Erin Boag: ‘Why I had a bridesman on the day I got married’

Erin Boag
Erin Boag and Anton du Beke

Strictly Come Dancing’s Erin Boag tells Gabrielle Fagan why ballroom partner Anton du Beke walked her down the aisle and on her hopes to become a mum

Trying to picture the Queen of Ballroom, Erin Boag, in a dressing gown being twirled around the floor by a man dressed only in his underpants is initially a little challenging. On screen, Boag, the only female dancer to have competed in all eight series of the BBC's hugely successful Strictly Come Dancing, epitomises glamour in floor-sweeping chiffon or sequin-shimmering costumes, complementing both her dazzling figure and footwork.

But,while her passion for dancing is central to her life — she and professional dance partner Anton du Beke perform in nationwide tours when they're not taking part in Strictly — so too is her marriage to business consultant Peter O'Dowd.

Boag reveals: “To entertain me some mornings he dances into our kitchen wearing his Calvin Klein's and sweeps me off my feet as I'm trying to make us breakfast. He says, 'I'm going to be Anton', as he tries to foxtrot around the room with me.”

They met by chance six years ago when Boag, originally from New Zealand, was on a girly night out with fellow Strictly dancer Camilla Dallerup.

“Actually the first thing I noticed about him was his suit — I have an absolute fetish about nice suits! The ‘suit', who didn't recognise me from the show, sat down next to me and we just got chatting.

“I wasn't looking for a relationship, though, and I even took the precaution on our first date of asking my flatmates to phone me while I was out with him.

“If it was a disaster date I was going to say, 'There's an emergency at home I have to leave now'. Needless to say, I never answered that call because I was sitting there enjoying myself so much and thinking, 'Ooh, he's really lovely'.”

They married two years ago in Italy with du Beke playing a key role. “We've danced together for 15 years now and he's my best friend so instead of having a chief bridesmaid, Anton was my head bridesman.”

She describes their working partnership as “like a marriage”.

“We survived the pressures of the competition circuit, had great times and bad times but we've always come out the other side,” she says.

“We're both really stubborn so we clash sometimes, and occasionally he can drive me bonkers in the nicest possible way with all his jokes and humour but we're a great team. “I'm the one who handles our tour diary, and tries to keep him in line.”

And, Boag says, even at her wedding du Beke couldn't resist his usual affectionate teasing.

“Part of his wedding speech was this whole story he'd completely made up, about how I was so hard up when I first came to the UK that I had to work in a pole dancing class, and when he first saw me I was halfway up a pole. Honestly!

“I had to reassure some of my New Zealand relatives, who didn't realise what a joker he is, that, ‘No, actually, I've never done any pole dancing'.”

But while Boag's commitment to her career is unwavering, the 36-year-old admits that another 'sound' — the ticking of her biological clock — is currently competing with the music that's the accompaniment to her professional life. “I'd love to have a child. Peter's 47 and has a grown-up son and daughter from his previous marriage, but he'd love another child too.”

“I get more aware of my biological clock ticking every day, although I still don't feel quite ready to take that step partly because it's very difficult to take time off with my career and it's so physically demanding that it would be impossible once I was heavily pregnant.

“I realise at my age I'm taking a big risk by delaying motherhood but when the time is right I will know, and hopefully I shall still be able to have a child then. I would be utterly gutted if I couldn't.”

A tragedy in her husband’s childhood has inspired her to take part in an event this month, the SunWalk, a breast cancer charity walk in London on July 24.

“Peter's mother died when she was only 28 from breast cancer and when he was just four years old. It obviously affected his life growing up without a mum, so this is a cause close to his heart.’’

Last year Boag, the oldest professional female dancer on Strictly, felt no embarrassment in stripping off for a magazine shoot. “I'm not ashamed of my body.

“Maybe I'll be able to look back at those shots when I'm 95 and old and wrinkly and I can say to my grandchildren, ‘There you go, that's what I looked like once'.”

Always a dancing star

  • Erin Boag was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and started dancing at the age of three
  • Initially she trained in ballet before moving on to ballroom, Latin and jazz
  • She moved to Australia as a teenager to progress her career and then came to London in 1996 at the age of 21
  • When she arrived in the UK she had to work at four day jobs and sew rhinestones onto evening gowns to pay for her dance classes
  • She’s the only female dancer to appear in all eight series of Strictly Come Dancing

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