She’s the first ever Welsh professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing and was the first to score a 10 in this year’s competition. We catch up with the tenacious Amy Dowden
Amy Dowden was 8-years-old and on holiday when she danced for the first time at a competition. “I think I won because it was my birthday and I told them all,” she says, but it didn’t matter – for her it was love at first step.
She persuaded her parents to let her and her twin sister start classes every Saturday morning at her local dance school, and eventually studied dance, found a partner, became British National champion in Latin American Dance and joined the Strictly pro dancers. Success after success.
“I don’t think it’s just talent,” she says. “The majority is hard work. I set myself a dream and I didn’t give up on it.”
Born and raised in Caerphilly, South Wales, Amy, now 27, is the first ever Welsh pro dancer to join Strictly Come Dancing. She became a Strictly pro in 2017 when she was paired up with comedian Brian Conley, who was eliminated during week five. But in week five in 2018, partnered with Danny John-Jules, they scooped the first 10 of the series with their amazing jive.
How did you get into dancing professionally?
“I started when I was 8-years-old, and was asked to join as a reserve for the Formation team. I went – as a reserve – to the World Formation Championships, got to Blackpool Tower and saw the Russians. I turned to my mum and said, ‘I wanna be a professional dancer’. I was sat in the front row and my mum literally dragged me out of the ballroom because I was loving it so much. My parents always believed in higher education, so I carried on my dancing, but I wasn’t in another country every weekend competing, I was just taking dance classes at my local dance school. When I was 18, I said, ‘Right, this is what I wanna do’, and I really went for it.”
Growing up in Wales, where did you go to school?
In year 7, I decided to go to Saint Cenydd School – a different school from my twin sister Rebecca – because they had a dance department, and I spent all my breaks in the dance studio. Strange thing is, we went to different schools, but we had the same GCSE results. How crazy is that?
Are you identical?
We should be, but we don’t look anything alike. So, that’s strange. I have a brother called Lloyd as well. We played the piano the three of us and we went on holidays nearly every year to my grandad’s caravan.
Is that where you fell in love with dancing?
Yes! I’m really lucky my parents are family-orientated – they dedicated their lives to bringing up Lloyd, Rebecca and myself and they are the biggest Strictly fans ever! My dad’s like, ‘Oh Amy, I can’t go out to Morrisons in Caerphilly now, everybody wants to talk to me!’ I’m sure he stopped everybody to talk, really!
How does it feel being the first Welsh dancer on the show?
It’s amazing! I have always been proud of my welsh roots. I had a dream and I never gave up on it. It shows that anybody can do what they put their mind to if they’re dedicated. All the little girls and boys in Wales can say now, ‘If Amy can do it, I can do it’.”
What are the differences between the professional dancing world and Strictly?
There are big differences, but there are also similarities. We have to remember that Strictly Come Dancing is an entertainment show and we’re dancing with celebrities who have never danced before, whereas obviously in the competitive sector, you’ll dance with people who’ve danced for 20 years. And then the judges’ involvement is totally different. But there are so many similarities; the technique is the same regardless of if you are in the competition world or on the Strictly stage, and all the dancers and pro dancers just love dancing. It doesn’t make a difference if we are competing in America or Blackpool or Strictly, we get to perform.
What do you love the most about Strictly?
Picking one thing is so hard, because I love everything! I love the challenges, and I love the excitement and seeing your celebrity progress week by week. With Danny, we put ourselves under so much pressure for the first two weeks, and then he really relaxed and settled – it’s lovely to see that transition. I love the outfits, the make-up, the floor, the group dances, the pros, the friends I’ve made – it’s impossible to pick one thing!
Is there anything you don’t like about Strictly Come Dancing?
Yes – that somebody leaves each week. I cry every week, that’s the one thing I don’t like. I wish we could all stay for the final.