Strictly's Johannes Radebe brought South African culture, carnival pride and dazzling costumes to Blackpool with his sensational Freedom show

The Strictly Come Dancing pro brought an electric party atmosphere and traditional African dance styles to the Winter Gardens.

By Lucinda Herbert
Friday, 29th April 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 29th April 2022, 10:20 am

“I’m totes emosh” cried Johannes, fanning himself as 800 people in the Blackpool Opera House sang him a happy birthday. The Strictly Come Dancing pro has become a household name since joining the BBC show in 2018, but tonight Blackpool learned how he rose from poor South African village boy to TV dance sensation.

He paid homage to his roots, humbly saying there are ‘dancers way more talented back home that don’t get the opportunity’, and took a receptive crowd for a deep-dive into African culture.

From Idlamu - a fearsome Zulu warrior dance, to the sensual Kizomba, tonight was a melting pot of dance styles that have all inspired Radebe along the way.

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Johannes Radebe - Freedom

Then there was a vibrant rendition of Kofifi - a joyful swing-style dance that is associated with freedom after the end of apartheid.

Each dancer brought something different to the stage - Lowri Evan rocked the Fosse medley, and Jefferson Santos sizzled on the Latin routines.

With her dancehall sass, Natasha Scrase stood out on the Amapiano track - a kind of South African street dance that’s been a recent TikTok craze.

And vocalist, Anelisa Lamola, showcased her impressive range - from traditional African vocals to jazz and belting club anthems.

Johannes entered like a warrior and sashayed off like a queen - and dazzled from the get-go.

He used his platform to talk about LGBTQ+ rights, and his pride in seeing a drive to become a more tolerant society – recalling the backlash when he danced with [male dancer] Giovanni Pernice in 2018.

And to drive home the message, he went on to perform a stunning same-sex Argentine tango.

Freedom is about being free to express yourself without fear, Radebe explained. And as the show drew to a close it felt like a celebration – the dancers emerged in bright sequinned catsuits and led the Opera House into a larger than life carnival. Disco anthems got the whole crowd dancing on their feet, taking me right back to my clubbing days.

Johannes didn’t just bring incredible choreography – he left Blackpool with a real taste of his culture, influences and the things that have shaped him as a performer.