Sixteen years ago, Kai Widdrington turned down a contract with Southampton FC after years spent honing his skills.

"I said no because I wanted to be a dancer, but I wasn’t very good at that point, so it was a massive gamble," said Kai as he reflected on his life-altering choice.

This was a decision that took both Kai and his footballer-now-turned-manager father Tommy Widdrington by surprise – but one which has in time reaped valuable rewards.

Four years after swapping the pitch for the dancefloor full-time, Kai, who was born and raised in Chandler’s Ford, bagged the Junior World Latin American champion title.

Then 16 years old, this was the young dancer’s breakthrough moment.

Years of rocking up to Toynbee School on a Monday morning, still coated in fake tan from the previous weekend’s competitions, had been leading up to this moment.

And this is what makes Kai’s homecoming performance at the Mayflower Theatre in June even more special.

Daily Echo: Kai Widdrington in the Mayflower TheatreKai Widdrington in the Mayflower Theatre (Image: Newsquest)

Upon my arrival at the Southampton theatre, Kai immediately pulls me into a hug and says, ‘we’re finally meeting!’

After three interviews conducted over the phone, it is lovely to finally sit down and talk with the man who has nothing but good things to say about his time in Southampton.

Kai, 28, was born in Princess Anne Hospital, the eldest of three children.

He grew up in Chandler’s Ford and roamed the streets of Southampton - playing football, learning to dance, and generally being the "annoying kid at school who was good at everything".

"It was almost like I was Troy Bolton in High School Musical, he is my icon," Kai joked.

He added: “I was the fastest runner and county champion, and I was the captain of my school’s football team, so it was off-colour for me to do dancing.”

READ MORE: 'I love being from Southampton': Strictly's new star talks city pride and inspiring others

But what persuaded him to no longer perform on the pitch and rather, the stage? Music is the simple answer.

This is something he will be showcasing during his upcoming performance at the Mayflower Theatre, alongside girlfriend and fellow Strictly Come Dancing pro Nadiya Bychkova.

Kai said: “Growing up my parents had amazing taste in music.

“The irony is that on our way to football training my dad would play albums by Elvis Presley, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, and more.

“In my head at the time, I was thinking ‘I can do the Cha Cha Cha to this song’ or ‘I can Jive to Jailhouse Rock’.

“For me, I loved dancing just that little bit more and I was passionate about it.”

Daily Echo: Kai dancing with fellow Strictly pro Lauren Oakley Kai dancing with fellow Strictly pro Lauren Oakley (Image: PA)

Kai and Nadiya’s tour Behind the Magic kicks off in Gateshead before concluding in Southampton.

Visit to find out more.

He is excited to showcase his talents but also provide a backstage look to the world of dancing.

Kai said: “This will be both mine and Nadiya’s first time headlining at the Mayflower Theatre.

“I always say that this theatre is like the Palladium outside of London; it is so beautiful.

“I want people who watch the show to know how it was created and how we got to where we are – this doesn’t just happen.

“The Mayflower Theatre is going to be the theatre of dreams for me that night. It will be a really special moment.”

Kai and Nadiya will be dancing on the Mayflower Theatre stage on June 30.