review by Carol Waterkeyn
Two of the lead dance stars from BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing came to Christchurch’s Regent Centre on Tuesday 6 June 2017 and wowed the crowd with their waltzes and paso doble moves.
Photographer Tom Scrase and I hot-footed it to the Regent Centre in Christchurch on 6 June to catch this showcase of Strictly Come Dancing stars Ian and Natalie. It was the 63rd in a whirl of a tour of 68 performances.
I had expected an evening of elegant dance numbers and some chat. What I didn’t expect was to be entertained with a mesmerising show of dance, anecdotes and comedy courtesy of Ian and Natalie. Nor did I expect professional singing from Cara Dudgeon and Luke Upton, which was woven into the show and complemented the dance numbers beautifully. I particularly liked the Cabaret sequence. It was a classy and exciting show complete with lighting, smoke effects, sound, and beautiful costumes.
The theatre was packed, and the audience enthusiastic. It was also an interactive show so patrons weren’t allowed to just sit. Volunteers were brought up on stage to try out FitSteps, a fitness regime invented by Ian and Natalie that included elements of the Charleston. Other members of the audience were invited on stage to quiz Ian and Natalie about their dancing careers.
The dancing of this couple is exceptional – and totally watchable. My favourites were a most beautiful flowing waltz, a romantic rumba and the Paso Doble, full of drama. Natalie’s dresses, mostly created by Dance Sport International and Vicky Gill of Strictly, were stunning and Ian’s ensembles added to the theatre. There were numerous costume changes and on one occasion several ladies were cheekily invited to help Ian change his outfit on stage.
As well as creating a perfect partnership, Ian and Natalie are great friends. Natalie calls Ian her dancing ‘husband’, although she is engaged to businessman James Knibbs.
After the show we had an audience with the dancing pair and she told us that at Christmas she is going home to Australia to “plan a wedding”. Meanwhile Ian revealed to me that he is getting married on 22 July to partner Drew Merriman, and before that he is coming to Bournemouth for his stag party. He added that he absolutely loves Bournemouth.
I asked Ian and Natalie what their favourite dances are. Ian replied, “It depends on my mood. If I’m angry, a paso doble – other times a waltz or foxtrot. When I was younger I was leaning towards Latin dances, now I’m older I prefer the slower, ballroom ones.”
They are an elegant couple. They didn’t however study ballet, which you might expect given the beautiful lines they produce. Ian started dancing aged ten, accompanying his younger brother to ballroom dancing lessons. Natalie was only three when she started dancing in her homeland of Australia.
For Natalie, “The Viennese Waltz, the American smooth or Rumba,” are her preferred dances although all are performed at the highest level of skill, with some incredible lifts.
Both dancers have now finished competing in Strictly Come Dancing, although Ian appears in the BBC2 programme It Takes Two with Zoe Ball. He is as funny in real life as he is on the programme.
In the words of Strictly judge Craig Revel-Horwood – the whole evening was “fab-u-lous darlings”.