Daniel Whiston on the return of Dancing on Ice
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 January 2020
Skating star Daniel Whiston is back on television this month as creative director of Dancing on Ice. Here he talks, sequins, skating and how Blackpool contributed to his success
You can't help but get caught up in Dan Whiston's optimism. His voice fizzes with enthusiasm and, even though he's on the end of a phone, you can tell he is grinning from ear to ear. He's in the middle of gruelling rehearsals for the new series of Dancing on Ice, for which he is associate creative director and which airs this month. And despite the long days and demanding physical challenge of being on the ice for hours at a time, he is relishing every moment.
'It's fabulous, I couldn't wish for more,' he says. 'For me this is the dream job, it is incredible and the most amazing opportunity.'
It's this positive approach that has undoubtedly been a factor in the 43-year-old's success. As well as being a successful skater - on Dancing on Ice he is the only professional to have won the competition three times - he is patron for Brian House Children's Hospice, owns a franchise of Subway restaurants, Blackpool's Clip n' Climb centre and has a property business with fellow Dancing on Ice coach and skating star Karen Barber, who is originally from Manchester. He is also a qualified fitness instructor and runs Zumba exercise classes in Poulton.
'I've been lucky,' said Dan, a former Blackpool Hot Ice Show skater. 'But I was also taught to work hard by my dad, Bill. When I was in my early teens I was working in the carpet shops he still runs in Blackpool.
'Both of my parents taught me to have a great work ethic and it's stood me in good stead. When Dancing on Ice really took off I could have blown any money and oppotunity that came my way but I've made sure to save and invest. Not the exciting thing to do but the best thing, I believe.'
After ten seasons as a professional dancer on the shows - and those wins with actors Gaynor Faye and Hayley Tamaddon and gymnast Beth Tweddle - he took up the post as associate creative director, a role he will reprise this year for the second time.
He's responsible for coaching the celebrities as well as - and this is his favourite thing - choreographing the big numbers. He will also get the chance to perform himself.
'What Dancing on Ice has done for me I can never put into words,' said Daniel. 'My first year as creative director, I loved it, but it was a big learning process for me. This time I want to really have fun with it.
'We're also leading the way with the first ever same sex couple to compete in a show of this kind. It is mega and exciting for us to be doing it - this is progress. It also gives us, as trainers, new challenges on how to make everything look its best. I can't wait to get going.'
It was a proud moment for Dan, who started skating age seven, when he was able to recruit several members of Blackpool Ice Arena's skating club - where he furst skated - to appear on the popular Dancing on Ice Christmas special. Children as young as four were given the opportunity to appear in front of millions of viewers.
'It was the most amazing thing for me to be able to do and they really are wonderful, gorgeous skaters,' said Dan, who grew up and continues to live in Poulton. 'To be able to bring people from the club and the town that has played such a huge part in my life felt like a very special moment. People have been so supportive and have always been really encouraging.
'I remember those first experiences on the ice so vividly. I was skating round and round in circles with my mum and dad trying to get me off the ice, when the session was over, but I just didn't want it to end. More than 30 years later I'm still going.'
He is looking forward to putting Blackpool in the spotlight again when the series starts.
'The series brings out such support,' says Daniel. 'I go to the pub in Blackpool and there will be big burly builder types coming up to me, giving me a big hug and telling how brilliant they thought the moves were that week on the show.
'I really do owe it all to those people who have always cheered me on, whether that be at the ice rink, my family or local people. I feel proud to come from this part of Lancashire and, hopefully, also help to inspire young skaters and show them hard work does pay off.
'I can't wait for the series to start, not just to see the progression of the celebrities on it, but it also means I'll be able to get my sequins out and have fun, and that's what it's all about, really.'