Actress Anita Dobson tells Roz Laws how a stint on Strictly has opened up a new world of possibilities.
As she glides across the floor in a gorgeous gown, in the arms of a handsome man, she looks the picture of elegance.
It’s no wonder that Anita Dobson feels as excited as Cinderella when told she can go to the ball.
The only problem the actress has now is finding a new Prince Charming.
The former EastEnder is thrilled that she has been taught to quickstep and tango thanks to her stint in Strictly Come Dancing.
But she is finding it hard to carry it on because her husband, Queen guitarist Brian May, refuses to whisk her across the dancefloor.
“He can waltz a little bit, but he doesn’t really want to,” sighs Anita,
“I’d come home from training and do a move in the kitchen, saying ‘Look at this’. He looked at me blankly and said ‘I don’t understand it at all’.
“He’s an intellectual, who loves books, debates and science. I’m a much more basic animal – I love singing, dancing, food and people. I just make the tea in our house!
“It has been very kind of Brian to let me indulge in my fantasy. But if I want to keep on dancing, I have to have a partner and sadly I haven’t got one.”
Fortunately for Anita, she will get one more chance to dance, when she embarks on the Strictly live tour which kicks off at Birmingham’s NIA on January 20.
She will dance alongside champion Harry Judd, plus runners-up Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan, and Nancy Dell’Olio and Robbie Savage, as well as 2008 competitor Mark Foster.
They will be judged by Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood, but it is the audience who decides who wins by text voting every night.
Anita will rejoin professional Robin Windsor, who was not by her side when she was voted off the TV show at the end of November. He had a foot infection so Brendan Cole stepped in for their cha cha cha.
Anita says: “The most disappointing thing was being voted off without Robin. That was hard. I could tell he was so upset that he wasn’t there, and I would have liked to have done my last dance with Robin.
“The one consolation was that I knew I would dance with him again on the tour.”
Anita surprised everyone by tackling the dances with such gusto and sprightliness at the age of 62. While younger dancers like Holly Valance and Alex Jones complained of injuries and fatigue, the award-winning actress seemed to sail through the contest.
“I’m no stranger to hard work,” she says. “And I liked having that kind of physical exercise every day. The idea of standing on a treadmill – I don’t get it. But dancing brings you joy.
“I took good care of myself. After training I went home to soak in a hot bath and went to bed. You can’t go out and party as well at my age.
“I’d be sure to stretch and warm up properly in the morning. I ate properly and I slept like a log.”
So did Anita keep any Strictly souvenirs?
“I’ve kept my red glittery shoes that I wore for my Argentine Tango,” she reveals. “Robin calls them my magic shoes, because when we reduced the heel height by half an inch I could do the spins so much better.
“I love them and will keep them forever. They are quite battered now, but it makes me quite emotional just talking about it!
“I also kept two glittery bangles I wore for the salsa.
“Sadly we’re not allowed to keep the dresses, they are put back into the pot to be revamped or are sold to the professional dancers.
“Brian did actually want to buy one for me, but I thought ‘Where would I wear it?’. It would just sit in my wardrobe.
“I have my memories of dancing in those dresses, and that’s all that matters.”
And Anita’s dream job for 2012?
“If someone could write me a TV drama series where I get to ballroom dance,” she smiles.
But failing that, she does get to be transported back to the golden age of Hollywood for her stage play Bette And Joan.
She plays screen legend Joan Crawford alongside Greta Scacchi as Bette Davis, in a comedy which began life in the West End last spring and now goes on a short national tour, which includes Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre in May.
It exposes the long-running feud that developed between the actresses and came to a head during the filming of their 1962 film Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?.
“With this and the Strictly tour, it means I will be away from home quite a lot next year, but I couldn’t resist,” confides Anita.
“I created the role in Bette and Joan and it seemed foolish not to follow that particular dream as far as it takes me.
“I watched all those Sunday afternoon matinees as a kid. I cried, laughed and danced around the living room – badly – with my dad. They brought me such joy.
“I vividly remember watching Joan in Mildred Pierce, so to be playing her on stage is a great gift.”
* The Strictly Come Dancing live tour includes five shows at Birmingham’s NIA from January 20-22. For tickets ring 0844 338 8000 or go to www.strictlycomedancinglive.com