Blackpool’s famous dance festival is set for its international debut when the Chinese franchise opens in Shanghai tomorrow.
Preparations are well underway at the 10,000 capacity Shanghai Grand Stage for the Blackpool Dance Festival (China) which takes place in the city between Friday and Tuesday.
Winter Gardens managing director Michael Williams is out in Shanghai helping oversee the new festival which has been franchised for the first time.
Competitors will be able to compete in a full range of Latin and ballroom dancing disciplines.
The stage frontage of the Empress Ballroom is being replicated, with music provided by the Empress Orchestra and the same judging panel as the Blackpool event.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Williams said: “Preparations are well underway and as the hall is transformed it is looking great.
“The officials are starting to arrive today including the Empress Orchestra who will be having their first rehearsal tomorrow.
“There is an excited anticipation amongst the Chinese teachers and dancers as this will be the first time that many of them will experience the Blackpool Dance Festival.”
The deal is worth £100,000 a year to the council-owned Winter Gardens over five years, with the potential for profit-sharing depending on its success.
It does not affect the Blackpool Dance Festival, which includes the British ballroom championships, which takes place as usual in the Winter Gardens starting at the end of May.
Next year’s event has been extended by two days to 11 days in total.
Blackpool is trying to improve its links with China and hopes to twin with the southern city of Sanya.
Peter Lui, chief executive of the Blackpool Chinese Community Association, said: “The idea came about when the delegation from Sanya visited Blackpool and it was brilliant of Michael Williams to jump on board to take the brand over to China.
“Every year I see for myself we are getting more and more Chinese competitors at the Blackpool Festival and Chinese visitors coming to Blackpool to enjoy the ballroom.
“The Chinese are getting more affluent and they are able to participate in things that were unheard of before, and ballroom dancing is one of those things.
“And on the dancing circuit, it is recognised that Blackpool is the mecca of ballroom.”
The festival’s global expansion is part of an on-going relationship with International Special Attractions (ISA), the creators and investors behind Illuminasia at the Winter Gardens.
More than 50 million people are registered as ballroom dancers in China.