Camilla Dallerup talks Calendar Girls and who she’s tipping for Strictly glory

Famous for lighting up the dance floor on Strictly Come Dancing, Camilla Dallerup is exposing herself to new experiences and, in the process, theatre-goers. Entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE made a date with the latest Calendar Girl

Having left the hit BBC1 show on a high, lifting the glitter ball trophy with Tom Chambers; she’s now looking to make all the right moves on the stage as part of the touring production of Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls.

“I’ve always talked about the fact I’d love to do theatre since I was a child. I studied drama and dancing back home before the dancing took over,” says Camilla.

More significantly, she told her ex-Hollyoaks’ actor husband Kevin Sacre who she met while filming reality series The Underdog Show for Living TV.

Camilla fared better on that than she did on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, when doctors ordered her to leave the jungle for health reasons.

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“I’ve a really fast metabolism and I’m used to eating quite a lot; especially when you’re competing. During Strictly I was eating all the time; you have to have two hot meals a day to keep up with all the calories you’re burning, so for me it was just a shock.

“I really loved the experience and enjoyed the people I met. I was really sad, I didn’t want to go,” she says, dismissing claims she quit. “But it wasn’t for my body type and you just have to admit sometimes it’s not for you.”

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Leaving the audition for the dual roles of Lawrence and Liam the play’s producers asked Kevin what Camilla was up to.

Telling them she was doing different presenting jobs but was really curious about trodding the boards they invited her to audition.

Winning the role of “the other woman” Elaine, the two ended up touring with the show for several months.

Given they only married last year it must’ve been nice working together?

“It’s been lovely, but we’re also very independent people. At first you go ‘that’ll be fun’. When you get the job you think ‘uh oh’ because we hadn’t worked together in that way.

“We’ve done photo shoots and stuff but we hadn’t actually done something where we were going to be around each other all the time. We sat down and went ‘okay, let’s make sure when we’re at work we’re two people’ otherwise I think it can get a bit much.”

Kevin is rejoining the cast in January. He won’t be the only family member on the tour.

“We still have Sven, the lovely dog Kevin won the show with. He’s an English bull terrier mixed with staffy. He comes everywhere with us and on the last tour he was like the mascot which was very sweet,” Camilla laughs.

She’s loving every moment of her first professional acting gig.

“It’s a small but very interesting part; it’s a very big part of the play when calendar girl Ruth has to stand up to me; it’s a big part of her journey. Elaine’s a silly character and I love that but it’s a new area for me; I’m just soaking it all up, learning so many new things every day.”

Anyone who’s seen Camilla’s choreography will know what an amazing storyteller she is; but stringing words rather than steps together to do it is very different.

“I think as an actor you’re more exposed. [Dancing] you can cover with a move or something, you’re not a character you’re yourself although you’re telling a story with your movement.

“When you are in character if you lose the line or something you could step out of character very quickly and affect other people on stage.”

On the topic of covering, or rather not covering up Camilla’s also understudy to Rula Lenska; disrobing on stage for the first time in Sunderland recently.

“It was very exciting. There was a moment when I turn around and I have to grab these two props where I actually thought for a split second ‘hang on, what’s happening here; I can’t believe I’m doing this’,” she laughs.

“Then you just get on with it. The photo shoot is like a well choreographed ballet. It’s so funny, so brilliant. You’re covered with all these props around you. Like anything with props it could go wrong,” she laughs.

Moving on.

Camilla loves the positive body image message the play promotes. She’s proud of her fellow cast-mates and the real calendar girls for challenging unhealthy stereotypes.

“I think we have so much unhealthy press on all the front covers, you know skinny this, slim that. It’s not good for young people growing up; this celebrates all shapes and forms, real people. Be proud of what you’ve got and make the most of it. That’s what these women do every night and I think they look stunning.”

The tour has been performing to sell-out crowds across the country.

Camilla never gets bored of watching the show from the wings; putting its success down to being such a beautiful, inspirational story.

“What these women actually did and how much money they helped raise; I feel grateful being part of this. The script goes from being really emotional and the next minute you’re laughing; you sit there with tears in your eyes.

“When I first rehearsed with the cast I was sitting there with a tissue trying to look like I was not crying. But it was so emotional; most people have been touched by cancer in some way so it really strikes a chord.”

Having danced for more than 30 years and competing in several series of Strictly, Camilla, who’s been dancing for more than 30 years and competed in several series of Strictly, still loves watching the show every weekend.

“I’ve still got colleagues and friends on it and love chatting to my friends and writing my blog about it. I’ve got my favourites already,” she laughs.

“I think my favourite so far this year is Jason Donovan, followed by Robbie Savage, Harry Judd, then Rory Bremner [voted off a few weeks after our chat] then Alex Jones. Who’s yours,” she laughs.

Put me on the spot Dallerup.

Donovan is strong - “and charming, warm,” she interrupts - and, as much as I hate the term, namesake Savage is on quite a journey.

“Absolutely, it’s like Darren Gough. You can see it happen; by the time he gets to the end he’s going to be amazing,” she laughs.

If Holly Valance can just let go I think she could go a long way, too.

“I think there’s more there,” agrees Camilla. “It reminds me a little bit of the journey I had with Gethin [Jones]. In the beginning he was a bit scared and then suddenly came out and found that confidence that she really needs to find before it’s too late, people stop voting and a good dancer goes.”

Does she regret leaving?

“No; if I hadn’t I never would’ve been doing Calendar Girls and I’ve dreamt of doing theatre since I was six.

“Strictly will always have a big place in my heart because I spent six series there, was so chuffed and proud to be part of it. I worked with some amazing people, but I felt it was time to go. I think you’ve got to push yourself, look for new challenges. You’ve got one life, you’ve got to make the most of it.”

That said, she wouldn’t rule out returning to the show; maybe as a judge if the chance came up.

As a dancer, she’s proud of where she left it, winning with actor Tom Chambers who’s now wowing critics in the musical Top Hat in Norwich.

“It’s getting such amazing reviews. I haven’t made it yet because we’ve been in different cities but he’s doing all these moves we talked about back in Strictly and I’m just so proud of him.

“And I still perform with [former Strictly professional] Ian Waite around the country so I still keep a little foot in the door,” she laughs.

Calendar Girls starts a six-day run at the Ipswich Regent on November 7.

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