Dame Arlene Phillips ‘overcome with emotion’ while collecting honour

Dame Arlene said she spoke with Anne about her love of dance and how it can inspire others.

22 February 2022

Arlene Phillips – a staple of the worlds of dance, theatre and television – has said she was “overcome with emotion” while collecting her damehood.

The former Strictly Come Dancing judge, 78, received the honour for services to dance and charity from the Princess Royal at a ceremony at Windsor Castle on Tuesday afternoon.

Dame Arlene said she spoke with Anne about her love of dance and how it can inspire others.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Arlene Phillips is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Princess Royal (Aaron Chown/PA)

She told the PA news agency: “I’m feeling very emotional, walking into that glorious room and then speaking to the Princess Royal was just so beautiful.

“I was really overcome with emotion,

I was chatting away and thinking ‘please don’t cry’.

“It’s means so much, my children, my partner and my siblings, the whole family can’t believe it.

“Coming from nowhere with little hope in my life to arriving at this moment and becoming a Dame feels like some big grand club I don’t belong in, but here I am belonging.”

It came as the Queen, who is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms after catching coronavirus, is self-isolating at the Berkshire residence.

Dame Arlene was a judge on Strictly Come Dancing from the show’s first season in 2004 until 2008 and was then replaced by Alesha Dixon in 2009.

She found fame when she created the provocative dance group Hot Gossip in 1974, and later choreographed for some of the West End and Broadway’s biggest shows, including Grease, Starlight Express, We Will Rock You, The Wizard Of Oz, The Sound Of Music, Saturday Night Fever and Flashdance.

She also competed in the recent series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and was the first contestant to be eliminated from Gwrych Castle in North Wales.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Dame Arlene Phillips (Steve Parsons/PA)

Dame Arlene went on to say that dance “is the most brilliant thing for life” which teaches discipline and changes a person’s mood “from sorrow to joy”.

Asked about being a guest judge on Dancing On Ice, she added: “I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I had the best time glammed up to the eyeballs.

“I love judging and I realised how much I love judging that night sitting on the panel.

“Instinctively I actually want to help everybody, and I love seeing people grow and improve.”

Also collecting a CBE was Sue Barker, best known as the lead presenter of the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage.

Barker, 65, said she felt “absolutely terrified” ahead of picking up the award and would “much rather” interview the finalists of the Wimbledon tennis championships.

She picked up her CBE alongside her husband of 34 years Lance Tankard, and said she will be phoning her “excited” 100-year-old mother ahead of a “big celebration” with the rest of her family.

Professor Sir Keith Willett, NHS England’s national director of emergency planning and incident response, collected his knighthood, while former Olympic swimmer Melanie Marshall was given her MBE.

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