Robin Windsor is Puttin’ On The Ritz with his best foot forward

THEY’RE going all smoothie and ballroom at the Gaiety next month, when the glittering touring production of Puttin’ On The Ritz hits the stage in all its glory.

Featuring the music of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, this is the one with classics from the golden age of Hollywood, like ‘Cheek to Cheek’, ‘Swanee’ and ‘Night and Day’, as well as, of course, the title number. One of its stars is Robin Windsor, the dance professional who became the pin-up of countless thousands after his appearances on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show, partnering well known actresses.

Windsor started early, beginning his training in ballroom and Latin dance at the age of three. Eventually he represented England, collecting numerous world championships. By his 21st birthday, he was performing with Burn the Floor, where he worked for nine years, including two world tours and even Broadway.

Dancing with the Stars Australia and So You Think You Can Dance in Holland followed, before he joined the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2010. That first year he was partnered with Patsy Kensit, the next, Anita Dobson, and in 2012, Lisa Riley, with whom he reached the semi-final.

A crippling back injury the following year could have spelt disaster, but against all the odds, Robin Windsor fought through and is now in full health and delighting audiences everywhere on tour with his superb showmanship and skill in Puttin’ On The Ritz.

Most of us want to know what was it like working with famous actresses on a daily basis. Is it difficult getting to know them? And how do you cope with being a top professional matched with someone who isn’t even a dancer?

“I hadn’t known any celebrities before that, and for about the first week I kept thinking, gosh I’m dancing with Patsy Kensit! But they’re really ordinary nice people and they work so hard. Strictly was probably the most rewarding job I’ve ever had because you get to see their growth and what you’ve taught them.”

At the beginning, he reveals, every celebrity finds it very strenuous and demanding.

“They have blisters, aching arms and legs, everything. Even the fittest sports stars are in agony because they’re using muscles they aren’t accustomed to using. Once they learn and put in the practice it doesn’t hurt so much.”

One of the biggest things his partners notice, he says, is the weight loss. “Both Patsy and Anita went down a couple of dress sizes!”

He remembers Lisa Reilly saying from day one that she could do the splits and then reminding him several times. “Finally I said OK then, let me see, and she admitted that she could only do them once during a routine. “We went for it. It was the biggest risk I ever took, but I think the adrenalin made it happen!”

He is absolutely loving this tour with Puttin’ On The Ritz. “Apart from recreating that great age of ballroom performance, I get a great kick out of watching the tap dancing. I never studied it, but it’s so wonderful to watch the experts. I love to sit in the wings and watch the incredible finale which is a 5½-minute tap marathon.”

Then he lets me into a secret. “I admired it so much, I’ve been learning it on the quiet. The director said if I could get it perfect, I might get the chance to do it in Dublin. So you might see me come on for that! It would be a huge moment for me.”

Puttin’ on the Ritz, Gaiety, Dublin, Nov 2-7


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