“I HAVE to say, they weren’t in love with this dancing girl”.

While Arlene Phillips’ school teachers may not have been bowled over by her passion for dance, there was a star in the making who would go on to work as a choreographer for a string of Hollywood directors and on iconic pop videos.

Having been bitten by the dancing bug when just a little girl, her talents took her to the West End and Broadway where she worked on some of the best-loved musicals of all time.

Now the 70-year-old is a producer on Midnight Tango, a show with dance stars Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, which comes to the Opera House, Manchester, from July 23 to 27.

Arlene, who grew up in Cheetham Hill, before moving to Didsbury and then Prestwich as a teenager, she said: “It’s going really well, amazingly well. It’s got five star reviews, “We’ve been very lucky, it’s been a really big hit.

“It’s a story without words but it really is a story. There’s comedy and there’s passion, there’s drama, there’s love. The choreography is extraordinary.

“There’s a wonderful tango band who play brilliantly and also kind of ignite the audience.

“It’s attracted huge audiences, 50/50 men and women which is really wonderful for a dance show.

“The matinees are full of children as well.

“They seem to fall in love with the show, not just children that watch Strictly. At one matinee, at the front of the theatre, was a row of schoolboys having the best time.

“Vincent and Flavia really are at their best, working as actors as well as dancers.”

The showbiz legend first met the pair while they were working on Strictly Dance Fever as the show’s demonstration couple.

“I said, you’ve got to be on Strictly Come Dancing. You are just wonderful and you can do so much.”

The pair joined the BBC1 show, on which Arlene was a judge from 2004 to 2009, before being replaced by former Mis-Teeq singer Alesha Dixon, aged 34, amidst controversy over alleged ageism.

Since leaving Strictly, Arlene has been busy working on many projects including Midnight Tango, which opened in the West End in February, which she said she “oversaw and shaped”, while Vincent and Flavia choreo-graphed.

Set in a late-night bar in downtown Buenos Aires, the dancers take the audience on a journey into the heart of the intoxicating city, as danger and excitement, joy and jealousy, pain and passion, combine into a spectacular and explosive evening.

Arlene hopes young audience members may be inspired to start dance classes after seeing the show, like when she began her own at the Muriel Tweedy School Of Dance, at the top of an old building in Deans-gate, Manc-hester, where she went on to teach until she was 22.

She later moved to London, becoming a household name as the director and choreo-grapher of Hot Gossip, a British dance troupe which she formed in 1974 using students she was teaching at the time.

She choreographed for theatre shows including The Wizard of Oz, Flashdance, The Sound of Music, Grease, We Will Rock You, Saturday Night Fever, Starlight Express, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as music videos for Whitney Houston, Elton John, Queen, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, George Michael and Robbie Williams.

She said: “Probably one of the big things is Starlight Express because it’s a show where the actors have to sing and dance and act on roller skates.

“It was a big challenge but once we got started we decided whatever you could do on feet, you could do on rollerskates.”

Later this year, Arlene will travel to America to work on the Wizard of Oz, followed by the opening of Starlight Express in Hong Kong and then We Will Rock You in North America.

She started dancing as a child and has not stopped since, also keeping in tip top shape by swimming and cycling.

She said: “I remember once I saw my first ballet, that started me wanting to go to classes. I just have to say, apparently, I was a kid that always wanted to dance, from the moment I could walk.

“For me, I can never remember not wanting to dance.

“I went to Manchester Central High School for Girls. I have to say, they weren’t in love with this dancing girl, but I think they would be proud.”

Midnight Tango is at the Opera House, Manchester, from July 23 to 27. Phone 0844 871 3018.