Vincent Simone is an Italian professional dancer, who previously fox-trotted his way onto the likes of Strictly Come Dancing from 2006 until 2012. He and fellow Strictly dancer Ian Waite are returning to the UK for ‘Act Two’ after the roaring success of their 2019 tour. Karen Fairweather sat down with Vincent to hear all about it…
KF: I think I’m right in saying that you come from a family of dancers, is that right?
VS: Yes, I started dancing at the age of eight. Dancing has always been a big thing for me and my family, my uncles and aunties and in Italy overall, dancing is so popular and due to the great weather, you can just wander around any resort in the summer and hear tango or ballroom music playing – and see people dancing.
KF: That sounds amazing – so these were the first steps for you to become the dance star you are today?
VS: Yes, and one of my uncles, in particular, was an amazing dancer – he used to dance with three women at the same time! So yes, dancing has always been part of me and my family, but I do recall at the age of eight, my mum asked me if I’d like to start to go ballroom dancing and I remember my answer was ‘No, definitely not!’
But I was lucky because my cousin, who was four years older than me (he was 12 at the time) – he joined the dance school and my auntie called me to speak with him and he said ‘come on Vincent, you need to come to dance school because it is full of really pretty girls!’
So I went with my family to watch, and then the teacher said to me, ‘if you are here to watch, then you might as well join in!’
KF: And then things moved quickly for you from then?
VS: Yes, at the age of twelve, along with my uncles and cousins, we opened our first dance school – I think I was the youngest teacher in the world! And by the age of fourteen, we had five dance schools in Italy, we just became very popular.
KF: Were all the schools local to you?
VS: They were all about half an hour from my hometown in Foggia.
KF: Speaking of home, do you get to go back there very often?
VS: No, not really, because I am so busy, but I like people to come to me, my parents and my sister were just with me in Spain for seven weeks, they come at Christmas too and also they can come and see one of my shows if I am performing.
KF: You have a lot of shows coming up! With the new tour, The Ballroom Boys – Act Two (with co-dancing and also ex-strictly star, Ian Waite) you have around 90 dates…
VS: Yes, it sounds like a lot but we take it all day by day, and we love what we do.
KF: With all these shows, how do you find the stamina? Do you eat more, sleep more, have more red wine maybe?
VS: (chuckles) It just depends, you know, some nights after the show, I have been really excited and on a high during the performance, that I find it really hard to come down from that, so that can mean a late night… we do get to have some extra sleep the following morning. But then of course it’s onto the next show and venue, but it is what it is and every day is different – and the audiences are what keep us going.
KF: You must be able to feel when an audience is engaged with you and enjoying the show; so when you are on stage, do you feel their vibe and ‘feed’ off their energy? If you have a quiet crowd, are they harder to please?
VS: Well it’s all relevant, really, during my career I have performed in all sorts of venues. When I was touring with Flavia (Cacace, his female professional dance partner) we had huge venues to fill, such as in The West End, The Palladium, and somewhere in Scotland that was just enormous! Sometimes you do get a quieter audience and I was worried that maybe they hadn’t enjoyed the show – but when you get to meet some of the fans after the show they couldn’t be happier, they are over the moon! It’s just some people are less emotional. The Scottish are quite lively, and I remember going outside after a show somewhere in Ireland and there was a gang of ladies waiting to see me and they just picked me up and carried me off!
KF: Thinking now of shows and audiences, you have a new tour, that starts in just two weeks! The Ballroom Boys – Act Two, with Ian Waite, you two are good friends aren’t you? How long have you been buddies?
VS: Oh, at least 25 years, we used to compete against each other! I used to look up to Ian, he was further ahead than me (as he is a little older) and it’s funny as he must be the tallest dancer on the planet and I was probably the shortest, but we just get on so well and we love it when people want to come and see us perform together.
KF: Vincent, you mentioned then that Ian is a fair bit taller than you, is there a dance routine in the new show where you dance together, and Ian has to lift you?
VS: Yes we do! The audience goes crazy for it, they love it! It is an all-new show though, last time (The Ballroom Boys toured previously in 2019) we did a ballet dance together, and Ian lifted me… he was dressed as a ballerina in a tutu and it was just hilarious!
The tour this year starts in Crewe on the 14th September, and finishes for 2021 in Bury St Edmunds at the end of November – and then we start again in 2022!
KF: I’m sure the fans cannot wait to see you both…and, talking of Ian, what would you say is his best trait, the nicest thing about him?
VS: He has an amazing energy, one of those people you really want as a friend, kind of like the next-door neighbour type – a lot of professional dancers have travelled the world and been so successful, they can sometimes forget their roots – but with Ian he is very down to earth, and that is what people love the most. He is also a great energy to work with, we have no stress, we get on well, and he has a great brain for ideas – it was Ian that came up with the Ballroom Boys concept and to do a tour, or he’ll come up with ideas like doing a dance weekender… I am more the practical one – and of course the genius that comes behind all the choreography!
KF: Ah, I see! So is it 50/50 on the choreography?
VS: Yes it is really, I tend to make more ideas for the steps, whereas Ian comes up more with the direction so it’s pretty even.
KF: Going back to your other professional dance partner, the lovely Flavia Cacace, can you tell me how you met?
VS: We have danced together for 25 years… I could have killed her and been out of prison by now! (chuckles)
KF: Your achievements, to name a few, with Flavia – World Argentine Tango champs in 2005/2006, UK Professional 10 Dance champs the same season, and UK Ballroom champs for several years. When did you last get to dance with Flavia?
VS: It was probably about three years ago – we have done a few private shows together, and did a large tour called Tango Moderno – then she decided she wanted to chill for a little, and have more of a normal life. When you do these shows for years on end, you lose your private life…she wanted to rest and recharge her batteries.
KF: Can we chat about the dance partners you had on Strictly? You did the show from 2006 to 2012 – who was your favourite partner to dance with?
VS: I know it’s like a cliché but everyone that I danced with I had an amazing time! Whether it was one week (Edwina Currie) or ten weeks (Rachel Stevens, Dani Harmer). I guess the one that I remembered the most and was most popular was Rachel Stevens (2008) and we almost won the show… she did an amazing rumba and also Argentine Tango.
KF: When you were on Strictly, did you have to do all your own choreography, or did you have help?
VS: No, we had to do everything ourselves, including the professional group numbers. It really was a full-on job back then on Strictly, because now they have a team of professionals and choreographers to help them. It was hard back then!
KF: They have lots of special effects and costumes now…
VS: Yes back in the day it was just me, the girl and the music.
KF: Looking back on all you have accomplished in your professional career, what do you feel is your biggest achievement.
VS: Well… my best moment for me was dancing live on Strictly each week in front of fifteen million people, especially with some of the live acts – you know, we had Beyonce or Michael Buble, they were superstars – and I go to dance to them while they were singing. It was amazing!
KF: Outside of work, what passions or hobbies do you have?
VS: I love to watch movies and switch off – because I am a passionate person I really like to get involved with the film, and when it finishes it’s like wow, back to reality! I also like cars and motorbikes, and because I have been living in Spain for eighteen months and they have amazing weather and roads – my children got me to buy a 4×4 convertible which was amazing to drive around the Spanish coast… the view, the music on… the same with riding my motorbike, I just set off, find a little café, buy a coffee – switch off.
KF: So living In Spain for eighteen months, were you recognised a lot, as much as here in the UK?
VS: It depends where I go, but if there are British people about then they always want to come and say hello, which is lovely! We went to a new restaurant a little while ago and they were expecting about forty people, but because they advertised I would be there they had about five hundred people turn up!
It’s nice to be popular!
KF: What can we expect from The Ballroom Boys – Act Two?
VS: First of all, after all the sadness of the pandemic, I want everyone to enjoy and have an amazing show, the backdrop will shift from places like the Hollywood Hills to Argentina… there are group numbers … we just want to make this year’s show even bigger and better! We just want people to turn up and spend their evening with us.
KF: I totally agree, even more so than normal, because of the pandemic I think people are really looking forward to a great night out. For our Suffolk readers, can I ask if our local lady Crystal Main will be joining your show this year?
VS: She is one of the most amazing dancers I have met, but sadly no she will be concentrating on her dance school this year – but, we have a new lady called Faye who is incredible! She dances with Ian and they make a fantastic couple!
KF: Will you have a large chorus line joining you on stage?
VS: We have kept it quite small, some of the venues that we visit are quite small and intimate, so we don’t want to overcrowd the stage with too many people… plus we like to have that closeness and connection with the audience, it is very intimate, like we are dancing in your lounge!
KF: And I for one, cannot wait to see you and Ian perform later in the year! Thank you so much Vincent, it has been brilliant speaking to you! I wish you every success in the new tour that kicks off in just two weeks time!
VS: Thank you and we hope everyone enjoys the show!
THE BALLROOM BOYS – ACT TWO – tour dates in our region:
- 21 September ’21 – Mercury Theatre, Colchester
- 28 October ’21 – Princes Theatre, Clacton
- 19th November ’21 – Playhouse, Harlow
- 26th November ’21 – Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe
- 28th November ’21 – The Apex, Bury St Edmunds
- 17th April ’22 – New Theatre, Peterborough
- 7th June ’22 – Corn Exchange, King’s Lynn
- 29th June ’22 – Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
To see the full list of tour dates visit: https://www.theballroomboys.com/