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Hall of Fame – Manchester’s Arlene Phillips

Dancer, choreographer, theatre director, talent scout, TV judge and presenter, author, mentor and teacher – there aren’t many roles Manchester-born Arlene Phillips hasn’t mastered.

Well known as a judge on the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing and the founder of the dance troupe Hot Gossip, Phillips is one of the world’s leading choreographers.

Hot Gossip were a British dance troupe of boys and girls - but mainly girls - who shot to fame with their sexually evocative routines on Thames Television's Kenny Everett Video Show in the 1970s.
Hot Gossip were a British dance troupe of boys and girls – who shot to fame with their sexually evocative routines on Thames Television’s Kenny Everett Video Show in the 1970s. – Peter Denton

She has been the creative force behind some of the West End and Broadway’s best-known musicals, as well as a number of film and TV shows.

Born in Prestwich in 1943, Phillips attended Beaver Road Primary School in Didsbury and Manchester Central High School for Girls. She started ballet classes at the age of three.

From the age of 16, Phillips studied ballet and tap dance at the Muriel Tweedy School in Manchester.

Phillips moved to London and taught American Modern Jazz dance at Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden and later at the Italia Conti Stage School.

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Her reputation as a teacher and choreographer grew quickly, especially when she formed the dance troupe Hot Gossip in 1974.

After performing in a London night club for two years, Hot Gossip made it into the mainstream by becoming a regular act on The Kenny Everett Show on ITV.

They even released their own hit single, backing Sarah Brightman on ‘I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper’. The disco number reached No. 6 in the UK charts.

In 1982, Phillips choreographed the film Annie as well as the Duran Duran song The Wild Boys in 1985. Her work earned the group Best British Video in the 1985 Brit Awards.

Keep in Shape System - Jacob Whittaker
Keep in Shape System – Jacob Whittaker

Back in Manchester, Phillips choreographed the opening and closing ceremonies of the highly successful 2002 Commonwealth Games with fellow Mancunian David Zolkwer.

She was a judge on the popular BBC One show Strictly Come Dancing from 2004 to 2009 alongside Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli.

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Phillips also starred in the spin-off series Strictly Dance Fever, which searched for dancers to join the chorus of a West End musical.

In 2013 she was a judge for Let’s Dance for Comic Relief with Lee Mack and Greg James.

Stage shows choreographed by Phillips in her extensive career include the London production of the Wizard of Oz, the revival of the Sound of Music, Saturday Night Fever and We Will Rock You.

She also choreographed A Clockwork Orange, by Harpurhey writer Anthony Burgess, for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In 2007, Phillips was the creative director for the ITV drama Britannia High which followed the lives of six students at a London performing arts school. The music was composed by former Take That member Gary Barlow.

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Phillips has made nine appearances on the daytime TV show Loose Women and was a judge on the UK version of So You Think You Can Dance with Nigel Lythgoe, Louise Redknapp and Sisco Gomez.

She wrote the Alana Dancing Star series of Children’s fiction books in 2010. Each of the six titles covers a dance style, including ballroom, Bollywood, hip-hop and tango.

Phillips was awarded the OBE in the 2001 Birthday Honours list and was made a CBE for her services to dance and charity in 2013.

Written By

Former daily newspaper editor and group editorial director for leading national media brands, Malcolm is a regular contributor to the iNostalgia National History with a love for our national heritage.

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