All about Blackpool

22 February 2016

What is Blackpool?

The Blackpool Dance Festival is the most prestigious Ballroom competition in the entire world, with around three thousands amateur and professional couples of the highest calibre from over sixty countries competing in various events stretched over eight days. It is often chosen as the World Championships either for Professional Ballroom or Professional Latin, but not both the same year. The competition is hosted every year in Blackpool, England (hence the name) at the Winter Gardens Entertainment Complex in the Empress Ballroom (pictures below), and has been nearly every year since it was first hosted in 1920. It is typically held in the early summer, and in 2016, the competition will be held from May 26th to June 3rd.


Above (left to right) a map depicting the city of Blackpool, England; the Winter Gardens Entertainment Complex; and the Empress Ballroom.

How much does it cost?

Tickets prices for spectators varies widely. As of 2016, standing room tickets (i.e. you have to stand to spectate) cost £36 ($50 US) per day , or £180 ($255 US) for all seven days of Ballroom Dancing. If you want front row seats, you're going to have to pay for all seven days, and that's going to run you £425 ($600 US)! Ground floor seats not in the front row and balcony seats all fall somewhere in between. Some advice from dancers who have spectated: get a standing ticket and show up early so there's nobody in front of you - unless you want to pay through the nose for front row seats, you'll be able to see the dancing better if you're standing than in a seat a few rows back.

Competitor entry fees are the same cost as standing room tickets.

What events are offered?

For regular Ballroom and Latin dancing, there are seven main categories of dancing for competitors: Professional, Professional Rising Star, Amateur, Amateur Rising Star, Youth, Senior, and Senior over 50. In order to dance any of these events, both dancers must be over 16 years old on the day of the competition.

The Professional division allows all professional dancers to compete. The finalists here are the best dancers in the entire world. See below for a video of the 2015 Professional Standard Semifinal & Final.

The Rising Star Professional division allows professional dancers to compete only if they didn't make it to the third round of the Professional division. This means that the competition is easier at this level.

The Amateur division allows all amateur dancers over 16 years old to compete. Dancers under 21 years old may choose to dance either in this division, or the Youth division (below), but not both. United States top level finalists generally place in the top 80 of couples, out of around 200 dancing here, sometimes making the quarter or even semifinals. For example, in 2015, former US Champions Pasha Pashkov and Daniella Karagach placed 11th in Amateur Latin.

The Rising Star Amateur division, just like the Rising Star Professional division, allows dancers to compete only if they didn't make it to the third round of the Amateur division. Again, this means that the competition is easier at this level.

The Youth division is open to amateurs where both dancers between 16 and 21 years old on the day of the competition.

• The Senior division is open to amateurs where both dancers are over 35 years old on the day of the competition.

• The Senior over 50 division is open to amateurs where both dancers are over 50 years old on the day of the competition.

There are no prerequisites to participate in Blackpool: no level requirements, no invitations necessary. Couples of all levels and amounts of experience may register to compete, however, as the competition is so fierce, it tends to attract only the best dancers from each country.

It should be noted that while we Ballroom Dancers think of Blackpool only as a Ballroom competition, there are other quasi-Ballroom events held annually at Blackpool, including the British Sequence Championships, Professional Team Match, and Exhibition Dance.

Grand Prix

Like all top tier competition, winners are awarded prize money, but coming even in sixth place at Blackpool is no easy feat.

Division 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Professional (per dance) £280 £235 £200 £165 £145 £120
Professional Rising Star £300 £260 £215 £180 £145 £120
Amateur £325 £285 £250 £215 £185 £165
Amateur Rising Star £280 £250 £215 £180 £140 £115
Youth under 21 £285 £245 £200 £175 £150 £125
Senior over 35 £265 £225 £190 £165 £145 £120
Senior over 50 £265 £225 £190 £165 £145 £120

Figures above show the prize money to be awarded per couple for placements 1st through 6th in each division as of 2016. For the Professional division, prize money is awarded on placements per dance, as opposed to per event as a whole.

The Blackpool Congress

In addition to the competition, a congress is held each year where the best dancers and coaches in the world give lectures and demonstrations. In 2015, the theme of the congress was "Secrets of Success," and lecturers would speak about their personal journeys to success, and what you should do to reach it yourself. Some notable lecturers that year included Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather (undefeated 14-time Professional Latin World  Champions),  Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova (current Professional Ballroom World Champions), and Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko (current Professional Latin World Champions). The cost is around £100 ($140 US) for around 10 hours worth of lectures over two days, and less if you only want to attend one day or a half day.

Three Interesting Facts about Blackpool

1 Blackpool is perhaps the only competition in the world that does not offer Viennese Waltz at any level. Couples dancing Standard are judged on only the four remaining dances, Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.
2 The orchestra is known for playing very traditional music. The Cha Chas you will hear here are in the style of 1960's lounge music, and while some call the selection of music boring, others claim it is just very English.
3 There is sometimes a discrepancy between Blackpool results and the results of the Professional World Championships. Most famously (and recently), Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko overtook Michael Malitowski and Joanna Leunis as the Professional Latin World Champions in 2010, and defended their World Championship title until Michael and Joanna's retirement in 2015. Nevertheless, Riccardo and Yulia always came in second to them at Blackpool, and Michael and Joanna remained undefeated Blackpool Champions until their retirement.