AS a self-confessed Strictly superfan, you get the feeling that Catherine Tyldesley is even more excited than the audience about the show’s live tour which heads to Manchester at the weekend.

Former Coronation Street star Catherine will be reunited with her professional partner Johannes Radebe as she competes against the likes of 2019 winner Kelvin Fletcher, former England women’s footballer Alex Scott and EastEnders’ actress Emma Barton.

“I’m so excited,” said Catherine, 36. “It’s just wonderful. I was so addicted to dancing, so to get the chance to do it all again on the tour is brilliant – I can’t wait.”

Catherine and Johannes were controversially voted off the TV dance show by the judges following a dance off against TV presenter Mike Bushell and his partner Katya Jones.

“We were both gutted to go,” she admits, “We both felt that we had at least another couple of weeks in us. But that’s the nature of the beast and the cha cha was my worst dance. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Her surprise departure has made the live tour even more special.

“We are just going to have so much fun,” said Catherine. “I said to Johannes every day I was on the show ‘I feel like a competition winner’. I was such a fan of Strictly, I had to pinch myself most days. I couldn’t believe that I was there.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. They are 12 hour days and you’re knackered. You are aching from top to toe - in the first week of rehearsing I lost two toenails. It’s hard graft but it’s the most wonderfully joyous experience.

“You find yourself smiling through it all. You can’t help yourself because it’s just fabulous.”

Catherine is particularly happy to be reunited with South African Johannes - she calls him JoJo - for the live tour.

“I was lucky enough to be partnered with somebody like Jo Jo,” she said. “He is just the most wonderful man. He’s hilariously funny and a brilliant teacher. He’s a complete and utter star, he shines as soon as he walks into the room.

“I felt so blessed that they had put us together and now we’re going to be together again on the tour.”

Walkden-born Catherine still splits her time between homes in Manchester and London and prepared for the tour by having a relaxing Christmas with ‘her boys’ - husband Tim and son Alfie.

“It was straight back into it in the New Year as we started tour rehearsals at the beginning of January,” she said. “I have managed to keep my fitness up since being on the show. I’ve been going to Zumba which I never used to do because it was dance orientated and I didn’t dance!

“I’ve also kept going over my favourite routines I did with Jo Jo just to keep myself in the dancing loop.”

For the live shows, couples will be judged by Shirley Ballas, Strictly’s ‘Mr Nasty’ Craig Revel Horwood (who also directs the tour) and Bruno Tonioli. The shows will be introduced by 2018 Strictly winner Stacey Dooley.

“I have been to watch the live shows in Manchester,” said Catherine. “My friend Gemma Atkinson who did it has been my first port of call for any questions. But the pros all rave about going on the road.”

At least this time round, Catherine will be more prepared for what she is letting herself in for.

“Initially it is terrifying,” she said. “I can memorise pages and pages of a script but you give me a dance routine and often it wouldn’t go into my head until the end of the third or fourth day. It was only then that I’d think ‘right, I can get through this’.”

Catherine will be busy with the tour for the next couple of weeks and is coy about what the rest of the year holds.

“I know it’s a cliché, but I can’t really talk about it,” she laughed, “but there might be a little bit of dancing involved.”

Strictly Live, Manchester Arena, Saturday. January 25 and Sunday, January 26. Details from or 0844 847 8000