Katy Wheeler speaks to Brendan Cole about bringing a flavour of Strictly Come Dancing to Sunderland
Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole promises an explosive experience when his new tour debuts in Sunderland.
The dancer, who is starring in the hit BBC show with celebrity dance partner Sophie Ellis Bextor, will be waltzing his way to Wearside in February.
He’ll be taking to the Sunderland Empire stage with a troupe of world-class dancers as part of his own show, Licence to Thrill.
The New Zealand-born dancer says the audience can look forward to a fusion of Strictly favourites with some more fiery elements thrown into the mix.
Speaking in between rehearsals for Strictly, he said: “The tour is new to Sunderland so I’m excited to take it to a new audience. It’s a real experience for people.
“We have all the dances people love from Strictly, like the Argentinian tango, but it’s quite an intimate show.
“We like to make the audience as much a part of it as possible. So halfway through the show we have a question and answer session where people can ask about Strictly and we have a bit of gossip and mischief.
“There’s a lot of chat. I like to get up close and personal with the audience so that they feel as much a part of the show as the people in it. It’s a very visual evening.
“There’s a lot of people who will have been brought along by their partners who are into Strictly. But you’ve got to have something for them too. We’re not just catering for one demographic.”
The band, which is led by musical director Barry Robinson, will perform songs from across the decades, from Nat King Cole to Gladys Knight and Michael Jackson to Michael Bublé, with a nod to James Bond also.
“I work closely with the music director and cast of dancers to get a feel for what music we are going to use. There’s got to be something for everybody, men and women,” said Brendan.
“Choreography-wise, I wanted something sophisticated and classy with a bit of excitement to it. So we have things like flame bursts. We want people to be blown away.”
Brendan’s dancers on the tour include a cast that have been in Dancing With The Stars in France, Australia and Mexico, as well as stars from the Broadway hit Burn the Floor and Strictly Come Dancing, and his brother Scott.
His leading lady is French dancer, Fauve Hautot.
Brendan said: “The dancers are something special. Each has got their own personality, it’s not just about me just because my name is on the door.
£I’m on stage a lot of the time, probably for about 85 per cent of the show, but when I’m not, the other dancers still need to be able to shine.
“My leading lady has presence beyond presence. She’s very famous in France and there’s a reason for that. She’s mesmerising to watch, she’s got this raw energy.”
He added: “Touring can really take its toll, but we’ve kept it to five shows a week so that we have two days off and our bodies can rest. We don’t want any injuries, we want everyone’s performance to be the best it can be.”
The 37-year-old, who moved to London when he was 19 to pursue his dancing dreams, says there’s nothing quite like experiencing the passion of professional dance in person.
“There’s an emotion to watching dancing live that you don’t get when you’re watching it on television,” he explains.
“When we do the waltz, you think it might be quite dull compared to some of the others but it’s a really beautiful piece of music live that has this eeriness to it.
“When we’ve finished, before the audience clap, there’s this three seconds where they are in their own different space, you really take them on a journey with you.
“Then a couple of dances later they can be on their feet dancing to Dirty Dancing.”
It is, of course, television dancing shows that propelled Brendan to stardom.
He has appeared in millions of British television viewers’ homes in all 11 series of the BBC’s hit TV show, Strictly Come Dancing.
As well as lifting the winners’ trophy with Natasha Kaplinsky back in series one, he has partnered many different celebrities including Lisa Snowdon, Kelly Brook, Victoria Pendleton, Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams and Lulu.
Speaking about the latest series, he said: “It’s one of the best series I’ve ever done.
“Sophie is a dream partner. She’s a lovely girl on and off the dancefloor. She loves being here. Everything about this series is ticking my boxes.
“Highlights so far have been the rumba which was pretty epic and the Argentinian tango. Every week it gets more and more exciting. It’s a special show to be part of.
“I’ll be a bit sad when it’s all over and it’s not often I say that about Strictly because it’s so gruelling.”
So what is it that’s kept Brendan’s feet tapping all these years?
“My mum made me do it but, ultimately, I stuck at it,” he said.
“What I love about dancing is that there’s a magic to it. When you create a dance you create a piece of theatre. To have people enjoy that is such a buzz, it fuels your passion and enjoyment.”
* Brendan Cole – Licence to Thrill will be at Sunderland Empire on February 8. Tickets are £28.90-£38.90 from Tel. 0844 871 3022 or www.atgtickets.com/sunderland.
We’ve teamed up with Brendan Cole – Licence to Thrill to give away a pair of tickets to the show when it plays Sunderland Empire on February 8.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question:
In which BBC show does Brendan Cole currently feature?
A) Strictly Come Dancing
C) The One Show.
Email your answer to email@example.com. Closing date: December 12.