Brendan Cole on Strictly without Len and bringing his latest show to Norwich
- Credit: Archant
The dancer rose to fame on TV's Strictly, from the very first dance and winning the first series to being one of the only ever present professionals. As he returns with his latest stage show, he tells us more.
TV's Strictly favourite Brendan Cole is all set to quick step back into the region with his brand new show All Night Long, another spectacular featuring his own choreography, guest dancers, a new leading lady and a 14-piece band and singers live on stage.
Brendan is one of only two professionals to have competed in the entire Strictly Come Dancing TV series - the other being Anton du Beke. He danced the very first dance on the first show and was the first winner to lift the famous glitter ball trophy with his celebrity partner Natasha Kaplinsky.
He has subsequently partnered Kelly Brook; Lisa Snowdon; Jo Wood; Victoria Pendleton, Sunetra Sarker; Kirsty Gallacher; Sophie Ellis-Bextor; and most recently pop star Anastacia.
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• Tell us about your new show All Night Long?
The format hasn't changed, but this is a brand new show with a new cast, new costuming, new choreography and new lighting. It is essentially a dance and chat show, a little post-Strictly type show. A little bit of the magic of what they see on their television put into the theatre. I like to think we don't leave anything out. There is an Argentine Tango one minute and a really beautiful Viennese Waltz the next, we have got the lot. I host the show as well as performing. I'm only off stage for a couple of costume changes.
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• With a team of dancers and a 14-piece band, is it a challenge to put together?
It is a massive undertaking. A lot of shows are put on by production companies and people come along and just star in them, however this is very much my own show, from the initial thought process right through to the costumes and lighting. The musicians are chosen by my musical director Barry [Robinson]. Barry, my wife Zoe and I talk about the type of music we want, we try to take into account the people coming through the door would like, from Nat King Cole to Adele or Justin Timberlake, all styles and ages. It's a team effort though, including he choreography. I don't want people to just dance my choreography; I want them to feel excited by what they are doing, so allowing them to do what they want to do at certain times.
• Are you a hard task master?
No, I'm probably the opposite. I maybe need to be a bit more firm at times with certain things; but I don't tend to like to run a ship like that. I don't think you get the best out of people that way. There certainly needs to be a bit of respect, however you get the best out of people when you allow them to be creatively involved. For the most part I have such a great team that they don't need it. The only thing I need is punctuality, I hate lateness.
• How do you go about selecting the dancers?
Like everything it is a process. It's so important to get the right team. We are 22 artists (dancers and musicians) all on stage and it's vital to get the right chemistry between us all. When it comes to leading ladies, you kind of just know if it's right or not! All of my girls could have been my leading lady and everyone's job on stage is crucial to the success of the show. For All Night Long, Faye Huddleston has been tasked with dancing with me throughout the show and I am so excited to be working with her.
• Are you demanding in what you look for?
It is so difficult. We have to see so many people. You get those who come through the door who you think look great and have the right attitude, but after they show you their best routine, which may be a bit of Argentine Tango, you ask to see some ballroom and it is just not good enough. A lot of shows tend to stick to one genre, just ballroom, the Waltzes, the Quicksteps and the Foxtrots, for example. It is actually really hard to get a mixture. A lot of people don't bother, but I can't not bother. I have got to make sure we have something for everyone.
• Do you enjoy performing in Norwich and Ipswich?
I love it. The audiences are always great in that part of the world. We do a matinee performance in Norwich and it is funny with matinees it tends to be an older generation that comes and you expect it to be quieter, but that tends not to be the case in Norwich. And in Ipswich we always get a big audience and it tends to be quite naughty and rowdy, which I love.
• The show includes an audience Q&A. Have you been asked any embarrassing questions?
It is a very interactive show and because we have been going to venues like Ipswich for seven years now, we get some of the same people coming back again, they know what to expect and we have some fun. I love the questions that I have to swerve, makes for a very interesting show and I have certainly been asked plenty of them.
• You began dancing at the age of six in New Zealand. What are your earliest memories?
Being in the first dance studio when I was maybe six or seven and doing little basic routines. I always remember being inspired by lessons when we had visiting teachers coming from overseas, predominantly from the UK. That is what ultimately inspired me to come over here and do more, do better. Also winning my first New Zealand title as a 12-year-old and then going over to Australia to represent New Zealand. It's those things that had led me to being able to do the things I've done and visit the places I've been to.
• You moved to the UK aged 18 to make a career in dance. Was that daunting?
It's really weird. I still quite believe that it happened in many respects. I had a one-way ticket and £1,000 in my pocket. I had saved up every penny that I could. I first of all came over to do a world championship in the Ukraine when I was 17 and got a little flavour of it. I thought this is where I need to be if I want to be the best, which I did. I got a dream and I pledged to myself that I'd be back within a year to give it a shot. It hasn't always been easy I've had some very hard years trying to make it. No money, lots of debt, trying to make it as a dancer which isn't the easiest thing to do. But I did it, and here I am.
• You've been on every series of Strictly Come Dancing. Is it fair to say its transformed your life?
It has been life changing for everyone who takes part. It has been a massive part of my life now for 13 or 14 years. It is funny to think back to those first shows, it was a very different show back then. I actually loved the fact it was so innocent, a small show and small production values. It has obviously been on quite a journey since then.
• Why do you think the show is so popular?
Because it has a magic about it. It's old fashioned, variety entertainment that can be watched by the whole family. There have been some ups and downs through the series, but I've been so lucky to have been invited back for all 14 series with my mate Anton. We are a little bit a part of the furniture now the pair of us. Hard work pays off. I've worked incredibly hard to keep a spot on the show. Hopefully they still enjoy what I'm doing. I was a ballroom dancer, which is a very niche little world, so something as big as Strictly has been amazing.
• Len will be missing in the next series. Do you fancy joining the judges?
It will be a big change for everyone not having our Len there. But the show must go on, and I'm sure Len will always be part of the show in people's memories and from what he brought to it. Things will change I'm sure, Anton and myself won't be there as dancers forever. I'm hoping that they will consider me for the role to join the judges, but we'll wait and see.
• If you hadn't been a dancer, what other career might you have chosen?
I love construction. I can see myself in property once my dancing legs have given up. Hard to know what would've been if I'd stayed in the building trade having done it for four years after leaving school but who knows what the future holds? I'm always buying tools…it's the yin to my yang of sequin wearing!
• What is your favourite dance?
Believe it or not it's the Waltz, but it has to be the right kind of Waltz. When you get a great song that is really emotional, you can tell a really magical, emotive story to it throughout the dance. It's a lovely feeling. I love seeing the audience reaction as they get swept away within it.
• Brendan Cole: All Night Long is at Norwich Theatre Royal, February 5, 3pm/7.30pm, £37.50-£8, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk/Ipswich Regent, February 10, 7pm, £40.50-£30.50, 01473 433100, www.ipwichregent.co.uk
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