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Ex-soap star and theatre darling, Kara Tointon waltzes her way back to the Cliffs
WITH more ups and downs than the Charleston, Kara Tointon’s career has not been easy.
After playing Dawn Swann in EastEnders for four years she fell into a deep depression when she left the show and couldn’t find work.
Then a last minute decision to take part in Strictly Come Dancing saw her catapulted back into the limelight.
However, it is what Kara has achieved since winning the show in 2010 that has really silenced her critics.
Kara has proved herself to be a talented theatre actress and she received rave reviews for her part as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion and as the catty character of Evelyn in Alan Ayckbourn’s play Absent Friends.
In her typical self-deprecating style, Kara refused to blow her own trumpet about her achievements.
“I took Artem to the Cliffs quite recently and showed him the beach - he said ‘ah this is the Miami of England?’ He always compares everything to America!”Kara Tointon
She says: “I never expected to get into theatre work after Strictly. It is something I have always wanted to do - and want to continue to do.
“I am just so thankful to the producer for giving me the chance to be in Pygmalion. It was amazing, and a bit surreal, to be among such famous actors.”
She started speech and drama lessons aged seven and played Brigitta in the Sound of Music, at the Cliffs for a local amateur dramatic society.
Her first paid job was in the panto Snow White, also at the Cliffs, aged 11, where she was one of the child dancers.
Kara says: “I used to live exactly opposite the Cliffs - so I never had an excuse not to get to rehearsals in time!
“Me and my mates used to go to the Cliffs all the time for coffee and always hung out in Mamma Mia’s Restaurant in Westcliff.
“I always loved being in pantos at Christmas when the theatre became my second home. It’s the same feeling I get now when rehearsing for a play.”
Kara was brought up by dad Ken, now a semi-retired accountant, and mum Carol, in Leigh. Kara and sister Hannah, 23, who stared on the Bafta award-winning sitcom Inbetweeners on E4, both went to St Michael’s in Leigh and St Hilda’s in Westcliff.
Diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of seven Kara went on to excel in many things including drama, gymnastics and diving.
In 2000, after leaving school, she got a part in the Channel 4 drama Teachers. In 2002, she appeared in Dinotopia, followed in 2004 by a role in Mile High and she then joined the cast of Dream Team until 2005.
Almost as soon as she left Dream Team it was announced she was to join EastEnders.
However, when Kara decided to leave the soap after four years she found the industry was totally different.
She says: “When I left EastEnders and couldn’t even get an audition and I was convinced that I was going give up acting and re-train as an interior designer.
“The world was a different place than it had been when I started EastEnders. The recession had hit and there were not the same opportunities available and shows like the Bill were disappearing.”
Kara almost didn’t accept the offer to appear on Strictly.
She says: “I was asked about Strictly the year before but I had a panic attack over it and said no. Then I had a year without any auditions and felt very low. Then Strictly came up again and I decided to go for it.”
Now Kara is coming back to where she began her career at the Cliffs to perform in the Dance To The Music tour alongside her boyfriend Artem Chigvintsev in July.
The show features Kara, Artem, Kristina Rhiannoff and Robin Windsor alongside the fifteen-piece Strictly Come Dancing band and its vocalists.
She says: “I can’t wait to come back to my home town for the final show of the tour. I still have family on Southend and Benfleet and they’ll all be buying their tickets in advance.
“I took Artem to the Cliffs quite recently and showed him the beach - he said ‘ah this is the Miami of England?’ He always compares everything to America!”
The nation watched Kara and Artem fall for each other while dancing together on Strictly. But making the relationship work after the cameras stopped rolling has not been easy.
She says: “When Strictly finished we didn’t see each other for three months because I had my plays and we were battling against Artem’s visa.
“Being in the Dance to the Music tour means that we can spend some time together!”
Unfortunately Artem will not be in fighting form for the show.
Kara says: “He is limping around at the moment after he injured himself doing a crazy stunt while performing in Las Vegas. He’ll still be in the show but won’t be able to go full out like he usually does.”
Kara is excited about stepping back into her dancing shoes for the show.
She says: “It does feel like a long time since the Strictly - probably because so much has happened in the year and a half.
“Now putting the costumes back on it feels like stepping back in time. It is going to be a fantastic show, we have changed all of the choreography but we have kept in the Viennese Waltz.”
Kara is still passionate about ballroom dancing.
She says: “I do like to feel like i’m improving but then I watch the professionals dance they are on another level. Artem laughs at me and says what do I expect they have been dancing for years.”
Kara has learned one important lesson from her time in the business.
“I am never complacent about working – I always think it going to be another six months until my next job. It makes me appreciate every thing I do.”
Dance to the Music is coming to the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend on Tuesday 3 July. Call 01702 351135 for further details.