‘I love Blackpool,” says Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Katya Jones, as she prepares to partner her celebrity dancer Joe McFadden on the Tower Ballroom dancefloor this weekend.
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And she’s got good reason to – she and her husband and professional partner Neil are undefeated four-time British National Champions.
In their past life, pre-Strictly (Neil is a troupe and stand-by dancer on the show, often featured in the professional routines) the couple made the regular pilgrimage to Blackpool’s ‘other’ ballroom, the Empress at the Winter Gardens, to take part in the Blackpool Dance Festival competitions.
This weekend will see the Empress also taken over with the best of British dance talent for the British National Dance Championships – but of course, Katya and Neil won’t be taking part this time round.
Katya said: “It’s the British championships when we’re in Blackpool, which is great as we can go and watch a little and see the real thing – and get inspiration from the dancers there.
“I love Blackpool.
“Everybody gets extra dancers, it’s bigger and better, there’s props, bigger production and whatever dance you get it’s exciting to have the space.
“Blackpool is ‘the’ entertainment town.”
Katya’s done a sterling job so far with Holby City actor Joe, who’s been something of a dark horse in the early stages of Strictly this year, showing sure and steady improvement each week.
Speaking to The Gazette Joe said: “It’s what you hope for when you sign up. You don’t know if you will be good or an embarrassment to yourself.
“It’s good to be getting better and better. It has been really lovely to improve every week and to learn another skill.”
As a Scot, Joe’s more than familiar with the attractions of Blackpool, having enjoyed regular holidays in the resort over the years.
“One of my first holidays, when I was about 14, was to Pontins in Blackpool with my friend and his family,” he said.
“I’ve been to the Pleasure Beach many times, but I’ve never actually been to the Ballroom or the Tower.
“Coming from Glasgow, Blackpool is a brilliant place – we trek down en masse.
“I was feeling some extra pressure to get Katya to Blackpool. I’d have felt guilty if we hadn’t made it.”
The pair will be dancing the salsa to Black Box’s Ride On Time, and Joe’s ready to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at their performance.
On Strictly’s spin-off magazine show It Takes Two, he added: “It’s going to be fun. It’s a big routine and it has to be because we’re in Blackpool and we’ve got extra dancers and little bits of trickery thrown in.”
Katya added it would be a salsa full of ‘cheese, sour cream, beans ... It’s going to be epic’.
Asked about how he felt being labelled the ‘dark horse’ of the competition by head judge Shirley Ballas, Joe said: “I really don’t think of myself in those terms, I’m literally getting through week by week and just concentrating on that.
“I certainly have no goal or finish post in sight at all and I don’t think you can because there are some amazing dancers left.
“I’m not looking around at all because it scares me slightly. I’m just concentrating on what I do.”
Dances are revealed
The musical numbers for Saturday’s Blackpool bonanza of Strictly Come Dancing have been confirmed.
The celebrity dancers and their professional partners have been packing their bags ready for the trip north, and their performances will feature pop classics and movie magic.
Here’s the full rundown of what to expect come Saturday night:
· Singer and stage star Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez will quickstep to The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re In The Money) from musical 42nd Street.
· EastEnders actor Davood Ghadami and Nadiya Bychkova will do the paso doble to Bond song, Live And Let Die by Paul McCartney and Wings.
· Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice will perform the samba to Spice Girls Medley (Wannabe / Who Do You Think You Are).
· Radio DJ and actress Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec dance the American smooth to Downtown by Petula Clark.
· Holby City actor Joe McFadden and Katya Jones dance the Salsa to Ride On Time by Black Box.
· Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock and Oti Mabuse will tango to Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics.
· The Saturdays singer Mollie King and AJ Pritchard will perform the Charleston to Wings by Little Mix.
· Comedian Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton will dance the paso doble to Scott and Fran’s Paso Doble from the film Strictly Ballroom