96 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ Professional Dancers

1. Pasha Kovalev’s former competitive dance partner is Anya Garnis, who joined ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ as a pro for one series in 2013, where she partnered ‘Casualty’ actor Patrick Robinson.

2. Pasha and Anya moved to the US in 2001 and began competing professionally, becoming US National Latin Finalists and Ohio Star Ball Finalists.

3. Pasha’s professional partner now is former ‘Strictly’ dancer, Katya Virshilas, although he is touring with Anya in 2018.  

4. Pasha was a contestant on the third series of Cat Deeley’s US dance show ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ in 2007, where he finished in fifth place. 

5. Pasha later served as a choreographer on the show for seven series, most recently appearing in 2014. 

6. Pasha holds the record for the record for most perfect scores (8) on ‘Strictly’.

7. Pasha and Kevin jointly hold the record for the most tens ever awarded (61).

8. Pasha is in a long-term relationship with ‘Countdown’ star Rachel Riley, after they were partnered on the show in 2013. 

<strong>Pasha Kovalev and Rachel Riley</strong>

9. Pasha hails from Siberia. 

10. Oti Mabuse was previously a professional dancer on the German version of ‘Strictly’ called ‘Let’s Dance!’ in 2015.

11. Oti’s sister, Motsi, serves as a judge on the show, having previously been a professional dancer.  

<strong>Motsi Mabuse on 'Let's Dance'</strong>

12. Oti studied Civil Engineering at university. 

13. Oti is eight times South African Latin American Champion, and was also a semi-finalist in the World European Latin, World Cup, World Cup Freestyle Latin and European Championship Latin competitions. 

14. Oti hails from born in Pretoria in South Africa. 

15 Oti is married to Romanian dancer Marius Iepure, who has appeared as a background dancer on ‘Strictly’, most recently during Blackpool Week in 2017.

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16. Kevin and Karen Clifton are married, having tied the knot in July 2015. 

17. Kevin proposed to Karen on stage at a performance of ‘Burn The Floor’ on her birthday. 

18. Kevin set a new ‘Strictly’ record in 2015 by becoming the first professional ever to reach the final for three consecutive years, and went on to beat this again the following year. 

<strong>Karen and Kevin Clifton</strong>

19. Kevin is a former Youth World Number 1 and four times British Latin Champion, also winning International Open titles in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Japan, France, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and Belgium. 

20. Kevin competed as a child with his sister Joanne, who also went on to become a ‘Strictly’ professional in 2014. 

21. Kevin and Joanne were taught to dance from an early age by their parents – former World Champions Keith and Judy Clifton. 

22. Kevin retired from competitive dancing in 2007, and was ranked seventh in the world at the time. 

<strong>Kevin and Karen with his sister Joanne</strong>

23. Kevin was previously married to fellow professional dancer Clare Craze, who he split from in 2010, with their divorce finalised three years later. 

24. Kevin made his musical theatre debut in 2010, starring in a West End production of ‘Dirty Dancing: The Musical’. 

25. Kevin was previously a background dancer on ‘Strictly’ in 2012, before being invited to join the pro cast a year later. 

26. Karen Clifton is originally from Venezuela, but moved to New York when she was eight-years-old. 

27. Karen has won numerous ballroom awards, including World Mambo Champion in 2008 and Professional American Rhythm Rising Star Champion in 2009.

28. Karen was married to fellow dancer Matthew Hauer prior to meeting Kevin. 

29. Karen and Matthew previously auditioned for series six of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ in the US in 2009, and she reached the final six girls. 

30. Karen and Kevin met in 2008, when they were cast as principal dancers in ‘Burn The Floor’, both on Broadway and in the West End. 

31. Gorka Marquez is one of the top dancers in his native Spain. 

32. Gorka represented his home country in the World Latin Championships in 2010, and reached the semi-finals of the 2012 WDSF World Cup.

33. Gorka is also a health and fitness enthusiast, regularly posting videos and pictures of his gym routines (and the results of them) on Instagram.  

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34. Nadiya Bychkova is a two-time World Champion and European Champion in ballroom and Latin ‘10’ Dance. She is also multiple-time Slovenian ballroom and Latin Champion.

35. Nadiya has previously taken part in the Bosnian version of ‘Strictly’, and can also do hip-hop dancing. 

36. Nadiya was already pals with fellow professional dancer Aljaž Skorjanec, having trained at the same dance school in Slovenia.

37. Nadiya has a one-year-old daughter with partner Matija Skarabot, a famous Slovenian footballer who plays for Gorica. 

38. Nadiya is also a model and has posed for Playboy. 

39. Nadiya is originally from the Ukraine. 

40. Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara are married, tying the knot in July 2017 after six years of dating. 

41. Aljaž is a 19-time Slovenian champion in Ballroom, Latin and ’10′ Dance. 

42. Aljaž was brought up in a small town in Slovenia where he started dancing aged five, signing himself up for dance lessons in nursery without his parents’ knowledge.

43. Aljaž previously starred on Slovenia’s ‘Dancing With the Stars’.

44. Janette Manrara auditioned for the fourth series of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ in 2008, but failed to make it into the top 20. She returned the following year and made it to the lives shows, but was eliminated in week seven. 

45. Janette later appeared as a dancer in musical TV series ‘Glee’. 

46. Janette has also worked on the Oscars and danced with Jennifer Lopez. 

47. Janette started training as a dancer aged 19, but studied finance at Florida International University, and went on to work in a bank for seven years after graduating.

48. Janette is originally from Miami, with her family hailing from Cuba. 

49. Giovanni Pernice has won various titles including the Italian Open Latin Dance Championships in 2012 with his dance partner Erika Attisano, and finished second place in the International Open Latin in Slovenia 2014.

50. Giovanni holds the ‘Strictly’ record for getting the earliest ever 40 in the competition, which was in week seven of the 2017 series, for his Tango with Debbie McGee. 

51. Giovanni went on to date ‘Coronation Street’ star Georgia May Foote after they were paired together on the 2015 series. They split after less than a year together.

<strong>Giovanni Pernice and Georgia May Foote</strong>

52. Giovanni has a tattoo on his arm which reads ‘Nato Per Vincere’ meaning ‘Born To Win’, as well as the date he won the Italian Championships on his wrist. 

53. Giovanni was born in Sicily but moved to Bologna at the age of 14 to concentrate on dancing. 

54. Giovanni holds the Guinness World Record for the most Jive kicks and flicks in 30 seconds after winning It Takes Two’s pro challenge in 2016. 

55. Dianne Buswell has previously been crowned Australian Open Champion and is a four-time Amateur Australian Open Finalist.

56. Dianne was a pro on the last series of ‘Dancing With The Stars Australia’ in 2015, where she was fifth to be eliminated with partner Jude Bolton. 

<strong>Dianne Buswell</strong>

57. AJ Pritchard was Strictly’s youngest ever male pro when he joined the show in 2016 at the age of 21. 

58. AJ’s competitive partner is Chloe Hewitt, who is also one of the pro dancers. 

59. AJ and Chloe have won titles including – deep breath – the British National Youth Latin Contest, the United Kingdom Youth Ballroom Championships, the Champions Of Tomorrow Youth Ballroom & Latin, and the all England Youth Ballroom & Latin tournament.

60. AJ and Chloe entered ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2013 as a dance act, and reached the live semi-finals. 

61. AJ has a younger brother called Curtis who was a professional dancer on the 2017 of Ireland’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’.

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62. Chloe Hewitt joined the show with AJ in 2016, but has never had a celebrity partner during the two main series she has starred on. 

63. Chloe has, however, danced with Gethin Jones on the 2016 Christmas special and Radzi Chinyanganya on the 2017 Children In Need special.

64. Chloe is the youngest ever female professional to have been on the show, being just 21 when she joined. 

65. Anton Du Beke and Brendan Cole are the only two remaining original professionals, both appearing in the very first episode. 

66. Anton is the oldest pro on the show, turning 51 in 2017. 

67. Anton’s real name is Tony Beke.

68. Anton’s former competitive partner is former ‘Strictly’ pro Erin Boag, and the couple continue to dance together outside of the show. 

<strong>Anton Du Beke with 'Strictly' host Tess Daly</strong>

69. Anton and Erin won the the New Zealand Championship two years in a row during the late 1990s. 

70. Anton has only twice reached the ‘Strictly’ final – once in the third series with Lesley Garrett, and then with Katie Derham in 2015. 

71. Anton hold the record for the most number of 1s given out by the judges (4).  

72. Anton used to work as a salesman prior to becoming a professional dancer. 

73. Anton won the title of Rear Of The Year in 2011.

74. Anton and his wife Hannah welcomed twins in March 2017. 

75. Brendan and Anton were both in the frame to replace Head Judge Len Goodman in 2017, but eventually lost out on the job to Shirley Ballas. 

76. Brendan Cole won the very first series of ‘Strictly’ with BBC newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, and has only made the final once since with Lisa Snowdon in 2008. 

<strong>Brendan Cole with first partner Natasha Kaplinsky</strong>

77. Brendan is one of only two professionals to score a perfect 40 for a Cha Cha, with his and Lisa’s performance to ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ in series six bagging him this title. 

78. Brendan starred on ITV’s second series of ‘Celebrity Love Island’ in 2006, where he finished runner-up with Kellie Bryan. 

79. Brendan was a judge on New Zealand’s version of ‘Strictly’ from 2005 to 2009, alongside Craig Revel Horwood, where they clashed even more frequently than they do on the UK show. 

80. Brendan was a builder and roof layer prior to becoming a professional dancer. 

81. Brendan appeared on Strictly’s predecessor ‘Come Dancing’ alongside professional dance partner Camilla Dallerup, who also went on to become a ‘Strictly’ pro. 

82. Brendan and Camilla won the New Zealand and Asian Open Professional Championships and were semi-finalists at the International, UK Open, British Open and World Championships.

83. Brendan was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, but moved to the UK at the age of 18. 

84. Brendan has a daughter, Aurelia, with wife Zoe Hobbs. 

85. Katya Jones is originally from Saint Petersburg in Russia. Her mother is of Korean ethnicity, and her father is a Russian businessman. 

86. Katya is married to fellow ‘Strictly’ pro Neil Jones, tying the knot in 2013.  

<strong>Neil and Katya Jones</strong>

87. Katya and Neil met in 2008 when her trainers (one of whom was former ‘Strictly’ pro Karen Hardy) recommended Neil as a potential dance partner. 

88. Katya and Neil won the WDC World Championships, as well as three titles at the World Amateur Latin Championships, before they finally turned pro in 2013. 

89. Katya and Neil are now the undefeated four-time British National Champions.

90. Neil Jones has never had a celeb partner since joining the show in 2016, but paired up with Judy Murray on the 2017 Christmas special, and Olympian Hollie Webb and former ‘Blue Peter’ presenter Konnie Huq on the 2016 and 2017 Children In Need Specials respectively. 

91. Neil was born in a British Army Camp in Munster, Germany.

92. Neil has represented Finland, the Netherlands and the UK during the course of his competitive career.

93. Amy Dowden is the current British National Champion and one of the highest-ranking Ballroom and Latin American professional dancers in the UK.

<strong>Amy Dowden</strong>

94. Amy is also a four-time British National Finalist and in 2015, she reached the semi-final of the World Championship.

95. Amy is the first ever Welsh professional on ‘Strictly’.

96. Pasha, Dianne, Karen, Kevin, Gorka, Janette, Aljaž have all appeared in the ‘Burn The Floor’ dance production either on Broadway or the West End at some point during its run.