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Strictly's Brendan Cole: 'I'm outspoken, speak the truth and I don't take things to the dressing room with me ... I say them on air'

Ahead of his shows at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast this March, Strictly star Brendan Cole tells Stephanie Bell why he is no longer the bad boy of the dance floor and how he can't wait to be dad again

Strictly Come Dancing star Brendan Cole has promised to dazzle local audiences when he brings his new show All Night Long to the Waterfront Hall this March.

The veteran Strictly dancer, who has been with the smash hit BBC series since it began in 2004, enjoyed a busy day in Belfast this week when he flew in to promote his tour.

And for the first time since he made his exit in week three of the most recent series of Strictly, there was no ambiguity when he was asked about those rumours that he is thinking about quitting the show.

"I have absolutely no intentions of hanging up my dancing shoes yet. If Strictly wants me back I will be back," he says.

Brendan (41) is one of just two of the professional dancers to have competed in every series of Strictly Come Dancing, winning the first ever glitterball trophy with newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky.

This year he was paired with Good Morning Britain's Charlotte Hawkins. His previous partners have included presenter/model Kelly Brook, model and George Clooney's one-time girlfriend Lisa Snowdon, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's ex-wife Jo Wood, Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton, Casualty actress Sunetra Sarker, TV presenter Kirsty Gallacher, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and pop star Anastacia.

And the New Zealand-born Strictly star has made his fair share of controversial headlines, especially during the 2017 series, but the news which most upset fans were reports that he planned to leave the show.

In what was seen as a "farewell speech" when he exited on week three with Charlotte Hawkins, he said: "Fifteen series of Strictly Come Dancing, it's been euphoric, it's been tough, it is my life and I'm very, very proud to have been a part of every single second of it."

This week he blamed the media and reassured fans that he would be back if he is asked.

"I can see how people would have thought that (I was leaving) because of my speech but it is not true in the slightest," he says.

"Strictly is amazing. It has been such a massive part of my life and unfortunately the headlines that come with it are not always favourable, but you've got to take the good with the bad and you've got to look at it philosophically. Sometimes it does come at a cost."

Often referred to as the 'bad boy' of the series, he grabbed more headlines this year when he had an on air spat with new head judge Shirley Ballas, fuelling speculation of a feud between them.

Brendan was upset when Ballas criticised his tango with Charlotte for featuring too much "rise and fall".

When she suggested he play the routine back again to check, he retorted "I will, dear, I will", leading fellow judge Bruno Tonioli to describe his remarks as "disrespectful".

Speaking about it this week he says: "It was mostly media hype. We fell out on air. She was not impressed and I was not impressed.

"I'm outspoken and I speak the truth and I don't take things to the dressing room with me, I say them on air.

"I still get that 'bad boy' reference and I think by now people would know the truth. They see me on air and they know me.

"That goes way back to when I was hot-headed and single and out on the town being obnoxious. I'm not that person anymore. I am a happily married man with my own family."

Brendan is married to model and wellness blogger Zoe Hobbs - the couple tied the knot in 2010 - and Zoe is expecting their second child in March. They have a five-year-old daughter Aurelia.

Being on the road with his UK and Ireland tour so soon after Strictly does make home life tough as it means long spells away from his wife and daughter.

He adds: "It is what I do, it's my life and I am grateful for it and being able to do what I do. I spend five months of the year on Strictly and that is very busy, and I am absolutely blessed to do the job I do. It is the best job in the world.

"Then with the tour I am away for several months. It is hard finding a work-life balance but it is harder on my wife who has the responsibility when I am not around.

"I am a very hands-on dad. I'm a good husband and a good father and I will be up at 3am with the baby if needed, but at the same time I have to go out and do my job.

"In that respect I am not any different to anyone else and there are families where both parents have to work and single parent families who have to go out and earn a living. I feel lucky to be able to do what I am doing.

"We are so excited to be expecting a new baby and I suppose a little apprehensive as I know what it's like, but we can't wait and Aurelia is really looking forward to having a little brother or sister."

He will be celebrating the birth just before he comes to Belfast with his new show for two nights in March.

Born in Christchurch, Brendan says his mother ensured he enjoyed a variety of opportunities as a child by sending him to dance classes as well as numerous sports clubs.

It wasn't until he was 18 and visited London that he decided that dancing could be a career.

He flew to London with a one-way ticket six days before his 19th birthday and hasn't looked back. He says: "The year before I moved to England I had been taking part in the World Championships in Ukraine and there was a place in south London, which isn't there now, where everyone went to practice.

"I just walked into it and went 'wow' and after that I just wanted to see if I could make it as a dancer.

"I arrived back in London with a thousand pounds in my pocket and a one-way ticket."

Before television, Brendan's professional career focused on the ballroom and the Latin American dance scene.

Within the world of the professional Latin American dance, he became a renowned teacher and lecturer and was ranked in the top 12 in the world.

His dream was to be a world champion, but when the BBC approached him with the offer of Strictly Come Dancing, his career took a sharp turn into the world of television and media where he has remained until this day.

Over the years he has appeared on many different shows including being on the judging panel of New Zealand's Dancing With The Stars, and as a contestant on Just The Two Of Us and Love Island in the UK.

His current theatre tour follows on from his previous three hugely successful stage shows - Live & Unjudged, Licence to Thrill and A Night to Remember.

A dance, music and chat show - Brendan Cole: All Night Long - launched in January and will tour theatres across the UK and Ireland until April.

The two-hour stage production is a spectacular feast of music and dancing with eight dancers performing to live music from 13 on-stage musicians.

He has brought all three of his previous tours to Belfast and says he loves performing here.

"It is just phenomenal working here because you just know that the crowd is ready to have a good night out," he says.

"People come to a show and they want to be entertained whereas in Belfast they come because they are ready to have a good time.

"This venue (the Waterfront Hall) is just lovely and it is definitely one of the highlights of the tour."

Featuring all the Strictly favourites, from beautiful waltzes to powerful paso dobles, the show, which has been created and is hosted by Brendan, takes audiences through a mesmerising night of dance, music, comedy, passion and intimacy, with fabulous costume changes and unexpected moments including a guitar spot for Brendan himself.

"It really is a full on night of entertainment and I would like to think I give it everything people know and love from Strictly," he says.

"On Strictly there are rules you have to follow, it can't be a free-for-all but this show is created by me, I've choreographed it and cast it. I'm always proud of the choreography, I put a lot of detail in that. I've always done something a little bit different.

"People can expect a little bit of everything.

"There are 21 of us on stage including musicians and dancers and we all have a ball.

"There is so much going on. We do a waltz to Michael Buble's At This Moment, and waltzes are usually a bit schmaltzy, but this particular song tells the story of an affair. Trying to tell that story through dance, it's a powerful thing.

"You see the audience almost go into a different state of mind when they watch it, then you see them come round again and we head straight into an Argentine tango which is feisty and passionate. So it's not all upbeat, there's an emotional side to it.

"I like to think that we give people a bit of everything."

Brendan Cole - All Night Long will be on stage at Belfast Waterfront on Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29. For tickets, tel: 028 9033 4455 or visit www.waterfront.co.uk and the main box office at the Ulster Hall

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