For all of us at Karen Hardy Studios, London’s premier “members only’ dance centre, there is one place that we consider the heart and soul of Ballroom.
Blackpool is to Ballroom Dancing what Wimbledon is to Tennis and Covent Garden to Opera.
Of course, the historic seaside town has long been a stomping ground for some of the most lauded icons of light entertainment.
The Beatles, Ken Dodd, George Formby, Laurel and Hardy, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Morecambe and Wise, Les Dawson, and Sid James are the tip of the talent iceberg to have played at the resort.
Even Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, crooned for the crowds at the Opera House in 1953.
And just over forty years later Blackpool starred on the big screen in the Hollywood Ballroom movie ‘Shall We Dance’ alongside Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez.
For more than a century the world’s most talented dancers have been drawn to this coastal Lancashire town, regarded without exception as the epicentre of the performance art.
This week, former Strictly Come Dancer winner Karen Hardy, once an internationally-acclaimed Latin American dancer, will return to the Winter Gardens as a coach and mentor at the annual Blackpool Dance Festival which kicks off today (May 22).
All of the professional and amateur competitors at this week’s Blackpool Dance Festival – which attracts the greatest Ballroom and Latin talent from around the world – began somewhere.
At Karen Hardy Studios, a luxury venue in Imperial Wharf, west London, we teach our members to ISTD standards and many go on to perform in Blackpool at the British National Championships each November.
For more information about learning to dance and the road to Blackpool with Karen Hardy Studios click here.
Blackpool has been associated with Ballroom Dancing since the late 19thcentury.
The Tower Ballroom – an elaborate auditorium at Blackpool tower, which now hosts Strictly Come Dancing’s annual sojourn to the town – opened on Blackpool seafront in 1899 (that’s two year’s before Queen Victoria’s death).
The huge 37m x 37m floor, made of 30,602 blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut, was upgraded from an original, smaller ballroom at the Tower as a response to the stunning Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, which launched in 1896.
And it was at the Empress that the Blackpool Dance Festival – the world’s first and most famous series of Ballroom Dancing competitions – began in 1920.
In 2013, the May festival – one of five major Ballroom Dancing events held each year at the Winter Gardens – attracted a massive 2,923 entries from 60 countries.
The May festival, which runs from May 22-30, 2014, stages a number of globally-recognised competitions including the British Open Championships for Adult Amateur and Professional Couples and the British Rising Star Amateur Ballroom and Latin.
We are really looking forward to this week’s festival and wish all competitors the best of luck.
Blackpool, with its lights, pleasure beach, piers, theatres and, of course, legendary dancefloors is the jewel in the crown of Ballroom Dancing and we’re immensely proud to call it our own.