A spectacular line-up of some of the world’s best professional dancers will be high-kicking across Great Britain for the 2024 official Strictly The Professionals UK Tour.

RICHARD BARBER meets the dazzling dozen dancers to find out why the Pro tour is a standout date in their diary.

This breathtaking show, featuring for the first time a 12-strong ensemble of dancers from the smash hit BBC One TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, will open at the New Theatre Oxford on May 1 and play 37 shows taking in, among others, Birmingham, Sunderland, Cardiff, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Blackpool, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Swansea, finally coming to rest with two shows at Stockton’s Globe Theatre on June 1. On May 9, 10 and 11, the show will play the prestigious London Palladium.

Audiences nationwide will enjoy the incredible talent of these multi award-winning world-class dancers as they perform stunningly choreographed Ballroom and Latin routines in exquisite costumes, with all the glitz, glamour, sequins and sparkle of the TV show – live on stage!

The tour, directed by Strictly’s Creative Director, Jason Gilkison, will showcase the exceptional talent of TV’s hugely popular professional dancers, set within the wonderful world of the BBC show, with its stunning costumes and sparkling sets.

Says Jason: “It’s fantastic to unveil this stellar line-up of much-loved Strictly professional dancers for this year’s tour. We will be dazzling audiences across the country with the dance and choreography at the highest possible standard. To see these dancers coming together to perform on this scale is a joy for me as a director. Strictly fans are in for a real treat!”

Gorka Marquez makes no bones about it. “I’ve danced on all the Strictly Pro Tours,” says the 33-year-old Spaniard, “and, for me, it’s the most fun part of being involved with Strictly. I love the Saturday night show but it’s in a studio.

“What’s special about the tour is that it’s in a theatre in front of a live audience. Nothing beats being able to look into their eyes and see their reaction. I really like bringing out the best in my celebrity partners, but the Pro tour gives us the opportunity to showcase ourselves.”

Gorka and girlfriend Gemma Atkinson have a four-year-old daughter, Mia, and a baby son, Thiago, born last July. “When we’re in London or Manchester on the tour, Gemma will bring Mia to see me: she loves to see Daddy dance. I try to get home on odd days the rest of the time. I’m a judge on the Spanish version of Strictly so I’m used to being away from home.

“But I miss the family, of course, and they miss me, particularly Mia who likes me to take her to her swimming lesson on a Saturday morning. Thiago’s too young at the moment to understand the passage of time. But this is all part of the job and I’m doing something I love.

Like Gorka, Neil Jones, 42, now has an extra imperative not to be too far from home for too long. Last October, his girlfriend, Chyna Mills, gave birth to their baby daughter, Havana. “Chyna will bring the baby to see me if I’ve only got one show that day so I can spend time with her.”

But he wouldn’t dream of turning down the tour. “It gives each of us our moment to shine and this time we’ve got more Pro dancers than ever to produce an incredible show. It also helps that we dance to a live band and singers onstage in front of a live audience. It gives everything an extra urgency.”

Like Neil, Venezuelan Karen Hauer, 41, has been with Strictly for over 10 years now. “I love everything to do with Strictly, and the Pro Tour has a very special place in my heart. We’re the spine of Strictly and this is something each of us has been crafting since we were children. This is our passion so what better than to demonstrate it on stages around the country? When we’re out there, we’re alive.”

She trains every day to maintain her stamina. “Neil and I are in our 40s now so we’re conscious of keeping up with all the younger dancers. For me, that involves walking my dogs, cycling regularly, working out every day. But there’s no better training than dancing itself.

“Touring makes its own demands. Time and again, though, any exhaustion you might feel simply evaporates when you’re in front of an audience. Nothing is more exciting.”

By contrast, Cypriot-born Michelle Tsiakkas, 28, is one of Strictly’s newest recruits, joining the TV troop of dancers in 2022, and part of the arena tour in 2023 but, until now, never having toured solely with the Professionals.

“I’m very excited about it,” she says. “I went to see the Pro Tour last year, so I know a little of what to expect. What struck me was that it was the Pros doing what they love best. In the studio, you’re mostly focused on the cameras; in the theatre, the focus is going to be the audience in front of you which gives you the opportunity to feed off their energy.”

Between now and May 1, she’ll be keeping a close eye on her diet and working out in the gym – short bursts of high cardio, weights, yoga, and Pilates – to make sure she’s as fit and strong as she can be.

And what about all those sequins, the razzle-dazzle of it all? “That’s something I’ve grown up with; I long ago got used to all the bling. It has its place. It’s part and parcel of it, something that makes you feel glamorous and confident on the dance floor. I love it.”

This will be the second Pro Tour for Italian, Vito Coppola, 31, who, along with actress Ellie Leach, carried off the prized glitterball in 2023’s TV show. “I enjoyed last year’s Pro Tour so much; it was my first time ever dancing on a stage in front of an audience. It took me a moment or two to get used to the space restrictions. In a TV studio, you can dance through 360 degrees. In a theatre, there’s an edge to the stage.

“But, if you’re surrounded by eleven other professionals, as will happen this time round, you somehow all dance as one body. These dancers are from all over the world but they’re like brothers and sisters to me – and what unites us is our passion for dance. It’s very special.”

This will also be the second time Chinese dancer Nancy Xu, 32, has been a part of the Strictly Pro Tour. “I was so excited to be involved last year – and I wasn’t disappointed. It was one of my dreams come true. This time round, there will be a dozen dancers – I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it!

“You really get to know the other dancers when you’re on tour, both onstage and off. It’s hard to beat good quality time with people you respect so much. I know I’ll be slightly nervous before stepping out in front of a live audience but in a good way: it gets the adrenalin going. The more they want to give to us, the more we want to give back. I can’t wait!”

Says Luba Mushtuk, 34, who recently became a British citizen: “I always find performing with other professionals inspiring. It makes me want to be the best version of myself every single show. They’re a great bunch. I love being with them: it’s a lot of fun on the stage but it’s a lot of fun off-stage, too. It’s like being part of a big family: I like us!

“We also have an incredible director/choreographer in Jason Gilkison who always knows how to bring out the best in us. When you’re out there, you feel a tremendous adrenalin rush. It’s why I love theatre so much.”

Ukrainian-born dancer, Nikita Kuzmin, 26, a recent runner-up in Celebrity Big Brother, is in complete agreement. Last year’s Pro Tour exceeded all his expectations. “It was my favourite tour ever,” he says, “and so nice to be in such harmony with all the other professionals. It was fun, it was entertaining; we were truly like a family.”

But, echoing his fellow professionals, what makes the real difference, says Nikita, is the live audiences. “That’s the reason we dance: to see the people enjoying it, to get that response. It’s just unbelievable.

“What’s more, this year is going to be even bigger and better. We’ll have lots of personal sides to the show and special reminders for the people who watched the last season of Strictly. There’ll be so much dancing, I honestly believe it will be best Pro Tour ever.”

Polish-born Jowita Przystal, 29, joined the Strictly Pro Tour for the first-time last year. “And it was my biggest dream come true. We’re all different but together we created something unique.

“Last year was amazing and this year is going to be even more dancing, more fun, more everything. As a performer, the stage is my happy place. And performing live in front of a theatre audience is the cherry on the cake.”

Says Australian Dianne Buswell, 34: “We spend so much time on Strictly focusing on the celebrities, and rightly so, but the Pro Tour is a chance for us to go out and show the world what we’re capable of. And I love theatres: the minute you step out on stage, you can not only hear the audience clapping and cheering but you can see how much they’re enjoying themselves.”

For all that, the performing and the travelling can be demanding. “For sure. We’re classed as athletes, so we have to look after our bodies. But we’re extremely lucky that a physio and a masseuse travel everywhere with us.”

As it happens, her birthday falls on May 6, a rare day off. So, will she be joined by live-in boyfriend Joe Sugg, someone she originally met on Strictly? “No question. No ifs or buts. Wherever it is, we’ll be together.”

So why does Sicilian Graziano Di Prima, 30, regard the Pro Tour as something special? “Because it’s both a celebration of the TV show,” he says, “and of us as professional dancers. Our director, Jason, also makes sure that each one of us has a solo spot to demonstrate what we can do.”

“There’ll barely be a day throughout May when we won’t be performing.” And afterwards? “A holiday in the sun, please.”

Last year was the first time Chinese-born Carlos Gu, 29, went on the Pro Tour. “It was also the first time I’d ever danced in a theatre and that included dancing on the stage of the London Palladium. I couldn’t believe it. I was beyond happy.”

But you have to pace yourself, he says. “If we have a day off, I like to chill on my own. And we’re lucky in that we have excellent caterers on tour so I can always eat as much as I like because I know I’ll be burning it off in the show. Dancing itself is a work-out. I’m ready to go again. I can’t wait for May 1 and the first show in Oxford.”

So, what are you waiting for…?

Strictly The Professionals 2024 tours the UK from May 1 to June 1. Tickets and venues can be found at

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