ALONG with millions of Strictly fans, Karen Hauer — the longest serving female professional dancer on the show — is eager to see the series go ahead in 2020.
It’s not in this determined woman’s character though to just to sit around waiting. Instead, she’s “staying busy, active and positive and taking it day by day”. This includes promoting her online Hauer Power fitness programme, sharing home workouts, and recently joining fellow Strictly star, Oti Mabuse, to set up the Home Festival online community.
Along with their partners — Hauer’s joined by boyfriend, David Webb — and a host of friends, from fellow Strictly dancers to tennis star Boris Becker and UK Olympic athlete Greg Rutherford, they’ve streamed a series of classes covering everything from dancing and baking to sports coaching.
In truth, Hauer is no stranger to facing and overcoming challenges. Born in Venezuela, she moved to New York aged eight — her dad left shortly after though and Hauer has previously talked about the “hard” times growing up.
Two years ago, she dealt with the breakdown of her marriage with Strictly pro Kevin Clifton — but Hauer, aged 38, has emerged “transformed” this year, with a new look and approach to life.
“My separation from Kevin led me to a path of prioritising myself. I’ve made a lot of life changes. It’s been so worth it because I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy and content in my own skin,” reflects the dancer, whose long dark hair’s been replaced by a glamorous blonde crop.
She’s talking from the home she shares with her partner, opera singer, Webb, aged 36, and their three rescue dogs. Clearly blissfully happy, the pair delight in performing together online.
“I’m in such a good place. Before, I was always worrying about what people might think of me. Now I feel so good on the inside and, for the first time, free to be myself,” says Hauer, who joined Strictly in 2012.
She and Clifton quickly became one of the show’s golden couples. But the pressures of the work and preserving a relationship proved tough and the pair, who married in 2015, eventually split.
“The year we broke up was traumatic and heartbreaking,” Hauer says quietly. “A marriage ending is never something you expect to happen, or want. It was a shock for us both, but I think it was a long time coming and we ignored the signs. We got caught up in the whole work, work, work thing - we were living and breathing it 24 hours a day - and it kind of overwhelmed our relationship.”
Hauer, who’s remained friends with her ex and gets on well with his new partner, Stacey Dooley, adds happily: “Kevin and I will always be friends, which is wonderful and I love Stacey to bits. When I look back, I don’t think we were ready for marriage. We were still growing as performers, as people, as lovers, and sometimes you just can’t find a way to fix things. It’s certainly nothing to do with the Strictly ‘curse’ - I don’t believe in that. Relationships can happen to anyone and it’s just life.”
She admits it plunged her into a period of struggling “to see a way ahead. I wasn’t sleeping, eating or taking care of myself properly for a while,” reveals Hauer, who turned to former Strictly professional Camilla Dallerup, for life coaching to help her through the challenging time.
“I was so hurt and emotionally upset and my self-esteem was on the floor.”
The chapter has led to a new perspective on life.
“I realised I had to sort myself out and make changes,” she says. “Before, I was always afraid of not fitting in. I used to think I had to act a certain way, to be the perfect girl with the perfect hair and always smiling. Now I feel grounded and comfortable with who I am - I don’t want to fit the mould - and I realise beauty isn’t about being perfect.”
Her relationship with Webb, who she started dating in 2018, has been a blessing too.
“There was an instant connection when we met. He’s a creative artist and loves fitness, so we share that. He always makes me laugh which is so sexy,” Hauer says, smiling. “He understands me on a different level. He sees me for who I am and doesn’t judge me. I can be wild, but at the same time I’m also calm, collected, quite shy at times but also very driven. There are so many different levels but he doesn’t get afraid of them.”
That drive and determination was forged during her childhood.
“My mom, Miriam, became a single parent not long after we arrived [in New York] and bringing up me and my brother and sister on her own was very tough. She often worked three jobs to keep us fed and clothed,” she says proudly.
After working as a personal fitness trainer and winning global dance competitions, Hauer came to England in 2012 to audition for Strictly.
“It was scary coming to England to start a career here, but my mom is such an inspiration to me,” she says. “She has such a strong backbone and never gives up and instilled that in me. As a child, I was obsessed by dancing, I won scholarships and think it was an outlet for my emotions and an escape into another world.”
Her fitness plan, Hauer Power, is symbolic of her new determination to fulfil her own goals.
“I’ve longed to do this blend of dance, body resistance training and Pilates and yoga for years. I have so much energy nowadays, which has refuelled my ambition and allowed me to fulfil my dream to show people how you can get fit, toned and strong, without joining a gym or leaving the house” she says.
Hauer’s vigilant now about safeguarding her wellbeing.
“I’m much more into self-care these days. I meditate, do stretching sessions when I’m not training, and love relaxing with David and the dogs at home. It’s my safe space, where I can be who I really am.”
Her plans for the future are focused on resuming her career post-lockdown - her tour with Gorka Marquez in Latin dance show, FireDance, was cut short earlier in the year - and maintaining her personal happiness.
“David and I have talked about marriage and about having children, but we talk more about adopting more dogs,” she says, laughing.
“I’m just quite enjoying being this new person I’ve discovered. If it happens that we have a child, I’d love that, but for the moment I’m happy as things are.
“I want to stay true to myself and I recognise all this ‘celebrity’ stuff is a kind of fantasy,” she reflects. “I’m just going to carry on working hard, being professional and continue with what I’m passionate about.