IT was as a young boy sat watching television with his grandparents in Sicily that Giovanni Pernice caught a glimpse of a programme which would change his life.

The show was Come Dancing, one of the BBC’s longest running programmes, which pitted ballroom dancers from different regions of the UK against each other in a team competition.

For the young Giovanni, it was unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

“I was like ‘wow’, all the chemistry between the boys and the girls was incredible,” he said. “The men were men and I just thought that’s what I want to do, I want the girls around me all the time like that.”

As a result Giovanni, now 26, moved to Bologna as a teenager to study at one of Italy’s leading dance academies before becoming Italian champion.

He became a household name in Britain when, in 2015, he reached the final of Strictly Come Dancing with celebrity partner Georgia May Foote during his first season on the hit show. Last year he was paired with presenter Laura Whitmore and his Italian charm and winning smile have made him a particular favourite of female viewers.

Now Giovanni is touring the country for the first time in his show Dance is Life, which comes to Burnley Mechanics this month.

The title is an apt one - Giovanni even has a tattoo of the phrase in Italian ‘il ballo e vita’ - and the show itself is highly personal.

“We wanted the show to tell a story,” said Giovanni. “The first half is about my Italian roots and the second half is a love story - I tell how my grandfather and grandmother met for the first time.”

Joining Giovanni in the show are four of the professional dancers who have taken part in Dancing with the Stars in Ireland and newly-announced Strictly professional, Australian Dianne Buswell. Giovanni himself partners Luba Mushtuk, a former world champion.

“They are all fabulous dancers,” said Giovanni. "That has made putting the show together so much easier because they are just super good.”

Giovanni has played a key role in choreographing the show alongside Jason Gilkison who is responsible for all the professionals’ group dances on Strictly.

“Jason is one of the best choreographers in the world so I’m really pleased to be able to work with him,” said Giovanni.

“Unlike Strictly where your partners are amateurs and may not be able to do everything, the dancers we have in this show can do anything. It means that every night you have to absolutely be at your best which means the audience gets a fantastic show.”

Dance is Life will feature a wide range of styles including Giovanni’s favourite, the jive - he currently holds the world record having completed an amazing 55 jive flicks in 30 seconds.

“There’s no secret,” he laughed, “I just practice every day.”

Dance is Life has given Giovanni the chance to meet many of his fans.

“When you’re on TV you just haven’t got time to do this,” he said. “So I really enjoy the meet and greet sessions we do. It gives you a chance to find out what the fans think about the show and your choreography which is really useful and everyone is so friendly.

“I’m also enjoying touring round the country because I’m seeing places I’ve never been to before.”

Dance is Life comes to the end of its run later this month but Giovanni will only have five days off before work begins on the next series of Strictly.

“I’m enjoying every second on tour because it’s my show and I love it, There is so much excitement with the show that you never want it to finish.” he said. “But also I can’t wait to get back to Strictly. It really is like going back to your family, there is something special about it.

“All the professionals look forward to the launch show when you find out which celebrity you have been paired with. We genuinely have no idea who it will be until we’re told on the show - at the moment, we don’t even know who the celebrities will be who are taking part.”

But for the moment, Giovanni is fully committed to Dance is Life and is already looking ahead to a possible return to touring next year.

“Maybe it will be with a different show, we will have to see,” he said, “but we are definitely going to be on tour again that’s for sure. The reaction we have had all over the country has been amazing.”

From his early days in Sicily, Giovanni has had an amazing ride which shows no signs of slowing down.

“I will be honest,” he said, “the reason I started dancing was to get the girls but 20 years later I’m on Strictly and now have my own touring show. Dancing is my life.”

Giovanni Pernice, Dance is Life, Burnley Mechanics, Monday, July 17. Details from 01282 664400 or