Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool - Champions of Tomorrow. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography

Ballroom & Dancing in Blackpool

It’s the spiritual home of thousands of worldwide dance professionals and the place where the biggest competitions take place. Ballroom & Dancing in Blackpool is a HUGE thing – and it’s celebrated with plenty of events throughout the year!

Ballroom & Dancing in Blackpool

The World-Famous Empress Ballroom at the Blackpool Winter Gardens hosts competitions throughout the year. This North West seaside town is the number one worldwide venue for people from every country that you could imagine!

Thousands of aspiring ballroom stars from across the world make their way to the ‘Home of Dance’ The Empress Ballroom to compete at the many different events. The world-renowned Winter Gardens Blackpool has been pivotal to the development of Ballroom dancing, hosting Dance Festivals for 90+ years. They’ve come to define the town’s dancing heritage and its position as the number one worldwide venue for Ballroom Dancing.

The Blackpool Dance Festival is considered the most prestigious international event for a dance-sport competitor to attend.

Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool - Champions of Tomorrow. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography
Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool – Champions of Tomorrow in 2022. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography
Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool - Champions of Tomorrow. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography
Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool – Champions of Tomorrow. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography

Ballroom & Dancing in Blackpool – Blackpool Dance Festival

The world’s first and foremost festival of dance. The Dance Festival has been a part of Blackpool’s history for over 90 years. It includes a series of competitions and events throughout the year –

  • Champions of Tomorrow
  • Blackpool Junior Dance Festival
  • British Open Champion of Champions Solo Titles
  • Blackpool Dance Festival
  • Blackpool Dance Festival Pro-Am and Teacher Student
  • Blackpool Freestyle Championship
  • Blackpool Sequence Dance Festival
  • British National Dance Championships

Champions of Tomorrow

Champions of Tomorrow is one of the first competitions in the annual calendar. It provides opportunities for dancers of all abilities to compete in categories from under 6 years of age right through to seniors. Featuring  competitions for solos, couples, all girls and ProAm/teacher students. One of ten Dance Festivals which take place at Winter Gardens Blackpool, it attracts thousands of visitors from across the globe.

Mr Warren Bullock travelled to Blackpool with his dance school, Zig Zag based in Wolverhampton. He said: “To see the Winter Gardens so alive again with dance was very special. It’s a pleasure to see the dancers in person and live. I loved everything about the weekend, the impressive stage and lighting, the energy and the fantastic music. Wow! We do have some brilliantly talented dancers!”

Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool - Champions of Tomorrow. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography
Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool – Champions of Tomorrow. Photo: Gilbert Wu Photography

Blackpool Dance Festival

In May 2024 we got the opportunity to look inside the Winter Gardens at one of the biggest competitions of the year and OMG, it’s AMAZING! It’s a jaw-dropping another world! The 98th Blackpool Dance Festival welcomed professional dancers to the resort at the end of May 2024.

The competition features some of the world’s best dancers – it’s a festival with colour, sequins, tears and passion. Along with the dance action there’s a marketplace of everything that the aspiring dance could possibly need. Including a number of new dress designers exhibiting this year – some of the amazing dresses are up to £15k! Watch the video here –

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History of Ballroom & Dancing in Blackpool

Dance has been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations.

The term ‘ballroom dancing’ is from the word ball, originating from the Latin word ‘ballare’ meaning ‘to dance’. In times past, ballroom dancing was social dancing for the privileged, leaving folk dancing for the lower classes.

The waltz, probably the most well known dance, became widespread in England in about 1812. Modern ballroom dance has its roots early in the 20th century, when several different things happened more or less at the same time. The first was a movement away from the sequence dances towards dances where the couples moved independently. The second was a wave of popular music, such as jazz. Since dance is to a large extent tied to music, it ed to a burst of newly invented dances. And the the third factor was an effort to transform some of the crazes into dances which could be taught to a wider dancing public. Later, in the 1930s, the on-screen dance pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers influenced all forms of dance.

A Place for Dancing!

Blackpool has been a place for dancing since the town began. Way back in 1885, Foxhall was a licensed hotel and lodging house with a singing and dancing hall. Rebuilt in 1991 for many years the Reflex nightclub operated on the ground floor. In June 2024 Ma Kelly’s took over this popular central bar and entertainment place – and of course there’s still live music and a dance floor!

Across Blackpool and the wider Fylde Coast dance halls have operated across the years for the entertainment of locals and visitors.

It’s thought the idea of a Dance Festival came from one of two men. Either Mr. Harry Wood, the Musical Director of the Winter Gardens. Or Mr. Nelson Sharples of Messrs Sharples & Son Ltd. They were the publishers of Blackpool who published all the sheet music for the novelty dances invented by the M.C.’s in the Empress and Tower Ballroom’s. In those days the dances in the Ballrooms consisted mainly of Sequence Waltzes, the Lancers, Two Steps and many Novelty Dances.

Blackpool Dance Festival Begins

The first Blackpool Dance Festival was held during Easter week in 1920 in the magnificent Winter Gardens Empress Ballroom. Modern Ballroom (‘English Style’) and Latin American dances had not yet evolved. This first festival as devoted to three competitions to find three new Sequence Dances in three tempos – Waltz, Two Step and Foxtrot.

As they say, the rest is history. Ballroom and dancing in Blackpool has gone from strength to strength ever since, to become the phenomenon that it is today. There’s much more about the evolution of the Blackpool Dance Festival here.

Since 25 April 1948, the Winter Gardens has hosted the famous World Ballroom Dancing Congress. This is where world’s best professional dancers and teachers give lectures about dancing at the highest level. Tickets are expensive and places are limited.

Ballroom dancing dresses on display at the Dance Festival
Ballroom dancing dresses on display at the Dance Festival

Come Dancing

Eric Morley originally created the BBC TV show ‘Come Dancing’. It broadcast from the Tower Ballroom from 1949 to 1998. He’d also founded the Mecca Ballroom, opened on 22 February 1965, at Central Drive.

In 2004 Strictly Come Dancing was first broadcast from the Tower Ballroom. Now an annual institution it showcases the best of Blackpool to a huge television audience. Celebrity couples competing in the annual show always hope to make it to the Blackpool episode!

The World Northern Soul Dancing Championship was first held at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom on 10 November 2007. Part of the UK’s No.1 Northern & Modern Soul Weekender, with more than 40 DJs in 3 rooms.

Northern Soul emerged in Northern England and the Midlands in the early 1970s. It developed from the British mod scene, based on a particular style of Black American soul music with a heavy beat and fast tempo. The dance styles and fashions grew out of the underground rhythm and soul scene of the late 1960s at venues including the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, Wigan Casino, and Blackpool Mecca. It’s a huge culture and Blackpool hosts a number of popular Soul festivals and events throughout the year.

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1 thought on “Ballroom & Dancing in Blackpool”

  1. Raymond Hollebone

    So much pleasure created in this wonderful Palace of Happiness. I’m 86, I intend auditioning for a new wife in Blackpool. I met my 1st real girlfriend in THE ballroom 1953 ish. Wonder where she is now ? Dorothy S— ? RAYMOND H——–..

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