Eighteen months ago, Candy Lane and her fiancé Ricky Hancock made the bold decision to pack up their lives in New Zealand and move to Biggera Waters on Australia's Gold Coast to be nearer to her daughter Jaz, 29, and five-year-old grandchild August.
When the Weekly catches up with the glamorous dancing star, she has just hopped out of her swimming pool, and is exuding energy and health, a sure sign the 65-year-old is happy and settled in her new home.
"I love New Zealand and I have lifelong friends there," says Candy. "But here, I spend a lot of time outside. I get so much vitamin D, and I live in shorts and t-shirts. It took us a year to make the final decision to move here, in part because I'd been living in the same house for 36 years – we had a lot to pack!
"Losing Mum in 2022 was devastating, but it made me realise that technically I'm next in line," she says. "Being here has brought me closer to Jaz and Auggie. Time is precious and I didn't want to waste any more time waiting."
Settling in Australia also means Candy lives close to her brother Brett and sister-in-law Karlene and their children. Only her son Zak, 26, remains in Aotearoa.
"We are such a close family," she tells. "Brett and Karlene have a wonderful rural property with a tennis court and a pool, and we see them often, which is wonderful. Now I just need to persuade Zak to come over too – he's what I miss most about being here."
Although the plan was for Candy to enjoy a little more downtime when she moved overseas, life is as full-on as ever. The former Australian and New Zealand dance champion is a professional dance judge, and she also teaches four days a week at Australian Dancing with the Stars judge Mark Wilson's Dance Centre. "He's an old friend – we used to compete at the same time, so I met him for coffee, and now Ricky and I both teach there," she explains. "Ricky also travels back to New Zealand once a month to teach and to see his kids."
Ricky and Candy perform floor shows together too.
"We weren't dance partners, but we do floor shows sometimes, which is fun," she says. "We have a whole new dance family here. We don't actually have to be as busy as we are with dancing, but it's still such a passion for us to work with up-and-coming dancers."
Despite being busy, the pair enjoy their new laid-back lifestyle and the warmer climate. "We love what we do," says Candy, who is in fabulous shape thanks to regular dancing and frequent dips in the pool. "If you're happy with what you do, it doesn't feel like work or exercise.
"Now I'm in my sixties, the dancing does take its toll a bit, but I don't teach until 3.30pm, so I get plenty of time to relax at home first. And I get to collapse with a gin and tonic on the sofa at the end of the day!"
Candy is pleased too that she's been around to support Jaz, who recently split from her wife Leesha. "It's sad that they have parted, but I'm so happy to be here for Jaz," she tells. "Break-ups are very hard, but it's brought Jaz and I so much closer. Jaz is a very private person and never complains, so it's incredibly special that she comes to me when she needs support. As a parent, you'll do anything for your child."
One of Candy's favourite pastimes is being a regular babysitter for Auggie when Jaz goes to work. "Jaz and Leesha share custody of Auggie, which works well, but as a midwife, Jaz does a lot of shift work, so she'll call us and ask if Auggie can come over and stay overnight, which I just love. And I get to give him back at the end!"
Listening to Candy chat animatedly about Auggie, it's obvious she's relishing being a grandmother.
"Being Nana is a whole new experience for me and it's wonderful," she says proudly. "Auggie is a very active child who comes over with a little electric motorbike, and adores swimming in the pool and practising what he's learned at swimming lessons.
"We go to the beach and to the park, and he loves dress-ups. Auggie also goes to [trampoline park] Jump, has great coordination and jumps off crazy high places. I get so frightened by what he gets up to – he's always so busy and seems to be constantly climbing something!"
Yet despite the high-energy play, there's one activity Candy just can't get her grandchild to do. "He doesn't dance yet!" she exclaims. "But I haven't given up. It wasn't Jaz or Zac's passion either, although I did try."
Auggie is Jaz's biological child and there's a clear resemblance. However, it's not just looks they share. "Auggie is so clever – he loves school and will tell me all about his maths and reading," says Candy. "He inherited that intelligence from his mum – Jaz was ahead academically too."
Candy is also seeing the same caring traits her daughter possesses.
"Jaz always wanted to be a midwife – just like I knew I wanted to be a dancer," she tells. "She does an amazing job. I think you have to be born with that caring streak to do what she does. I'm so proud of her."
Although Candy and Ricky have settled well into their new lives, they still love the novelty of Australia.
"We do a double-take when we see a kangaroo on the side of the road!" laughs Candy. "There's one that Ricky sees quite regularly when he goes for a run. We're also fascinated by the bats that fly overhead. The Aussies take it all for granted, but all us Kiwis still find it a bit different."
Some things have stayed the same, however. "Ricky is the cook, without a doubt," insists Candy. "A couple of years ago, I did Celebrity Treasure Island/Great Kiwi Bake Off in New Zealand, and I was almost crying – the kitchen is a whole new experience to me! He doesn't mind though – he's a great cook, and he's always watching Jamie Oliver shows and experimenting with meals."
So what happens when Ricky's teaching back in New Zealand?
"Nachos. It's the only thing I can cook and I eat it every night until he comes home!" While Candy doesn't actively watch her weight, she admits Ricky's cooking ability occasionally makes fitting into her fabulous dance costumes a bit tricky.
"Being here, I feel like I'm on holiday all the time!" she tells. "As well as Ricky's cooking, I love cheeses with crackers and wine, and we enjoy going out to dinner. I'm a sucker for a good curry. And I'm terrible at diets, which doesn't help. I've discovered I'm good at fasting though – if I need to get into shape to make my costumes fit properly, I only eat from 2pm until 6pm. It doesn't work for everyone, but it works for me and I don't get hungry."
Of the couple's differing personalities, Candy says, "Ricky is actually the first partner I've had who also dances. We'll come home after a day of teaching or judging and chat about it. It doesn't take over everything though – we each have our own way of relaxing. Ricky's favourite pastime is to come home, exit stage right and head down to the canal to fish, while I'm happy on the sofa watching Home and Away and Neighbours!
"We both love going out on the boat, although I'm a fair-weather sailor. It's a wonderful place to be though – packing up a few filled rolls and some beers, then heading out to sea and watching the sun set over the skyline is truly a joyful experience."
So will we see Candy back in NZ any time soon?
"I absolutely love New Zealand," she says. "It will always be home and I'll happily come back to choregraph dance shows or do something interesting. I never say no to experiences.
"I've done many, many wonderful things in New Zealand, but what I haven't had is time to reflect on that and to have the joy of spending time with family," she adds. "To me, that's the most precious thing in the world."
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