We proudly lay claim on Blackpool’s place as the home of ballroom dance.
But it’s hard to understand just how important a place the resort and its annual Blackpool Dance Festival holds in dancers’ hearts, until you hear them gush about it.
With their opening night at the Grand Theatre tonight, in summer show, Puttin’ On The Ritz, Katya Virshilas and Jared Murillo have spoken of their love for Blackpool.
Katya will be known to millions from her stint as a professional in Strictly Come Dancing, and while Jared only spent a year on the show, he’s got a top dance CV, too – with the hit Disney High School Musical films on his resumé.
“I came to compete at Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens from when I was about 15,” he said.
“My dance studio would come here a lot, too, for the formation competition, and the college team, too. I’m not as familiar as Katya is, though.”
Lithuania-born Katya explained the importance further, as they prepare for a five-week stay in town: “This is like Mecca for the ballroom world, it truly is.
“Every year some of the most amazing people come here for Blackpool Dance Festival, it’s like the Oscars or Wimbledon, winning in the Winter Gardens is the biggest honour we can have.
“It almost feels like a daze that we will be here for five weeks.
“The Blackpool Dance Festival organiser is even coming to see the show.
“Because of the Winter Gardens’ competition, this is the dance capital for us in the UK, so it’s special to be able to perform in a town where there’s a theatre like the Grand, too, a place that gave dance such a great start in the 20s and 30s, and we’re bringing that old Hollywood glamour back to it.”
Katya still comes back to Blackpool every year for the contest, as her husband Klaus Kongsdal is a judge, and he’ll be joining her for part of the time here as they’re renting digs in Lytham.
Jared: “I’m excited to see more of Blackpool. A lot of times when you come for competitions you’re just so excited or nervous so that there’s no chance to really see the place.
“This time, we are going to be familiar with our dancing and the show, but will have time to run around and see what there is here.”
* Puttin’ On The Ritz opens tonight at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool. The ‘song and dance extravaganza’ celebrates the music of composers Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter. Call (01253) 290190 for tickets.