FOR Strictly star Graziano Di Prima, dancing was a way of escaping difficult times at school.

“I was bullied, constantly – for my dancing, for my long hair – people said I looked like a girl,” he recalls.

“Because I wanted to show I was strong, because I didn’t want them to know I was suffering, I would stand up to them and I would fight them.

“School was hard for me. But dancing was what helped me survive.”

Glasgow Times:

He adds with a laugh: “It is incredible, don’t you think?”

Incredible is an apt description of Graziano’s journey, from struggling to make ends meet growing up in a small town in Sicily, to starring on primetime Saturday night telly in the UK.

Glasgow Times:

As one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing, Graziano will be waltzing (and cha-cha-ing, and tango-ing) into Glasgow this weekend for a special live tour.

Glasgow Times:

Strictly: The Professionals features 10 stars of the TV show, including 2021 finalist Kai Widdrington, former champion Katya Jones and favourites Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova and Gorka Marquez.

Directed by Strictly's creative director of choreography Jason Gilkison, the tour – which comes to the SEC Armadillo on Saturday - features stunning Latin and ballroom routines.

Jason said: "These much-loved pros are set to dazzle audiences across the country, with two hours of the finest choreography and dancing. Watching them perform at such an incredible standard is an experience not to be missed."

Graziano is excited to be back in Glasgow – the city in which he first performed on the Strictly Live arena tour.

Glasgow Times:

“Glasgow has the best audiences,” he beams.

“When I was first there with Strictly Live, we could hardly hear the music for the noise from the crowd. It was the best response of the tour.

“I feel very grateful, I know we all do, that so many people around the country love Strictly, and that we are always welcomed, wherever we go. It’s beautiful. Glasgow people are beautiful.”

In addition to performing with his fellow professionals, Graziano gets the chance to share some of his own story.

Glasgow Times:

“I’m very glad about that, it’s good to chat to the audience and I make people laugh with my stories of dancing with Judi Love,” he laughs, referring to his 2021 partner on the TV show. Graziano first danced with DJ Vick Hope in 2018.

“But my story – I have been very lucky.”

Graziano’s mum first knew her son had a talent, he says, when she spotted him dancing in front of the TV.

“She was very surprised – no-one in our family ever danced before,” he says.

“In our town, 99% of people worked on the vineyards. So my parents then did everything they could to help me. They said if I really wanted to dance, then they would help me do it the best way they could.

“They made choices, and I know that was hard for them at times. I had to travel two, three hours to the bigger cities to have dance lessons. At 14, they told me they could not do it any more, so I got a job in a restaurant. I was so depressed, I thought I might have to stop dancing.

“But then a local mum, who wanted to learn to do the cha-cha, and who knew I could dance, asked if I would teach her. The owner of the restaurant let me do it there.”

Graziano smiles: “And that woman, after her first lesson – she came back with what seemed like the whole town. Everyone wanted to learn to dance.”

For the next few years, Graziano juggled school and teaching local people to dance. He set up two dance schools in Sicily.

“It taught me a lot, and changed me as a person,” he says.

“It helped me grow up. But I knew I didn’t want to do that forever.”

At 18, Graziano won a place in a prestigious dance academy in Bologna – the same one attended by fellow Strictly professionals Giovanni Pernice and Nikita Kuzmin.

Taking part in shows and competitions put him on the radar of some of Italy’s best-known dance judges, but when one suggested he audition for a TV show, he was initially reluctant.

“I said no, I just wanted to compete,” he grins.

“I don’t know what I was thinking. But she came back, and asked me to audition for what was then Italy’s biggest TV dance show. So I did, and I was chosen.”

He adds, with a laugh: “Can you imagine? A guy from a small town, who had nothing, was now on TV? That was the moment my life changed.”

Glasgow Times:

Graziano’s life changed on the show in more ways than one. It was where he met Giada Lini, a fellow champion dancer from Italy, who has appeared as a backing dancer on Strictly, and on Italy’s Dancing with the Stars.

“I fell in love with her, but she was not in love with me at first,” he says, cheerfully.

“However, she did fall for me after one year. And now we are about to be married.”

READ MORE: Exclusive pictures as Strictly stars meet fans in Glasgow

Graziano proposed to Giada on stage, during a performance of the live dance show Burn the Floor.

“It was a risky move,” he agrees.

“But she said yes. We are getting married on July 9, in my home town in Sicily. My mother is so excited.”

Graziano is looking forward to performing in Glasgow on Saturday, and he will be back in the city on June 26 to perform as part of Here Come the Boys, at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Glasgow Times:

Joining fellow Strictly pros Nadiya Bychkova and Nikita Kuzmin, plus former pro Pasha Kovalev and Strictly finalist Karim Zeroual, Graziano will also be choreographing part of the show.

“That was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it,” he says.

“The life I am living, it is incredible, I am so lucky.

“I have worked hard too, and if ever any young boy asks me for advice or for an autograph, I make sure I stop. I ask them if they want to be dancers, and if they say yes, I say – then, always keep going. Be strong.

“I had nothing and now I am on Strictly. Just keep going.”

Strictly: The Professionals is at the SEC Armadillo on Saturday, May 28. Visit for tickets and more information.