Strictly Come Dancing ‘curse’ – bitter splits, snog scandal and happy families

If you're a fan of Strictly Come Dancing then no doubt you'll be aware of the BBC show's so-called "Strictly Curse".

Numerous individuals and couples have fallen foul of the apparent curse since the programme's 2004 inception, resulting in the breakdown of relationships after contestants entered into new ones on the show. It's not just the celebrities that have been affected – several seasoned professionals have seen their marriages end – sometimes to each other – having fallen for their celebrity dance partners.

Year on year viewers speculate about romances and affairs and quite often they are right. Whether it be a fling or something much more long term, Strictly has seen it all develop.

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Now, as this year's competition gets down to the business end of the series, we delve into the who's who of the Strictly Curse victims.

Brendan Cole and Camilla Dallerup

Where better to begin than series one? New Zealander Brendan Cole went on to lift the Glitterball Trophy in 2004 alongside his newsreader partner, Natasha Kaplinsky. At the time, the often outspoken Brendan was engaged to fellow Strictly pro, Camilla Dallerup.

But as Brendan and Natasha's partnership went the distance, his romance with Camilla went the opposite direction – something she later alluded to in her autobiography by blaming the show for their chemistry. Responding to his ex's comments, Brendan said: "It's nothing really new to me. It was a long time ago, I'm happily married with a child, so is she, she's a married woman. I live now, not 10 years ago."

Natasha also left her partner shortly after the series ended, before hooking up with Justin Bower, who she went on to marry.

Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone

Italian professionals Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone entered into a relationship in 1999 and joined Strictly together in 2006. All seemed rosy in their relationship until Flavia was partnered up with EastEnders star Matt Di Angelo in 2007, with the pair going on to reach the final that year.

Their performances wowed audiences and their chemistry was there for all to see. Vincent could clearly see it too, however, which led to their break-up. Flavia and Matt went public with their romance, which lasted three years, but continued to dance professionally with her ex.

In 2013 Flavia got together with another Strictly partner in the form of Corrie's Jimi Mistry and they went on to marry. The duo are still together to this day.

Joe Calzaghe and Jo-Emma Larvin

Joe Calzaghe and his girlfriend Jo-Emma Larvin fell victim to the curse in 2009 after the boxer was paired up with Russian beauty, Kristina Rihanoff. Joe and Jo-Emma split shortly after the series concluded, with Joe and Kristina officially becoming an item as a consequence.

They split four year later, however, with Kristina admitting: "Joe found it difficult when I danced with other men."

Ben Cohen and Abby Blayney

And yes that brings us nicely onto rugby union star Ben Cohen and his wife of 11 years, Abby Blayney. Like Joe, Ben was partnered with Kristina, with the pair finishing in eight place in 2013.

Two years later Kristina confirmed she and Ben were in love and a "committed relationship", although it was hardly a secret at the time. In 2017, they welcomed their first daughter Milena into the world. However, Kristina has blasted the idea of the curse.

In an interview with AndyVision she fumed: "It is b******s, because the thing is, life happens. And it happens everywhere, it's just the difference is, that we watch the show and we watch these stories happening in front of our eyes on TV. But if you take any office, there are people who fall in love, who are divorcing, who are meeting at work – so what?"

Rachel Riley and Jamie Gilbert

Countdown star Rachel Riley joined Strictly in 2013 as partner to another Russian in Pasha Kovalev. At the time she was married to Jamie Gilbert, but their relationship appeared to fizzle out as she made progress in the competition.

After several denials that she and Pasha had become an item, they eventually went public with their romance a year later. Rachel explained to the Telegraph at the time: "I don't think there's a Strictly curse, but it does serve as a magnifying glass that shows up pre-existing fault lines."

Almost a decade on, Rachel and Pasha are now happily married and they share two daughters – Maven and Noa.

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Georgia May Foote and Sean Ward

Coronation Street actress Georgia May Foote partnered Italian hunk Giovanni Pernice in 2015 with the pair finishing runners-up to Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani. At the time, Georgia was in a relationship with her Corrie co-star Sean Ward, but they split shortly after the series concluded.

Initially, Georgia and Giovanni denied dating rumours until they were pictured together on a friendly getaway after Strictly filming wrapped. However, their fling was very short-lived as conflicting schedules got in the way of their budding romance.

Kevin Clifton and Karen Hauer

Dance professionals Kevin Clifton and Karen Hauer joined Strictly in 2013 and married two years later after the former proposed on stage during a performance of Burn the Floor. The marriage lasted three years, coming to an end in the wake of Kevin from Grimsby's Strictly partnership with singer Louise Redknapp.

Shortly after the series concluded, Louise split with her husband of 18 years, former footballer Jamie Redknapp, who was said to have become increasingly concerned about the impact Strictly was having on his relationship. Louise laughed off rumours that she and Kevin were anything other than friends, however, revealing after her divorce that Strictly had shed light on how unhappy she'd become at being a "Stepford wife".

"I wanted kids so much, I was happy to put everything on hold for them," she explained. "Standing by and watching Jamie become this entertainment star was pretty hard I was proud of him, but there was part of me thinking, 'that's my world'. I could see the excitement he got out of it and I knew how that felt. But it wasn't me feeling it anymore."

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Stacey Dooley and Sam Tucknott

A year after Kevin split from Karen, he was partnered with documentary maker Stacey Dooley. At the time of filming, Stacey was in a long-term relationship with Sam Tucknott, but the pair split before Stacey and Kevin went public.

Sam later told The Sun: "I have no respect for Kevin whatsoever. He comes out and says it’s all 'Strictly business'. He’s a full-on p***k. I’ve tried to meet him since to get closure but he won’t do it."

Stacey and Kevin are still together five years on, and welcomed their first child into the world in January 2023.

Dianne Buswell and Anthony Quinlan

Aussie dancer Dianne Buswell was in a relationship with Hollyoaks and Emmerdale star Anthony Quinlan in 2018 when she was partnered with Youtuber Joe Sugg on Strictly that year. After the pair grew close and finished runners-up, the pair confirmed their relationship leaving actor Anthony in the cold.

Dianne and Joe remain together five years later, and document their lives and their romance on their respective Instagram accounts.

Neil and Katya Jones

Strictly husband and wife dancers Neil and Katya Jones went their separate ways in 2019 after 11 years together – shortly after Katya had been pictured snogging her dance partner Seann Walsh, who was in a five-year relationship himself at the time.

Katya and Neil soon released a joint statement on their split, and although they didn't specify the exact reason for the break-up, the reasons seemed fairly obvious. "Hi everyone," it began. "As our fans and loyal supporters you are really important to us and so we wanted to let you know some news. After 11 years we have made the mutual decision to separate. We will always love each other, just in a different way as friends. This will never change what a great team we make and we are really proud of everything we have achieved together."

However, an insider told The Sun at the time: "The infidelity highlighted problems within the relationship and made it impossible for them to get back on track. They are determined not to let their split affect Strictly as it’s their main source of income. They’re being guided by how Kevin and Karen Clifton handled their split."

Adam Peaty and Eirianedd Munro

Katya was the subject of further controversy in 2021 after she was partnered with Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty. In dramatic scenes during a live performance, Adam, who was in a relationship with Eirianedd Munro at the time, appeared to almost kiss Katya, sending the rumour mill into overdrive.

Adam later shrugged the incident off as "gossip" as he declared on X (formerly Twitter): "To everyone who wants to see what they want, your comments have real life consequences. I will not be overcome or lowered by your gossip. Protect your energy."

In a statement less than a year later, however, Adam said: "Eiri and I have decided to go our separate ways. We have enjoyed a wonderful three years together, two of those with our gorgeous son George. Our priority has always been to provide the happiest and healthiest home environment for him, and right now that means ending our romantic relationship."

He concluded: "I could not ask for a greater mother for George and I am so grateful to Eiri for her amazing support over the last three years. Eiri and George, I’m sorry for letting you down."

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