As a child my grandma was a regular viewer of Come Dancing. I can vividly remember us both waltzing around the living room in front of the gas fire with her prized ornaments shaking on her rickety coffee table as we paraded in front of the neighbours and passers-by. It usually ended up with us collapsing onto her sofa in ‘tuks’ of laughter, after tripping up in our fluffy slippers.
Despite falling over, I loved to dance and after leaving school I trained as a contemporary dancer. Ballroom never appealed to me, in my youth as I saw it as ‘naff’, and the thought of covering myself in gravy browning and sequins made me squirm, not only that you also had to smile (a lot), it all seemed very contrived and false to me. But fast forward 30 years the introduction of BBC’s hit TV show Strictly Come Dancing, Ballroom is certainly back with a vengeance and with Strictly now in its fourteenth year it attracts up to 10.6 million viewers.
Anton Du Beke is synonymous with Strictly, known as the ‘King of Ballroom’, this twinkle toes celebrity has had a busy year. Not only has he had twins, got married, performed on Strictly and released his debut album From the Top, an album of 17 cover versions with collaboration with Connie Fisher and The Overtones, he’s also going to be taking to the road for a nationwide tour, with his dance partner Erin Boag. Their latest venture Broadway to Hollywood, promises to be a musical dance and song extravaganza in which they’ll be showcasing their skills with classics such as‘ Cry Me a River’, ‘Mr Bojangles’, and ‘Downtown’.
“This will be our tenth year of touring. It’s a big show and a great night. It’s just great numbers, wonderful frocks, fabulous dancing and incredible singing. What we’re doing this year is picking a few of our favourites over the years. It’s a wonderful catalogue of material to use including our favourite bits.”
Dance partners for over 20 years Anton and Erin are the modern equivalent of Fred and Ginger, “We’ll just stand together and dance,” says Anton, “we can dance without any set choreography because that’s the nature of Ballroom.”
“I don’t think it would do anybody any harm to learn to dance. It’s a wonderful thing to do”
“In the show we also have a Q&A and I do a bit of chatting, I’m not rude, it’s not malicious and it’s not poking fun at anyone, our audience can have up to four generations in one family so you have to be aware of that.”
Anton’s interest in dance started at the age of 14 when he was sent to a local dance class in Sevenoaks, Kent, to meet his sister one evening. Starting off as a Ballroom dancer he was instantly hooked and by the age of 17 he was competing…and winning.
“I’ve tried other dance forms but I enjoy being with a partner and competing against everybody else and trying to come out on top. Ballroom combines my two favourite things, dance and sport. I’m in the lucky position now where I can take Ballroom dancing onto a stage. Before Come Dancing and Strictly, Ballroom was usually done in a ballroom as opposed to on a stage.
“Due to Strictly the world of ballroom is now one of the forms of dance available to go watch. It’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to dance and the arts. It’s opened up
barriers and introduced new audiences. The greatest achievement for Strictly is bringing it to the general public.
“I don’t think it would do anybody any harm to learn to dance. It’s a wonderful thing to do. It’s very interactive and social. It’s the funniest thing in the world when wives dump their husbands onto somebody else. Everybody is really nice to people in dance classes and then they try and help them if they get stuck. Anybody can learn to dance, some people just take a little longer than others. Unfortunately!”
Anton is possibly most famed for his pairing with the formidable Ann Widdecombe – with comedic routines reaching a record 11.9 million viewers and causing nothing short of a nationwide sensation. With the viewing public’s support he has also made ballroom belles of leading ladies including Lesley Garrett, Dame Esther Rantzen, and Jerry Hall to name but a few. His most recent belle of the ball was TV presenter Ruth Langsford and after a rather disappointing 18 points for their foxtrot, she was the seventh celebrity to leave.
Anton obviously relishes a challenge and in true ‘showbiz’ style believes that ‘the show must go on’, this philosophy was tested by the by the death of Strictly’s former presenter, Bruce Forsyth.
“It was very sad. It was pretty sudden. Everybody was profoundly upset by it. I knew he hadn’t been well but I’d spoken to him a couple of weeks before and he was on the mend. He passed away just before Strictly started which gave everybody a chance to put a number together on the show for Brucie. It was a lovely thing to be able to do.
“You feel like you should stop for a bit, but you can’t, he wouldn’t have wanted that. Brucie would say: ‘come on, get on with it!’”
Further information and tickets: www.raymondgubbay.co.uk and national ticket hotline: 0844 847 2319.
Anton and Erin…
Broadway to Hollywood
- Fri 23 February 7.30pm LIVERPOOL Philharmonic Hall 0151 709 3789
- Sat 24 February 3pm MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall 0161 907 9000
- Sun 25 February 3pm SHEFFIELD City Hall 0114 2 789 789
- Wed 14 March 2pm & 7.30pm BRADFORD Alhambra 01274 432000
- Saturday 17 March 3.30pm YORK Barbican 0844 854 2757