The queen of samba wasted no time, smashing the thermostat with hot latino rhythms and exquisite costumes. The 31 year old found fame during her seven years on Strictly Come Dancing, but tonight she showed her versatility with a maelstrom of styles.
She shared her life story with the Blackpool crowd, from her humble beginnings in South Africa, to her time living in Germany and her chance to compete in the Blackpool Dance Festival as a child. “When I danced [in the Empress Ballroom] when I was ten, I never imagined I’d be in here today with my own show.”
The Dancing On Ice judge brought her passion for musicals to life in a colourful section dedicated to some of the big shows she’s choreographed – with lots of glitz, glam and jazz hands, and an elegant ‘Singing In The Rain’.
There was romance in the air when Oti performed a sensual Viennese Waltz with husband, Marius Lepure, 39, in front of a starry sky projection.
But tonight was a celebration of female empowerment, with an exhilarating Beyonce number and a take on Tina Turner’s iconic ‘Proud Mary’.
And a balletic sequence showcased the incredible skills of Sasha Woodward, who was in the The Greatest Dancer final in 2019. She started her career at Viva Blackpool, and trained with Phil Winston’s Theatreworks in the resort.
But this show had a serious message about racism.
Oti’s early life was under the Apartheid regime. Born in Pretoria, in 1990, she recalls being unable to join her local dance school because she was a ‘black girl’, and not being allowed to travel.
A brief history lesson created context for how South African dance was shaped by politics - including the rhythmic Pantsula, and ‘Gumboot’ - a militaristic stomp that originates from oppressed workers in the gold mines.
And then the dancers launched into an intense paso doble-inspired romp that narrated the racial conflict and uprising in the 1990s.
Oti may have quit Strictly but her journey is just beginning. I Am Here was sensational from start to finish.