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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Dianne Bourne

Strictly Come Dancing Live at AO Arena - times, lineup, seating plan, parking and who is winning so far

Strictly Come Dancing fans can prepare for a sparkling weekend in Manchester as the live tour of the hit BBC show heads to town for FOUR huge arena shows. Strictly Come Dancing Live is at the AO Arena for matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday.

All the finalists from the dance competition's 20th season are back out on the tour including Gliterball champion Hamza Yassin - as well as fan favourites including homecoming hero Will Mellor who is back in ballroom action. At each show on the tour, the audience will get the chance to vote for their own winner based on the dazzling performances they see before their eyes.

It has been a hugely popular arena show in recent years, and gives fans the chance to see their favourite stars in all their sequin-clad glory. And there plenty of laughs along the way too thanks to the show's judging panel also on stage ready to deliver their often hilarious verdicts on the performances.

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The Live Tour is directed by show judge Craig Revel Horwood, who will also be joined by head judge Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke out on the live tour as a judge this year for the first time. It will be hosted once again this year by former Strictly pro dancer turned presenter Janette Manrara.

Audiences are being promised an even bigger and glitzier spectacle than ever before this year - showcasing the breathtaking choreography, stunning costumes and fantastic live music that have become synonymous with the BBC’s much-loved and hugely successful flagship TV series.

The seven headlining couples will perform favourite routines from the TV series along with new dances and group numbers, with six additional professionals - Amy Dowden, Neil Jones, Robbie Kmetoni, Jake Leigh, Luba Mushtuk and Michelle Tsiakkas - joining them for this supersized live event.

Which celebrities are taking part?

Fleur East is back on tour (Darren Quinton/Birmingham Live)

Seven couples will be back on the live tour - Series winner Hamza Yassin partnered with Jowita Przystal; Helen Skelton with new dance partner for the tour Kai Widdrington; finalist Fleur East with Vito Coppola and joint runners-up Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu. They are joined back on the dancefloor with fan favourites Tyler West with dance partner Dianne Buswell; Ellie Simmonds with Nikita Kuzmin and homeoming hero Will Mellor reunited with Nancy Xu.

Coronation Street star Will hopes to send audiences wild again with his and Nancy Xu’s Dirty Dancing-inspired American Smooth routine. "Getting the chance to do a bit of Patrick Swayze again?” he laughs. "I’ll take it!"

Like the other celebrities, Bredbury-raised Will compares competing on the show to pushing himself way out of his comfort zone. He says: "I liken it to climbing a mountain; it’s really hard work but when you get to the top it’s so worth it.

"I love performing but on tour it’s without the pressure of millions of people tuning in on a Saturday night. I’m looking forward to being back on the dance floor with Nancy."

Will will be hoping for a great Manchester homecoming this weekend (Darren Quinton/Birmingham Live)

Hoping to triumph on tour will be Hamza and Jowita, who salsa-ed their way to the Strictly crown in December. Hamza’s feet haven’t touched the ground since, with the wildlife presenter gushing: "I’ve still not fully comprehended what actually happened.

"I never thought I’d make it past week two, let alone getting to appear in huge arenas."

Who has been winning so far?

Helen Skelton has a new partner for the tour - Kai Widdrington (David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)

For Helen Skelton it has been a case of changing partners for the tour - but it has been a huge success. On television she was teamed with Gorka Márquez and made the live final, while on the arena shows she’s hot-footing it opposite Kai Widdrington.

And so far they've claimed victory more times than any other couple.

"It’s weird having a new partner," Helen allows, "But I got on really well with Kai when I saw him around the studio and of course he’s a brilliant dancer. Dancing with someone new will keep me on my toes."

What are the stage times for the shows?

The shows over the weekend are at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday January 28, and at 1.30pm and 6.30pm on Sunday January 29.

Ticketholders are advised that the start times are prompt - so it is recommended arriving at least an hour before the stated show times above to get through security and to find your seats.

AO Arena seating plan

If you're heading along to one of the four AO Arena gigs and haven't been to Strictly Live before, then expect to be wowed with a more unusual stage setting than traditional gigs at the venue. As you can see from our seating plan above, the main dancefloor dominates the floor of the arena (where usually there are seats).

Premium and VIP seats are right next to the ballroom stage, while there remains a traditional main stage at the front of the arena where the judges, hosts and big screen is set. As you can see on the plan, lower tier and upper tier seating can then be found by the corresponding numbers on your tickets.

Is there parking at the AO Arena?

Yes, there is a large multi-storey car park based next to the AO Arena, with access through the car park to the main entrance of the venue. Be aware though that after the shows, Trinity Way will be closed southbound between Great Ducie Street and Cheetham Hill Road for up to one hour, to allow concert-goers to safely exit the venue.

If you’re parking at the arena car park, you will still be allowed to exit during this closure but you will have to turn right and follow local diversions. There are some 7,000 parking spaces at car parks within a short walk to the arena as well.

What are the public transport options?

The AO Arena is within the Manchester Victoria Train Station complex, which serves both mainline trains and a tram stop.

Are tickets available?

The shows over the weekend are at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday January 28, and at 1.30pm and 6.30pm on Sunday January 29.

There is limited availability for all shows over the weekend, for booking tickets for all shows click here.

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