Flavia Cacace talks to Katherine MacAlister about leaving Strictly and marrying former contestant Jimi Mistry

Bubbly, happy, articulate, enthusiastic, Flavia Cacace is a far cry from the monosyllabic girl I interviewed three years ago when she was still in the throes of Strictly and touring her own show Midnight Tango.

Choosing to bow out of the BBC flagship show, just like Sir Bruce, to concentrate on her new dancing extravaganza Dance ‘Til Dawn, is obviously the right move then? “Leaving was a very, very hard decision, no one can imagine... but it was the right one,” the 34 year-old smiles.

“We did seven to eight years of Strictly for six months at a time and you put everything into it, so it does take over your life and you never really switch off. It’s an awful lot to take on even though it was a wonderful experience.”

So what changed? “We combined it with three successful years of our first show Midnight Tango which meant we couldn’t give 100 per cent to either and we had other projects we wanted to get on with. “So while I miss the buzz, it was the right decision to make, as hard as that was.”

The royal ‘we’ refers to her dance partner Vincent Simone, another Strictly favourite, with whom Flavia has been dancing for 20 years, and ‘other projects’ refers to the small matter of marrying former Strictly contestant and actor Jimi Mistry.

So does Jimi mind that his new bride is away on tour?

“It’s what drives and excites me and we are both aware of that, we both have careers that we love, and love what we do, and wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t have jobs we loved doing, so its all good,” she grins. “It’s busy, busy, busy, but we’re used to that and it’s nice to know that people are interested.”

Even so to come up with a new show is a big pressure, so was it hard to craft the tricky second album?

“No it was the opposite actually, we went from niche with Midnight Tango to everything with Dance ‘Til Dawn because we still hadn’t demonstrated all the ballroom dancing we’d been doing for the past 20 years.”

Reading between the lines, Flavia and Vincent wanted to demonstrate what they could really do when unencumbered by their amateur partners on Strictly. “Yes we have really pushed ourselves to the limit with Dance ‘Til Dawn, but the key to its success is having a fantastic cast and performing on stage all together is an incredible feeling,” Flavia agrees.

Interesting though that it wasn’t universal fame and primetime TV that Flavia and Vincent lusted after, but a show of their own. “It’s great knowing that people enjoy what we do and that as a result we can fill theatres. Its very satisfying, but also a big responsibility and risk. But we have worked hard and while we are not sure of the outcome yet, so far everyone has been delighted.”

If it isn’t the fame and fortune what motivates Flavia then? “The rewards of dancing are huge, the buzz you get at the end... you can’t really explain that, it makes all the aches and pains go away. “You get lost in it. But to do eight shows a week you have to love what you do, you almost have to be selfish and do it for yourself, even if everyone else enjoys it, because it’s tough, it’s a big commitment.”

And yet every step of the way, there Vincent is, solid as a rock. “Yes, it’s still us, this time with different dances and a different cast, but this really is the cherry on the cake, and getting to the West End is the dream.”

Does Flavia, who was born in Italy but moved here aged four, ever give herself time for a pat on the back? “While I’m very, very proud of what we have achieved and love watching people’s reactions I’m still very critical because I always want to make things better. It would have been impossible to do this at the same time as Strictly and we really wanted Dance ‘Til Dawn to be as good as it could possibly be.

“Seeing everyone’s reactions has meant it was well worth all the effort and hard work. It was a big task but we are very happy with it,” she says.

No regrets then? “Strictly has been an incredible thing and opened up lots of opportunities for us and for dance as a genre. Dancing at this time is a great advantage,” she says before concluding: “We are pretty much doing what we’ve always wanted to do.”

Dance ’Til Dawn runs from today until Saturday with a Saturday matinee.
Box office on 0844 8713020.