We were hit by the Strictly Curse…in reverse, say loved-up pro dancers Janette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec

STRICTLY Come Dancing has announced it will “keeeeeep dancing”, with bosses deciding to return to a full 13-show run for the 2021 series.

We exclusively revealed yesterday how the beloved annual trip to Blackpool Tower is also back on after being cancelled last year due to Covid.

Two people who are delighted by the news are the BBC show’s professional dancers Janette Manrara, 37, and Aljaž Škorjanec, 31. Not only have the veterans been invited back, but the married couple credit the hit series for rescuing their relationship — the reverse of the “Strictly Curse”.

Miami pocket rocket Janette says their romance hit the skids in 2013 when she was due to go back to the US and Aljaž to his home country of Slovenia, only for Strictly to offer them both jobs.

Janette says: “Strictly Come Dancing, it saved us. It saved us really, in every way.

"Aljaz and I were at a point in our relationship where he was going to possibly have to move back to Slovenia and I was going back to Los Angeles, and we were going to try the long-distance thing and see what happened.

“So when we got that phone call to come and join Strictly it didn’t only give us stability workwise, it saved our relationship.”

It is a turn-up for the books after the Strictly curse has been blamed for several break-ups.

Pro dancers Neil and Katya Jones divorced after she was caught snogging comedian Seann Walsh, who appeared on the show in 2018.

A year earlier, Karen Hauer split from husband Kevin Clifton after reports of tension on set. He is now in a relationship with 2018 series winner Stacey Dooley, who he was paired with.

Former show favourite Brendan Cole was the first to be hit by the curse, separating from fellow pro Camilla Dallerup in 2004 after he was partnered with newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky.

But while their pals have come a cropper, Janette and Aljaž’s relationship grew stronger and they married in 2017. The couple, who met at a dance studio in London in 2009, had three wedding ceremonies, in London, Slovenia and Miami.

Janette says: “We got engaged on Strictly, we got married while being on Strictly. For us it’s always been the biggest Strictly blessing instead of a Strictly curse, and we owe everything to the show really.”

As dancers, being stuck at home during lockdown was a very alien experience for the couple.

Aljaž says he has played a game with Janette every day — but will only reveal that he calls it “kissing you” — while she says: “I learned that Aljaž is really good at doing nothing.

“I learned that I can’t keep my feet still. I always knew I was a busybody and I like moving, working, and I’ve learned to control myself, to pace myself.

“I was just one of those people that was go, go, go, go, never stopped. The pandemic and being home with my husband, I was also learning to cook. I didn’t know how to cook. I used the kitchen for the first time. I had to force myself to stop and listen, which is why we work as a couple. He is my rock. I overthink, I over-panic, I’m stressy and I want to make sure everything is just right.

“He was like the soothing, calming element of those moments in the pandemic. He would just say, ‘It’s OK’.” Aljaž nods in agreement, and says: “I’m basically the opposite. I don’t think, I am overly calm.

“It’s an interesting one, because we work together, we live together, and that’s not normal for your average couple. We leave home and we see each other when we get to work, and being on tours, we never really fully enjoyed being at home.

"It was the first time in our ten years of being together that we had the dynamic of a normal couple. So it was interesting at first, and I absolutely love it now.”

The couple were among the lucky few TV stars to appear on our screens last year as Strictly producers managed to string together a series despite the pandemic. Janette reached the final with pop star Hrvy, while Aljaž — partnered with Radio 1’s Clara Amfo — was booted out in week six.


  • Matt DiAngelo and Flavia Cacace (2007): FLAVIA split from her Strictly pro boyfriend Vincent Simone and started dating Matt after they danced together. The couple broke up in 2010. Flavia went on to marry Jimi Mistry, her Strictly partner that year, in 2013.
  • Joe Calzaghe and Kristina Rihanoff (2009): JUST one week into the show, Joe ended his romance with his girlfriend of five years Jo-Emma Larvin. He started dating Kristina after the series ended and their romance lasted four years.
  • Georgia May Foote and Giovanni Pernice (2015): ACTRESS Georgia split from Coronation Street co-star Sean Ward after the competition ended and started dating the Sicilian pro dancer. Giovanni and Georgia broke up after a year.
  • Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev (2013): WHILE on the show, Rachel split with her multi-millionaire husband Jamie Gilbert after 16 months of marriage The Countdown star started dating Pasha a year later – and the couple are now married with one-year-old daughter Maven Aria.
  • Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton (2018): TELLY host Stacey dumped her boyfriend Sam Tucknott after growing close to Kevin during Strictly. Personal trainer Sam branded Kevin a “rat” for his behaviour.
  • Seann Walsh and Katya Jones (2018): Comedian Seann and Katya were pictured snogging after leaving a pub following dance rehearsals. He was kicked out by his now ex-girlfriend Rebecca Humphries, while Katya and her Strictly pro husband Neil Jones later announced their divorce.

Janette eventually lost out to comedian Bill Bailey and pro Oti Mabuse. But Aljaž did get his hands on the glitterball in 2013, when he was paired with model Abbey Clancy — the wife of ex-England ace Peter Crouch — in his debut year. Like footballers anticipating their selection in a team, the Strictly pros sweat over whether they will be asked back each year.

And last week Aljaž and Janette got the good news that they will be appearing on their ninth series. Aljaž says: “We have been so lucky and blessed. Looking back, we always sit down, we pinch ourselves. We have to, because from dancing in our own countries and travelling the world together with the theatre show, and then we’ve been so fortunate to get the job on the biggest TV show in the country.”

Apart from veteran Anton Du Beke and Karen Hauer, the couple are the show’s longest-serving professional dancers. And unlike former colleagues AJ Pritchard and Kevin Clifton, Janette and Aljaž have no intention of quitting. Aljaž says: “We’ve been so lucky to have the job for eight years.

“Everything that the future holds, if it’s half as beautiful as the past was, I’m going to be very, very pleased.” Janette adds: “We are extremely grateful to the show and we are going to be part of it for as long as we can be. As long as our legs keep going, we’re going to keep dancing.”

The pair have used the show as a platform to keep themselves busy between series. Along with the yearly Strictly tour, inevitably cancelled this year and in 2020 due to the pandemic, the couple have been hosting their own shows, dancing in theatres across the UK.

Their 2018 tour, Remembering Fred, was dedicated to Aljaž’s hero, legendary hoofer Fred Astaire.

Remembering The Oscars had to be cancelled last year, but fans can now buy tickets to stream it live.

Janette, who is 4ft 11in, and 6ft Aljaž rarely dance together due to their height difference, but with the help of backing dancers they perform routines from classic films including Dirty Dancing, Mary Poppins, Flashdance and Cabaret.

Aljaž says: “We both got very emotional because we do feel like Remembering The Oscars is the best show we’ve produced. Finding out that we were not able to tour, then doing this now, is a bit of a full circle of something that we love and hold so close to our hearts.”

On the difficulties of working in the midst of a pandemic, he adds: “It’s a huge task. We got tested every three days when we arrived at the venue, you can’t be cautious enough. If someone is positive, the whole thing collapses. Everyone was there with their full heart and commitment.”

There is one routine — Kissing You, from the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet — where fans will see just how in love the couple still are. Janette says: “It’s nerve-racking and exciting to step into this new territory. When we perform that song it just feels like it’s Aljaž and me on our own in the swirls of art and dance. You can’t really explain.

“The closest you get to how that feels inside, dancing together, it’s just the epitome of love. We love to dance, we love to perform and we love each other, and kissing just brings it all together. It is beautiful.”

  • Remembering The Oscars is available now. For tickets, see remembering theoscars.com/stream.

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