Introducing Kazakhstan's next big thing
Aliona Vilani received plaudits – and plenty of jealousy – for partnering Harry Judd to victory
Monday 19 December 2011
Harry Judd may have won this year's Strictly Come Dancing, but as the celebrity dancers waltz away to cash in on their success, it is the professionals people should remember – in this case Aliona Vilani, the Kazakhstani who showed she could turn a drummer with two left feet into a dancing superstar.
The 27-year-old led Judd, if not literally in dancing terms, to victory in the final against rivals Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan.
In the aftermath of Saturday's final, with an audience of 12 million, an exhausted and bruised Vilani told The Independent that the public do recognise the work of the professional partners, even if they do not lavish them with quite so much attention.
"I love that people recognise all the hard work that I put in to Harry to make him shine and I'm so glad that the effort I've put into making this whole thing happen," she said. "The choreography, hard work and the teaching was all worthwhile."
Vilani left Kazakhstan at a young age to pursue her dancing career, first in Russia and then in New York where she became the youngest professional ballroom dancer in the USA at the age of 17.
Although she remains the baby of Strictly Come Dancing, this was the second consecutive year that she has reached the final round after previous success with TV presenter Matt Baker. Her partnership with this year's early favourite thrust her into the spotlight more than she has previously experienced, with some fans being unable to hide their jealousy at her work with their idol.
"Harry's very popular with young women and was used to people approaching him – but it was bizarre when I began to be recognised away from my celebrity. A lot of people got pretty jealous of me for working with Harry for so long and spending so long with him. But they have nothing to worry about. He was such a perfect dance partner!"
As he embarks on a tour with his band McFly, a similar if lower profile series of performances await Vilani. "A lot of things are in the works with my professional partner Artjem [Chigvintsev] and Brendan Cole separately. I do very much enjoy doing the professional numbers and pro shows give me a bit more freedom to unleash, do my own thing and show exactly what I'm capable of."
And then Strictly next year?
"The dancers don't know that far in advance but I hope I'll be back – I think the producers were very pleased with this series and very happy so many people watched."
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 3 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 4 Greece crisis: Crowdfunding campaign crashes Indiegogo, raises half a million in just three days
- 5 Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck to divorce and end their 10-year marriage
The Rolling Stones announce biggest ever touring rock exhibition with Saatchi Gallery
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS