It was while going to pick up his elder sister from dance class that Anton du Beke first caught the ballroom bug.
“I was about 14 and there was this room full of girls and the dance teacher just grabbed me and I joined in,” says the Strictly Come Dancing professional.
“I just loved dancing with a partner. I was very sporty at school and was very competitive and I think that’s why I loved ballroom dancing. If you ask me if I would have enjoyed it so much it it hadn’t been the competitions then I doubt it.”
Leaving school at 16 to concentrate on his dancing a young Anton took part-time jobs so he could pursue his dancing career.
He had three partners and was successful on the competition circuit but it was when he teamed up with New Zealander Erin Boag in 1997 that his fortunes took off.
But it was landing a job on a new BBC programme 10 years ago which really changed Anton’s fortunes.
“All the dance schools got a note about the BBC wanting professional dancers for a new series called Strictly Come Dancing,” explains Anton.
“Erin and I thought we’d go for it and went for the auditions. None of us had any idea how huge it was going to be.
“Up until then ballroom dancing really hadn’t come across that well on the television. The world of competition ballroom is really intense and didn’t translate that well onto television. Come Dancing just didn’t really work. But this was a new format. It had celebrities people recognised and could really engage with and vote for. And I think that’s why it has done so well.”
Anton is one of the series’ original professionals left.
Although he has never won the coveted Glitterball Trophy, he is still one of the best-known and best-loved professionals and as a result of his fame has also hosted TV shows such as Hole in the Wall.
For Children in Need 2008, he took part in a Strictly Come Dancing special, partnered by Tess Daly. They won the Golden Pudsey award, beating Terry Wogan and his dance partner Flavia Cacace. Anton, overcome with excitement at winning, yelled, “SIX YEARS!” (the amount of time he had been on Strictly without winning the show at that stage) on learning he and Tess had won.
He is most famous for partnering the likes of Nancy Dell’Olio and of course who could forget Ann Widdecombe and most recently former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton.
So being competitive does he mind never having won and always seemingly being paired with someone unlikely to help him lift the Glitterball.
“Not any more,” he says. “Now what I really want is to be memorable. No one will forget Ann. If you can’t win then memorable is the way to go and I have been lucky in that respect.”
And being memorable has, like many of the Strictly professionals, helped his career beyond the BBC show.
He is currently touring with Ballroom to Broadway which comes to Leeds and York, although he is without Erin who is pregnant and so is partnered by West End actress Summer Strallen.
“It’s great, but then I would say that,” says the ever buoyant Anton.
“Ballroom to Broadway brings together the two worlds of the musicals of Broadway and ballroom dancing. Fred Astaire was a huge influence on me.”