Proof that Blackpool is ballroom capital of the planet

Practice session at the National Dance Championships
Practice session at the National Dance Championships
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British National Championships for professionals and amateurs are being staged at Winter Gardens

As Strictly Come Dancing’s celebrities limber up for their big Blackpool night, the town’s Empress Ballroom is playing host to hundreds of professional and amateur dancers this weekend.

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

The British National Championships got underway yesterday at the Winter Gardens, with formation teams and couples taking to the floor in a bid for national honours and the chance to compete against the best of the world.

Even during rehearsal sessions, the air is thick with the scent of fake tan, hairspray and - surprisingly - shoe polish, used on the girls’ hair to create a uniform look among the teams of dancers.

And punctuating the routines’ pumping soundtracks, there are whoops and cheers for fellow dancers, or polite applause for the competition from around the room.

Preston-based Fever Dance Company were among those vying for the formation title, with A and B teams strutting their stuff.

As with all BBC productions, appropriate security arrangements are in place

The team has its own Strictly Come Dancing connections, having danced on the show’s live tour, traveling up and down the country performing in the arena shows in 2011.

A team dancer Luke Taberer said: “Formation dancing is what people know from the old Come Dancing, which used to have the ballroom teams - that’s what people talk about when you tell them you do formation dance.”

And team coach Rachael Holland said the TV series definitely boosted interest in dance when it returned to screens each autumn, adding: “There’s a class for everyone. You can pick it up at any age, whether you do it for fun or competition depends on your nature.”

Categories continue at the Empress today and tomorrow with the professionals joining the celebration of dance, and between rehearsals at the Tower dance fans may spot some of the Strictly stars at the Empress catching up with the competiton scene.

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

Meanwhile, at the Tower, security has reportedly been increased for the weekend’s TV broadcast.

One worker who was due to travel to Blackpool from Glasgow as part of the security booked for the event, said he and others were stood down when Beeb bosses took the decison to beef up security.

The man said he was told the terrorism attacks in Paris meant close protection personnel had been hired at the last minute.

He said: “Everything was in place. They had our hotels booked and we were meant to be driving down yesterday.

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

“Then we were told the BBC were going for close protection guys instead in light of what has gone on in Paris.

“They will be a load more hands on and will be ex-Army and police or people who have stepped up from being bouncers.”

A BBC spokesman declined to go into details, but said: “As with all BBC productions, appropriate security arrangements are in place.”

Preparations and rehearsals will get fully underway this morning at the Tower Ballroom, for tomorrow night’s show.

Last night, American singer Anastasia was confirmed to perform for the weekend’s broadcasts, which will be in addition to pop sensations Take That, who will showcase their new single Hey Boy.

And away from the ballroom blitz, Strictly Come Dancing judge and former prima ballerina Darcey Bussell will be at HMV in Bank Hey Street at 5pm to sign copies of her new compilation album The Darcey Bussell Ballet Collection.

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

“Throughout my life, I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the world’s most beautiful ballet music,” she said. “There is an astonishing treasure trove of inspiring and enchanting works, by many of the world’s greatest composers; wonderful music that instantly evokes all the romance and passion of the dance within just a few bars of music.”

See Strictly Come Dancing live from Blackpool Tower Ballroom on BBC1 tomorrow night at 6.50pm.

Practice session at the National Dance Championships

Practice session at the National Dance Championships