Multi award winning dance champions Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace are one of the most popular couples on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ - the original, UK cult dance show that launched a hit movement worldwide – including Italy’s version, ‘Dancing With the Stars’.
Both Vincent and Flavia have each been runners-up in previous series. Both trained in ballroom and latin from an early age - Flavia at a local school in the South of England, Vincent in the South of Italy. They met by happy accident in England, when both were looking for new competition partners. Vincent learnt to speak English and Flavia’s Italian improved as a result! Though once also romantically involved, these days off the dance-floor, they prefer to remain good friends.
Flavia, now 32, has found happiness with her celebrity partner from the last ‘Strictly’ series, Anglo-Asian actor, Jimi Mistry. In between TV commitments, London-based Flavia makes special appearances with Vincent and together they have developed a sell-out stage show dedicated to their famed signature dance, ‘Midnight Tango.’ Here, Flavia takes us behind the scenes of her energetic life…
With Vincent you have an enviable professional partnership, winning titles that have made you three times UK Professional Showdance Champions to World Argentine Tango Show Champions and more. How does teaching - and performing dance with - an inexperienced male celebrity for the Strictly show, compare?
‘There’s a lot of up and down emotion. You’re busy with rehearsing to costume change, getting to know your celebrity, training them up. I wish there were more hours in the day - I’m often rehearsing in my sleep!
In terms of pacing, your body and mind are still recovering from the emotions and physical tiredness of the previous weekend. Before you know it, another one’s upon you. The longer you stay in the show – up to 12 weeks – the more this is the case. It can be a shock to go from three weeks to four days to perfect a routine. All that training for a minute and a half each performance!
I never really remember the judge’s comments or scores so don’t take it too personally. It’s the studio audience and the viewers at home I want to reach.
Sometimes it’s so much fun – as with my Strictly partner this series, astrologer, Russell Grant – that I’m smiling so much, I think I’m getting wrinkles! We’ve had some hilarious rehearsals, like on a recent trip to the Italianate village of Portmeirion in Wales. We planned to practise on the beautiful beach – and both sank fast – it was quicksand!
Working with different celebrities is a different experience each time. As one dance teacher told me, it’s not just about technique - it’s about how you put it across. Vincent says some dancers are technically perfect but they’re not natural dancers. Others – before they’ve had many lessons – have natural grace. It’s literally about expressing the emotions of the dance; letting the music move you. Plus, pure hard work and a fun, positive attitude gets results.’
The UK’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ show has been adapted for broadcast to an astonishing amount of countries including Italy. Have you seen or guested on the Italian version?
‘We have now been in the original, UK series since it began, six years ago. First, it was choreographing and performing then since 2006, each also partnering celebrities. My parents love watching the Italian version here in the UK; I’ve only ever caught moments of it here and there. Strangely enough about three years ago, we were approached by the Italian production team and asked to participate in their version, ‘Dancing With The Stars’. Unfortunately at the time, dates clashed as we had already agreed to do the British celebrity tour of the show.
Even stranger, we received the same offer again very recently and the same date clash happened! At the time we will be in the London’s West End performing our (self-created) show, ‘Midnight Tango’. We would love to take part one year as we have lots of family in Italy that would love to see us in the show.’
Naturally petite, do you follow a dancer’s diet? Also, from food to other aspects of Italian culture such as fashion, are you a fan?
‘Luckily, the amount of dancing I do burns the calories. My diet can vary when living in hotels during filming but I generally try to eat healthily. I also love pasta and bread so much - I know they are carbohydrates but I really enjoy them! As for fashion, Italian style suits me. One of my favourite brands is Armani. It fits me perfectly and is the one shop that I am totally spoilt for choice in.’
How does being Italian inform your performance style? For example, your British fans of Strictly love you both for your 'finesse' and the passion expressed for typically latin dance such as rumba - 'the dance of love' and especially, your signature, the tango. Would you say this dance form is perhaps most suited to the Italian temperament and style?
‘True, the Argentine tango came about in Argentina but at the time there were lots of immigrants from Italy, Africa etc. Therefore, it’s a mix of these rhythms that created the music style, so Italians played just as big a part in its development. We have a very similar culture I believe to the Argentinian; hence I do feel it’s a dance which is incredibly natural to us and we are very passionate about. It’s a dance of life; it’s a way of life.’
Similarly, how do you feel the Italian dance technique compares in style and content with other cultures - eg British or American?
‘Italians like to go for it! Typically, we can be quite strong and aggressive even, we like to push the boundaries. Less reserved than most other peoples, this characteristic shows in our dancing. Vincent thinks our hailing from Southern Italy makes us more open and fiery and hot-headed. Everything is a little faster and bigger - often a good thing - but not always!’
As an adult, how do you feel your roots lie in regard to England and Italy?
‘England has become my home and I have achieved so much professionally and artistically here. The great thing about having two countries to call home is that you feel a strong connection in either place. The fact is you can take the best of both worlds and make it one...’
What do you miss most/love most about Italy in general or your hometown?
‘I absolutely love Italy and having been brought up by very traditional parents I feel very Italian in many ways… I love the climate, I love the food - it’s by far my favourite cuisine - and I love the relaxed atmosphere that generally goes along with both those things. I'm from Naples which if you know where to go, is a beautiful place. However, on summer holiday I love Calabria or Sardegna.’
Are there any dance-related projects or tour dates planned, taking in the UK or Italy?
‘We have three great Argentine tango teaching dvds available on our website which we are very proud of and have had great feedback on. However, our main project this year is our very own show, ‘Midnight Tango’. We toured in this for 18 weeks this year - happily to great success. Showcasing all three forms of the Argentine tango – traditional, lighter milonga and tango waltz – we put a personal storyline to it and along with ten other dancers, present it to live music by Tango Siempre – (the UK’s leading tango quintet). We will be in the West End for 10 weeks, in January 2012 at the Aldwych theatre and then will be touring around the UK again until the end of July. It is probably our biggest achievement – and challenge – in adapting from the usual ballrooms to a stage set. We would love to tour Europe at some point and Italy would be top of our list! Films are another ambition…’
With your brand name VincentandFlavia a growing creative and commercial concern, what would your ideal projects be?
‘Having worked in the promotion of fitness products, I’d like to do more of the same. Also as I’ve enjoyed compering fashion shows, I’d like to work with a fashion house on our own clothing range. As for Vincent, ever the Italian, he’d love to be involved in promoting some fast, racy looking cars!’
As dance is such a brief 'butterfly' career, how do you see the future in this regard?
‘I think Vincent and I will always dance, and always dance together till we are grey and old! Dance is like air and water to us. Luckily with the Argentine tango, we can carry on till we drop as some of the best maestro's are in their 80's and 90's… We believe there’s a type of dance to suit everyone’s ability, interest and age.’