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‘The Strictly curse is inevitable – it’s in our DNA’ : Why do so many people fall in love on the BBC show?

Strictly is almost as famous for the action between our couples off the dancefloor as it is on it – but what sparks romance between our pairs? asked a psychologist for the science behind the curse…

Strictly Come Dancing 2019 launch show
BBC/Kieron McCarron
Published: Thursday, 28th November 2019 at 12:55 pm

It’s happened so frequently, it’s almost an inevitability; a new series of Strictly usually means new rumours of romance.


Last year saw Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell couple up after being partnered together on the show, and Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton becoming a couple – as well as eyebrows raising after Seann Walsh and Katya Jones shared a kiss despite the pair both being in relationships.

For the last 11 weeks, it was all quiet on the romance front, but according to reports in the Daily Star, two of our dancers have now surprised the cast after it was revealed they were enjoying “backstage trysts.”

So why does Strictly often lead to sex? asked psychologist Emma Kenny about the so-called “curse”…

What’s the science behind the Strictly curse?

Stacey Kevin Strictly (BBC, EH)

“It’s throughout our DNA that dancing is something that can be used to attract a mate,” Kenny explained.

“We tend to be attracted to people not too dissimilar to us, and Strictly tends to put people together based on height and weight, showing us a not too distorted version of our own selves.

“It also offers massive intensity. It’s very rare that any of us spend that amount of time with anybody, particularly anyone attractive, constantly.

“Then on top of that you have increase in heart rate, you get more endorphins released when you dance than any other exercise. You’re with someone in their intimate space which means you get things like oxytocin release, the cuddle hormone, as well as things like serotonin, which is the neurochemical that makes us happy, and dopamine which feeds into the reward cycle.”

Whether you genuinely fancy your dance partner or not, the heady cocktail of chemicals can result in your brain being tricked into thinking you’re in love.

“When people have expectations of your behaviour, very often people follow suit,” Kenny added. “The brain can get confused. You’re thinking that you’re doing all this great sexy stuff together, you’re having a great time, everyone loves you, we’re really close and our breathing is matching, we’re getting all these amazing lessons – it’s like a courting ritual, but the problem is, it’s faked. That’s where the brain gets confused. You can fake a smile and get chemicals released. Doesn’t mean you’re happy, but you do get the release.

“You can create a situation where you can think, well this is love. To do all the things they’re doing in Strictly, you’ll have had to fallen for somebody and danced with them. It’s forced, but that isn’t indicated to the brain.”

Which couples are most likely to be at risk of the Strictly curse?

Seann and Katya Strictly (BBC)

Kenny believes that couples who have been together for quite some time and have fallen into a monotonous routine are at risk of falling victim to the Strictly curse.

“If you’re brought into something where your relationship at home is a bit lacklustre, you’ve just got used to each other and there’s not a lot of excitement, and then suddenly you’re in an amazing outfit, dancing incredibly fast around a room of screaming people who celebrate you as an iconic couple and are rooting for you, of course it’s hard for a partner to keep up,” Kenny said.

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“As much as we pretend that humans are better than animals, we’re not. We follow the same kind of patterns and if you give me a better mate, of course I’m going to fancy it.”

Does the Strictly curse make for a better dance?

Dianne Buswell, Joe Sugg, Strictly

The excitement and the intensity of the moment can translate into your Strictly scores.

“Connection is everything," Kenny said. "And if you’re enjoying your dance with it’s like having sex without having sex. It’s the biggest level of foreplay you can have.

"We're voyeuristic creatures who are nosy by instinct, so of course we enjoy seeing that."

Can Strictly romances really last?

We’ve seen some Strictly romances go the long run – in some cases even leading to marriage and babies – but Kenny warns that couples may be wary every time there’s a new series.

“Could you imagine being in a relationship with someone you met on Strictly who had an affair with you, and then the next year they’re with another person who’s better looking than you?” she joked. “Dancers know this. They live it.

“They should wait until Strictly has finished, and they should see two months after whether they still have that attraction.”

What about when there’s no spark whatsoever?

Of course, not every couple on Strictly ends up between the sheets together – some don’t even manage to stay friends.

Kenny argued that a lack of chemistry – sexual or otherwise – can result in conflict between the pairings.

“If things aren’t going well and you’re not gelling with the person who is not teaching you to dance, the person who is teaching you may get annoyed,” she said. “There’s an arrogance to skill, and if you’re not being valuing of it, it’s going to cause conflict. Couplings like your Torville’s and Dean’s are very, very rare.

“But with the fun and excitement and intensity of Strictly, who wouldn’t want to have sex in that situation? It’s almost easier to say, how come more people don’t fall victim to this ‘curse'?’”


Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturdays and Sundays on BBC One


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