Louis Smith is enjoying some downtime at home when we caught up to chat about his forthcoming song and dance spectacular Rip It Up The Seventies – which he will be bringing to his home city next month.
“I am enjoying being a normal human being while I can,” says the former Olympian. “Eating nice food and chilling, relaxing physically and mentally before we go into rehearsals for three weeks and then out on tour.”
The tour kicks off in September and Louis will make his debut on a Peterborough stage on the 20th at the Peterborough New Theatre.
“That will give me the chance to get a few shows under my belt and get rid of the cobwebs and the nerves before coming to Peterborough, which I am really excited about,” he adds. “I have never done anything like this here in the city.
“As soon as it was confirmed we were coming to Peterborough I told my friends and they were over the moon. They usually have to travel to come and see me when I am on tour, so there will be a lot of friends and family watching when the show comes to my home town.”
The show – a celebration of the music of the 1970s – also features Lee Ryan from boyband Blue, Rachel Stevens from S Club 7 and Melody Thornton from The Pussycat Dolls, who met up recently for a promotional photoshoot.
“ I have met Rachel a few times before but they seem a nice group of people and I am really looking forward to getting together and preparing for the show,” said Louis.
“Looking at the artists and the bands from that decade, plus the music, the clothes and the dancing, it is going to be a very colourful experience,” said Louis, who has previously toured with Rip It Up The 50s and Rip It Up The Sixties.
“It is funny because I am probably most familiar with the seventies, but when we have got down to doing the previous shows I was always saying oh yes, I know this one it’s from the 50s or from the 60s when I realised I had heard songs before,” says Louis, who describes himself these days as a ‘performing athlete entertainer’ – still putting the gymnastics which brought him worldwide attention to good use in the show performing somersaults and the like.
The former Arthur Mellows Village College pupil, who retired from sport last year, won medals across the globe throughout his glittering gymnastics career, and took part in three Olympic Games – most notably the 2012 games in London, after which he was awarded the MBE.
Later that year his new found fame landed him a celebrity place on one of the biggest shows on TV, Strictly Come Dancing, which he went on to win with professional dance partner Flavia Cacace.
“Strictly came at a really good moment for me,” says Louis. “It was so different to the sporting world especially coming straight after something like London 2012 which was so intense. It was refreshing to do Strictly, a breath of fresh air, and I guess one thing led to another with the Rip It Up shows.”
So how does the pressure of going for gold in the London Olympics, with the nation watching, compare to walking out on stage to dance?
“They are very different experiences,” he explains. “With the gymnastics I had been training since I was four-years-old to be the best I could in the best competition I could. Since the age of eight the focus was about getting to the Olympics.
“I had been training my whole life for this and you think this is it, there is nothing bigger than this. You have one chance to make that dream come true. It is a really intense situation but I got a lot of enjoyment from competing and achieving my dreams.
“There was so much expectation whereas dancing is at the opposite end of the spectrum. There is no real pressure, you are there on stage to perform and to put smiles on the faces of the people that have come to see you - you can go out and express yourself on stage and there are no consequences, everyone there is having fun.
“They are both very rewarding and fulfilling, but the Olympics is a selfish reward, you want to make yourself happy, but performing is just about making other people happy.”
Competing in events across the world and training camps mean Louis is familiar with being away from home for long periods, so the tour which starts on September 13 and ends in November holds no fears.
“You get used to being away,” he says. “I would always say to my friends that I didn’t want to go on holiday, because I spent so much time away from home. I just liked being back home.”
Touring earlier this year with the sixties incarnation of the Rip It Up show did allow him to spend time with long-time friend Aston Merrygold, another Peterborough boy done good.
“It was quite surreal,” he says. “I spent my entire gym career not bumping into anyone from Peterborough, then I do the sixties show and am talking to one of the band, Lewis Hall, who is from Peterborough. Then I meet the musical director’s wife Hayley Sanderson, who is from Peterborough. And then Aston turns up.
“What are the chances of that - four of us from little old Peterborough?”
Tickets for the Rip It Up The Seventies show in Peterborough are on sale at www.newtheatre-peterborough.com.