Erin’s Energetic Entertainment
Admired for her stunning good looks and high-energy dance routines, Erin Boag was one of the most popular dancers on the hit TV show Strictly Come Dancing, and northern fans have the chance to see her and partner Anton du Beke strut their stuff in a spectacular live show That’s Entertainment in the New Year. Erin took time from her punishing schedule of rehearsals and gym workouts to chat to Eric Beardsworth about the forthcoming tour, northern audiences, motherhood, how she lost more than four stones in weight after childbirth… and how she doesn’t see herself returning to Strictly.
They’ve been hailed as the King and Queen of the ballroom, and very soon Erin Boag and Anton du Beke will reinforce their claim to the crown when they take That’s Entertainment on an extensive nationwide tour of more than 40 dates. So what can the fans expect?
“A wide variety really. There’s always new and fresh and I try do something different every year,” says the 39-year-old star in her gentle New Zealand twang.
“We’ve got a whole different selection. We’re singing, we’re dancing, we’re acting, we’re performing. There’s nothing that they’ve ever seen before so they won’t see a repeat, or any numbers that we’ve done before. There’ll be great costumes, of course.”
In their new show, Erin and Anton will combine the sophisticated elegance of their quickstep, foxtrot, tango and waltz with the showbiz razzmatazz of hits and steps from stage and screen including Steppin’ Out With My Baby, True Love, Make ‘em Laugh, There’s No Business Like Show Business, A Couple of Swells and That’s Entertainment.
They will be joined on stage by star vocalist Lance Ellington, a team of six dancers and the 25-piece London Concert Orchestra.
It’s hard work preparing for a show like this, and the touring itself can be gruelling.
“It’s always gruelling, I know!” Erin says. “They work us hard, they do, but I love every moment of it, especially – can I be really honest with you and I am not saying this because you are up north – the further north you go, the better the audience. They’re great to perform to, because they’re warm. I don’t know if down south they’re a bit more ah…” Reserved?
“Well, you know they love the show but they hold back a bit. Up north you don’t hold back. Especially Liverpool.”
Erin and Anton work out the new routines between themselves and with choreographer Nikki, and Erin is full of praise for their team of six young dancers, hand-picked through a tough audition process.
“They’re all fabulous, more theatre dancers than ballroom, so if you want them to jump up in the air, do the splits, jump up and do a roll and land on their head they can do it.
“We have auditions and they’re tough. We get many dancers in – we start with rooms full of people – and we take the best ones. I don’t know how many we start with, and I don’t think we count them. They just pile in and we cut them in half till we get down to a final however many we need.”
Fans will see another side to Erin’s talents when she sings in some of the routines, for only the second time on tour, and been diligently going for singing lessons.
“I don’t sing as a general rule. I don’t even sing in the shower! I can sing a little bit but I don’t consider myself a singer. So I thought ‘Right, I’m gonna go down there and prepare for this’. I think it’s more of a mental thing. If they asked me to dance I would do that and wouldn’t be nervous about it because it’s what I do. I guess it’s when you’re doing something you don’t normally do.
“I’ve spruced up my singing, I feel more confident doing it and that’s been great.”
Erin is also preparing for the tour with a regime of dancing and exercise, which can involve gym work, running, walking the dog or apparently going mad at her home in Surbiton.
“It’s called ‘insanity’ – really! It’s the Insanity Workout and it is as it says on the pack. It’s insane. It’s everything that you hate doing, working out, and it is fantastic.
“Normally I’m doing four and a half months of Strictly Come Dancing which is seven days a week, dancing, sweating, working it out. I can’t do that now because obviously I have a little baby at home.
“So I’ll stay here, I will get up every morning as I jump around the room to my Insanity work out! The baby works out with me, in his bouncer. And then I take him to my singing lesson, and he sings along, in his bouncer.”
Erin’s baby is Ewan, born in April this year on his dad’s 50th birthday. Dad is business consultant Peter O’Dowd, who married Erin in Italy five years ago.
Ewan won’t be going on tour with mum, but grandma has come over from New Zealand to take care of him, and many of the tour dates are near enough to Surbiton for Erin to dash home.
Motherhood has been thrilling for Erin, but she gained an awful lot of weight during her pregnancy… more than four stones.
Erin tackled it with her customary zeal, taking lots of exercise and sticking to what’s known as the Rainbow Diet, which involved eating naturally colourful foods such as fruit and veg rather than beige-coloured foods.
“We are supposed to be attracted to colour – you know, the reds and the oranges and the greens, stuff like that. The good food is colourful. The bad food, like potato chips and pasta and rice, all that sort of stuff, bread, it’s got no colour!
“I’m not saying stay away from it altogether because I think most people would go a bit crazy if they couldn’t have a piece of chocolate or couldn’t have bread.
“If you starve yourself of it you actually want it more. So it’s just everything in moderation, and just eating sensibly. I feel better in myself because I eat
“I think I’m about four kilos off the target, but it will be gone very soon.”
Until she became pregnant, Erin had never had any real problems with fluctuating weight.
“Doing what I do as a job it keeps you fit, and I’ve always worked on stamina and fitness and weight.
“I think when I came over to England when I was 17 years old, I would say I wasn’t overweight as such, but maybe overweight as a dancer and I dropped maybe five or six kilos from doing more dancing over here.
“Then I always stayed about the same weight when I was competing. I think as a dancer you have a duty to stay slim.
“I don’t mean to say I’m paranoid about my weight, but I am a dancer. The thing is you don’t see overweight ballet dancers out there, do you, because they would lose their job, quite frankly.
“It’s the same for me. I want to look good and go out there and perform in That’s Entertainment and people will say ‘Jeez she looks great! She’s dancing and she’s looking good! I don’t want them to look up and go ‘Eugh… She’s looking a bit overweight like she’s eaten too many pies.”
While she’s on tour with Anton, Erin will celebrate a milestone birthday – her 40th – which terrifies some people but doesn’t bother Erin at all.
“When you’re younger you think 40 is really old. And I said when I’m 40 I’m going to book myself into a plastic surgery, get a face lift, you know, get the whole works done.
“I don’t think I actually need that right now, now I‘m approaching it. And I still feel great in myself. Is there a barrier? I think that you go for as long as your body is able. You know yourself, when you have to slow down, when you have to stop.
“Am I as fit as I was when I was twenty? I would be stupid if I said I am. Thing is, It’s harder when you get older. You know you have to work harder, you have to eat better. You could eat what you want in your early twenties and you wouldn’t put on weight! Now, you do.
“I think it becomes more sensible too as you get older to look after yourself more.
“I’ll carry on dancing as long as my body is able. I probably won’t be touring when I’m in my nineties, but I would like to think I’ll still be doing a little something when I’m 90.”
What many Strictly fans want to know is whether Erin would make a comeback on the show in future, but it’s unlikely.
“I wanted to start a family,” is her simple reason for leaving the hit show. “The thing is with Strictly, and I absolutely love it, I had ten fantastic years, with great memories, but I have a little baby and I don’t want to go back in there seven days a week, there would have been no point in having a baby. I wouldn’t see him and I know I’d be in there training when I’d rather be at home with him. That’s no way to do a show like Strictly.”