Season 01, Episode 06 – “Arlene Phillips”
Choreographer Arlene Phillips revisits the house where she created outrageous 80′s dance group Hot Gossip and reveals how in her 20′s she was a babysitter for famous movie director Ridley Scott’s young son.

Arlene Phillips is perhaps best known in her role as one of the original judges on Strictly Come Dancing, but she’s had an illustrious career in dance spanning more than 50 years. She was born in Stockport in 1943 and although she dreamt of coming to London and becoming a dancer her dream ended when her mother died and she had to stay at home and look after her dad and 13 year old sister.

However in 1966 aged 23 she had the chance to attend a week-long dance course in London’s Covent Garden. By the end of that week her life changed forever. She was offered a scholarship by the legendary dance teacher Molly Molloy and Arlene remembers ‘That was it. I never went home. I stayed in London and I don’t know how I did because I had not a penny in my purse.’

Molly found Arlene a job as babysitter and nanny to a friend of hers, a young television and commercials director Ridley Scott, who would later become the top Hollywood director. This pretty house in South-West London is the first house Arlene revisits. She recalls ‘this was the kind of house that I aspired to. It was all white when people didn’t have all white’. It was a far cry from the flat she grew up in above her father’s barbershop. It was Ridley Scott who would later give Arlene one of her first big professional breaks. Molly choreographed for his commercials, and Arlene became her assistant. One day when Molly was away Ridley asked Arlene to step up, and she began choreographing big budget commercials.

Her next revisit is to the flat she and Molly shared in East Finchley. She remembers before stepping back through the front door ‘the thing I disliked most about this flat is the wallpaper was bright orange’ she is almost speechless when she discovers 50 years later the walls are still painted orange! She reveals that she was very messy and her dance clothes discarded everywhere, while Molly was meticulous.

In 1971 Arlene married fashion designer Danny Noble and they purchased their first house – a mews in a new development in Hampstead. ‘It was bought for £35,000 – which I could only just scrape together with a mortgage. It was a fortune in those days’. Arlene remembers that it was while she lived here she first put together the controversial dance troupe Hot Gossip.

At the time Pan’s People dominated dance on TV. Arlene says ‘They were beautiful girls and lovely dancers, but it felt to me pretty, and pretty was not what I was about. Hot was what I was about.’ After a slow start Hot Gossip were booked as regulars on ITV’s Kenny Everett Video show where their racy routines in skimpy outfits made headlines and Mary Whitehouse called for their overtly sexy routines to be banned.

Arlene was finally enjoying the career she’d dreamt of, and when work took over she chose dance over her marriage. After separating she had a brief affair that produced daughter Alana. Despite the demands of being a single mum Arlene was about to re-invent dance yet again when Andrew Lloyd Webber asked her to collaborate to create a musical on roller skates – and Starlight Express was born.

In 1984 with her career in full flight Arlene and daughter Alana took another on the property ladder. She revisits the newly built home she’d seen being built nearby in North London. It provided the minimalist space she’d been inspired by when she stayed at Ridley Scott’s house, and naturally she painted all the walls white – although in keeping with the 80′s the kitchen was black with red accessories.

Arlene remembers it was when she lived here she started choreographing pop videos for artists including Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Duran Duran and Freddie Mercury. Working on Freddie’s ‘I Was Born to Love You’ video Arlene met her current partner Angus, and they have daughter Abi together. In 1997 Arlene, Angus and their daughters moved to their current home.

Now Arlene has really been able to create the home she aspired to when she first clapped eyes on Ridley Scott’s home. She has created her fantasy – an all white home with light wooden floors. She even has her own dance area where she can devise routines. Recently she’s created a solo piece for the Royal Ballet. Of course she also lived here when in 2004 the BBC invited her to become a judge on a new TV dance contest. She wasn’t sure but her friend Bruno Tonioli who she’d worked with when he was a pop video dancer (Arlene choreographed Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ which Bruno featured in) begged her to take part. Arlene became one of the original judges and remained for 6 wildly successful series, before being sacked from the show in 2009. She says now ‘In truth I was devastated about Strictly. The press disruption and the things that followed, I think I was a sort of living ghost.’

But Arlene never stopped dancing and is remains very busy with the career she dreamed of as a girl growing up in Stockport. She says ‘hard work, determination and never giving up – ever, can work it’s magic.’


MP4 | AAC VBR | 153MB
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