No television, no judges – it’s strictly Brendan’s live show

Entertainments writer Wayne Savage speaks to the ‘bad boy of ballroom’ Brendan Cole about his Ipswich Regent show, his impending wedding and maybe Strictly Come Dancing without him

LENNON and McCartney, strawberries and cream, Brendan Cole and Strictly Come Dancing – it’s hard to think of one without the other.

“Thanks very much, I appreciate that – let’s hope the BBC feels the same way,” he laughed as we discussed his return to the Ipswich Regent tomorrow for the second leg of his Live and Unjudged tour.

“It’d be lovely to win another series, I don’t think anyone’s won twice yet so it would be great. But I don’t like to think too far ahead about things like that – it’s more a case of hopefully they’ll ask me to do it first and then see who I’ve got and take it from there.”

The tabloids have been rife with rumours of changes to this year’s show.

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Kristina Rihanoff – who was in Felixstowe earlier in the year with fellow Strictly professional Brian Fortuna – recently denied Dancing With The Stars performer Derek Hough would be joining the UK version.

There’s also been speculation Strictly bosses are talking to Brendan’s former dance partner Camilla Dallerup – who won with ex-Holby City star Tom Chambers in 2008 – about joining the judging panel.

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Cole, forthright as fans of the hit BBC dance would expect, says competing is a bit of a popularity contest unless you’ve got someone who’s absolutely amazing – but he clearly loves it.

“I don’t really have one person in particular I’d love to dance with because, obviously, with Strictly you get whoever you get.

“You just want to be partnered with someone you get along with, like with Jo Wood last year; I got along fantastically with her. She wasn’t the best dancer in the world but she was enthusiastic.”

Born in 1976, in Christchurch, New Zealand, Brendan was a mischievous six-year-old when he first studied ballroom and Latin American dance, fast becoming junior and youth champion and going on to win international competitions.

Travel brought him to London where the dance scene convinced him to make it his base for work, study and teaching dance. From here he toured the world, competing in amateur competitions until turning professional in 2000.

With his then dance partner Camilla, they became the New Zealand and Asian Open Professional Champions, reaching the semis of The International, United Kingdom Open, British Open and World Championships.

Throughout his career he has been involved in choreographing stage shows and various performances for dancers worldwide.

Christened “the bad boy of ballroom” thanks to his heated exchanges with the Strictly judges, this and his talent on the dance floor have made him one of the most popular dancers on the show.

He is one of only four professionals who have participated in every series and has partnered some of the most stunning celebrities, including presenter and actress Kelly Brook and super-model Rachel Hunter.

It all started in 2004, when Brendan and Camilla were invited to take part in the first series of the reality show and he went on to win alongside news-reader Natasha Kaplinsky.

Since then his stage and celebrity career has included pantomime, guest spots on celebrity TV shows, corporate events appearances and motivational speaking.

He’s also been member of the judging panel of the New Zealand version of the BBC series – called Dancing with the Stars – for four years, where his expertise and forthright manner earned him the reputation of being the Simon Cowell of the judging panel. Showing a caring side sometimes missing on screen, he also worked with Closer magazine as their regular Agony Uncle, giving female readers an honest and down-to-earth male view on relationships and personal problems.

The first leg of his UK dance tour, Live and Unjudged – where he is host, choreographer and performer – has packed out theatres and received fabulous reviews.

Joining Brendan, his 14-piece band and two singers will be former Strictly professionals Nicole Cutler, Andrew Cuerden, Hanna Haarala, Izabela Hannah and Brendan’s brother Scott Cole – himself a dance pro who isn’t afraid of offering some intimate insights into the real Brendan.

“Having Scott there’s great because he’s able to shed a bit of light on me and take the mickey out of me,” Brendan laughed.

“We’re very close and it’s just nice to have him on board and great to get out there and perform on stage together; it’s kind of cool. Mum came over for the first tour and to see her boys on stage, it’s quite something.

“The tour is a nice little family affair of friends and it’s just incredible. The 14-piece band are just phenomenal, world class. The whole thing, lighting, all the effects, everything, it all comes together and makes it a really dynamic show which is amazing considering we are only a six-strong cast.”

Audiences are promised a dazzling night of dance with a difference with music and songs from some of the greatest legends and contemporary artists in the world of music including Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer, Jennifer Lopez, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Kenny Rogers, Gloria Estefan and Robbie Williams.

His first appearance at the Ipswich Regent was a sell-out. “I hope people who wanted to come the first time and didn’t get tickets can come because you don’t want to let people down,” said Brendan.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I absolutely love being out there, doing what you do best; we all do.

“To have people come along and want to be entertained by you, seeing people standing on their feet, clapping at the end of your performance, there’s no thrill like it because it means you’ve done your part and your punters are happy. It’s very exciting.”

Primarily a ballroom and Latin show like you’d see on Strictly, Brendan has set out to do something a little different and much more intimate.

“I wanted to do something where the audience are as much a part of the performance as the dancers are; so there’s a little bit where the audience can get up and do one of the dances and learn a few steps,” Brendan added.

“It’s very easy, there’s nothing challenging and there’s lots of interaction between myself and the audience and the other dancers. Because the band’s on stage with us as well they are very much a part of the whole ensemble, so the whole evening is jam-packed with things coming back and forth from the audience and stage. I like to think of it as an evening with, rather than just a dance show.”

Live and Unjudged took him a good year to get into production, develop and make it what it was; putting everything else on the backburner to concentrate on the two-hour show.

A huge success, he hopes it’ll run as long as possible.

“If you’ve got a good product you want it to be out there as long as possible, so as long as there is still a demand for it I’d like to keep running Live and Unjudged.

“It’s the second time around and all the preparation, promotion, getting the outfits sorted and a few last-minute rehearsals and all the logistics of booking the theatres – it does take up all your time.”

So what does the future hold for Brendan?

“Hopefully I’ll do Strictly again this year, I’m getting married in the summer as well and other things come up and you think ‘I’d love to do that as well’ – it’s just finding the time. Once the tour and Strictly’s over I can start putting a plan for next year together. I’d like to create another show as well,” he said.

“I can’t wait. Who would’ve thought?” he added of his wedding to British model Zoe Hobbs.

“We met through a mutual friend, funnily enough. It was one of those things, you meet and you fall in love and that’s that. It’s nice to have Zoe’s support for the tour as well because she’s a big part of my life now.

“She’s been here supporting me through the hard slog that’s putting something as big as this together so just to have her support means the world.”

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