WHEN he’s not relishing his raunchy role as a sex god on the West End stage, dancer Kevin Clifton is the Strictly pro all female contestants want to be paired with.
Just ask former TV dance partners Susanna Reid, Louise Redknapp and Stacey Dooley. All three became mesmerised by his teaching during their stints on the BBC1 show.
So how does this three-times-wed, floppy-haired 36-year-old from Grimsby transform into King Kev, a godlike figure who makes his partners feel like queens of the dancefloor?
He tells The Sun: “I don’t crack the whip, be really strict or a disciplinarian. The only way you can do your best is when you feel really comfortable and safe. And I also tell them I won’t laugh at them at any point — they can make as many mistakes as they want, providing they give their all on the night.”
Yet despite their infatuation with the dancer, Kevin insists he has never worked his Strictly magic with his celebrity partners in the bedroom. Asked if any of his show partnerships has turned romantic, he responds categorically: “No, never. You’re there to do a job and get on with the dancing. That’s what it’s about.”
I ask because the star has been at the centre of the show’s infamous curse, with two of his show partners ending their relationships after being paired with him on Strictly. Good Morning Britain host Susanna, 48, split from long-term partner Dominic Cotton just a few weeks after her 2013 Strictly stint. Three years later, Kevin’s close relationship with pop star Louise, 44, was reported to have caused trouble in both their marriages.
Kevin’s then-wife Karen, 36, is said to have told Louise’s spouse, former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp, 45: “Keep your wife away from my husband. She’s ruining our marriage.” Both couples later split.
And more recently, 32-year-old documentary-maker Stacey Dooley’s relationship with personal trainer Sam Tucknott, 30, has come under strain after she and Kevin lifted the Glitterball trophy in December. She and Kevin remain close. Now, after six memorable years on Strictly, Kevin is switching sides — from contestant to judge — on new ITV show All Star Musicals.
Appearing on the panel alongside Elaine Paige, 71, and John Barrowman, 52, dancer Kevin will now be the one giving feedback on celebrity contestants belting out show tunes. He has learned from judges of varying styles on Strictly, be it Craig Revel Horwood’s cutting putdowns, Shirley Ballas’ technical analysis and Bruno Toniolo’s enthusiasm.
But it appears he is going for the Darcey Bussell approach when it comes to telling the celebrity singers his view of them. He explains: “When you stand in front of the judges and they pick you apart, it’s soul destroying. I wanted to be as encouraging as possible. If there are things that could be improved you have to say, but I wanted to do it in the most encouraging way so they felt good about it.”
He is more than qualified for the gig, his ability to carry a tune helping him land a West End role as musician Stacee Jaxx in the Rock Of Ages musical. The risque part, which was played by Tom Cruise in the 2012 movie version, sees Kevin groping co-stars’ breasts, grabbing his crotch and simulating sex on stage.
Laughing at the racy role, Kevin insists he wasn’t worried about how it would affect his clean-cut image on Strictly. He explains: “I didn’t want to get to the point where I’m only seen as doing the same thing and there’s nothing else I can do. The character is something completely different to what people are used to seeing.
“All the raunchiness is tongue-in-cheek. I wasn’t nervous about it. My character is over-the-top. I had to throw myself in. Plus I used to be a bit of a goth and a rock music fan, and I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a wannabe rock star, so now I get to act out my dream.”
Kevin prepped for the gig by getting acting lessons from one of the world’s most infamous, though now reformed, lotharios — Russell Brand. The two became unlikely pals after Kevin went to one of the 43-year-old comic’s stand-up shows a few years ago.
He says: “It turns out that he’s a massive Strictly fan. Him and his wife always sit down and watch it, so he got me up on stage. We started dancing and having a laugh. He asked if we could stay in touch and we became mates. I taught him and his wife Laura their wedding dance. It was a slow dance, a waltz.
“He was in the movie Rock Of Ages so I asked him to go through the script with me. He taught me to view my character as an animal, so we came up with him being a snake, so he slithers and every now and then he has a jolt, like he is attacking.” Kevin might be taking centre stage now, but until last year he was touring with his estranged wife, Venezuelan-born Karen.
The couple officially confirmed the end of their three-year marriage in March last year but have remained friends. Kevin even insists he is pleased she has found love again, with singer David Webb.
“I’ve got so much respect for her. I just want her to be happy,” he says. “She seems very happy and she came to my launch night of Rock Of Ages, which was great. We didn’t want it to become argumentative or this difficult thing that was happening. We wanted to be as adult as possible and be calm about it. We didn’t want to drive ourselves mad. We wanted to carry on working together at Strictly and do our tour together.
“We’re in the same working environment. The idea that Strictly producers had to choose one or the other was never discussed — we were obviously happy to carry on working together. They are lovely and they came over and said, ‘Are you OK? Do you need anything from us?’ We said, ‘No, we’re good’.”
Kevin’s first marriage was with Russian Anna Melnikova, his Latin dance partner at the time. The pair wed when Kevin was 20 but split three years later in 2005 after he decided to turn his back on professional dancing.
He went on to fall for dancer Clare Craze, who he met in a London salsa bar. They married in 2007 but split in 2010, with Kevin later admitting: “I was never particularly happy and wasn’t myself.”
Kevin met Karen a year later, when they were both part of international ballroom stage show Burn The Floor — a tour he is squeezing into his packed schedule this year. With his divorce from Clare finalised in 2013, he proposed to Karen during a performance and they wed in 2015.
To get over his latest split, he has thrown himself into his career. He seems unsure about whether or not he will one day settle down and have a family, admitting: “I’m not actually dating at the moment. I don’t put myself out there enough. I’m not on the scene. I’m a workaholic.
“I get panicky when I have too much time off! Even on a day off I always end up doing something because I feel like if I relax too much I’m not being productive. I’m sure I would like to meet someone in the future but it’s not something I’m focusing on at the moment. I don’t want to put any pressure on it. One day I’ll have children — but I’ve got to have a girlfriend first.”
When you decide to start looking, Kevin, there will be no shortage of applicants . . .
- All Star Musicals starts tomorrow at 6pm on ITV.
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Strictly's Kevin Clifton tells Chris Evans he STILL hasn't heard from show bosses about appearing on 2019 show
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