Gemma’s hoping for a little extra support on ‘home turf’

Gemma Atkinson with  her Strictly 2017 dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec
Gemma Atkinson with her Strictly 2017 dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec

They’re the golden ticket on the Golden Mile this weekend - tickets to Strictly Come Dancing at Blackpool Tower Ballroom are year after year like gold dust.

Read more: Stars of Strictly Come Dancing arrive at Blackpool's iconic Tower Ballroom

Read more: Strictly dancer Katya: Why I love Blackpool

And one fan in for a special treat this weekend is Gemma Atkinson’s mum. Actress and Key103 breakfast show DJ Gemma is one of the dancing celebrities heading to the resort for the show’s northern showcase this weekend, and she took time out from rehearsals with professional partner Aljaz Skorjanec to speak to The Gazette.

Coming from Bury, Blackpool is ‘home turf’ for Gemma and she’s looking forward to having extra support in the Ballroom on Saturday night.

“It’s always nice when my mum is in the audience,” the 32-year-old said. “She’s been to Elstree twice so this will be her third time.

Gemma Atkinson with her Strictly 2017 dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec. The pair in action on the dancefloor

Gemma Atkinson with her Strictly 2017 dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec. The pair in action on the dancefloor

“For the last four years, she’s actually applied for tickets to see Strictly at Blackpool and hasn’t got them.

“When I told her I was doing Strictly, she said ‘Can I come to Blackpool then?’

“She probably will need some tissues, it will be lovely for her to be there... And I won’t be able to look at her after the dance or it might start me off.”

Also set to cheer her on from the Ballroom sidelines will be her stepdad, niece and nephew as well as friends, and Gemma’s looking forward to being close to home.

“It’s nice to feel like I’m on home turf. I’m more comfortable up north,” she said.

“Blackpool has special memories for me.

“The support we have had is brilliant; I never thought about getting to Blackpool, we take it week by week and focus on the week in hand, so to get this far because people have picked up the phone to vote – we are so grateful.”

Gemma was excited enough about a trip to Blackpool but she’s been finding out about the town’s place in the dance world from Aljaz.

“I was there with my friend in July, we drove over and had a day at the Pleasure Beach,” she said. “We did the bungee on the pier and went to Ripley’s [Believe It or Not!].

“My only complaint was the Wild Mouse was shut; I wanted to take my friend on it.

“I lost a tooth on that when I was a kid – it was a baby tooth, though, so didn’t matter.

“I’m so excited, I can’t believe we’re here.

“I was saying to Aljaz, I didn’t realise just how important Blackpool was in the ballroom dancing world; to me it’s all about the fun.

“I’ve been up the Tower, we filmed there with Hollyoaks years ago, but I’ve never been in the Ballroom, so I can’t wait to see it.”

Like all of Strictly’s professional dancers, Aljaz has been coming to Blackpool for most of his life – travelling here for competitions as a child from his native Slovenia, where he is a 19-times national champion in ballroom, Latin and dance.

“It’s the most special place you can get to with dancing,” he said of the resort.

“The way it [the Tower Ballroom] looks when you step inside for the first time – it’s amazing. But I’ve not told Gemma too much as I don’t want to spoil it.

“I love London and the Elstree studio, it’s special for me since starting Strictly five years ago, but the Blackpool show is like a trademark.

“Every one is really looking forward to it; the hype is amazing.

“Since I was a little kid, I’ve been dancing in Blackpool. It’s a fantastic place.

“When you’re used to being in a competition where 99 per cent of the audience doesn’t want you to do well, and then to do Strictly where the audience all want you to be good; it’s brilliant.

“Ballroom dance is a very beautiful thing, and in a beautiful room it’s even better.”

Beyond the fact they’re dancing an American smooth to Petula Clark classic song Downtown, the partners can’t reveal any further secrets of what fans can expect from their Blackpool routine.

“I’m really happy to have the American smooth foxtrot this week,” Aljaz said. “It’s a song we both love and it’s a real crowd pleaser and it’s going to sound great.

“Going from rehearsals to the studio feels different every week, but going from rehearsals to the Ballroom... It’s enormous.

“And the floor, it really does shake, with dances like the jive, but it also glides so it’s great for the American smooth. You feel it more in something like the Charleston, but for us, it will be lovely.”

For Gemma, who’s happiest in ‘joggers and Converse’, the shimmering world of Strictly’s glamourous gowns is a world away from her comfort zone.

And she doesn’t even know what she’ll be wearing on Saturday night – adding extra drama to the build-up, especially in the American smooth with its added lifts in the mix.

“We don’t get to see our outfits until Friday,” she revealed. “We see them then get fitted and then altered overnight ready for Saturday – then we’re in them all day.

“If I could dance in joggers and Converse, I would. The dresses aren’t the comfiest when you’re in them all day, which we are.

“But when you watch it back and see how beautiful it looks, you can’t help but embrace it – and I really am, all the tans and glitter.”

Let’s hope this Lancashire lass continues to glitter when the Tower Ballroom goes live to the nation tomorrow night.