest super-hot stage show, he told me of the dark days when he thought his career was over.
After years of ballroom dance competitions - the only life he had ever known - he felt unfulfilled and desperate for a change.
“My whole family are ballroom dancers, but I kind of fell out of love with it. I was bored and frustrated. I didn't even know whether dancing was really what I wanted to do. It was just what I'd always done.”
His decision to quit shocked his family. “Mum and dad thought I was throwing everything away.” There was a lot to lose. He was a Youth World Number One, four time British Latin Champion and had won International Open titles all over the world.
Ironically it was Burn the Floor - the same show that he brings to Lighthouse, Poole's Centre for the Arts on 9 May - that reignited his love for the dance-floor.
In a move that could itself make the plot of a musical theatre show, Kevin was on the verge of turning his back on dance forever when he first encountered the production. “It sounded interesting so I went to meet the cast. From the moment I walked into the rehearsal room I was just blown away. There was a power and energy about it coming straight from the heart. It lit a fire under me and went on to play a really big part in my development and enjoyment as a dancer.”
The show also led to him auditioning for and joining the Strictly Come Dancing pro-team in 2013. When Kevin and celebrity partner Stacey Dooley danced to victory in the 2018 series of Strictly, few would have realised that if it hadn't been for Burn the Floor he would never have become one of Strictly's pro-dancers in the first place.
Now at the age of 36 he's a stalwart of the long-running television series - a five time finalist and now a winner too. Kevin will be back on our screens in Strictly later this year with another, as yet unnamed, celebrity partner.
First though he's been enjoying an extended run back on the live stage with a three month tour playing swaggering bad-boy rock-star Stacee Jaxx in the musical Rock of Ages, and now a 38 night run in Burn the Floor alongside fellow Strictly stars Graziano Di Prima and Johannes Redebe.
Combining jaw-dropping choreography and ground-breaking moves the production, inspired by a 10 minute ballroom routine performed at Elton John's 50th birthday party, is described as: 'The ultimate high-voltage theatrical dance experience'.
Kevin says he's really looking forward to bringing the show to Poole. He has legions of fans in Dorset including one who claims to be Kevin's greatest fan. Paul Barrett, a retired businessman and musician, runs the nationally acclaimed Magic of Mantovani Orchestra. “I wouldn't miss Burn the Floor for the world,” he told me. “Kevin Clifton is simply the most talented and versatile dancer around.”
Paul, who lives in Sandbanks, devotes his life to the memory and light orchestral music of 1950s Anglo-Italian bandleader and one-time Bournemouth resident Annunzio Mantovani. Over the past 10 years he has spent a reputed half-a-million pounds employing hand-picked musicians to re-create the famed 48 piece Mantovani Orchestra. He even made national headlines when he admitted he loved Mantovani more than his wife.
Now Paul's planning to combine this love of his life with another - Strictly Come Dancing – with a Strictly Mantovani concert at Bournemouth Pavilion on 28 April with the maestro's ballroom tunes accompanying the Mantovani Dancers.
“It seemed the perfect combination,” he told me. “Mantovani was a dance band leader and Strictly is so popular. It's brought ballroom dancing to the masses again.”
Kevin says he's proud that Strictly has done so much to boost interest in the world of ballroom. “My mates at school thought that ballroom was very a strange thing for me to be doing. But now, thanks to shows like Strictly, it's really popular. I hope that will provide a platform for people to come and see Burn the Floor and think 'Wow I never imagined you could take it there with all that raw energy'.”
Though Kevin graciously accepts the adulation that comes with the job, he seems baffled by the level of speculation on social media and in the tabloid press about his supposed love life. The fact that he's been married and divorced three times and still works with ex-wife and fellow Strictly professional Karen Clifton, doesn't do anything to quell the prurient interest in his private life. When asked by The Sun newspaper whether his partnerships with celebrities had ever become romantic, he was crystal clear. “No, never. You're there to do a job and get on with the dancing. That's what it's about.”
Over time Kevin has learnt to shrug off the speculation, but it wasn't always like this. “In the early days I struggled with it because I'd left the competition world yet there I was being judged by millions of people,” he confesses. “I'd read things about myself that weren't true and wanted to put the record straight. But I don't read that stuff so much now. I don't let it get to me.”
Kevin Clifton is exceptionally good at getting on with the dancing and he's also enjoying the touring life. “It's really tiring but I like it that way. I like the buzz and the momentum, the feeling that we're moving, moving, moving all the time.”
9 May: Burn the Floor with Kevin Clifton is at Poole Lighthouse, 01202 280000, lighthousepoole.co.uk