THOUGHTS FROM BLACKPOOL - By Bryan Allen
Those who might follow football will know that when the supporters wish to heap praise and show their total approval and support for what they see as wonderful efforts and development they all shout out “There’s only One…. and whatever the name of the object of their affection is. Well, I’m totally going to shout out “There’s only ONE BLACKPOOL” I do however feel that I am entitled to do so having been at the Blackpool Dance Festival since 1958 some sixty and more years.
In this item I would like to present my views about the Post Covid period a time when the whole world and we in the dance world were faced with unprecedented challenges and the Blackpool Dance Festival like every one too a tremendous blow... Have we recovered? How have we changed and dealt with the challenges? Well, it’s not that we have had to rise to these challenges and difficulties it is the organising team at the Winter Gardens lead by Michael Williams and his team headed by Natalie Hayes the Festival Organiser. They as the Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited must have used the time to assess what was needed to both encourage the return of world’s dancers to the Empress Ballroom but also the changing factors which have become clearer in this period. Decisions no doubt based on market research and such has introduced a number of additions to the festival programme of events. The decision taken to extend it to two full weeks accommodating the gigantic interest in the Pro- Am and Teacher- Pupil competitions and competitors in American Smooth and American Rhythm. Days starting at 10am and running for twelve hours with one day for fourteen hours such was the number of participants!
Of course, the millions of dance enthusiasts all over the world cannot all come to the festival so the decision was taken to establish Dance TV Limited, charged with streaming the festival world-wide. What a success story that one item on its own proved to be. The return and expansion of companies taking stands to exhibit their dresses and such. The opening of the state-of-the-art new conference centre with outstanding facilities for meetings- training, rehearsals in such a wonderful environment attached to the Winter Gardens complex was quite breath-taking.
Then of course the long-established competitions in Ballroom Latin and Formation that have been the main part of the Blackpool Dance Festival for ninety-seven years. Virtually every leading competitor in the world took part chasing these historic titles. The standard was of the very highest level and the capacity audience thrilled and so exited gave many standing ovations that were fully deserved.
The exceptional music played by the Empress Orchestra under their Musical Director Ashley Frohlick was inspirational and drew emotion from dancers and audience alike. This whole two weeks did not just bring us back from the dark days of Covid it enlarged and improved on what some might have felt un-improvable. Some time ago I wrote in Dancing Times magazine that “Blackpool only changes to ensure that it remains clearly the World’s First and Foremost Festival of Dancing”. It has indeed made many changes and without any question it is remains the World’s First and Foremost Festival of Dancing. As I said at the start and repeat loudly....for all dancers.
“There’s only ONE BLACKPOOL”