Look At It This Way - November 6, 2015

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Can’t wait to see Strictly back where it belongs, right here in Blackpool, later this month, even though I’ve missed out on the draw for seats to the show again.

You’ve only got to step on to the floor of Blackpool Tower ballroom to get that spring in your step; there’s no dance floor like it and, as with the Empress Ballroom, it is beloved internationally.

In fact, for anyone who’s ever danced there, you’ve only got to see that floor to know what it feels like, how it makes you want to dance, and dance well.

I used to love reporting on the original Come Dancing at the Tower years ago, and the international dance events at the Winter Gardens too.

The glitz, glamour, colour, spectacle, sheer elegance, escapism and excitement of it all – this is what Blackpool was, indeed still is, all about, for all the claims to the contrary.

The thread of social history still binds us with all who came before – heading here to dance, romance, and step out in style.

That’s been Blackpool’s role in Britain since its first faltering steps as a predominantly working class seaside resort.

And Strictly Come Dancing is a timely reminder that the magic of Blackpool is still alive – and dancing.

The Tower is the beating heart of Blackpool, but not the whole story. Each year I reconnect with what I love about the town.

I tripped the other Lights fantastic this week, the Illuminations, saw the great digital projections on the side of the Tower building – a real traffic stopper.

I was whingeing about the Gynn Square roundabout display when the western train tram trundled past and raised my spirits anew. And then I saw the Tower and one of the best lights displays I’ve ever seen there, sequences cascading, swirling, and the star of the Lights. And soon to steal the limelight in Strictly Come Dancing too.

As for me? I haven’t danced properly in years, unless you count the old charmer employed to dance with single ladies on cruises – including those on press trips, alas. Or someone else’s husband on a Warners holiday – his wife ready to shoot me after the Military Two Step.

I learned ballroom dance at Kenneth Lane’s dance school, which I fled after a 14-year-old going on 17 snapped my bra strap during the foxtrot. I fell in love with Latin American dance at a school on Central Drive, dragging my younger brother along with me, a trade-off for learning judo with him. You’ve not experienced acute teenage embarrassment until you’ve had to rumba with your brother.

My most embarrassing – yet memorable – moment on a dance floor came with Il Professore in Sorrento. He was tiny, bald, and ancient and wore Mr Magoo-like specs. He’d been a great tenor, but no match in stage presence for even the most consumptive Puccini heroine. As a dancer, his head came level with my chest, which he didn’t mind– but I kept imagining the Benny Hill theme tune.

I thought we’d look ridiculous. Yet I’d spent the night dancing with a throwback to Travolta about 15 years past the lapel date of his white jacket and flared trousers.

Il Professore danced like a dream. He led as only a great dancer could, using the lightest touch in the small of my back, to guide me through steps I’d long forgotten or never learned.

He swept me off my feet. For half an hour I danced on air. It was only when I realised we had cleared the floor that I stumbled – and it was over. He’s long gone. But that dance goes on. The best dance of my life. And as they say in Strictly… keep dancing.

Coleen’s remarks hurt more as she’s one of our own

Blackpool’s a ‘war zone’ according to Coleen Nolan.

Haven’t we seen enough of the real thing on TV news to know the difference?

I’m sick of Blackpool being kicked when it’s picking itself up. And it hurts when it comes from one of your own. Coleen’s a Nolan, Blackpool royalty, one of the resort’s extended family clan. When the town got knocked by personalities who bait Blackpool as a blood sport, the Nolans used to come to its defence.

Yes, we have louts, pools of vomit, and scantily clad young women the worse for wear. As does virtually every other town and city on a Saturday night. We see it in microcosm here –pushing us up the booze league. But public health and council leaders are out to alter that mindset.

But ‘war zone’? It’s up there in the stratosphere of silliness along with commentators who once likened Central Drive to the Bronx and Blackpool to Beirut – back in the day when Beirut was prefaced with the words ‘war torn’.

Time for a reality TV check…