Interview with professional dancer Flavia Cacace
Strictly's number one Flavia Cacace
As months go December 2012 wasn’t too bad for Flavia Cacace. Strictly Come Dancing’s newest champion (in the company of Olympic gymnast Louis Smith) barely had time to get the trophy home and polish it on her mantelpiece, before another glittering bauble caught her eye, an engagement ring from boyfriend and former celebrity dance partner Jimi Mistry.
“I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment, what with Strictly and the engagement,” she admits. “But I’m just going with the flow and enjoying it. I think it’s all a result of all the hard work I’ve put in over the years. It’s one of those moments in your life when you can just enjoy it.”
And enjoy it she certainly has, although there hasn’t been a huge amount of time to sit on any laurels or make any hasty wedding plans. January 2013 brought rehearsals and plenty of them for her follow-up Midnight Tango tour with Vincent Simone which has started at the Phoenix Theatre in London before heading off on a nationwide tour. So since Strictly and Christmas, her little feet have barely touched the ground and when they have, they haven’t stayed there long....
“It has been full on. Moving from Strictly, where you have rehearsals all week and then the shows at the weekend, to a tour where there are 8 shows a week! We had 8-hour rehearsal days in the run-up to opening night and apart from the odd 5 minute break and grabbing lunch, you just don’t stop. The show is intense and Vincent and I are on stage most of the time, so it’s physically and mentally exhausting.”
With her dimpled smile and a definite sparkle in the eye, she looks anything but exhausted at the moment. But the question most realbuzzers were dying to know, is how does she stay so fit, and maintain her incredible physique and a figure that most women would kill for?
“Dancing is the key to my fitness,” she grins. “I rarely go to the gym when I’m working because I need to rest in between shows and take care of my body. Unwinding is so important and so is stretching and sports massage. With so much dancing you get aches and pains all the time and muscular stiffness in your legs and calfs, so you have to be careful. Plus you have to maintain those energy levels because of the amount of energy we need for a two hour show.
But if I wasn’t working I would be active anyway. I’ll go to the gym or go for a long walk or go swimming. I have to do something because I love any kind of activity. I get a real buzz from it and the feeling you get afterwards when you have done some good exercise.”
For the record, and fitness fans take note here, she thinks that of all the dances, the Salsa offers the best aerobic workout. But just as important for amateurs and professional dancers alike, is refuelling, especially during rigorous rehearsals or a gruelling tour. And annoyingly, as we all suspected, she admits she is one of those people who just doesn’t have to watch their weight.
“I really enjoy a good meal and I never count the calories. I’m lucky in that I can eat what I want at the moment, although I do worry that the day will come when I will wake up and get the shock of my life because I’ll have to watch what I eat!
“I was brought up on a Mediterranean diet though, so I do eat a lot of carbs. But I need the carbs to give me energy for all the exercise I do. When we’re on tour we have to eat out most of the time, so I just grab what I can when I can. But I also drink energy drinks (Maxitone) and make sure I bring in some food from home sometimes too.”
Midnight Tango, as the name would suggest, is a show which involves a love story based around the Argentine Tango, which also happens to be Flavia’s favourite dance. And watching her dance it’s not difficult to see why the tango suits her so much too. She is the current world record holder for the highest number of kick ball changes in 30 seconds. “It was 74 or 76,” she explains modestly. “I can’t remember which.” But her feet move in an otherworldly blur that the rest of us can only quietly marvel at. And although she is proud of that world record and her Strictly title, she is most impressed by the fitness efforts of her former Strictly partner Russell Grant, with whom she remains firm friends and work colleagues.
“Russell is an inspiration for everyone. He has lost 11 stone since 2009 through dancing and exercise and I love working with him. I was thrilled for him when we won the Strictly competition on Children in Need. And even though I’ve had lots of wonderful moments on Strictly Come Dancing, one of my all-time favourites has be the Paso Doble with Russell, when he was playing a blind bullfighter! It was such an incredible moment watching him do that, that I almost forgot to go and join him on the dance floor!”
The pair will be reunited on her Midnight Tango tour and they have also combined on a Zalza DVD due out in April. It’s a workout based on a unique combination and interpretation of the Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, Jive, Rumba, Samba and Merengue.
“I have loved all the dances I’ve done in the last 20 years; Ballroom, Latin, all of them. But I do think Zalza is a great body workout. You’re using your whole body, your arms and your legs. And I think it’s an incredible dance workout for energy and exercise.”
With a latin dance app for iPod and iPad as well, 2013 is jam-packed already. But when she isn’t dancing, thinking about dancing or resting between dances, relaxing means spending time at home with Jimi.
“I like to catch up on the washing! You know, all the boring stuff that needs to be done, but I love doing them at home. And when I’ve finished I like to chill out and watch films and TV, although I do get itchy feet and every couple of days I have to get out and do something active.
My favourite TV show is The Dog Whisperer. If I hadn’t been a dancer, I would definitely have worked with animals. Maybe as a dog psychologist or in animal rehab. I don’t think I could have made a vet as I’m far too squeamish, but anything with animals would have been great.”