Ritz and glitz as Trent and Gordana waltz into town
The all-dancing all-singing stage show Puttin? on the Ritz has arrived in Belfast. Two of the stars, Strictly dancer Trent Whiddon and his wife Gordana Grandosek, talk to Brian Campbell
YOU can bet that Trent Whiddon got to show off when it came to the 'first dance’ at his wedding. This is because, like Trent, his wife Gordana Grandosek is a champion dancer.
Australian Trent has been dancing since he was seven and his Slovenian wife started at the age of 10. Now the pair have won championships all over the world, appeared on Dancing With the Stars in the USA, Australia and Slovenia and have been choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance.
Trent is probably best known for appearing on Strictly Come Dancing last year, when he and celebrity partner Pixie Lott were among the best in the competition before they were controversially voted off.
“Yeah, we get that a lot,” says Trent. “People keep saying `You were robbed’. Pixie was great to work with. She already had ability, so she could push and do things that other people couldn’t.
“So it was nice to have someone who could challenge me and she was good fun to hang around with. We became good mates. Her and her boyfriend and Gordana and myself got to hang out a good bit.”
Trent and wife Gordana are in Belfast to appear in Puttin’ on the Ritz, a stage show based around the golden age of Hollywood and the music of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.
They will be joined by fellow headline dance duo Katya Virshilas and Jared Murillo. Lithuania-born Virshilas was the professional dance partner of Phil Tufnell (series seven) and Gavin Henson (series eight) on Strictly, while Hawaii native Jared Murillo partnered actress Tina O’Brien in series eight of the hit BBC show.
Gordana, who has also worked on Strictly, admits that it came as a bit of a jolt to have to give up dancing with husband Trent while he and Pixie Lott took part in the show.
“When Trent did the show, that was the first time we were apart. I was on the side, helping, but after being together dancing for so long it was kind of a shock. But it was a good experience and Pixie is so nice. She was just messaging me earlier, actually.”
Trent and Gordana are making their first visit to Belfast and the Aussie dancer – who grew up in Wollongong, south of Sydney – is happy to be in town. “I’ve always really wanted to check out Belfast, so it’s nice to be able to get paid to come now,” he laughs.
He explains why Puttin’ on the Ritz is a good night’s entertainment. "It’s a real celebration of that old Hollywood/1920s/1930s Fred Astaire glitz and glamour. I was always into ballroom dancing and the music of Cole Porter and Sinatra and Gershwin and that stuff, so the show will be a treat for people who have always been into that music and hopefully young people will come along too and get a taste for that era.
“Gordana and myself do the ballroom and Latin American routines that you would have seen on Strictly, but there’s a lot of great music and singers and tap and jazz. It’s a good way to get a bit of glitz and glamour and old school entertainment. There’s something for everyone.”
His wife agrees that the show is “really fun and for all ages”. “I think young people should come and see it. Young girls will really love it, because of the glitz and glam and the singing, dancing and tap,” she says.
The couple are good friends with Strictly star and Co Wicklow man Tristan MacManus. “I had to learn how to understand him at the beginning because he has a really strong accent,” laughs Gordana. “I had no idea what he was saying.”
:: Puttin’ on the Ritz runs at the Grand Opera House in Belfast tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7.30pm, with 2.30pm matinees today and Saturday. For tickets (£17.50 to £35.50), visit Goh.co.uk or call 028 9024 1919.