Over seven years Natalie Lowe built up a popular following as one of the professional dancers on the BBC’s seemingly unstoppable ratings smash Strictly Come Dancing. But in May this year she announced she was leaving.
And although she never got to lift the winners’ Glitterball Trophy with any of her celebrity partners, she is now back with a new show touring the UK, co-starring a brace of former winners – Olympic gymnast Louis Smith and The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness in an all-singing-and-dancing love-letter to the 1950s, Rip It Up.
Speaking ahead of the tour, Natalie described how long they would be taking to get the show nailed down: ‘Just over a month, which is normal. That said, if you give yourself six months it will take six months - and if you give yourself two weeks it will take two weeks.
‘I am so excited because I know we are working with such amazing talent. The music is so inspiring that I am chomping at the bit for the tour to start now.’
The show is produced by the same team behind Remembering Fred, a tribute to Fred Astaire featuring her former professional Strictly colleagues Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara. This new show features not only the dancing but also songs from the 1950s – with singing from Jay and even a little bit from Louis. But having a chance to celebrate the era was the main draw for the four-time Australian ballroom dance champion.
‘It was a no-brainer to go into this show because of what it was about. I just heard “1950s” and was sold on the idea!
‘I have always wanted to relive the 1950s because that’s what music I was brought up listening to. It’s the music we played in the car when my Mum and Dad used to drive me to Australian dance championships, so I think I must have been brainwashed with that music somehow,’ she laughs.
‘I generally love everything about that era – the cars, the music, the style. For some reason everything about it resonates within me. I wished I had lived through it as a teenager.’
And she’s looking forward to hitting the stage with her co-stars.
‘It was great news when I heard Jay and Louis were in. I initially said no to singing as well as dancing, but for Louis and Jay it feels really natural, passionate even. Louis is constantly singing that style of music, which surprised me. They are amazing talents, along with Leo Green and his band from Radio 2, who are performing the show’s live music each night.’
When asked if she’s singing though, she laughs: ‘No, never. I want people to keep watching the show, after all! I had singing lessons when I was five and my singing teacher said “Okay, you need to just stick to your dance”. I was thinking: “Surely I can learn?”, but when I mentioned this to her she said: “No, you are pretty much tone deaf”!’
But that little girl had no idea that dancing would become her life.
‘I can’t believe where my career has taken me, so I couldn’t have believed in a million years that I’d be living in the UK, performing on the best TV show in the world and now about to hit London Palladium and the rest of the UK with Rip It Up.’
The tour will take Natalie up to the end of October, but she already has big plans beyond that.
‘I’m producing my own show at the end of the year, as well as starting two or three of my own companies, all off the back of being a ballroom dancer. I just can’t believe that, and I am so grateful. It is such a beautiful world to be a part of because you do really touch people’s lives. I have to pinch myself every day.’
Since appearing in Strictly Natalie has had to get used to how others see her – and while flattered, it’s not what she expected.
‘I am often told how much of a role model I have become. Women respect me and look up to me, yet I think “I’m just dancing”. It’s really lovely and I would never have thought it could happen. I started dancing when I was three, my first try-out was at five and I found the perfect dance partner.
‘It was just a freakish thing. It all fell into place at the right time and with the right partner. I then started representing Australia when I was eight-years-old in Taiwan and my momentum and love for the sport kept going and going, so I never wanted to give up. Mind you, I’ve had to work hard.
‘It wasn’t easy, as I missed out on a lot of family and friends-related things while I was growing up. I learnt to live in my own bubble in order to live the dream. I think you’ve got to do that if you want to be successful. Whatever it is you do, you have to prioritise that. It paid off for me.’
Although she said at the time the decision to leave Strictly was done ‘with a very heavy heart,’ she has no regrets: ‘I knew in my heart I had so much more to give in other areas, not only in dance, but in health, beauty and image, and helping young girls better themselves.
‘I feel like I can’t do that while I am on a show teaching a celebrity how to dance for 12 weeks of the year.
‘That’s my main reason for leaving – to become a choreographer and get excited about shows and developing other projects. It’s the right decision at the right time for me.’
n Rip It Up is at Portsmouth Guildhall on Tuesday, September 26. Doors open 7pm. Tickets £22.84 - £40.20/VIP £85. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk