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Dancing With The Stars pro Shae Mountain’s surprise proposal

The Dancing With The Stars pro says Belgian fiancé Maxim is the perfect partner

It was nearing midnight in one of the most spectacular New Year’s Eve locations, so Maxim Defay could be forgiven for thinking Shae Mountain had simply had too many drinks when he began clinking his glass to make a speech over dinner with friends in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

But as Shae went from reflecting on 2023 to recounting how he met Maxim, it became clear this was more than just a New Year’s Eve toast.

“I said to my friend, ‘He must be so drunk if he’s doing a speech right now!’” Maxim tells Woman’s Day of the surprise proposal. “I had no idea what was coming.”

“I’d prepared everything I wanted to say, but I got too emotional halfway through, so I skipped to the end,” adds Kiwi dance coach Shae, who partnered Laura Daniel and Gilda Kirkpatrick on Dancing With The Stars NZ, and Schapelle Corby and singer Dami Im on the Aussie version. “I looked at his face and he was just shocked.”

Maxim (right) said yes to a New Year’s Eve proposal.

Celebrating their engagement during Sydney’s fireworks display, the fun night out with 30 pals was a contrast to the couple’s early dates amid the COVID restrictions of 2021.

Meeting through dating app Hinge, Maxim, who’d left his native Belgium to travel the world, and Shae, who had moved to Australia with his dancer brother, met for a walk, which became an eight-hour stroll.

“I thought we were doing an exercise walk, so I turned up in active wear, but Max was dressed up in this yellow jacket and pants,” says Shae. “It was embarrassing but funny.”

The pair, both 29, found they had everything from their birthdays (Maxim was born one day before Shae) to interests (they both studied tourism) in common. Their dogs even had the same names!

More walking dates followed before restrictions eased and they could enjoy dinner dates. Soon, Maxim, a corporate travel agent, had ditched plans to continue backpacking the world – much to Shae’s relief.

“Max is my first serious relationship,” says Shae. “I’d dated but hadn’t found anybody I connected with before. From the first day, I was like, ‘This is everything I wanted. He’s kind, gentle and handsome!’ I was always looking for a best friend and we had that from the get-go.”

Within months, the pair met each other’s families, who have always supported their relationships. Maxim never even had to come out to his family. “I was playing with dolls and doing my mum’s hair as a kid, so it was obvious!” he says.

However, during their first trip to Belgium, Shae faced language barriers and is learning French to communicate better with Maxim’s family.

“I asked Max’s dad for permission to marry him through Google Translate,” says Shae. “He started crying and was like, ‘Yes, you can!’”

The couple will wed in 2026 in the South of France. Naturally, all eyes will be on their wedding dance.

Getting an Eiffel! Exploring Paris with Maxim’s family.

“I have to learn French and he has to learn to dance,” chuckles Shae. “During lockdown, I taught him some steps and he wasn’t bad. He’s got rhythm! There is pressure to do something ‘wow’, but I don’t want it to be a dance show – I just want something cute.”

“And 30 seconds long,” chimes in Maxim.

“No, longer!” Shae pipes back. “But something simple, with a song we both like.”

When it comes to choreographing a wedding number, Shae still pinches himself reflecting on his dance journey. Watching DWTS as a kid, he dreamt of appearing on the series.

“I remember seeing Jonny Williams on TV and when I was 13, he became my coach, then eventually, I was on DWTS competing against him. It’s weird seeing stuff on TV, then years later working with those people and doing it yourself. It’s so cool.”

Before his first season with Gilda, Shae binge-watched The Real Housewives Of Auckland, becoming “a little scared” to meet the reality star, who turned out to be “cool”. He then helped comedian Laura become season eight’s runner-up.

“Laura was amazing,” says Shae. “She wanted to be jumping into the splits and doing crazy things. I had to do my job to a higher standard, which was more stressful, but that was my favourite season.”

The two got matching star tattoos and remain close, with Laura surprising Shae at one of his performances in Sydney.

Shae loved Laura’s energy.

Meanwhile, he keeps up with Aussie dance partners Dami and Schapelle through social media. Schapelle competed in 2021, having returned to Australia after serving time in Bali for being convicted of drug smuggling. For rehearsals, Shae relocated to Brisbane, where Schapelle would drive him to and from the airport, his Airbnb and practises.

“It was something different for her, dancing with somebody. She’d just come off SAS Australia, which looks brutal, so I think she was traumatised from having to jump out of helicopters and stuff! But she was very positive and we got along really well.”

He says Schapelle was “traumatised”.

If he ever returns to DWTS, Shae’s dream partner would be Aussie singer Troye Sivan.

“I’ve always wanted to dance with a guy and was offered that in New Zealand, but I couldn’t take time away. Having two male energies would be challenging and interesting.”

Until Troye comes calling, Shae’s focused on teaching dance, and enjoying Sydney life with Maxim and their dog Stormi. He’s also part of DWTS pro Aric Yegudkin’s upcoming show Ballroom Blitz, which will tour New Zealand from May.

The couple with their pup Stormi.

“It’s based around ballroom and Latin dancing, and we’ve got current tracks and old stuff. I’m doing some dancing based off Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, which is cool. There’s high-energy numbers and slow, romantic ones.

“I’m excited it’s going to New Zealand because my family can come and we’re going to places I’ve never been, like Queenstown. I hope I see snow!”

Ballroom Blitz tours Aotearoa from 27 May to 16 June. Visit ballroomblitztheshow.com.

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