In Brief

The science behind the Strictly Come Dancing curse

Seann Walsh dumped by girlfriend over his kiss with dance partner Katya Jones

The Strictly Come Dancing curse appears to have hit again.

Comedian Seann Walsh and his professional dance partner Katya Jones have issued an apology after photographs emerged showing them kissing during a night out. Walsh described their smooch as a “drunken mistake”, while Jones insisted it was not a reflection of her marriage to fellow Strictly dancer Neil. 

Walsh’s girlfriend, Rebecca Humphries, subsequently revealed that the kiss had taken place on her birthday, that she was leaving him and taking the cat.

The funnyman is by no means the first to suffer a relationship split while appearing on the BBC dance show. Several celebrity contestants have ended up dating their dance partner, despite one or both of them being with other people at the start of the series. Most of them denied having an overlapping affair.

Boxer Joe Calzaghe broke up with his girlfriend of five years during the first week of Strictly training in 2009, and later dated his dance partner Kristina Rihanoff for four years. Rihanoff then ended up with rugby star Ben Cohen after they partnered up for the 2013 show.

That same year Countdown mathematician Rachel Riley split from her husband a few months after competing in the dance contest, and later dated her dance partner Pasha Kovalev.

So what is really behind the “curse”?

Dr Peter Lovatt, who leads the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire, says there are several “scientific reasons” for the trend, including social bonding through the medium of shared movement.

“Even when you have a baby and bounce it in time or out of time with other people, when you bounce it in time the child will afterwards show more pro-social behaviour to those other people,” he told the BBC. “In Strictly, you have this shared movement day after day after day.”

Lovatt says that dance partners even gain a “knowledge of the other person’s state of fertility” as a result of the intimacy of the ballroom and Latin dances, giving them a tight bond, and that partners synchonrise their mood changes according to the different types of dance.

“This will make them feel like a single entity,” he says. “Their emotions are going up and down together, the same emotional rollercoaster.”

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