Strictly's Flavia Cacace on dancing, fashion and life in Guildford
PUBLISHED: 18:45 13 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:31 01 May 2014
As the countdown begins to the brand-new series of Strictly Come Dancing, we caught up for an exclusive chat with professional dancer Flavia Cacace, who has lived in Guildford nearly all her life, to get a sneak preview of this year's show
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2008
So here we are about to start a new series of Strictly Come Dancing! Are you looking forward to it?
I guess with mixed feelings! It takes up all of our time so that there's no time for friends and socialising. It's very demanding, with huge troughs of despair but also mountains of exhilaration.
Some of the judges' comments can be hurtful, too. We have to remember that the comments are really to make entertainment for the camera, but it can be a job to pick yourself up afterwards! There is a good adrenalin rush, though, which I love.
How long we remain in the competition we will have to see. The ultimate prize would be my professional dance partner, Vincent, and I with our respective celebrities all reaching the finals and ending up in a dance-off against each other. That would add some real drama for our fans!
Who would be your ideal celebrity partner?
Somebody who is about 5ft 8in tall would be the right height. I would like him to be slim with a good physique, dark hair and handsome - but, above all, somebody who is willing to work hard continuously, all day, every day, as I would like my celebrity to win this year!
He needs to be a quick learner, have a good memory, and he must also be somebody who doesn't mind being told when they are doing it wrong. Gosh - does somebody like that actually exist?
Do you have a favourite judge, and if so, who is it and why?
I think my favourite judge has to be Len Goodman. His comments always seem to be objective, helpful and encouraging. He has quite a twinkle, too!
One of the things that people love about Strictly is all the beautiful dresses - do you get to keep them?
No, the costumes I wear when I'm dancing with my celebrity partner belong to the BBC. We spend a whole day early on designing the costumes for the entire series, right though to the final - even though we might be knocked out before then. All the costumes for each show have to be different colours so sometimes I might draw the short straw and have a colour that doesn't suit me, but fortunately that doesn't happen very often.
All the costumes that I'll be wearing in this series are already designed. Then they are fitted, and finally on the day of the show, we wear them for the dress rehearsal and then the show itself. Then I have to hand them back - sometimes rather reluctantly! I get to wear my own dresses for the show dances that Vincent and I perform on the programme. It can mean quite a lot of costume changes during each show.
Do you have many dresses of your own?
Well, yes, but Vincent and I have dance routines for each of the dance genres - that's ten dances in all - and each one of them needs a different dress to catch the mood of that dance, so that requires ten costumes. Then, of course, each season really needs a new set of outfits to keep our performance fresh and new. So, each year, my dressmaker and I have a lovely time, designing the new costumes for the coming year.
As a result, I have ended up now with a large wardrobe, but when the season has finished, I offer some costumes for sale - a few of them are for sale on our website now. Unfortunately, I am only 5ft 2in, though, which restricts the number of people who can wear the dresses. Many of them go to Japanese ladies!
Of all the different dances you perform on Strictly, do you have a particular favourite?
Oh, definitely the Argentine tango. Vincent and I have always loved the tango, and even as amateurs we used Argentine tango ideas. About seven years ago, we watched a film called The Tango Lesson and we were inspired to take it further and really learn what it was all about. It is the most fulfilling of dances. You don't dance to the beat but at a speed that interprets the music and we absolutely adore the music. It has such feeling and emotion and the dancing comes naturally to us and suits our personalities.
You can dance the steps in an endless variety of figures.
For our show dances, we have carefully choreographed fixed routines, but when the tango is danced freestyle, the lady sometimes has no idea where she is to take the next step. She has to be incredibly sensitive to every nuance from her partner - his touch and his body language - in order to follow his lead. It is very intimate and exhilarating when it all comes together.
Following the last series of Strictly, you then went on the show's national tour - have you done much dancing since then?
Oh, yes. As you know, although I dance with a celebrity on Strictly Come Dancing, Vincent is my professional partner and we have had a very busy and exciting summer. In fact, Vincent and I have just totalled that since Strictly we have performed 154 show dances, held many, many workshops and did three months of our own classes in Guildford. Plus, on top of that, Kelly Brooks and I spent three weeks almost solid dancing for a BBC fitness DVD, which Vincent choreographed with me. Yes, we have been very busy!
So where have you been performing?
The occasions we have most enjoyed are the weddings and anniversary celebrations, but there have also been dancing holidays, two cruises, performances at dance schools and charity balls. We also wowed the tiny tots at the primary school that I attended here in Guildford - St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School - danced for a crazy TV commercial and, oh yes, we did a little dance at a fashion show in Guildford.
That sounds like a lot of dancing - is that how you keep your figure so trim?
No, it isn't enough - there has to be a lot of workouts at the gym to keep not only the muscle tone but also the stamina and the suppleness. Our show dances look so effortless but, believe me, there is a lot of work goes into that lightness of foot - exercise, practice of the routines and warm-ups before we dance.
This must all take up a huge amount of time - how do you manage to keep a balance with your private life?
Yes, it does take up a lot of time. It is like a nine to five job, only with very flexible and anti-social hours. Vincent and I are a partnership, and we have a partnership agreement that sets out how much dancing time we are to give to each other, but also when that obligation is satisfied so that we can then follow our private aspirations.
All in all, it works quite well, although there can be problems. We had one back in the summer when we had agreed to have the weekend off. Vincent had even bought tickets to go to Italy to see his parents, then we had a phone call to take part in a reality show that weekend. It was a difficult decision.
How did you decide?
With a lot of negotiation, compromise and sacrifice, but isn't that the glue which holds all relationships together?
Arranging for all these dancing contracts must take up a lot of time, too?
It can be very time consuming, but we have a secretary now who looks after almost all of it. He replies to the fan mail, sorts out all the details for the dancing contracts, juggles the diary to try to minimise the travelling and negotiates the fee. All we have to do is accept or refuse the booking. It works well and saves us a lot of time.
How do you like to relax when you are not busy dancing?
I like going to the gym and having a good workout, but I guess you are really asking about my other interests. I love animals and support the World Wildlife Fund. I am also a patron of Start Up, a Guildford charity that helps families with small children where the family has run into some sort of difficulty through illness, finance or disability.
I also enjoy cooking, especially pasta. Last year, I was on Ready Steady Cook and found that great fun. I used to play the violin and would like to start playing that again. Just at the moment my mother is not very well and I am spending time looking after her so life is pretty hectic.
What do you enjoy most about living in Surrey?
Well, I have lived here since I was four, so Guildford is my home. Almost all my friends are here and I like the town and the various activities that are available.
So after the next series of Strictly, how do you see the future?
Our partnership agreement runs to the end of 2009, and already the diary is pretty full with various engagements and the dancing classes in Guildford from April to June. Then, perhaps, there will be Strictly again in the autumn of 2009.
Well, our agreement says that in June we will re-negotiate our partnership terms for 2010, but that is such a long way ahead. We will just have to wait and see what happens.
- For more information about Flavia and Vincent, and their dance classes in Guildford, visit their website: www.vincentandflavia.com
Two to tango
Flavia and Vincent have had an extraordinary career and have won a whole host of prestigious dance competitions...
- World Argentine Tango Show Dance Champions 2005, 2006
- UK Argentine Tango Champions 2006
- UK Professional Ten Dance Champions 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
- UK Professional Ballroom Champions 2004
- European Ten Dance Finalists
- European Show Dance Finalists