'Even if they don't want me to stay, I'll still keep turning up'
Strictly favourite Anton Du Beke tells Lucy Mapstone why he won't leave the show... and how he's enjoying a second career as a big band singer
Anton Du Beke is as synonymous with Strictly Come Dancing as the glitterball trophy and the delightfully camp video clips that punctuate each episode. One of the professionals on the show since its inception in 2004, the affable ballroom star has danced his way through an impressive 15 series.
He was tipped to take over from head judge Len Goodman last year when he bowed out of the series, but the much-coveted job went to Shirley Ballas.
This year, during the Halloween special, there was a light-hearted poke at another Du Beke anomaly - the fact that he's never won a series of Strictly.
So, it's unsurprising there is a low, yet constant, rumbling of speculation that he might finally be ready to hang up his dancing shoes and retire.
Following his recent exit from the current series, alongside TV presenter Ruth Langsford, those rumours have gathered pace - but Du Beke brushes them off swiftly.
"Everybody knows I'm not leaving. I'm not going anywhere," the 51-year-old exclaims, looking amused by the suggestion that he might be waltzing off.
"I completely know I'm going to stay," he insists. "Whether they want me to stay or not is a completely different matter. But I'll turn up anyway."
Although Du Beke is one of the longest-serving professionals on the series, alongside fellow mainstay Brendan Cole, it's a TV travesty that he has yet to hold that Strictly trophy up in winning glory. The furthest he ever got was third place in the first series with opera singer Lesley Garrett.
Du Beke laughs again, his chortle reflecting his good-natured attitude and charming demeanour, as he's probed over whether he actually thinks he can win the show some day.
"I don't know, that remains to be seen. The viewers vote to say who wins, so we'll have to wait and see if they want me to win or not."
It's fair to say Du Beke has become known for his fun-filled routines and he doesn't appear to mind the tag of a novelty dancer.
He reminisces about the hilarious moment on the dance floor a few weeks ago, which saw him take a tumble at the end of a comedic paso doble with Langsford, who promptly climbed on top of him, much to the surprise and delight of the audience.
"Look at the reaction we got when we fell over the other day. And look at the reaction we got when I whipped my trousers off," says Du Beke.
The last decade-and-a-bit has been quite the journey for Du Beke and back in 2004 he could never have imagined where the BBC One programme would be now.
Regularly drawing in more than 10 million viewers per episode and with a dedicated following across the country, it's one of the most-watched programmes in the UK, year after year.
Du Beke reveals that he and his fellow dancers who were there for the inaugural series "never thought beyond" that first outing.
Referring to himself, Cole and their respective dance partners Erin Boag and Camilla Dallerup, he says: "We were competing in China and then we got the nod that Strictly was going ahead. When we got back from China, we did another competition the following week in Sweden and that was it. We were into Strictly.
"We hoped it would be a lot of fun. For me, it was an incredible thing to be able to do. I wanted to be in it and be part of it and, of course, I wanted to work with Bruce Forsyth, who was my hero."
But for all of those years of TV and dancing experience, nerves are now kicking in more than ever before, he admits.
While never getting "that nervous" in his earlier Strictly days, Du Beke confesses a bewildering thought has hit him- what if he forgets his steps?
"It's not really nerves, it's apprehension," he clarifies. "And I don't know where that's come from, because I never forget the routine. I never have. I mean, the unforgivable sin for a professional dancer would be a mistake in the routine."
Perhaps more understandably, Du Beke is experiencing butterflies before the release of his debut album From The Top, in which he's singing big band tunes. "I tried to stay away from really iconic songs - for example, something like Mack The Knife," he says.
"It's like New York, New York by Frank Sinatra and It's A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, which we did flirt with, but didn't do in the end. They're such great songs, you can't do them better anyway."
- Strictly Come Dancing, BBC One, tonight (6.50pm) and tomorrow (7.20pm). Anton Du Beke's From The Top is released on Polydor, available now