Joanne Clifton has a good feeling for her current musical role and but Viv Hardwick discovers something that helps the Strictly winner keep her cool

OKAY, any mention of Flashdance brings back memories of the songs Maniac and What A Feeling... and, of course, the moment a bucket of water descends on the suggestively-posed welder/dancer Alex.

Joanne Clifton bursts out laughing when asked about the splashdown scene... because she confesses to getting herself into cold water over the dance scene. “Here’s a bit of gossip. One night the water drop didn’t work and I pulled the chain and nothing happened. It was something electronic and nobody’s fault. I’m never normally a diva and live by the fact that you know where you come from.

Loading article content

“But, I did kick off a little bit and ever since I kicked off the water drop now works absolutely fine, but the water is freezing. I keep going to the crew, ‘I’m still really sorry about what I said’ but it’s no longer warm,” she says.

Fortunately, there is a lengthy dance scene and quick change beforehand, but the musical’s leading lady is hoping that her backstage crew thaws out a little before Clifton reaches Sunderland next week and York in November.

This is the second starring role tour for last year’s professional winner of Strictly Come Dancing, opposite Ore Oduba, having just toured in a revival of Thoroughly Modern Millie. “It’s not all happening too quickly, but I haven’t had a break since August last year. That’s when I went into Strictly and rehearsals for Millie started before Strictly ended and rehearsals for Flashdance started before Millie ended. Basically, I had a few days off over Christmas and I’m still going.”

She obviously has a bit of steelwelder in her somewhere and Clifton admits that it’s her guilt at any period when she seems to do nothing that drives her on. “If I have a much as three days off I start fidgeting and I can’t sit there and watch Jeremy Kyle on TV. I need to do something,” says the World Champion of Professional Ballroom and World Dance Sports Games.

She even found time for a Strictly visit to a cruise liner while taking a break from Millie. “Well, I had a week off and thought...” Clifton jokes.

Her two musical roles couldn’t be more different with Millie “being a bit ditzy, not sexy at all and awkward in trying to seduce her boss, while in Flashdance I’ve got to be a tomboy who is cool and sexy while working as a welder and stripper. The singing and speaking voices are completely different. The style of singing in more poppy while Millie is very musical theatre.”

Flashdance, based on the 1983 film starring Jennifer Beals, first became a stage show in 2008 with a 16-week West End run.

“I’ve seen the film many times and, for any girl dancer, this is a dream role. The musical is slightly different to the film and has more songs in it. So, not only do you have all the main songs like I Love Rock and Roll but all the other songs are really lovely,” says Clifton. The only problem she faces is that she can’t take the show into the West End for five weeks.

“It’s been discussed and could be, but both me and my co-star Ben (Adams) can’t do it and it will mean bringing in two different leads. I’ve signed up for something else. It’s a bit frustrating, but we don’t know yet if the show will go into the West End. My other job is another dream role over Christmas,” she explains.

In fact, the Grimsby-born dancer who spent 14 years learning her craft in Italy has been offered contracts right into July next year. One of them isn’t Strictly, although she did recently speculate about the popular TV franchise requiring a female head judge after Len Goodman’s retirement.

As a result, the choice of experienced dancer/coach Shirley Ballas seems appropriate.

“She is multiple Latin American world champion and she taught me and my brother Kevin when we were kids. She’s probably taught most professionals during her career. Shirley is a big name within the dance world and very much involved in Dancing With The Stars in the US, which involves her son and two dancers she fostered while they trained at Italia Conti. She’s perfect for the spot and can be very tough. I don’t know if she’ll be like that with beginners and the show already has Craig (Revel Horwood) to do the nasty stuff,” says Clifton.

She admits that she hadn’t heard that Ballas was being considered for Strictly. “We were a bit kept in the dark. There were a few names like Anton Du Beke and Karen Hardy and Gary Edwards put it on social media that he wanted to join the judges. So, Shirley was a real surprise,” says Clifton.

Her brother Kevin is still fighting for a Strictly No 1 spot having reached the grand final four times. Clifton thinks that celebrities like Molie King, Gemma Atkinson or Aston Merrygold look good for the 2017 title but would bet on This Morning host Ruth Langsford reaching the final.

“People seem to say every year that the list of names isn’t that well known but, to be completely honest, I didn’t know many of the celebs when I joined the show last year. Then again, I hadn’t lived in England that long. You’re bound to get that every year. I certainly didn’t know who my partner was.

“I’ve left now, so my brother has a chance. The thing is about Kev is that he always gives it 100 per cent because he absolutely loves the show. I think he always does his job well and although people felt that Susanna Reid and Kellie Bright were already good partners when he got them it was Kev who made them really good.”