MORE than 13.1 million people tuned in to see Joanne Clifton and her partner Ore Oduba lift the glitterball trophy in the final of the 2016 series of Strictly Come Dancing.

For the girl from Grimsby it was a moment of triumph but it was also a stepping stone into her career as a star of musical theatre.

Now she is playing Alex, the steel welder-cum-nightclub dancer in Flashdance The Musical, currently on tour across the UK.

JUDE RILEY talked to Joanne about getting back at fellow Strictly pro, brother Kevin; her ‘talent’ for D-I-Y and how she feels about having a bucket of cold water tipped over her…

What’s your earliest dance memory?

My earliest memory is being at my mum and dad’s dance school. When they couldn’t find anyone to babysit us they used to take me and my brother Kevin along. We were just toddlers but Kevin would join in and as soon as he did I would copy him. Then mum put me into ballet but I was just awful at it; they used to call me the ‘pregnant plug’ because I wore the little black leotard with the pink tights and I was one of these kids that the belly really stuck out! And I just looked like a little pregnant plug. I was absolutely rubbish at it and I hated it. So I stopped the ballet but I did ballroom, Latin and then we did Disco and little group dances. And then we started entering competitions when Kevin was five and I was four. Quite a lot of people think we’re twins but there’s a whole year and 11 days between us!

You won the World Dance Sport Games and performed at the Kremlin. How was that?

It was an amazing experience but they weren’t, like, the loudest audience in Russia… but it was great to be able to say ‘I’ve done that’. The World Sport Games are basically all the kind of sports that are not in the Olympics but are on the waiting list to be included. It’s always difficult with something that’s based on opinion rather than who crosses the line first or who jumped higher although Ice Dancing is in the Olympics so Dance could make it into it one day.

You joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 and won to massive popular acclaim in 2016 with Ore Oduba. What was your favourite dance routine during that series?

It was Singing in the Rain because I thought that was a turning point for me and that style is just my thing. The audience seemed to love the jive; I’m not keen on Latin but I’m glad they enjoyed it. But probably equal with Singing in the Rain was the ballroom show dance we did at the end. They’ve both got all that Hollywood glamour which I love.

Your brother, Kevin, was the first to congratulate you even though you had beaten him. But was there a little bit of sibling rivalry throughout the course of the show?

I mean… it’s a bit of fun. It’s more on my part. I’m more competitive than Kevin in general, in life. But he is my big brother and I wanna pay him back for all the wrestling moves he used to practise on me when we were kids but if he had a good week I was really happy for him and he was for me. And as soon as the cameras went off I went and said sorry because he’d been in the finals four times and not won and then I just came from nowhere and took the title!

Having left Strictly, you went into the tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Was musical theatre a new direction for you or a return to an earlier love?

I’d never really trained in musical theatre but I had private lessons in singing and acting when I was a kid growing up in Grimsby. I didn’t do anything for 14 years while I was in Italy but since I came back to do Strictly I’ve been taking lessons again. Before Milly I did two other musicals on the fringe but Milly was my first big stage show. And I have wanted to do musicals since I was a kid. I absolutely love singing and I love acting and I like the excitement of the audience coming in and only knowing me as a dancer, sitting there and thinking ‘ooh, let’s see if she can actually act’!

Alex Owens is based on a real character who really did work as a welder by day and danced at night. Are you any good at D-I-Y?

I actually built myself a desk and a shoe-rack! The shoe rack was basically little pipes that you fit together at corners but the desk was wood and you had to use a screwdriver but I managed to make it. It is a bit wobbly and I got one bit the wrong way round so you can see the screw bit but apart from that I thought I did quite well.

Could you describe Alex in three words?

Passionate, focused and determined.

In Flashdance, you have to perform several dance routines that are so well known they have become iconic movie moments. How are you feeling about that?

Ahh, I can’t wait! Let’s do it! Yeah. I absolutely love it. I think the audience will get the same feeling as me. When the music starts, particularly Maniac and What a Feeling, even if I’m tired after a day of rehearsals and the director says ‘ok, let’s do it from the top’, as soon as that music comes on I get an absolute buzz and I can’t wait to do it. But in the script, for the Maniac routine it says ‘there are gallons of water’, well there aren’t gallons but there is water in a bucket and I will be pulling this bucket of water down onto myself. I am contemplating whether I should ask for the water to be quite warm or whether it should be cold because by that time, I will have danced. So I’m thinking, maybe cold water would be good… but then again, I’m not sure about the thought of a big bucket of cold water coming down on me… oh god!

What is it about Flashdance that will really appeal to audiences?

Again it is such an iconic movie, such iconic songs and scenes, everybody knows Flashdance, everybody knows What a Feeling and everybody knows the Maniac water scene, it’s going to be great for those moments and I just say ‘come and see it’! And I am so grateful that I’ve got the role.

The show, which also stars A1 heartthrob Ben Adams, is the story of Alex a determined welder who dreams of becoming a professional dancer. When a romance complicates her ambitions, she harnesses it to drive her dream of attending Shipley Dance Academy.

Flashdance is at Mayflower Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday.

Tickets: 023 8071 1811 or