'You're never too old to start!' Dancing on Ice champion Daniel Whiston on winning, practice & more

Daniel Whiston is a three-times Dancing on Ice skate champion who has been an integral part of the show since it started airing, appearing in every series and winning with partners Gaynor Faye (Coronation Street, Emmerdale), Hayley Tamaddon (Coronation Street, Emmerdale) and Olympic Bronze medalist Beth Tweddle. Daniel now dances with Cheryl Baker in the current series and here talks to Mandy News about how he got started, how to stay injury free and how many hours he puts into Dancing on Ice.

31st January 2018
/ By James Collins

Dancing on Ice partner Daniel Whiston ITV

Please, could you introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about how you got into the industry.
My name is Dan Whiston and I am three times Dancing On Ice Champion.

From a very early age, I dreamt of ice skating in front of live audiences. I did my first audition when I was 18 years old for the Hot Ice Show in Blackpool. I had grown up watching the Hot Ice Show, being inspired year after year, so it was a dream come true when I got the job!

How did you get into skating specifically? What came first – dancing or skating?
Originally, my sister Emma was the first one to take to the ice. I was the little brother that was running around everywhere annoying everybody, while my sister was having her skating lessons. Eventually to keep me quiet, my mum and dad put me on the ice. 

I remember this day vividly, as I took to it like a duck to water. I remember 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. 

35 years later I'm still going.

Where did you learn that talent? Is there a school or classes you attended? What training did you do?
My first skating lessons were on a Saturday morning at The Blackpool Ice Arena( which was then the Ice Drome), where I joined the penguin club, which was a learn to skate program. From there I began having private lessons where I started to make real progress. 

I also started dancing at Phil Winston's Dance school based in Blackpool, where he gave me a scholarship and he tutored me in all aspects of dance.

What's a typical day for you in terms of learning a new routine?
In Dancing on Ice I am given a piece of music to choreograph to. I normally take my celebrity to a dance studio where we work on ideas off the ice which we then transfer onto the ice. Mirrors in the dance studio are a really useful tool, when putting lifts and moves together for a brand new routine.

How much training is too much and how much is not enough? How many hours do you do a day?
In Dancing on Ice, I would normally train up to 4 hours a day with my celebrity partner. In that time we work both on and off the ice. Time on the ice is normally gauged specifically to the celebrity I am skating with. It IS possible to overtrain, sometimes you just have to stop for a tea break to allow them to digest what we've done, especially when your celebrity may not be used to digesting spins, steps and lifts at the rate that a professional ice skater would manage.

How much dancing off ice do you do for stability, conditioning etc?
I personally do a lot of dancing off ice. I am a qualified Zumba instructor and teach classes most nights in my home town in Blackpool. I love creating new routines/meeting new people and keeping fit all at the same time. Zumba keeps me in peak condition for when my feet hit the ice.

How do you keep yourself injury free and what are your tips to somebody for cooling down and eating right for a working week?
I try and keep myself injury free by warming up properly before I step foot on the ice. It is very important to warm up your muscles properly before you start skating especially because our rehearsal environment is ice cold! 

It is a great idea to plan your meals for the week. I normally have a prep day once a week where I decide what meals I am going to have on what days, this allows me to prepare most of my meals for the week, saving time during a busy rehearsal schedule. 

Re-fuelling your body is very important and breakfast is a must. Cooling down is also just as important as warming up, allowing your muscles to be stretched out after a heavy rehearsal session.

Do you take breaks from dancing during the year? Is that something that all skate dancers need? If so, for how long?
I tend to keep my feet on the ice for most of the year through different projects. However I recommend a few weeks off per year to rest your mind, body and soul.

Obviously, there's added risk of injury when moving at such a speed – what are the trickiest moves and how do you master them?
In ice skating there are a lot of dangerous moves and especially in Dancing on Ice. We are a similar concept to Strictly Come Dancing but with blades on our feet. This makes the risk far higher for injury and dangerous moves. 

Practicing certain lifts off the ice first is a must as my celebrity partners have to understand a feeling for where their feet are at all times. One wrong move can be fatal. 

One trick that everyone will be familiar with is the Headbanger, I normally pad-up my celebrity protecting their knees and elbows and most importantly a helmet to protect their head.

What has been one of your most challenging routines to learn and why?
When I skated with Hayley Tammadon, we performed a routine called Jai Ho. It was a very exciting routine to learn. Nobody had brought Bollywood to the ice before and we had the choreographer from the movie Slumdog Millionaire come in to master some of the choreography. For this routine Hayley and I received perfect scores, making this a very magical moment.

How did you become involved in Dancing on Ice? What's a typical shooting day or working week like?
I first got involved with Dancing On Ice the very first year of the show in 2006. I had a phone call from ITV saying they were working on a new project alongside Torvill and Dean, and asked me if I would be interested in working alongside them. I snapped their hand off! I went on to do every season from then! Making this my 10th series!

How does it work when you're teaching somebody and leading but showing your partner off?
When skating with a female celebrity the male will normally lead. Even though the male leads, the female has a huge responsibility to be at the right place at the right time. Something as simple as giving me her hand in a certain part of the routine can be essential for a lift to go up at the right time keeping us both out of danger.

What are your tips for somebody who's maybe just starting out who wants to go into ice dancing?
Find a learn to skate program at your local ice rink. These normally take place on a weekend and most ice rinks offer midweek ones which cater for all ages. Remember you're never too old to start, Cheryl Baker is an inspiration to us all!

Find this interesting or useful?

Check out our other Dancing on Ice interviews, including our chat with singer Lemar's skating partner Melody Le Moal and Coronation Street star Brooke Vincent's partner Matej Silecky.