Strictly Come Dancing Live at the O2 Arena

Strictly Come Dancing radiates positivity from September to December each year, bringing a little bit of sparkle to our television screens in the lead up to Christmas. A self-confessed Strictly superfan, I look forward to the launch show every September, eagerly awaiting the celebrity announcements for the upcoming season. My favourite weeks are always musicals and movies, with the musical theatre fan inside of me always wondering what songs will be chosen. Last year’s Strictly season was arguably the best yet and rather than have to wait eight months for Strictly to start again, I got to extend my 2021 Strictly experience until Sunday 13th February 2022.

Strictly Come Dancing Live programme at London's O2 Arena

My mother-in-law was given a pair of Strictly Come Dancing Live tickets for Christmas in 2020 and much to my delight, she asked me to go with her. With the talk of continued pandemic restrictions last year, the tour was arranged for Winter 2022 in the hope that things might be a bit more normal twelve months further on. Omicron fortunately didn’t get in the way of these plans, with us finally heading to the O2 in mid-February. We had such a wonderful time watching the tour that I couldn’t wait to share the experience on my blog. From the tour format to my highlights from the day, today’s piece is an overview of my 2022 Strictly Come Dancing Live experience. As I publish this article, I am saddened to hear about the damages to the O2 Arena roof following Storm Eunice. I hope the venue is back on its feet very soon!

The show format

The 2022 Strictly tour followed a competition format, with each couple performing two dances from their time on the television programme to an arena audience and the judges. At three hours in length including an interval, the show was filled with fourteen celebrity partnership dances and a few professional group numbers from the 2021 series. The panel each scored the couples out of ten, but these scores were for guidance only. It was down to the audience to text in and vote for their favourites, with the winner of each tour performance taking home the Strictly glitter ball. It Takes Two presenter Janette Manrara was responsible for the presenting duties: interviewing the couples and asking the judges what they thought of each dance.

Strictly Come Dancing Live finale featuring Janette Manrara

Celebrities and professionals

The celebrity line-up for Strictly Come Dancing Live featured finalists Rose Ayling-Ellis and John Whaite, along with semi finalist Rhys Stephenson and final eight competitors Sara Davies and Tilly Ramsay. With AJ Odudu injured and unable to head out on tour, 2020 finalist Maisie Smith joined the cast at the last minute, dancing with AJ’s partner Kai Widderington. The final place was filled by The Wanted’s Max George (also class of 2020), who was partnered with Katya Jones in the absence of Dianne Buswell. Several other professionals from the TV series joined them on tour, performing in the group numbers and providing back up for some of the celebrity routines. These dancers included Amy Dowden, Nadiya Bychkova and Neil Jones to name a few.

Strictly Come Dancing Live opening sequence

Venue transformation

In order to recreate the memorable television set, the O2 Arena had been completely transformed for the Strictly tour. The floor seating had been replaced with a long dance floor, with the permanent level one and four seating overlooking the floor. The judges were positioned on the main stage in front of the band and could be clearly seen wherever you were sitting in the arena.

Strictly Come Dancing Live stage at the O2 Arena

Venue experience

Everything is digital at the O2 now, with our Strictly tickets being downloaded to the O2 Arena mobile app. Upon arrival in London, we decided to head straight to a restaurant for a pre-show meal. This ended up being a great decision as once you pass through bag check, there aren’t many refreshment options. Every restaurant inside the complex was busy and with the show starting at 01:30pm, we opted for Five Guys knowing that the burgers would be prepared in minutes. On a future O2 Arena visit, if you want to pause for a bite to eat at a table service restaurant, I’d recommend getting to the venue at least three hours before the start time of your performance. You will more than likely have to queue for a table and wait for service, so it is better to allocate extra time.

Once we’d eaten, we headed to entrance ‘B’ and got through security relatively quickly. Finding our seats was a very smooth process and this was largely down to the bold seating block signs. The row K seats on level one were absolutely incredible. We had such a clear view of the dance floor, that I didn’t need to wear my glasses. The entire performance was signed by a British Sign Language interpreter and this was lovely to see. Strictly has done wonders for representation within the past six months. Overall we had a fantastic experience at the O2, getting to watch our beloved Strictly live on stage.

Strictly Come Dancing Live souvenir score paddle

Merchandise

We were thrilled to see merchandise stalls inside the arena. My mother-in-law and I picked up a set of three Strictly tour magnets for £5.00 and a pair of souvenir ‘10’ score paddles for the same price. The souvenir programmes were a pricey £15.00 each, but they were full of interesting cast interviews that we could read at home after the show and as Strictly superfans, we simply could not leave the venue without one.

Tour highlights

It goes without saying that the entire production was spectacular from start to finish, largely thanks to tour director Craig Revel-Horwood, choreographer Jason Gilkison and the team of professional dancers. However there were a few specific highlights of the tour for me. My favourite moment was getting to see John Whaite and Johannes Radebe perform their Pirates of the Caribbean-themed Paso Doble from the 2021 series. I adore Hans Zimmer’s musical scores and the dramatic style of the Spanish-origin dance worked so well with the tense theme music. It was also wonderful to see 2021 champions Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice dance. Their couple’s choice with the silent segment was even more powerful in person. Rose has been a brilliant voice for the deaf community during her time on Strictly.

Strictly Come Dancing Live group dance

Final thoughts

The 2022 Strictly Come Dancing live tour was absolutely phenomenal with its fabulous dancing, ultra-talented live band and its ability to bring joy to people’s lives. The general feeling at the O2 Arena was nothing short of pure elation; Strictly Come Dancing is the ultimate feel-good entertainment brand. It was also wonderful to be back at a large event for the first time since the pandemic started, with thousands of people in attendance. Besides theatrical performances, it is definitely the most ‘normal’ event that I have been to in the past two years. I feel very grateful to my mother-in-law for the opportunity to see the celebrities and professional dancers perform live. We had such a great day together! After my first Strictly tour experience, I’d love to head back next year.

Are you a fan of Strictly Come Dancing? Have you ever been to see the tour?

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

Tags:
#theatre

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