Belfast woman Victoria Martin a hit on Italian Strictly Come Dancing
Dancing Queen Victoria Martin has come a long way since her first lesson at the age of just four.
The east Belfast native’s love of ballroom has seen her dance around the globe before finding TV fame on Italy’s version of Strictly Come Dancing and settling in Rome.
On how she first started her love affair with dance, Victoria told Sunday Life: “My dad was a dancer and my mum wanted my younger sister Nadene and I to share his passion.
“He was a bit dubious to begin with but, as the years have gone on, my parents have been an unbelievable support.”
By the time she was nine, Victoria was so accomplished that she was travelling to Liverpool for dance lessons.
“My mum and dad just thought if they were going to be spending this money, they might as well spend it well,” she recalled.
“I was so lucky, I was going to the best teacher in the world, Margaret Redmond.
“I guess it was all quite full on but it was all I’d known since the age of four — I didn’t know anything else.”
Victoria’s childhood passed in a whirlwind of competitions and ballroom title wins before she moved to London at the age of 17 to “get serious” about dancing. Since then, her career has taken her around the world. But does she ever miss Northern Ireland?
“I do get very homesick and I make sure I come home very two to three months to see my family because we’re very close,” she said.
“I’m 36 now and I say to my mum, ‘Why did you say yes, why did you let me go?’
“She always tells me she thought I’d be home in a week.”
But Victoria found her home away from home in 2001 when she got the opportunity to go to Rome where she’s now been living for more than a decade.
“I’d actually given up dancing at the time but someone was looking for a partner in Rome,” she explained. “I was 21, I didn’t speak the language but I got to the city and I just fell in love with it. I’ve been based there ever since.”
Victoria said she knew she’d dance for a living from a young age. “Recently I was looking back over my Record of Achievement that I had to do for school when I was 16 — and everything I’d written down in there that I wanted to do, I have.
“You wonder how you could know what kind of person you are at that age, but somehow you do,” she said.
But it was in 2006 that Victoria found fame when she was asked to appear on Ballando con le Stelle – Italy’s version of Strictly Come Dancing which pairs professional dancers with celebrities.
“I had been judging in dance competitions and I’d become a bit disillusioned with it all,” Victoria explained. “I was lying on a beach with my mum and dad when I got a call asking me to come and audition for the show.
“I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke, so I hung up. They had to call me back and tell me they were for real.”
Victoria said the chance to be on the show “awoke a passion” for dance again, so she was determined to claim her spot.
“All the Italian dancers are just so glamorous — I knew I had to be different,” she said.
“I turned up in a crazy colourful dress with my hair cut short and blonde — they seemed to like it.”
Victoria danced on the show for five seasons. “They always put me with comedians or older men, but that was fine with me.
“I never cared about winning the show, as long as we had fun and my partner wanted to dance — I was fine with that.”
Her appearances on the series led to her becoming a famous face across Italy.
Embarrassed, she said: “It was weird and I don’t really like to talk about it because I don’t care about fame.
“Sometimes when my family were visiting, people would ask me for pictures and autographs — it was probably more strange for them than it was for me.”
After TV work came theatre where Victoria has found her true vocation.
“I’ve wanted to be part of the Burn the Floor cast since 1999 when I was just 18, so to get the chance at 34 was amazing.
“Ballroom dancing is so clean cut, so pretty. Burn the Floor is a show that just throws out the rule book.
“It’s theatrical, it’s sexy, it’s high voltage and the choreography is unreal,” she added.
Victoria has toured the world with her cast mates, performing in South Africa and Japan in the last few months alone.
Now she’s rehearsing in London for a Burn the Floor run which starts on Tuesday, October 18, at the Peacock theatre.
She said the London shows hold special significance for her: “You know I’ve danced so many places but London was always my goal because my parents haven’t seen me dance in 11 years, so they’re going to be able to come and watch me, which is brilliant.”
On what’s next, after achieving so much, Victoria said: “My producer danced until she was 40 and I think she reckons I’m going to be the same. We’ll see — I absolutely love teaching but when it comes to dancing myself I’ll just keep going until it’s not fun anymore.
“But I love this show, I feel so passionately about it and I’m learning every day.”
Victoria also feels strongly about encouraging others from Northern Ireland into dance careers. “I’m so proud of our wee country. I rehearse in my Northern Ireland football kit and tell everyone about where I’m from,” she said.
“I would love to see more young people from Northern Ireland take up dancing, it does seem to be going through a bit of a revival at the moment which is great to see. I’d love to tell young people starting out that it’s not just what you see in Strictly Come Dancing — there is so much more to it and so much more that you can achieve.”
- To get tickets for the London shows or to find out more about Burn the Floor, visit www.burnthefloor.com
Belfast Telegraph Digital