Lisa is strictly for fun

THE glitz, glamour and sequins of  Strictly Come Dancing sweep into Birmingham this week for a three night run at the NIA with eight of the stars of the last series, including winner Louis Smith.

But one of the undoubted stars of the last series, carrying a beacon for those of us who are, should we say, more luxuriously upholstered, was larger than life character Lisa Riley pictured right

Lisa signed up for the tour “mainly because it meant I could keep dancing with my wonderful partner, Robin Windsor! We are like brother and sister. We just hit it off right from the start. We will be staying in touch and I have made a friend for life.”

The format is much as with the TV show with the judges and audience vote and a winner each night but Lisa said: “I wasn't competitive within the series, so I'm not going to start now! I just enjoy dancing. I'd love to win one or two but the professionals are the ones who are competitive more than us.

“The brilliant thing about the tour is that we have our two dances that we do each night, so I think it will be much less pressure than the show where we're learning different dances each week. So I'm looking forward to hanging out with Dani Harmer and Denise Van Outen as I really clicked with them. And Michael Vaughan - the four of us are like Lethal Weapon Four! We have similar personalities.”

Lisa has been seen around Midland theatres in productions such as The Naked Truth, Calendar Girls and The Play What I wrote and always lights up the stage as soon as he appears, something she brought to the BBC's ratings winner.

Her secret? “Just to be myself. I'm so proud of that. I've just been myself from the start and it turns out that that's what people like, which has been amazing. I never set out to win; I achieved what I wanted to on the very first day which was to be myself and learn to dance.

“The response from the public has been amazing - apparently I'm the gay icon of the year, which I'm very proud of! I've broken down barriers and shown that everyone has a right to be who they want to be. It's still going on now - Robin and I can't believe it when we walk down the street and people keep coming up to us and saying they've loved watching us, and they say, 'Thanks for entertaining us'.

"We are the people's champion, apparently! Unbelievable.”

Denise Van Outen who made it through to the final of the TV series

The dancing has taken it toll though with Lisa having foot problems and she still has a shoulder problem and to give an idea of the amount of physical effort involved in the show she has gone from dress size 26 at the start to 18.

As for the future? She said: “I've been offered sitcoms, theatre, films, a bit of everything. Now I just have to sit down and go through it all and make the right choice. It's a bit overwhelming!”

And her dream role? “I'd love to do something like Cranford. I'm not interested in being a lady in diamonds or something - I want to be the toothless cook in the 'downstairs' part of the house!”

As well as the dancing stars signed up for the tour there are also the judges, Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli with Kate Thornton hosting the  the live show.

The show is also directed, incidentally, by Craig Revel Horwood, who is also responsible for the choreography. Strictly Come Dancing Live 2013 is at the NIA from Friday, Jan 18 to Sunday Jan 20.

Roger Clarke

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