SHIRLEY Ballas, the head judge on Strictly Come Dancing, is showing her moves on the stage at Darlington Hippodrome. "Not bad for nearly sixty," she jokes. It really isn't.

Fans of dance will love this panto. The magic moment - breathtakingly skilful while also incredibly funny – is a 'dance-off' between Mother Earth (Ballas), Jack (Britain's got Talent 2008 winner George Sampson) and Simple Simon, played by comedian Phil Walker.

Ballas' and Sampson's moves would be impressive enough, but to intersperse it with Walker's dad dancing was a genius move. It's the stand-out scene of the show, along with Sampson's recreation of his BGT-winning dance, a modern take on Singin' in the Rain. Another dance left the audience gasping as he span on his head.

The Darlington Hippodrome panto never disappoints in terms of humour and panto magic. Walker is excellent, with his panto-perfect jokes, facial expressions, and impressive tongue-twisters.

Sampson is a great all-rounder in terms of singing, dancing and acting, and Ballas, while perhaps not the most natural actress, is forgiven because she looks like she's having enormous fun, and for 'nearly sixty', she can crack some great moves. Iain Stuart Robertson's Dame Trot is everything a pantomime dame should be, and the cast gel together well.

Dance is the focus in this panto, perhaps at the expense of some of the musical numbers, some of which were not as spine-tingling as in recent years at Darlington, although not through any lack of talent on behalf of the performers.

The show as a whole is better in the second half and was a little slow to get moving, but other than that, it's a great, festive night out.

Julia Breen