NHS staff swap scrubs for sequins in first live dance event at Winter Gardens' Empress Ballroom since lockdown began
The WInter Gardens' famous Empress Ballroom witnessed its first live dance event since Covid-19 began as 12 NHS employees swapped their scrubs for sequins and sparkle in a Strictly Come Dancing-style competition.
Closed for more than 15-months, the Empress Ballroom - which is set to celebrate its 125th anniversary this August - welcomed back the glitz and glamour of live ballroom dancing last week with the opening of Strictly NHS.
Each contestant, an NHS employee, was paired with a professional dance partner who they spent six weeks training with before performing in front of a panel of expert judges, including Argentine tango champion Flavia Cacace, choreographer and Dancing With The Stars professional James Wilson, and pro dancers Amy Dowden and Giovanni Pernice.
Alison Slinger, director of Strictly NHS, said: “We could not have had a more perfect venue for Strictly NHS. The Empress Ballroom is where dreams are made and become reality, which was our aim for our finalists. With the newly restored floor being the perfect centre piece for our staging.
“The atmosphere in the ballroom on the night was electric, something that I've not witnessed for such a long time. Memories of a lifetime were made that night at the Empress."
The winner of the competition was safeguarding team member Adam Wilson from Leeds Teaching Hospitals with professional partner Amy.
The event, partnering with NHS charity Blue Skies, set out to raise £10,000 for the NHS, but exceeded its target - making £23,000 on behalf of Blue Skies Hospital Fund.
Winter Gardens managing director Michael Williams said: "After the most challenging year in the venues 125 year history, it is with great delight to see live ballroom return to its spiritual home, the Empress Ballroom. Revered throughout the world as the pinnacle of a dancers career, the Empress holds a special place in all our hearts and we cannot wait to welcome back competitors from across the globe to compete when the dance festivals take place later this summer."