When it comes to sparkles and sequins, no one does it better than Strictly and the first night of the show’s live tour in Newcastle was living proof.
It’s hard to believe that next year, it will be two decades since the star studded revamp of Come Dancing arrived on the BBC’s Saturday night schedule to much curiosity from viewers and sceptics who couldn’t wait to write it off.
However, it took just weeks for Strictly to capture the hearts of the nation and quickly become a national institution.
Unlike other TV talent shows, it has stood the rest of time and the fact that there wasn't a spare seat to be had at the Utilita Arena for the first of three performances on Tyneside, shows that it’s popularity is most definitely not on the wane.
As well as still being one of the most watched shows on television, Strictly is one that always provokes plenty of opinions and, many fans are still in agreement that Tyler West and Dianne Buswell should have been in the last series a lot longer than they were, having been eliminated in Blackpool.
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The Kiss FM DJ and former finalist showed precisely where their earlier than expected exit got plenty of backs up, with two performances, that while completely different in genre, both showed off their star quality and Tyler’s rather mesmerizing hips - we’ll gloss over the rather messy lifts in the first routine!
Molly Rainford, the young star who was undeservedly dealt the dance off blow way too many times, proved why she wholeheartedly deserved her place in the final. Alongside partner Carlos Gu, Molly gave one of the performances of the night with her electrifying paso doble to Destiny's Child - Survivor, which makes for even more intense and powerful viewing in the flesh.
Will Mellor brushes off his bitter disappointment of not making the final to burn up the floor on tour, with his partnership with Nancy Xu instantly demanding attention. The arena was in serious danger of needing sprinklers after THAT week one jive Ricky Martin saw the atmosphere inside the venue pick up ten fold, before Will channelled the late Patrick Swayze to great aplomb for his second star turn of the evening.
Ellie Simmonds and Nikita Kuzmin’s double act is an absolute joy to behold, whether it’s on the telly or in a packed out arena and Paralympic champion swimmer Ellie’s fantastic footwork showed that her skills are far from restricted to the pool!
Fleur East and Vito Coppola have energy levels that would have even the Duracell bunny waving his hands in submission, and both their Samba and instantly iconic Couples Choice were a not so subtle reminder as to why they scored highest with the judges in December’s final.
Victory in last year’s final of course went the way of Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystal and the reigning champions, having charmed everyone with a stunning American Smooth in the first half, brought the fire with their salsa in the second. The jaw dropping lifts that warranted a press of the rewind button when they happened on the telly, truly need to be seen to be believed and the partnership of Hamza, who made mention of the fact he used to live in Newcastle and Jowita is without a doubt a winning one.
While all of the couples got a fine reception from the Geordie faithful, if the night belonged to one person, that person would be Helen Skelton.
To use that talent show cliche, the ‘journey’ Helen went on during her time on Strictly saw her blossom into an amazing dancer, as the whole country willed her on.
Her new partnership with Kai Widdrington is amazing and, after a fabulous Quickstep before the break, they returned with Helen’s juggernaut of a Couples Choice routine. Her and Kai’s performance doesn’t just demand your attention, it has you fully in its grip and the reaction to it in from the audience spoke volumes.
While it didn’t prove to be her crowning moment in the final, in front of a crowd that included her son Louis, it earned her a well deserved win in Newcastle, after fans voted for their champions.
A visit Strictly live tour is a sure fire way to kick start your 2023.
The celebs and their partners are incredible, the singers and band are top drawer, Janette Manrara is the hostess with the mostest and judges Craig Revel-Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke deliver banter between them that is well worthy of a 10 paddle.
Far from a dance disarrrsster dahhhling, Strictly Live is a ballroom bonanza!
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