Strictly Come Dancing: The Live Tour 2019 – Review – Leeds Arena
By Rachael Popow, January 2019
I love Strictly Come Dancing. Admittedly, the very first series passed me by, but I’ve watched it religiously since series two in 2004. For someone whose own dance experience consists of struggling through half a dozen tap lessons 15 years ago, I now have surprisingly strong opinions on soap stars and retired athletes’ tango holds, samba bounce action and paso shaping.
Yet until now I’d never been to the live tour. So, is playing armchair judge still as much fun when your seat is in the First Direct Arena in Leeds and the celebrities are in front of you on stage, performing routines that you’ve already seen them tackle on TV?
It turns out that yes, it is – the Strictly Come Dancing live experience makes for a great night out. Even though the stars have done these dances before, there’s still an element of risk, as proved by professional dancer AJ Pritchard’s slightly wobbly entrance on a skateboard for a jive to Avril Lavigne’s ‘Girlfriend’.
“Fun to watch”
It also helps that this year’s line up, who are drawn from the class of 2018, are a likeable bunch – and while they are all fun to watch and can really sell a dance, they also cover a decent spread in terms of technical ability.
They are reigning champion Stacey Dooley and her fellow finalists Joe Sugg, Ashley Roberts and Faye Tozer, as well as semi-finalist Lauren Steadman and plucky underdogs Dr Ranj Singh and Graeme Swann. Stacey and Graeme’s professional partners, Kevin Clifton and Oti Mabuse, aren’t available (in Oti’s case, she’s branching out into another Saturday night BBC contest, The Greatest Dancer), so they’ve been paired up with Aljaž Škorjanec and Karen Clifton respectively. However, the other partnerships have remained the same, and were reprising some of their greatest hits for our text votes.
My friend and I entered into the spirit by voting for Faye, despite noting that vlogger Joe seemed to be getting the biggest reaction from the crowd. There was a wide range of ages in attendance, but with lots of families in the Friday night crowd, the young YouTubers may have outnumbered the Steps fans.
As well as the couples, who each perform two dances, the show also features many of Strictly’s other professional dancers, who take part in impressive group routines, while the host, 2016 winner Ore Oduba, gets to demonstrate some smooth moves of his own.
The biggest scene stealers though were judges Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas, who got more of a showcase than I was expecting. On TV, their entrance dance can look a bit awkward, not helped by the fact that Darcey and Shirley aren’t always dressed for ease of movement. But the finale gives both women a chance to really strut their stuff – in fact, Shirley got the night’s biggest ovation, possibly because we were impressed she could dance at all given that she was audibly suffering from a heavy cold, let alone pull off some incredible spins. There’s also a musical number for Bruno, while Craig gets to milk the ‘stern judge’ role for all he’s worth and still show his softer side.
So, if The Greatest Dancer and Dancing on Ice are failing to fill the glitterball-shaped hole left in your viewing schedule, the Strictly live tour will give you a fix of sequins, fake tan and fancy footwork to last until the next series starts.