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How Robin Windsor’s heart was ‘broken’ after being forced off Strictly by the BBC: Fans’ favourite dreamed of becoming a dancer from the age of three and never gave up hope of returning to show but was forced to work on cruise ships to pay the bills


It was his lifelong ambition to be on Strictly – getting his first dance shoes at the age of three and moving to London at 15 to pursue his ballroom dream.

Robin Windsor, who has died aged 44, became adored by millions and said he had ‘never been happier’ in his life after he partnered Anita Dobson, Patsy Kensit, Lisa Riley and Deborah Meaden on the show.

The Suffolk-born star, whose professional partner for many years was Kristina Rihanoff, was also instrumental in making the push for same-sex couples to feature on the show, backed by judge Craig Revel Horwood.

But Strictly bosses took the decision to replace him after four years in 2014 after he suffered a back injury, which the much-loved dancer openly admitted ‘broke my heart’.

He said last year: ‘That was probably the worst thing that could have ever happened to me because it took away what I loved the most. I loved being on Strictly more than anybody who was there’.

The Latin dance specialist never recovered from being forced off the primetime programme and descended into a dark depression, blaming the BBC for the decision and insisting: ‘It wasn’t my choice to leave’.

Robin, known as ‘Bobby’ to his friends, always insisted that he was fit and healthy enough to return to the show after an operation – and never gave up hope of returning – although he claimed the BBC blocked it for health and safety reasons. 

And in a double blow, his engagement to partner Davide Cini was broken off around the same time.  Later in 2014, his final year on Strictly, he began his relationship to X-Factor runner-up Marcus Collins and they had planned to marry at a Downton Abbey-themed wedding but sadly they split in 2015.

Marcus shared pictures of them together in happier times today and said: ‘The World just got a lot less sparkly. Robin., You were so loved’.

Robin Windsor and Deborah Meaden on Strictly Come Dancing. He said that he had never been happier than when on the show and was heartbroken not to return

Robin Windsor and Deborah Meaden on Strictly Come Dancing. He said that he had never been happier than when on the show and was heartbroken not to return

Baby Robin being held by his older sister as a child. He began dancing at the age of three

He began dancing at the age of three and was winning competitions in primary school

Baby Robin being held by his older sister as a child. He began dancing at the age of three and was winning competitions in primary school (right)

The last picture of Robin, working on a Fred Olsen Cruise ship as it docked in Mozambique

The last picture of Robin, working on a Fred Olsen Cruise ship as it docked in Mozambique

Robin in a shot for a primary school show he was in shared on Instagram

Robin in a shot for a primary school show he was in shared on Instagram

Robin as a teenager after he left Ipswich to become a dancer in London when he was 15

Robin as a teenager after he left Ipswich to become a dancer in London when he was 15

Robin as a teenager after he left Ipswich to become a dancer in London when he was 15

Robin Windsor dances on a Fred Olsen Cruise last month, entertaining passengers as they travelled around the world (pictured as it headed to South Africa

Robin Windsor dances on a Fred Olsen Cruise last month, entertaining passengers as they travelled around the world (pictured as it headed to South Africa

Robin Windsor and Marcus Collins, a X-Factor finallist mentored by Gary Barlow. They had planned to marry but split in 2015

Robin Windsor and Marcus Collins, a X-Factor finallist mentored by Gary Barlow. They had planned to marry but split in 2015

Robin also had a relationship with 'best friend' Davide Citi. They were engaged but separated at the height of his Strictly fame

Robin also had a relationship with ‘best friend’ Davide Citi. They were engaged but separated at the height of his Strictly fame

Robin three weeks ago in South Africa where he was dancing on a cruise ship that was going around the world

Robin three weeks ago in South Africa where he was dancing on a cruise ship that was going around the world

His mental health became so bad that he couldn’t get out of bed and admitted that he considered taking his own life, overwhelmed by not being on Strictly, financial problems and managing pain from his back. 

At the time he left Strictly in 2014 he said: ‘If the slipped disc had popped out while I was dancing, I could have ended up with permanent nerve damage and been in a wheelchair’ – but he later insisted that his back was repaired and continued to dance until his death.

Speaking about his Strictly exit last year, Robin said he became so ‘bitter’ about not being allowed to return that he couldn’t bear to watch it. 

‘I got to dance and show 13 million people every single week what it was that I love to do. So, once that was taken away from me, I went into quite a steady decline.

‘I was sad. And, I know we all have our dark days, but my dark days turned into dark weeks and I wouldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t really understand why I was feeling like that or how to get out of that state’.

And he never gave up on his dream of returning – although in an interview last year about his mental health struggles he admitted that age was no longer on his side.

He said: He added: ‘I absolutely would love to return. It’s the happiest place on earth – it’s like Disneyland. I was at my happiest while I was on the show’.

Hinting that he was really struggling to the point he could have died, he said last year: ‘The most frustrating part was feeling like I just could not tell anybody, and I let things get worse. I found myself in a very, very difficult situation where it was nearly the end for me’.

His friend and current Strictly choreographer Patrick Helm gave an insight into Robin’s self-esteem after news of his death emerged, declaring: You were loved by so many… but couldn’t see it’. 

Robin Windsor's last post on Instagram which was captioned, 'hiding in the shadows'

Robin Windsor’s last post on Instagram which was captioned, ‘hiding in the shadows’ 

Performance arts theatre Burn The Floor, where Robin danced for 20 years and was a founding member, said there is a 'void' in their heart since the tragic passing

Performance arts theatre Burn The Floor, where Robin danced for 20 years and was a founding member, said there is a ‘void’ in their heart since the tragic passing

Fans and friends flooded X with tributes to the late dancer

Fans and friends flooded X with tributes to the late dancer 

Robin's last long term relationship appears to have been with X-Factor star Marcus Collins, who shared this image of them together today

Robin’s last long term relationship appears to have been with X-Factor star Marcus Collins, who shared this image of them together today

Robin continued to dance until his death. He took part in several theatre dance tours and also did several pantomime seasons to make ends meet.

Windsor also appeared in Dancing With The Stars Australia and So You Think You Can Dance in the Netherlands and assisted in the choreography for the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance, as well as acting as a motivational speaker. 

Three weeks ago he shared smiling selfies from South Africa while taking a break from dancing to entertain holidaymakers enjoying a cruise around the world.

Mr Windsor looked happy as he took pictures of elephants on safari and relaxed in a lodge overlooking the stunning Leopard Mountain game reserve.

He also enjoyed some time on the beaches of South Africa, calling them ‘glorious’.

But his last post was a more muted selfie in the near-dark with the caption: ‘Hiding in the shadows’.

Friends have claimed he died back in the UK. 

The much-loved dancer grew up in a tough area of Ipswich. But he left Suffolk for London at the age of 15.

Robin with his mother when he received his honorary degree from the University of Suffolk

Robin with his mother when he received his honorary degree from the University of Suffolk

Young Robin, who had already started dancing then because of his parents' passion for dancing

Young Robin, who had already started dancing then because of his parents’ passion for dancing

By the time he was a teenager, he knew he wanted to turn pro

By the time he was a teenager, he knew he wanted to turn pro

He said: ‘I actually started my dance career when I was just three years old. My parents enrolled me in the local dance school, back in Ipswich where I’m from, and I was always there. Really, from birth. 

‘Because my parents used to dance, and they caught me wiggling my hips in the mirror and asked if I’d like to have a dance lesson. I said yes and of course, the rest is history’.

Robin had battled huge obstacles to get on the show in 2012. In his early twenties he even quit dancing completely after building up debts pursuing his dream of being a professional.

But a chance meeting with an old dance partner on Oxford Street led to him treading the boards again.

He said: ‘She said to me “Robin, you’re looking so thin! Is everything OK?” I said not really I’m missing dancing. To which she replied: “Well, I’m missing dancing as well. Why don’t you come and live with me and my family in Southampton and we’ll go and work on the cruise ships together?” 

‘So, off I went to live in Southampton with her family, who took me in. They were amazing! We spent six months getting all the choreography together and sent off the VHS tapes to the cruise liners, because it was that long ago.

‘I ended up off to America for what I thought was going to be just a three-month tour, but 10 years later, I was still with that same show, touring the world and finishing up with a nine-month run on Broadway. So, it was a very spectacular thing for me, it completely changed my life’.

In 2010 his dream true and Strictly came calling.  

‘After Broadway, I was like, “Well, what’s next for me as a dancer?” And of course, Strictly Come Dancing came along, and once again changed my life up to another level for the better’, he said.

But when he hurt himself on the programme.

Deborah Meaden and Robin Windsor on the Strictly live tour in 2014 - his last year on the show

Deborah Meaden and Robin Windsor on the Strictly live tour in 2014 – his last year on the show

In 2012 he was partnered with Lisa Riley, when he became a huge name

In 2012 he was partnered with Lisa Riley, when he became a huge name

In 2011 he was partnered with EastEnders actress and singer Anita Dobson

In 2011 he was partnered with EastEnders actress and singer Anita Dobson

In 2010, his first year on Strictly, he danced with Patsy Kensit

In 2010, his first year on Strictly, he danced with Patsy Kensit

‘After four amazing years on the show, I suffered a bit of an accident on my back having to have surgery and I ended up losing my job on Strictly. That was probably the worst thing that could have ever happened to me because it took away what I loved the most. I loved being on Strictly more than anybody who was there.

‘Leaving Strictly wasn’t my choice. I had a horrible back operation and they decided that they didn’t want to ask me back the next year.” He explained: “It was probably for health and safety reasons, in case something happened, but I was physically fit. One of my best friends Trent Whiddon, who replaced me to dance with Pixie Lott, I wanted to watch and support him, but it broke my heart. 

‘I was with Marcus Collins from the X Factor, who was my partner at the time, and said to him, ‘I’m really struggling to watch the show.’ He told me the best thing to do was to really get behind and support everybody. He said it was hard for him to watch the success of Little Mix, who beat him on X Factor.

‘He was spot on. From that day forward I made sure I supported everybody on the show. Being bitter about not being asked back was not going to help any situation. I learnt that was the right thing to do and I thank Marcus for that’.

He and Marcus got together shortly after his relationship to partner Davide Cini broke down.

In 2014 he was on the cover of Gay Times with his new partner Marcus Collins but despite having plans to marry they split in 2015. They rekindled their relationship later that year before they split for good.

Robin remained close to Davide after they broke up.

In 2019, when Davide turned 40 he said on Facebook: HAPPY 40th Birthday to the most special man in my life. 

‘Davide Cini I cant believe this day is finally here the big 4.0 You are the best mate I could ever have wished for. We’ve been through SOOOO much together over the years (oh so very much!!!!!!!) I wish dearly I could be there in Malta to celebrate with you on your very special day. Have the most wonderful time and we will get to celebrate together soon. LOVE YOU’.

Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor during Strictly Come Dancing launch event at the BBC Studios back in 2011. Kristina was his pro partner for many years

Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor during Strictly Come Dancing launch event at the BBC Studios back in 2011. Kristina was his pro partner for many years

Windsor is pictured with TV presenter Susanna Reid on Strictly Come Dancing back in 2011

Windsor is pictured with TV presenter Susanna Reid on Strictly Come Dancing back in 2011

Susanna Reid and Robin 'Bobby' Windsor (second pair from right) are pictured on Strictly for Children In Need in 2011

Susanna Reid and Robin ‘Bobby’ Windsor (second pair from right) are pictured on Strictly for Children In Need in 2011

Robin said that he had struggled with the fame that came with being a Strictly favourite.

He said: ‘I think having a public profile was hard. I wasn’t prepared to lose the life I had. 

‘I had to change my life to fit around that. I lost that feeling of freedom a little bit. Especially when I danced with Lisa Riley, just going out to dinner somewhere and people were whispering about you. It used to drive me crazy. It started to make me paranoid that they were saying bad things. 

‘When they were doing it they were obviously only saying, ‘That’s the guy from Strictly,’ but it used to make me feel so awkward. That would happen at the theatre or dinner. I almost lost my privacy’. 

But it did not put him off wanting to go back. 

He said: ‘I have mentioned going back, but it’s not been right for them, which I completely understand. I’m 43 now and I consider myself a bit old to be on the show’.

Robin had been open about this mental health battles and depression through his life, which he said struck first when he was a teenager.

He became a supporter of the charity SANE.

He said last year: ‘In my darkest times, somebody from SANE contacted me asking me about a tweet I had put on. It was then that I made contact with SANE and found somebody who would help me talk and everything just started getting better’.

The professional dancer was paired with celebrities including model Patsy Kensit, actresses Anita Dobson and Lisa Riley and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden on Strictly.

He also danced with Great British Bake Off host Alison Hammond in the 2015 Christmas special and with Susanna Reid in 2011’s Children In Need special.

The star most recently appeared in stage show Come What May, a tribute to Moulin Rouge.

The news was confirmed by Sisco Entertainment, which represented him in various areas of theatre and corporate entertainment.

A statement said: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the tragic passing of our beloved friend, Robin Windsor.

“Robin’s presence in Come What May was more than just a performance; it was an embodiment of passion, grace, and sheer talent.

“His extraordinary ability to express emotion through movement captivated audiences, leaving them spellbound with every step.

“Beyond his impeccable dancing, Robin’s vibrant spirit lit up the room, infusing rehearsals and performances with infectious energy and warmth.

“His laughter was contagious, his kindness boundless.

“His friendship was a gift cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

“Robin, you will be deeply missed.

“Though Come What May will continue without you, your legacy will live on in the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to share in your light.”

A statement from dance show Burn The Floor, in which Windsor appeared for many years, said: “The Burn The Floor family has lost one of its founding members, Robin “Bobby” Windsor, who has tragically passed away.

“A BTF journeyman he danced with us for 20 years, including Broadway, The West End and all our crazy adventures around the world.”

The company shared a photo of him on stage with fellow dancer Jessica Raffa, adding: “His stunning image attached with Jessica Raffa defined our company, colourful, extreme and sensual.

“His talent, attitude, energy and personality helped create the Burn The Floor stage reputation.

“He leaves a void in our hearts that will never be filled, yet our wonderful memories will stay forever.”

The Latin and ballroom dancer first began dancing at the age of three when his parents enrolled him in classes in Ipswich, according to his website.

He went on to represent England in numerous championships, both on the domestic and international levels.

He joined the cast of show Burn The Floor in 2001 and toured the world for 10 years, with a nine-month run on Broadway.



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