Dance festival foxtrots to the Far East

Former Chinese professionals, Allen Wen and Anne Sun, help celebrate the launch of Blackpool Dance Festival (China)
Former Chinese professionals, Allen Wen and Anne Sun, help celebrate the launch of Blackpool Dance Festival (China)
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The glitter and glamour of Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom is to quickstep half way around the world to China.

The internationally-renowned Blackpool Dance Festival will launch its first overseas event with a new competition at the Grand Stage in Shanghai from August 19 to 23, 2016.

As the festival marks its 90th anniversary during this week’s competitions at the Winter Gardens, delegates from China and the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Manchester revealed their plans for the event next summer, alongside festival adjudicator Marcus Hilton and Winter Gardens managing director Michael Williams.

Mr Williams promised all the traditions of Blackpool’s ballroom heritage would be transported to the new celebration of dance - to be called the Blackpool Dance Festival (China) (BDFC).

The stage frontage of the Empress Ballroom will be replicated, and a dance floor of the same shape, colour and finish will be created at the venue, with music provided by the Empress Orchestra and the same judging panel as the Blackpool event - which will still take place in next May.

“Blackpool Dance Festival is built on 90 years of tradition and we need to maintain that,” Mr Williams said.

“Over the past few years we have seen an influx of Chinese dancers competing in Blackpool and for us to take elements of our festival to China can only increase the number of dancers that will want to come and experience the magic of dancing in the magnificent Empress Ballroom.” BDFC is being created in partnership with the Shanghai-based International Special Attractions (ISA), which runs Illuminasia at the Winter Gardens.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Haiping Ge, ISA president and chief executive officer, said: “For the past four years in establishing Illuminasia, we have formed a great friendship with the Winter Gardens. This lead to the partnership of bringing the dance festival to China.

“Many Chinese people have interest in dancing and many competitions take place in China. To bring Blackpool Dance Festival to China will further increase that interest.” And the announcement has been welcomed by dancers too, with retired professional couples Allen Wen and Anne Sun and David Yin and Angel Long attending the launch, while taking in the sights of the festival, as representatives of the national dance bodies in China. Allen said: “Since 1997, David and us and other Chinese couples have been coming to the professional championships, and it’s the most amazing festival in the world.

“To have that in Shanghai means that everyone can feel the atmosphere in the ballroom of Blackpool Dance Festival.”

Deputy consul general Lai Bo hailed the festival as further enhancing the cultural relations between China and the UK. “Having cultural friends and people hold the key to good state relations,” he said.

And admitting he wasn’t much of a dancer, Mr Lai added: “There’s been more and more participation in dance in China over the years, and they have given excellent performances and hope they will be lucky this time.

“I hope that there will be more and more exchanges and cooperation in this field.”

More than 20,000 dancers and spectators come to the Winter Gardens for Blackpool Dance Festival each year, and this year’s contest runs over nine days.

Festival adjudicator Marcus Hilton said: “The 90th anniversary is a milestone never to be surpassed by any other dance festival in the world.

“This is the start of a very exciting future for the dance world of Blackpool and China.”