Anton Du Beke: 'I don't know if I'll return to Strictly this year'
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Ahead of his one man show in Brighton, King of the Ballroom Anton Du Beke reveals how he really feels about Craig Revel Horwood and talks all things Strictly
Anton Du Beke is in fine form. Fresh from winning the prestigious Judges’ Award at the Royal Television Society, where Strictly Come Dancing was commended for its fresh approach and reflecting its diverse audience, casting its first deaf contestant and first male dance couple, he’s all smiles, claiming he’s the only one not nursing a sore head. ‘I didn’t drink,’ he laughs. ‘I just enjoyed winning something at last.’
One of Britain’s favourite TV personalities, Anton has entertained us with his ballroom and Latin dancing, humour and upbeat nature, gamely dragging Ann Widdecombe around the floor and falling over with Ruth Langsford at the end of a Paso Doble, before finally being made a judge.
Now as Anton, 55, waits to hear if he will be sitting alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas for the next series of Strictly, he is taking his one man show on tour around the UK where he will dance, sing and share stories in an ‘intimate evening’ interacting with the audience.
Here, ahead of An Audience with Anton Du Beke at Brighton’s Theatre Royal on 8 May, we get to sit down with the father of twins for a quick-fire Q & A session.
Sussex Life: You won the IDTA (International Dance Teachers Association) Classic in Brighton back in 2003 so is it a special place for you?
Anton: Brighton has always been a special place to me because my old dance teacher, who has sadly passed away now, lived in Rottingdean, along the coast there, so we used to go down to Brighton quite a lot. And then I was teaching in Hove, just before Strictly Come Dancing started, and I would go down there on Saturdays and would do a day of teaching. My old pal lived in Brighton when he first got married for a number of years so I’m very familiar with it. I’ve always performed in Brighton, usually at The Dome, but this time I’m at the Theatre Royal, which is very exciting. It’s a lovely place.
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I’ve stayed at The Grand Hotel in Brighton and I like that old style glamour. It’s right up my street.
What are you most looking forward to on this tour?
This is a first me – a one man show. I’ve got a band and special guests on the show but normally when I’m on stage I’m usually with a partner of some description – either Erin Boag or Giovanni Pernice last year. This will be exciting, but what I love about doing shows like this is connecting with the audience and having a bit of fun with them. We are doing a Q & A during the evening and chatting and telling stories, and I’m looking forward to all that.
What question are you most dreading?
I don’t dread any question. I love them all. I never dread a question because invariably I will answer whatever comes into my head, anyway, so there’s never any guarantee what the answer is to the question. We will have a laugh with it nonetheless.
You are a national treasure now and so what questions are you always asked when people meet you?
Strictly is always a massive part of everything and so I’m always asked who are my favourite dance partners and do I prefer dancing to judging. How do I keep so young and fit and virile. Laughs.
And how do you?
I have twins [George and Henrietta, aged five]. They will keep me young and poor. Laughs. So I don’t mind what people ask.
So who are your favourite dance partners? And which one do you prefer – judging or dancing?
Well, I don’t mind either. They are very different, in actual fact. With judging, I enjoy not getting voted off. I like making the final and getting to the end. The only sad thing is that I’m never going to pick up the glitter ball now because I’m judging but I love the dancing and performing and putting on the numbers, but I didn’t enjoy getting voting off - that did upset me a lot.
And, sadly, it did happen a lot, didn’t it?
Guffaws. Yes, too regularly for my liking if I’m honest.
But you’re a brilliant dancer – why do you think that happened?
I always console myself with the fact that they weren’t judging me. They were judging my partner. So, I know that if they were judging me, I would have probably won a lot more. That’s my consolation.
What about the rumours that you could be axed from the judging panel. Are you a permanent fixture as a judge now?
The absolute truth is that I don’t know. I haven’t been told. They literally haven’t spoken to me about it. So, whatever you’ve read, it is just a rumour. I’m hoping to get a call to say: “Look, here you go, come back judging please,” but we’ll wait and see. I would like to think I’d be on the show in one way or another. I wouldn’t like to think they would just get rid of me altogether. That would be a bit dramatic to go from dancer to judge to off the show. That would be quite a career path, wouldn’t it?
The public love you and would never let that happen.
Exactly, there would be a stampede.
Craig Revel Horwood has said publicly that you are a great addition to the show, very funny and a good egg. What do you think of that from Mr Nasty himself?
That’s very kind of him. He must be having a soft, gentle moment. I like him. I’ve known Craig for a long time and that’s lovely of him to say that. I’m thrilled that he thinks that and wants me on the show. I’m very fond of Craig and hopefully we will be back together to do it again next year. If I knew I’d be back on I’d be shouting it from the rooftops. It’s like all these things, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just sitting here, waiting for someone to give me a call and say “hey come on.” But Craig has said he wants me back and that’s the main thing.
'Craig is exactly the same off camera as he is on but less unpleasant, I suppose!'
He says that you two play good cop/bad cop?
I love working with Craig because he’s such an old pro and you know exactly what you are going to get from him. It’s very difficult to form a double act if one person is too sporadic and you can’t get any momentum to it. But because you know what Craig is going to be like – he's funny and erudite and a bit caustic sometimes – that's great and I can play off that. It’s when he’s nice that he throws everyone into confusion. I hate it when he’s nice. It makes us all feel that he’s under the weather or something. We all start to worry about him.
What’s he like off camera?
He’s just Craig – exactly the same as he is on camera but less unpleasant, I suppose.
If you weren’t going to be a judge and you were asked to go back on the show as a dancer, would you?
Yes. I love the show. I’ve been doing it since the beginning and I’m very proud of that. I do it because I love it. We were at the RTS awards last night and we won the Judges’ Award for the show. It was such a lovely thing to receive because the show has been going a long time and for it to still be just as relevant and as strong and as important as it is now as it was then is quite amazing and very rare. We were all absolutely delighted and long may it continue. It shows the value of Strictly and the importance of the show in the nation’s psyche.
Do you have a sore head today?
No, I don’t drink. I just enjoyed the evening. One or two people this morning will do though!
Your professional dance partner Erin Boag says you change the dance routines every night so she always has to be alert. Why do you do that?
Why? Sometimes it’s governed by the space available and sometimes I just become expressive at that moment. I’m driven by the moment when I perform – by the audience and by the orchestra.
I will be dancing solo in this show. I’ll have some guests and will do a couple of numbers with them, but it’s a mixture of chat, song and dance. I love singing. I’m very lucky because I do love it all. I just like to get out there and connect with people. When I’m singing, I like doing duets, and when I’m dancing, I love dancing with a partner, and when I’m in front of an audience I could just chat but I like to have some kind of interaction with them. That’s just the way I am.
The last time you went on tour you said you had to have a truck for all the costumes. I’m presuming that some were Erin’s too?
I fit my stuff in the back of my car so the truck was for Erin.
Do you have to do any extra training to get ready for a tour like this?
No, I’m sort of always in shape. I’m never out of shape and I’m always at it, so it’s not something I have to gear up for. I don’t have to think 'oh now I need a fortnight of intense training'. I’m always ready to go. I have to put the show together, do the choreography and then rehearse so that’s intense. But I love seeing how it comes together.
Are you still friends with all of your dance partners?
Yes. I have a show tonight and Ruth [Langsford] is coming.
Finally, what do you think of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars?
I think Will Smith would probably like to go back in time and rethink that moment.
An Audience with Anton Du Beke, 8 May 2022 Theatre Royal, Brighton
From £29.50 atgtickets.com