Brendan Cole, professional ballroom dancer, chats with Kevin Cooper about being a part of Strictly Come Dancing, his bad boy image, thoughts on being the Head Judge and his forthcoming Brendan Cole All Night Long Tour.
Brendan Cole is a New Zealand ballroom dancer, specialising in Latin American dancing. He is most famous for appearing as a professional dancer on the BBC One show, Strictly Come Dancing. He has appeared in all fourteen series of the show having had partners such as Natasha Kaplinsky, Fiona Phillips, Kelly Brook, Lulu and most recently Anastacia. He has won the show only once with Kaplinsky.
He has often clashed with the judges over their scoring and comments on his performances. He has also on occasions deliberately broken the rules by incorporating illegal lifts into his choreography, and as a result has often been dubbed by the press as being ‘the bad boy of Strictly’.
Whilst currently rehearsing for his Brendan Cole All Night Long Tour, he took some time to have a chat with Kevin cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Brendan how are you?
Hi Kevin, it’s good to speak to you. I’m very well thank you very much and yourself?
I’m good thank you and let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
No thank you for your time, it is much appreciated.
You sound as though you have been running around?
(Laughter) I am living in a world of lunacy at the moment. I am moving house, we have recently finished Strictly Come Dancing and I am about to start drawing up the plans for my brand new theatre tour Brendan Cole All Night Long (laughter). So all in all it’s just another day in the life of Brendan Cole (laughter).
And I have to ask you just how is life treating you at the moment?
Life is good and I should not complain, actually life is really good. The best way for me to describe it is that there are exciting times ahead. Even when you are off the show Strictly is always pretty much full on and as you know we all love it; we love being a part of it, and I think that comes across on a Saturday night. Life is good; it is just a case of trying to juggle too many things at the moment. I will certainly be looking forward to a holiday in April (laughter).
You have mentioned the tour, Brendan Cole All Night Long which kicks off on the 26th January in Wolverhampton. Are you looking forward to being back out on the road?
I have to be honest with you and say that it is the best thing that I do. I absolutely love it. I say that I can’t wait to be back out on the road but in all honesty I haven’t done enough preparation for the tour yet, there is still a lot more to be done before we actually get into rehearsal stage (laughter). On Strictly you are a small piece of a very large jigsaw puzzle but when you create your own show, it’s you. It is my name on the door; I want it to be perfect, I want it to be amazing and it takes about a year to put it all together so it has been a long time coming if you know what I mean. It takes so much preparation to actually put the show on the road and to then have it come to fruition and for you to be there on your opening night, it is the best feeling in the world. I love it.
Does it excite you being in a different city every night performing to a totally different audience?
It does because you never know what you are going to get and I think that is what makes it an interesting thing to do. The further South you go with the show the more reserved the audiences are and you almost have to win them over whereas the further North you go it is totally opposite to that, the audiences are chomping at the bit to get going (laughter). It is always exciting to see which audience is going to be which and sometimes they do surprise you. I think that is the exciting thing about a live theatre show such as this, every audience creates a different atmosphere within the venue which means that I will put on a different show.
Obviously, it is ultimately the same show that is going out night upon night, but because it is live and because there is a bit of chat throughout, I host the evening and the audience are very much involved throughout the night. The audience can really make a show either a great night or a phenomenal mess (laughter). And so it is always exciting to see what you get.
You will once again be performing at The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham on the 6th March. Without giving too much away, what can we expect?
I am, yes indeed. That’s an interesting question because if you have seen me on Strictly then of course, it is a dance show. To put it simply it is a dance and live music theatre show. However, there is not a narrative nor is there a story line. If you have seen it on Strictly then you will be seeing it within my show. So if people have seen me perform an Argentine Tango, a Jive or a Waltz on Strictly then they will see it all on the stage. However, the element of being live on stage together with a live band, which comprises fourteen fantastic musicians, eight professional dancers, it is I have to say a truly amazing cast. Some of the musicians are stars in their own right, in fact they play with some of the biggest artists in the world; Michael Bublé for example and I am going to be sharing the stage with them. That’s exciting for me and so the audiences can expect a Strictly style show but hopefully a little more intimate. So if you have seen it on Strictly, you will be seeing it on stage, and you get to experience it first-hand.
You have mentioned the cast; a few months ago I interviewed a certain top London jazz singer Iain Mackenzie. Is he with you on this tour?
Ah, indeed he is, indeed he is. Iain is my main man. Ian is great, and that is the lovely thing about what we have got I suppose. It has become a family, and the show has become a family affair. Some people drift in and out but within the rhythm section of the band there is a really good family feeling. I will be having some new dancers on this tour which I am really excited about. There genuinely is a real family feeling within the cast. But both Iain and Julie will be back so you get that family atmosphere out there on the stage. We all have a bit of a ball, we are on the road, we are in and out of hotels, we are on the coach travelling around, so there is a lot of comradery together with a lot of mucking about, and it is not just a bunch of people doing a show together which I hope comes across to the audiences. We are a family.
What I would like to know is just how much you paid Iain because when I asked him what you were like to work with he told me that you were an absolute gent.
(Hysterical laughter) nice, this is good. The truth is a lot (laughter). That is one of those things that makes the show so great to be a part of. We are a really tight bunch of people who respect one another. With respect and the feeling of real friendship you get a great show. I spoke to Iain recently and he was telling me that he can’t wait to get back out there on the road. He is so excited about it and to be honest everyone is excited about it. We all genuinely can’t wait to be back out on the road. You want the people who you are working with to be excited about something and hopefully that will transpire to the stage and also give the audiences a fantastic night of entertainment.
You have been dancing since the age of six, what was it that attracted you to dance?
Nothing at all, my mother made me do it (laughter). Hey listen, you don’t go home and tell your parents that you want to try ballroom dancing at the age of six (laughter). You may do now because the kids watch Strictly but it simply wasn’t a thing that you did back in the day. I played all sports growing up; I truly love all sports, but dancing was the consistent thing in my life, I never stopped dancing. You dance for the whole season, have a week off for Christmas and then off you go for a new season, whereas you hang up you boots at the end of the football season and sometimes you just don’t go back to it. So dancing was just the thing that I always did, and eventually I became quite good at it, and decided that I wanted to fly halfway around the world to try to carve out a career for myself.
The next thing that you know is that the BBC are calling you asking if you would be interested in joining a dance show on the TV and then you are speaking to a journalist trying to plug your tour (laughter). It’s just another day in the strange little world of ballroom dancing (laughter).
Who has inspired you along the way?
To be honest with you, hardly anyone. I take inspirations from different places, for example if we are speaking about dance inspiration you can look back over the years to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. There is an element of that kind of stuff that you put into a show because you have seen it and have been inspired by it but in terms of proper, deeper inspiration there are a few people who have inspired me. Starting with my granddad who was a Geordie fella who worked extremely hard and I loved the way that he was; he was a worker and my dad was a worker. So I love hard work and I love that feeling of creating and doing things. I get inspiration from my colleagues on Strictly when I see them do fantastic things with their partners and I think to myself ‘I want to do that’ and ‘I wish that I had thought of that’.
That inspires me. I think that as long as you are open to inspiration like that and simply not just stuck in your ways I think that you can keep on developing, keep on creating and hopefully the people will like what you are doing. Like with the show you have to keep working, you have to keep reinventing otherwise the audience is going to get bored.
You have mentioned Strictly, you have appeared on all fourteen series of the show. Taking all the hard work out of the equation for a moment, is it as much fun as it looks on the TV?
I have to say that it is absolutely amazing (laughter). Take the work out of it then it is brilliant fun (laughter). And let me tell you that you have to work blooming hard. It is a great thing to be a part of and I am very proud to be a part of a show that is mega successful. The audiences absolutely love it, and you are a part of what they enjoy, you are a part of the creative process that they are enjoying. Whilst it is very hard work we do have a lot of fun on the show. Take us pros for example, we get together at the start of August in order to learn new routines for the programme, the Sunday night results shows together with the music acts and we have a ball. Whilst we respect each other we mess around with each other, we have a great time together, it is just a ball.
However, obviously when the hard work starts then that becomes a lot more tricky but ultimately when you come down the stairs on a Saturday night live to the nation and you are about to do your thing, that people are really going to enjoy, that is a buzz. It makes all of the hard work very much worthwhile. And likewise with my own show, you put a whole year of work into something, and you put it on the stage, that is such a phenomenal feeling whenever you get a reaction from an audience.
You mention the mutual respect that you have for one another. If I may just mention a few names to you, Kirsty Gallacher, Kelly Brook, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Anastacia and Lulu to name but a few. And then we look at Esther Rantzen, Patsy Palmer, Ann Widdecombe, and Lesley Joseph. What are you doing to poor old Anton (du Beke) (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) what are you talking about, he loves it (laughter). In fact it has made his career. You are right, I have certainly had my fair share of good ones but I have also certainly had my fair share of bad ones too (laughter). The thing is on Strictly you want to gel with your partner. You have mentioned Kelly and Sophie and I really did gel with them, they were great ladies to partner up. Some of the others not so much but you win some, you lose some. Give me a Leslie Joseph over some of my rougher partners who I haven’t gelled with any day because Leslie was just a fantastic lady and a lovely person to spend time with. It might be different in the training room but that is all part of the show.
You take the good and the bad and I really don’t mind getting a bad partner, by that I mean someone who has not had any dance training and is not very talented as long as you have a fantastic time with them. Anton has gelled with quite a few of his partners and had a great time. For example Judy Murray who I was in touch with this morning. She is such a lovely woman and Anton was very lucky to have had the pleasure of her company. You simply take the good with the bad.
How does it feel to be a part of a show that has turned ballroom dancing on its head?
I love it and it is nice to have been a part of that movement. It’s a great show to be a part of. It is the best thing in the world to be a part of something that people really love. You are a part of that and you are a part of the creative process and I am very proud to have been there from the beginning.
We now all know that Head Judge Len Goodman has left the show. Is that a good or bad move?
It is sad for the show but all good things must come to an end. Within the show he will very much be missed; Len is a massive part of the show. I recently heard him being interviewed on Radio 2 and he said “I want to leave while people still want me to be there”. Len’s ethos is that he still wants people to want him rather than wanting to get shot of him. I personally think that it is a great decision if he is ready to leave and he wants to leave. The show will obviously miss him and whoever takes over that role of Head Judge needs to make it their own role. They can’t simply try to be another Len. When they take the decision to replace him, hopefully they will get the right person and the show won’t suffer that much. Having said that there will definitely be a different feeling.
Is the position of Head Judge a position right for Brendan Cole?
Listen if the BBC were to entertain me and put me in the mix for Len’s position then I would be delighted to be considered. However, we will just have to wait and see if that actually happens. I would be honoured to be considered for the role of Head Judge but as I have said, we will just have to wait and see if I am in the mix or not.
You appear to have calmed down recently on the show, is that down to being a dad?
(Laughter) I would imagine so (laughter). I think that it is just age. You grow up and you become older and wiser. With being a husband and a father you have a responsibility. The worse thing in the world would be for my wife Zoe to think that what I was doing was embarrassing. So in the old days I had no other responsibilities other than to myself so you just think about yourself. And even if you did make a bit of a mess up with something it only really affects you. So as long as you are prepared to deal with the consequences that’s okay. However, my actions now reflect on other people a lot more. So I am very much mindful of that but likewise, with age you become more mature and deal with things in a different way to how you dealt with them when you were young, hot-headed and stupid. Hopefully I am now less of those three things.
How do you cope with all of the wear and tear to your body?
The best thing that you can do is to stay fit and keep looking after yourself. It is most definitely hard, there is no doubt about it. The upcoming show is a two hour show and I am on stage for an hour and forty-five minutes dancing around like a lunatic. That is tough, it is very hard on the body and every year that goes by I am sure that it is getting tougher. You simply don’t do anything that you can’t do. In the old days I would have probably tried to do things that I couldn’t do and you hurt yourself but back then your recovery time was a lot quicker. As you get older you have got to be mindful of the fact that your recovery time is a lot slower and you simply can’t do things that will permanently damage you. It’s just one of those things really, you have got to look after yourself.
Any thoughts on life after Strictly?
(Hysterical laughter) holy goodness me (laughter). No, at the moment there is not a dull moment in my life. Every minute is accounted for and it is very hard for me to think about the future but we will see what happens. You never know what is around the corner. Fifteen years ago I would not have envisaged my life turning out how it has. And likewise, who knows what next year holds for you, who knows what five years’ time holds for you. Your life changes dramatically year upon year and I am hoping that mine will keep on evolving, changing and growing.
Brendan on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me and I hope to see you here in Nottingham. Bye for now.