lights, cameras, running a VT, and stop fidgeting with Claudia; Behind the glamor lies a lot of intricate hard work, writes Blackpool Gazette editor Nicola Adam
The fantastic Strictly Come Dancing are back in Blackpool on Saturday night after a break during the pandemic and with their whopping BBC machine that makes the magic look flawless.
It was my first time in the public, with exclusive access to the press, and I was more than aware of how lucky I was. A record 3.5 million people (yes, you read that correctly) have applied for tickets to this season of Strictly which only gives a flavor of how popular the 18-year-old show is – 10 million tunes every week – and how remarkable Blackpool’s special week is. . The tower is the home of the dance floor and it’s no secret how much every contestant wants to hit the springy dance floor under the sparkling balls.
Every production is an undeniable marathon – Saturday’s show being filmed live and Sunday’s show taped right after is a huge undertaking. Not just to the celebrities and professional dancers but to the scores of black-clad production crew who arrived at 8.30am and were still working away at midnight, sweeping up every bit of glitter, tape and hair accidentally falling out. and crowns meticulously between choreographies and dances, manipulating cameras and lights, and creating huge sets complete with fireworks and swings suspended from the ceiling, within moments of the show going live.
It’s a long time for the crowd too (an understatement) who are told to come in and queue from the morning and advise, if you’re not early, you might not get in at all and eat a big meal beforehand. When she finally makes it through the door after walking through the fanfare of Blackpool’s ‘Christmas by the Sea’ extravaganza, and blocks past streets to production trucks, everyone is told to sacrifice phones for the whole shebang to stop spoilers (and selfies).
And once that’s it. Unless you have access to the VIP bar (admittedly I did) it’s a bottle of water, juice box and biscuits until midnight. The VIPs and crew were luckier, with some ordering pizza between tapings of the show. But among the audience the tramps were numb, their hands bruised from clapping on a cue, and sore throats from shouting to order; You have to buy into everything or it’s useless.
And nobody cares. Once on the stunning ballroom, magic swept over us and the star-making feeling at the event was relentless. The audience was filled with competing families, known faces and former contestant and pros, from front rowers Leerancis and Paddy McGuinness (who switched jackets between shows), from Steve McGovern and John White, to Kelvinletcher to Rylan, who presents the contestant’s weekly “It Takes Two” show.ormer and friend of pro dancer Dianne Buswell Joe Sugg, who hosts the Strictly Podcast. In the ladies’ restroom, we meet Joanne Clifton, who is performing with Raylan, and several choreographers who discuss their thoughts on their pairings.
The dance floor buzzes from the start and it isn’t long before the dancers nervously rehearse their moves, hours before the show begins. On stage, the full orchestra prepares to warm up, and at the other end of the dance floor is the “Claudetorium,” where host Claudia Winkelmann chats to couples between dances, distracting from the manic activity to create a set for the next dance. two spouses.
Ah, Claudia. When she hits the stage with co-presenter Tess Daly, the pair become instantly likable, not least by the seemingly flawless but obviously very uncomfortable Claudia, in a skintight black jumpsuit that struggles underneath with her supportive underwear. Squatting, scratching and sniffing as she tried to fit into her clothes and warm her face.
Meanwhile, Tess looks perfect but obsequiously admits she ‘changed her dress at the last minute’ and anxiously smooths it out and looks nervous before pre-taping some bits and pieces. In moments, the couple has the audience side by side and as soon as the show begins, all signs of any disturbance are professionally eliminated. The judges arrive and sit on their podium, directly across from my position on the first level, and are greeted by the roar of the crowd.
And of course not everything is alive. Before the show begins, British Eurovision star Sam Ryder gets to perform his new song, with an accompanying group dance, not once but twice, and the climax of the opening sequence is played so the audience can rehearse the applause. When the show begins the excitement is overwhelming, the emotions about being back in Blackpool are so real and once the dancing starts it’s almost surreal.
A huge camera mounted on a crane spreads across the dance floor while graceful pictorial figures run across the dance floor, out of sight at all times, almost as good as the performers themselves. Some clips were filmed in the hallways and at one point, upon returning from the bar, we had to hide behind a cozy curtain or we’d be starring as Anton du Beke on camera.
Between every dance everything is business and not everything is perfect. When the “d” fell off couple Helen Skelton and Gorka Marquez’s “Quick and step” tape moments before the cameras were set to roll, they quickly removed it as there was no time to reattach it. Did you notice? During the post taping, Claudia and Tess were balanced precariously on the edge of the first tier of the dance floor for the introduction, Tess was really afraid of the height and begged the crew to hold on to her ankles while Claudia clung to her waist.
Once the live show is over, it’s time for everyone to queue up in the bathroom and reset the taping of Sunday’s show. This is where warm-up man and comedian Stuart Holdham came into his own. Can’t say enough about Stewart holding everything together, making the huge audience laugh and excited, and sharing just about everything. The audience asked, “Do you know how Sam (Ryder) gets his hair that way?” “It’s because Claudia gave him some head and shoulders.”
He later admitted that Strictly’s longest-running film grew later and later: “At this point, it’s a hostage situation.” He laughed at and with the celebrities while being relentlessly instructed by floor manager Alan Conley, brother of presenter Brian Conley, who conducted the entire night like an orchestra and whispered in Stewart’s ear. Even us viewers got a few retakes or “pickups” as they call them on TV.
The whole night was a great theatrical show, but it’s the moments that make it and in the audience you can see all kinds, depending on your seat. Opposite us, Tyler West and Diane Boswell were rehearsing on the balcony opposite while the show was live and next to our seats Joe Sugg appeared – it turns out he was friends with the Lancashire Tick Tooker in the audience.
Then there were two young ballroom dancers nervously waiting for their moment of heroism (it was 11pm and they had to perform twice as well as Sam Ryder did, again, even though it looked perfect) The truth is, the dance was filmed practically at midnight and I can tell you That professional dancers Diane Boswell and Carlos Jo, who were also performing in group numbers throughout the night, looked like they needed an ice bath off camera. That was a lot of dancing and I can also tell you the feelings were very real.
A great night in a thoroughly fantastic setting – Blackpool can’t wait to see you next year. We will prepare our jazz hands and practice them again.
A version of this article was originally published at our sister address, the Blackpool Gazette