This article first appeared in Attitude issue 288, October 2017
Tell us about a typical day in your fitness regime?
I wake up at about 6.30am and do cardio for between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on work later in the day and how intense that will be. Then I’ll go home, have my breakfast and carry on with my day before a two-hour gym session. I’ll do weights and some more cardio. The longest session would be leg day with cardio and core.
Does that and your dancing keep you fit or do you also play sport?
Dancing is an aerobic exercise and it makes you sweat a lot and use all your body. You can see how a lot of dancers in the show, even the celebs, lose weight because it’s very intense [so that’s all I need to do].
Is diet important too?
I try to keep my diet the same — very dull and plain. Eating healthily can be boring but I don’t like fancy meals anyway. I don’t like sauces, I can’t eat mayonnaise, ketchup or anything like that. So that’s not a problem for me. If you give me a grilled chicken breast with steamed rice, I love that. I know it gets repetitive but I still love it, and it’s very easy and quick. Every night before I go to bed I prep all my meals. I have something called a sixpack bag and inside is a fridge with all my meals — everyone laughs at me.
But are there any foods that you miss eating?
When I go out for dinner with the guys they might say: “Oh, you’re just going to eat rice and chicken.” And I say, “Listen, I eat rice and chicken every day to be healthy. If I go out one night and eat what I want it’s not going to change my lifestyle or my physique.” I try to eat healthily whenever I can so that I can go out for dinner and not be the fussy one. I know it’s very antisocial to be like that all the time. But I do have a reputation for swapping everything on an order!
Do you take any supplements to help your performance?
I take multi-vitamins, fish oil and BCAAs. Those are my three main supplements. And I drink green tea, dandelion tea and sometimes peppermint tea. I’m not a big fan of taking protein.
You are from Bilbao; how do you split your time between Spain and the UK?
I live full-time in the UK. I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Spain to see my mum and dad. When I have time to go, I go. But my job doesn’t allow me to just say: “I’ll go to visit in May,” because at the last minute things change and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think this was my longest stay back in Bilbao. But I love London, I love this city.
When did you first start dancing?
I started when I was 11. It was because my dad started to get dance lessons to surprise my mum. She’s always loved dancing but my dad would never go. She would go with friends and my dad would be with mates in the bar while she was dancing. Then one night she got pissed off and said, “Listen I’m not going to go out any more, I want to go dancing with you but you won’t dance.” So, he started to go to classes while she was at work without telling her anything. He’d take me along and I would sit there and watched everyone dancing for about three months, I’d fall asleep on the bench watching. Then I started dancing myself.
And did you have any issues with bullying or anything like that when you started dancing?
Well, I used to play football, too, and my mum and dad told me, “You need to choose: football or dancing. You can’t be doing both at the same time.” I was getting injuries from playing football so that I couldn’t dance and the time for classes and football training were the same sometimes, so I’d tell my coach that I couldn’t make it and pretend I had other things to do. The other boys in my team said, “He likes dancing, he must be gay.” But now they say, “We’re the stupid ones, you’re dancing around with beautiful girls and we’re nothing.”
What would you be doing if you weren’t a dancer?
I don’t know; it’s always been about dance. There’s a picture of me at six years old dancing with my mum, standing on her feet. I’ve always loved fitness, too, and I am a personal trainer so I have that in my pocket. I train friends and people close to me, because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. It also helps me be a better dancer because I know how to use my body better. But if I couldn’t dance, I don’t know. I just don’t know.
How has Strictly changed your life?
A lot! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I was in a dance company before I got the job. I remember I had a meeting with [the producers at Strictly] a year-and-a-half before I started. They said, “Let’s see what happens.” I remember I got injured shortly after that, which lasted for about six months and I forgot about it. Then I woke up one morning to a phone call: they wanted to have a meeting with me [and I was in]. I was excited and scared at the same time. The first time I put my feet on the red carpet at the launch show, and there were all those flashing lights and people screaming, I was like, “Oh shit, this is real.”
Do you have any input into who you are partnered with?
You don’t have the right to ask anything. That’s the magic of the show; they pick out the celebrities, then the pros and they put you together. You might say, “I’d love to dance with this person or that person,” but they put people together who they think are the best match. It’s not only the look and how they dance, it’s personality, so many things. It’s crazy how many things they have to think about. Everyone wants a good partner, and that doesn’t mean they have to be a good dancer, just someone who wants to work hard and enjoy the show.
Are there more opportunities here for dancers than in Spain?
Definitely. Musical theatre, ballroom dancers — for the art, it’s better here. It’s easier to have a job and it’s better recognised. If you said you wanted to be a dancer in Spain they might not laugh but they’d assume you wouldn’t be able to make enough money to live. In school when I said I wanted to be a ballroom dancer my teachers said, “You need to study because you can’t be just a dancer.” But I’m having the last laugh.
Photograpgy: Markus Bideaux
Words: Adam Duxbury
Styling: Nick Byam