Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole fires up Alban Arena

HE may have a reputation as the bad boy of ballroom on Strictly Come Dancing, but take Brendan Cole away from the criticisms of Len Goodman and Craig Revel Horwood and he’s actually something of a softy.

The Australian dance legend was making a return visit to the Alban Arena this week for his sell-out show Live and Unjudged, a mix of Latin and ballroom dance routines coupled with occasional sessions of audience interaction.

The show itself was split into two halves, the first concentrating largely on Latin routines including a flamboyant pasa doble and passionate Argentine tango, with Cole supported by a line-up of dancers which included his brother Scott.

In the lead-up to the break the audience was encouraged to get up on its feet and learn some salsa moves, something most people took to with relish, although this reviewer found himself struggling with what should be remarkably easy steps!

After the interval and a brief Q&A taken from questions submitted by the audience, the focus was on ballroom, with first-rate performances of English and Viennese waltzes showing that Brendan isn’t just about shaking his booty.

The musical support is provided by a 12-piece band accompanying vocalists Iain Mackenzie and Julie Maguire, whose musical talents are highlighted in remarkable performances of songs including Prince’s Purple Rain and I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston.

Sharp, stylish and shimmering throughout, the professionalism of the dancers and musicians was faultless, and with a proximity often lacking when watching similar routines on TV, the audience had the chance to observe close-hand how perfectly choreographed every move actually was.

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As any Strictly fan will know, Brendan isn’t backwards in coming forwards, and he positively revelled in the attention he received from the very vocal audience, playing up to the cat calls from, shall we say, women of a certain age, with good natured humour and chat.

Cole is an absolute showman throughout, but his good-natured personality on stage ensures he never comes across as arrogant or superior, instead winning the audience over with a charm that suggests he’s far more of a consummate professional than you’d ever realise from his pantomime villain performance on TV.