YES, he’s with her.
Apart from Ann Widdecombe being dragged around the floor like an industrial floor polisher, the relationship between Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev was the highlight of BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing series.
They met, they fell in love, they were crowned champions. It’s a beautiful story.
So who made the first move?
“Oooh,” laughs Tointon, before proceeding to not answer the question.
“It was a weird situation. You’re getting to know someone who is really acting as your teacher. But then we got on so well. And since the show finished it’s been nice to do some normal things, like going to the cinema, go to dinner... the sort of things you should do first of all. So it was a bit back to front.”
The couple have been in Nottingham all week, rehearsing for the Strictly UK tour which opens at the Capital FM Arena tonight, the first of five shows over the weekend.
Others from the series who’ll be joining them include Matt Baker, Patsy Kensit, Jimi Mistry, Tina O’Brien and Pamela Stephenson.
“Most of us are dancing with our professional dancers from the series,” she says.
“There are a few new faces from other series as well.”
They are Colin Jackson, Ricky Whittle and Zoe Ball, who’ll be hosting each show, plus a judging panel featuring Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood.
As well as judging and directing, Revel Horwood will be taking to the floor with Widdecombe, the contestant he was perhaps most critical of during the series.
“That is going to be hilarious,” promises Tointon.
“It’ll be a real spectacle. That and Matt doing his amazing back-flips.”
Despite winning the TV series, the format of the live show means that Kara and Artem will be competing against the rest of the couples for audience approval each night. Which is a plus, she reckons.
“It’s nice that none of us have the pressure that we might go home after every show. We’ve each chosen two of our favourite dances and this time round we’re not trying to remember our steps so much because they’re dances that we’re familiar with.”
Mid-way through the TV series, Tointon tore a ligament in her arm, meaning she had to be on pain killers throughout. So how is the arm now?
“They said it might take anywhere up to six weeks to heal but it’s so much better. I’ve had a bit of physio and it’s virtually back to normal. It’s a little bit achey but nothing that’s going to stop me enjoying the tour.”
She adds: “I have been to Nottingham a couple of times before. I came to see a show here once.”
“I can’t remember,” she giggles.
“I was here last year when I did the dyslexia documentary.”
That was Don’t Call Me Stupid for BBC3, during which she met other sufferers, including an ex-offender from Aspley, known only as Michael.
“We went fishing, which was a bit random. But generally we were just talking about dyslexia. I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed when I was really young but Michael wasn’t. He was typical of a lot of people I met who had problems growing up because of it.”
Will she get to explore the city during her week long stay?
“I expect so but I’m not sure what the schedule is. We’re doing what we’re told at the moment. But we’re all staying in the same hotel and it’s a bit like being a rock star. It’s quite cool.”
The tour opens tonight in Nottingham and runs until Sunday, after which it’ll head around the country, finishing in Glasgow on February 13.
What plans does she have for after?
“It’ll be back to the day job of auditioning, something I’ve been doing since I was 12. So I’ll be sad when this is all over.”
Will being a Strictly winner work for or against you with casting agents?
“I don’t know to be honest. I did think about that a lot before I took it on and I was quite apprehensive but I’d have been stupid not to have done it. I’ve met some great friends, I’ve learnt a new skill and I’ve been having an amazing time.
“I was asked to do it for the last series in 2009 but I didn’t feel like it was the right time because it’s quite an undertaking. You have to dedicate a quarter of a year to it.
“But I’m glad I took it on this time. It was an opportunity to take myself less seriously and have some fun.”
The 27-year-old from Essex had her first professional role in a local pantomime and was an extra in EastEnders at the age of 12, playing a school friend of Sonia Fowler.
After bit parts in the British films Just My Luck and The Football Factory, she landed the role of Dawn Swann in EastEnders.
“I had a fantastic four years,” she says, despite suffering abuse in the street from members of the public who struggled to differentiate between reality and fiction. It mirrors actress Samantha Womack’s current situation due to the controversial babyswap storyline in the soap.
Says Tointon, who dated fellow actors James Alexandrou (Martin Fowler) and Joe Swash (Mickey Miller): “I’d get people having a go at me because of what my character had been up, for having an affair or whatever. Some people take it so seriously.
“With Strictly it’s been a completely different experience. People are being really positive.
“And I don’t get called Dawn so much any more. I hated that name anyway, I thought it was just the worst. It’s nice that people call me Kara now.”
Would she go back in to EastEnders?
“Never say never. You really don’t know what could happen. I loved it there. And I wasn’t killed,” she laughs.
“My character sailed off in to the sunset and I’m hoping that boat is still afloat.”
There are always the lingerie shoots for the lads’ mags, you could do them again.
“I think I’ve only ever done two photo shoots.”
Well, it may have been just a couple but they made an impression.
“Well, thank you,” she giggles.
“It’s not something I do very much. It was just something a bit different at that time. It’s nice to have some photos of yourself for when you’re older.”
And there’s always the new boyfriend to consider...