by Margaret Chrystall
FORMER Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Natalie Lowe said no the first second she was asked to join Rip It Up, the 50s dance celebration show coming to Eden Court on Tuesday, September 5.
Australian Natalie – who spent seven years on Strictly after winning Dancing With The Stars in her home country – explained.
“I was approached by a lovely gentleman who said ‘I know you’re retiring from Strictly, but I wondered if you’d be interested in doing a show?’.
“I said ‘No. I’d like to put my feet up for a bit!’.
Then he added ‘It’s going to be set in the 1950s!’.
“And I said ‘Oh my God, I’m your girl!’
“I love 50s music, I love the fashion, my dad was a motor mechanic so I love the cars and I wish I could have been brought up as a teenager in the 50s because it all resonates with me.
“So I said ‘Yes, I’ll do it!’.
“Then I found out it had Strictly winners Louis Smith and Jay McGuinness in the show and Radio 2 50s show presenter Leo Green is also part of this amazing team of people.
“The show has fabulous moves and great music and it’s a celebration of dance in that era.”
Expect swing, bop, jitterbug, lindy hop, jive and ballroom in the show created by the producers and director of last year’s Remembering Fred, which starred Strictly pros Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec.
Dancing’s been in Natalie’s life since she was a toddler in Sydney.
“My neighbours introduced me to dancing. They used to be members of the local Rotary Club and they would invite us along every week to ballroom dancing classes.
“I was very young but my brother and sister were older than me and I loved going along with them.
“When I was five I had my first-ever try out. I started dancing with a young boy and we just hit it off and danced together for about 10 years and went on to become champions.
“It was one of those things where I didn’t know I wanted to dance, but I fell into it and loved it and just wanted to keep going.
“I was representing Australia in Taiwan by the age of eight.”
After touring internationally with dance show Burn The Floor, Natalie spent five years as a professional dancer in Australia’s Dancing With The Stars – winning it with footballer Anthony Koutoufides. Then she moved to the UK and joined Strictly in 2009.
Natalie announced her retirement from the show in May and has been touring with dance partner Ian Waite in the run up to Rip It Up.
“In this country I think Strictly has mined a rich seam of opportunity for people – whether it be young kids or elderly adults who want to learn to dance socially.
“Dance schools around the country have been inundated with people coming in wanting to learn how to dance.
“Ballroom dancing is a phenomenon that’s just taken over the country and I think with Strictly and Dancing With The Stars it’s in about 56 other countries now. It’s a worldwide phenomenon.”
“I’ve been to Inverness a few times to do a couple of private gigs and I’m so in love with it. It’s so green and so beautiful and I have a few friends up there, though Rip It Up will be my first show there.”
And it was through travel – a packed Leeds-London train to be precise – that Natalie met her fiance, English businessman James Knibbs.
“It was the last train out from London to Leeds – there were a few football matches and rugby matches on that night – so you can imagine how busy the train was and I was trying to find a carriage that had the best seat that was quiet,” laughed Natalie.
“I found one, sat down and a gentlemen opposite me passed me this piece of paper to sign. Then James walked past me and I thought ‘Oh my goodness!’. He was so gorgeous. Anyway, he sat in the seat in front of me and we just got chatting.
“The guy I was signing the paper for said to James ‘Do you not know who she is?’
“And he had no idea, but we had a nice chat.
“A week later we went on a date – now we’re engaged!
“But had I not broken six metatarsals in my feet and had to take time off from Strictly, I would never have been on the train.
“And the train was 20 minutes late leaving, so we should never have met!”
Rip It Up is a show Natalie believes will appeal to everybody.
“You just have to look at the Strictly demographic.
“Kids are loving what they’re watching – they don’t know what era each dance is from – but the art, the glamour and the physicality is exciting for them.
“And Rip It Up is going to be a really exciting show for me as I’m involved in the choreography which I love – and appearing at the London Palladium will also be incredible!”
Rip It Up is at Eden Court on Tuesday, September 5.