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Strictly Speaking Brendan

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 09:02 AM PST

Love him or hate him, Brendan Cole's out-spoken nature has got him far. Melissa Blease speaks to the Marmite man ahead of his new show coming to the south west

If we were to compare the most popular Strictly Come Dancing professionals to our favourite traditional British food (bear with me here, please), then Anton Du Beke is Angel Delight, Kevin Clifton is fish and chips and Brendan Cole is Marmite: tantalisingly controversial; adored and denounced in equal measure.

Brendan is as unafraid of fighting back when the judges get snarky as he is regarding illegal lifts. He'll put the tease into the Tango, the wonder into the Waltz and the sensuality into the Salsa as he dances his way up and down the leader board with grace, attitude and style.

And very soon, the bad boy of Strictly will cha-cha-cha his way to Bath (February) and Bristol (March) with his brand new show All Night Long.

New Zealand-born Brendan has been a Strictly stalwart since the first series back in 2004, when he and his first dance partner Natasha Kaplinsky waltzed off with the glitterball trophy.

Image: Shane Finn

In his pre-Strictly days, his professional career revolved around the professional ballroom and Latin American dance scene (he was ranked within the top 12 professional dancers in the world). Becoming World Champion was always his goal.

But when the BBC approached him to participate in Strictly Come Dancing his life took a new route; he and Anton Du Beke are the only two professional Strictly dancers to have competed in every series since it first began.

And yet Brendan isn't the kind of guy to put his dancing shoes away in a box inbetween series – far from it. His new live stage show follows on from his previous three hugely successful stage shows Live & Unjudged, Licence to Thrill and A Night to Remember, and marks his ninth nationwide tour of the UK.

Does Brendan ever take a break? Apparently not. "I love what I do, and in work terms, I'm a bit of a lunatic," he says. "I don't like sitting still for a second. I love being busy, I love pressure, and I have a very strong desire to succeed in everything I do. Having said that, although I don't need that much time off for myself, family is my main priority; my daughter turned five on Christmas Day, and every moment I spend with her and my wife Zoe is very special to me, so I work very hard to make that time happen too."

Meanwhile, he's certainly been working hard on putting this year's tour together as well. "You can expect a full-on night of entertainment from All Night Long."

"There will, of course, be everything people know and love from Strictly in the mix, because Strictly has a unique magic about it, and I've aimed to recreate that magic on stage. But there's a little bit more of something for everybody in it, and there's an emotional side to it, too.

"For me, dancing is very emotional. While I've put together a big show that goes at 100 miles an hour for two hours, I like to take people's feelings on a rollercoaster as well: one minute you'll be up partying and dancing in the aisles, the next you’ll be stunned by something really beautiful. You most definitely will not be seeing the same type of dances over and over again."

“If a young boy gets a bit of stick from his mates for wanting to dance, then take that stick and use it to drive yourself to be even better at what you're doing – that's exactly what I did”

But if Brendan could choose just one dance to do over and over again, he has a clear favourite. "The Waltz has an emotional edge that really connects with a live audience, and the Waltz we do in the show is a really powerful piece of theatre. We've chosen a Michael Bublé track called At This Moment to accompany it, and it tells the story of an affair. The Waltz is usually a love story: romantic, and poetic. But because of the story behind ours, there's an edge in the mix too.

"I can feel the audience coming on the journey of the story with me as I dance, and by the time it's finished, we've all been carried off somewhere else, watching a tale unfold before our eyes.

"The high energy moments are really special as well, though. We do an extremely passionate Argentinian Tango, and a dramatic, forceful Pasa Double that literally brings flames to the stage. Every dance takes the audience in a different direction, but yes, I love the Waltz."

While it might be easy to think that busy Brendan hasn't got much time to reflect on his own personal journey to becoming the hugely successful dancer that his is today, his dancing feet remain very firmly on the ground when it comes to considering how the next generation might follow in his footsteps.

Dancing from the age of six, he says he wasn't so much bullied during his school years but certainly teased on occasion, which fuelled his feisty nature and pushed him to be the best he could be at everything he did.

"Every situation is very different for every child, and the fulfilment of early ambitions depends so much on opportunities, inspiration, support and ambition," he says. "If a young boy gets a bit of stick from his mates for wanting to dance, then take that stick and use it to drive yourself to be even better at what you're doing – that's exactly what I did.

"I'm not saying it was easy, but as you'll know from Strictly, if somebody tells me I can't do something, I do it. I'm aware that not everyone's as bloody-minded as I am, and whatever age you are, negative people will always try and get to you.

"But with the right energy around you, those people disappear eventually. It's hard at the time, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Do what you want to do because you want to do it."

But if such a philosophy makes Brendan sound like a very determined man with a plan, he begs to differ. "I wish I had a bloody plan!" he says, laughing. "I just work with what life gives me, but I work incredibly hard too and I certainly don’t plan to stop any time soon."

And what about all those rumours at the end of the most recent Strictly series. Was that last speech really a farewell? "They were comments I made about ending that particular series," he firmly proclaims. "Every year I'm contracted by Strictly Come Dancing. If they want me back, which I hope they do, and if I want to be back, which I hope I do, then I'll be back being a pain in the arse to everybody next year.

"I love being part of one of the biggest shows in TV history. I have my own touring theatre production. I have a wonderful family, and a wonderfully interesting life. Nothing lasts forever, but I'll just keep going the way I do for as long as I can."

And all around the UK this spring, Brendan will be doing it the way he does All Night Long.

All Night Long will visit the Theatre Royal Bath on Sunday 4 February and the Bristol Hippodrome on Sunday 11 March. For tickets, visit: theatreroyal.org.uk and atgtickets.com/bristol.

Featured image: Shane Finn

The post Strictly Speaking Brendan appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

Bake Off Crème de la Crème winner visits Bath College

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 07:19 AM PST

Hospitality and catering students learnt how to make sweet treats from an award-winning chocolatier and pastry chef during employability week.

Mark Tilling, winner of BBC Two's Bake Off Crème de la Crème, was invited to Bath College to demonstrate the precise art of chocolate making. Students learnt how to melt and temper chocolate, and how to create marbled lollipops, stamped medallions and customised shapes during a three-hour session.

Second year student Amy Benfield works as a pastry chef at the Peppermill Hotel in Devizes, Wiltshire, and plans to specialise in this area. She said: "Pastry is quite creative and I'm a creative person. It was nice to meet Mark who is a specialist in chocolate and passionate about it. It's inspiring to be able to speak to someone at that level."

Experts in the hospitality and catering industry volunteer their time to give students at Bath College an insight into their profession for employability week every January. The college's hospitality and catering department also works with local chefs throughout the year as part of the Bath Hotel and Restaurant School.

On 18 January, students will work with professionals from the Pig near Bath to prepare a three-course meal at the Shrubbery Restaurant. Tickets are available for members of the public. This year, activities for employability week included bread making, cocktail making, wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, and mock interviews with employers.

During the mock interviews, students had the chance to network with professionals form the Bath Pub Company, Apex Hotels and Woods Restaurant. They enjoyed workshops with the Billingsgate Seafood School, Richard Bertinet, from The Bertinet Kitchen, Gary Rosser, from the Scallop Shell and Chris Cleghorn and Claire Wilkins, from the Olive Tree Restaurant.

Mark Tilling has worked as a pâtissier for over 25 years. He started his career at 16-years-old studying at college and working part-time at a nearby hotel. In 2008 he won the title of UK Chocolate Master, progressing to 7th in the World Chocolate Masters Final in Paris a year later. He said: "I always think it's important to teach the next generation, to come into college and show the students what we do."

"They are the ones who will carry the industry into the future, and hopefully they will pass on their skills when they look back and realise how useful these experiences were for them."

"I was at their level early in my career and we didn't have people coming into college to visit. They are so lucky to have these different companies and chefs come in to inspire them. You never know, we might have the next chocolatier of master chef in the room."

Ryan Hanson, Deputy Head of Hospitality and Catering at Bath College, said: "Employability is very important for our department and it's something we focus on throughout the year."

"We find giving our student access to these inspiring masterclasses, workshops and experiences throughout their time with us is invaluable to their development."

"It's something we work hard to deliver. We're always looking to engage with industry and are so thankful for the experts that continue to support our students."

For details of catering events and to book a meal at Bath College's Shrubbery Restaurant visit: bathcollege.ac.uk

The post Bake Off Crème de la Crème winner visits Bath College appeared first on The Bath Magazine.