By News Team
8th November 2021
With Blackpool seen as the spiritual home of UK ballroom dancing, it’s no surprise that the Strictly Come Dancing series usually features an episode staged at the iconic Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
While the couples won’t be dancing in Blackpool in this year’s series, we’ve taken a look at the history of one of the best nights of the show.
When was Strictly Come Dancing first staged in Blackpool?
The BBC first started filming the Strictly Blackpool Week episode in 2004, with this special show then becoming a fixed part of the competition’s calendar between 2013 and 2019. Back in 2004, the show arrived in Blackpool for a one-off episode for Sport Relief. Long before the show had started, head judge Shirley Ballas first danced in Blackpool back in 1968.
What happens in Blackpool Week?
When contestants come onto the show, their goals are often more about getting to the Blackpool Week than winning the whole competition. This Strictly special is a milestone in the series that both viewers, professional dancers and celebrity contestants look forward to.
It’s a week of high-level performances equipped with a number of tricks with props, creating memorable moments for both the viewers and the cast. Judges have joined in on the elaborate performances too, with Craig Revel Horwood previously riding in on a firework-shooting guitar. Memorable performances from celebrities include Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe’s ‘graceless’ dance, and Labour MP Ed Balls being lowered in on a harness playing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ on a piano.
Blackpool Week sees the professional dancers and their celebrity couples perform a range of dances that make use of the resources the Blackpool Tower Ballroom floor has to offer. The dancers are allocated their dance styles and left to choreograph a spectacular performance to please the judges and gain the public’s vote.
As usual, they are judged on a scale out of 10 by the judges – this year featuring Anton Du Beke, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas – which then creates a leader board. The public votes, adding to the judges scores, which then puts the bottom two pairs in a dance-off on the results show.
When is Blackpool Week?
Blackpool Week usually takes place in the second half of the competition in mid-November, when most of the couples are strong contestants for the Glitterball Trophy. This episode in November is always the show’s semi-finals, though Blackpool Week will not form a part of this year’s series.
What makes Blackpool Week so special?
With the space that the Blackpool stage gives the dances, the performances are often taken to the next level by the couples. They perform riskier tricks and longer lines, using a stage set-up with more props, and often back-up dancers to aid their story.
Some of the best dances in Blackpool Week have seen Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec’s American Smooth accompanied by half a dozen back-up dancers. Their performance cemented their place in the competition, with fluid movements and elegant lifts. Gemma was a celebrity contestant that kept improving each week of the 2017 series.
The same year, Davood Ghadami and Nadiya Bychkova took to the stage to perform a James Bond themed Paso Doble, which started with Davood being brought down from the ceiling via a harness and parachute, sporting the Union Jack. Their dance was filled with powerful moves (alongside flame machines) and was loved by the audience despite being critiqued by the lack of clear storytelling and flamenco movements.
No list of best performances would be complete without featuring Kevin Clifton. Any frequent Strictly watcher knows the professional dancer is an expert choreographer and makes full use of the performance element that Blackpool offers. This time partnered with Susanna Reid in a Paso Doble in 2013, the pair were dressed in traditional Spanish red and scored 39 for their incredible performance.
Simon Webbe and Kristina Rihanoff earned three 10s for their Argentine Tango to ‘El Tango de Roxanne’ from Moulin Rouge – with Craig giving them an 8. Their intense performance will go down as one of the best Strictly Tangos, ending with an impressive lift.
Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani performed their unforgettable Quickstep to ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ by the Pretenders in 2011. The couple received 40 points from the judges, and a standing ovation for their performance, which went on for several minutes.
While we won’t be seeing spectacular performances from Blackpool in this year’s series, the ballroom will still remain the iconic home of ballroom dancing in the UK.