Nadiya Bychkova’s personal and professional life could not be going better - she has a young daughter she adores; she’s in a passionate relationship with fellow Strictly professional, Kai Widdrington and now the pair are off on their first headlining UK tour, Once Upon A Time, which comes to Manchester next month.

Nadiya, 33, said: “Every performer wants to headline their own show. We’ve both been on the Strictly tours but this is a chance to tell our own story. It’s a big responsibility so there’s a lot of pressure. But it’s so exciting.

“I remember when I was competing in dance competitions, I always wanted to create something. Obviously, we have a choreographer, Scott Caldwell, but the show and its content are our ideas. My mum, Larisa, is making all my dresses. We couldn’t be more involved.”

Messenger Newspapers: Nadya and Kai

Additionally, there will be three ballroom and three Latin couples dancing with Nadiya and Kai as well as a singer.

“There will also be some film footage of us relaxing away from work,” said Kai, “We want people to see behind the curtain of our lives. We want to show audiences who we are on and off the dancefloor.”

There will be glimpses, too, of Mila, Nadiya’s six-year-old daughter.

Among all the female Strictly professionals, Nadiya is the only mother.

“Mila is the most important thing in my life,” she says, simply. “But having her requires a lot of planning and organisation and, yes, some sacrifices, too.”

Larisa lives in London now and looks after her granddaughter – Mila calls her Babushka – when Nadiya is on the road.

“She has always been there for me,” said Nadiya.

She adds it was easier to dovetail the demands of Mila into her life when she was involved in competitive dancing. But Strictly changed the landscape out of all recognition.

“If ever we get a day off on tour, the other dancers can relax. But I’m in a car or on the train to get back to London as quickly as possible to spend as long as I can with Mila, trying to make memories to compensate for the days when I couldn’t be with her,” she said. “Whatever I’m doing, I never stop being a mother. I’m not complaining.”

Nadiya was 14 when she moved from her native Ukraine to Slovenia. “But my mother came, too. I would say that 70 per cent of what I’ve achieved in my career wouldn’t have been possible without her.”

How involved is Kai, 27, now he’s an integral part of Nadiya’s life?

“Well, it’s our life,” he says, “and of course that includes Mila. I have a great relationship with her. She calls me Kai Lemon Pie and she’s very adept at getting me to buy her sweets and chocolate.”

Nadiya frowns in mock disapproval.

Messenger Newspapers: Nadiya & Kai (Picture: Ryan Howard for The TCB Group

Nadiya and Kai first met on Strictly when he joined the group of professional dancers in 2021. Nadiya had been part of the 2017 intake along with Amy Dowden and Dianne Buswell. At that stage, Kai was a backing dancer on the show. And his reaction? “I thought she was absolutely stunning,” he says, with a broad grin.

Fast forward four years. “And that’s when we started to talk. But it wasn’t until we danced an American Smooth together that the magic happened. When I’d watch Fred and Ginger on the big screen, it seemed like they were made for each. Well, that’s how it felt with me and Nadiya. Everything just clicked into place.”

“I could see right away,” says Nadiya, “that he was kind, a gentleman. And we shared the same values. But it was a slow burn. We were friends first – and don’t you think that’s the best way?”

Kai partnered Blackburn-born A J Odudu in the 2021 series of Strictly and last year was teamed with Kaye Adams. Nadiya partnered Matt Goss in last year’s series.

Despite what you may have read, says Kai, he and Nadiya two don’t live together. “But I often get asked whether it puts an extra strain on the relationship that we spend so much time with each other. I don’t see it like that. We love each other and we love to dance together. So, for us, it’s a double whammy.”

They insist, though, they’re not in each other’s pockets 24/7. “Nadiya has her time with Mila. I like to play golf. And then we’ll meet up and take the dog for a walk.”

Last October, they acquired an English Bulldog they’ve named Snoopy. “He’s getting heavier by the day.”

The dog is spoken of almost as though he’s their furry, four-legged baby. They both laugh. But this, of course, begs the bigger question. Nor does Kai duck the issue.

“Would I like a family of my own one day? Of course. I’d love to be a father. We’re busy at the moment laying the foundations for all of that.” Nadiya agrees. “I always wanted to have many children,” she says.

Messenger Newspapers: Nadiya and Kai (Picture: Ryan Howard, TCB Group)

So, everything in the garden’s rosy? No, not quite. Nadiya still has family in her beleaguered homeland – and it’s an anxiety that never goes away.

“It’s very difficult,” she says. “I’m from an area in Ukraine where the war has been going on now for almost 10 years. It started at the end of 2013. But it wasn’t until February of last year that the world at large became aware of the Russian invasion.

“In 2014, I knew bombs were dropping and I didn’t know whether my mum had been able to get a train out of the country. Luckily, she was able to reach Croatia and safety.

“But there was no phone connection. That meant I couldn’t get hold of my father or my grandmother for two months. Eventually, I found footage of our house on You Tube and it had been bombed.

“I was frantic with worry. Then on my birthday in August – the best present ever – I got a text from my father saying he was alive. He’d been hiding underground and then managed to escape on a truck to a safer part of the country.

“ Eventually, we managed to get my grandmother out of Ukraine to join my mum in Croatia.”

Nadiya can clearly remember being in the UK last February.

“People were talking about the rumours of the Russians marching into Ukraine. And I told everyone that was never going to happen.

“Then I woke up at 4am on February 24, switched on the radio and heard the news. I couldn’t believe it. I spoke to my father and we reckoned it would only last a week or two. And yet, here we are now.”

You learn how to live with it, says Nadiya. “But it’s never off your mind. In some ways, I feel very selfish saying I want all the people I love to be here in the UK. Ukraine is their home, though. I understand why they want to stay. In the end, of course, I just want all this to finish.”

Nadiya and Kai in Once Upon a Time, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Friday, April 14. Details from