At 40, Karen Hauer is Strictly Come Dancing’s longest serving professional dancer but she’s not ready to hang up her dancing shoes yet and is coming to Eastbourne with BFF Gorka Marquez 

She’s the Venezuelan dancer who has put the sizzle into Strictly Come Dancing since joining in 2012 and now Karen Hauer is turning up the heat in Sussex with fellow dancer Gorka Marquez in their explosive show FIREDANCE.   

The World Mambo champion – who was partnered with comedian and actress Jayde Adams in the latest series – and Gorka bring their Romeo & Juliet-inspired extravaganza to Eastbourne on 1 March. 

The duo is joined by fire specialists on stage for a dance-off and accompanied by a live band who will play a mix of Latin, rock and pop from artists such as Jason Derulo, Gregory Porter and the Gypsy Kings.  

Great British Life: Strictly's Karen and Gorka turn up the heat in FIREDANCEStrictly's Karen and Gorka turn up the heat in FIREDANCE (Image: supplied)

‘I’m so excited to be reuniting with Gorka,’ Karen says. ‘Creating and performing this incredible show earlier this year has been a career highlight and we are taking things to another level with original dances, new music and a lot more fire!’ 

Here, Karen sits down for a quick-fire round of questions with Sussex Life to talk about getting married, adopting and all things Strictly... 

Firstly, I’m a fellow Karen and cringe every time I introduce myself because of all the flak we get. How do you feel about being a Karen and have you ever thought about changing your name?  

Not at all! My favourite thing is meeting another Karen! Karen is so famous now but I feel empowered by my name so I say it loud and proud.  

You’ve been incredibly busy. You got married last summer, have adopted a dog and appeared on Strictly partnered with Jayde Adams – but you hit all the headlines for cutting your hair short!  

I know! I’ve had long hair, a mohawk and now I have a little mushroom on top of my head and I love it. It caused so much controversy because everybody expects us to look a certain way – for me it was long hair with curls, a bit of a Hollywood ‘do’, and suddenly I went rogue. I didn’t want to be pigeon holed and went for the chop. Luckily, Strictly embraced it.

It happened at the same time as you were partnered with  Jayde – was that a coincidence or were you trying to make a point by shedding your old look?  

Like everyone else on the show, I never have any idea who I am going to be dancing with. It was just time to chop, chop, chop! (laughs). But I loved being partnered with Jayde. It’s funny because in dancing women always dance with woman and men always dance with men. It’s normal but suddenly it is being shown on TV.  

It was a great partnership – challenging, but it was about friendship, supporting one another and being creative. It pushed me as a choreographer.  

We loved your Flashdance  – it was a Strictly moment, wasn’t it?  

Yes. Firstly, it’s an iconic song and it’s about confidence and self-confidence. It was about friendship and being comfortable in your own skin, no matter what you look like, your sexuality or what you’re wearing. It became a very important number for Jayde and for Strictly and connected with us all.  

You’re now the longest serving dancer on the show. How have you managed that?  

I’m a dancing dinosaur! (laughs.) For me, I never know if I am going to be asked back so every time I am, I’m so thankful, and I genuinely love the show. It’s hard work physically and mentally but I love everything about my job and the team are amazing. I enjoy teaching the celebrities. It’s something I take seriously. This is my career and my future.  

So out of all your fellow dancers why have you chosen to go on tour with Gorka?  

Great British Life: Karen says dancing with Gorka has a 'Fred and Ginger feel' to itKaren says dancing with Gorka has a 'Fred and Ginger feel' to it (Image: supplied)

We have been friends since 2016 when he joined the show. We both talk Spanish so don’t mess with us – we will talk about you and gossip in Spanish right in front of you! (giggles). We respect each other and we just get on with each other. I’ve moved up north and live close to Gorka who is in Manchester. I’m nearby so we see each a lot. We dance well together and there’s a Fred and Ginger feel to it.  

He’s just announced he’s expecting another baby with Emmerdale star Gemma Atkinson – how will that affect going on tour with FIREDANCE?  

Well, the tour is under 30 days and we can always sneak back between dates. It is hard though as I’m a home body but in this show we get to share our passion for dance. We started the tour in 2019 and had to stop because of COVID but it is still fresh and sexy this time around. We have our favourite dances in there, the tango and Argentine tango, sambas and salsas. It’s very exciting.  

Great British Life: Karen and Gorka are Strictly BFFsKaren and Gorka are Strictly BFFs (Image: supplied)

You only just got married (to third husband Jordan Wyn-Jones, previously Karen was married to her former dance partner Matthew Hauer and later to ex Strictly star Kevin Clifton from 2015 to 2018) - congratulations. How will he cope without you or is coming on the tour?  

I love a wedding! He’s not coming as he is at home with the dogs and training for a charity boxing match in March. We have to balance our careers as much as we can.  

We saw that you had just adopted another dog.  

Yes, he’s called Joey and came from Hungary. He was born with a deformed leg which had to be amputated so no one wanted him. He’s our fourth dog and he can outrun any dog – and anyone! It’s amazing how he’s coped and you wouldn’t even notice that he only has three legs. Another of our dogs, Pheobe, has three legs so he's in good company. 

You’re 40 and look amazing. What do you do every day to stay in shape?  

I still have to work hard but my priority is to make sure I don’t get injured. That is my biggest fear and it happened last December on Strictly during one of the pro numbers. You feel you can carry on as it’s OK – that's what dancers do. We have the pain threshold of a horse and carry on dancing until your leg is falling off.  

I tore my meniscus (cartilage) in my left knee which meant I was out of action for eight weeks. I was told I needed surgery but I didn’t want that. It would have taken even longer to heal.  

I couldn’t bend my knee or hyperextend it, which, for a dancer, is a nightmare. I had physio and focused on rehab and looking after myself and got back on my feet.  

I eat normally and while most women want to look super slim my focus is on how mentally fit I am and how to make sure my body copes. It’s very important to rest and check myself as I don’t want another injury.  

I’m fighting fit at the moment though and can’t wait to show everyone the fireworks on stage with Gorka in our show.  

FIREDANCE is at Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre on 1 March.