If you went out onto the streets and asked people what they associated the town of Blackpool with, chances are the replies would be; the tower, the illuminations, the pleasure beach with awesome rides like The Big One and Valhalla. They would probably also mention stag and hen nights, donkey rides on the beach and ‘kiss me quick’ hats. Of course all these answers are correct; Blackpool is famous for all of them. However, I wonder how many people realise the connection Blackpool has with the world of dance?
Perhaps the most famous dance venue in Blackpool is the beautiful Tower Ballroom. This was opened in 1894 and its beautiful mahogany, oak and walnut floor plus glittering chandeliers make it a joy to dance there. We mustn’t forget the stunning Wurlitzer organ that rises majestically from beneath the floor. During my ballroom dancing days, I myself have tripped the light fantastic in this great ballroom and one can almost sense the generations of ballroom dancers who have graced the floor over the decades.
From 1949 to 1998, the Tower Ballroom hosted the popular BBC programme ‘Come Dancing’. Of course, now it hosts the next generation of popular dance shows, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ who hold their dance specials there. What better setting could these shows have?
It is not only ballroom dancers who have graced the floor of the Tower Ballroom. It has also hosted Northern Soul dancers and in May held a three day Northern Soul event which involved top D.J’s in the Northern Soul scene playing soul music for the dancers. Northern Soul is certainly popular, especially in the North West.
Of course, the Tower Ballroom is not the only place in Blackpool to be involved with the world of dance nor is ballroom dancing the only genre of dance to be represented. Another wonderful venue is the Winter Gardens which opened in 1878. This is an impressive listed building and is a large entertainment complex with four ballrooms including the beautiful Empress Ballroom and also has theatre and conference facilities.
Ballroom dancing is well represented here and has hosted the British Junior Latin Championships since 1947. These were originally held in the Tower Ballroom but moved over to the Winter Gardens. Young dancers from all over the world come to Blackpool to compete in these championships.
The Winter Gardens also played host to the Blackpool Dance Festival since 1920. This is an 8 day festival of ballroom dancing. In fact there are so many ballroom dancing championships held here there are too many for me to mention. We can see how Blackpool is very much at the front of promoting dance.
Of course, being a line dancer myself, I must mention that Line dancing is very much represented in Blackpool. The Winter Gardens hosts the World Dance Masters, a weekend of World Line Dance Championships, complete with instruction from dance instructors and plenty of live music. Dancers come from all over the world to compete in the championships and this involves dancers of all ages from the very young to the more senior dancers.
Another venue in Blackpool that is heavily involved with Line dancing is the Norbreck Castle Hotel, a very prominent building in the town with its castle like appearance.
This venue holds the annual Legends in Line event and celebrates those who have been involved in line dancing and made great achievements. This includes choreographers, musicians etc. Again dancers, teachers and choreographers come from all over the globe to take part in this weekend of celebrating line dancing and dances new and old.
The Norbreck also holds the annual Crystal Boot Awards which gives line dancing a chance to honour those who choreograph, teach or provide music. Again this involves the line dancing community all over the world and is a weekend of celebration of dance. Crystal Boot Awards are given to various categories and, in fact, Move Radio was awarded a Crystal Boot Award in the Dancer’s Choice Award at the last ceremony.
In view of all this, I definitely believe that Blackpool deserves the title of dance capital of the north and should be praised for encouraging dance which brings people of all ages and nationalities together.