She may not remember whether she has visited Belfast before - not surprising since she has toured the world since the age of four in ballroom dancing competitions - but mention the city to Strictly Come Dancing and musical theatre star Joanne Clifton and it sparks an instant memory.
“My first boyfriend was from Belfast - Ryan Murphy - and we had our first kiss in the Aquarium at Blackpool,” she laughed, as she looked ahead to opening at the Grand Opera House next Tuesday in the leading role of Alex in Flashdance the Musical.
Joanne plays the welder-by-day-dancer-by-night character Alex in the stage version of the iconic 80s movie, complete with leg warmers, killer dance moves and the famous waterdrop scene.
A world champion ballroom dancer and outright winner of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing with partner Ore Oduba in 2016, Joanne stepped away from competing in the hit show to continue with her muscial theatre career, taking on the role of Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie before making sparks fly as Alex in Flashdance.
“Those two characters are totally opposite,” said Joanne. “Alex is really my first serious role as all my previous parts have been funny or quirky like Millie but Alex is feisty, serious, there’s lots of rows in Flashdance, lots of shouting, she is a very determined woman, so that makes it really interesting to play.”
Featuring all the classic Flashdance songs Maniac, Gloria, I Love Rock & Roll and of course the title track, the show also showcases some original tunes including Here and Now, which Joanne sings with co-star Ben Adams from pop group A1.
“It’s a beautiful song and because we get so many tweets each night telling us how much people love it we decided to record it and it’s gone to No1 in the soundtrack singles on iTunes and is going really well in America on Spotify,” said Joanne.
As well as top flight dancing, singing and acting, Joanne admits that Flashdance has helped conquer a lifelong phobia - water.
“I’m terrified of water, I’ve even been for hypnotherapooy, but now because I have to do the iconic waterdrop scene in Flashdance and pull a chain to empty two containers of freezing cold water over me every night...I am used to it!”