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Co Down dance star Jason now dreaming of fame on Strictly

Hillsborough dancer hoping BBC show’s talent scouts impressed by his success in first panto

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Jason Tsoutsas performing in the pantomime

Jason Tsoutsas performing in the pantomime

Jason Tsoutsas and Emma Kennedy

Jason Tsoutsas and Emma Kennedy

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Jason Tsoutsas performing in the pantomime

Jason Tsoutsas might have thought no one was watching when he danced with others in a packed Wembley stadium last summer.

But the 21-year-old Hillsborough man couldn’t have been more wrong. Within weeks he was performing in his first professional show alongside headliners Maureen Nolan from the Nolan sisters, CBeebies’ Rebecca Keatley and Keith Jack from BBC1’s Any Dream Will Do.

He was one of the dancers taking part in a spectacular closing ceremony in front of more than 60,000 people prior to the Euro 2020 football final between England and Italy.

A two-shows-a-day production of Snow White at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre didn’t have anywhere near that size of crowd, but to Jason it was just as important — his first paid job as a professional dancer.

The glittering lights of Strictly are in his sights now — agents of some of the popular show’s stars are watching — but he’s not getting ahead of himself.

Getting through college remains the priority, but how did the young man who has been dancing since he was three get this first step on the road to stardom?

“A choreographer, Philip Joel [from the Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts], came into our college at the end of September and auditioned for dancers to take to panto,” Jason told the Belfast Telegraph.

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“That consisted of three different dance rounds. Then they took us into a room and called out the names of the four people they’d chosen. Luckily, I was one of them. I was partnered with Emma Kennedy and we worked together throughout the show.

“We started on November 26 and went all the way through to December.

“We had a week of rehearsing and learning all the dances, then four days of running it with lights and costumes. After that came the real thing — audience!

“It was great fun, though. We had five or six dance numbers and there were a couple of other scenes where we had to pretend to be talking to each other — we were actors and singing when we were dancing.”

One of the perks of being part of the troupe was getting Maureen “to sign my panto programme”.

He said Maureen, who was playing the Wicked Queen in the panto, but has previously toured with legends such as Frank Sinatra and Sir Cliff Richard, was “a hoot” when they went out for meals.

“I got everyone to sign it so I could remember this job,” said Jason, who added that he really enjoyed working with Rebecca also.

Sharing a changing room with West End star, Scottish actor and singer Keith Jack, was an added bonus.

“He was my favourite guy to work with,” he said.

“I learned so much from him. He told me what I should be looking for and different things I should be doing, auditions so I could get noticed and all this really good advice.”

Jason almost had to stand in for Keith as the Handsome Prince on Christmas Day after the Any Dream Will Do runner-up’s car hit black ice on the road and skidded into a tree, leaving him with internal injuries.

“Thankfully Keith was okay, but it was both scary and exciting when I was on standby to replace him,” he said.

“I can sing a bit as well as dance, so they made me learn his script in case he was ever off.

“He crashed his car driving home to Scotland to see his family. We thought he wasn’t going to get back, but in the end he was fine.”

Jason’s mum Amber (47), who owns Amber Gordon’s School of Dance and was his first dance teacher, is her oldest child’s “biggest fan”.

She can’t wait for his next adventure once he finishes Performers College in Basildon, Essex, in July and “heads off into the big, bad world”.

So, will we eventually see him strut his stuff on a certain BBC1 weekend show?

“It would be cool to go to Strictly,” he said.

“I’m really into choreographing my own stuff — I was doing that at mum’s school and while I was teaching.

“Strictly would mean choreographing my own partner’s work and I reckon I’d do quite well.

“I just need to keep my head down, keep going and do the work and hopefully the rewards will come.”

He can also count on support from dad George (46), a businessman who is originally from Athens, his three brothers Zak (16), Christo (14) and Louka (12), and sister Xenia (10), whom he saw when he was back home briefly at the beginning of this month for a short holiday.

In the meantime, he’s going to follow Tess and Claudia’s advice — and keep dancing.


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