Erin Boag: I don't think the best dancer will win Strictly this year
Ahead of returning to Belfast with dance partner Anton du Beke with their new musical dance show, former Strictly Come Dancing dance professional Erin Boag shares her views on this year's series with Jenny Lee
FOR 10 years Erin Boag was one of the most popular professionals on Strictly Come Dancing. Having retired from the show when she became a mum four years ago, Erin continues to teach ballroom and in the new year she will once again be teaming up with Strictly favourite and her long-term dance partner Anton du Beke for a new show-stopping touring dance production.
Dance Those Magical Musicals will be shimmying it's way to Ireland next March, and promises an evening of "ballroom meets musical theatre", with stunning costumes, breath-taking choreography and live music.
"Anton and I both love musicals and of course behind all great musicals you get great songs and soundtracks. What we did earlier in the year was sit down and pick our favourites. We spoke to our musical director and put together a collaboration of both what we love and what we think the audience will love. We’ve got 42nd Street, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret and Wicked," enthuses New Zealand-born Erin.
Joining Anton and Erin on stage will be the 26-piece London Concert Orchestra with conductor Richard Balcombe, a West End dance ensemble and two vocalists, including Lance Ellington, one of the Strictly Come Dancing singers.
Although Anton and dance partner Susannah Constantine, the fashion presenter, were eliminated in week one of this year's Strictly, Anton is still contracted to Strictly, working on group dances and also preparing to take part in Strictly Christmas special.
Anton will be back in the dance studio with Erin at the beginning of January rehearsing ahead of their tour together, but in the meantime while he is busy with Strictly, she has been working away behind the scenes finalising choreography and costumes.
During the evening, Erin will have 15 costume changes, but confesses she won't be keeping any of the dresses.
“I used to have a huge wardrobe at home but then I thought why am I keeping all these dresses? I can’t exactly wear them out to dinner?
“So, the costume people who make our costumes for the tour are the same ones who do Strictly Come Dancing. They’ve dressed us throughout our whole career and many of the dresses are specifically made for me. So now I wear them and I send them back," explains the 43-year-old.
Although this is their 11th professional show together, Anton and Erin have been dancing together for 21 years, competing professionally and winning many national and international awards.
"Of course, we have had our ups and downs like any partnership, but we’re great friends and that’s really nice going on tour."
When she married business executive Peter O'Dowd on Italy's Amalfi coast in June 2009, Anton was her 'bridesman'. And when she gave birth to baby Ewan, the dancer was immediately offered the role of godfather, and affectionately call's him "uncle".
During their time competing, former Strictly head judge Len Goodman and his replacement, Shirley Ballas, judged her and Anton.
"Dear knows what they said," laughs Erin, who admits she wouldn't have said no to being asked to join the Strictly judging panel herself, but believes Shirley was the best person for the job.
“Of course any dancer would love that job, but Shirley is a world class ballroom dancer and adjudicator and is very highly qualified. It always take a year or two to settle in, but she’s phenomenal on the show.”
Erin is enjoying watching this year's show from the comfort of her own home and even confesses she often hits the fast forward button.
"I prefer to record it and watch it in my own time. Sometimes I fast forward the judges bits, as I just want to watch the dancing," she chuckles
This 16th series of the show has seen some amazing performances, including Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev's perfect 40 at Blackpool Tower, but controversially, Erin reveals she doesn't think that the best dancer will win this year.
"The standard is very high this year. There are a few who will always remain at the top – people like Faye Tozer, Ashley Roberts and Stacey Dooley. I think I already know who will win and it might be a little surprise for everybody. I'm not naming names, but put it this way – I think the best dancer will get second."
I ask Erin if she thinks it's fair that former pop stars with dancing experience like Pussycat Dolls Ashley Roberts and Steps singer Faye Tozer should be allowed to compete?
"Perhaps not, but it's always been that way. I just always took the attitude that you get on with it and compete against them."
Although she won Strictly's Christmas glitterball partnered with athlete Colin Jackson, Erin failed to win the overall title. So is she tempted to return to the show in the future?
“No. Four years ago when I had my son I made my choice to retire from the show. It’s a big sacrifice. As a professional you are in seven days a week. What you don't see on the cameras is the amount of work the professional do – they have the pro routines to rehearse, costume fittings, getting choreography together and teaching."
Young Ewan has already showed signs of following in his mother's footsteps.
"He goes to a local dance club on a Saturday and loves it. He does a bit of jazz and street, no ballroom yet."
And what is Erin's advice to those Strictly fans watching at home who say they can't dance?
"I'd say go out and give it a go. Dancing is extremely popular. It doesn't have to be ballroom, all forms of dancer are popular since Strictly and lot of men are dancing now too. A lot of people say they have two left feet but that is what a beginners class is for. If Ann Widdecombe can do it, anyone can.
:: Anton & Erin… Dance Those Magical Musicals comes to Belfast's Waterfront on March 9 and Dublin's National Concert Hall on March 10.