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Profile - Arlene Phillips

Arlene Phillips

Arlene Phillips first came to the attention of the British public when she created the dance group Hot Gossip. Her choreography has been seen in theatre, feature films, concert arenas, TV, music videos and commercials.

Arlene appeared as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing and Strictly Dance Fever and she collaborated with Bruno Tonioli to create Dance X and Dance War. She recently created a new musical drama, Britannia High, for ITV and appeared on Sky TV's Grease: The School Musical.

Theatre choreography – Flashdance, The Sound Of Music, Grease, We Will Rock You, Saturday Night Fever, Starlight Express, Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar (US tours), EFX at the MGM Grand Matador, Time, A Clockwork Orange (RSC).

Arena and concert – British entry Eurovision Song Contest 2009, Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Michael Flatley's Lord Of The Dance, The James Bond Gala, Midsummer Classics at the Royal Albert Hall, The Bratz UK Arena Tour, Black Goes With Everything, An Evening With Gedeminas Tarandas (Bolshoi Ballet).

Ceremonies – Director of Choreography for the Manchester XVII Commonwealth Games, Staging of Sarah Brightman and Jose Carreras in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games Official Theme, Amigos Para Sempre.

Film choreography – Arlene has worked with many notable directors: John Huston (Annie); Ridley Scott (Legend) starring Tom Cruise; Clint Eastwood (White Hunter, Black Heart); Ken Russell (Salome's Last Dance); and Terry Jones (Monty Python's Meaning of Life). She has worked with The Village People (Can't Stop The Music) and The Pet Shop Boys (It Couldn't Happen Here).

Television credits – include Ken Russell's The ABC Of Music, The Benny Hill Show, The Hot Shoe Show, the US syndicated Dancin' To The Hits, The Kenny Everett Video Show featuring dance group Hot Gossip with Sarah Brightman, Peak Practice, Blue Peter, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa & Friends, Lesley Garrett – A Night At The Opera and An Evening With Michael Ball, The Brit Awards, The Royal Variety Show, The Prince's Trust, BBC Children In Need, Party In The Park and the legendary Party At The Palace. In 2006 Arlene was commissioned by Mattel to create a children's dance DVD.

Music videos – AC/DC, The Bee Gees, Duran Duran, Erasure, Aretha Franklin, Boy George, Whitney Houston, Joan Jett, Elton John, Kiss, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Queen, Cliff Richard, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Robbie Williams. Arlene has choreographed more than 100 TV commercials in the UK and America including, 7-up, American Express, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Levi Jeans, Vidal Sasoon and Yellow Pages.

Theatre award nominations – include a Tony, two Oliviers, a National Broadway and a FANY. Awards include an MTV, a Drama Desk, a Bafta, and an Emmy for best choreography. In the 2002 New Year's Honours List Arlene was awarded an OBE for Services to Dance and in 2004 a Companionship Award from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, for her contribution to dance, presented by Sir Paul McCartney.

How do you feel about starting on a new dancing show after so long in Strictly?

During my time on Strictly I was involved in two other dance shows – Strictly Dance Fever and Dance X, so it's business as usual.

What is your history with Nigel? Is it true you used to dance together?

I have known Nigel for many years. We both did jazz dance classes together and both auditioned for The Young Generation. He got the job, I didn't.

How do you feel about working with him again after all these years?

I can't wait to spar with Nigel on the judging panel.

He's got a reputation for being Nasty Nigel – will you be as tough? What kind of judge do you see yourself as being on this show?

Nigel and I were taught to dance by disciplinarians, so we're both tough, however, I am also kind, caring and passionate, so I'll bring all of those things to the judging panel.

What's the best and worst kind of audition?

The best auditionees focus, listen and give everything they have first time as there are no second chances. The worst are sloppy and over confident without the ability to back it up. I had one auditionee telling me I knew nothing about the choreography for Saturday Night Fever.

The show is a huge success in the States and around the world – what do you think it is about the programme that people love?

I think people love to watch dance and how, with good teaching, the improvement can be remarkable. Also, it gives the audience an understanding of how the training for ballet is so different to hip-hop and how difficult it is to move the body in a different style.

Did you find it boring sitting through the endless rounds of auditions?

I never get bored in auditions. I'm always waiting to discover 'The One'.

What do you expect from UK dancers?

UK dancers provide an interesting mix. Irish dancers are extremely rhythmical but often unable to use their arms, while those trained in Highland dance have extraordinary footwork and beautiful feet but are often unable to broaden out. However, Michael Clark, one of the UK's best and most-loved dancers and choreographers started off as a Highland dancer. Throughout the UK, dance schools are creating extraordinary classical, musical theatre and contemporary dancers and all over the country street dancers are inventing themselves, I hope we get to see them all.

Do dancers have to be professionals/trained?

I hope we are going to get a lot of professional dancers at the auditions as so few dancers in the UK ever get the chance to be seen as anything but a chorus. However, it's also exciting to discover some of the amazing undiscovered and raw talent that is around right now.

What kind of talent can we really expect from people who've never trained? Can an untrained dancer really get a spot in the competition?

A dancer who is completely untrained would find it hard to compete against a seasoned professional, but a dancer who is self-trained, as so many of the best hip-hop, breakers and street dancers are, would be a great asset to this programme and would have moves many of the professionals couldn't compete with.

If you were a working dancer would you be auditioning?

The chance to go to Hollywood and have their dancing seen by directors, producers and top choreographers is a golden opportunity to open doors to an amazing career, as well as the prize of £100,000.


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Arlene Phillips Biography

Joining Nigel Lythgoe on the judges' panel is award–winning choreographer Arlene Phillips. No one knows more about dance and her work spans a range of musical, stage and screen credits.