AFTER three very enjoyable but gruelling months on the television show, seven stars of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing signed up to go through it all again as part of the Strictly Live Tour.
The tour, which shimmies into arenas across the country including the Captial FM Arena in Nottingham on February 4 and 5, will be hosted by 2012 Strictly star Lisa Riley and promises to be the most glittering tour yet.
It’s a big commitment but one which the stars can’t wait for, with many relishing the chance to get back on the dance floor and show off their skills to a home crowd.
Strictly Come Dancing 2013 runner-up and Coronation Street actress Natalie Gumede who will be reunited with her dance partner Artem Chigvintsev, said: “I am very much looking forward to performing in Manchester. The city looked after me so warmly when I was in Coronation Street and I can’t wait to play to a north-west crowd.
“Also it will be the first time my mum has seen me dance live. During the series she wanted to stay at home so she could vote for me so it will be the first time she will see me dance.”
So after a short Christmas break does Natalie, 29, who famously suffered from a recurring back injury during her time on Strictly, think she is ready to don those famous costumes again?
“The situation with my back was unusual. I have suffered with it before but you’re not normally working or dancing seven days a week. “The treatment was exceptional and after a holiday over Christmas, I’m desperate to cling on to some sequins again. I’ve heard you can buy them so I might get one as a memento of my Strictly experience.”
Strictly Come Dancing 2013 winner, footballer’s wife and TV presenter Abbey Clancy, 27, married to former England and Stoke striker Peter Crouch, is another star desperate not to hang up her dance shoes.
“For me Strictly has been the most incredible experience and I wanted to carry on forever,” she said.
“So the tour is a brilliant opportunity to keep dancing. It will be amazing to go and perform at the Echo Arena in Liverpool in front of loads of Scousers. This is a chance for all my family and friends who couldn’t make it to the TV show, to come and see me dance. Peter loves dancing and so does our daughter Sophia. The costumes on the show are beautiful and I love the fact the tour means I can carry on getting made up, getting a fake tan, tons of glitter and millions of hair extensions. It’s every girl’s dream.”
Abbey’s not the only one who’s itching to get back into her Strictly costume.
Waterloo Road star Mark Benton, 48, was knocked out in week nine but was a firm favourite with fans for his off-the-wall routines and outlandish outfits with partner Iveta Lukosiute, including their version of MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This, complete with rap-star style gold costume. It’s a crowd-pleaser that looks certain to get another outing on the live tour.
“I think we’re going to do You Can’t Touch This on the tour.” Mark said.
“So many people come up to me and say they love it, it would be rude not to do it.
“But I think we’d love to put more content into the dance on the live show.
Mark, who lost three stone during his time on the show, added: “I am from Cleveland, so I can’t wait to get on the tour and get up to perform in the north east. All my friends and family are up there so I will drag them along. We want to really surprise people on the tour. Ben Cohen kept taking his top off to win over the ladies, so maybe I will take my trousers off?” he joked.
Rugby player Ben Cohen’s topless Paso Doble with his partner Kristina Rihanoff was certainly one of the highlights of the series and one which Ben says he’s hoping to bring out again on the tour.
The 35-year-old, who helped England win the Rugby World Cup in Australia 2003, said: “We put up a vote on Twitter asking fans which dance they wanted to see again on the tour and it was the Paso Doble that kept coming up. When you sign up for something like Strictly, you think afterwards: ‘Why on earth did I do that?
“But then you start training and see how hard it is and how hard the professionals work. And you get used to going out in front of a nation and you overcome challenges and it becomes a highlight.
“The lessons I’ve learned on the show are life-lasting.
“Although Strictly is a competition, the real competition is with yourself, and how far you can push yourself and shed your inhibitions about dancing. I can’t wait to get around the country and show people what a fantastic production this is.”
Strictly Come Dancing 2013 runner-up and BBC Breakfast star Susanna Reid also built up a loyal following during her time on Strictly. The 42-year-old TV presenter was dubbed ‘Superwoman’ for her ability to fit in a demanding career on breakfast television, being a mum to three children and her training for the show. So performing in front of a crowd of 10,000 excited Strictly fans filing arenas should be a doddle, right?
“I work on TV so am used to performing in front of cameras and not seeing the whites of people’s eyes looking up at you and hoping to be entertained,” she said.
“But performing to such a big crowd, you get the instant feedback that you don’t get with TV. I got a taste of it during Strictly in front of the studio audience and more so at Blackpool and I am looking forward to it again on the tour.”
So what does Susanna, who is based in Salford with BBC Breakfast, think she’ll bring to the Strictly live tour? “I think I have proved that as a woman over 40 with three children you can learn to dance with a gorgeous young teacher,” she said with a laugh.
“I might not get every step right, but I do it with a smile on my face. And after the tour is over I will still be dancing in my local clubs every Friday night.”
One person who’s certainly not frightened of the judges is Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, 54. The business guru is chomping at the bit to get back in front of Len, Craig and Bruno for another chance at dancing with her partner Robin Windsor.
“I went out of the show quite early on” she said “So for me the tour will be an extension of my time on Strictly and a chance to perfect the routines.
“I loved Strictly, but with the tour I hope I can enjoy dancing without the pressure. I didn’t mind the judges’ comments one bit and I can’t wait to put my dancing shoes back on and get back on the dance floor for one more go.”
But it’s not only this year’s crop of celebrities limbering up for a return to the Strictly dance floor.
Westlife star Nicky Byrne, who appeared in last year’s series, is also dry cleaning his tuxedo and polishing up his dance shoes for another shot at getting his hands on the glitter ball trophy.
Nicky, 35, who made it to the last eight contestants in 2012, is back with his partner Karen Hauer, and says he can’t wait to get back on the road – despite his wife Georgina giving birth to the couple’s third child in October.
“We toured so many of the arenas we’re visiting when I was with Westlife so it will bring back some great memories. Places like Wembley, The O2, but also Glasgow’s Hydro arena, which wasn’t built when we last toured so I’m really excited about getting the chance to perform there.
A year away hasn’t dampened Nicky’s competitive spirit either.
“I really want to win. I wanted to win the series last year and I was gutted when I got knocked out,” he said.
“And I’m looking forward to getting in front of the judges again. You always have good fun and banter with them and I’ve had a year to prepare my one-liners!”
Tickets are available, priced £50.40 and £72.80 (including administration fee) and can be booked online at capitalfmarena.com or by calling 0843 373 3000.