Ballroom dancers - Curse of Strictly

Whether you’re a “Strictly” fan or not, it’s been hard to avoid the outpouring of scrutiny and accompanying moral indignation in the media over comedian Seann Walsh and his dance partner Katya Jones. The pair (she married, he in a long-term relationship) were caught on camera sharing what was  described as a “drunken snog” outside a London pub just hours after filming the popular BBC show.

Walsh’s long-term girlfriend took to Twitter to announce they had split. and that she had taken the cat. Katya Jones’ husband Neil kept quiet and avoided the press.


The curse of “Strictly”

The number of affairs and marital splits that have happened during or shortly after the popular BBC show has led to the idea of “the curse of Strictly”. Presenter Claudia Winkleman has said that she doesn’t believe in the curse as such, but that:

“It’s intoxicating, Strictly, because you’re all part of this extraordinary juggernaut.”

However, former Strictly dancer Brendon Cole believes the opposite, saying in an interview with “Fabulous” magazine:

“It’s definitely a thing. You can’t deny it after all these years of seeing different people falling in love. … It’s the nature of the beast that if you work closely with somebody, love is going to blossom, and hopefully the people involved are single. Every year you’re guaranteed some smoke somewhere.”

Celebrity splits post-Strictly

Several celebrities has split from their off-screen partners and become romantically involved with their on-screen dance partners. Their quoted reasons for doing so are varied and reveal the kind of pressures many couples may feel.


Louise and Jamie Rednapp

Runner-up in 2017, Louise split from her footballer husband  after admitting to She told The Telegraph:

“I became a sort of Stepford Wife, wanting to be perfect at it. It was only when I agreed to do Strictly Come Dancing that I realised I couldn’t just go back to that.”


Joanne Clifton and Joseph Edward-Bader

Professional dancer Joanne split from her long-term partner shortly after winning the show back in 2016.


Georgia May Foote and Giovanni Pernice

Georgia and Giovanni were partners in the 2015 series of Strictly, whilst she was in a relationship with “Coronation Street” actor Sean Ward. Ward allegedly struggled with jealousy over her appearances on the show, and the couple split mid-show. Georgia later dated Giovanni but just 12 months later they too went their separate ways.


Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff

After his involvement in Strictly 2013, rugby player Ben left his wife of 23 years, Abby Blayney, and the couple were subsequently divorced. Ben and dancer Kristina are still together and have a baby daughter together.


Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev

The queen of “Countdown” Rachel Riley was married to millionaire Jamie Gilbert when she took part in Strictly 2013. By the start of 2014, she had paired up with her dance partner Pasha, and are still together. Riley has been quoted as saying:

“I don’t think there’s a Strictly curse, but it does serve as a magnifying glass that shows up pre-existing fault lines.”


Kevin and Karen Clifton

As the case of Katya Jones and her Strictly dancer husband Neil, married professional dancers are not immune either. In 2017, dancers Kevin and Karen Clifton split, but the pair still both appear on the show. Indeed, they claim that being apart privately but working together professionally actually works better for them.

Jealousy, intimacy and Strictly

“Strictly” is hard work. Contestants need to train long hours alongside their day jobs, which this year includes shifts in a hospital for Dr. Ranj. Dancer Kevin has been following his celeb partner Stacey around the UK to practice in between her filming commitments. Being part of the series usually involves spending more time with their dance partner than their life partner. It also involves a great deal of physical contact with dancers whose ability to be top in their professional centres on being physically fit, elegant, glamorous - and attractive.

The result is a recipe for feelings of jealousy for even the most devoted of partners, even before the sudden spotlight of media attention affects their everyday lives. For those in relationships that are already under strain, or where one partner may be emotionally insecure or controlling (gaslighting), it can prove a tipping point.


What happens on tour…

The majority of celebrities will have already experienced the strain of lives spent on tour and away from family and friends. Whether abroad playing sports, or on international tours with bands, they will already have experienced the closeness of their ‘showbiz’ family. Just as in “Strictly”, they will spend considerable amounts of time and enjoy jokes and experiences that their partners are simply not part of, often for weeks on end.

That can lead to temptation and transgression, but as performers always used to say, “What happens on tour, stays on tour”. It may not be right or honest, but the phrase encompasses an understanding of human frailties and the need to sometimes let things go without fuss. However, social media is much less forgiving, when scandal can go viral in minutes. No wonder that The Guardian dubbed the Walsh/Jones scandal “Strictly a show trial”.


Still in the competition

On Sunday, the public vote kept Walsh and Jones in the competition, which must be a relief both for the pair and the show producers. However, it’s up to them to separate their professional and private lives, so that they can dance with the passion, energy and physical commitment that’s required to win. That could be the biggest challenge of all.

If you are in a relationship under strain, or feel you are being manipulated or controlled by your spouse, call us. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your situation, normally within 48 hours of application.