Blackpool Dance Festival
It is incredible to think that the most popular form of entertainment for young and old one century ago was attending a dance hall event. The Blackpool Dance Festival began at the turn of the 19th century and was held annually at Easter time in the Winter Gardens grand Empress Ballroom. Alongside many other annual Blackpool events, this is another that has endured the march of time, and today, it is one of the most prestigious dance events in the UK and internationally, and a fore-runner to entrance to the British National Dance Championships.
Ballroom dancing began with competitions to invent new sequential dances to three tempos for the Waltz, Two Step and Foxtrot. Since then, Modern Ballroom and Latin American dances made their way into dance halls internationally, and the Blackpool Dance Festival, formally named so in 1920, has always been at the fore-front of introducing new styles to the competition. Stage, Country and Morris Dancing has been introduced into at various points in history, with fashions and flavours always taken into account in the judging of events.
No ballroom community would be complete without a dedicated set of volunteers, and it is one of those sports that attracts long-serving devotees. Sir John Bickerstaffe, founder of the Blackpool Tower Company and Mayor of Blackpool in 1895, was honoured for his service to the early Blackpool Dance Festivals with a shield in his name given to the winners of the Most Original Sequence Dance until 1939.
Today’s competition attracts approximately 3,000 entrants and the organisers report that there were 60 countries represented in 2011. Invitation events attract the international competitors, and these include the Professional Team Match, where paid, professional dancers compete in various select categories for the panels. Held on the Saturday evening, this is a good event to attend if you want to see dancing that is not only better than a certain popular dancing show on the TV, but held in higher esteem by the dancers themselves.
The Exhibition Competition held on Thursday evening, is the show dance element of the Blackpool Dance Festival event. This is where you can see international dance stars, amateur and professional, compete to be awarded the best dance award where the criteria is based on choreography, story, and for the layperson, the ‘feel’ of the dance and the way they move together and affect the viewer. Exhibition dances can be truly breathtaking to watch, and is something I really recommend if you are in Blackpool in May 2012.