Strictly’s Anton: "I feel like I'm on to a winner this year"
Strictly's Anton du Beke is still chasing that Glitter Ball trophy. He tells Gabrielle Fagan about his latest partnership with Katie Derham and why he already feels like he's a champion
Anton du Beke has the look of a man who is just starting to believe he may be dancing his way to success. He's beaming as he talks about the growing public realisation (and his own) that after 11 years of trying to reach the final of Strictly, he has a partner in glamorous former news reader Katie Derham who could win him that elusive Glitter Ball.
Over the years his premature exit has been guaranteed as he's been paired with celebrities who've battled with ballroom, albeit hilariously - think Ann Widdecombe, Judy Murray, Nancy Dell'Olio and Kate Garraway.
"Potentially, this is my best chance in a long time and I was thrilled to be paired with Katie because she has what it takes to go all the way in this competition. Even so, all you can do is take it week by week," he says cautiously, well aware that although the final is four tantalising weeks away, anything can happen.
There's no doubt the pair are riding high. At the weekend he and Derham, the Radio Three and Proms presenter, wowed the judges with an American Smooth and went comfortably through to week 10.
"Katie has innate talent and glamour, great natural posture and looks lovely in the frocks," Anton enthuses.
"All those things are a real plus because it means she doesn't have to work at all that, and it frees up more time so I can focus on building her confidence with performing. She does find it difficult and she gets nervous and anxious on show night, which is understandable. On top of that, of course, she's also trying to master the routines, which are very demanding.
"But she's wonderful to work with, has a great sense of humour and is very pragmatic about the judges' criticism."
At 49 he's the oldest professional dancer on the show and has been on the series since it began in 2004. Surprisingly, du Beke, originally from Kent with a Hungarian father and a Spanish mother, claims he isn't driven by winning the trophy.
"It makes no difference to me whether I win it or not. Of course, being voted off is horrible, you feel so much disappointment for your partner, but winning is something you only worry about when you get to the final and as I've never got there, I've never worried about it. Anyway I'm not sure how good a glitter ball would look in my house!" he says roaring with laughter.
It emerges that this charming, witty man already feels like a winner anyway. He regards himself as privileged rather than frustrated to have had, in the main, the comedic personalities to train.
"I've been the luckiest of the professional dancers by having the most interesting and lovely ladies to dance with over the years," he says gallantly.
"If I hadn't danced with Ann Widdecombe that would have been my loss because she was a joy, such a scream and fun to be with. I wouldn't have missed those wonderful moments last year, throwing Judy Murray across the floor and our routine with her as Cruella de Vil accompanied by two Dalmatian dogs. And, for heaven's sake, Jerry Hall's a living legend and hilarious. I've enjoyed every second of it all."
Touchingly, when asked about the biggest highlight of his own life, it's not his glittering dance career, but meeting his partner of three years, marketing executive Hannah Summers.
"We saw each at an event and for me it was virtually love at first sight. I immediately thought she was amazing. There are so many things which make her special," he says.
"Previously I'd never given any thought to finding 'the one'. It wasn't that important to me because I loved what I was doing so much, but then Hannah came along. She's just perfect. I love her above all things. She's very beautiful, clever, but also really kind."
Du Beke's dancing partner for 18 years, Erin Boag - the couple are regarded as the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of modern-day ballroom and will make their eighth nationwide tour, Just Gotta Dance, from January - has frequently urged him to marry Summers to experience the contentment she already enjoys.
Boag quit as a professional dancer on Strictly in 2013 and has a 19-month-old son, Ewan, with her husband, Peter O'Dowd. Du Beke is godfather to the boy.
"Marry? I might do, maybe next year," he says. "Children? Well it would be nice to have one child, but we'll see how it goes ..."
For the time being, he has more pressing things on his mind.
"I just want to make sure we carry on doing well and enjoying ourselves and get through another week! When you're doing Strictly you never want it to stop. I absolutely love it."
Anton & Erin - Just Gotta Dance, tours nationwide January to March 2016. For more info and to book tickets, visitraymondgubbay.co.uk