China festival’s a quick-step in the right direction

Competitors at the China Dance Festival (Blackpool)
Competitors at the China Dance Festival (Blackpool)
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Blackpool’s profile in China has stepped up a gear after the resort’s famous dance festival proved a huge hit in Shanghai.

More than 18,000 spectators and 7,400 competitors took part in the first ever Blackpool Dance Festival (China) held over five days.

Maurizio Vescovo and Andra Vaidilaite from Canada at the China Dance Festival (Blackpool)

Maurizio Vescovo and Andra Vaidilaite from Canada at the China Dance Festival (Blackpool)

Now organisers are already planning next year’s event.

A five-year deal will bring in £500,000 for the Winter Gardens after a partnership was set up with International Special Attractions (ISA) which operates Illuminasia in the resort.

Hai Ping Ge, of ISA, said: “The festival is the culmination of over two years work and planning and I am delighted it was such a success.

“We have received fantastic support from many people in the dance business and I would like to thank them all for their help and advice.

May Liu from The China UK Business Centre based in Blackpool with Michael Williams.

May Liu from The China UK Business Centre based in Blackpool with Michael Williams.

“The number of entries has exceeded our expectations for the first year and I look forward to seeing the event expand even further next year.”

The festival was operated under World Dance Council and World Dance Council Amateur League rules.

Sammy Stopford, of the World Dance Council, said: “To see the festival come to fruition was a great sense of satisfaction for all concerned.

“The dancing was of the highest standard and I am confident that numbers will grow year on year and the festival will become one of the highlights in the dancing world.”

Competitors and audience at the China Dance Festival (Blackpool)

Competitors and audience at the China Dance Festival (Blackpool)

Among the challenges for the Blackpool team was to select the judging panels and provide live music by Ashley Frolick and The Empress Orchestra who play at all the Blackpool events.

Michael Williams, managing director of the Winter Gardens who attended the festival in Shanghai, said: “It was always going to be a calculated risk trying to replicate elements of the Blackpool Dance Festival in China.

“However, thanks to everyone’s support we delivered a festival to be proud of.“

The five-day festival was held at the Shanghai Stage, one of the city’s main entertainment venues, between August 19 and 23.

Empress orchestra at the Dance Festival in China led by Ashley Frolick

Empress orchestra at the Dance Festival in China led by Ashley Frolick

Although the venue is quite different from the Empress Ballroom which boasts a polished parquet floor and crystal chandaliers, organisers were able to build a replica of the famous ballroom’s stage.

Another major difference was the temperature, with heat rising to more than 34 degrees centigrade on the opening day.

Competitors flew in from Russia, the Netherlands, the UK, Norway, Italy, Canada, USA, Moldavia, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, while local children as young as four also took part in junior categories.

Two of the directors of The China UK Business Centre, based on Blackpool Business Park, were in Shanghai on business and went along to support Blackpool with its debut international dancing event.

May Liu, projects director, said: “The festival is a fabulous event originating from 6000 miles away.

“I think It’s great that Chinese people have had the opportunity to compete in this way with other dancers from all over the world.

“Although I’m based in Blackpool now, I am a Chinese national, so it was lovely to speak to the competitors and the spectators to find out what they were feeling.

“It was a mixture of pride and excitement that such a great world famous event has finally come to Shanghai.”

Communications director Carole Houston added: “The excitement in the city of Shanghai was almost tangible.

“It was a delight to witness the dancing mania everywhere.

“The people we spoke to were quite fascinated that Blackpool was actually a place, so hopefully they’ll start to come over to the north West to see Blackpool for themselves!”

Dates for the next Blackpool Dance Festival (China) are August 17 to 22 2017.

Meanwhile the Winter Gardens will host the British National Dance Championships from November 17 to 19.

Next year’s important dates also include the Blackpool Junior Festival starting on April 17, and the Blackpool Dance Festival from May 25 which has been extended by two days to 11 days in total.