Time to dance the night away!

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival.  Pictured is Jodie Bailey and Catalin Gheorghe.
The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival. Pictured is Jodie Bailey and Catalin Gheorghe.
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If you are a tennis player, you want to play at Wimbledon.

And if you are a dancer, you want to step out in Blackpool.

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival

Which is why hundreds of the world’s best dancers have descended on the resort’s Winter Gardens for the 91st Blackpool Dance Festival to compete in the British Dance Championships.

For some, it is enough just to be here - while others are intent on picking up a prestigious title.

They have travelled from as far as Singapore and Spain, from the USA and Ukraine, from Australia, China, Japan and South America.

Forget what you see on Strictly, for these are the true elite of the dance world who dedicate themselves to their training.

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival

Muscles are toned, dresses are adorned with glitter, smiles are sparkling and the false tan has been precisely applied.

Competitors fine-tune their moves in the walkways before being called onto the floor where a line of steely-eyed judges is waiting to give their verdict.

The festival which started yesterday, will see skilled interpretations of dances ranging from the Samba to the Rumba, the Waltz to the Jive.

Festival organiser Sandra Wilson said: “There are more than 60 countries represented at the festival, with competitors from as far away as Australia, America and the Far East.

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival.  Pictured is Nicole Duque and Olexandr Marodsuk

The 91st Annual Blackpool Dance Festival. Pictured is Nicole Duque and Olexandr Marodsuk

“It attracts on average between 3,500 and 4,000 people per day including both dancers and spectators.

“The Blackpool Festival is the main event in the dancing calendar.

“It is the Wimbledon of dancing because the British Championships is the one everyone wants to win.

“Also it is very good for the town because the hotels and the restaurants are all busy.

“Entries are very good this year and we have introduced an over-50s category for the first time and we have got 166 entries for that.

“Previously we only had an over-35s category for older dancers, and people have come out of retirement to get the chance to compete in Blackpool again.

“The festival is very well supported and we have the best dancers in the world here.”

Competitors are a mixture of amateurs and professionals, with the first day seeing the youngsters in the spotlight competing in the Rising Star and under-21 competitions.

They have to demonstrate their prowess in five dances - Cha-cha-cha, Samba, Rumba, Pasa Doble and Jive.

Among those hoping to catch the eye of the judges was Jodie Bailey, 19, from Birmingham and her dance partner Catalin Gheorghe, 19, from Romania.

Jodie said: “Competing here is incredible and the atmosphere is magical. There is so much energy on the dance floor.

“There are dancers here from all over the world and they travel to Blackpool because it is the mecca of ballroom dancing.

“To share the same floor that all those champions of the past have danced on is what you work for.”

Catalin added: “Dancing in Blackpool is a unique experience and we are really hoping to do well.

“Ballroom dancing is not recognised as a big sport in Romania but interest is growing and there is now some dancing on TV.”

The festival takes place over nine days until Friday June 3. Admission tickets and limited reserved seats can be purchased daily from the Opera House box office.

Another couple honing their moves were Nicole Duque, 20, from Ecuador and her partner Olexander Marodsyuk, 20, from the Ukraine.

Olexander said: “The ballroom is amazing, I think it is one of the best, if not the best in the world.”

Nicole added: “I think this is the best competition in dancing and every dancer wants to come here.”

The exhibition in the Horseshoe and Pavilion, Derham Lounge, and Floral Hall areas is open to the general public from 10am until 10pm daily except Sunday when it closes at 6pm.