Strictly star Erin Boag 'has never been attracted to or clashed with dance partners - I am lucky'
Ahead of her Belfast show next year, dance star Erin Boag tells Una Brankin about life as a mum and avoiding the 'Strictly Curse'
She was born on St Patrick's Day 1975 and bears a Celtic-sounding Christian name, but the only Irish blood in Erin Boag's family circle belongs to her husband, Liverpool-born Peter O'Dowd. The former Strictly star's parents, New Zealanders of Scottish-English descent, got their daughter's name from a character in a famous American TV saga.
"They were convinced I was going to be a boy and had chosen the name Matthew, but I came out wrong," she laughs. "So I got Erin - from The Waltons. Goodnight John Boy! Goodnight Erin!
"My husband has Irish roots, though, and we both love coming to Ireland. We've been to the wonderful Titanic Centre and I was so disappointed that we couldn't come last year - the Waterfront was being done up at the time, which was a shame."
Living in London since 1996, the professional ballroom dancer hits Belfast and Dublin next March, the week after her 42nd birthday, as part of her Swing Time tour with Anton du Beke, her dancing partner for the last 19 years and fellow professional on Strictly from 2002 to 2012.
Long-time fans of the show were delighted to see Erin back for an appearance last year, giving advice to Anton's celebrity partner, newscaster Katie Derham, and hoped to see her back full-time. But she has her hands full with rehearsals for Swing Time and with toddler Ewan Robert Geoffrey O'Dowd - who was born on his father's 50th birthday on April 24, 2014.
Erin still finds the time to tune into the show, cuddled up on the sofa with Peter, a business consultant.
"It's just an incredible show this year - there are a lot of really good dancers," she says, sounding more Aussie than Kiwi, having moved to Australia in her teenage years.
"I absolutely love Greg Rutherford (Olympic long-jumper) and Leslie Joseph is fantastic. I know she doesn't like talking about her age, but it's incredible the way that she can move at 71.
"And Judge Rinder is hilarious. I love him. It's great to get to learn about these people and to get to know them, which Strictly does really well."
Erin's fellow former Strictly professional Flavia Cacace recently commented on the romances that have flourished on Strictly, saying "it sends the celebrities mad" and that they "can't handle all that physical closeness".
Over the years, the 'Strictly Curse' has seen marriages and relationships ruined when celebrities fall for their professional dance partners, the most recent being former Coronation Street actress Georgia May Foote, who left co-star Sean Ward for dancer Giovanni Pernio - only to split from him, too, last month.
Judge Craig Revel Horwood has hinted that there's even more illicit behaviour going on than the public are aware of, but Erin hasn't spotted any growing chemistry this year.
"I can normally tell when something is blossoming, but most of them are taken this year," she says.
"There's usually something crackling - I'm sure the papers will make something up, regardless!
"I honestly haven't been attracted to - or had clashes with - any of my dance partners, and I consider myself really lucky to have had wonderful dance partners.
"Whether they can dance or not is a different matter! You get to know them and their families really well. I still keep in touch with them now."
She confirms that her husband Peter - whom she was introduced to by Strictly colleague Camilla Dallerup - has never been threatened by her closeness to Anton du Beke, who acted as 'bridesman' at her star-studded wedding on Italy's Amalfi coast in 2009.
She and du Beke met in 1997 and won their native 1998 and 1999 New Zealand Championships. Having previously studied for a degree in travel and tourism and worked as a nanny, Erin turned professional with Anton in 2002.
They won the International Dance Teachers Association Classic in November 2003, a year after the launch of Strictly.
"Peter only dances when he's had a few," she admits. "He wriggles his hips and tries to salsa, but generally he leaves it up to Anton.
"He's a good cook, though. He usually takes care of dinner - how lucky am I?
"He makes a great stir-fry with peppers, rice noodles and lamb or chicken. But we're both busy people and there are always a few M&S readymeals in there, and maybe a bar or two of chocolate, too."
Back to her pre-pregnancy size eight, Erin has lost three stone since the birth of Ewan and has regained her washboard abdominals. Although she wouldn't rule out another baby, she has no immediate plans.
"I was lucky to get pregnant at 39... then again, there's Strictly's Karen Hardy - she had a baby last year, at 44," she says. "I don't know… I'm quite calm with just the one. Two would be hectic! My mum's been great - she came over from New Zealand to help. I'm going to take Ewan over to see her and dad when I get some time off."
With a live Christmas show coming up with Anton, Erin keeps in shape by walking and working out.
"I head to the park and I go the mums' club at the gym. I do mostly cardiovascular for an hour, until I work up a sweat.
"I start by walking on the treadmill for five minutes, then do stretches for 10 minutes, sometimes with a gym ball to help work on core strength.
"After that, it's either rowing for 10 minutes or cycling - 15 minutes cycling at an easy pace and then fast pace for a minute at a time.
"Then 20 squats, 20 knee press-ups and 20 tricep dips. I also do 15 minutes of hand weights and battle ropes."
She also takes good care of her skin, starting with thorough cleansing. "I wear a lot of eye make-up and I always need a good cleanser for stage make-up," she says.
"I tried all the eye make-up removers, without great results, until I got a freebie by chance from Chanel. It's incredible - you have to pay a little extra for it, but it leaves your eyes totally clean.
"I do use make-up wipes at night, too. I've very sensitive skin, so I tend to stick to the Simple ones."
Dancing until she was five months' pregnant with Ewan, Erin has been busy touring, teaching, presenting and designing dance costumes since coming off her maternity leave. Known as Miss Whiplash in her Strictly days, she takes her craft very seriously.
"The whiplash nickname was started by Colin Jackson - referring to my strict, no-nonsense approach," she concludes. "I can be a hard task-master when it comes to dance, but in real life I'm a softie.
"Dancing means everything to me, though. I started as a very small child learning ballet, before moving on to ballroom, and I'm in a wonderful place right now. I'm happily married, I have a beautiful son and I dance for a living - what more could a girl want?"
- Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag's spectacular new show, Swing Time, comes to Belfast Waterfront on Saturday, March 25. For tickets call the box office on, tel: 028 9033 4455 or for more info go to www.raymondgubbay.co.uk
Erin’s five-day guide to getting her figure back
Erin's healthy eating diet, includes fish and salads and avoiding excess alcohol by sticking to an occasional glass of dry white wine. Here's the five-day guide that helped her shed the pounds.
Breakfast: Two Weetabix with skimmed milk and half a banana. Lunch: Half carton of fresh vegetable soup with rye bread slice. Dinner: Cod fillet with beetroot, tomato, cucumber, leaf salad.
Breakfast: Muesli with skimmed milk and berries. Lunch: Picking plate of tomatoes, cucumber, cheese cubes and teaspoon of Branston pickle with rye bread. Dinner: Veg stir-fry with baby sweetcorn, red peppers, pak choi, garlic and broccoli
Breakfast: Bowl of oranges, strawberries and half a banana. Lunch: Half a carton of fresh tomato soup with rye bread. Dinner: Salmon fillet with ratatouille.
Breakfast: Porridge made with skimmed milk and honey. Lunch: Chicken breast and salad. Dinner: Beef and vegetable stir fry.
Breakfast: Fresh mixed berries. Lunch: Picking plate of tomatoes, cucumber, chicken breast, Branston pickle. Dinner: White fish with leftover ratatouille and green vegetables.