Strictly dance star Johannes Radebe finds Freedom at last in debut solo tour show

FREEDOM. What better title could South African dancer and ground-breaking Strictly Come Dancing star Johannes Radebe give his debut British tour.

“It is the freedom to dance to my own tune for the first time,” says 34-year-old Johannes, ahead of his itinerary opening with a Yorkshire show at Bridlington Spa on Wednesday (16/3/2022) before playing the Grand Opera House, York, on April 12.

“I’ve danced in many productions around the world but I’ve never been able to capture on stage where I came from, and I never thought I’d be able to go on my own tour, so it’s a very welcome surprise.”

Radebe (pronounced Ra-dee-bay) was catapulted to new heights of popularity by bonding so exhilaratingly with 2012’s The Great British Bake Off winner and TV chef John Waite as the first all-male couple in 2021’s series of Strictly, pipped for the Glitterball by first deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis and professional partner Giovanni Pernice.

“It was liberating and healing as well,” says Johannes. “I’ve got a better relationship with my mum now, as we can talk about my sexual orientation – and people’s lives have changed for the better too.

“In a world where two men still can’t be free to be  together, I hope to be able to educate the masses, and if people had a glimpse of that with me and John dancing together, then they can think about it.”

Such was the appeal and dancing brio of both partnerships, each marking a first for Strictly, that many would have loved them to have been declared first equal. “I’m with you!” says Johannes, bursting into laughter. “John kept saying, ‘it’s fine if we don’t win’, and yes, it is s fine! At the finale, we both stood there as couples thinking ‘it’s fine’. That’s the friendship that comes through the show.”

After touring the world in Burn The Floor, Joahannes was head-hunted to join the Strictly professionals for the 2018 series, first moving to Britain that year. In his second season, when partnering Catherine Tyldesley in 2019, he danced the first same-sex routine with fellow Strictly pro Graziano Di Prima.

The tour poster for Johannes Radebe’s Freedom show

Last year was to be even more significant. “My decision to finally dance with another man in the competition came about after I lost a friend of mine within our community. He was murdered, and the last words that were uttered to him by his killer was that he was a ‘faggot’,” says Johannes.

He paused, consumed again by the pain of what his friend had suffered, then said: “I get a moment to highlight it in the show. This is something that needs to be done, to give it that platform, and it’s important to keep being flamboyant – but that does require bravery.”

Freedom marks Johannes’s return to the Grand Opera House for the first time since sharing the York stage with Strictly alumni Kevin Clifton and Graziano Di Prima in Burn The Floor in July 2019.

On tour from March 16 to May 1, Johannes Radebe: Freedom is billed as “a celebration of music and dance, from African fusion to fiery Latin, from classic dance arrangements to huge party anthems”, as Radebe and his dancers take the audience on his personal journey, from starting to dance at seven to leaving South Africa at 21 to travel the world, winning international titles and electrifying Strictly Come Dancing.

Now he will be expressing himself to the full in Freedom. “I’ve been on a quest to find Black dancers in this country that are versed in all dance styles, but not many of them are ballroom dancers, whereas where I come from everyone can do the Cha-cha-cha,” says Johannes.

“I’ve chosen everyone through auditions. I had to be in the room to feel their energy, to see if they move me as a dancer, so I’ve found beautiful, individual dancers, which will make it feel a different show.

“It’s a show designed to be representing everyone, and it will be so beautiful to have audiences that support our artform – and I know we have that privilege because of the Strictly audience.”

Johannes has a theory as to why dance and TV audiences feel such a strong connection with him. “It’s because I have no inhibitions. I know that I come alive when I dance. Something takes over. It’s a feeling as an artist that I can’t explain but people connect with it,” he says.

In a nutshell, Freedom. “Absolutely! Nothing is going to stop me. It’s about the joy that my dancing has brought to my mother. Nothing was more important to me than to see my mum be happy when often she would be sad,” says Johannes.

“I was only a child and so I didn’t understand the magnitude of it when she carried me on her back, telling everyone I’d got a prize in a dance competition. She was so proud, even though it wasn’t first place. But that’s the thing. That talent was nurtured from a young age, and though my mum couldn’t support it financially, everyone else contributed.”

Johannes Radebe’s pathway to Freedom was set in perpetual motion, and hopefully another Strictly series awaits too. “We haven’t had the phone-calls yet, but I’ll gladly do it for as long as they will have me,” he says.

Might he look to do another all-male coupling? “Well, you never now. I’m just glad to have kicked down that door.”

Johannes Radebe: Freedom, Bridlington Spa, Wednesday, 7.30pm; Grand Opera House, York, April 12, 7.30pm. Box office: Bridlington, 01262 678258 or bridspa.com; York, 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York. Further Yorkshire performances: Sheffield City Hall, April 3, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; Bradford St George’s Hall, April 9, bradford-theatres.co.uk; Hull City Hall, April 23, 01482 300306 or hulltheatres.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Kevin Clifton to turn up the heat again in Burn The Floor at Grand Opera House

Kevin Clifton in Burn The Floor, returning to the Grand Opera House next January

STRICTLY champ Kevin Clifton will return to the Grand Opera House, York, in the hot hit ballroom dance show Burn The Floor on January 21 2022.

“Kevin from Grimsby”, who left BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing professional roster after seven seasons at the end of 2019, last scorched the Opera House boards in May 2019.

After announcing his Strictly exit to make a full-time move into the world of musical theatre, he was set to play there too on the 2020/2021 UK and Ireland tour of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, directed by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, but the Covid pandemic put paid to the York run from November 23 to 28.

Clifton should have been on tour from September 26 2020 to June 26 2021 in his “dream role” of Scott Hastings, having been inspired by watching Luhrmann’s 1992 Australian film at the age of ten.

Dream role: Kevin Clifton should have played Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical but the pandemic put a stop to the 2020-2021 tour

He is thrilled to be rejoining his “dance family” once again for next January and February’s tour of Burn The Floor, a show with a “mix of eclectic live music, jaw-dropping choreography and ground-breaking moves, performed by an international ballroom dance company with an abundance of infectious, rebellious energy and passion”.

Clifton, 38, enthuses: Burn The Floor is the show that ignited a spark in me and changed me forever as a performer. Through Broadway, West End and touring all over the world, this show has ripped apart the rule book, revolutionised our genre and inspired and shaped me as the dancer I am today.”

Billed as a “fiery, energetic and revolutionary ballroom production”, Burn The Floor has been packing a punch for more than two decades with its combination of Tango, Waltz and Rhumba routines.

In the heat of the moment: Kevin Clifton with the Burn The Floor company of international ballroom dancers

The 2022 tour has been rescheduled from spring last year, when it was only a week away from opening until Lockdown 1 cast theatres into darkness.

Clifton joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, performing in the final five times, missing out only in 2017 and 2019, and was crowned Strictly champion in 2018 with celebrity partner Stacey Dooley, the BBC documentary filmmaker, presenter and journalist.

A former youth world number one and four-time British Latin Champion, Clifton has won international open titles all over the world. After making his West End musical theatre debut in 2010 in Dirty Dancing, he starred as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer at Wembley Troubadour Park Theatre and as rock demigod Stacie Jaxx in the satirical Eighties’ poodle-rock musical Rock Of Ages in the West End, a role that also brought him to Leeds Grand Theatre in August 2019.

Tickets for Burn The Floor are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york.