Strictly Come Dancing Blackpool: Angela Rippon, Angela Scanlon, Ellie Leach and Annabel Croft share their excitement
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Ahead of their arrival, celebrity reporter Aimee Seddon spoke to all seven couples to see how they were feeling about making it to Blackpool, hear about their memories of the seaside town, and find out what else they have planned for their trip!
Earlier this week, we shared the best from the chats with the last men standing in the competition – actor’s Nigel Harman, 50, Bobby Brazier, 20, and Layton Williams, 28, who are paired with professional dancers Katya Jones, Dianne Buswell and Nikita Kuzmin respectively.
However now it is the turn of the ladies: presenter Angela Rippon, 79, whose professional dancing partner is Kai Widdrington, actress Ellie Leach, 22, whose partner is Vito Coppola, presenter Angela Scanlon, 39, who is paired with Carlos Gu and tennis player Annabel Croft, 57, who is paired with Johannes Radebe.
How do the celebrities feel about making it to Blackpool?
Coronation Street star Ellie said: “It's not far from Manchester, where I'm from, so yeah, I think it'll be good to be up north for a little bit!
"I haven't been to the ballroom before but I've been at the tower, so it'll be a real experience for me and something that I really can't wait for. The ballroom at Blackpool is iconic and something that I guess everyone would want to visit so I can't wait to be dancing on the dance floor!
"Little me would never have expected it, I think it's an amazing achievement.”
Irish born presenter Angela S replied: “It feels amazing, that was the thing when I started the show, this is like the place you want to get it isn't it?
"It feels quite iconic and absolutely a privilege to be able to dance in a place that's so steeped in history and talent and incredible performances for hundreds of years.”
Fellow presenter, Annabel said: “I was just thinking, if I get past week one, I'll be really happy so to have gone through two themed weeks and to make it to such a special place is amazing.
"I've never ever been [to the Tower Ballroom], I've heard so much about it, and when Johannes and I very first met, it was at Wimbledon and it was really nice to show Johannes a very special place in the world of tennis, and I said to him what's the equivalent in your world? And he said, Blackpool.
“It's like a milestone within the Strictly season isn't it, you always hear everybody talking about Blackpool and it's sort of builds up towards it. There’s an extra buzz in the air.”
Finally Angela R was keen to share her excitement about dancing in the ball itself, explaining: “It is the most magnificent ballroom and I think it is probably one of the most famous ballrooms for ballroom dancing in the world because it's such an opulent setting.
"When it was built, because it's got the names of all the great composers llike Chopin and Beethoven and Vivaldi.., I'm assuming originally, it was for classical concerts so it was like a concert hall and so to go in, and then find that they've got this amazing floor, beautifully sprung for dancers... it's magical.
"I've walked on it so often... to introduce a programme, but to find that I'm actually going to be dancing on it as a contestant, it's quite an odd feeling really, but quite a challenging and exciting one too!”
Do the celebrities have memories of Blackpool?
Bury born Ellie said: “We always used to go and see the illuminations. That's a real special memory for me from when I was younger, like we'd get in the car, me and my mom and my auntie and my sister and my cousin, and we'd all drive to Blackpool and we’d drive down the front and see the illliminations and get fish and chips and doughnuts and stuff like that. It's a place that I've always loved growing up.”
She later added: “When I was younger actually, my uncle took me to Blackpool and we went on the peer and me and my best friend and my cousin, we went on the waltzes 11 times in a row… can you actually imagine?”
Also sharing her “very, very happy memories of being in Blackpool”, Angela R said: "I associate doing Come Dancing from there and seeing all those wonderful young amateurs who took part in it at that time… so to be in Blackpool now as a dancer is quite fun actually!
"The other thing I remember is that I actually got asked to switch on the Christmas lights in Blackpool one year too... I think I was followed by Red Rum!”
A less frequent visitor, Angela S said: “I was in Blackpool once and I can't really remember why. I do remember walking the pier and taking photos by like candy cane stands. You know, I was living my cliched life so this is obviously quite a different experience.”
Although Annabel also admitted she has not “spent a huge amount of time” in Blackpool, vagually recalling filming an episode of Treasure Hunt there once, she did speak about how she thinks she will feel once in Blackpool again.
The former tennis star explained: “We've learned to always just treat dance floors as just Johannes and myself...and not look at the surrounding areas but I'm sure if I compared it to tennis it's like going into different centre courts around the world that have special meaning and extra intensity… I'm sure that Blackpool dance floor, you can almost hear all the great dances and music that have been played out there so yeah, it'd be such an honour to be on that floor.”
What do the dancers say about performing in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom?
Kai recalled the full circle feeling he gets when visits the tower ballroom, explaining: “My first memory of Blackpool, walking in there was just like, this place is just incredible. When I was 7-8 years old, it was just massive, and seeing all the guys going around in tailcoats and the girls in the beautiful ballroom dresses.
"I remember stinking of hairspray, mum’s covering me in fake tan and my little partners there and we're walking on the floor. It's brilliant, but even as a kid when you're in competitions, it's not just about the dancing: you’re travelling, because I'm from Southampton, five hours to get there – that's a story in itself, the journey up to Blackpool – and then you’re staying in one of the BnBs and then you're on the beach and riding a donkey and all of that stuff. I have nothing but happy memories from Blackpool and it's always been a special place for any ballroom dancer.”
Carlos, who performed with Strictly at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom for the first time last year but has visited the town twelve times in his life, said: “It’s a historical venue, when you enter it there’s just a respect, you know the smells, the architecture, everything, the atmosphere – it's a very artistic building and it makes your dancing even more artistic so, I'm so pleased that I can experience that again, with Angela Scanlon.
"It's an honour to perform in Blackpool, that's for sure. It’s a dream place for every dancer around the world and and it's a historical moment for yourself… If you write a book, you're gonna write a whole chapter about ‘ I performed in Blackpool’.”
Johanne, who also performed in the ballroom for the first time last year said: “Blackpool is the mecca of ballroom dancing. It's one place that I've always admired to come to as a young boy, but obviously coming from South Africa, the story is we just didn't have the money to, so after all these years for Strictly to offer me the opportunity to step onto that floor... I’ll forever be grateful.
"Last year, when we were recording in the late hours of the night, we had the whole community in Blackpool do it with us which was the most amazing thing – you don't find that sense of family and support anywhere else. Blackpool loves dance so we can we can't wait to see them.”
Meanwhile Vito turned to his partner Ellie and said: “When you get there, it's like you smell the Blackpool vibe. You know how many champions have stepped on that dance floor and danced before us. You will actually step… where other champions have put their foot before and it just feels magical, you will feel, as you say in the North, buzzing.
"When I dance in Blackpool, I always get emotional – you will have tears for sure.”
Recalling the town itself, Vito added: “People of Blackpool are very friendly honestly. I remember last year I was there and there were all the people aready waiting, it was raining and they were still there.
"It was the evening, I said ‘since when you're waiting here?’, ‘since 7am’ – bless them! So I went into the hotel in front and I ordered hot tea for everyone… They were all there all day just for a quick hello from us and so I have this beautiful memory from people from Blackpool.”
Will the stars be getting up to anything else whilst in Blackpool?
Annabel replied “I might go and get some Blackpool rock!” and later added “dancing by the seaside sounds perfect!”
Also on the topic of treats, Angela R said: “We're gonna go and have ice cream and fish and chips on the front!”
Her partner Kai then suggested going to Coral Island and on the Pepsi Max – to which Angela replied “No!”
Ellie meanwhile said “I love a Blackpool fish and chips – I feel like you can't beat them” before expressing a desire to take Vito on the waltzes for the first time.
The Italian then replied: “I will try maybe after the show, just to avoid any kind of reaction!”
Going down a different route, Carlos told Angela S: “There is a really good Chinese acupuncture place!”.
She then replied “I was going to say food… Fish and chips, a little outdoor picnic would be nice” before adding “I really hope I get caught up in the Blackpool fun, I’ve heard it's an absolute hoot and we can all go nuts afterwards, that's what I'm really looking forward to actually, everyone letting rip in Blackpool because it feels like there's no rules, like the teachers have left the building, the wheels have come off and I'm absolutely ready for that.”
Find out how the stars get on in Blackpool by tuning into Strictly Come Dancing on BBC One at 6:40pm Saturday and 7:20pm Sunday.