After three very enjoyable but gruelling months on the television show, the seven stars of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing have signed up to go through it all again as part of the Strictly Live Tour.
The tour, which is pirouetting its way around the UK – and shimmying its way onto Tyneside at the end of the month – will be hosted by 2012 Strictly star and former Emmerdale actress Lisa Riley. It promises to be the most glittering tour yet, notching up more than 31 shows.
It’s a big commitment, but one which the stars can’t wait for, with many relishing the chance to get back on the dance floor and show off their skills to a home crowd.
Waterloo Road star and Teesside export Mark Benton, 48, was knocked out in week nine, but was a firm favourite with fans for his outlandish outfits and off-the-wall routines with partner Iveta Lukosiute, including their version of MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This, complete with rap star-style gold costume.
It’s a crowd-pleaser that looks certain to get another outing on the live tour.
“I think we’re going to do You Can’t Touch This on the tour.” Mark said. “So many people come up to me and say they love it, it would be rude not to do it.
“But I think we’d love to put more content into the dance on the live show.
Mark, who lost three stone during his time on the show, added: “I am from Cleveland so I can’t wait to get on the tour and get up to perform in the North East. All my friends and family are up there so I will drag them along.
“I’m also looking forward to the dates in Glasgow. It’s where we film Waterloo Road and it’s a great city. I’m half Scottish – my mum’s from Ayrshire – so I have strong ties to Scotland and it will be thrilling to be back.
“We want to really surprise people on the tour. Ben Cohen kept taking his top off to win over the ladies, so maybe I will take my trousers off,” he joked.
Rugby player Ben Cohen’s topless paso doble with partner Kristina Rihanoff was certainly one of the highlights of the series, and one which Ben says he’s hoping to bring out again on the tour.
The 35-year-old, who helped England win the Rugby World Cup in Australia 2003, said: “We put up a vote on Twitter asking fans which dance they wanted to see again on the tour and it was the paso doble that kept coming up.
“When you sign up for something like Strictly, you think afterwards: Why on earth did I do that?
“But then you start training and see how hard it is and how hard the professionals work. And you get used to going out in front of a nation and you overcome challenges and it becomes a highlight.
“The lessons I’ve learned on the show are life-lasting.
“Although Strictly is a competition, the real competition is with yourself, and how far you can push yourself and shed your inhibitions about dancing. I can’t wait to get around the country and show people what a fantastic production this is.”
Strictly Come Dancing 2013 runner-up and BBC Breakfast star Susanna Reid also built up a loyal following during her time on the show.
The 42-year-old TV presenter was dubbed “Superwoman” for her ability to fit in a demanding career on breakfast television, being a mum to three children and her training for the show. So performing in front of a crowd of 10,000 excited Strictly fans filing arenas should be a doddle, right?
“I work on TV so am used to performing in front of cameras and not seeing the whites of people’s eyes looking up at you and hoping to be entertained,” she said.
“But performing to such a big crowd, you get the instant feedback that you don’t get with TV. I got a taste of it during Strictly in front of the studio audience, and more so at Blackpool, and I am looking forward to it again on the tour.”
So what does Susanna, who is based in Salford with BBC Breakfast, think she’ll bring to the Strictly live tour?
“I think I have proved that as a woman over 40 with three children you can learn to dance with a gorgeous young teacher,” she said with a laugh. “I might not get every step right, but I do it with a smile on my face. And after the tour is over I will still be dancing in my local clubs every Friday night.”
One person who’s certainly not frightened of the judges is Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, 54. The business guru is chomping at the bit to get back in front of Len, Craig and Bruno for another chance at dancing with her partner, Robin Windsor.
“I went out of the show quite early on,” she said “So for me the tour will be an extension of my time on Strictly and a chance to perfect the routines.
“I loved Strictly, but with the tour I hope I can enjoy dancing without the pressure. I didn’t mind the judges’ comments one bit and I can’t wait to put my dancing shoes back on and get back on the dance floor for one more go.”
The series runner up, Coronation Street actress Natalie Gumede, who will be reunited with her dance partner Artem Chigvintsev, said: “The tour will be the first time my mum has seen me dance live.
“During the series she wanted to stay at home so she could vote for me, so it will be the first time she will see me dance.”
And finally, the Strictly Come Dancing 2013 winner, TV presenter Abbey Clancy, 27, who is married to Stoke and former England footballer Peter Crouch, is another star desperate not to hang up her dance shoes.
“For me Strictly has been the most incredible experience and I wanted to carry on forever,” she said. “So the tour is a brilliant opportunity to keep dancing.
“This is a chance for all my family and friends who couldn’t make it to the TV show, to come and see me dance.
“Peter loves dancing and so does our daughter, Sophia. When I was on Strictly she wouldn’t watch the show unless she was wearing a tutu and little dance shoes. The costumes on the show are beautiful and I love the fact the tour means I can carry on getting made up, getting a fake tan, tons of glitter and millions of hair extensions. It’s every girl’s dream.”
As well as the 2013 crop of dancefloor talent, there will also be a couple of favourite contestants from Strictlys gone by.
Westlife star Nicky Byrne, who appeared in last year’s series, is dry-cleaning his tuxedo and polishing up his dance shoes for another shot at getting his hands on the glitter ball trophy.
Nicky, 35, who made it to the last eight contestants in 2012, is back with his partner, Karen Hauer, and says he can’t wait to get back on the road – despite his wife Georgina giving birth to the couple’s third child in October.
“We toured so many of the arenas we’re visiting when I was with Westlife so it will bring back some great memories.”
And a year away hasn’t dampened Nicky’s competitive spirit.
“I really want to win. I wanted to win the series last year and I was gutted when I got knocked out,” he said.
“And I’m looking forward to getting in front of the judges again. You always have good fun and banter with them and I’ve had a year to prepare my one-liners!”
Strictly Come Dancing: The Live Tour comes to Metro Radio Arena on January 30 and 31. For tickets, call 0844 493 6666 or visit www.metroradioarena.co.uk