“Strictly is the most prestigious, famous, biggest programme about ballroom dancing."
“Every ballroom dancer in the competition world, once they stop competing, they want to join the programme,” says Gorka Marquez.
Marquez is one of six new professionals who joined the Strictly Family in 2016, along with husband and wife dancing duo Katya and Neil Jones, AJ Pritchard, Chloe Hewitt and Oksana Platero.
Until the shock elimination last weekend, he was partnered with EastEnders actress Tameka Empson.
“I think the time wasn’t right for her because she was a good dancer. I think it was too early” he protests.
However, Marquez accepts that is the nature of the show. “In the end, every week one couple has to leave. We were the second week, we could have been the eighth week, but the audience decided to put us in this place. We cannot change it. It is just what happens”
Being paired with Tameka, he says, was the best thing that could have happened in his first series.
“I’m quite a quiet person, so she was very good at helping me open [up] and have fun. She was very funny. When she used to arrive in the studio, you knew it because all the people around her were laughing and she was making jokes and everything.
“Today is my first day here without her and I miss her already” he added.
Although Gorka has been dancing since the age of 12 and has a reputation as one of the top dancers in Spain, joining a show like Strictly remained a daunting prospect.
“Working with big productions, camera stuff, all the make up going around, I was a little bit scared about that, but everyone was super nice. The team in the studios, the costume team, everyone was super nice. It’s like a proper family” Marquez revealed.
Teaching an untrained celebrity to dance on television is no mean feat either, he says. “They give you a person who can be a dancer, who can have rhythm – or not – and in a short period of time you have to make this person look like she’s a proper dancer. That was one of the things that scared me in the beginning.”
“I was very lucky with Tameka, she had a lot of rhythm. She could learn everything super-fast. The Charleston she learned in 45 minutes. That is very impressive for someone who is not a proper dancer.”
“You watch [that dance] and you will recognise Tameka – that’s her! If you want to know how Tameka is as a person, watch the Charleston and you will know!” he laughs.
“The Paso was the first number we did together. It comes originally from Spain so it comes with memories of my country. That was very nice.”
For Marquez, dancing the Charleston with Tameka was a series highlight.
“One of my favourite [moments] was the first time we did the red carpet because it was my first experience on the show. The audience was screaming and everything. And the rhumba that [the professionals] did in week two – the one with Romeo and Juliet. I hope that there are more!”
Tonight the celebrities take to the floor once again in an effort to lift the glitterball trophy, however Marquez will not be drawn on who he thinks will wear the Strictly crown. “This year is a strong year. Everyone is very strong. Everyone is dancing so [well]. Not just the celebrities, even the pros are doing such great choreography and numbers for the show.”
“It’s about who brings the best show, the best light entertainment. Danny Mac could win, or Ed Balls could bring funny moments and win. It’s not just about being a good dancer.”