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Why dancing is Strictly off-limits for former winner Stacey Dooley on this year's roadshow... or is it?

Ahead of the live tour coming to Belfast next month, the investigative journalist, who will be hosting the glamorous event, tells Weekend why she would love to do a routine one more time ... if the organisers allow her to take the floor

Stacey Dooley
Stacey Dooley

Preparing to slip out of her dancing shoes and into the role of host for the next Strictly Come Dancing Live UK Arena Tour, Stacey Dooley couldn't be more excited. "I can't quite believe I'm going to be hosting the 2020 tour," beams the former champion as she gets ready to follow in the footsteps of 2019 tour presenter Ore Oduba.

The broadcaster, documentarian and author is no stranger to presenting as such, but she admits: "Ore was amazing, so he's a tough act to follow." Having performed on the 2019 tour before returning to her day job, the 32-year-old smiles as she adds: "But it'll just be lovely to get back with the dancers and to throw myself back into the world of Strictly. I'm so, so looking forward to it. I really can't wait."

The 2020 roadshow is even bigger than last year's tour, taking in 33 performances across nine venues. Fans will again be treated to spectacular production numbers and routines by many of the 2019 Strictly Come Dancing contestants and their professional partners, with on-stage input from the judges and all the glitz and glamour of the TV show.

The audience also gets to decide who will walk away with the coveted Glitterball Trophy at the end of each show, with the crowd voting via text for their favourite couple.

With Strictly having just completed its 17th season on television and the live tour gearing up for its 13th outing, Stacey sees the arena show as a post-Christmas jamboree that keeps the party going.

As for being the host, she feels: "There's a certain element of responsibility but I just want to make sure everyone has the most incredible time. People love Strictly and I want it to feel like a huge celebration. I just want it to feel like a real fun party. I went everyone to be on great form, I want them to be up dancing, I don't want it to be reserved or straight or serious."

The stage show is a massive undertaking, with six buses and 16 trucks taking it up and down the country. It utilises a 90-strong crew, 500 cans of hairspray, 170,000 crystals, countless feathers and sequins and a whopping 150 litres of liquid glitter. Then there are the costume changes: a dazzling 200-plus for the 20 performers and their dance partners (who do six routines each) and the extra dancers.

The spectacle, Stacey believes, is what keeps bringing audiences back to arenas year after year and she's not worried about handling such huge crowds. "The audience are the best bit. They all love Strictly. That's why they're there and they get behind everyone."

That, she feels, makes it a real joy for the contestants. "When you're doing the show in the studio it feels quite contained and of course you understand that the nation is behind you.

"It's so lovely to see the little lads and girls dancing away, mimicking the routines they've learnt at home whilst following the series... it's a real family affair, appealing to all generations. That's the magic of the show, it's so inclusive."

As for the live element, she grins: "Anything can happen. You can't 'take two' because everyone's there in the stands. But I thrive in that kind of environment."

Dooley has been thriving in an anything-can-happen environment for the last decade, albeit it as an investigative TV journalist rather than as a ballroom dancer.

After travelling to India to work with garment workers for the BBC Three documentary Blood, Sweat And T-Shirts, she landed her own series Stacey Dooley Investigates and has since tackled such hard-hitting subjects as African game hunters, sex trafficking and most recently IS brides across various documentaries.

She has also co-presented The One Show and this year was a special guest on the first-ever RuPaul's Drag Race UK.

Joining the 2018 Strictly Come Dancing line-up was a real thrill for Stacey, who had never danced professionally before but who, with dance partner Kevin Clifton, foxtrotted and paso doble-d her way to the crown. She then embarked on the 29-show live tour, which kicked off with six shows at the Arena Birmingham this January and culminated in four shows at The O2 Arena in London.

The 2020 tour again starts with six shows in Birmingham and culminates with a five-show run at The O2. It takes in such familiar stops for Stacey as Leeds First Direct Arena, Manchester Arena, the SSE Hydro Glasgow and Nottingham Motorpoint Arena, as well as the SSE Arena Belfast and the Dublin 3 Arena - neither of which she has performed at before. And for the first time ever the Strictly Come Dancing UK Arena Tour will also visit Aberdeen for three shows at the Press and Journal Arena.

Dooley is looking forward to being reunited with judges Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli, saying: "Shirley was always very complimentary and really supportive. It's great to have the kind of villain on the end with Craig." She laughs. "And Bruno is hysterical."

She expects to be more modestly dressed this time round. "My outfits, I suspect, are going to be a lot more toned-down and a bit more conservative because when you're out there dancing in your tiny Latin number you might as well be in a bikini."

Part of her wishes she was out there strutting her stuff on the Strictly dance floor, as she confesses: "I'm a tiny bit jealous that I'm not going to be dancing. I'm envious because I'd love to do it all again with the hair and the make-up and the sequins, but I'll be watching from the sidelines cheering everybody on."

And Stacey isn't ruling out doing at least one number on the tour. "I'm going to try and convince them to let me do a tiny routine at the start," she grins. Enthusiastically she adds: "I would absolutely love, love, love, love to do a number in the show because I just love dancing so much."

Fifteen years since Strictly debuted in May 2004 before establishing itself as a fixture of the autumn/winter TV season later that same year, Dooley notes: "It is still so huge and it is the nation's show. I truly believe that. You don't really understand the enormity of it until you become a part of it. It's people stopping you when you're out shopping going 'I loved the tango' and 'The waltz was beautiful'. And it's a classy show that gets behind those who haven't danced before and the audience goes on the journey with you. I think that's why it's such a success."

Asked who she would choose to dance with - if it could be absolutely anyone - she thinks for a moment then declares: "The Spice Girls. All five of them." As for which celebrity contestant from this year's show she'd most like to see on the 2020 tour, Stacey doesn't hesitate. "Mike Bushell. I am completely obsessed with him. I just think that he's remarkable. He's really exciting and I think he's so delighted to be there, which is what you want to see. If I hear that he signs up to do the tour I am going to be in my element."

She laughs again. "In fact, I'm going to ask if I can share a dressing room with Mike because I just love him so much. I think he's great."

Strictly Come Dancing UK Arena Tour will be at Belfast's SSE Arena on February 1-2. Visit strictlycomedancinglive.com for tickets

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