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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Arlene Phillips

Arlene Phillips OBE (born 22 May 1943) is an English choreographer, theatre director, talent scout and former dancer, who has worked in many fields of entertainment. For many years she was most noted as the choreographer of numerous West End and Broadway musicals, films and television shows, but she has since achieved mainstream fame as a judge on television talent shows including Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance. On 15 April 2010 she made her first appearance as a panellist for the ITV1 television series Loose Women.

Early life

Phillips was born in 1943 and grew up in the city of Manchester, Prestwich, England. She is Jewish and has a brother called Ian and a sister called Karen. At the age of 15, Phillips lost her mother who had been suffering from Leukaemia and died aged 43. Her father died a few years later having suffered from Alzheimer's.
Phillips originally wanted to be a ballet dancer and began dance classes at the age of three, studying ballet and tap dance at the Muriel Tweedy School in Manchester. Her mother had always expressed a desire to dance, which inspired Phillips into pursuing dance professionally.

Professional career

Phillips is internationally renowned as a choreographer and director of West End and Broadway musicals, but has many other professional credits.
In her mid-teens, Phillips moved to London where she has lived ever since. Strongly influenced by American Modern Jazz dance which was just becoming popular in London at that time, she began developing her own style of Jazz dance and began teaching her style of dance extensively in a number of prominent London dance studios, first at The Dance Centre and later at Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden. She quickly established herself as a successful teacher and choreographer.
Internationally, Phillips is most noted as a jazz and musical theatre choreographer, having worked on some of the biggest selling musicals in West End and Broadway theatre and a number of successful films. Most notably, Phillips is a multiple Olivier Award winner and Tony Award award nominee.
For the past five years, she has been a judge on the BBC1 show, Strictly Come Dancing and is commenting on the acts in Eurovision: Your Country Needs You for the BBC in 2009. In 2008, she created, produced and choreographed a new British television serial Britannia High.
Following Phillips appearance on Your Country Needs You, she choreographed the performance of the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009.
On 16 March 2010, Arlene announced that she is to join the Loose Women panel, she made two guest apperances.

Hot Gossip

In Britain, Phillips first became a household name as the director and choreographer of Hot Gossip, a British dance troupe which she formed in 1974 using students she was teaching at the time. Hot Gossip spent two years performing in a London night club where Phillips and her manager developed the group's dance act.
The troupe were eventually spotted by the British television director, David Mallet who invited Phillips to make Hot Gossip a regular feature of The Kenny Everett Show, which he directed for Thames Television on ITV, first being aired in 1978. It was during this time that Hot Gossip made their only hit record "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper", a disco song which reached number 6 in the British music chart. Sung by Hot Gossip dancer Sarah Brightman, who went on to achieve international fame as a soprano vocalist.
Hot Gossip were particularly noted for the risque nature of their costumes and the dance routines, all designed and choreographed by Phillips, and they are often credited as the one of the UK's early television dance troupes, continuing a trend which started with the Go-Jo's and Pan's People on Top of the Pops. Hot Gossip continued to be successful into the early 1980s with their own television show on the newly formed public service broadcaster, Channel 4, The Very Hot Gossip Show; the show was scrapped after the first season due to a strong decline in viewing figures.

Strictly Come Dancing

Phillips was a member of the judging panel for the successful BBC television series Strictly Come Dancing, an original entertainment programme which has been running in the UK since 2004 whose format has subsequently been licensed to broadcasters overseas.
In the show, celebrities are given intensive training in ballroom and latin dance routines, being partnered by an experienced professional dancer. They perform new routines each week for a live television audience and each week a celebrity is eliminated until the series winner is decided. The panel of judges (Phillips, Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli) score the dance performances and their scores are then combined with the results of a public televote to decide which two couples gave the weakest performance each week. These two couples then dance again before the judges decide who should leave the competition.
Phillips was asked to be a judge for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) version of the show Dancing With The Stars but decided that travelling between London and Los Angeles each week would be too tiring and that her loyalties lay with the British version of the show.
In 2005 and 2006, Phillips was a judge for the Strictly Come Dancing spin off series Strictly Dance Fever, which was also created by the BBC. The show searched for dancers to join the chorus of a West End musical. Later in 2007, she judged another BBC dance series, DanceX, a show created to find a new commercial dance act. After the initial audition process, the competitors were split into two troupes of dancers, with Phillips creating choreography for one troupe and the other being choreographed by her fellow Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli. The two troupes competed live on television each week, with Tonioli's troupe being the eventual winners. There have been no indications that the BBC are planning to televise any further series of these other programmes at this point in time.
On Strictly Come Dancing, Phillips has given the top score of 10 to:
Natasha Kaplinsky & Brendan Cole (Samba)
Jill Halfpenny & Darren Bennett (Paso Doble, Jive)
Denise Lewis & Ian Waite (Quickstep)
Zoe Ball & Ian Waite (Tango, Rumba)
Colin Jackson & Erin Boag (American Smooth, Quickstep)
James Martin & Camilla Dallerup (Foxtrot)
Darren Gough & Lilia Kopylova (Quickstep, American Smooth)
Mark Ramprakash & Karen Hardy (Argentine Tango, Salsa)
Alesha Dixon & Matthew Cutler (Waltz, Cha Cha, Tango, Viennese Waltz)
Matt Di Angelo & Flavia Cacace (Salsa, Waltz, Rumba)
Gethin Jones & Camilla Dallerup (Waltz)
Rachel Stevens & Vincent Simone (Rumba, Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Argentine Tango)
Lisa Snowdon & Brendan Cole (Foxtrot, Waltz, Quickstep, Cha-Cha-Cha)
Austin Healey & Erin Boag (Paso Doble)
Tom Chambers & Camilla Dallerup (Foxtrot, Salsa)

Departure from Strictly Come Dancing
After the close of the 2008 series of Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC announced that numerous changes would be made to refresh the show in 2009. This led to a great deal of speculation in the media that Phillips might be dropped from the judging panel, however the BBC refused to respond to reports. They finally confirmed the news at the launch of their autumn schedule on 9 July 2009. She has been replaced by former Strictly winner Alesha Dixon. The news has led to much criticism being directed towards the BBC for its apparent discrimination against older women on television; however the BBC strongly denied this.
The axing of Arlene Phillips has led to an unprecedented intervention from the government's Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman. During a session in the House of Commons, Harman responded to questions stating that she believed the decision to drop Arlene Phillips was motivated by age discrimination and called on the BBC to ensure that she would be taking part in the new series. Phillips has joked that her sister has nicknamed her "Arlene-Phillips-66" because of the frequency with which her name has appeared in the press with her age appended.The BBC has not formally responded to Harman's request, but has repeated its comments that the decision was not due to age, while not saying what it was due to. Several thousand viewers complained about the performance of Alesha Dixon as a judge, many calling for the return of the more experienced Phillips
However, it was recently reported in the Daily Mail that Arlene may be returning to the judging panel for series eight of Strictly Come Dancing or may even be involved in training all couples, in the same fashion that Torvill and Dean train all couples on the ITV show Dancing on Ice..
In April 2010, Arlene will make her debut as a panellist on ITV's Loose Women, she will be the oldest current panellist.

Britannia High

In 2007, Phillips became the Executive Producer and Creative Director for the ITV1 television series Britannia High. The show was a fictional drama about the lives of six students at a London performing arts school. Based on an idea by Phillips and West End producer David Ian, the series was marketed as the UK's answer to Disney's High School Musical, with extensive franchises planned, including live tours, albums and merchandise. However the show was not a success and was scrapped after the first series.

So You Think You Can Dance

Phillips was a judge on the UK version of So You Think You Can Dance. Newspaper reports suggested that she was asked to join the panel by the show's original creator Nigel Lythgoe, who is a long term friend and who was head judge on the series. Preliminary auditions took place in major UK cities, starting in October 2009, with the first episode being aired on BBC1 in January 2010. Phillips' appointment as judge for the series came soon after the controversy over her departure from Strictly Come Dancing, which prompted media speculation that she would become a judge for ITV1's Dancing on Ice or Sky1's then upcoming show Got to Dance (then titled Just Dance), presented by Davina McCall.

Personal life

She is married to her long term partner, Angus Ion. She has two daughters: Alana, the eldest, is from an earlier relationship and her younger daughter, Abi, is from her current marriage.


Her two KISS: Keep in Shape System exercise LPs entered the UK albums chart in the early 1980s
Phillips is a recipient of the Carl Alan Award for services to dance
In 2006, Phillips was made an honorary member of the International Dance Teachers Association
In 2001, Phillips was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Theatre choreography

The Sound of Music, 2006 London revival and 2008 Canadian production
Starlight Express
Saturday Night Fever
We Will Rock You
A Clockwork Orange, for the Royal Shakespeare Company

Film credits

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life – Dir. Terry Jones
Legend – Dir. Ridley Scott
Annie – Dir. John Huston
White Hunter Black Heart – Dir. Clint Eastwood
Salome's Last Dance – Dir. Ken Russell
Can't Stop the Music – Dir. Nancy Walker
The Wind in the Willows – Dir. Terry Jones

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