Open main menu

Aliona Valeriya Kavanagh, (née Vilani on 1 May 1984, Russian: Алёна Валерия Вилани) also known by her stage name Aliona Vilani, is an Russian-Kazakh TV personality and was a professional dancer in the BBC series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Aliona Vilani
Aliona Valeriya Vilani

(1984-05-01) 1 May 1984 (age 35)[1]
ResidenceFlorida, United States
OccupationProfessional Dancer
Years active2001–present
Height5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Spouse(s)Vincent Kavanagh



Vilani started learning ballet when she was five years old. She moved to Russia with her parents at age 9 and started ballroom dancing at age 11, continuing ballet. In 1997, aged 13, she moved to the United States and joined the Kaiser Dance Academy in Brooklyn, New York. In 2001 she was part of the US Ballroom team for the National Dance Congress that won the Amateur Ballroom category.

Vilani turned professional at the age of 17. Since 2006 she has lived in Los Angeles where she competed, performed and coached. Her speciality is 10 Dance, she is also skilled in Salsa, Hip Hop and Jazz. In 2008–2009 she appeared in Dancing with the Stars Arena Tour in the U.S. In 2009 she appeared three times as a guest professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars in Hollywood.

In 2014 Vilani was featured in theatre show Licence to Thrill as the lead female dancer.

Strictly Come DancingEdit

Highest and lowest scoring performances per dance

Vilani first participated in series 7 in 2009, where she partnered Rav Wilding: they were eliminated in week 3 following a dance-off with actress Lynda Bellingham and her dance partner Darren Bennett.[2]

Dress worn by Vilani in the 2010 series, displayed at BBC Television Centre, Birmingham

In 2010 she appeared for the first time on the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour where she partnered actor Ricky Groves. They danced the American Smooth and the Paso Doble. She also partnered Matthew Cutler in the professional dances. In April 2010 rehearsals started for the Strictly Come Dancing Professionals Tour in which she partnered Matthew Cutler & two weeks later the opening night started the 12-week tour.

Vilani was runner up in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing, partnered with Matt Baker.[3] Vilani and Baker then went on to compete and win the 2011 Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour.

She returned in 2011 for the 9th series of the show, where she and partner Harry Judd of pop-rock band McFly went on to win the competition, beating Chelsee Healey in the public vote and coming top in the final judges leader-board.[4] Vilani and Judd then went on to compete and win the 2012 Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour.

Vilani returned for the 2012 series of Strictly Come Dancing, where she was paired with television presenter Johnny Ball. A training accident in the three-week interval resulted in torn ligaments for Vilani, causing her to retire at least temporarily from the show. She was replaced by Iveta Lukošiūtė who, with Ball, went on to be eliminated in the first week.[5] Vilani did however return in the final group dance alongside Ball, and later took part in the 2012 Christmas Special, partnering Fabrice Muamba. In a TV interview in October 2017, Ball claimed Vilani faked the injury, with Vilani denying the allegation and saying she would take legal advice over Ball's comments.[6]

In June 2013 it was announced that Vilani would not be competing in series 11. However, she reportedly reacted angrily, stating that it was "not her decision to leave, and I had planned to be on the show and now I have to make new plans".[7] However, on 2 September 2013 it was further reported that professional dancer Natalie Lowe had a foot injury and that she would be replaced by Vilani.[8] Her partner for series 11 was championship golfer Tony Jacklin but the couple were the first to be eliminated (in week 2).

Vilani appeared in a short special edition of Strictly Come Dancing featuring Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, filmed in support of the BBC Children in Need charity in November 2013.[9] She also appeared on the 2013 Christmas Special, partnering Matt Goss; they scored 35 for their American Smooth.

Vilani returned for the 12th series of Strictly in 2014; she and her partner Gregg Wallace were voted off in round one.

In December 2014, Aliona Vilani won the Christmas Special partnering Louis Smith. They earned a perfect score of 40 from the judges for their quickstep to "Jingle Bells" and won after the judges' and studio audience's scores were combined.

In September 2015, Vilani returned for the thirteenth series of the show and partnered singer from The Wanted, Jay McGuiness. In December 2015 they won the Strictly Come Dancing final, making her the first professional to win the show twice. A few days following their win Vilani announced she would not be returning to the series.[10][11] Vilani and McGuiness then went on to compete and win the 2016 Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour.

Series performances and resultsEdit

Series Partner Place Average
7 Rav Wilding 14th 20.3
8 Matt Baker 2nd 34.3
9 Harry Judd 1st 35.6
11 Tony Jacklin 15th 14.5
12 Gregg Wallace 15th 18.0
13 Jay McGuiness 1st 34.1

Series 7: with celebrity partner Rav WildingEdit

Series 8: with celebrity partner Matt BakerEdit

Series 9: with celebrity partner Harry JuddEdit

  • On week 6, the score was given out by guest judge, actress Jennifer Grey, who was temporarily replacing Goodman.

Series 11: with celebrity partner Tony JacklinEdit

Series 12: with celebrity partner Gregg WallaceEdit

Series 13: with celebrity partner Jay McGuinessEdit


  1. ^ "Aliona Vilani". Strictly Come Dancing Pro Tour. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  2. ^ "BBC One – Strictly Come Dancing – Celebrities". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  3. ^ "Matt Baker". Strictly Come Dancing. BBC. Archived from the original on 11 September 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  4. ^ "McFly star Harry Judd wins the Strictly Come Dancing final – 3am & Mirror Online". 18 December 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  5. ^ "BBC – Blogs – Strictly Come Dancing – Johnny Ball leaves Strictly". BBC.
  6. ^ 'Strictly Come Dancing': Aliona Vilani 'Taking Legal Advice' As She Denies Johnny Ball's Claims Huffington Post, 17 October 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing: Aliona Vilani furious after being axed from the show". 6 June 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  8. ^ Daisy Buchanan. "Strictly Come Dancing pro Aliona Vilani returns to the show, replacing injured Natalie Lowe – Mirror Online". Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  9. ^ Jayne Torvill beats Christopher Dean in the Strictly Come Dancing BBC Children In Need Special Daily Mail 15 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Aliona Kavanagh on Twitter: "Going into this Strictly Come Dancing Series13, I decided that no matter what would happen, it will be my last one."". Twitter. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing winner Aliona Vilani quits BBC show". BBC. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.